VOLUNTARYISM, the principles or system of polity distinctive of those who advo cate the separation of church and state; the cessation of state endowments and state grants for religious purposes, and, in general, of all interference, patronage, or exercise of authority on the part of the civil power in the religious and ecclesiastical affairs of the subject. The terms Voluntaryism and Voluntary have been in use since the date of the keen discussions regarding civil establishments of religion—commonly called the " Vol untary controversy"—which sprung up in the second decade of this century between churchmen and dissenters, in Scotland; and they serve to suggest, not inappositely, the fundamental conception which underlies the creed of religions dissent, that all true wor ship, or acceptable service in religion, must be the free expression of individual minds, and that, therefore, religion ought to be left by civil society to mold itself spontaneously according to its own institutions and spiritual nature, without violence to individual freedom from any interposition of secular authority or compulsory influence. r Volun taryism seeks to define more accurately the limits of civil power by defining more ade quately than preceding theories had done the latitude due to the movernentr, of religion. Assigning the magistrate his proper sphere, it is equally careful to assign the church and the individual their appropriate spheres of responsibility and duty in reference to relig ion, within which they may work unchecked, in full harmony with all the claims of civil order. Voluntaryism may be regarded as the formula of advanced Protestantism. the corrected doctrine of church and state, which the failure of the experiment of national churches has forced on public thought. It is a protest in modern language against the encroachment of the temporal power, whether under the name of magistrate, nation, or political majority, on the rights and liberties of conscience. Vol untaryismhas sometimes been erroneously considered the theological neu trality. On the contrary, its leading advocates base it on the expressed law of Christ respecting the constitution, administration, support, and extension of the church, as well as on the rights of conscience, the nature of civil government, and considerations of general equity and policy. In its most extensive sense, Voluntaryism embraces the whole question of the province of the magistrate in reference to religion and the church. Voluntaries admit that magistrates as well as other men, being under law to God, ought so to execute the proper duties of their office that all shall be done in consistency with the paramount claims of morality and religion. At the same time, nature and design of civil government excludes their authority from the domain of religion and conscienee„ end confines it to the secular concerns of individuals and of society. Magistrates, like other men, are under obligation to seek and to follow the highest available light and guidance in duty; but it is not therefore allowed them to convert the rules of the Divine Word, which are addressed exclusively to the individual conscience, into laws for civil cociety. God alone being lord of the conscience, such laws only—though revealed in his Word—may be adopted and enforced iu civil society as are requisite for its outward preservation, peace, and good order, and for the advancement of those secular interests which are the proper care of its rulers. While, therefore, magistrates, no less than other men—and for reasons common to all favored with the Gospel ought, as individuals, to embrace and profess religion, and to employ wisely and justly the Mu once arising from their circumstances and station, it is no part of their political or official duty, or of the homage required of them by Christ, to emit, adopt, prescribe, or enforce a confession of faith; neither is it within their province to aim at establishing or propa gating Christianity by the civil arm, to provide for, endow, or subsidize its teachers either in churches or schools; but it is their duty impartially to protect all their subjects, of whatever creed, in the enjoyment of full religiotis liberty, so long as their manner of exercising this civil right does not infringe on the equal rights of others. On this ground, and with such qualification, it is their duty to abstain from all interference with the jurisdiction and economy of the church—not excepting the matter of its support—which being regulated, as Voluntaries believe, by special ordinances of Jesus Christ, its head, it is an invasion of his prerogatives, and a frustration of his law for its support and extension, to place, or suffer to be placed, on the footing of a civil establishment. The doctrine regarding the support of religion has always been an important article in the Voluntary creed, and, in a restricted sense, Voluntaryism has been popularly defined by this doctrine. Negatively, the duty of providing for the support of Christian institu tions does not lie with the magistrate or nation. The giving of property for the support of the gospel has been elevated by Voluntaryism from the position of an almost eleemosy nary and political custom, to the rank of a systematic obligation and a financial law of the church. It is recognized as an act of religion, the duty and privilege of all Chris tians; and as each man is a steward of his silver or gold, responsible to none but its great owner for his disposal of it in religious matters, the magistrate can possess no right to demand from him any portion for religious uses, or to apply to these uses the proceeds of taxation imposed for general ends. Civil society being promiscuous and variable in its constituents, a fixed arrangement for the endowment of religious bodies out of the public funds is a fixed usurpation—as a system of occasional grants is an occasional usurpation—upon the liberty and property of all who dissent. The existence of an absolute unanimity among the subjects—even were it possible, as it would be other wise, to ascertain and secure it from time to time—however it might remove for the moment from any minds the feeling of political grievance incident to such arrange ments, could neither justify them as a policy, nor alter their character as an inter ference with religion in its economics. In its broad aspect, as an overstepping of the sphere of magistracy, all who restrict the magistrate, on whatever specific grounds, to secular affairs, must deem such interference objectionable; and Christian Voluntaries would reasonably ask, why legal machinery should be employed to gather the offerings which, in the state of public sentiment supposed, must be flowing unforced through their natural channnls? and in particular, whether, if Christ has not appointed the magistrate to " tithe and toll" for his church, society can presume to assign him a work beyond his province? There is a manifest division of duties dictated alike by reason and revelation; and Voluntaryism claims the results of experience as proof of the entire want of adaptation in the compulsory or magistratieal power to deal with the support of a living religion. To burden the rent-roll, increase the assess
ments, distrain the goods and chattels of citizens, or even to preserve the forms of legal exaction for such a purpose, are measures which it is hard to believe either politic, scrip tural, or just. The pecuniary supplies required for religious objects are to be secured, according to Voluntaryism, solely through the operation of moral influences and sacred motives. Truth, as well as error, must be left to provide for itselt. The responsibility and privilege of providing for the support of Christianity having been attached by Christ to his church, it is further his law that its institutions shall be maintained and extended by the voluntary liberality of its friends. A primary obligation rests on those enjoying the services of a pastor to provide according to their ability for his main tenance, on the apostolic principle—" let him that is taught in the word communicate to him that teacheth in all good thin,gs;" while, on the equally apostolic principles, that the laborer Is worthy of his hire, and that the strong should aid the weak, a mutual and collective responsibility remains with the general membership, to supply each other's ecclesiastical neecessities, and to unite in measures that may provide an adequate remu neration to the pastors or other ministers of the church. Civil establishments of religion, together with all forms of state endowments and grants for religious purposes, are thus condemned by Voluntaries as human expedients, adverse to Christian development and the working of the law of self-support, which alone draws forth the resources, and edu elites the consciences and habits of the people. Inadmissible, as introducing the coin pulsory element into the free and delicate movements of Christian society, and intrud ing magistracy nto a sphere which the history of all struggles for the higher liberty teaches must be preserved to the individual and the church, these institutions tend to foster political dependence and class-feeling among the recipient bodies, and prevent those relations of honorable trust and responsibility which best unite pastors and people. These views express what may be called ecclesiastical Voluntaryism. On the question of education, various shades of opinion exist among Voluntaries. All are agreed that the religious education of the young belongs to the parent and the church, and is not to be provided or superintended by the state How to secure this principle in connection with a system of national schools or government grants for education, continues to be the problem of Voluntaries. Some seek the solution in a plan of local boards repre senting the parentage and community, who shall manage the schools, and decide the character of the teaching; and of these, some advocate separation of the hours for relig ious and secular lessons. Others, who think that while by these methods state super intendence may be avoided, state aid is yet directly or indirectly received for religious instruction,would accept a system which provided simply for schooling in secular or com mon braneheg. Those known as Voluntary educationists reject the idea of any national system, some on account of the religious difficulty,and others on grounds connected with the philosophy of education and the theory of government. Voluntary educationists would leave the education of the poor to be secured by the operation of those influences which originate and sustain other necessary and benevolent measures. The education of the chil dren of classes not necessitous they expect to flow from private enterprise and free associa tion. Voluntaries object to grants to denominational schools dependent on the condition of teaching religion, to grants to ragged schools and all semi-religious insti tutions, as well as to the appointment and payment by the state of chaplains for prisons, the army, etc. In reference to the Sabbath, holding the sacred character of the day, some Voluntaries appear to admit that the magistrate is both entitled and bound not only to make it a dies ?ton in his own department, but also to prohibit labor and ments throughout the nation. Others, equally holding the morality of the day, with more regard to strict theory, deny him the power of inflicting pains and penalties, how. ever mild, in a matter radically religious, at the same time that they assert the obliga• lion of the state to secure all its members due protection and facility in the practice of their worship, and to make such laws for this end as may be fit, in view of prevailing religious observances. Regarding national fasts and thanksgivings, most Voluntaries hold that the style of authority in which royal proclamations appointing these have usually been expressed is objectionable, as assuming a right to prescribe the topics and language of devotion, and to regulate its seasons, and insist that the language of invi tation ,should be substituted for that of command. Some, while ready to comply with an invitation of the sovereign to join in an offering of prayer on occasions they judge suitable, do not allow that it forms any part of magisterial duty to issue such appeals, or That the royal act imparts a national character to the service. Ordinary political hots become national when done by the proper national organs; but no religious acts can acquire a national ,character except they are participated by the body of the people. When this is the case, the exercise is national, though not evoked by the call of the chief of the state, and it is not made more national by that call. The advantage of simul taneousness and unity is attainable on the widest scale by the natural concert of churches apart from royal initiative, which, if it may be followed when right, need not be waited for as indispensable to true national worship. On the question of marriage, Voluntaryism, recognizing its character as a civil transaction, demands that all religious parties stand on the same level in regard to it. Withholding legal sanction from all immoral connections, and punishing breaches of the lawful contract, magistrates are not warranted to visit with penalties any mere departure from the siicidard prescribed to Christian conscience, or embodied in ecclesiastical law. Political Voluntaryism, as it is sometimes called. is simply Voljintaryism expressed in the language of the poli tician—the doctrine of the entire religious equality of all citizens in the eye of law, stated and defended without reference to specific religious opinions, and in the way of appeal to principles generally received.