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is it that the quakers want? Have not all their most intemperate desires been from time to time complied with? Are they not exempted even from appealing to the great Author of Truth in their legal testimony? But not contented with all this, by a most strange abuse of the permissive liberty they enjoy, they send circular exhortations to their brethren to oppose the civil jurisdiction of our laws; and having thus cherished and strengthened an obstinacy, they approach the legislature itself with harsh revilings, unsupported by evidence, against the clergy of our established church, denying a constitution. al right, begging that the legal remedies may be abated by which it is to be acquired, and unjustly complaining of severities, which by their repeated contumacy they wilfully draw on themselves; for the law in its ordinary and natural course will proceed to an enforcement of its own decree.
Is this that passive obedience and non-re. sistance, that mild and charitable disposition, with which they have been so largely complimented ? Is this conscience in any true definition of it ? No, it is
perverse humour, a false and delusive light, an ignus fatuus, which arises from a degeneracy and corruption of the mind. If this is conscience, then all those riots and tumults which at any time oppose the execution of the law and the authority of the government, may with equal justice lay claim to such a conscience. Tythes are a distinct property from the inheritance of the land, and by the laws of our constitution are applied to certain purposes. They are due of civil right, and no matter to whom they be. long; though I should think that the maintenance of our clergy deserves some favourable share in our considerations.
No human wisdom can at once foresee the sufficient extent of legal remedies, but they must from time to time be proportioned to the degree of obstinacy with , which they are to contend. At the time of the revolu. tion, when our constitution was re-settled and our several rights and privileges confirmed, the former remedies were found insufficient, and therefore by the 7th and 8th of king William a new one was created ; but the others were suffered to subsist. The clergy have now their option which method to pursue, and I believe they always follow this, unless they suspect an unjust partiality; for they want only their right, and are undoubtedly willing to come at it the cheapest and most effectual way. So that by this bill, which obliges them to repair to the justices in the first instance, you enjoin them nothing but what is already done, but at the same time give a new interest to the quaker in being contumacious : for I apprehend, by the bill as it now stands, if the quakers should not appear, but suffer judgment to pass by default, or should appear and not litigate or gainsay, that there is a power given to the justices to settle the quantum of the tythes, and the clergy are hereby deprived of any farther redress. It is the liberty of avoiding the justices, which is some sort of control upon their judicature, and it is the force of the several subsisting remedies, which obliges many of the quakers in some shape or other at present to submit. For it is not the punctilio of one gun only (as the learned counsel said) which the garrison wants, and when men are obliged to surrender there is no dishonour in doing it: but they have got unjust possession, and would you withdraw your forces that they may strengthen the fortification, and make it capable of a stouter resistance ? Sir, I think the comparison has been inverted, and that party is in possession who have a just title, and they only desire to keep what they have, without extending their territories : and it would be extremely unjust to pull down their fences, upon an idle report that the enemy would take no ad.
As to the ecclesiastical courts, the quakers have been defied to produce any instances of their being much troubled here ; and indeed they are exceedingly few. Every thing in the course of time will degenerate from its original institution, and undoubtedly there!
vantage of it.
are many abuses crept into these courts, which may deserve our attention ; but then let us proceed upon fairer inquiries, and with a disposition to reform and not to destroy. These courts, from the earliest days of our constitution, have had cognizance of tythes; and if the chief argument against them is drawn from their defect of power in giving redress, I am rather for supplying their defect, than that their authority herein should be wholly rescinded.
I would not be thought, by any thing I have said, to be for extending the power of the clergy. I am for keeping that, as well as all other power, within its due bounds. But surely the clergy are not to be the only men in the world, who, when they are assaulted, have not a liberty to complain, and to fly to this asylum for their necessary defence. I think this is all they now do, and it is very unfair to be seeking industriously for particular instances of blame, and from thence to take occasion of casting an odium upon the whole function. Those frightful ideas therefore of church power, upon which so many changes have been rung of late, I take to be very unnecessary at this time; it is now at a very
; low ebb, and it is very well if it can keep its just ground.
The mischief which is growing up is of another sort, and our liberties are no longer in danger from any thing which is founded in religious pretences. The enemy has erected batteries all round our constitution; but as the church is the weakest part, it is thought very advisable to begin the attack there, and if it succeed, they will soon mount the breach and take possession of the whole: for we may learn from the fatal experience of former times, that monarchy can only subsist upon the union and defence of our civil and religious rights. We all form one constitution; it is highly necessary, therefore, that all who are sincere lovers of that, should well know and mutually protect each other; and that the clergy should wisely consider that, as at all times we
are ready to opposé any assaults upon their quarter, so they are under the strongest obligations in the day of our need, not to withdraw their assistance from us in points of civil liberty ; for if ever that should be their fatal mistake, and our hands are thereby weakened, they will undoubtedly bring their own establishment into the most imminent danger.
I shall say no more, but that I shall at all times oppose any innovations, because I think them extremely hazard. ous; let us rather guard against the intemperate follies, the luxury, the venality, and irreligion of the age, which have been long gathering like a dark thunder-cloud in the sky. God only knows how soon it may burst, but whenever it happens, and I fear the day is at no great distance, it will certainly fall most heavily upon us. I am therefore for keeping up our common shelters, that we may be protected as well as possible against this great and impending danger.
His Speech on the Repeal of the Test Act.
I BELIEVE every gentleman that hears me may easily judge with what view I have desired this act to be read to you. It is, sir, with a design to have some part of it repealed, and another part so amended and explained, as to make it consistent with that charity and god nature which every member of the christian religion ought to shew to another. VOL. I.
The motion I am now to make, sir, proceeds chiefly from these three considerations : That I am, and I hope shall always be, an utter enemy to all manner of persecution; that I have a great reverence for that solema institution called the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper; and that I shall always be for every thing which I think may tend towards establishing and preserving the unity, peace and trade of my country. These are considerations which I am persuaded are of as great weight with every gentleman of this house as they are with me; and therefore if I can shew that there is any thing in this act that looks like persecution, any thing that brings a con. tempt upon that holy institution of our religion, or any thing inconsistent with the unity and peace of our people, or with the trade of our country, I make no doubt of having the unanimous assent of this house to what I am to propose ; and in my opinion, it would contribute greatly to the glory of this generation, as well as the honour of this house of commons, to have it agreed to nemine contradicente.
I hope, sir, it will be granted me, that the subjecting a man to a great penalty if he refused to subscribe to an opinion which he thought inconsistent with the christian religion, or to join in any ceremonies of public worship which he thought sinful, or perhaps idolatrous, would be a very heavy persecution; and I hope it will likewise be granted, that to render a man upon any such account incapable of holding a land estate, or of succeeding to any estate as next heir or next of kin, would also amount to a high degree of persecution : Now in this statute which has been read to you, there is one clause which enacts, That all persons that shall bear office, civil or military, or receive any salary or wages by any grant from the king, or shall have command or place of trust from or under him, or shall be in his navy or household, in England, Wales, Berwick, Jersey, or Guernsey, shall not only take the oaths of supremacy and allegiance, in the next terın, or at the quarter sessions, within three months after their admittance, but shall receive the sacrament of the Lord's