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back the rude imputations of every defamer. If conscience be our crime, it shall be our consolation also ; and while we know that we should wound conscience in no one, it will be our endeayour, that neither hope not fear shall wound it in ourselves*.
* In Mr. Pitt's reply, he repelled the argument from the example of Ireland, where no Test Act exists, and yet no danger has accrued to the church or to the state, though the Protestant Dissenters are more numerous than the Churchmen, by observing that the Roman Catholics far out-number the Protestant Dissenters. To what purpose this observation was made, is left to conjecture. But the conjecture is not difficult; for no other application presents itself, than that both the church and state have a ground of confidence in a Roman Catholic, which they find not in the character of a Protestant Dis
If this be really true, we have no other reply to make, than that we have been mistaken in our notions both of the church and of the state, and that Mr. Pitt has unwillingly paid the highest tribute of praise to the character of the Protestant Dissenter. Mr. Pitt certainly best knows what his ideas of the state of England are ; but this we know, that such a state ought not to exist in this island, which can contemplate in a Roman Catholic a protection from the danger which it appreherds from a Protestant Dissenter. VOL. II. X
Of the same complexion is this further ob..., jection of our opponents, that the liberality of our cause .embraces, as its consequence, the similar claim of the Roman Catholic. But this is not our inference, though we shrink not from the inference, as it would be to renounce the only ground on which religious liberty can stand. The clergy of Yorkshire are pleased to be astonished at a principle, which can lead to the comprehension of a Roman Catholic, but much more have they excited our astonishment; as if it were either their or our province to dictate from our puny fears to truth, and to the God of truth, to narrow what they have widened. It becomes us however to remind them, that in their astonishment, they have forgotten to annex the very important condition of civil allegiance and fidelity, and the security to the magistrate for the performance of this engagement, which the Dissenters had subjoined. This omission has a very suspicious appearance, and is so necessary to the purpose of their objection, that it is hardly in
charity to suppose that it was not deliberately done. Now the Roman Catholic best knows what answer he can make to this demand, and it is his to plead his own cause; but fearless of any inference which an honest adversary can derive therefrom, we have committed the great principle of religious liberty to the Churchman, to the Roman Catholic, and to the world. It is our business to follow truth and right, nor doubt the God who established them as the everlasting laws of his moral universe.
But if the lust of power, the selfish monopoly of all civil emoluments, to which alone can be ascribed the retention of the Test Laws, and the directing their malignant influence against the Protestant Dissenters, who were not at all contemplated in their first fabrication, be one of those ordinary crimes to which even Britons are not superior, it might at least be expected that they would respect the religion of the Gospel, nor continue to prostitute a sacred institution of Jesus Christ to avarice and
ambition. This is to commit iniquity at the very altar; it is that act of national
profaneness and impiety, which may and must provoke the displeasure of the great
Arbiter of nations. In this view our appeal to our country assumes the most serious aspect ; as it is even dreadful to think, that in the general outcry for the retention of these laws, the nation should, as with one voice, adopt the guilt of the few, who gave a being to them; and, like the clamorous Jews at the bar of Pilate, demand of the legislature, that the crime and its consequences should be transferred on them and on their posterity.
It is asserted indeed, and with a strange effrontery, and by men who are consecrated to the ministry of the Gospel, that the application of the holy sacrament, as a key to unlock the temple of Plutus, is no perversion, no profanation, no prostitution of the pure religion of Christ. So may men assert, if they please, that the religion of Christ is of the character of this world, and that the God of Jesus Christ is to be
worshipped with the spirit of Mammon. For to suppose that the mind of the communicant who approaches the table of the Lord, as his recommendation to an office of power or gain, answers to the views of that Master whose death in the service of mankind this ordinance commemorates, or that his address to the holy God is then offered up in simple' truth, and with the pure unadulterated spirit of devotion, is such an insult upon common sense and upon common honesty as is hardly to be parallelled.
It is in vain to plead that the legislature which devised these laws contemplated not the profanation of religion, that it supposed a principle of religion to be inseparable from the character of
every future communicant, that the sacrament was of that awful sanctity, as of itself to repel every profane invader, and that if such profaneness should present itself, the sin must be on his own head. They who use this plea,' impose not upon themselves, however they may flatter themselves that they shall impose upon
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