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let this pass; have any of the dissenters declared that they are for maintaining the church as by law established ? No, certainly : the utmost that has been pleaded in their behalf is, “ that their principles amount to those of a general toleration to all peaceable subjects.". I rejoice in this happy reformation of their principles; but let me ask the gentlemen of South Britain what they are like to get by accepting of a toleration for their religion instead of an establishment, and that too limited to the condition of being peaceable subjects; a condition indeed highly reasonable in itself, but which may be easily expounded away, and probably would be so, unless they could appear to be highly satisfied with their hard bargain. Besides, this de. claration for toleration stands only on the authority of the dissenters' address to the king; an authority they are not willing to abide by in all cases, and never more complain than when they are pressed with a like argument, founded on their addresses to James the Second.

The dissenters are still fond of their own principles and opinions; and we have once seen how that fondness transported them when power was in their hands. Why then are we not to suppose that they would use power again, if put into their hands, to set up what they account pure religion ; and to expel what not only they, but others of higher rank and under greater obligations to the church, have treated as popish and superstitious.

It is well known that in the late times there was a solemn league and covenant entered into by many to root out the established church of England, and never more to permit its return. At the restoration some there were who left their livings rather than depart from the terms of this engagement. Has their steady adherence to these obligations been blamed or condemned by their brethren of these times ? No; so far from it, that they have labored to adorn the lives and characters of these men; their sufferings for this cause have been magnified and extolled; and they have been represented to the public as confessors suffering for righteousness' sake; as lights shining in the dark, and of whom the world was not worthy. And now let

* The Dissenters' Reasons, by Mr. Peirce.

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any body draw the natural consequence from this: is it reasonable to think that those who have consecrated their forefathers' zeal to destroy the established church, and offered up so much incense to it in the eye of the world, do themselves condemn those principles which they do so adore in others ?

It has of late years been a prevailing opinion among some members of the church of England, that the dissenters had worn off their rigid zeal against the church, and that there was little more left in the controversy than the difficulty about re-ordination, and the dispute about some indifferent rites and ceremonies: among the rest Dr. Snape seems to have been in this mistake; but by this time I presume he is convinced of his error, since Mr. Peirce has told him how highly affronting to the dissenters such an opinion of them is : “how could you suggest,” says he, “ that we do not so much as pretend the terms of your communion are sinful ?”* And he goes on to give instances of sinful terms in our communion; and then in the name of all his brethren, he passes a judgment that makes the whole ecclesiastical constitution sinful: “ you may depend on it that the great body of the dissenters judge the terms of communion to be sinfully imposed.” This strikes not at one or at many of our terms of communion, but at the whole establishment; the foundation itself is sin, and nothing good can be raised on it; and therefore he very frankly and consistently declares, “we rejoice to see the foundations shaken, and the fabric sinking, as we never doubted but it would some time or, other.” What hopes, what triumphs are these! But to go on : he charges the church with persecution, and all who differ from the Bishop of Bangor in the present controversy as maintainers of it; agreeably to which he represents the dissenters as the holy remnant who have not bowed the knee to Baal :' so that the church of England in this comparison (and should seem therefore in this gentleman's opinion) is an idolatress, and her priests are the priests of Baal.

The church of England owns itself to be subject to the civil power in making canons and constitutions for external government and discipline ; whether the state has reason to like the

• The Dissenters' Reasons, &c. by James Peirce.

church the worse for this, let others judge. But' those who are offended at it may assure themselves they shall have no such reason of complaint against the dissenters; they pretend to a power and discipline equally great and extensive with that claimed or used by the established church; they claim it too independently of the state in every respect, for they claim it all as the law of Christ, over which no human power has authority: For this reason Mr. Peirce professes himself and his brethren unconcerned in the bishop's doctrine, though it takes all “ power from men to make laws in matters of conscience.” This, says he, “ cannot do the least prejudice to us: the government (mind his reason) we plead for is no other than the execution of the laws of Christ. And since this is their opinion, I will venture to say for them that it is likewise their opinion that no power on earth can restrain them in the exercise of any part of that government which they plead for. And without the spirit of prophecy, it is easily foreseen that if ever they have the rule, “their little finger will be thicker than the loins' of the church : the holiness of their government, its being the execution of the laws of Christ, must make them (whatever they now think) zealous to impose it on all.

This gentleman has the repute of being one of the most considerable among the dissenters, and takes on himself to speak in the name of the rest. I should not have wondered had one of their ignorant mechanics represented the clergy of England as priests of Baal; but it is surprising to hear this from a man of letters, from one who has had opportunities of conversing both with men and books ;, and it is an intimation at least what purposes are to be served by that power to which some are now so eagerly pleading their right: and let every man who wishes well to the church of England judge from hence what he is to expect if ever offices of power and trust are lodged in dissenters? hands. Will they permit, do you think, the priests of Baal to live unmolested, or will they endure that the church of Engsand, whose foundation is sin, should be permitted to stand. No: then they would tell us that they have no power to remit the laws of Christ; this was not their meaning : Non hæc in fædera.

If dissenters want only to propagate their persuasion by ap

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plying to the reason and understanding of men, they are even now at liberty to do it; and if they can convince the nation that their cause is right, it will give them an influence beyond what the repeal of twenty acts in their behalf can do. Let them then


to work in God's name; we are ready to hear and to consider their arguments : but if they want to back their arguments with power, however we are bound to attend to reason, we certainly have a right to guard against force, and to secure ourselves from having any thing as religion imposed on us. For these reasons, and chiefly for the sake of that experience which we have had, we cannot join with the bishop in calling for a repeal of these acts: they are acts founded on the principles of self defence, and not made to exclude Christians from civil offices “ for the sake of their conscientious scruples," as his lordship represents the case to be. Whereas the corporation act says expressly it was for prevention of mischief; such mischief as the nation had then but just recovered from; and not for prevention of conscientious scruples. And if there be no difference between persecuting a man for his opinions, and securing myself from being persecuted for my own, then indeed it is a persecution to exclude men for the sake of their disaffection to the established church from civil power. Persecution is a hard word, but when it comes from words to blows, it is a harder thing. The church of England has felt it; and she has a short memory if she has already forgotten what it is: it is indeed as bad as it can be described to be ; and so far am I from being an advocate for it, as I have been publicly and often charged to be, that I can with a clear mind say I have ever pleaded against it. » But surely it must be agreed on all hands that every man has a right (much more every government) to secure himself against persecution, and from having anything as religion imposed on him by 'undue means. And once more I call on the reader to recollect what passed in those sad days when all the sects among us were laboring for superiority, and making their way over the heads and consciences of their. brethren ; and when he has thought thereon, let him say with the bishop, (if he sees reason, that to exclude men from power on account of those persuasions in religion which produced so


much misery and confusion in these kingdoms, is an unjust or false security, and contrary to the maxims of Christ. But if he is not in great haste to come to a conclusion, let him con-. sider that what has been already may probably be expected again from the same causes; and that power in the hands of dissenters has once already ruined church and state. If he thinks they are now grown friends to toleration, and is moved by that argument, yet let him ask himself the reason why he should give up an establishment to accept of a toleration, and why toleration is not as good when it is granted to dissenters as when it is humbly received at their hands. Let him also consider that where the dissenters' principles prevail, no toleration is granted; the kirk has ever protested against it, and used their utmost endeavors to prevent it. If he thinks much weight is to be laid on their late declarations for general toleration, let him remember that the same pleas were used before King Charles the First's time, and yet what were church or nation the better for them ? In a word, let him consider whether under these uncertainties it is not wisest to trust himself with the liberty of his own conscience; whether he may not be as sure of shutting out persecution (if that be the concern) by keeping it in his own power to give a free toleration to those who differ from him, ás by putting it in the power of others to make him the like grant. But to proceed.

His lordship in his great zeal against all limitations of otfices to members of the church established, would do well to remember that the crown itself is subject to this very

limitation. By 12, 13 William III. cap. 2. it is provided, “that whosoever shall hereafter come to the possession of this crown shall join in communion with the church of England as by law established.”

I trust his lordship will inform the world how it comes to pass that the kings of England have less privilege than any of their subjects; and why that very limitation is just and expedient when applied to the crown, which is so great an oppression, so subversive of natural right, when applied to any of the people.

The crown has the disposal of places of power and trust in the government; and the incapacity for offices which some lie

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