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with the same body; because they likewise preach up moderation, and are not so overnice to distinguish between an unlimited liberty of conscience, and an unlimited freedom of opinion. Then, on the other side, the professed firmness of the tories for episcopacy, as an apostolical institution; their aversion to those sects, who lie under the reproach of having once destroyed their constitution, and who, they imagine, by too indiscreet a zeal for reformation, have defaced the primitive model of the church; next their veneration for monarchical government in the common course of succession, and their hatred to republican schemes: these, I say, are principles which not only the nonjuring zealots profess, but even papists themselves fall readily in with. And every extreme here mentioned, flings a general scandal upon the whole body it pretends to adhere to.
But surely no man whatsoever, ought, in justice or good manners, to be charged with principles he actually disowns, unless his practices do openly, and without the least room for doubt, contradict his profession; not upon small surmises, or because he has the misfortune to have ill men sometimes agree with him in a few general sentiments. However, though the extremes of whig and tory seem, with little justice, to have drawn religion into their controversies, wherein they have small concern, yet they both have borrowed one leading principle from the abuse of it; which is, to have built their several systems of political faith, not upon inquiries
after truth, but upon opposition to each other, upon injurious appellations, charging their adversaries with horrid opinions, and then reproaching them for the want of charity; et neuter falso.
In order to remove these prejudices, I have thought nothing could be more effectual, than to describe the sentiments of a Church of England man, with respect to religion and government. This I shall endeavour to do in such a manner, as may not be liable to the least objection from either party, and which I am confident would be assented to by great numbers in both, if they were not misled to those mutual misrepresentations, by such motives, as they would be ashamed
I shall begin with religion.
And here, though it makes an odd sound, yet it is necessary to say, that whoever professes himself a member of the Church of England, ought to believe a God, and his providence, together with revealed religion, and the divinity of Christ. For beside those many thousands, who (to speak in the phrase of divines) do practically deny all this by the immorality of their lives, there is no small number, who, in their conversation and writings, directly, or by consequence, endeavour to overthrow it; yet all these place themselves in the list of the national church, though at the same time (as it is highly reasonable) they are great sticklers for liberty of conscience.
To enter upon particulars: a Church of England
man has a true veneration for the scheme established among us of ecclesiastick government; and though he will not determine whether episcopacy be of divine right, he is sure it is most agreeable to primitive institution, fittest of all others for preserving order and purity, and under its present regulations best calculated for our civil state he should therefore think the abolishment of that order among us, would prove a mighty scandal and corruption to our faith, and manifestly dangerous to our monarchy: nay, he would defend it by arms against all the powers on earth except our legislature, in which case he would submit as to a general calamity, a dearth or a pestilence.
As to rites and ceremonies, and forms of prayer, he allows there might be some useful alterations, and more, which in the prospect of uniting christians might be very supportable, as things declared in their own nature indifferent; to which he therefore would readily comply, if the clergy, or (though this be not so fair a method) if the legislature should direct: yet, at the same time, he cannot altogether blame the former, for their unwillingness to consent to any alteration; which, beside the trouble, and perhaps disgrace, would certainly never produce the good effects intended by it. The only condition that could make it prudent and just for the clergy to comply in altering the ceremonial, or any other indifferent part, would be a firm resolution in the legislature to interpose, by some strict and effectual laws, to prevent the rising and
spreading of new sects, how plausible soever, for the future; else there must never be an end: and it would be to act like a man, who should pull down and change the ornaments of his house, in compliance to every one who was disposed to find fault as he passed by; which, beside the perpetual trouble and expense, would very much damage, and perhaps in time destroy the building. Sects in a state, seem only tolerated with any reason, because they are already spread; and because it would not be agreeable with so mild a government, or so pure a religion as ours, to use violent methods against great numbers of mistaken people, while they do not manifestly endanger the constitution of either. But the greatest advocates for general liberty of conscience will allow, that they ought to be checked in their beginnings, if they will allow them to be an evil at all; or, which is the same thing, if they will only grant it were better for the peace of the state, that there should be none. But while the clergy consider the natural temper of mankind in general, or of our own country in particular, what assurances can they have that any compliances they shall make, will remove the evil of dissension, while the liberty still continues of professing whatever new opinion we please? Or how can it be imagined, that the body of dissenting teachers, who must be all undone by such a revolution, will not cast about for some new objections to withhold their flocks, and draw in
fresh proselytes, by some farther innovations or refinements?
Upon these reasons, he is for tolerating such different forms in religious worship as are already admitted, but by no means for leaving it in the power of those who are tolerated, to advance their own models, upon the ruin of what is already established; which it is natural for all sects to desire, and which they cannot be justified by any consistent principles if they do not endeavour; and yet, which they cannot succeed in, without the utmost danger to the public peace.
To prevent these inconveniences, he thinks it highly just, that all rewards of trust, profit, or dignity, which the state leaves in the disposal of the administration, should be given only to those whose principles direct them to preserve the constitution in all its parts. In the late affair of occasional conformity, the general argument of those who were against it, was, not to deny it an evil in itself, but that the remedy proposed was violent, untimely and improper; which is the bishop of Salisbury's opinion in the speech he made and published against the bill: but however just their fears or complaints might have been upon that score, he thinks it a little too gross and precipitate to employ their writers already in arguments for repealing the sacramental test, upon no wiser maxim, than that no man should, on the account of con
* Dr. Gilbert Burnet.