Imatges de pÓgina
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majority had given not only a legal fubfiftence, but a legal right to poffefs, enjoy, and defend the maintenance and civil advantages allotted to them by the community; for these they do not enjoy by virtue of their fpiritual ordination, but as the free and voluntary gift or offering of the community. This alfo is a direct emanation from the fovereignty of the people.

Since Dr. Priestley, though avowedly of the diffenting minority, fo warmly infifts upon the folly and mifchief of fupporting a religious eftablishment, I fhall take the liberty of submitting to the public fome of the reasons and motives, that appear to have operated in favour of it upon the majority of this community; for he certainly will not refuse to the majority of the community, the right of grounding their acts upon reafons and motives; nor can he prevent those reasons and motives from operating their effect upon fuch individuals as may feel their force.

*«So tenacious are we of the old eccle- Reasons why fiaftical modes and fashions of inftitution, that prefer their very little alteration has been made in them prefent religious fyftem. fince the fourteenth or fifteenth century, adhering in this particular, as in all things elfe,

• Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France, P. 148, 149, 150.

to

to our old fettled maxim, never entirely nor at once to depart from antiquity. We found thefe old inftitutions, on the whole, favourable to morality and difcipline; and we thought they were fufceptible of amendment, without altering the ground. We thought that they were capable of receiving and meliorating, and above all, of preferving the acceffions of fcience and literature, as the order of providence fhould fucceffively produce them. And, after all, with this gothic and monkish education (for fuch it is in the ground-work) we may put in our claim to as ample and as early a fhare in all the improvements in fcience, in arts, and in literature, which have illuminated and adorned the modern world, as any other nation in Europe; we think one main caufe of this improvement was our not defpifing the patrimony of knowledge, which was left us by our forefathers.

"It is from our attachment to a church eftablishment, that the English nation did not think it wife to entrust that great fundamental intereft of the whole, to what they truft no part of their civil or military public fervice; that is, to the unfteady and precarious contribution of individuals. They go further; they certainly never have suffered, and never · will fuffer, the fixed eftate of the church to be converted

converted into a penfion, to depend on the treafury, and to be delayed, with-held, or perhaps to be extinguished by fifcal difficulties; which difficulties may fometimes be pretended for political purposes, and are, in fact, often brought on by the extravagance, negligence, and rapacity of politicians. The people of England think, that they have conftitutional motives, as well as religious, against any project of turning their independent clergy into ecclefiaftical penfioners of ftate. They tremble for their liberty, from the influence of a clergy dependent on the crown; they tremble for the public tranquillity, from the diforders of a factious clergy, if it were made to depend upon any other than the crown. They therefore made their church, like their king and their nobility, independent.

"From the united confiderations of religion and conftitutional policy, from their opinion of a duty to make a fure provifion for the confolation of the feeble, and the instruction of the ignorant, they have incorporated and identified the eftate of the church with the mafs of private property, of which the ftate is not the proprietor, either for ufe or dominion, but the guardian only, and the regulator. They have ordained, that the pro

vifion

Divifion of the people into

clergy and laity.

vifion of this establishment might be as stable as the earth on which it ftands, and fhould not fluctuate with the Euripus of funds and actions."

I have now, I hope, adduced fufficient reafons and arguments to convince my readers, that every community is fully competent to make a civil establishment of that religion, which the majority of the community fhall find it their duty to adopt and follow; and confequently, that our prefent church establishment forms an effential part of the Englifh conftitution: and from hence arises the firft conftitutional divifion of the community, or people, into clergy and laity, whose several and respective rights and duties in the state, I shall hereafter explicitly fet forth.

Had I inferred the truth of our religion from its civil establishment, the deifts might have treated the argument with that levity which Mr. Chandler advises; but a deift of common fenfe might perceive, that I appealed to the laws of our establishment, not for the conviction of his understanding, but the correction of his infolence. Where the truth of the Chriftian religion was the quef

* Rogers's Vindication of the Civil Etablishment of Religion, fect. i. p. 191.

tion before me, I used other arguments; but when a private fubject took upon him publicly to oppose the right of the legislator to enact any fuch law, to reprefent this power as unjust and tyrannical, and under these characters to diffuade all fubmiffion to it, these I think actions inconfiftent with the obligations of a subject, and that the execution of our laws may justly be called for in restraint of them. The truth of a religion depends on its proper grounds. If it was falfe before it was established, the establishment will not make it true; and he, who from the evidence of the thing is convinced it is false, cannot upon any authority believe it

true."

From what has been said in this and the foregoing chapter, I hope it will fufficiently appear, that the fanction, which the laws give to the establishment of the church of England throughout England, and to prefbytery throughout Scotland, is in its tendency and effects merely of a civil nature; confequently, that the obligation of fubmitting to it, is the very fame as the obligation of fubmitting to any other civil law whatever. Now, every external and public difavowal of, or oppofition to the civil exactions of the legif

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Civil establishgion of the fame other civil law.

ment of reli

force as any

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