Imágenes de páginas

ously opposed the clergy who petitioned, to the number of about three hundred, to be freed from the subscription to the thirty-nine articles, without proposing to substitute any other in their place. There never has been a religion of the state (the few years of the parliament only excepted) but that of the episcopal church of England; the episcopal church of England, before the reformation, connected with the see of Rome, since then, disconnected and protesting against some of her doctrines, and against the whole of her authority, as binding in our national church : nor did the fundamental laws of this kingdom (in Ireland it has been the same) ever know, at any period, any other church as an object of establishment; or in that light, any other protestant religion, Nay, our protestant toleration itself at the revolution, and until within a few years, required a signature of thirty-six, and a part of the thirty-seventh, out of the thirty-nine articles. So little idea had they at the revolution of establishing protestantism indefinitely, that they did not indefinitely tolerate it under that

I do not mean to praise that strictness, where nothing more than merely religious toleration is concerned. Toleration being a part of moral and political prudence, ought to be tender and large. A tolerant government ought not to be too scrupulous in its investigations ; but may bear without blame, not only very ill-grounded doctrines, but even many things that are positively vices, where they are adulta et prævalida. The good of the commonwealth is the rule which rides over the rest ; and to this every other must completely submit.

The church of Scotland knows as little of protestantism undefined, as the church of England and Ire


land do. She has by the articles of union secured to herself the perpetual establishment of the confession of faith, and the presbyterian church government. In England, even during the troubled interregnum, it was not thought fit to establish a negative religion ; but the parliament settled the presbyterian, as the church discipline; the Directory, as the rule of public worship; and the Westminster catechism, as the institute of faith. This is to shew, that at no time was the protestant religion undefined, established here, or any where else, as I believe.

If mere dissent from the church of Rome be a merit, he that dissents the most perfectly is the most meritorious. In many points we hold strongly with that church. He that dissents throughout with that church will dissent from the church of England, and then it will be a part of his merit that he dissents with ourselves:- a whimsical species of merit for any set of men to establish. We quarrel to extremity with those, who we know agree with us in many things, but we are to be so malicious even in the principle of our friendships, that we are to cherish in our bosom those who accord with us in nothing, because, whilst they despise ourselves, they abhor even more than we do, those with whom we have some disagreement. A man is certainly the most perfect protestant, who protests against the whole christian religion. Whether a person's having no christian religion be a title to favour, in exclusion to the largest description of christians who hold all the doctrines of christianity, though holding along with them some errors and some superfluities, is rather more than any man who has not become recreant and apostate from his baptism, will, I believe, choose to affirm. The countenance given from a spirit of controversy to that negative religion, may, by, degrees, encourage light and unthinking people to a total indifference to every thing positive in matters of doctrine; and, in the end, of practice too. If continued, it would play the game of that sort of active, proselytizing, and persecuting atheism, which is the disgrace and calamity of our time, and which we see to be as capable of subverting a government, as any mode can be, of misguided zeal for better things.


The enemies to property at first pretended a most tender, delicate, and scrupulous anxiety for keeping the king's engagements with the public creditor.These professors of the rights of men are so busy in teaching others, that they have not leisure to learn any thing themselves; otherwise they would have known that it is to the property of the citizen, and not to the demands of the creditor of the state, that the first and the original faith of civil society is pledged. The claim of the citizen is prior in time, paramount in title, superior in equity. The fortunes of individuals, whether possessed by acquisition, or by descent, or in virtue of a participation in the goods of some community, were no part of the creditor's security, expressed or implied. They never so much as entered into his head when he made his bargain. He well knew that the public, whether represented by a monarch or by a senate, can pledge nothing but the public estate ; and it can have no public estate, except in what it derives from a just and proportioned imposition upon the citizens at large. This was engaged, and nothing else could be engaged to the public creditor. No man can mortgage his injustice as a pawn for his fidelity.


Nations are wading deeper and deeper into an ocean of boundless debt. Public debts, which at first were a security to governments, by interesting many in the public tranquillity, are likely in their excess to become the means of their subversion. If governments provide for these debts by heavy impositions, they perish by becoming odious to the people. If they do not provide for them, they will be undone by the efforts , of the most dangerous of all parties ; I mean an extensive discontented monied interest, injured and not destroyed. The men who compose this interest look for their security, in the first instance, to the fidelity of government ; in the second to its power. If they find the old governments effete, worn out, and with their springs relaxed, so as not to be of sufficient vigour for their purposes, they may seek new ones that shall be possessed of more energy ;, and this energy will be derived, not from an acquisition of resources, but from a contempt of justice.


In a moment when sudden panic is apprehended, it may be wise, for a while to conceal some great public disaster, or to reveal it by degrees, until the minds of the people have time to be recollected, that their understanding may have leisure to rally, and that more steady councils may prevent their doing some

thing desperate under the first impression of rage or terror. But with regard to a general state of things, growing out of events and causes already known in the gross, there is no piety in the fraud that covers its true nature; because nothing but erroneous resolutions can be the result of false representations. Those measures which in common distress might be available, in greater, are no better than playing with the evil. That the effort may bear a proportion to the exigence, it is fit it should be known; known in its quality, in its extent, and in all the circumstances which attend it.


A LITTLE place like Geneva, of not more than from twenty-five to thirty thousand inhabitants, which has no territory, or next to none; which depends for its existence on the good-will of three neighbouring powers, and is of course continually in the state of something like a siege, or in the speculation of it, might find some resource in state granaries, and some revenue from the monopoly of what was sold to the keepers of public-houses. This is a policy for a state too small for agriculture. It is not (for instance) fit for so great a country as the Pope possesses, where, however, it is adopted and pursued in a greater extent, and with more strictness. Certain of the Pope's territories, from whence the city of Rome is supplied, being obliged to furnish Rome and the granaries of his holiness with corn at a certain price, that part of the papal territories is utterly ruined. That ruin may be traced with certainty to this sole cause, and it appears indubitably by a comparison of their state and condition with that of the other parts of the ecclesias

« AnteriorContinuar »