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Grace and Nation: Coleridge's On the Constitution of Church and State

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 January 2009

Alan Gregory
Affiliation:
agregory@etss.edu

Abstract

Understanding Coleridge's classic work On the Constitution of Church and State requires paying close attention to the system of distinctions and relations he sets up between the state, the ‘national church’, and the ‘Christian church’. The intelligibility of these relations depends finally on Coleridge's Trinitarianism, his doctrine of ‘divine ideas’, and the subtle analogy he draws between the Church of England as both an ‘established’ church of the nation and as a Christian church and the distinction and union of divinity and humanity in Christ. Church and State opens up, in these ‘saving’ distinctions and connections, important considerations for the integrity and role of the Christian church within a religiously plural national life.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © SAGE Publications (Los Angeles, London, New Delhi and Singapore) and The Journal of Anglican Studies Trust 2007

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References

1. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, On the Constitution of the Church and State (ed. John Colmer), Volume 10 of Coburn, Kathleen (ed.), The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), p. lviii.Google Scholar

2. Given the scope of this essay, I have not engaged directly with the secondary literature dealing with Coleridge's political theory. Those who are interested might consult, among recent works, Knights, Ben, The Idea of the Clerisy in the Nineteenth Century (London: Cambridge University Press, 1978)Google Scholar; Miller, John T., Ideology and Enlightenment: The Political and Social Thought of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (New York: Garland Publishing, 1987)Google Scholar; Leask, Nigel, The Politics of Imagination in Coleridge's Critical Thought (London: Macmillan, 1988)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Morrow, John, Coleridge's Political Thought: Property, Morality, and the Limits of Traditional Discourse (London: Macmillan, 1990)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Gregory, Alan, Coleridge and the Conservative Imagination (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2003)Google Scholar; Edwards, Pamela, The Statesman's Science: History, Nature, and Law in the Political Thought of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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5. Mill, J.S., Coleridge, in Ryan, A. (ed.), Utilitarianism and Other Essays (New York: Penguin, 1987)Google Scholar. For a more recent version, see Calleo, David, Coleridge and the Idea of the Modern State (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966), p. 117Google Scholar: ‘College presidents are the bishops of the modern world.’

6. Mill, , Coleridge, pp. 207–12Google Scholar; see also Elliot, Hugh S.R. (ed.), The Letters of J.S. Mill, vol. 1 (London: Longmans, Green & Co, 1910), pp. 47.Google Scholar

7. On the secularization of political discourse, see Hole, Richard, Pulpits, Politics, and Public Order in England, 1760–1832 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. On Coleridge's critique of Utilitarianism in politics, ethics and theology see my Coleridge and the Conservative Imagination (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2003), pp. 199208.Google Scholar

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10. Church and State, pp. 55, 55*.Google Scholar

11. Avis, Paul, Church, States, and Establishment (London: SPCK, 2001), p. 51Google Scholar. Avis is paraphrasing a passage from Coleridge's ‘table talk’, cf. Coleridge, , Table Talk (part-volume I; ed. C. Woodring), Volume 14 of Coburn (ed.), The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, p. 482.Google Scholar

12. Church and State, p. 18 note.Google Scholar

13. Coleridge's clearest discussion of the distinction between ‘reason’ and ‘understanding’ is found in Aids to Reflection, Aphorisms on Spiritual Religion B, Aphorisms VIIIb and IX. In Church and State we find, ‘The Understanding, which derives all its materials from the senses, can dictate purposes only, i.e. such ends as are in their turn means to other ends.’

14. Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, Aids to Reflection (ed. John Beer), Volume 9 of Coburn (ed.), The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, p. 232.Google Scholar

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19. Notebooks III, 4443 f. 36. Coleridge, following Fichte and Schelling here, appeals to ‘the German word for sensation or feeling … Empfindung, i.e. an inward finding’ (Church and State, p. 180).Google Scholar

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22. The earliest sections of Church and State, including the ‘Mystes’ dialogue were written in 1825, though the final work was not completed till 1829. The manuscripts of the Opus Maximum were written between 1819 and 1823 but Coleridge went on planning and re-planning the work. In 1828, as the likelihood of completion receded to a hopeless distance, he produced his most ambitious plan yet. See Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, Opus Maximum (ed. Thomas McFarland), Volume 15 of Coburn (ed.), The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, pp. ccv.Google Scholar

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28. Opus Maximum, pp. 203204Google Scholar. As our purpose is to elucidate the constitutional arguments of Church and State, it will suffice here to focus on the Eternal Son. Coleridge, however, understands the Spirit as also proceeding, by the same logic, from the Father and the Son. As the fullness of the Father's self-communication, the Son is also eternally causative and so wills the completion of the Divine communication by returning his own fullness to the Father. This ‘perichoresis’ is the reciprocal act of the Father and the Son, and as a Divine act it is causative of reality. The Spirit is thus the being of the reciprocal willing of Father and Son, the substance of mutual love: ‘eternal unity in the eternal alterity and distinction’, Opus Maximum, p. 209.Google Scholar

29. Opus Maximum, p. 203.Google Scholar

30. Opus Maximum, p. 207Google Scholar. In a marginal comment on Waterland's Vindication of Christ's Divinity, Coleridge refers to Christ as ‘that Idea Idearum, the one substrative truth which is the form, ma ner, and involvent of all truths’.

31. Opus Maximum, p. 207.Google Scholar

32. Church and State, pp. 54, 75.Google Scholar

33. Church and State, p. 43.Google Scholar

34. Church and State, pp. 2526.Google Scholar

35. Church and State, p. 114.Google Scholar

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37. This prerogative, however, should be understood in the light of Coleridge's general caution regarding the extent of the State's coercive power: ‘the Magistrate's duty is not to punish or attempt to prevent all acts that may indirectly and in their remote consequences injure society … but such acts as are directly incompatible with the peace and security of society, leaving all else to the influences of religion, education, sympathy, necessity of maintaining a character, etc.,’ Coleridge, , Marginalia (part-volume I, ed. G. Whalley), Volume 12 of Coburn (ed.), The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, p. 248.Google Scholar

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40. Brinkley, Roberta Florence (ed.), Coleridge on the Seventeenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1955), p. 297.Google Scholar

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46. Church and State, p. 55.Google Scholar

47. Church and State, p. 57.Google Scholar

48. Bettenson, Henry (ed.), Documents of the Christian Church (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1946), p. 73.Google Scholar

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50. Chadwick, O., The Victorian Church (2 vols.; London: Adam and Charles Black, 3rd edn, 1971), I, p. 24.Google Scholar

51. Lord John Russell, cited in Briggs, Asa, The Age of Improvement (London: Folio Society, 1999), p. 209.Google Scholar

52. Church and State, p. 7.Google Scholar

53. Chadwick, , The Victorian Church, II, p. 438.Google Scholar

54. Hooker, Richard, Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity: The Works of Mr. Richard Hooker (3 vols.; ed. Keble, John; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1874), III, p. 330.Google Scholar

55. ‘Denominations’, in sense of ‘kinds’, not churches.

56. Church and State, p. 46.Google Scholar

57. Church and State, p. 50.Google Scholar

58. Mill, , ‘Coleridge,’ pp. 209–12.Google Scholar

59. Cornwall, Peter, ‘The Church of England and the State: Changing Constitutional Links in Historical Perspective’, in Moyser, George (ed.), Church and Politics Today (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1985), pp. 3354Google Scholar. Avis, , Church, State, and Establishment, pp. 7491.Google Scholar

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61. Norman, Edward, Christianity and the World Order (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979), p. 2.Google Scholar

62. Church and State, p. 115.Google Scholar

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64. See Coleridge's comments in The Friend on ‘our conscientious tolerance of each other's intolerance’, Coleridge, The Friend (part-volume I, ed. Barbara E. Rooke), Volume 4 of Coburn (ed.), The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, p. 96.Google Scholar

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