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ftitution is the admiration of the world: you are either not known, or you are despised. Even the historians of your own country seem defirous to consign you to oblivion. They reluctantly and sparingly mention those facts by means of which such important benefits have ensued; but they afford you no credit or praise! What can be the reason of these things? You have ever done good that evil might come ; you have opposed aspiring and arbitrary princes, to introduce a worse kind of ryranny under the name of a Republick; and you have struggled against persecuting priests, in order to get their power into your own hands, and to introduce a more compleat, a more gloomy, and more unrelenting oppression. It is not necessary to prove this by arguments ; you have taken care to prove it by facts. In every case where you have obtained power, you have exhibited your principles and views. You lost all share in the honour of beheading King Charles, and in the newfangled government under Oliver, by a vindictive and cruel Intolerance. A man who had divested his mind of every moral and religious principle, though he affected them on occasions; who had waded into power through all convenient kinds of iniquity, and through rivers of blood, was shocked at the spirit which actuated your views and plans of government.
“ When an impolitic and severe treatment of you, under the restored princes of the Stuart family, obliged you to fly to America ; when you made your complaints found through the world, as abridged in your liberty of thinking, and persecuted for your manner of wore Thiping God; you seized the first opportunities of exercising the same cruelty on those who differed from you, and were unfortunate enough to be in your power. In England, though it was with difficulty you could obtain a partial and restrained toleration, you still proceeded on the same narrow and iniquitous principle; that you were orthodox, and all the world heterodox, and that, in consequence, you had a right to govern it. You formed Presbyteries, or what you called affemblies of your principal ministers, where you could vent only your spite to the Lord against those who kept from you the spoils of all the people; but when your hypocritical services were followed by such abuse of an assumed, iniquitous, and paltry power, as will ever brand you with infamy. Your congregations, from the different fituations and circumstances of their members, differed greatly in their opulence. This suggested the thought that the rich should not only support their own ministers, but contribute to the support of those who fed the poorer flocks. This gave rise to your funds, and power to your assemblies to do mischief: hence the dependence of your poor ministers on those who are rich: and hence the numerous dark, infernal, though bloodless tragedies, which you have caused to be acted. No people on earth can understand better than you the important principle, that there are many inore effectual ways of tormenting and sending a man out of the world, than by killing him. Thousands of families, in remote generations, have rued the dark and secret measures you have taken with their ancestors. A gloom has been settled on whole neighboushoods for ages, from the distress, poverty, contention, loss of reputation, usefulness and happiness, which you have occafioned. These things in a great and active nation, and done by a secluded people,
were private. transactions, and were either unknown or unnoticed. They come not within the province of the historian; or I would not have recorded them.”
He instances the persecution of the learned Pierce of Exeter, the amiable Foster, Huxham, and Mudge: but, says he,
“ The instances would be almost endless, if I were able or inclined to enumerate them, in which your assemblies of ministers, managers of funds, and trustees of charities, have shewn that constant invariable disposition to intolerance, which seems to have been your distin, guishing principle. Every poflible occasion within my knowledge and my knowledge of your transactions is not very confined) every occasion has been taken by your ministers to advance themselves into power, in order to persecute for opinion, and to controul, and stop the progress of knowledge. Injuries have been done you, it is true. An impolitic and bigotted Hierarchy has sometimes ill-treated you for opinions; buc the government has generally found it neceffary, under religious pretences, to restrain your ambition; for you never meant by Liberty, any thing more than the liberty of destroying the Church of England ; and setting up Presbyterianism in its stead. Hence the epithets of fac-, tious and feditious, which have been ever applied to you by the Itate ; hence your want of credit and influence with the public; and your want of success in any measures you have taken. Is it to be imagined that a dutiful, harmless body of people, would have been harrasled so long as you have been, if you had discovered no aims beyond those of freedom of thinking, and of worshiping God according to your consciences? If this might have been the case under the Tudors and Stuarts, how came it to pass that the Revolution made so little change in your affairs? And when you had given all your assistance to the ele. vation of the Hanover family, what are the reasons that you have been not only neglected, but that penal laws, of a severe and cruel kind, are still thought necessary to be held over you? It is probable they will be brought forth only on occasions; for the most effectual way of destroying you is to leave you to bite and devour each other. Your enemies have found their account fo much in this conduct, that nineteen in twenty of your meeting-houses are either shut up or nearly deserted. For your principle being Orthodoxy and not Liberty, and neither your authority nor emoluments being sufficient to restrain and corrupt your ministers into an apparent uniformity, you have ever exhibited a scene of ridiculous confufion. In one quarter of the kingdom, where Calvinisin had been your established religion, we saw a young imprudent teacher starting out of his trammels as an Arian, and all the fons and daughters of godliness in full cry after him: in another, a freak of gentility seizing a spark, and inducing him to wear a gown, that sign of the whore of Babylon : in another, a disposition to conform and accomniodate matters with moderate churchmen, tempting a set of liberal men to try a liturgy; and this exciting an universal commotion and a holy anger, in the breast of every faint in the land. Thus, faith being your object, and intolerance your disposition, you have ever been worrying each other, and you have reduced your numbers, your credit, and your influence, almost to nothing.
“ Do not imagine,” continues he, that " I hold these things before you from ill-will. As a part of that publick which has been often fo
much benefited by your well-timed and firm oppositions, I owe you respect: as an enthusiast for Liberty, which, without intending it, you have often contributed to preserve, I owe you fome kind of gratitude: and I never contemplate your present insignificant and disonourable situation, and consider what you might have been, without the deepest and bitterest regret. In all your late efforts to obtain any points with government, you have felt that insignificance and dishonour in a mortifying manner.-When you applied for a repeal of the ieft laws, Sir Robert Walpole insulted you with a bribe! nay, bought your filence and future obedience for fifteen hundred pounds a year! This could not buy a fingle attendant in the train of the minister; and it is given with full effect to the whole body of Diffenters! Eight of your ministers are employed to distribute it; and they serve as spies and informers. This paltry sum is held out in such a way before the longing eyes of your half-starved country ministers, as to keep them directed to the powers that be, and induce the poor men to obey those powers in thought, word, and deed.-In your late application, you were treated with a contemptuous duplicity. You were told, that government wished to relieve you from the inconvenience and terror of penal laws; and that your bill was thrown out by the Bishops. A bill fabricated, as yours was, by Mr. Dyson, with the pretended approbation of the ministry; and yet thrown out by the Biihops! that part of â servile Parliament, which is most devoted to the will of the minister! And you have pretended to believe this! Be affured, if that power which holds the Parliament in its hand, as I hold my pen, and directs it at its pleasure, bad thought you worth an act of Parliament, you would have seen the Bishops thrown out of the windows, sooner than your bill out of the House of Lords. You were not even thought worth a l-e from the minister; and those of his dependants who had the least credit to lose were employed to deceive you. In this state I view you
regret and sorrow.” This may be, and yet we think the writer uses the language father of resentment and ill-will, than that of grief or compassion. But, perhaps, this is only his manner; and it would be wrong to refuse the affiftance of an able surgeon, because he is rather rough in his manner of handling his patients. If we may believe this very plain-speaking remonftrant, he means nothing but good to those, whose case he represents to be so very bad: nor doth he point out the evil without proposing a remedy.
" You have,” says he,“ reduced your party to infignificance, by bigotry and intolerance; and if you mean or wish to recover and increase your numbers and weight in the community, it must be by an universal toleration; nay, an universal disregard, in all public measures, to tenets and opinions; and by opening your arms to all without exception, who suxer with you in the cause of Liberty."
In doing this, he advises them, “ to change the reason of their diffent, which used to be an opinion of superior orthodoxy and superior purity of worship, for another, which is the only rational and justifiable reason of diffent; the inalienable
and universal right of private judgement; and the necessity of an unrestrained enquiry and freedom of debate and discussion on all subjects of knowledge, morality, and religion *.”—“ You must adopt a new principle; and you must form
must form your assem blies and presbyteries with one sinple public view, the preservation of freedom to all men in their enquiries after truth t."
" Arrange, and order, and discipline yourselves, that you may come out in a body. You have a right to do so, by nature; by the plainest views of public good; and by prescription. You are tolerated, and in effect incorporated by act of parliament; and you only want unanimity, and perhaps a little honesty, to be the guardians not only of the religious but civil liberties of this country.”
It is in consequence, we suppose, of our letter-writer's here pointing out the way for the Dissenters to become thus important and consequential as a political body, that he adds to his letter the following postscript.
“ I have some right to expect that, in consequence of this Letter, you will call your ministers and your principal people together; renounce the Donum Regis; declare your principle to be the right of prisate judgement to all men without exception; and establish fome mode of uniting your body, for the perpetual preservation of it."
We hope this Letter was not written by the poor minister, who has to often complained, of late, in the newspapers, that he has no part in the Donum Regis aboveinentioned; which he fuspects never travels beyond the bills of mortality. Indeed it is too contemptible a modicum to be supposed to extend its influence inuch farther. We rather hope, therefore, it hath not so base an influence as our author imputes to it even within that narrow circle. We shall not enter upon a defence of the Diflenters as a political body, or endeavour to shew that their fituation, even in that light, is misrepresented, and made much worle than it is. We admit that it is bad enough, nor do we regret it; while, at the same time, we have the most sincere regard for that body, on the ancient principle of their dissent, viz. a religious, and not a political principle.-If they have found out that such ancient principle is falfe, and that they now do not so effentially differ from the establishment; that they have no superior orthodoxy in matters of faith, or superior purity in inatters of discipline; for heaven's fake, why continue Diflenters any longer ? Why not return to the bolom of the established Church? If they are to be still difsenter's froin the Church, for consistency's, for conscience, fake, let it be on account of religion. If they diffent from the constitutional establishment only in temporal matters, they may preach political sermons, and hold party cabals, as well in a church
+ Ibid. 25. Vol. VI.
* Page 23.
as in a conventicle. For our part, if religion were not so closely connected in practice with politics, we should have no oljection whatever to an universal toleration. It has been Threwdly, though ludicrously said, that when people take different roads to heaven, they are the less liable to joftle one another, out of their path, in the course of their journey. The more Diffenters, therefore, in this respect, poffibly the better, provided they disent only about roatters relative to the next world, and not to this. We are perfuaded that the acts of intolerance and per.ecution, with which our letter-writer reproaches the Difenters, did not arise from their ancient principles of diffent from the Church, a concern for superior purity of faith and worship; not from any spiritual motive; but from the natural abuse of carnal power, io common to man, whenever. he becomes poffeffed of it, to tyrannize over his fellow-creature:. Diflent of opinion is such an impeachment to a vain man's understanding, that, if he have not the power to persuade or convince others of the rectitude of his opinion, he will gratify his pride by punishing them, if in his power, for their diffent from it. What is applicable to the individual is, in this cale, more so to a body either corporate or incorporated.—Setting religion and consiience aside, however, it is a wild and impracticable scheme which this reformer luggests. The Dijlenters are to unite and form a consistent body on the principle of universal dissention.“ The general reason of dillent nould be, what may be called Intelleclucl Liberty."-Doubtless “ Thought is, and ihould be, free.” But does this fage and ancient maxim incluie “ an unrestrained enquiry and freedom of delare and discusion on all subjects of knowledge, morality, and religion;"-If it do, the union recommended is, as before obterved, an union founded on universal disagreement; a focial compact in which all agree to differ!-- There may, for ought we know, be lome finifter politics, some lefthanded cunning. in all this ; but, if there be any thing of that fimplicity and irotherly love, inculcated by religion, in such a project, we own, we are at a loss to find it out.- We are equally puzzled to discover whence arises the great zeal, which this letter-uri:er affects for the discovery of iruth. He docs, indeed, link ignoranie, vice, and misery together; as if they were inseparable attendants. But innocence is full as natural an attendant on ignorance, as vice is of knowledge, and happine's equally distant from those, who know tuo much, as fro:n thole, who know too little.
In the curse of his Letter, this writer is pieased to censure Ir. Priestley for his present purluits in uaiural philofophy, and