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the honourable house of Commons say, when they find how they have been taken in?
Mr. Burke is a person with whom I have been well acquainted more than twenty years, and till this affair, he always professed much respect for me, as I had for him. The last time he came through Birmingham, he called at my house, and we had much free and confidential conversation. But how shall we meet after this? He will blame his want of fagacity, in being over-reached; but he will say, “ how could I expect any deceit from so holy a quarter." Now my friends, you need not be told that they who could do this, or knowingly permit others to do it, would do almost any thing else to gain the same point. They must have had an intent to deceive, and this it is that constitutes the criminality of any wilful violation of truth.
How great, then, must be the value that your clergy (for the suspicion will naturally fall on some of this body) have for the cause of the church, when they risque even their own salvation for the sake of it? The conduct of the apostles themselves was never so disinterested as this. But, like the immortal Curtius, they considered that, if they did not leap into the gulph, the church itself, and all you who belong to it, must have been swallowed up. Now, had there been any purgatory in your church, this conduct would not have been so meritorious. For out of purgatory there is redemption, but none from that place to which whosoever loveth and maketh a lie (Rev. xxii. 15.) must go. But this being a place only mentioned in fermons, and by polite preachers not even there, I must refer you to your Bibles, if you wish to know any thing more about it. It is possible, however, that as those of the clergy who distinguish themselves the most by their opposition to Disfenters approach a little to the church of Rome, they may think to save themselves by conselling and ahsolving one another. And as life is always uncertain, if they be as wise in the affairs of the next world as they are in those of this, the ceremony is by
this time probably over, and their consciences entirely at rest. Think not, however, that they would recommend fuch conduct to you, and there by risque your salvation; fince it is only for the sake of the church, in which your salvation, your lives and safeties all, are embarked, that they who are a few, chuse to run this risque for you who are many.
When the mischief is done, the proverb says we may as cuell laugh as cry, because both are equally unavailing, and the former is more pleasant, as well as more conducive to health. I hope, therefore, you will excuse me, though I have not been quite serious on a very serious subject. Indeed, as a serious one, it concerns your clergy and yourselves, much more than it does me. I shall, however, conclude this letter with perfect seriousness.
The temper which your clergy have shewn in preaching, withcut any provocation whatever, so long, and so violently, against the Dissenters, and the measures they have taken to oppose us, some of them, you see, the most artful and wicked, give us real concern; and we have the less hope of any return of liberality in our favour from seeing such men as Mr. Madan joining the party of the bigots, and retailing with apparent glee the low and malignant fcurrility of Swift against the Diffenters of his day.
As to Mr. Burn's being willing to have a gird at me, as Falftaff fays, it may easily be accounted for. He has a laudable view to rise in his profession; and being a man of good natural understanding, and good elocution, but having had no advantage of education, or family connexions, he may think it necessary to do something in order to make himielf conspicuous. And he night suppose he could not do better than follow the sure footsteps of those who had succeeded in the same chace before him. This might appear the more necessary in his case, as, having been a preacher among the Methodists and Diflenters (which, as I am well known highly to respect the Methodists, little as they respect me, and as I am a diffenting minister myself, I cannot mention with any contempt) his attachment to the established church might, without doing something of this nature, have been liable to be questioned.
But Mr. Madan is in very different circumstances. He is a gentleman born. His family and connections are respectable; he has had the most liberal education that his country can give. He is a man of a natural good teinper, of polished and engaging manners, and the door of preferment is so open to him, that he hardly needs to knock in order to enter.
For such a man as he, without any provocation, to deal out such grofs abuse, and with such uncominon solemnity, Thews what we have to expect from the times. If such men as Mr. Madan can divest themselves of all liberality of sentiment, and treat as rebels, and hypocrites, men with whom they have frequent intercourse, and whoin they ought to know better, and consequently to respect, we see that, as things are now situated, there is no hope left. If not from such men as he, from whom are we to expect decent treatment? It is a proof that the standard is raised against us, and that all the clergy, and other friends of the court, whether naturally disposed to it or not, must join their ranks, in opposing us.
And what is it that they are pursuing? It is a mere shadow, an unresisting substance. We have neither the power, nor the will, to make any opposition, except in a field in which they cannot meet us, the open field of reason and argument. Out of this we can never be forced ; and as to this, or any particular country, we are citizens of the world; and if we be perfecuted in one place, we must endeavour, as our Saviour recommends, to flee to another. Hoping, however, to be permitted to stay a while longer in a situation so perfectly agreeable to ine in other respects, and not having very long to continue in any,
I am, &c.
P.S. The subject of my next Letter will be Toleration, which being a thing that Mr. Madan has no want of himfelf, I shall fhew you he has thought little about, and certainly does not understand,
Of a Complete Toleration.
My Friends and Countrymen, MR.
R. Madan, like other writers on the same side of the
question, willing to represent the church to which he belongs in the best light that he can (and toleration being fortunately at this time a reputable thing) gives it the praise of tolerant. Now this we Dissenters readily and thankfully acknowledge to a certain degree. The Act of Toleration, passed in the time of king William, which rescued the Difsenters from starving or rotting in dungeons, and which, under certain, though hard, restrictions, allowed them to worship God in the forms they most approved, was a valuable thing. But for this we do not consider ourselves as at all indebted to the church, though the bishops might not vote against it. It was the liberality of the fate, in spite of the church. The same was the case with respect to the last boon that we obtained. For it was not till after two repulses, in which the bilhops, as usual, voted on the intolerant side of the question, that we got excused from fubfcribing many of the articles of the church of England by which we had been bound before. But still it is well known that another act of parliament remains in force, which makes it eventually confiscation of goods and imprisonment for life for any man, educated a christian, to declare his difbelief of the doctrine of the trinity.
Now, as many of us Diffenters do seriously disbelieve this doctrine of the trinity, and even think it our duty to endeavour to bring others to believe as we do, viz. in the doctrine of the divine unity, as opposed to that of the trinity, it is evident that, while this law sublists, there is no proper toleration in this country for us. And yet Mr. Madan,
knowing this, and expressly mentioning it, can insult us, as others of the clergy are perpetually doing, by saying, p. 12, that we have “the fullest liberty of conscience and
opinion.” " This doctrine," (viz. the trinity) says he, p. 19, “the Diflenters think proper to reject, and they
are at liberty to reject it,” that is at the risque of the penalty above mentioned, which, if any person should be bigot enough to inform against us, neither Mr. Madan, nor any other clergyınan, let his disposition towards us be ever so friendly, can prevent being exacted to the uttermost. This certainly is no toleration. It is mere connivance, and such as ány felon may enjoy while nobody thinks proper to prosecute him.
Mr. Madan himself fays, p. 21, “I will admit that the
rigorous execution of this law would certainly be in“ tolerant.” Is it not then plain, that though Englishmen may be merciful, the laws are un merciful, and therefore ought to be repealed? You will naturally think that after Mr. Madan himself had taxed the law with intolerance, if carried into execution (which is certainly saying nothing at all in fayour of the law) he would be for the repeal of it. But this by no means follows. Without calling this law any guard of the church, or of the principles of it, which however it was intended to be, and eve: making a merit of its not being executed, he says, p. 21, “the deliberate repeal « of it would certainly operate as a virtual fan&tion for that " conduct which it was enacted to restrain. That is, if there had been any law which made it death to steal an apple, it ought not to be repealed, because that would be a virtual sanction to the stealing of apples. Is not this most curious reasoning? Your clergy, I hope, give you better from the pulpit than in such publications as these. If the reasoning of Paul (Acts xxiv. 25.) had been no better than this, Felix would have been more disposed to laugh than to tremble.
It is, indeed, something extraordinary that Mr. Madan's ingenuity should not be able to find some medium in this case, either by proportioning the punishment to the crime,