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modern sense of the word, to which, speaking impartially, the bigots of both parties are equally entitled.
The Sentiments of a Church of England Man, with respect to Government.
WE look upon it as a very just reproach, though we cannot agree where to fix it, that there should be so much violence and hatred in religious matters, among men who agree in all fundamentals, and only differ in some ceremonies, or, at most, mere speculative points. Yet, is not this frequently the case between contending parties in a state? For instance: do not the generality of whigs and tories among us, profess to agree in the same fundamentals, their loyalty to the queen, their abjuration of the pretender, the settlement of the crown in the protestant line, and a revolution principle? their affection to the church established, with toleration of dissenters? nay, sometimes they go farther, and pass over into each other's principles; the whigs become great assertors of the prerogative, and the tories of the people's liberty; these, crying down almost the whole set of bishops, and those, defending them; so that the differences fairly stated, would be much of a sort with those in religion among us, and amount to little more than, who should take place, or go in and out first, or kiss the queen's
hand; and what are these but a few court ceremonies? or who should be in the ministry? and what is that to the body of the nation, but a mere speculative point? yet I think it must be allowed, that no religious sects ever carried their mutual aversions to greater heights, than our state-parties have done; who, the more to inflame their passions, have mixed religious and civil animosities together; borrowing one of their appellations from the church, with the addition of high and low, how little soever their disputes relate to the term, as it is generally understood.
I now proceed to deliver the sentiments of a church of England man, with respect to govern
He does not think the church of England so narrowly calculated, that it cannot fall in with any regular species of government: nor does he think any one regular species of government, more acceptable to God, than another. The three generally received in the schools, have all of them their several perfections, and are subject to their several depravations. However, few states are ruined by any defect in their institution, but generally by the corruption of manners; against which, the best institution is no longer a security; and without which, a very ill one may subsist and flourish; whereof there are two pregnant instances now in Europe. The first is, the aristocracy of Venice, which, founded upon the wisest maxims, and digested by a great length of time, has, in our age, admitted so many abuses through the degeneracy of the nobles, that the period of its duration seems to approach. The other is, the united republics of the states-general, where a vein of temperance, industry, parsimony, and a public spirit, running through the whole body of the people, has pre
served an infant commonwealth, of an untimely birth and sickly constitution, for above a hundred years, through so many dangers and difficulties, as a much more healthy one could never have struggled against, without those advantages.
Where security of person and property are preserved by laws, which none but the whole can repeal, there the great ends of government are provided for, whether the administration be in the hands of one, or of many. Where any one person, or body of men, who do not represent the whole, seize into their hands the power in the last resort, there is properly no longer a government, but what Aristotle and his followers call the abuse and corruption of one. This distinction excludes arbitrary power, in whatever numbers; which, notwithstanding all that Hobbes, Filmer, and others have said to its advantage, I look upon as a greater evil than anarchy itself, as much as a savage is in a happier state of life, than a slave at the oar.
It is reckoned ill manners, as well as unreasonable, for men to quarrel upon difference in opinion; because that is usually supposed to be a thing, which no man can help in himself but this I do not conceive to be a universal infallible maxim, except in those cases, where the question is pretty equally disputed among the learned and the wise: where it is otherwise, a man of tolerable reason, some experience, and willing to be instructed, may apprehend he is got into a wrong opinion, though the whole course of his mind and inclination would persuade him to believe it true; he may be convinced that he is in an error, though he does not see where it lies, by the bad effects of it in the common conduct of his life, and by
observing those persons, for whose wisdom and goodness he has the greatest deference, to be of a contrary sentiment. According to Hobbes's comparison of reasoning with casting up accounts, whoever finds a mistake in the sum total, must allow himself out, though, after repeated trials, he may not see in which article he has misreckoned. I will instance in one opinion, which I look upon every man obliged in conscience to quit, or in prudence to conceal; I mean, that whoever argues in defence of absolute power in a single person, though he offers the old plausible plea, that it is his opinion, which he cannot help, unless he be convinced, ought, in all free states, to be treated as the common enemy of mankind. Yet this is laid as a heavy charge upon the clergy of the two reigns before the revolution, who, under the terms of passive obedience and nonresistance, are said to have preached up the unlimited power of the prince, because they found it a doctrine that pleased the court, and made way for their preferment. And I believe there may be truth enough in this accusation, to convince us, that human frailty will too often interpose itself, among persons of the holiest function. However, it may be offered in excuse for the clergy, that in the best societies there are some ill members, which a corrupted court and ministry will industriously find out and introduce. Besides, it is manifest, that the greater number of those, who held and preached this doctrine, were misguided by equivocal terms, and by perfect ignorance in the principles of government, which they had not made any part of their study. The question originally put, and, as I remember to have heard it disputed in public schools, was this, Whether under any prepence whatsoever it may be lawful to resist the
supreme magistrate? which was held in the negative; and this is certainly the right opinion. But many of the clergy, and other learned men, deceived by dubious expression, mistook the object to which passive obedience was due. By the supreme magistrate, is properly understood the legislative power, which in all governments must be absolute and unlimited. But the word magistrate, seeming to denote a single person, and to express the executive power, it came to pass, that the obedience due to the legislature, was, for want of knowing or considering this easy distinction, misapplied to the administration. Neither is it any wonder, that the clergy, or other wellmeaning people, should fall into this error, which deceived Hobbes himself so far, as to be the foundation of all the political mistakes in his books; where he perpetually confounds the executive with the legislative power, though all well-instituted states have ever placed them in different hands, as may be obvious to those, who know any thing of Athens, Sparta, Thebes, and other republics of Greece, as well as the greater ones of Carthage and Rome.
Besides, it is to be considered, that when these doctrines began to be preached among us, the kingdom had not quite worn out the memory of that horrid rebellion, under the consequences of which it had groaned almost twenty years. And a weak prince, in conjunction with a succession of most prostitute ministers, began again to dispose the people to new attempts, which it was, no doubt, the clergy's duty to endeavour to prevent; though some of them, for want of knowledge in temporal affairs, and others, perhaps from a worse principle, proceeded upon a topic, that, strictly followed, would enslave all mankind.