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Convocation house, and another while in were the persuaders to renew upon us the chapel at Westminster, when all the this bondage which they themselves have faith and religion that shall be there wrought so much good by contemning. canonized, is not sufficient without plain But if neither the check that Moses gave convincement, and the charity of patient to young Joshua, nor the countermand instruction, to supple the least bruise of which our Saviour gave to young John, conscience, to edify the meanest Chris- who was so ready to prohibit those tian, who desires to walk in the spirit, whom he thought unlicensed, be not and not in the letter of human trust, for enough to admonish our elders how unall the number of voices that can be there acceptable to God their testy mood of made; no, though Harry the Seventh prohibiting is; if neither their own rehimself there, with all his liege tombs membrance what evil hath abounded in about him, should lend them voices from the church by this let of licensing, and the dead, to swell their number. And if what good they themselves have begun by the men be erroneous who appear to be transgressing it, be not enough, but that the leading schismatics, what withholds they will persuade, and execute the most us but our sloth, our selfwill, and dis- Dominican part of the Inquisition over us, trust in the right cause, that we do not and are already with one foot in the stirgive them gentle meetings and gentle dis- rup, so active at suppressing, it would be missions, that we debate not and examine no unequal distribution in the first place the matter thoroughly with liberal and to suppress the suppressors themselves, frequent audience, if not for their sakes, whom the change of their condition yet for our own? seeing no man who hath hath puffed up, more than their late tasted learning, but will confess the many experience of harder times hath made ways of profiting by those, who, not con- wise. tented with stale receipts, are able to And as for regulating the press, let no manage and set forth new positions to the man think to have the honor of advising world. And were they but as the dust ye better than yourselves have done in and cinders of our feet, so long as in that that order published next before this; notion they may yet serve to polish and “That no book be printed, unless the brighten the armory of truth, even for printer's and the author's name, or at that respect they were not utterly to be least the printer's be registered." Those cast away.
But if they be of those which otherwise come forth, if they be whom God hath fitted for the special use found mischievous and libellous, the fire of these times with eminent and ample and the executioner will be the timeliest gifts, and those perhaps neither among and the most effectual remedy that man's the priests nor among the Pharisees, and prevention can use. For this authentic we in the haste of a precipitant zeal shall Spanish policy of licensing books, if I make no distinction, but resolve to stop have said aught, will prove the most untheir mouths, because we fear they come licensed book itself within a short while, with new and dangerous opinions, as we and was the immediate image of a Starcommonly forejudge them ere we under- chamber decree to that purpose made in stand them, no less than woe to us, while, those very times when that court did the thinking thus to defend the gospel we are rest of those her pious works, for which found the persecutors!
she is now fallen from the stars with There have been not a few since the Lucifer; whereby ye may guess what beginning of this parliament, both of the kind of state prudence, what love of the presbytery and others, who, by their un- people, what care of religion, or good licensed books to the contempt of an im- manners there was at the contriving, alprimatur, first broke that triple ice clung though with singular hypocrisy it preabout our hearts, and taught the people tended to bind books to their good beto see day. I hope that none of those havior,
havior. And how it got the upper hand
of your precedent order so well consti
some of them in procuring by petition this tuted before, if we may believe those order; that having power in their hands, men whose profession gives them cause malignant books might the easier escape to inquire most, it may be doubted there abroad, as the event shows. But of these was in it the fraud of some old patentees sophisms and elenchs of merchandise I and monopolizers in the trade of book- skill not. This I know, that errors in a selling, who, under pretence of the poor good government and in a bad, are in their company not to be defrauded, and equally almost incident; for what magthe just retaining of each man his sev- istrate may not be misinformed, and eral copy, which God forbid should be much the sooner, if liberty of printing be gainsaid! brought divers glossing colors reduced into the power of a few? But to the house, which were indeed but col- to redress willingly and speedily what ors and serving to no end except it be to hath been erred, and in highest authority exercise a superiority over their neigh- to esteem a plain advertisement more than bors; men who do not therefore labor in others have done a sumptuous bribe, is a an honest profession, to which learning is virtue, honored lords and commons! anindebted, that they should be made other swerable to your highest actions, and men's vassals.
whereof none can participate, but greatAnother end is thought was aimed at by l est and wisest men.
TO PROVE THAT THE ABOLISHING OF CHRISTIANITY IN ENGLAND MAY, AS THINGS
NOW STAND, BE ATTENDED WITH SOME INCONVENIENCES, AND PERHAPS
JONATHAN SWIFT Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), clergyman of the Established Church, wrote satires that are marked by their cleverness and by their bitterness. His most important work is Gulliver's Travels, ranking as a satiric achievement with Cervantes' Don Quixote. The following tract on the abolishing of Christianity (1708), while superficially an argument against an imaginary proposal, is, in reality, a bitter attack upon the spiritual indifference of his time.
I AM very sensible what a weakness ture when all parties appear so unaniand presumption it is to reason against the mously determined upon the point, as we general humor and disposition of the cannot but allow from their actions, their world. I remember it was with great discourses, and their writings. Howjustice, and a due regard to the freedom ever, I know not how, whether from the both of the public and the press, forbid-affectation of singularity, or the perden, upon several penalties, to write, or verseness of human nature, but so it undiscourse, or lay wagers against the happily falls out, that I cannot be enUnion,' even before it was confirmed by tirely of this opinion. Nay, though I parliament; because that was looked upon were sure an order were issued for my as a design to oppose the current of the immediate prosecution by the attorneypeople, which, besides the folly of it, is general, I should still confess that, in the manifest breach of the fundamental law, present posture of our affairs at home or that makes this majority of opinion the abroad, I do not yet see the absolute nevoice of God. In like manner, and forcessity of extirpating the Christian rethe very same reasons, it may perhaps be ligion from among us. neither safe nor prudent to argue against This, perhaps, may appear too great a the abolishing of Christianity, at a junc-paradox even for our wise and para
1 Union between Scotland and England doxical age to endure; therefore I shall consummated in 1707.
handle it with all tenderness, and with
the utmost deference to that great and Therefore I think this caution was in profound majority which is of another itself altogether unnecessary (which I sentiment.
have inserted only to prevent all possiAnd yet the curious may please to ob-bility of cavilling), since every candid serve how much the genius of a nation is reader will easily understand my disliable to alter in half an age. I have course to be intended only in defence of heard it affirmed for certain, by some nominal Christianity;the other having been very old people, that the contrary opin- | for some time wholly laid aside by general ion was, even in their memories, as much consent, as utterly inconsistent with our in vogue as the other is now; and that a present schemes of wealth and power. project for the abolishing of Christianity But why we should therefore cast off would then have appeared as singular, the name and title of Christians, although and been thought as absurd, as it would the general opinion and resolution be so be, at this time, to write or discourse in violent for it, I confess I cannot (with its defence.
submission) apprehend, nor is the conseTherefore I freely own that all appear- quence necessary. However, since the ances are against me. The system of the undertakers propose such wonderful adgospel, after the fate of other systems, is vantages to the nation by this project, generally antiquated and exploded : and and advance many plausible objections the mass or body of the common people, against the system of Christianity, I shall among whom it seems to have had its briefly consider the strength of both, latest credit, are now grown as much fairly allow them their greatest weight, ashamed of it as their betters; opinions and offer such answers as I think most like fashions always descending from reasonable. After which I will beg those of quality to the middle sort, and leave to sho what inconveniences may thence to the vulgar, where at length possibly happen by such an innovation, in they are dropped and vanish.
the present posture of our affairs. But here I would not be mistaken, and First, one great advantage proposed must therefore be so bold as to borrow a by the abolishing of Christianity is, that distinction from the writers on the other it would very much enlarge and establish side, when they make a difference be- liberty of conscience, that great bulwark tween nominal and real Trinitarians. I of our nation, and of the Protestant rehope no reader imagines me so weak to ligion; which is still too much limited by stand up in the defence of real Chris- priestcraft, notwithstanding all the good tianity, such as used in primitive times intentions of the legislature, as we have (if we may believe the authors of those lately found by a severe instance. For ages) to have an influence upon men's be- it is confidently reported that two young lief and actions: to offer at the restoring gentlemen of real hopes, bright wit and of that would indeed be a wild project; profound judgment, who, upon a thorit would be to dig up foundations; to de- ough examination of causes and effects, stroy at one blow all the wit and half the and by the mere force of natural abililearning of the kingdom; to break the ties, without the least tincture of learnentire frame and constitution of things; ing, having made a discovery that there to ruin trade, extinguish arts and sciences, was no God, and generously communiwith the professors of them; in short, to cating their thoughts for the good of the turn our courts, exchanges, and shops public, were some time ago, by an unparinto deserts; and would be full as absurd alleled severity, and upon I know not as the proposal of Horace, where he ad-what obsolete law, broke for blasphemy. vises the Romans all in a body to leave And as it has been wisely observed, if their city, and seek a new seat in some re- persecution once begins, no man alive mote part of the world, by way of cure knows how far it may reach or where it for the corruption of their manners. will end.
In answer to all which, with deference whenever he thinks fit, especially if it to wiser judgments, I think this rather serves to strengthen the party which is shows the necessity of a nominal religion in the right? Would any indifferent foramong us. Great wits love to be free eigner, who should read the trumpery with the highest objects; and if they can- lately written by Asgil, Tindal, Toland, not be allowed a God to revile or re- Coward, and forty more, imagine the nounce, they will speak evil of dignities, gospel to be our rule of faith, and conabuse the government, and reflect upon firmed by parliaments? Does any man the ministry; which I am sure few will either believe, or say he believes, or dedeny to be of much more pernicious con- sire to have it thought that he says he besequence, according to the saying of lieves, one syllable of the matter? And Tiberius, deorum offensa diis curae. is any man worse received upon that As to the particular fact related, I think score, or does he find his want of nominal it is not fair to argue from one instance,
faith a disadvantage to him in the purperhaps another cannot be produced; yet suit of any civil or military employment? (to the comfort of all those who may be What if there be an old dormant statute apprehensive of persecution) blasphemy, or two against him, are they not now we know, is freely spoken a million of absolute to a degree, that Empson and times in every coffee-house and tavern, or Dudley themselves, if they were now wherever else good company meet.
It alive, would find it impossible to put must be allowed, indeed, that, to break them in execution? an English free-born officer only for It is likewise urged that there are, by blasphemy was, to speak the gentlest of computation, in this kingdom, above ten such an action, a very high strain of ab- thousand parsons, whose revenues, added solute power. Little can be said in ex- to those of my lords the bishops, would cuse for the general; perhaps he was suffice to maintain at least two hundred afraid it might give offence to the allies, young gentlemen of wit and pleasure, and among whom, for aught we know, it may freethinking, enemies to priestcraft, narbe the custom of the country to believe a row principles, pedantry, and prejudices, God. But if he argued, as some have who might be an ornament to the court done, upon a mistaken principle, that an and town: and then again, so great a officer who is guilty of speaking blas- number of able divines might be a recruit phemy may some time or other proceed so to our feet and armies. This, indeed, apfar as to raise a mutiny, the consequence pears to be a consideration of some weight; is by no means to be admitted; for surely but then, on the other side, several things the commander of an English army is deserve to be considered likewise: as likely to be but ill obeyed whose soldiers first, whether it may not be thought necfear and reverence him as little as they essary that in certain tracts of country, do a Deity.
like what we call parishes, there shall be It is further objected against the gos- one at least of abilities to read and write. pel system, that it obliges men to the be- Then it seems a wrong computation, that lief of things too difficult for free-think- the revenues of the church throughout ers, and such who have shaken off the this island would be large enough to prejudices that usually cling to a confined maintain two hundred young gentlemen, education. To which I answer, that or even half that number, after the men should be cautious how they raise present refined way of living; that is, to objections which reflect upon the wisdom allow each of them such a rent as, in the of the nation. Is not everybody freely modern form of speech, would make them allowed to believe whatever he pleases, easy. But still there is in this project a and to publish his belief to the world greater mischief behind; and we ought to
1“A crime against the gods is for the gods to attend to.”
* Extortionate tax-collectors of Henry VII. beware of the woman's folly, who killed | But I would fain know how it can be the hen that every morning laid her a pretended that the churches are misapgolden egg. For, pray what would be- | plied ? where are more appointments and come of the race of men in the next age, rendezvouses of gallantry? where more if we had nothing to trust to beside the care to appear in the foremost box, with scrofulus, consumptive productions fur- greater advantage of dress? where more nished by our men of wit and pleasure, meetings for business? where more barwhen, having squandered away their gains driven of all sorts? and where so vigor, health, and estates, they are forced, many conveniences or enticements to by some disagreeable marriage, to piece up sleep? their broken fortunes, and entail rottenness and politeness on their posterity ? It is again objected, as a very absurd, Now, here are ten thousand persons re- ridiculous custom, that a set of men duced, by the wise regulations of Henry should be suffered, much less employed VIII, to the necessity of a low diet and and hired, to bawl one day in seven moderate exercise, who are the only great against the lawfulness of those methods restorers of our breed, without which the most in use, toward the pursuit of greatnation would in an age or two become one ness, riches, and pleasure, which are the great hospital.
constant practice of all men alive on the Another advantage proposed by the other six. But this objection is, I think, abolishing of Christianity, is the clear a little unworthy so refined an age as gain of one day in seven, which is now ours. Let us argue this matter calmly: entirely lost, and consequently the king- I appeal to the breast of any polite freedom one-seventh less considerable in thinker, whether, in the pursuit of gratitrade, business, and pleasure; besides the fying a predominant passion, he hath not loss to the public of so many stately struc- always felt a wonderful incitement, by tures, now in the hands of the clergy, reflecting it was a thing forbidden; and which might be converted into play- therefore we see, in order to cultivate this houses, exchanges, market-houses, com- taste, the wisdom of the nation hath taken mon dormitories, and other public special care that the ladies should be edifices.
furnished with prohibited silks, and the I hope I shall be forgiven a hard word,
men with prohibited wine. And indeed if I call this a perfect cavil. I readily it were to be wished that some other proown there has been an old custom, time hibitions were promoted, in order to imout of mind, for people to assemble in the prove the pleasures of the town; which churches every Sunday, and that shops for want of such expedients begin alare still frequently shut, in order, as it is ready, as I am told, to flag and grow conceived, to preserve the memory of languid, giving way daily to cruel inthat ancient practice; but how this can roads from the spleen. prove a hindrance to business or pleasure It is likewise proposed as a great adis hard to imagine. What if the men of vantage to the public, that if we once pleasure are forced, one day in the week, discard the system of the gospel, all reto game at home instead of the chocolate-ligion will of course be banished for houses? are not the taverns and coffee- ever; and consequently along with it those houses open ? can there be a more con- grievous prejudices of education, which venient season for taking a dose of under the names of virtue, conscience, physic? is not that the chief day for trad-honor, justice and the like, are so apt to ers to sum up the accounts of the week, disturb the peace of human minds, and and for lawyers to prepare their briefs? the notions whereof are so hard to be
eradicated, by right reason or free-think1 Satiric allusion to Henry's confiscations
ing, sometimes during the whole course of the wealth of the church.
of our lives.