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frightened to death on this particular subject) you take it for granted that your church never was without these Corporation and Test Acts, being its necessary body guards; and least of all that it was without them in its tender infancy, when it must most of all have wanted support. But through all the reigns of Henry VIII. Edward VI. Elizabeth, James I. Charles I. and till the latter end of that of Charles II. viz. 1672, in all which time it rose from nothing to its full strength and glory, there was no Test Act at all. All those princes were allowed to employ whom they thought proper in all business of a civil nature, and no inconvenience whatever arose from it. Nor when the Test act was made was any evil dreaded from the Protestant Diflenters. Nay they themselves inost zealously concurred in passing it. The danger then was from the Catholics only, on account of the next heir to the crown being a Catholic. Before this, viz. in 1661, mere party Spirit, and not any regard to the safety of the state, had given birth to the Corporation Act.
If these Acts be really necessary in England, they must be much more so in Ireland, where the church establishment is much weaker than it is here, not more than one in ten of the inhabitants of that country being of it; and yet in this very reign, viz. A.D. 1779, the Test Act has been repealed there; and though, according to Mr. Madan, the church must necessarily have fallen with it, it still exists, and there is even less danger of its being overturned than before. Because the Dissenters, being conciliated, and put into good humour by the measure, are less than ever disposed to be hostile to the church. Being, in all civil matters, equally favoured by government with the members of the established church, and not lying under the reproach of being unfit to be trusted with power, though they have not in fact any more power than they had before, they consider themselves as in a more respectable situation, and are disposed to be contented with it; leaving the clergy to manage their own affairs, and enjoy all their emoluments as before. But when men are treated like dogs, they will snarl at those who hold the whip over them, whether they receive a blow or not.
You will naturally ask, how came the church to be so liberal to the Diffenters in Ireland, and so hostile to them in England. I will explain the whole in a very few words. There was no liberality in the case. But the Diffenters in Ireland are much more numerous in proportion to the members of the establishment in that country than they are in this; and therefore, notwithstanding the measure mult have appeared much more hazardous (which is the plea for refusing us) the court, and of course the clergy, did not think it prudent to refuse their request. There were no meetings of the clergy on the occasion, no such sermons as Mr. Madan's were preached, and lords and commons were, I believe, unanimous in passing the bill. But here the court is at present against us, and the clergy (though the church would not receive a shadow of harm from the measure, as the experience of Ireland for the last eleven years abundantly proves) indulge themselves in shewing their dislike to us, because they can do it with impunity.
For the same reasons we were twice repulsed when we petitioned to be relieved from the obligation we were most unreasonably laid under to subscribe the greater part of the articles of your church, a church with which we have nothing to do, and from which we receive no emolument. But the court, wishing to shew some favour to the Catholics; and fearing left a clamour would be raised by the more sober part of the nation, if something was not done for us too, thought proper at length to grant our request; and then nothing more was heard of any opposition from the clergy. Such is the policy of a court, and such the operation of the fundamental principle of passive-obedience, and non-refiftance in the clergy, ever true to the terms of their alliance with the state.
If these Acts were repealed, there would be no visible change whatever in the aspect of public affairs, respecting church or state. It would not, in fact, give any additional
power to the Diffenters, nor, if it did, could that power be employed to the injury of the church. It is not reason, or even self defence, or self interest, that has driven the generality of your clergy to this violence against us; but merely bigotry and passion. Many men of the best understanding among them clearly see this, and wonder as much as I do, at the general infatuation.
Besides, is it for the credit of the church of England to suppose it to be naturally weaker, and to stand in more need of foreign support, independent of a voluntary attachment to it, as founded in truth, than other established churches? No other national church (and they are found in almost all parts of the christian world) has any such security as this, or has ever found the want of it. Mr. Madan, indeed, quotes Dean Swift, p. 26, in saying that "in Holland none
are admitted into civil offices who do not conform to the
legal worship.” But Swift*, like the late Dr. Johnson, debased a good natural understanding with the lowest bigotry. He neither knew, nor cared to know, any thing
* The contemptuous manner in which Swift always mentions Difsenters, as if they were not even of the human species, shews the defpicable narrowness of his mind : and yet a passage of his writings, in which this is the most conspicuous, is quoted with approbation by Mr. Madan. • The offer of their abilities,' says Mr. Madan, p. 26, ' integ
rity and learning, and all that may be intended by their quick-fighted • talents' (alluding in a fneer to an expression in one of my publications) • for the service of the state, will be sufficiently noticed by a short extract • from Swift. " Their zeal, says he, is cominendable, and when em“ployments go a begging for want of hands, they shall be sure to have - the refusal ; only upon condition that they will not pretend to them
upon maxims which equally include Atheists, Jews, Turks, Infidels, " and Heretics, or which is still more dangerous, even Papists them“v felves.” This is the contempt of the contemptible, which news the writer not worthy to rank with any of the classes of men he here enumerates. When I read such stuff as this, and find it the language of this day, as much as it was in the time of Sacheverel, I bless God that I was born a free Dissenter, not manacled by the chains of so debasing a system as that of the church of England, and that I was not educated at Oxford or Cambridge. My education, in this at least unspeakably more liberal than theirs, has taught me to esteem Papifts, Feu's, Turks, Infidels, Heretics, and even Atheists if they be honest men, and the Churchof England-man too who despises me. It is because he has been no better taught, or because God has not given him a better understanding.
about the Diffenters, and he paid no regard to truth or decency in his inyectives against them. What he said of the Dutch Mr. Madan might easily know not to be true in fact. For though every burgomaster, and those who administer justice, must have subscribed the national confeffion of faith, no test is requred of those who serve in the army or navy, which are offices of infinitely more power; and in these there are instances of their employing even Roman Catholics.
It is plain, however, that Mr. Madan was not able to quote any other instance of such illiberality as disgraces this country. Before the late revolution in France a Protestant had been at the head of the French army against other Protestants, and another had been their prime minister in civil affairs, without any apprehenfion being entertained by the most bigoted of the Catholics for the safety of their established church. Lord North told us that this was one of the accidental advantages of an arbitrary government. But this liberal system is continued now that that government is become more free than ours. The catholic religion still continues in France, though Protestants are admissible into all places of trust or power.
Is there not an established church in Scotland, as well as in England? and does not that subfist very well without any Test Act, even with the disadvantage of its king being of another religion? Yet they allow that king to employ whom he pleases in all offices of trust and power in Scotland, without shewing any fear for the safety of their national religion. It is plain, therefore, that the Scoth clergy, who have never made any complaint or remonstrance on the subject, have far more confidence in the goodness and stability of their ecclesiastical establishment than the English clergy, who are so miserably and fo universally panic struck, have with respect to theirs. You, brave Englishmen, must be ashamed of such cowards.
But what is this Test Act, and what can it do for your church, or for any church? If it cannot be supported with
out it, I am very sure that it cannot with it. For it is no more than a cobweb, which any fly may break through. In order to qualify for a civil office, it requires that a person should receive the communion according to the rites of the church of England. But this is what most Diffenters now do without violating their conscience at all. You see that both Mr. Russell and Mr. Taylor in your own neighbourhood, have done it, and in consequence hold the office of justice of the peace. These are men of honour and principle, proper to be trusted with any degree of power. But bad men, against whom alone you ought to be upon your guard, even Atheists, men of no religion, who laugh at your church, and who will support it no longer than it supports them, make no scruple at all of conforming to this Test. They are ready to kneel at the rails of your chancel whenever they are called upon, and laugh in their sleeve all the time.
To make this Test any thing like a real guard to the church, and exclude from offices of trust and power, all who are not bona fide members of it, you should infist upon their communicating habitually, and not only that, but on their attending your public worship every Lord's-day. Whereas, the fact is, that very few persons in any considerable office attend the service of your church at all, except when the duties of their office absolutely require it. This Test Act, which you now make your sheet anchor, the main pillar within the church, and the great buttress without it, can in faut do nothing for it. It only excludes fome scrupulously conscientious men, who in general are not much qualified for public business, and who might be very innocently admitted into any place. We chiefly object to this act because that it is disgraceful to us, though much more so to the country which imposes it.
The existence of this Act is not of a piece with the liberality of the country in other reípects. For Diflenters may be peers, or they may fit in the house of commons. There, you say, there is no danger from them, because their number is inconsiderable. But would not that be the very