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Supper, according to the usage of the church of England, of which they are to deliver a certificate, and make proof, at the time of their taking the said oaths ; in failure of which they are ipso facto disabled to enjoy the said offices or employments, or any profit thereby. And by another clause, Persons beyond the seas, or under any of the other impediments there mentioned, are to receive the sacrament and take the said oaths, within four months after such impediment removed. By this regulation it is evident, that no man can hold or enjoy an office or employment, civil or military, without declaring himself a member of the church of England as by law established; and as there are great numbers of faithful subjects, who have the misfortune of believing that some of the opinions established by our church are not entirely consistent with christianity, and that some of our religious ceremonies tend towards idolatry, such men cannot sincerely communicate with the established church; upon which account, and upon that only, they may therefore be subjected to penalties, or deprived of a yearly revenue, according to the nature of the office they may be named or entitled to; for if the post or office be such a one as is attended with trouble only, there is generally a penalty upon a man's refusing to serve it; which penalty every man must pay who is not a member of the church of England, because by this clause he is debarred from serving the office; whereas if it were not for this incapacity he is laid under, he might probably choose to serve the office rather than pay the penalty; and I would be glad to know the difference between subjecting a man directly to a penalty for refusing to join in any religious opinion or ceremony, and this indirect manner of subjecting him to it, by tacking to an office, in itself merely temporal, a most solemn approbation of the religious doctrines and ceremonies of the established church.
Again, sir, if the post or office to which a man is named or entitled, be one of those to which a yearly salary or revenue is annexed, from the day of his nomi
nation he has as good a right to receive the profits of that office as any man has or can have, to his ancestor's estate, they being both founded chiefly upon the law of the land ; nay it often happens, that the person named to any post or office has by long and faithful services fully deserved that nomination; and this I take to be a more meritorious title, than the title any man can have to the estate of his ancestor or next relation. Suppose we should have a new foreign war of ten years duration, as we had in the late queen's reign ; suppose a gentleman of the dissenting persuasion should, in the beginning of that war, go abroad a cadet in one of our marching regi. ments, and in consideration of much blood lost, and many brave services performed in the cause of his country, should be at last made colonel of a regiment; would not such a man be fully intitled to the profits of his commission, during the time his majesty should think fit to continue him in command? Would it not be downright persecution to turn him out of his commission and reduce him to a starving condition, merely for the sake of a scruple of conscience? Yet the case would be so, if this law should be then in force. Upon the first return of the regiment to England, he would be obliged within four months to give up his regiment, or receive the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, according to the usage of our established church, which his conscience would not permit him to do, if he should happen to be a sincere dissenter. Therefore I must look upon this as a much higher degree of persecution, than it would be to render a man, on account of any religious opinion, incapable of holding a land-estate, or of succeeding to any estate as next of kin.
From what I have said, sir, I hope it will appear that a very high degree of persecution Turks under the incapacitating clauses I have mentioned, and therefore, in my motion for the repeal of them, I hope I shall have the concurrence of all those who are real enemies to that antichristian practice; but when I consider the
reverence due to the sacrament of the Lord's supper, a sacred mystery, which none ought to approach with. out having first diligently examined themselves, and to which all are to be invited, but none to be compelled, I, am surprised that it should ever have been turned to such a profane use as that of qualifying a man for being an adjutant to a regiment, or the bailiff of a little borough. This, sir, is perverting it to an use for which I am sure it never was intended, and this perversion has already produced, and will always produce, many and great abominations.
It is well known how many have become unworthy partakers of the holy communion, for the sake only of entitling themselves to some lucrative post or employment; it is well known what terrible indecences some have been guilty of upon such occasions, and what a scandal has often been thereby given to all those who are truly devout. This is so generally known that it is now the common practice in all the churches of England, for the curate to desire the legal communicants, if any there be, I mean those who come there in obedience to that statute, to divide themselves from those who come there purely for the sake of devotion ; and, indeed, it were to be wished that none of the former should ever be allowed to communicate in the presence of, much less at the same table with any of the latter; for the former are often so well and so generally known to be unworthy partakers, that their being admitted upon any pretence whatsoever, gives great offence to the truly religious, and tends to subvert the morals of the vulgar, by lessening that esteem which they ought to have for the established religion of their country, and which wise magistrates will always cultivate with all possible care ; but this, by long and general experience we know, is not to be done by penal laws. On the contrary, such guarantees for the established religion of any country, have always produced pride, ignorance, luxury, and oppression, among those of the established church, and invinci. ble, nay, often victorious enthusiasm, among those of the
trary religion. "Even in this kingdom, we know, that penal laws and persecution raised so high the torrent of enthusiasm among us, that our established church was at last quite overwhelmed by the dissenting interest; and happy was it for our church that those enthusiasts destroyed our constitution, as well as our established re. ligion; for if they had preserved the former, I am afraid the latter had never been restored. Since the repeal of most of our persecuting laws, the dissenting interest has daily decreased; and I am convinced those remains of it that are now among us, are chiefly owing to the act now under our consideration, and one other act of much the same nature.
With regard to the peace and unity of our people, I must say, sir, it is a matter of great surprise to me, how the legislature of any country could be prevailed on to annex temporal rewards or punishments to speculative opinions in religion. I can easily conceive how doctors might differ in speculative points of divinity, as well as in speculative points of law, physic, or philosophy; and I know with what vehemence a learned doctor in either of those sciences maintains his own opinion, and with what envy, malice, and rage he pursues his adversaries; but I cannot easily conceive what reasons the lawgivers of any country could have, to adopt and establish speculative opinions of any particular doctor in divinity, while at the same time they shewed a very great indifference with regard to the speculative opinions of the doctors in all other branches of literature. The cause of this different behaviour in our ancient lawgivers, I say, I cannot well comprehend; but whatever may have been the cause, if they thereby intended to establish an uniformity of opinion with respect to religious matters, experience has shewn that they have been most egregiously mistaken ; for the annexing of temporal rewards and punishments to speculative opinions, has been so far from reconciling men's minds, and making them agree in any one opinion, that it has
sendered those of different opinions in religion, not only implacable, but most cruel and barbarous enemies to one another; an effect which has never been produced by difference of opinion in any other science. In law, in physic, in philosophy, there are, and always have been, doctors of different opinions; and among them too there have always been, I believe, some who would have gladly confuted their adversaries by fire and faggot, especially when they found themselves overcome by fair reasoning; but as the law of no country has as yet thought fit to interpose in those disputes, we find the followers of these doctors have generally argued the matter very coolly, and when the dispute was over have parted as good friends as they met. This has hitherto been the case in all sciences except divinity ; but if we should make a law for punishing those who did not agree with the Newtonian system of philosophy, or for rendering all such incapable to hold any post or office in our government, I am persuaded we should have, in a few years, great numbers of our people who would be ready to sacrifice life and fortune in defence of the Aristotelian or the Cartesian system : nay, if any such law were made against all those who did not believe that the three angles of every triangle are equal to two right angles, I make no doubt but that this plain demonstration would be most violently opposed by great numbers of men in the kingdom ; for when the passions of men are stirred up by temporal rewards and punishments, the most reasonable opinions are rejected with indignation, the most ridiculous are embraced with a frantic sort of zeal. Therefore, sir, if we have a mind to establish peace among our people, we must allow men to judge freely in matters of religion, and to embrace that opinion they think right, without any hopes of temporal rewards, and without any fears of temporal punishment.
As to our trade, sir, the advantages we have reaped in that respect by the toleration act are so apparent, that I shall not take up your time with enlarging upon that