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unpleasant to them in our investigation of this subject, self-defence obliges us to it, and it would be the abandonment of our cause to decline it.
The application of this argument to the test laws is so involved and indeterminate, that we hardly know in what light to apprehend it: with some the test laws are a purely civil question, with some a purely religious one, with others a mixed
one, adapted to the spirit of the union. But the application is of no moment, if the whole be but a fiction. But that we may not be misunderstood, we suppose an alliance which is necessary to the preservation and prosperity of the state, as this is the sense in which it is maintained, and in which alone it is applicable to the purpose of our adversaries. We ask then, in what code of laws is this alliance to be found. We assert from the evidence of all history, that there neither is nor can be an alliance between the state and any particular church, and that the suppo sition charges the state with the disgrace of
infidelity to her successive allies. If the church of England be an essential part, and necessary to the existence of the civil constitution, it is a singular paradox, that this civil constitution should have had an origin, and continued many centuries, before the church of England had a being, and that during the greater part of her existence she should have been adverse to the true and proper constitution of England. We can look back to the sins of our Dissenting ancestors; we defend them not; and we call the attention of the church to her character in earlier times, for no other reason than to show the nullity of the plea, that she is necessary to the preservation and prosperity of the civil state. Crimination of Dissenters for the real or supposed sins of their ančestors is become a favourite topic, but it is a very unwise one ; for if we wished to recriminate, we could produce the highest authority for the charge, that the church of England has repeatedly endangered the civil constitution, and that it required the virtue
and activity of other allies to rescue the proper state of England from impending ruin. But we have no such wish; crimination for deeds which are not our own is the refuge only of weakness or of malice; and the church of England, as well as the Dissenters, is subject to no other blame, and deserves no other praise, than what its present character will justify*.
* It is a very unhandsome conduct in any of our adversaries to estimate the Dissenters in the reign of George the Third from the principles and conduct of the Dissenters in the reign of Charles the First; and yet it is but in a small degree, compared with our opponents, that the charge of persecution can be fixed upon the Protestant Dissenters in any period. In no degree do we justify it; but the crime is much extenuated by the preceding severities and crnel oppression of the church. The truth is, that religious liberty is almost a novel idea of man, which he has learnt from the bitterest experience, from the rude abuse of power by every denomination of Christians; but which having once happily adopted, he finds to be perfectly consonant to the spirit of the New Testament, and, amidst the unavoidable differences of religion, to be the only medium of social happiness. This liberty is now the prominent feature of every Dis
The fallacy of the supposition of a necessary alliance arises from the confounding the church of England with religion in the abstract, a mistake which all established re
senter's faith, it is that bond which unites them together in a pleasant and good tempered harmony. It yet remains for the church to vindicate herself from the reproach of her former illiberal and persecuting character. The abuse of power on the ground of religion, the subjecting a different faith to hardships and penalties, is of the very essence of persecution, and persecution continues to be the character of the church, while she obstinately perseveres in this abuse of power. Whatever be her other excellencies, in liberality she is and ever has been inferior to the character of Dissenters. -The evidence of this charge, as it regards former times, is recorded in history; and as it respects the present period, the evidence is in the test laws and other laws of the same malignant and irreligious character. The amende honorable for what is past is the renunciation of the spirit and the abandonment of the practice of all injustice and oppression, of all the ways of persecution. If she have not the grace to make this amende, the reproach of a persecuting spirit must still adhere to her, she still treads in the most hated paths of pagan and of papal Rome, and in the race of liberality she yields the palm to the despised Dissenter, VOL. II.
ligions are exceedingly apt to fall into. There is indeed a natural alliance between religion and human nature, and therefore religion becomes the interest of every civil government. But whether it be the Druidical religion in the forests of the ancient Britons, the religion of papal Rome from the time of St. Austin, or the church of England from the period of the Reformation, depends on the information of the day, as well as on a variety of cooperating causes. other conviction should lay hold of the state, the church of England may give way to another ally, without one shock to the civil constitution. We wish not to be this ally, and therefore have no interest in the change. It is our desire to live on terms of good-will and friendship with the present establishment; but we must speak the truth, and expose the fallacy of an argument, on which the main resistance of our opponents appears to rest. · But even if it could be proved, that this alliance was in some degree necessary to each