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out limit. When we talk of the heroic, of course we talk of rare, virtue. I believe the instances of eminent depravity may be as rare amongst them as those of transcendent goodness
. Examples of avarice and of licentiousness may be picked out, I do not question it, by those who delight in the investigation which leads to such discoveries. A man, as old as I am, will not be astonished that several, in every description, do not lead that perfect life of felf-denial, with regard to wealth or to pleasure, which is wished for by all, by some expected, but by none exacted with more rigour, than by those who are the most attentive to their own interests, or the most indulgent to their own passions. When I was in France, I ani certain that the number of vicious prelates was not great. Certain individuals among them not distinguishable for the regularity of their lives, made fome amends for their want of the severe virtues, in their poffellion of the liberal; and were endowed with qualities which made them useful in the church and state. I am told, that with few exceptions, Louis the Sixfeenth had been more attentịve to character, in his promotions to that rank, than his immediate predeceffor ; and I believe, (as some spirit of reform has prevailed through the whole reign) that it may be true. ' But the present ruling power has shewn a difposition only to plunder the church. It has punished all prelates ; which is to favour the vicious, at least in point of reputation. It has made a degrading penfionary establishment, to which no man of liberal ideas or liberal condition will deftine his children. It must settle into the lowest classes of the people. As with you the inferior clergy are not numerous enouga for their duties; as these duties are, beyond measure, minute and toilsome, as you have left no middle classes of clergy at their ease, in future nothing of science or erudition cæn exist in the Gal
lican church. To complete the project, without the least attention to the rights of patrons, the assembly has provided in future an elective clergy ; an arrangement which will drive out of the clerical profeffion all men of sobriety; all who can pretend to independence in their function or their conduct; and which will throw the whole direction of the public mind into the hands of a set of licentious, bold, crafty, factious, flattering wretches, of such condition and such habits of life as will make their contemptible pensions (in comparison of which the ftipend of an exciseman is lucrative and honourable) an object of low and illiberal intrigue. Those officers, whom they dill call bishops, are to be elected to a provision comparatively mean, through the same arts, (that is, electioneering arts) by men of all religious tenets that are known or can be invented. The new lawgivers have not ascertained any thing whatsoever concerning their qualifications, relative cither to doctrine or to morals; no more than they have done with regard to the subordinate clergy; nor does it appear but that both the higher and the lower may, at their discretion, practise or preach any mode of religion or irreligion that they please. I do not yet see what the jurisdiction of bishops over their subordinates is to be; or whether they are to have any jurisdiction at all.
In Mort, Sir, it seems to me, that this new ecclesiaftical establishment is intended only to be temporary, and preparatory to the utter abolition, under any of its forms, of the Christian religion, whenever the minds of men are prepared for this last stroke against it, by the accomplishment of the plan for bringing jis ministers into universal contempt. They wlio will not believe, that the philosophical fanatics who guide in these matters, have long entertained such a delign, are utterly ignorant of their character and proceedings. These enthusiasts do not scruple to avow their opinion,
that a state can subsist without any religion better than with one; and that they are able to supply the place of any good which may be in it, by a project of their own--namely, by a sort of education they have imagined, founded in a know ledge of the physical wants of men; progressively carried to an enlightened selfinterest, which, when well understood, they tell us will identify with an interest more enlarged and public. The scheme of this education has been long known. Of late they distinguish it (as they have got an entire new nomenclature of technical terms) by the name of a Civic Education.
I hope their partizans in England, (to whom I ra ther attribute very inconsiderate conduct than the ultimate object in this detestable design) will succeed neither in the pillage of the ecclesiaitics, nor in the introduction of a principle of popular election to our bishoprics and parochial cures. This, in the present condition of the world, would be the last corruption of the church; the utter ruin of the clerical character; the most dangerous shock that the state ever received through a misunderstood arrangement of religion. I know well enough that the bishoprics and cures, under kingly and seignoral patronage, as now they are in England, and as they have been lately in France, are sometimes acquired by unworthy methods; but the other mode of ecclesiastical canvas subjects ihem infinitely more surely and more generally to all the evil arts of low ambition, which, operating on and through greater numbers, will produce mischief in proportion.
Those of you who have robbed the clergy, think that they shall easily reconcile their conduct to all protestant nations; because the clergy, whom they have thus plundered, degraded, and given over to mockery and scorn, are of the Roman Catholic, that is, of their own pretended persuasion. I have
no doubt that some miserable bigots will be found here as well as elsewhere, who hate fects and parties different from their own, more than they love the substance of religion; and who are more angry with those who differ from them in their particular plans and systems, than displeased with those who attack the foundation of our common hope.
There men will write and speak on the subject in the manner that is to be expected from their temper and character. Burnet says, that when he was in France, in the year
the method which carried over the men « of the fineit parts to popery was this they
brought themselves to doubt of the whole Christian “ religion. When that was once done, it seemed a
more indifferent thing of what fide or form they
continued Outwardly.” If this was then the ecclesiastic policy of France, it is what they have since but too much reason to repent of. They preferred atheism to a form of religion not agreeable to their ideas. They succeeded in destroying that form; and atheism has succeeded in destroying them, I can readily give credit to Burnet's story, because I have observed too much of a similar fpirit (for a little of it is“ much too much") amongst ourselves. The humour, however, is not general.
The teachers who reformed our religion in England bore no fort of resemblance to your present reforming doctors in Paris. Perhaps they were (like those whom they opposed) rather more than could be wished under the influence of a party spirit; but they were most sincere believers ; men of the most fervent and exalted piety; ready to die (as some of them did die) like true heroes in defence of their particular ideas of Christi anity; as they would with equal fortitude, and more chearfully, for that stock of general truth, for the branches of which they contended with their blood. These men would have disayowed with horror those wretches who
claimed a fellow hip with them upon no othet titles than those of their having pillaged the perfons with whom they maintained controversies, and their having despised the common religion, for the purity of which they exerted themselves withi a zeal, which unequivocally bespoke their highest reverence for the substance of that systein which ihey wished to reform. Many of their descendants have retained the same zeal; but, (as less engaged in confiict) with more moderailon. They do not forget that justice and mercy are substantial parts of religion. Impious men do riot recommend themselves to their communion by iniquity and cruelty towards any description of their fellow-creatures.
We hear these new teachers continually boasting of their spirit of toleration. That those persons should tolerate all opinions, who think none to be of efiimalion, is a matter of small merit. Equal neglect is not impartial kindness. The species of benevolence, which arises from conteinpt, is no true charity. There are in England abundance of men who tolerate in the true spirit of toleration. They think the dogmas of religion, though in different degrees, are all of imoment; and that amongst them there is, as amongst all things of value, a just ground of preference. They favour, therefore, and they tolerate. They tolerate, not because they despise opinions, but because they respect justice. They would reverently and aifectionately protect all religions, because they love and venerate the great principle upon which they all agree, and the great object to which they are all direcird. They begin more and more plainly to discern, that we have all a common cause, as againit a common enemy. They will not be so misled by the spirit of faction, as not to distinguish what is done in favour of their subdivision, from those acts of hoflility, which, through some particular description, are