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of faith, and points of discipline. But the church funds, from the voluntary contributions of christians, being sufficient for the purpose of them, they made no farther provision for the support of the clergy. They only shewed their piety, as other rich individuals did, by building churches, making presents of plate, and vestmerts, and grants of lands to some of them. By their example they encouraged these donations, and thus the church grew rich, and was supported by its own proper funds, as any other corporate body might be.
But the emperors never interfered in the choice of bishops, till the bishops of Rome becoming very wealthy, and from their peculiar fituation having great power, the emperors assumed a negative on the choice of the people, though there is hardly any example of their making a real use of it. They seldom or never presumed to recommend any particular person antecedently to the choice of the people. In the appointment of the ordinary bithops and clergy they never interfered at all, directly or indirectly.
When, upon the irruption of the northern nations, and the establishment of the feudal system, churchmen got possession of eflates in fee, those estates were subject to the fame laws as if they had been held by other persons. And as the bishops and abbots had no natural heirs, the princes bestowed them, at least the temporalities, as the estates were called, on whom they pleased. By this means the greater bishops and abbots became temporal lords, and in consequence of this obtained a right to sit in the great council of the nation, along with other peers of the realm. But this did not better the condition of the ordinary clergy, or provide for their maintenance by law.
Tithes, by which they are now legally maintained, took place very gradually, and were first given voluntarily, sometimes to the poor, and sometimes to the church, at the pleasure of the donor. By degrees, however, the clergy excluded the poor, and appropriated all the tithes to themselves; and about A. D. 600, tithes, from being established
as a custom, became in some inftances legal rights; because many estates were bequeathed with an obligation to pay tithes tɔ particular churches. When tithes were left to distant churches, the priests of the parish in which the estate lay used to complain ; and at length, but so late as the reign of our king John, the pope made a law that all tithes should be paid to the parish priest; and after some time they were levied by law, in all parishes without exception*.
Thus you see that this boasted establishment of yours, venerable, as you think, for its antiquity, is in fact but of yesterday, and derives its being from a succession of innovations, all of them departures from the genuine principles of christianity; and all together they form a system of which the apostles could not have had any idea. On the contrary,
, all our customs are exactly those of the primitive church, and such as were universal in the christian world before any establishment was known.
My good friends and neighbours,
* There was much more reason for an universal tax upon the kingdom to support religion in former times, than there can be at present. But the times, or circumstances of things, change, while the institutions, to which they gave birth, continue. When this tax was imposed, there was no other religion then one in the country. At least, avowed sectaries were very few; and as the particular inconvenience of tithes was not then attended to, and all derived what they deemed to be a benefit from the establishment which was supported by them, no person complained. But now the case is widely different. Great numbers are so far from deriving any advantage from the established religion, that they are oppressed by it, and yet they are compelled to support and enforce that oppression. They have, therefore, great cause of complaint, whether there be any sense of equity in the nation to attend to the complaint
Remarks on what Mr. Madan has observed on this Subject.
My Townsmen and Neighbours,
posing the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts, as a great constitutional cause, and this, he says in his Preface, is the chief motive for the publication of his Sermon. But be affured it is constitutional only with respect to the clergy, and not to yourselves. For it is only a power of compelling you to pay them for what instructions they are pleased to give you, and to pay them in the most burthenfome manner possible; which often operates to defeat the end of all their instructions, and which leaves you no controul upon their conduct, whether you approve of it or not. This, indeed, is the case of almost all establishments; but it is evidently a diminution of your liberty, and an augmentation of their power. It is, besides, an insult upon you, as it implies that, if you were not thus compelled to have such a religion as the government provides for you, you would have none at all.
But in the primitive times, religion, and the maintenance of it, were, as I have shewn, voluntary things, and the compulsory payment of tithes, &c. (of which no hint is given in the New Testament) introduced the tyranny of the clergy; and the oppression of the laity; and this kept increasing, till, at the time of the reformation, no tyranny was ever so dreadful. The heathen emperors themselves never carried on a more bloody persecution than did christians who had power against other christians who had no power, and all for the support of an antichristian hierarchy. And all that was done in England by Henry VIII. and queen Elizabeth, was setting up another hierarchy in its place. Mr. Madan, however, quite forgetting the primitive and apoftolic state of
things, in which all persons were perfectly free to support their religion in whatever manner they pleased, says, p. 6, “ the indispensable necessity of some national church,” (that is, a church to which men are compelled to contribute) " is so clear in itself, so capable of abundant proof, that it inay
be rather affirmed as an axiom, than offered as a propofition.” Indeed, it is much more easy to affirm this, than to prove it; and in fact, the very reverse of what he affirms as an axiom, may be demonstrated from the New Testament (to which such a constitution is altogether unknown) from the nature of things, and from ałtual fact. But Mr. Madan, taking his axiom for granted, says, p. 79
every late and its national church have a mutual con“ nexion, and a reciprocal interest." But here the national church means nothing more than the national clergy, and not the christian people of which that church consists. For your interests, as I have shewn, are facrificed for theirs.
The affurance with which churchmen continually repeat their favourite maxims, without the least regard to the actual state of the world, which is a standing refutation of their affertions, is astonishing. Thus Mr. Madan says, p. 7. « what civilized state was ever known perinanent and « Aourishing, unconnected with some system of religious
tenets.” To say nothing of this maxim being equally capable of being urged in favour of heathenisin, mahometanisın, popery, or any system of religion whatever, Mr. Madan certainly never thought of America, when he wrote his Sermon. For that country has been permanent and fourishing for near two centuries, without any such system, as he imagines to be absolutely necessary. In many of those provinces no man was ever compelled to pay to the support of any particular species of religion approved by the state : for the state left every man to chuse his own. And in Penfylvania, which, unfortunately for Mr. Madan's hypothesis, was from the first, and ever continued to be, the most flourishing of them all, no man was compellable to support any religion, and yet there never was any want of religion, or of good morals, in that province.
All the states of America are now in the same situation. They have no national religion at all. In that respect every man does what is right in his own eyes, and all persons, without distinction, are admillible to every civil office; and yet they see no cause to apprehend that ruin and destruction which Mr. Madan forebodes will be the consequence of the dissolution of our national establishment. Since their emancipation from the power of this country, the North Americans are imitating our civil institutions, and adopting a form of government similar to our excellent one; but they wisely avoid every thing like the ecclesiastical part of it, as the clergy always affect to speak.
If these establishments of christianity were so necessary, as Mr. Madan represents, the American States could not have subfifted a single year without one; and in the late unsettled state of their civil government, when the ecclefiaftical conftitution was certainly, as Mr. Madan himself would say, most wanted, they found no want of it at all. They have now done without one, in a state independent of England, fourteen years, and for any thing that appears, they may do as well fourscore, or four hundred, years. Now, why may not Englishmen on this side the Atlantic do without a national church (this appendage, or rather excrescence, of our constitution) as well as Englishmen on the other fide of it!
To subdue your minds to a disposition to submit to every thing that you find established, and to oppose all innovation, Mr. Madan brings into one view, p. 14, all the passages in which the apostles urged submission to the Roman government in their time; without considering the peculiar situation of christians at that time, and without considering that his application of those maxims would inculcate submission to every government, however tyravnical, that happens to be once established, be it heathen, mahometan, or popish. If the powers that be are ordained of God, was not Henry VIII. guilty of a great sin in resisting them ? For certainly he found the power of the pope as fully established in this