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be a good member of society and a true Englishmani, notwithstanding the difference of my religious creed, I should happen to say any thing that may give you offence, I am sure, Sir, you are too generous
and too just to shew any resentment against the poor helpless guests above mentioned, unacquainted as they are with our controversy, merely because they are of the same communion with me. In the second place, Sir, if you have judged these conscientious exiles worthy of protection, at a time when you formed fo unfavourable an idea of the cause for which they were suffering, I trust, you will not think them less deserving of it, when I shall have vindicated that cause and dispersed your prejudices against it. But
you take care to remind me, that the Englife Catholics themselves were a few years ago in the condition of a proscribed people, from which they were only rescued by the liberality of the act of 1791. (1) Hence you argue on the supposed impropriety of their “ religion being studiously brought forward into public notice;" (2) and fignificantly add, that “ nothing can so much tend, as such a conduct, to make the legislature regret, if they could be induced by any thing to regret it, a measure which originated in motives of wisdom and humanity, and had for its object the comfort and relief of a considerable body of our fellow subje&ts.”' (3) The English Catholics, Sir, do, and ever will, acknowledge with grateful hearts the justice of that parliament, which, first of all during the space of more than two centuries, deigned to investigate the grounds of the popular clamours and prejudices that had been excited against them, and also the magnanimity which determined it to decide according to the result of its enquiries. They will not forget, what you remind me of, that no class of our legislators displayed more liberality on that occasion than the bench of bishops; (1) and I am happy to have it in my power to testify, that you yourself appeared then to be animated with the same spirit, and lent a hand, as I believe, to the great deed of toleration. But, Sir, permit me to ask you, upon what ground was this parliamentary relief granted? Was it in the nature of a reprieve to conviced criminals; or in that of a folemn declaration of the innocence of men who had been long suffering un. der an unjust imputation? I can answer for what the ideas of Catholics were on that head, and I have reason to believe that the opinions of a great part of the legislators were not different from theirs. Again, Sir, let me ask you, were there any such conditions as those you hint at, either expressed or implied in the aforesaid act? Was it then said to us, you are free from the weight of the penal statutes, but it is on condition, that you do not bring your religion to public notice by any work of controversy, or even of history, that may be construed into a defence of it, or of its institutions? Each one shall be free to publish whatever Reflections on Popery he pleases, charging you with every degree of absurdity, wickedness, and sedition, but you shall not be at liberty to make any reply to them, or even to write at all upon the sub
(1) P. S, 111.
(2) P. 11!.
ject of ecclesiastical antiquities? (1) No, Sir, the legislature was not so intolerant or so illiberal. They received our pledges of fidelity to our king and country, and they left you and me to settle whatever points of history or theology we may happen to differ about, by the best records and arguments we are able to discover for this purpose. To prove, however, that Catholics have not been of late very eager to engage in controversy, even for the purpose of just defence, it will be sufficient to observe, that whilst the pulpit has continued to resound, and the press to groan with the extravagant and malicious declamations of a Williamson, a Towson, a Wrangham, a Churton, a Daubeny, a Rennell, &c. (who, whilst they triumph over the fall of Rome, affect to dread her power) not more than one of this class has been called to an account for his calumnies, (2) and that by a lay gentleman, who had received a personal affront from him. (3) To convince you that I myself have not been so ambitious of gaining controversial laurels, as you suppose, permit me to remind
that I have by name been called out to the theological combat by the disputant lait alluded to, (4) and that the first of those mentioned above, actually published a controversial treatise against me, (5) both which challenges I have positively declined accepting of.
1) See Hift. and Surv, vol. ii, pref. p. 1. (2) The Rev. Ralph Churton, M., A.
(3) Francis Eyre, Esq. of Warkworth, Letter to R. C. on bis Address, &c.
(4) Answer to the aforesaid Letter.
(5) A Defence of the Do&trines, &c. by J. Williamson, B. D. Preb. of Linc. &c.
I have already signified, that the legislature is far from rendering any theological opinions whatsoever or characters of past time sacred, or protecting them from the scrutiny of history and argument. It seems however, that you, Sir, are desirous of spreading your shield over every person and cause, whether public or private, you have any relation with. To my mind, the complaints in different parts of
your book, of my having vilified public characters which you respect and cherish, conveys the following meaning: Do not quote the infuriate exprellions of Martin Luther, because he was the father of Protestantism. Do not mention the unworthy condescenfions of Cranmer, because he imported this into England. Do not expose the ruinous consequences of bishop Hoadly's theology, because he was my friend and patron. Do not even acquaint the public with the falsehood, absurdity, and contradictions contained in a former History of Winchester, which has hither. to been ascribed to the Rev. Mr. Wavel, late rector of St. Maurice's, because he was the friend and predecessor of the gentleman to whom I have thought proper to address my Reflections. But, at this rate, Sir, what becomes of literary freedom, of mental improvement, and of the truth of history?
This language was not that of your friend and fellow student in the school of Hoadly, whose au. thority you so often appeal to, the late learned and sagacious Dr. Balguy. So far from stilling hiftorical truths, he would not have the press shut even against theological controversy of any kind whatso. ever. The following are some of his maxims on this head: " The most unbounded freedom is the most favourable to truth...... The reception of truth, I mean religious truth, can never be prejudicial to society..... The professors of every religion should be left at full liberty to declare their sentiments to the world, and to explain the reasons on which they are founded. Opposition to the established religion, if carried on by no other instruments than the tongue and the pen, ought not to be considered as a crime. To suppose otherwise is to make all reformation impossible. It is to justify the persecution of Christians under pagan emperors. It is to justify the persecuti. on of our own Protestant martyrs. It is to justify, in some instances, the inquitition itself.”(1)
If, Sir, you are true to your own principles, and consistent with yourself, you will be forced to subscribe to the whole of these matims of your illuftri. ous condifciple, and thereby to condemn several of your late Reflections. By the same rule you will be constrained to acknowledge, that the Catholics have no reason to fear, while their sentiments and conduct are such as you yourself describe them, that the legisla. ture will“regret that wife and humane measure, which had for its obje& the relief and comfort of a considerable number of its subjects.” For you a thousand times repeat, that nothing but imminent danger to the state can justify religious persecution, nor did even the fanguinary Elizabeth ever profess to ground her's upon any other motive. Now, Sir, from the thickest fight of controversy you have the liberality
(1) Discourses by Thomas Balgny, D. D. Charge III. on Religious Liberty, pp. 224, 12.