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SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE.
WITH AN INTRODUCTORY ESSAY
PHILOSOPHICAL AND THEOLOGICAL OPINIONS.
IN SEVEN VOLUMES.
PREFACE TO THE CHURCH AND STATE.
A RECOLLECTION of the value set upon the following little work by its Author,* combined with a deep sense of the wisdom and importance of the positions laid down in it, will, it is hoped, be thought to justify the publication of a few preliminary remarks, designed principally to remove formal difficulties out of the path of a reader not previously acquainted with Mr. Coleridge's wri. tings, nor conversant with the principles of his philosophy. The truth is that, although the Author's plan is well defined and the treatment strictly progressive, there is in some parts a want of detailed illustration and express connection, which weakens the impression of the entire work on the generality of readers. “If," says Mr. Maurice, “I were addressing a student who was seeking to make up his mind on the question, without being previously biased by the views of any particular party, I could save myself this trouble by merely referring him to the work of Mr. Coleridge, on the Idea of Church and State, published shortly after the passing of the Roman Catholic Bill. The hints respecting the nature of the Christian Church which are thrown out in that work are only sufficient to make us wish that the Author had developed his views more fully ; but the portion of it which refers to the State seems to me in the highest degree satisfactory. When I use the word satisfactory, I do not mean that it will satisfy the wishes of any person who thinks that the epithets teres atque rotundus are the highest that can be applied to a scientific work ; who expects an author to furnish him with a complete system which he can carry away in his memory, and after it has received a few improvements from himself, can hawk it about to the pub
* Bee Table Talk, p. 259, noto.
lic or to a set of admiring disciples. Men of this description would regard Mr. Coleridge's book as disorderly, and fragmentary; but those who have some notion of what Butler meant when he said, that the best writer would be he who merely stated his premisses, and left his readers to work out the conclusions for themselves ;—those who feel that they want just the assistance which Socrates offered to his scholars—assistance, not in providing them with thoughts, but in bringing forth into the light thoughts which they had within them before ;—these will acknowledge that Mr. Coleridge has only deserted the common highway of exposition, that he might follow more closely the turnings and windings which the mind of an earnest thinker makes when it is groping after the truth to which he wishes to conduct it. To them, therefore, the book is satisfactory by reason of those very qualities which make it alike unpleasant to the formal schoolman and to the man of the world. And, accordingly, scarcely any book, published so recently and producing so little apparent effect, has really exercised a more decided influence over the thoughts and feelings of men who ultimately rule the mass of their countrymen.”*
Under these circumstances, the following argument or summary of the fundamental and more complicated portion of the work may be serviceable to the ingenuous but less experienced reader.
I. The constitution of the State and the Church is treated according to the Idea of each. By the Idea of the State or Church is here meant that conception, which is not abstracted from any particular form or mode in which either may happen to exist at any given time, nor yet generalized from any number or succession of such forms or modes, but which is produced by a knowledge or sense of the ultimate aim of each. This idea, or sense of the ultimate aim, may exist, and powerfully influence a man's , thoughts and actions, without his being able to express it in definite words, and even without his being distinctly conscious of its indwelling. A few may possess ideas in this meaning ;-the generality of mankind are possessed by them. In either case an idea, so understood, is in order of thought always and of necessity
* Kingdom of Christ, vol. iii. p. 2. A work of singular originality and power.
contemplated as antecedent,-a mere conception, strictly defined as an abstraction or generalization from one or more particular forms or modes, is necessarily posterior,—in order of thought to the thing thus conceived. And though the idea is in its nature a prophecy, yet it must be carefully remembered that the particular form, construction, or model, best fitted to render the idea intelligible to a third person, is not necessarily--perhaps, not most commonly—the mode or form in which it actually arrives at realiza. tion. For in consequence of the imperfection of means and materials in all the works of man, a law of compensation and a principle of compromise are perpetually active ; and it is the first condition of a sound philosophy of State to recognize the wide extent of the one, the necessity of the other, and the frequent occurrence of both.
II. The word State is used in two senses, a larger, in which it comprises, and a narrower, in which it is opposed to, the National Church. A Constitution is the ideal attribute of a State in the larger sense, as a body politic having the principle of its unity within itself; and it is the law or principle which prescribes the means and conditions by and under which that unity is established and preserved. The Constitution, therefore, of this Nation comprises the idea of a Church and a State in the narrower sense, placed in simple antithesis one to another. The unity of the State, in this latter sense, results from the equipoise and interdependence of the great opposite interests of every such State, its Permanence and its Progression. The permanence of a State is connected with the land ; its progression with the mercantile, manufacturing, distributive, and professional classes. The first class is subdivided into what our law books have called Major and Minor Barons ;-both of these subdivisions, as such, being opposed to the representatives of the progressive interest of the nation, yet the latter of them drawing more nearly to the antagonist order than the former. Upon these facts the principle of the Constitution of the State, in its narrower sense, was established. The balance of permanence and progression was secured by a legislature of two Houses; the first, consisting wholly of the Major Barons or landholders ; the second, of the Minor Barons or knights, as the representatives of the remaining landed community, together with the Burgesses, as representing the commercial, manufacturing, distributive, and professional classes—the latter constituting the effectual majority in number. The King,