« AnteriorContinuar »
striking since the Revolution, when Puritans were tolerated, and Papists only connived at: we will take them separately.
First of Papists : Queen Elizabeth endeavoured at first to do as King Edward 6th had done; to influence the Ministers only; to enjoin them to read the reformed service, and to require only quietness from the People : but the Popish power engendering Plots against her, she was obliged to oppose it by laws growing stricter gradually.
And this is a general • idea of the English Laws against Popery : they were made, when attempts were made to restore it: and, when those attempts were frustrated, they were executed more and more remissly as the danger grew more remote. Queen Elizabeth did not at first exclude Papists from her councils, and they remained members of Parliament till the 30th of Charles 2d: attempts to restore Popery have been but little discontinued; the year 1745 is within the memory of many men : and, since that time, it has seemed worth while to keep an account of the numbers of Papists, and of the conduct of their Priests : though the Legislature has ventured upon some relaxations b.
a Gibson's 5th Pastoral Letter, Postscript: see Contents of the
b Since June, 1791, all, who swear to be good subjects ; that is, who renounce the Pope's Supremacy in civil matters, are allowed to use their worship publicly, to keep schools for Papists, to come to Court, &c.—but the margin of the Act of Parliament, taking place June 24, 1791, will easily supply particulars. Such Papists call themselves protesting Catholics : about 1700 of them, I think, petitioned Parliament. Blackstone seems to have pointed out (B. iv. Chap. iv. p. 54. Quarto) the ground, on which this liberty might be given. In Ireland, Papists can now vote for members of the House of Commons: can be members of the University ; can be Advocates at the Bar: though they cannot yet be Members of Parliament; or Judges; or Otficers in the Army or Navy.
With regard to Protestant dissenters, as the Puritans might be called, though beneficed in the Church of England, the general view was, to make their religion, or every departure from the established worship, uneasy to them, by disabling them from doing things, which others might do (practising Law and Physic in James 1st.) and by fining, and in some cases imprisoning them. And their behaviour was so stiff and ungracious, that the sentiment of hatred conspired with political prudence (or artifice) against them. And I should conceive, that the want of a test would, by encreasing their power, embitter their zeal, and that of their opponents: very soon after the Restoration, the Act of Uniformity took place; by which all ministers, who were not ordained in our manner, or who refused to use our service, and give their assent to it, were deprived of their benefices : on the 24th of August, 1662 (well called Black Bartholomew) not less than 2000€ Ministers lost their livings, and other preferments; a considerable proportion of them men of ability and diligence in their profession;-it is shocking and mortifying to think, that safety to the Church could not, or seemed as if it could not, be purchased at an easier rate!
At the Revolution, however, it was intended to give all Protestants full liberty, with regard to Religion, though the liberality of the King's designs got narrowed by Parliament and Convocation : but what would then be liberty to the chief part of Dissenters, is not so now; they did not object to the Doctrined of the Trinity ; whereas Socinians are now considerable, in numbers and literature. The Toleration Act, though it gives up the contested points about ceremonies, forms of church-government, and even about infant baptism, and oaths to those who have scruples, yet gives up nothing with regard to the Trinity; not having occasion to give up any thing ;-and, as qualifying according to that act, that is, taking oaths and making declarations, is necessary in order to have the benefit of it, the Socinians are, in strictness, as if the Toleration Act had not been made. So I understand the matter. - At least, they were so till the present reign. In 1792, Mr. Fox moved the Commons to give relief in the matter of assenting to the doctrine of the Trinity, but they were immoveable.
c Hume, Neal, &c.
d See 15 first Articles as modified by the Assembly in 1643. They are in Neal. Appendix.
The principal thing aimed at by Protestant dissenters is the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts; and their attempts being with a view to temporal advantages, and influence in the State, will of course cause a jealousy in the Magistrate : when they shew no desire of having their own sects powerfül in politics, then they will have every possible relief.
The Corporation and Test Acts of Charles 2d continue in force; it seems likely that, if they had not been thought necessary, they would have been repealed at the Revolution. The immediate occasions of them may be now extinct, and yet the general principles of them may make them fit for other occasions. The first, forbidding, all but members of the established Church to hold any office in the Government of any City or Corporation, was necessary to dispossess of power, of power particularly of electing members of Parliament, those, who were disaffected to Government at the Restoration, and who had before excluded all but those of their own principles : the second, forbidding all but members of the established Church to hold office, civil or military, was necessary in order to
prevent * A. D. 1661. 13 Cha. II, St. 2. c. i. b 25 Ch. II. c. 2.
prevent Charles 2d. from dispensing with Law by his Proclamation, and granting indulgence to the Papists. These two Laws now join in keeping all, who are not of the established Church, out of power; in Corporations, (as having an effect on the Legislature,) and in the executive government.How far they are capable of extension or relaxation, or of alteration as to the mode : is a question of importance, and of difficulty. A man is deemed a member of the Church of England, who takes the Sacrament according to the usage of the Church of England, and declares against Transubstantiation; from whence the Tests are called Sacramental tests. According to the Corporation Act, a man must already have shewn himself a Member of the Church of England : according to the Test act, he must shew himselfsuch within six months after his appointment. The Test Act was made twelve years after the Corporation Act.—Many persons of eminence seem to wish, that some, who are now dissenters, could be employed in the service of government; and something has been done in the present reign: what expedients should be adopted, may be thought the business of a Statesman, rather than of a Churchman, to determine; were I to hazard a proposal, it should be, that the Church should be enlarged, and the Executive Government still confined to that Church: with the most perfect toleration to opinions and worship, that could be given. But deliberations of councils must be wanted to settle such weighty matters as these: and even their decisions should be executed at first only in the way of trying experiments. Some eminent Dissenters neither wish for an enlargement, or what is called a comprehension", nor think it practicable.
· The best proposal for a comprehension seems to have been that of 1689; in which Tillotson, Scot, Sharp, Compton, Stillingtleet, Beveridge, were engaged: and Burnet, &c. - Convocation stopped it.
CHAP CHAP. XV.
OF IMPROVING RELIGIOUS SOCIETIES.
1. We shall now bring our reflexions on the nature of religious Society to a conclusion, by considering how such society may be put into a train of perpetual Improvement : how it
ow it may be made, though always imperfect, to approach continually nearer and nearer to Perfection. That all human institutions admit of improvement, will scarce be disputed: the progress of experience in learning Duties, was traced out in the first Book : and sometimes improvements must be reckoned as beginning from some corrupt state of things. We need not make any elaborate proof of our present assertion; we need here only recollect how far religious societies, even under the Christian dispensation, are of human institution ; and express a caution, that every change be not considered as an improvement. There are always men to be found, who are impatient under old institutions, and desirous of new, without any reason : through caprice, or unbounded love of novelty; or through a desire of distinguishing themselves, and of being lawgivers, original thinkers, leaders of parties, &c. -Men of this turn rush into change, ignorant and thoughtless, — without mature deliberation, without insight into the nature of man, or the interests of Society.—We would not be thought to speak of any improvement, but such as moderate men, of judgment and information, have agreed to adopt; have agreed for a considerable time.
2. When Chap. xix. Sect. 3. b Chap. xi. Sect. 9.