Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

THE ADVANTAGES

PROPOSED BY REPEALING THE SACRAMENTAL TEST,

IMPARTIALLY CONSIDERED. 1732.

WHOEVER writes impartially upon this subject, must do it not only as a mere secular man, but as one who is altogether indifferent to any particular system of Christianity. And I think, in whatever country that religion predominates, there is one certain form of worship and ceremony, which is looked upon as the established; and, consequently, only the priests of that particular form are maintained at the public charge; and all civil employments bestowed among those who comply (at least outwardly) with the same establishment.

This method is strictly observed, even by our neighbours the Dutch, who are confessed to allow the fullest liberty of conscience of any Christian state, and yet are never known to admit any persons into civil offices, who do not conform to the legal worship. As to their military men, they are indeed not so scrupulous; being, by the na

[ocr errors]

66

ture of their government, under a necessity of hiring foreign troops of whatever religious denomination, upon every great emergency, and maintaining no small number in time of

peace. This caution therefore of making one established faith, seems to be universal, and founded upon the strongest reasons; the mistaken or affected zeal of obstinacy and enthusiasm having produced such a number of horrible destructive events throughout all Christendom. For, whoever begins to think the national worship is wrong in any important article of practice or belief, will, if he be serious, naturally have a zeal to make as many proselytes as he can: and a nation may possibly have a hundred different sects with their leaders every one of which has an equal right to plead, that they must "obey God rather than man; must cry aloud and spare not;" must “ lift up their voice like a trumpet.

This was the very case of England during the fanatic times. And against all this there seems to be no defence, but that of supporting one established form of doctrine and discipline; leaving the rest to a bare liberty of conscience, but without any maintenance or encouragement from the public

Wherever this national religion grows so corrupt, or is thought to do so by a very great majority of landed people joined to the governing party, whether prince or senate, or both, it ought to be changed, provided the work may be done without blood or confusion. Yet, whenever such a change shall be made, some other establishments must succeed, although for the worse; allowing all deviations, that would break the union, to be only tolerated. In this sense, those who affirm that every law, which is contrary to the law of God, is void in itself, seem to be mistaken'; for many laws in popish kingdoms and states, many more among the Turks, and perhaps not a few in other countries, are directly against the divine laws; and yet, God knows, are very far from being void in the executive part.

Thus, for instance, if the three estates of parliament in England (whereof the lords spiritual, who represent the church, are one) should agree and obtain the royal assent to abolish episcopacy, together with the liturgy, and the whole frame of the English church, as burdensome, dangerous, and contrary to Holy Scripture; and that presbytery, anabaptism, quakerism, independency, Muggletonianism, Brownism, familism, or any other subdivided sect among us, should be established in its place: without question all peaceable subjects ought passively to submit, and the predominant sect must become the religion established; the public maintaining no other teachers, nor admitting any persons of a different religious profession into civil offices, at least if their intention be to preserve the nation in peace.

Supposing then that the present system of religion were abolished; and presbytery, which I find stands the fairest, with its synods and classes, and all its forms and ceremonies, essential or circumstantial, were erected into the national worship; their teachers, and no others, could have

any legal claim to be supported at the public charge, whether by stipends or tithes; and only the rest of the same faith to be capable of civil employments.

If there be any true reasoning in what I have laid down, it should seem, that the project now

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

in agitation for repealing the test act, and yet leaving the name of an establishment to the present national church, is altogether inconsistent; and may admit of consequences, which those who are the most indifferent to any religion at all, are possibly not aware of.

I presume, whenever the test shall be repealed, which obliges all men, who enter into office under the crown, to receive the sacrament according to the rites of the church of Ireland; the way to employments will immediately be left open to all dissenters (except papists), whose consciences can suffer them to take the common oaths in such cases prescribed; after which, they are qualified to fill any lay station in this kingdom, from that of chief governor to an exciseman.

Thus, of the three judges on each bench, the first may be a presbyterian, the second a free-will baptist, and the third a churchman; the lord chancellor may be an independent; the revenues may be managed by seven commissioners of as many different sects; and the like of all other, employments; not to mention the strong probability, that the lawfulness of taking oaths may be revealed to the quakers, who then will stand upon as good a foot for preferment as any other loyal subjects. It is obvious to imagine, that under such a motley administration of affairs, what a clashing there will be of interest and inclinations; what pullings and hawlings backward and forward; what a zeal and bias in each religionist, to advance his own tribe, and depress the others. For I suppose nothing will be readier granted, than that how indifferent soever most men are in faith and morals, yet, whether out of artifice, natural complexion, or love of contradiction, none.

« PredošláPokračovať »