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II. To make some brief application of the foregoing reflections to the occasion of this day's solemnity.
I shall not minutely consider (nor indeed do I pretend to know) the birth and rise, or the particular springs and motives of the late rebellion.
1. Only I shall beg leave to observe in general, what is open and visible to all, that passion and resentment had the greatest hand in it; as it is the best excuse for it: I mean in those who were professed Protestants; and such of them especially, as had no scruple about the settlement in the late reign, nor in the beginning of this, nor since, if we may be allowed to think (as certainly we may) that a man is not influenced by any principles of conscience, who at the same time swears, and acts against it.
Title indeed was here pretended, as is usual in such cases. But whoever considers that the pretended title had been, in a manner, universally disowned and disclaimed in the two preceding reigns, and frequently rejected by the whole legislature, and abjured by men almost of all ranks, orders, or denominations amongst us, both then and since, will easily allow that title was the pretence only, and disgusts and discontents the true motives. Which reminds me of an observation made by a great statesman and a polite writer of our own"; "that upon the disputes of
right and title to the crown, between the two roses, or
races, of York and Lancaster, the popular discontents at “ the present reign made way for the succession of a new “ pretender, more than any regards of right or justice in “ their title; which served only to cover the bent and hu
mour of the people to such a change." Men may pretend conscience for their humours, their passions, their follies, their vices; and it is frequent enough so to do; and not easy to discover whether they are sincere or no, while they act consistently with themselves. But it must be a strange sort of conscience, that cannot be brought to comply with a government, and yet can be brought to
t. Temple, Miscell. part iii. p. 46.
swear to it: which is full of scruples about so uncertain a thing as the pretended title, and yet has no scruple about so plain and clear a thing as the obligation of an oath : which dares not give up some supposed rights of another, on any consideration whatever, for fear of damnation; and yet is not afraid to give up the very bonds and links of human society, and the most sacred ties of all governments; in a word, to make God's name cheap, his authority contemptible, and his vengeance despicable in the eye of the world. But to proceed,
2. I crave leave to observe next, that it may reasonably be presumed, that matters had never proceeded so far as to an open rebellion, had they not been industriously and artfully managed by the Shebas of our land, the emissaries of the Church of Rome; I mean the professed Papists : men of the most inveterate hatred to our religion, laws, and establishment, and to whatever tends to the prosperity and honour of the English Church or the English nation ; who have been contriving all imaginable ways to blast and ruin our happy Reformation from the first commencing of it; have been concerned almost in every commotion of State, and active in every rebellion ; feeding upon our factions, and rejoicing daily in our unhappy divisions. These, as is well known, were the chief promoters of the late disturbances; actuated with revenge against our king, our country, our laws, and constitution; and with a zeal for that Church, which scruples not to allow, and even to bless and sanctify, any fraud or deceit, any treachery or perfidiousness, any rage or violence, in order to extirpate what they call heresy, and to carry on the cause of their own superstition and idolatry. How would they rejoice and insult over us, to find us doing with our own hands what they have been labouring unsuccessfully for above a century and a half together! As to our heats and animosities amongst ourselves, they may subside and fall by degrees; and every thing may revert into right order, so long as we keep out the common enemy. But if once we open a door to Papal tyranny and usurpation, and submit our
selves to that yoke of bondage, all will be lost, and past recovery. It is worth remarking, that, amidst our many distractions and confusions, during the grand rebellion and usurpation, there was so much of the English spirit still Jeft, that they preserved themselves against any attempt of foreign powers. The nation was still honoured and revered abroad, though dismally divided and distracted at home. In a while their heats abated, and they settled into order and regularity: still retaining their own sovereignty and independency, and their religious and civil rights whole and entire. These reflections have carried me a little out of method: but I return.
I should here go on to pursue the parallel between the case of the revolting Israelites and that of the persons concerned in the late rebellion, in many particulars; as the strange absurdity and inconsistency of the design, how improbable a method to redress any imaginary or real grievances, without involving the whole nation in infinitely more and greater; how repugnant to the principles of religion and to common humanity; how unlikely to prosper, and how destructive in its consequences if it had. The Jast I shall speak to presently; the rest I pass over: the thing speaks itself, or may be easily understood from what hath been observed above; and we may spare ourselves the trouble of an ungrateful remembrance. It is sufficient that the good hand of Providence has defeated and blasted the designs of our enemies; that our country is not made a scene of war, or a field of blood; that neighbours and brethren are not, at this present, destroying and murdering one another; that our goods and possessions are not violently torn from us, our houses rifled, our temples defaced, villages burned up, or cities consumed, and turned into ruinous heaps ; that “ Judah and Israel may dwell “ safely, every man under his vine and under bis fig “ treeu:” in a word, that we have the comfort and happiness to meet together this day, to bless and praise Al
u 1 Kings iv. 25.
mighty God for the preservation of our King and our country, our religion, laws, and liberties, and all we hold dear, from impending ruin. What the consequences of a successful rebellion (after a severe struggle, and wading through a sea of blood) might have been, we do not certainly know; and it is happy for us that we do not. But in all human views, and according to the probable issues of things, (without a miracle to prevent them,) the least we could expect was, to have had the noblest and happiest island in the world ravaged and defaced by foreign invaders; the bravest people, who have been used to give the law or the balance to Europe, made the scorn and the derision of those that hate them; and, to finish our misery, the purest and best constituted Church in the Christian world, which was founded in the blood of martyrs, and has been preserved hitherto by marvellous providences, given up for a prey to seducers, and overrun with bigotry, superstition, and idolatry.
But some perhaps may think, might not God's good providence have prevented all this, even under a succession of Popish princes? Yes certainly, it might. For what might not an omnipotent God do for us, under the most deplorable and desperate circumstances ? But who shall assure us that he will do it, if we suffer ourselves to fall into such circumstances by our own supineness, or, what is worse, perverseness ? Let any man tell us why Providence has not prevented the like in other countries; or how it comes to pass that a succession of Popish princes hath ever proved fatal to the Protestant religion. The Roman Conclave understand this well enough, and have been labouring this point with indefatigable zeal and pains; never doubting, but that by the gaining of this only, they may soon have what they please.
It is frankly said by a late writer of the order of the Jesuits, speaking of the consequence of a Popish successor to these kingdoms, that “it must perpetuate it (the “ Romish religion) upon the throne, and in time bring it
“ to prevail among the people x." The remark is true and just, founded on history and observation, and the plain reason of things. We humbly trust that God's good providence will prevent this, and will support that blessed Reformation which his own right hand hath planted in these kingdoms: but not by miracles, nor out of the ordinary way, but by means proper to it; that is, by perpetuating to us a succession of Protestant princes; the way by which he has been pleased hitherto to support it, and to preserve it down to this day. And we have reason to think and hope that he will still so preserve and continue it, so long at least as till the sins of the nation are full grown, till we have filled up
measure of our “ iniquities,” and are become ripe for vengeance. God grant the ingratitude of many for mercies received, their unreasonable murmurs and complaints, their discontentedness with a well settled government, which they have frequently owned and solemnly sworn to, their heats and animosities, and party rage, may not hasten the approaches of the day of vengeance, and too soon eclipse the blessed light of the Reformation amongst us.
But these are too melancholy presages upon a day of thanksgiving, which lets us into a more comfortable scene, and gives us a pleasing prospect of better things. I shall pass on to the last part of my design ;
III. To draw a few practical advices proper to the place and audience.
1. And the first is, to beware of the approaches of passion, and to guard against any temptation or provocation thereto. The studidus life may be an advantage to us in this respect, by affording us a more thorough insight into the affections and workings of human nature; acquainting us with the distempers of the mind, and the causes of them, and the methods proper to heal them ; teaching us to think and reflect, and to turn our eyes inward upon our
* F. I. D’Orleans Hist. Stuarts, p. 298.