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same with respect to any other places of trust and power. If the obnoxious Acts were repealed, Disenters would not be admitted into offices but at the nomination of the crown, and certainly not in such numbers as to make them formidable. For if persons of all religious persuasions were employed alike, in proportion to their numbers, there would always be the same over-balance of officers belonging to the established religion ; which would be sufficient to counteract the attempts of their brother officers of all the different sects, especially as these would, of course, be divided among themselves.
If, for example, there should be an hundred officers in the army or navy belonging to the established church, and ten, or even twenty, of half a dozen different sects, what is it that could be apprehended from them? In fact inuch less than now. Because as things now are, all Dissenters have a principle of union among themselves, in their common cxclusion from civil offices, which would not then exist. All would rather be disposed to pay their court to the chief magistrate, who had the power of giving to each particular person what he wished to obtain, which would naturally give him a bias in favour of his religion, viz. that of the state. Consequently, the present system is as impolitic, as it is unjust, if the safety of the church be the object; and on this principle fome Diffenters prefer their present situation. Admission to civil offices at the nomination of the court would, as they say, dispose men to favour the court, and to become less zealous as Diflenters; and the clergy themselves, if they were not blinded by their rage against the Disfenters, might see this. But in this and in many other respects, their conduct favours of a kind of infatuation, such as generally precedes ruin. If you, who are tradesmen, should act with no more judgment in the conduct of your affairs, than they do with respect to theirs, you would soon become bankrupts.
Mr. Madan says, p. 17, that “the legislature has en“ deavoured to provide for the security of the state by those means which ought to be effectual with every man, as the
« strongest and most awful which can possibly be used." But certainly this is saying a great deal too much. I have shewn you very plainly how it might have been made mucho stronger; and if what I have above proposed should not be thought sufficient, let every civil officer be made to swear allegiance to the church of England. Make them vow perpetual enmity to all Diflenters, and hoftility even to the prince upon the throne if he should ever be hostile to the church, or be discovered to look with the least degree of complacency upon a single Dissenter. This method would be much more effectual, and certainly more decent, than the prostitution of a sacred ordinance of religion to so prophane and foreign a purpose as the qualification for a civil office.
Ân oath expressly declares the purpose for which it is administered. A man is thereby made to profess some specific thing, which it may be proper for the government that he should profess, in order that, if he was found to violate his oath, he might be subject to a certain penalty. But the mere act of receiving the Lord's-supper, without any declaration annexed to it, expressive of the purpose for which it is received, implies no civil obligation at all. The communicant may consider the action in his own light, and many will do it as a token of christian fellowship with other christians of a different communion. On this idea the famous Mr. Baxter, though a steady Diflenter (liaving refused a bishopric that was offered him) chose to communicate once a year with the church of England; and other Dissenters have voluntarily done the same; not as members of the church of England themselves, but to thew their brotherly respect for it.
If the sense of the legislature may be admitted in the interpretation of any law, a Diffenter may have less scruple in cominunicating with the church of England in order to his admillion into any civil office, because it is well known that the law was not meant to exclude Disfenters, but only Catholics.
According, therefore, to the manner in which the Lord's supper is required to be received by candidates for civil offices, it is no security at all to the church of England; but an horrible prophanation of one of her facred rites, and such as must be the occasion of much scandal to the truly pious members of your church. If a man perform any religious act, whatever it be, he should be left to his own liberty to perform it when he finds himself in a proper dirposition for it. But in this case, whether a man think himself qualified or unqualified, whether he be disposed or indisposed to the religious exercise, the ceremony must be performed. What pain then must this give to serious clergymen, who are directed by the canons of the church not to give the communion to persons whom they deem to be unworthy, and yet are compellable by act of parliament to administer it, without distinction, to all who are appointed to public offices *
Now, though I differ from you who are of the church of England with respect to some of your tenets, and the form of your church government, I trust we feel alike for the lionour of what is common to 'us as christians; and this, you must confess, is disgraced by the statutes which we petition to have repealed. They are such statutes as unbelievers would have made, in order to turn your sacraments, and your religion, into ridicule. If, therefore, you really with to exclude us Diflenters from all civil offices, do it efficiually, but in a more decent and proper manner, such as will shew that it is your religion that you value, and that you wish to guard by this provision. But if you find, as you must have done already, that no inconvenience has in fact arisen from Diflenters (among whom are to be reckoned Scotchmen, who, though Presbyterians, must take the Test
* A serious member of the church of England happening to attend prayers in a church where, without his knowing it, it was the custom to administer the Lord's-supper for the sake of qualifying persons to receive civil offices, chose to cominunicate with them. But when he was afterwards taking his hat to walk out, the clerk stepped up to him and faid, “Sir, it will do you no good if you have not a certificate.
as well as we) being in civil offices, and there are perhaps as many
of them in such offices now, as there would be if the Telt was abolished, throw it aside at once, as a thing that is equally disgraceful and useless, and provide no substitute for it at all.
How weak then, you see, is this barrier which Mr. Madan says, p. 23, “the wisdom of a former age has " erected for its defence," viz. that of your church, “and " which the experience of a century has proved to be effec«tual." I think, however, that I have abundantly shewn that this is ascribing a great deal too much to this boasted statute, whereas it is only like a fly upon the chariot wheel, saying IVhat a duft I raise. If the experience of a century has proved this barrier to be effectual, the experience of two preceding centuries, and also that of Ireland at present, proves it to be perfecily insignificant.
If you look into the Resolutions passed by the clergy at their several meetings, to defeat our application to parliament, or into the pamphlets that have been written by the friends of the establishment on the subject, you will find them triumphing most of all in asserting the right that all men, and all societies of men, have to chuse their own fervants, and to say who they are that they think proper to trust with any degree of power. This country, they say, has even laid similar restrictions on the exercise of kingly power, by making a Roman Catholic ineligible to that office. What then, say they, have Diflenters to complain of more than other classes of persons, even the highest?
Now, my friends, we never questioned the absolute right of the legislature to pass any act respecting Diflenters, or any other description of inen, but only the wisdom of their conduct. It will not be denied but that any man has a right to employ one of his hands to cut off the other, but would not all the world call him a fool for so doing ?
The legislature of this country may, no doubt, carry their plan of disabilities, in a variety of respects, much farther then they have done. They might exclude all officers of the army or navy, all lawyers, all tradelinen, and even all
bishops, bishops, from a seat in either house of parliament. An act may be made to prevent the king employing in his service all men who have red hair, or, if that be complained of as a natural incapacity, all who should wear wigs. But the question is whether it would be wise to act in this manner, whether it would be consulting the good of the country to subject the executive power to such restrictions. Now we think it as unwise, and therefore, strictly speaking, as wrong, and as contrary to proper and natural right, to say that the king and the country shall not be served by Diffenters, if, in other respects, they be well qualified to serve them.
I would farther observe that this business would be better conducted if Diffenters as such, were absolutely prohibited from being admitted into civil offices ; so that their nomination and election should be null and void, and not permit them, as is the case at present in corporate towns, to have a regular nomination to an office, and to allow the validity of their acts while they are in it, and then subject them to a dreadful penalty, such as nothing but the greatest of crimes can justify, for having accepted it. For the penalty is the payment of five hundred pounds, being disabled from suing or prosecuting in any court of law, being guardians of any child, being executors or administrators of
any person, and being incapable of receiving any legacy or deed of gift. There is nothing in the civil policy of any other country so cruel, and at the same time so insidious as this. This is in a country the laws of which, and especially its criminal law, is so much the boast of its inhabitants! However, great numbers of the inembers of your church are just now in the same situation, so that, if the Diffenters were so disposed, they might take ample revenge. For if the prosecution be begun before the aet of indemnity (which from the general neglect of complying with the Test is always found necessary every seslions of parliament) be passed, the law must have its course. But I hope no Diflenters will follow such an example, if it should be set them by any members of the church of England. I trust we are better christians.
I am, &c.