Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub
[ocr errors]

obedience and non-rosijtance, no doubt, keep all in perfet subjection to one head.

Now, what becomes of an hypothesis, when there are no facts to support it? If there be no conspiracy of Dissenters against the government, no peculiarly refractory disposition of the wives of the Diflenters against their husbands, or peculiar obstinacy in Dissenters' children towards their parents, what evidence is there of the existence of a turbulent disposition in Diffenters at all? Mr. Madan should attend more than he has done to the connexion of causes and effects, and then he will find himself compelled to give up his favourite hypothesis of the universal disposition to republicanism, and consequently, as he will suppose, to anarchy, in the principles of the Diffenters.

It was particularly fortunate for the Anabaptists, that there were but few of them in England at the time of the civil wars, and that the mention of them does not occur in any civil transactions of the times. For as they had been the most turbulent of all the sectaries in Germany, they would certainly have come in for their share of Mr. Madan's censure, who would never have been persuaded but that they had brought their seditious principles with them into this country. They now fall under his censure (which includes them as well as all other Diflenters) merely because they keep bad company, and go by a bad name. For this reason too, the Quakers also, and the English Catholics, ought to bear their thare of this censure, and the calumny being divided among so many,

many, it will hardly be felt by any individual. This, I flatter myself, will be the case when, as clasies of men equally aggrieved by the laws now existing, we shall all join in one petition for the repeal of all penal laws in matters of religion, and, without swords in our hands, demand, as our natural and just right, the civil privileges of other subjects.

If the sins of remote ancestors are to be imputed to people now living, and Mr. Msadan had been a Welshman,

he

[ocr errors]

he might urge his countrymen to make war upon the English, for driving them out of their lawful poffeffions in the time of Hengist and Horla. Do not the follow Mr. Madan in looking for the guilt of the present generation in that of another, one hundred and fifty years ago, but confider our conduct at present; and of this, without having recourse to history, you can judge yourselves, and you will not be misled by preachers, who, by taking advantage of your ignorance, may impose upon you.

However, after all that has been urged a thousand times and from the clearelt evidence of history, to exculpate the present Disenters from the horrid crime of cutting off king Charles's head, this guilt, like original fin, is so entailed upon us, that I believe, it must descend to our latest posterity, and even to the day of judgment. It is even ready to seize all the proselytes we may make, whether they be the posterity of Charles himself, or of his executioners. The clergy have repeated the accusation so often, and in such strong modes of afleveration, as ihe settled principles and conviction of their hearts, that they seem to believe it as firmly as they do any of the thirty-nine articles; so that in time it may take its place among them, and make a fortieth ; though they will then exceed the number of forty pripes fave one, which was the limit of castigation in the Jewish law; and many who must subscribe them or starve, I am persuaded, would rather chule that one were taken away, than that any more were added to them. We are the sheep, and our accusers are the wolves, and, say what we will, we must be guilty,

Indeed, the more I reflect on the temper with which Mr. Madan must have written, the more concern it gives me, as an unpromising feature of the times we live in ; reasoning as follows. If his good sense can be thus blinded, and if, notwithstanding the sweetness of his temper, and his polished manners, his passions can be fo violently inflamed, as to abuse us innocent Diflenters in the manner that he has done, what must be the strength of those principles which

have

C 3

[ocr errors]

have produced so unlooked for an effect? And what have we not to dread from them in persons of inferior understandings, of less liberal education, and of harsher difpofitions? I should not even wonder if, in understandings more clouded, and tempers more irrascible, this extreme bigotry should produce the effects of absolute insanity.

If Mr. Madan can really consider all the Disfenters of the present day as unquestionably republicans, and so strongly insinuate that we are all ready to treat the present king as Oliver Cromwell did Charles I. I have reason to rejoice in the Act of indemnity. Without this I should now expect that, though my ancestors, being churchmen, might have fought under the standard of Charles I. I, being a Dissenter, should be actually indicted for the crime of murdering that blessed martyr, and that myself and my three sons (for the politeness and mildness of which Mr. Madan makes such a boast would perhaps spare my daughter) might be hanged, drawn and quartered, for our share in that horrid transaction.

The philosophical world has of late been amused with a story of a poisonous tree in the island of Java, that would not suffer any plant to grow, or any animal to approach, within twelve miles of it. But the murder of this king has a far more baneful and extensive influence; and according to appearance, we can never remove far enough from it. I should think, however, that the clergy mould fix some time, a thousand years for example (for I would not be unreasonable in fixing too short a term of probation) after which, if the Disfenters should behave like other subjects, and kill no more kings, it should be deemed illiberal in such preachers as Mr. Madan to charge us with the crimes of republicanism, and king-killing. However, it seems hardly fair to infer a habit from a single act, and we are not charged with killing any more kings than one.

The great merit, however, of this king Charles was his attachment to the church of England, to which the clergy consider him as having been a martyr; and for this reason

it

it is that they pursue with such indiscriminate vengeance all persons, whom they can have any pretence, how improbable soever, for ,charging with it. For this reason I shall in a future Letter consider the nature and value of civil establishments of religion in general, and then proceed to that of the church of England in particular, that you may judge whether it be reason, or merely interest and passion, that dictates such Sermons as those of Mr. Madan. Hoping a more favourable hearing than we have hitherto had, I remain,

My good friends and neighbours,

Yours, &c.

P. S. My next Letter will relate to the Corporation and Test Afts, and I shall prove to you that neither the flate, nor the church, have any thing more to fear from the repeal of them than from the repeal of the old ftatutes concerning witches, or from making any new ones concerning canals or turnpike roads, but that both would be gainers by the measure. Nay, I should not wonder, if, when these aas are repealed, the clergy should take to themselves the merit of all that has been done to promote it, as they do with respect to the act of toleration, after all the aversion they shewed to that measure.

[blocks in formation]

LETTER IV.

Of the Corporation and Test Aas.

My generous Townsıncn and Neighbours THE THE nature of the Corporation and Test Aals, which have

occasioned all this writing and preaching, has been strangely misrepresented to you, and Mr. Madan's Sermon lias no tendency to clear it up. But plain men may judge of plain things, at least by their effiets, without much deep reasoning on the subject. Mr. Madan says, p. 12, that “ the Dissenters are under no disability which can possibly “ be avoided consistently with our own security,” that is, the security of the church. Now, without considering what the Corporation and Test Acts are in themselves, you see that, according to Mr. Madan, they are things without which the church cannot be secure, if it could exist at all. But, though I am not of your church, and therefore you cannot suppose that I think it to be the best of all possible churches, I have a much better opinion of it, in some respects, than Mr. Madan has, or any of those high church men, who, on this occasion, are such zealous sticklers for it. They must think it a poor weak, and infirm thing, indeed, of no strength at all, in its own constitution, or they would never fancy such supports as these to be necessary to it. I can clearly shew them from history and fast, that it is much better established than their fears will allow them to think it is.

If these acts were really necessary to the security of your church, it is plain that it could never have done without them. And I dare say that, after reading Mr. Madan's Sermon, and every thing else that has been written by your clergy (men of great courage no doubt, but who are

frightened

« ПредишнаНапред »