HE that Oppoſes his own Judgment againſt the Current of the Times, ought to be back'd with unanſwerable Truths; and he that has that Truth on his Side, is a Fool, as well as a Coward, if he is afraid to own it becauſe of the Currency or Multitude of other Mens Opinion.
But ſince 'tis not likely a Single Vote ſhou'd prevail upon Eſpous'd Errors, in an Age when every one is ſo fond of themſelves, he that Starts Truth by himſelf muſt expect the World will ſtand ſtill and look on till they ſee the Iſſue.
[Page 4] The Act depending in the Houſe of Commons about Occaſional Conformity has ſet abundance of Heads to Work in the World; and be the Houſe in the Right, or in the Wrong, I know my own Buſineſs, and their Temper, too well to meddle with it: But I pretend to ſay, that all Men I have met with, who have meddled with the Argument, either in Print or otherwiſe, are manifeſtly Miſtaken.
With more Humility therefore than I owe to any Man, I ask leave not to be Cenſur'd till I am Heard; and thoſe who call me Arrogant before, reprove me with more Arrogance than is their ſhare among their Fellow Creatures.
The Subject I am upon needs no Introduction, the Hiſtory is in every Man's Knowledge; the Parliament are upon a Bill to prevent Occaſional Conformity, and about that Bill the Preſs ſwarms with Pamphlets; [Page 5] the Pulpit ſounds with Exultations on one Hand, and Deprecations on the other; every one ſpeak their Opinions, ſome their Hopes, ſome their Fears; and ſo it ſhou'd have been to the End of the Chapter, if I cou'd have found but one middle Sort, that, free from Prejudice of Parties, cou'd have diſcern'd the Native State of the Caſe as it really is, diſtinguiſh'd from the Paſſions and Follies of Men.
About this Act of Parliament I affirm moſt of the People I have met with are Miſtaken; and that I may be as Explicit as I can, I ſhall enquire more particularly who are Miſtaken, how, and then I doubt not the Sequel of this Paper ſhall make it appear that the Fact is true.
Not that I hereby ſuppoſe the Parliament, or the Perſons Originally concern'd in moving this Bill, did it in meer Kindneſs to the Diſſenters, in order to Refine and Purge them from the Scandals which ſome People had brought upon them, that 'twas an Action of Chriſtian Charity to the Diſſenters to Prevent and Detect Frauds and Hypocriſie in Religion, and to clear their Reputation.
I never yet ſaw or read of a Diviſion of Parties in any Nation, but that the Hot Heads of both Parties were always for Enflaming the Reckoning; if the Hot Men of the Diſſenters have done any Miſchief, I am ſorry for it; but let us Examine a little what other Hot Men wou'd be now a doing
[Page 7] No ſooner was Queen Anne ſetl'd upon the Throne of England, and had declar'd that the Church of England ſhou'd be the Men of Her Favour, as being the Church She had been Educated in, and ever Conſtant to, but theſe Hot Men fly out upon their Brethren with all the Exceſſes of their furious Temper.
Nothing wou'd ſerve them, but this Queen, and this Parliament, muſt, Root and Branch, blaſt the Diſſenters with their Breath, blow up their Intereſt in the Nation, and we ſhou'd be all one Church, and one People, of a ſudden; 'twas to be done with a Blow all at once, and ſo certainly, that no poſſible Doubt could be made of it.
But Her Majeſty was pleas'd to let theſe People know from Her own Mouth, that for as much as concern'd Her, they were Miſtaken; in that, upon the Addreſs of the Diſſenters to Her, She gave them Her Royal Word for Her Protection, and whenever She breaks it, we ſhall all be Miſtaken.
Upon this the Pulpit, that Drum Eccleſiaſtick began the War, and Mr. Sachavrell, in his Sermon at Oxford, Dooms all the Diſſenters to Deſtruction, without either Bell, Book or Candle; not regarding common Decency, not reſpecting his good Manners to the Queen, nor his Deference to the Parliament; but tells them 'tis their Duty, if they will be true Members of the Church of England, [Page 8] to lift up a Standard againſt the Phanaticks, and the like; as much as to ſay, Madam, whatever Your Majeſty has promis'd, You muſt break Your Word; and, Gentlemen of the Houſe of Commons, we will have you do it.
Now all theſe Gentlemen have liv'd to ſee themſelves Miſtaken; and if they retain any Expectations of ſeeing it fulfill'd, they muſt exerciſe their Faith upon it, as a thing in Futuro, and believe that ſome time or other Her Majeſty will break Her Word; but as yet there is no great Probability, for hitherto we have ſeen they are all Miſtaken.
But to revive their Expectations, comes a Bill into the Houſe for preventing Occaſional Conformity; this has been Matter of great Triumph to ſome Gentlemen, who, upon this Act, revive their common Diſcourſe, and are pleas'd to treat the Diſſenters in this manner: Well, Gentlemen, now down you go; the Parliament are a beginning with you, and they don't uſe to do Buſineſs by halves; they have taken the inſulted Church into Conſideration; they will reduce you, and this is the firſt Step; you ſhall ſoon ſee ſome more on't: We have got a Church-Parliament now, and down ye go; this Bill will effectually Ruin your Intereſt, and bring all your Great Men off from you.
[Page 9] First, 'Tis time for theſe Gentlemen to tell us what the Parliament will do when they either know it, or the Houſe has declar'd their Intentions; and till they have, 'tis a Preſumption ſome Houſes would have taken Notice of, for any People to pretend to lead them to their Buſineſs; and therefore when they tell us this is a Taſte of the reſt they are preparing for us, I muſt ſay, either they are too well acquainted with the Mind of the Houſe, or they are all Miſtaken; and as to the Blow this Bill is to the Diſſenters Intereſt in England.
As far as I may be allow'd to give my Judgment, and as the Nature of the Thing ſeems to ſpeak its ſelf, 'tis plain this Bill is no Damage at all to the Diſſenters in England, and we hope the Houſe did not intend it as ſuch.
I cannot imagine that ſo great a Spirit of Enmity and Contempt can be entertain'd in the Breaſt of a Nation againſt their Neighbours, their Brethren, People Born in the ſame Climate, ſubmitting to the ſame Government, profeſſing the ſame God, and in moſt Fundamental Points of Religion agreeing, People link'd together in the ſame Common Intereſt, by Intermarriages continually mixt in Relation, concern'd in the ſame Trade, making War with the ſame Enemies, and Allied with the ſame Friends; were it [Page 10] not that theſe People, call'd Diſſenters, are repreſented to them under ſome ſtrange and untrue Character, or that under the Name of Diſſenter ſome ill Perſons are ſhrowded and diſguis'd, who deſerve to be thus treated.
Wherefore, in order to ſet the Diſſenters Right in the Eyes of their Brethren, and that they may have common Juſtice at leaſt, if they can have nothing of Courteſie, that Peace may be where there is no Occaſion for War, and Quietneſs, and good Manners, preſerv'd, 'twill be needful to ſet the Matter in a true Light, and examine who this Diſſenter is, what the People call'd Diſſenters are, and what they have done, for which they are treated after ſo Infamous a Manner, by Scurrilous Preachers, and Scandalous Pamphleteers, and other Ignorant People, not a few.
The Diſſenter is an Engliſhman, that being ſomething deſirous of going to Heaven, having heard his Church of England Father, and School-maſter, and the Miniſter of the Pariſh, talk much of it, begins ſeriouſly to enquire about the Way thither, and to that Purpoſe conſulting his Bible and his Conſcience, he finds that in his Opinion there are ſome Things in the Eſtabliſh'd Way of Worſhip, which do not ſeem to correſpond with the Rule he has found out in the Scripture.
But the Man being fully convinc'd that he ought to worſhip God in that Way, excluſive of all others, which is moſt agreeable to the Will of God reveal'd in the Scripture; and being on mature Conſideration alſo, and after ſincere Endeavours to be otherwiſe ſatisfied, fully convinc'd that this Eſtabliſh'd Way is not ſo near to that Rule as it ought to be, ventures the Diſpleaſure of the Civil Magiſtrate in diſſenting, in pure Obedience to the Commands of his Conſcience, and of that Rule which bids him obey God rather than Man; firmly believing that 'tis his Duty ſo to do; and that the Compaſs and Extent of Humane Laws do not reach to bind him in Matters of Conſcience; at the ſame time living in Charity with all the reſt of the World whoſe Conſciences do not require the ſame Reſtriction, and peaceably ſubmitting to the Laws and Government he lives under, as far as either his Right, as an Engliſhman, or his Duty, as a Chriſtian, can require.
[Page 12] If there are crept into his Company State Diſſenters, Politick Diſſenters, or any that give no Reaſon or other, or leſs Reaſons, for their Diſſenting than theſe, they are not of them, and we wiſh they would go out from them.
I ſee no Act of Parliament a making to the Prejudice of this Diſſenter; and let Hot Men Preach, Print, and Say, what they pleaſe, it is impoſſible it ſhou'd ever enter into the Breaſt of an Engliſh Proteſtant Parliament, or an Engliſh Proteſtant Queen, either to Oppreſs or Suppreſs ſuch a Diſſenter.
'Tis for the Protection of this Honeſt, Well-meaning, Diſſenter, that in the late Reign the King and Parliament finding their Number Great, thought it was meet for the Quiet of the Nation, and as an Acknowledgement of the Superiority of Conſcience to all Humane Laws, to Settle their Liberty in an Act of Parliament; the ſame undiſputed Authority on which all our Civil, as well as Religious, Rights are Eſtabliſhed.
This is the Diſſenter to which Her Majeſty has promiſed Her Protection, and this Act of Parliament is the Toleration to Tender Conſciences, for which Her Majeſty openly declar'd Her Self, even to the Hazard of Her Royal Perſon.
[Page 13] From theſe the Church of England has nothing to fear, unleſs their Exemplary Lives, and Unqueſtion'd Piety, ſhou'd prevail to weaken Her Numbers, and we heartily wiſh all the Strife were reduc'd to this, viz. who ſhou'd Live beſt, and who ſhou'd Preach beſt.
If there are among them Vicious Youths, or Grown Hypocrites; if there are crept in Errors, Hereſies and Enthuſiaſts, are not the ſame among the Church? If there are among theſe Diſſenters, Quakers, Antinomians, Sweet Singers, Muggletonians, and the like; the Church has alſo Her Socinians, Deiſts, Anti - Trinitarians, Scepticks, Aſgilites, and the like; there can be no Advantage pleaded againſt Hereſie, and Damnable Heterodox Opinions, from one Side more than another.
If we regard the Matters of State, the Diſſenters, and the Church of England, have ſmall Advantage of the Argument one againſt another; and I may without Arrogance Challenge the Hot Church-Men, who can treat them with nothing but the Odious Name of Diſturbers of the Peace, Enemies of Monarchy, and Authors of Confuſion, to bring the Loyalty of the Church of England, ſo much boaſted of in the World, to the Teſt, with the Loyalty of the Diſſenter; and as it has lately been done to my Hand, it is [Page 14] [Note: New Teſt of the Church of England's Loyalty, P. ] eaſie to prove, that the Diſſenter has been equally Loyal to Princes, equally True to the Government and Conſtitution of England, as the Church; and the Church has been equally Diſloyal, and has as often Reſiſted, and took Arms againſt, the Lawful Eſtabliſh'd Power and Prince, as the Diſſenter; and let them enter into this Diſpute whenever they pleaſe.
'Tis alſo foreign to our Purpoſe to Examine or Reply to Dr. Stubbs, or the Multitude of Pamphleteers, who place themſelves at the forelorn Hope of the Church, and begin the War in hopes of drawing on that whole Body to an Engagement; when they can make it out, that the Diſſenter and the Church are as far aſunder in Religion as God and Baal, I may poſſibly think they Merit what they ſo much Covet, viz. to be Reply'd to.
Whole Reams of Paper are ſpoil'd ſince that to prove that this Act of Parliament is needful, becauſe 'tis fit the Church ſhould be Eſtabliſh'd; to which I Anſwer with a Queſtion ask'd once with much leſs Reaſon in another Caſe, What need all this Waſte?
[Page 15] Gentlemen, Eſtabliſh your Church with all the Precaution you can, Build a Fence of Impregnable Laws about it, you are welcome; we never did, nor we do not now, Diſturb you; leave but us, your Poor Brethren, Liberty to ſerve God according to our Conſciences; don't bind us to do as you can do, whether we can or no; take your Places, and Penſions, and Profits, and deſerve them of the Nation, if you can; we ask nothing but our Rights, and what is now become ſo by Law; if you claim the Civil Power as your own, you conſequently take us into your Protection; and let us ſee how Generous you'll be.
As to thoſe among us who can Conform to your Church for a Place, for a Salary, you are alſo welcome to take them among you, and let them be a part of your ſelves; all the Converts you can make by the Mammon of Unrighteouſneſs are your own; all you can Buy off, or Bribe off, or Fright off, let 'em go; we readily Grant, that whoever among us can, with Satisfaction to his Conſcience, Conform, ought to Conform; and we heartily Wiſh you would make ſome ſmall Steps by way of Condeſcention to your Brethren, ſuch as might open a Door for us all to Conform to you, and then you ſhou'd ſee whether we Diſſent from Principles of Obſtinacy and Ill Nature, or from a meer Neceſſity of [Page 16] Conſcience; you ſhould then ſee whether the Diſſenters in England were Schiſmaticks by Nature, and Heterodox by Inclination; or whether their Objections are grounded upon Scripture, and their Diſſenting from you an Act of an Inlightned Conſcience; you wou'd then try the Spirits whether they be of God.
But ſince you are of the Opinion that you are Capable of no Amendment, that you cannot Reform farther, and therefore will not Condeſcend one Step, though 'twould bring over Half a Million of Souls to you, an Eminent Inſtance of the Charity of your Church, all we have to ſay in the Caſe is, let us have the Protection of the Government, and the Liberty the Laws allow us, and we are Content.
Upon this Score 'tis that we ſay the Act againſt Occaſional Conformity does not concern us; they who can Conform for One Reaſon, may conform without Two, and ought to Conform; and we are therefore content to be diſtinguiſh'd who cannot Conform at all; and if we might offer ſo boldly to you, who have any Intereſt in the Houſe of Commons, we would humbly propoſe to have the Title of the Act alter'd, and to have it Entituled, An Act for the better Ʋniting the Proteſtant Diſſenters, by preventing Occaſional Conformity to the Church of England; and when that is done, let it paſs with all our Hearts; [Page 17] and tho' we can eaſily ſee what the Deſign is, viz. That no Diſſenter ſhall be employ'd in Place of Truſt or Profit in the Government, yet ſince it muſt be ſo, We hope, Gentlemen, you will be content to take all the Miſcarriages of the Government on you too; we ſhall acquieſce, let us alone in our Religion, let us Worſhip God as we believe he has directed us, and all the reſt is your own.
But before we part let us have leave to remind you, that although we are willing to quit all our Civil Right to the Honours, as well as the Advantages, of ſerving our Country, when we are choſen to it by a Fair Majority, rather than not enjoy our Religion, and the Profeſſion we make, with Peace and Liberty, yet it is no leſs an Oppreſſion upon us, and the Hardſhips are ſuch as can never be defended by Reaſon or Equity.
Firſt, That the Diſſenter ſhall be excluded from all Places of Profit, Truſt and Honour, and at the ſame time ſhall not be excuſed from thoſe which are attended with Charge, Trouble, and Loſs of his Time?
[Page 18] Secondly, That a Diſſenter ſhall be Preſs'd as a Sailor to Fight at Sea, Liſted as a Soldier to Fight on Shore, and let his Merit be never ſo much above his Fellows, ſhall never be capable of Preferment; no, not a Lieutenant at Sea, or ſo much as a Halbert in the Army.
Thirdly, That we muſt maintain our own Clergy, and your Clergy; our own Poor, and your Poor; pay equal Taxes, and equal Duties; and yet not be thought worthy to be Truſted to ſet a Drunkard in the Stocks.
Let us Fraight our Ships apart, keep our Money out of your Bank, accept none of our Bills, and ſeparate your ſelves as abſolutely from us in Civil Matters, as we do from [Page 19] you in Religious, and ſee how you can go on without us.
If you are not willing to do this, but we muſt live among, you, Trade, Work, Receive and Pay, together, why may we not do it in Peace, with Love and Unity, without daily Reproach? If we have any Knaves among us, take them; if we have any Hypocrites, any who can Conform, and do not, we are free to part with them, that the Remainder may be all ſuch as agree with the Character here given; and when you have Garbl'd us to your Hearts deſire, and ours, you need never fear your Church, as to her Politick Intereſt in the World; pray then let us be quiet.
What have we to do with your Diſtinctions of Whig and Tory? No farther that I know of than this, that when, diſtinct from our Religious Concerns, we come to talk of our Liberties, Properties, and Engliſh Priviledges, we are not for having them deſtroy'd by Abſolute Authority, Diſpenſing Power, and the like; and if this be to be Whigs, we are all Whigs.
As to Kings and Rulers, we are of the Opinion, that when they Degenerate into Tyrants, Oppreſs their People, Deſtroy the Laws, with all the Et-caetera's of Arbitrary Power, 'tis Lawful for the Injur'd People to [Page 20] Reduce them to Reaſon, and to ſeek Protection, and Powerful Help, from any Body, to Aſſiſt them to Recover their Undoubted Rights and Liberties; if this be to be Traitors, why then, Gentlemen of the Church of England, hold up your Hands; how ſay you? Are you Guilty, or not Guilty?
As to Oaths, with which, Gentlemen, ye were the Men that loaded your Allegiance farther than you had any Occaſion, we are of the Opinion, that they can bind the Subject no longer than the Soveraign continues the Protection of the Executive Power; and that the late King by his Deſerting the Throne, Abſolv'd all his Subjects from the Bond of their Allegiance; and on this Foot we made no Scruple to Swear to the Government, as it now ſtands on the Foot of the late Revolution; and if you have Sworn with us, and yet do not believe ſo, you may get off of the Perjury if you can.
And what need is there now of running down the Diſſenters with a full Cry, as if this Act a coming out was a Machine to blow them all up; we ſee no Harm in it at all, other than the Hardſhips we mention'd before, moſt of which we ſuffer'd before, and are like only to have them the faſter entail'd on our Poſterity.
[Page 21] All thoſe Gentlemen therefore who think this Act will weaken the Diſſenters, or wiſh it would, are manifeſtly Miſtaken; it may diſtinguiſh them better, and I am perſwaded will fortifie them in their Honeſt Profeſſion; 'twill teach them, that if they will hold faſt the Truth, they muſt learn to live like People under the Power of thoſe who hate them, and deſpightfully uſe them.
To ſuch I wou'd ſay, I cannot imagine what they have to fear from it, or why they ſhou'd be uneaſie with the Honour they are alſo rid of, the Encumbrance of being Mayors, Aldermen, Jurats, and Sheriffs of the Towns and Corporations; and let them but reflect what was the Gain that all the Diſſenters in England have made by Places and Penſions from the Government ſince the late Revolution, I am perſwaded 'twill not all amount to the Sum that one Churchman will be found to have Cheated the Nation of.
The Church are willing to engroſs all the Knaves to themſelves, and let them do it, and welcome, tho' they get all the Money into the Bargain; if they would but come to a fair Account with us now, and repay all the Diſſenters Money the Nation has been Cheated of by Church Knaves, I dare undertake the Diſſenters [Page 22] ſhall repay all that can be Charg'd on their Knaves out of the Ballance.
The Foundation of the Diſſenters Safety is lodg'd, by God's Eſpecial Providence, in the Queen's Veracity; while Her Majeſty eſteems Her Word Sacred, as She has aſſur'd us She will, we have no Occaſion to be concern'd at all.
The Safety of the Diſſenters conſiſt in their own Honeſty and Integrity; while they do nothing to offend either Her Majeſty, or the Laws, if it were poſſible to have a Parliament of Church Biggots, or of Pulpit Sachaverells, there will be no Fear of their Liberty.
As to the preſent Act, I doubt not but they will live to ſee Cauſe to be thankful for the making it, when the Miſcarriages of all People in Publick Offices and Employments are ſo eminently fix'd upon a Party, and ſo openly and fairly taken off from them.
They are Miſtaken too in the Sence of the Preſent Parliament; and they may be aſſur'd, had not their Enemies ſeen that an Engliſh Proteſtant Parliament, as this is, is not to be prevail'd upon to Overthrow ſo Subſtantial a Part of the Nation's Liberty as is ſetled in the Act of Toleration, they had not reſted ſo long, but before now had attempted it.
They have try'd it in the Pulpit, ſcatter'd it in Scandalous Pamphlets from the Preſs, [Page 23] affirm'd that Toleration is Deſtructive of the Church's, as well as the Nation's, Safety; they have endeavour'd, by Calumny and Reproach to blacken the Diſſenters with Crimes never Committed; and which they wou'd never own before, are at laſt come to repreſent them as a formidable Party.
Being thus diſappointed, and willing to play at ſmall Game rather than ſtand out, they fly to the Sanctuary of this Bill, and feign themſelves gratify'd by it more than ever the Bill, or the Houſe it ſelf, intended; for in all their Arguments for the Bill, 'tis ſuppos'd to be a Means to Reduce, Humble, and Mortifie the Diſſenters; Ridiculus Mus! Is this all? Why really, Gentlemen, had it been in our Power, you ſhould have had all this without an Act of Parliament; this will Strengthen, not Reduce, us; 'twill Pleaſe, not Mortifie or Humble, us; and thus you find your ſelves all Miſtaken; Miſtaken in the Houſe of Commons themſelves, in thinking the Repreſentatives of a Proteſtant Nation will Repeal the Act of Toleration, upon which the Tranquility of their Native Country ſo much depends; but above all, [Page 24] Miſtaken in their Expectation of the Queen, to whom their Behaviour is Prepoſterous and Unmannerly.
'Twas Prepoſterous for People to expect, that becauſe the Queen was a Friend to the Church, a conſtant Member, and always Eſpouſed the Intereſt of the Church, that therefore when She came to the Crown, She muſt come up to all their Extravagant Heights.
When Her Majeſty was Princeſs, and a Subject, ſhe conſtantly adher'd to the Intereſt of the Church; but at the ſame time declar'd Her Opinion for tolerating the Diſſenters in their Liberty of Proteſtant Worſhip, while they behaved themſelves quietly and obediently under the Government.
When Her Majeſty came to the Crown, She became the general Mother, the Guardian, the Refuge of all Her Subjects; She places the Church firſt in Her Favour, promiſes them Her Special and Particular Care, as thoſe who by Judgment and Inclination She ſtands engaged with; but as She finds a great Number of Her People unhappily divided in Opinion, yet in all other Reſpects Her good Subjects, what can She do leſs than give them Her Protection? This She has readily promis'd them, and on this they thankfully depend.
[Page 25] But here comes the Gentlemen of the Long Gown, and they tell Her in ſo many Words, She cannot, She muſt not, keep Her Word with us; they tell us She will halt between God and Baal, if She does not ſo Declare for the Church, as to her Beſt to Suppreſs and Deſtroy all Separate Worſhips, and have all the Prieſts of Baal, the beſt Terms they can beſtow on the Diſſenting Miniſters, hew'd to Pieces before the Lord.
'Tis Unmannerly that the Church of England-men ſhou'd expect the Queen to break Her Word with ſome of Her Subjects to oblige others; and that whereas She has promis'd them Her Special Favour, they ſhou'd not be content with that, unleſs She will at the ſame time Oppreſs Two Millions of her Faithful People to oblige them.
Let them go on, but let them be aſſur'd the Diſſenters ſhall enjoy their Liberty of Conſcience, till they can prevail with Her Majeſty to lay aſide Her Veracity, and forget Her Royal Word, and refuſe us Her Protection, which we are reſolved never to give Her any Reaſon for.
As to the Bill againſt Occaſional Conformity, it baulks their Deſign on the Diſſenters, for 'tis for their Advantage; they always diſlik'd the Practice; it has more than once been Proteſted againſt, and Exploded; and I dare [Page 26] undertake not one Diſſenter offers to preſent a Petition to the Houſe againſt its Paſſing.
'Tis plain, that Occaſional Communion is contrary to the very Nature and Being of a Diſſenter; who, if he can Conform, ought to Conform; and if he can for a Place of Preferment, ought to do it without that Preferment.
'Tis plain, that whatever, by the Connivance of Remiſs Miniſters, and with too much Regard to Parties, may have been ſlightly paſs'd over, yet by the very Conſtitution and Foundation of a Collected, Separate, Church or Congregation, no Man can go back to the Communion of the Church of England, and be receiv'd again upon any other Condition but as a Penitent; 'tis an Act Deſtructive of all poſſible Pretence for Diſſenting, and never was, nor never can, be defended by any Diſſenter, without overthrowing all the Reaſons they cou'd ever give for Diſſenting.
How then can this Bill be aim'd at the Diſſenters; either they who think 'tis aim'd at them, are Miſtaken; or they that point it at them, are Miſtaken; for Suppreſſing an Error crept in among them, contrary to their Conſtitution, againſt their Judgment, declar'd by them to be a Grievance, can never be their Injury, nor ought not to be their Trouble.
[Page 27] Let them name us the Diſſenter that ever vindicated this Practice, one paſſionate Author excepted; let them tell us the Time when any Congregation receiv'd ſuch a Conforming Nonconformiſt without Di [...]atisfactions and Diſcontents; let them tell us a Time whenever the thing was practic [...]d till the Reign of King James.
No, Gentlemen, we don't tell you we like that part of the Bill, which Excludes us from the Native Honours and Preferments of our Country, which are our Due, our Birthright, equally with our Neighbours, and to which we ſhould be call'd by the Suffrage of the People; and we cannot but think it a Hardſhip beyond the Power of Reaſon to juſtifie; but ſince this Right muſt be clogg'd with ſo many Inconveniencies, that we muſt Mortgage our Conſciences to enjoy them, no Man can have any Charity left for us, but muſt preſently conclude we ſhall freely forego ſuch Trifles for our Conſciences, or elſe that we have no Conſciecnes at all▪
[Page 28] Therefore 'tis no Feint; we are ſo content with the Suppreſſing the Grievance of this Scandalous Ambo-dexter Conformity, that we think the Hardſhips put upon us with it not worth naming; we doubt not the Parliament will one time or other ſee Cauſe to do us Juſtice, and to reſtore to us the Priviledges of our Anceſtors, and which we have done nothing to forfeit.
But all the Parliaments that ever were, or will be, can never Suppreſs any thing among us ſo Scandalous to our Reputation, and to that Candour with which we deſire to Guide our Actions, nor ſo Contrary to, and Deſtructive of, the very Nature of our ſeparating from the Church of England, and the Conſtitution of all our Collected Congregations.
We acknowledge, that if this was an allow'd Practice among us, we cou'd not pretend the Character of a Diſſenter I have here given to be Juſt; but without Queſtion it is a moſt Juſt Character of all thoſe Diſſenters who are Conſciencious and Honeſt; 'tis the Original, the Nature, of a Diſſenter; what is crept in more is a Corruption, and we wiſh it Extinguiſhed; and ſince none has ſaid any thing of this Nature but what has been ſaid before, and no Church of England-Man can think or ſpeak worſt of [Page 29] it than the truly Religious Diſſenters have done, we freely diſmiſs all thoſe who can thus Build with one Hand, and Pull Down with another, to a Liberty of declaring for the future who they are for.
Only purſuant to what has all along been acknowledg'd, ſo far as we have handl'd this Argument, if they wou'd accept of the Friendly Advice of their Brethren, it ſhould be, that they would for the future Conform to the Church of England.
For 'tis plain, he that can Conform to the Church to qualifie himſelf for Preferment, for Employment, or any other ſuch Reaſon, can Conform; if not, he muſt be arrived to a Degree of Maſterſhip over his Conſcience, ſo as to ſubject it to his Intereſt, and act againſt Light; and he that can do that, may do any thing, and 'tis no Matter what Church he Communicates with; of ſuch a Man I think I Treſpaſs not upon Charity to ſay, he has all his Work of Religion to do over again; and he alſo may Conform till God ſhall give his Conſcience Light enough to chuſe by, and him Grace to be Obedient to the Convictions of his own Heart; and whether that be to Conform or Diſſent, let him judge for himſelf.
[Page 30] But if any Man who has Profeſt himſelf a Religious Diſſenter, ſhall, upon the Paſſing this Act, declare himſelf Reſolv'd to return to the Diſſenters, I think no Congregation of Diſſenters, according to the Nature of Religious Communion, can receive him upon any other Terms than as a Penitent.
I anſwer, he either has Sinn'd in Conforming, or he Sinn'd in Diſſenting before, or he Sins in coming off; for if he did not Sin in Conforming, he ought to have continued there, and his coming off is a plain Schiſm; but if he did Sin, he ought to acknowledge the Sin, which is what I mean by being receiv'd as a Penitent.
I am told after all this, but upon what Authority do you write thus? You take upon you to write in the Name of the Diſſenters, what Commiſſion have you to write in the Plural? And how do we know that the Diſſenters diſown this Occaſional Communion?
I anſwer, Publication is an Appeal to the World; if I have wrote what is not true, or affirm'd that in the Name of the Diſſenters which is not their Opinion, I am liable to an eaſie Confutation; but as I have never yet had my Argument refuted, ſo though [Page 31] I have not received a Formal Commiſſion, Truth is a General Commiſſion, and any Man may write it.
And yet I am not without a general Concurrence of all the Diſſenters I ever converſt with; and he that can anſwer the Argument is welcome to make his Negative as publick as this, and let the World judge who is in the Right.FINIS.