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on the ground of contributing to the good morals of the subject, no special plea can be urged; no honest reason can be adduced for the rude discouragement; and-horrible to mention!—for the very punishment of those, who without a contract and without a fee, and with even the merit of contributing to the reward of the state's ally, have at least equal desert to plead as the advocates of a pure morality, as cherishing the sacred cause of virtue.
It is further alleged in the same strain of reasoning, or rather of assertion, that if the overruling hand of the magistrate in religion were taken away, there would be an end of religion; that a national religion being necessary to this purpose, it is wise to extend peculiar encouragements to her, and peculiar discouragements to every other form of religion. There is no meaning in this argument, unless it be that religion is absolutely appropriated to the church of Eng, land; for if religion according to a more ļiberal construction were the object, it were
a strange absurdity to meditate the preservation of religion, by the discouragement of those forms in which a principle of conscientious and useful religion is acknow. ledged to be found. The existence of Dissenters is a proof, that religion may exist and answer the proper ends of religion without the encouragement and favour of the state ; and the experience of every nation on earth, and of our sister kingdoms of Scotland and Ireland, to all of whom our test laws are strange and unknown, is a further proof, that even a national religion may exist and prosper without the mode, which the legislature of England has adopted and preserves. Upon the reasoning of our adversaries, one would wonder how a national religion, or indeed how any religion at all, has ever been preserved in any state without thé intervention of a sacramental test, and without incapacitating those for offices of trust, who were not of the magistrate's faith. One would wonder how the church of England, which is now asserted to lean upon
this prop, or fall, could have existed for a hundred years before this almighty preservative was known. Nor can it be pleaded, that the interruption of her establishment during the civil wars, and to the period of the restoration, was owing to the want of this precaution; for the test act was enacted when she feared no Protestant Dissenter. It was the refuge of her fears from other men; from a popish king, a popish court, a popish successor, and a host of papal adversaries, who meditated the destruction both of church and state, the destruction of every religion but their own. If the Dissenter had not concurred, if he had not generously sacrificed himself in the moment of common danger, depending however, on the promise that this sacrifice should be temporary, the test act had not existed, and a common ruin might have ensued. The return of gratitude to this generous conduct is, that against the Prostetant Dissenter these laws continue to be directed, and almost in violation of the national faith.
It is further pleaded in favour of this exclusive alliance, and the necessity of appropriating every office of trust and emolument to the members of the national church, that in no other way of religion than what the state has contracted for, can there be any security for the character of an obedient and loyal subject. Surely there must be some covered meaning in this plea, for in any honest sense in which it can be construed, the character of Protestant Dissenters, the character which truth has often extorted from their very enemies, provides the immediate reply. In a virtuous loyalty, such as the constitution of these kingdoms alone dares to acknowledge, the Protestant Dissenter yields not precedence to the most favoured and respected citizen of Britain. Yes! the Dissenters have rendered many valuable services to their country, to that country, which slowly and reluctantly has ever been induced to make one return of kindness to them, and by still denying to them the equal rank of citizens, must be presumed to view them in the light
of enemies. But the character of Britain is gone, if the Protestant Dissenters can be numbered among her enemies *. In other times, in moments of the most serious danger and alarm, the Dissenters have been that firm and generous band, in which no traitor to the rights of human nature and of Britain was ever found. To these rights they still are consecrated, and though ungratefully and unjustly treated, they never will betray these rights. It will at least be their pride to
* There is something of such ill aspect, and of such ill tendency in the arguments of our opponents, there appears to be so much more meant than our political rulers dare to express, and the rude treatment of Dissenters is so adverse to all honest views, that there is reason to suspect that their civil character, their well-informed loyalty, their watchful eye over their governors, their revolution principles and inflexible opposition to all the dangerous encroachments of power, constitute their most unpardonable crime. If our guarded constitution be silently passing into abolition under the malignant operation of corrupt influence, of a system of revenue to which all is sacrificed, and which is extending its tyranny through every walk of civil freedom; if this abolition be