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not deserve. We have no better materials to compound the priesthood of, than the mass of mankind, which, corrupted as it is, those who receive orders, must have some vices to leave behind them when they enter into the church; and if a few do still adhere, it is no wonder, but rather a great one, that they are no worse. Therefore he cannot think ambition, or love of power, more justly laid to their charge, than to other men's; because that would be to make religion itself, or at least the best constitution of church-government, answerable for the errors and depravity of human nature.
Within these last two hundred years, all sorts of temporal power have been wrested from the clergy, and much of their ecclesiastic, the reason or justice of which proceeding I shall not examine; but that the remedies were a little too violent, with respect to their possessions, the legislature has lately confessed, by the remission of their first fruits. Neither do the common libellers deny this, who, in their invectives, only tax the church with an insatiable desire of power and wealth, (equally common to all bodies of men, as well as individuals) but thank God, that the laws have deprived them of both. However, it is worth observing the justice of parties; the sects among us are apt to complain, and think it hard usage to be reproached now after fifty years, for overturning the state, for the murder of a king, and the indignity of a usurpation; yet these very men, and their partisans, are continually reproaching the clergy, and laying to their charge, the pride, the avarice, the luxury, the ignorance, and superstition of popish times, for a thousand years past.
He thinks it a scandal to government, that such
an unlimited liberty should be allowed, of publishing books against those doctrines in religion, wherein all Christians have agreed; much more, to connive at such tracts as reject all revelation, and, by their consequences, often deny the very being of a God. Surely it is not a sufficient atonement for the writers, that they profess much loyalty to the present government, and sprinkle up and down some arguments in favour of the dissenters; that they dispute, as strenuously as they can, for liberty of conscience, and inveigh largely against all ecclesiastics under the name of high church; and, in short, under the shelter of some popular principles in politics and religion, undermine the foundations of all piety and virtue.
As he does not reckon every schism, of that damnable nature which some would represent, so he is very far from closing with the new opinion of those, who would make it no crime at all; and argue at a wild rate, that God Almighty is delighted with the variety of faith and worship, as he is with the varieties of nature. To such absurdities are men carried by the affectation of freethinking, and removing the prejudices of education; under which head, they have for some time begun to list morality and religion. It is certain that before the rebellion in 1642, though the number of puritans (as they were then called) were as great as it is with us, and though they affected to follow pastors of that denomination, yet those pastors had episcopal ordination, possessed preferments in the church, and were sometimes promoted to bishoprics themselves.* But a
* In the reign of Elizabeth, and even in that of James, the puritans were not, properly speaking, dissenters, but, on the con
breach in the general form of worship was, in those days, reckoned so dangerous and sinful in itself, and so offensive to Roman catholics at home and abroad, that it was too unpopular to be attempted; neither, I believe, was the expedient then found out, of maintaining separate pastors out of private purses.
When a schism is once spread in a nation, there grows at length a dispute, which are the schismatics. Without entering on the arguments used by both sides among us, to fix the guilt on each other, it is certain, that in the sense of the law, the schism lies on that side which opposes itself to the religion of the state. I leave it among the divines to dilate upon the danger of schism, as a spiritual evil; but I would consider it only as a temporal one. And I think it clear, that any great separation from the established worship, though to a new one that is more pure and perfect, may be an occasion of endangering the public peace; because it will compose a body always in reserve, prepared to follow any discontented heads, upon the plausible pretexts of advancing true religion, and opposing error, superstition, or idolatry. For this reason Plato lays it down as a maxim, that men ought to worship the gods according to the laws of the country; and he introduces Socrates, in his last discourse, utterly disowning the crime laid to his charge, of teaching new divinities, or methods of worship. Thus, the poor Hugonots of France, were engaged in a civil war, by the specious pretences of some, who under the guise of religion, sacrificed so many thou
trary, formed a sort of low church party in the national establishment. Archbishop Abbot himself has been considered as a puritan.
sand lives to their own ambition and revenge. Thus was the whole body of puritans in England drawn to be instruments, or abettors of all manner of villany, by the artifices of a few men, whose designs from the first, were levelled to destroy the constitution both of religion and government. And thus, even in Holland itself, where it is pretended that the variety of sects live so amicably together, and in such perfect obedience to the magistrate, it is notorious how a turbulent party, joining with the Arminians, did, in the memory of our fathers, attempt to destroy the liberty of that republic. So that upon the whole, where sects are tolerated in a state, it is fit they should enjoy a full liberty of conscience, and every other privilege of freeborn subjects, to which no power is annexed. And to preserve their obedience upon all emergencies, a government cannot give them too much ease, nor trust them with too little power.
The clergy are usually charged with a persecuting spirit, which they are said to discover by an implacable hatred to all dissenters: and this appears to be more unreasonable, because they suffer less in their interests by a toleration, than any of the conforming laity: for while the church remains in its present form, no dissenter can possibly have any share in its dignities, revenues, or power; whereas, by once receiving the sacrament, he is rendered capable of the highest employments in the state. And it is very possible, that a narrow education, together with a mixture of human infirmity, may help to beget among some of the clergy in possession, such an aversion and contempt for all innovators, as physicians are apt to have for empirics, or lawyers for pettifoggers, or merchants for pedlars; but since
the number of sectaries does not concern the clergy, either in point of interest or conscience, (it being an evil not in their power to remedy) it is more fair and reasonable to suppose, their dislike proceeds from the dangers they apprehend to the peace of the commonwealth, in the ruin whereof, they must expect to be the first and greatest sufferers.
To conclude this section, it must be observed, that there is a very good word, which has of late suffered much by both parties, I mean moderation; which, the one side very justly disowns, and the other as unjustly pretends to.
what passes every day in conversation, any man who reads the papers published by Mr Lesley,* and others of his stamp, must needs conclude, that if this author could make the nation see his adversaries, under the colours he paints them in, we have nothing else to do, but rise as one man, and destroy such wretches from the face of the earth. On the other side, how shall we excuse the advocates for moderation? among whom, I could appeal to a hundred papers of universal approbation by the cause they were writ for, which lay such principles to the whole body of the tories, as, if they were true, and believed, our next business should in prudence be, to erect gibbets in every parish, and hang them out of the way. But I suppose it is presumed, the common people understand raillery, or at least rhetoric, and will not take hyperboles in too literal a sense; which, however, in some junctures, might prove a desperate experiment. And this is moderation in the
*The champion of the Jacobites, whose cause he defended in a periodical paper, called The Rehearsal,