« PoprzedniaDalej »
consider this part of his conduct as it becomes him to do, and not think it sufficient, because it serves present purposes, to make only “an appearance of charity."*
There will be other opportunities of considering this matter, and I hope by other hands: I am so little prepared for it myself, that I should be glad to be prevented.
I have nothing more to add but to acquaint the reader that where the bishop's words are quoted without naming any particular book of his, his Answer to the Representation is always intended.
Postscript to Pilloniere.
OF THE CORPORATION AND TEST ACTS, IN ANSWER TO,
THE BISHOP OF BANGOR'S REASONS FOR THE REPEAL
HAD the question relating to the test been argued on political reasons only, I should not have been a party to the dispute; but when concern for religion was brought in, and secular views were carried on under the appearance of zeal to prevent abuses in the solemn worship of Christians; and when the Bishop of Bangor had called on me in particular to speak to this point, which he supposed I could not do consistently with renouncing all pretences to persecution; I thought I might without offence endeavor to justify the legislature against the heavy charge of turning aside a sacred institution of the gospel “ from its original and natural design, to a purpose against its own nature, and contrary to the end proposed by the ordainer himself.”*
Could this charge be made good, no Christian would want any other reason to be given for the repeal of the test act. The law which introduces an abuse of religion, which perverts a sacred institution of the gospel, can be no security to the church; and therefore the friends of the church ought to be the foremost in such circumstances to part with it. Whether this be the case or no, it is part of the design of these papers to examine.
To carry the reader directly to the point in dispute, I must tell him it had been observed as a consequence of the bishop's doctrine, that “no religious qualifications (must) any longer (be) insisted on.”+
Page 190. + Dr. Snape's first Letter, p. 37.
The bishop in his Answer,* in order to load another assertion, gives this as a very bad character of it: “ that it is worthy of him who contends professedly for making religion a civil test, for debasing the most sacred thing in the world into a political tocl and an engine of state.”
To pass by every thing in this reflexion but the reasoning mixed with it, it is evident that the bishop's argument depends on this principle, that religion ought not to be made a civil test.
In answer to which I replied, “ is not religion the test in every case where an oath is required ?” +
His lordship now affirms that what he said “against making religion a civil test referred solely to the sacramental test.” I On what reason I cannot imagine ; for I will not suppose him to think that there is no religion but the sacrament, any religion but the sacrament may be debased into a political tool and an engine of state.
This account brings down the state of this part of the controversy to the bishop's last performance. I shall consider what he has advanced before I take leave; in the meanwhile, that the world may know on what subject we dispute, it is necessary to take our rise a little higher, and to state the fact of the case about which we differ.
The laws relating to this subject have not been distinctly considered by the writers in this controversy about the test. They seem to argue merely on popular mistakes, and do (as it serves their purpose best) sometimes call the sacrament the test, and sometimes the qualification for an office ; whereas it cannot be both, because there is a real distinction between the test and the thing to be testified by it; it is therefore necessary to show the true design and intent of the legislature in requiring the sacramental test.
By the 13 Car. II. stat. 2. cap. 1. it is enacted that no person shall in “ any corporation be elected mayor, alderman, &c. who shall not within a year before his election have taken the sacrament of the Lord's Supper according to the rites of the church of England."
* Answer to Dr. Snape's Letter, p. 45. + Considerations, &c.
I Page 185.
- By the 25th Car. II. cap. 2. it is enacted" that all and every person that shall bear
office- -civil or military, &c. shall take the oaths of supremacy and allegiance and shall also receive the sacrament of the Lord's Supper according to the usage of the church of England," &c. and make proof of his having received as is therein appointed, on pain of being incapable of the office, and other penalties in the act expressed : this statute is not to extend to inferior offices, as is expressly declared in the last clause.
The latter of these. acts is declared by the act of toleration itself to extend to protestant dissenters. The former expressly relates to them; and both are declared, 10 Annæ, cap. 2. “ to be made for the security of the church of England as by law established.”
These acts then being made for the security of the church as by law established, that is, for the security of the ecclesiastical constitution of the realm; the intention plainly was to keep non-conformists of all sorts, (whose principles and affection to their own ways cannot but lead them to use any power put into their own hands to the hurt of the established church; from which they have separated,) out of offices civil and military, and out of the government and direction of corporations ; « to the end that the succession in such corporations may be most probably perpetuated in the hands of persons well affected to his Majesty and the established government,* and for preservation of the public peace both in church and state :"+ where his lordship may please to observe that affection to the established government includes a concern for the public peace both of church and state ; and that these acts, though especially regarding the established church, are yet in the sense and eye of the law acts for the preservation of the established government of these realms, which was always understood to include matters ecclesiastical as well as civil,
It being resolved then by the legislature that places of power and trust should be in the hands of such only as were well affected to the ecclesiastical constitution, it became necessary to consider what should be taken as a sufficient proof of any man's
+ Ibid. p.
* Preamble to Corporation Act. SHERL.
being so affected ; without this the provision would have been void and ineffectual, and we should have had a law which could never have been put in execution.
Visible communion with any church or society of Christians is the best proof that man can give to man of his being a wellwisher to the constitution of such church or society. But then once or twice going to church will not amount to such proof; it being well known that many who dislike the constitution of our church, can permit themselves to be present now and then at part or at all of the common service. And in all things of this nature, it is impossible to settle the precise number of particular acts which constitute or denote the habit: in this case therefore the legislature could not say how often going to church made a churchman; or had they named a great number of such acts as the test required, it must have been very hard, almost impossible for the persons concerned to give a legal proof.
The only thing then that remained was to consider what particular act of church communion would be the most probable evidence that a man was sincerely well affected to the established church.
In this view the sacrament of the Lord's Supper naturally offered itself; it is that part of religious worship which the generality of Christians perform with the greatest devotion, and to which they think themselves most obliged to approach with sincerity and uprightness of heart. To this it may be added, that as a distinction was intended to be made between those who approved and those who did not approve the ecclesiastical constitution of these kingdoms, so it was well known that the latter had as strong prejudices against the usage of the church in the celebration of the sacrament, as against any other usage of it whatever, and yet were supposed to have the same awful reverence for the institution itself; so that it was reasonably presumed that no dissenter of any sort would easily be led to such an act of insincerity as receiving the sacrament in a manner condemned by himself.
It was then enacted that whoever had an office civil or military, or was to be mayor, &c. in a corporation town, should make sufficient proof of his having received, within a certain time prescribed, the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, accord