« ПредишнаНапред »
Letter III. Of the Reasons for appealing to Early Opi-
nions concerning the Perfon of Christ.
Section I. Of latent Infincerity, and direct Preva-
Section II. Of the Source of Bigotry, and Perfecution.
Section III. Of the practical Tendency of different
Section IV. Of the Causes of Difference of Opinion,
and the Reading of the Scriptures recommended.
Of the feditious Tendency afcribed by Mr. Madan to the late Public Meetings of the Diffenters.
My generous Townsmen and Neighbours,
AVING lived very happily near ten years in this part of the country, and being defirous to acquire, and preserve, your good opinion, I take the liberty to address you on a subject to which your attention has of late been very frequently called, viz. the application to parliament for the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts, and also on various other fubjects relating to the Diffenters, and the established Church, especially by the juftly refpected rector of St. Philip's, in his Sermon, intitled, The principal Claims of the Diffenters confilered, in which he has advanced many things tending to give you a very unfavourable opinion of the Diffenters in general, and, not very obliquely, of myself in particular.
Mr. Madan's excellent character will lead you to give him entire credit for whatever he shall think proper to declare, especially from fo facred a place as the pulpit. For you will naturally conclude, that, fpeaking with fuch folemnity, he must have carefully confidered what he afferted; and his fincerity would not have been called in question, even if he had not thought neceffary to declare, p. 6, that what he delivered were the fettled principles and conviction of his heart, as he hoped for mercy from the God of truth. This
This is fuch a folemn form of an oath, or an appeal to God for his fincerity, as is not very common, and fuch as is never used except in cafes in which a man fuppofes that there may be fome cause to fufpect his veracity; and how Mr. Madan fhould conceive that this could be his cafe I cannot imagine. Recourfe fhould not be had to fuch peculiarly folemn forms of affeveration without necessity, because it tends to make them too common, by which means they come at length to lose their effect.
Besides, I cannot help wifhing that the preacher had kept up to the spirit of his text a little better than he has done. This advises us to speak evil of no man, to be gentle, and to fhew meekness towards all men. But how is this confiftent with his imputing to a numerous fect of his fellow-citizens (with many of whom he must have had, I doubt not, a pleafing and useful intercourfe) fome of the very worst and most dangerous defigns, for which he can have no evidence befides his own furmifes. He calls the late proceedings of the Diffenters to procure the repeal of the Teft and Corporation A&s, p. 4, clamorous and violent; and he intimates that our final views are of a feditious tendency. What favourable inference, fays he, p. 27, "can be drawn from the "alarm which their leaders are founding through every part "of Great Britain about their common caufe; how are we "to understand their voluntary contributions for national
meetings, and for other public ufes," direting your particular attention, as you fee, to the last words, as being of a more fufpicious nature, by printing them in italics.
Certainly, my good friends, the preacher, in bringing thefe railing accufations, has quite loft fight of his text— This is fpeaking evil. It is not being very gentle, or fhewing much meekness. But I account for it by his imagination being strangely disturbed with groundless terrors, on account of the intereft that he and his friends have in the system for which he is fo very apprehenfive; so that he fears where no fear is, and where no other man, except one in a fimilar fituation, can fee any cause of fear at all. But per
ceiving how much he is agitated on the fubject, I fhould not wonder if he fufpected an enemy to be concealed in every bush, or to fee him ftart at his own shadow.
For do but confider the thing coolly, and see what our proceedings have actually been. Have they not been the very fame that, without any cenfure, have been again and again adopted by the most peaceable claffes of people in the country, manufacturers for instance like yourselves, who have no other wish than quietly to follow their own business, whenever they have imagined themselves to be aggrieved by any particular law, or measure of government? Have they not held their meetings by public advertisement? Have there not been many of them in this very town, many in London, and other places, to confider of proper measures to obtain redress, to folicit parliament, &c. and when thefe meetings are, as indeed they neceffarily must be, attended with expence, must not funds be established to defray those expences? Have not these things been done a thousand times in this country, without any body ever imagining that there was any thing feditious, or hoftile to government in them? Now candour would fuppofe that we Diffenters, like other bodies of men who have held fimilar public meetings, have had no farther view than to relieve ourfelves in a legal way from what we confider as hardships.
By printing the words other public ufes in italics, Mr. Madan certainly meant to infinuate that, befides what we express, we had fome farther concealed and dangerous views; as if there were not many public ufes of a very innocent nature, for which money was neceffary, befides merely defraying the expence of public meetings. You fee that we print and publish many pamphlets, as well as infert the Refolutions of our meetings in the public papers, in order to give our countrymen the information which we fee they want concerning our fituation, and the reafons for our application to parliament. This bufinefs alfo requires a very extensive correspondence, which is neceflarily attended with
Now, might not Mr. Madan's imagination, if it had not been of a very suspicious turn indeed, have led him to fuppofe that by other public ufes were meant fuch expences as these, and others equally neceffary, but not deferving to be particularly specified in a printed resolution? What a ftrange suspicious turn must that man's mind have who could imagine that under fuch an innocent expreffion, any dark defigns were concealed; as if we were ready to take arms in order to overturn the government. He must be a mere Don Quixote who can believe any fuch thing, and worse than a Quixote who could infinuate it without believing it. But as Mr. Madan folemnly declares that he speaks from the settled principles and conviction of his heart, as he hopes for mercy from the God of truth, I am willing to think, that strange as this notion is, and bordering even upon infanity, it has actually got poffeffion of his mind. For can it be fuppofed that a minifter of the gofpel of peace, in the perfect ufe of his reafon, could, on fuch a trifling ground as this, endeavour to raise your indignation against persons with whom you have lived in good neighbourhood from your infancy, and whom you know to be as well affected to government, and as peaceably disposed, as himself?
Whatever the Diffenters be with respect to their religious principles, which concern only God and ourselves, you see that we are not abfolutely mad; and that we must be to think of overturning a government fo well established as that of this country, even if we were not friends to it. But the Diffenters have given clearer proofs of their value for it, and especially of their attachment to the reigning family, than the generality of the clergy, whofe loyalty, though they now make fo great a parade of it, is well known to be of very late date; whereas ours was always zealous and active from the first acceffion of the present reigning family, as the most authentic documents testify. As to our public meetings, which have given fuch umbrage to Mr. Madan, have not the Quakers always been in the