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utmost bitterness against the English liturgy: and the terror of thefe laws (for they feldom, if ever, were fully executed) proved a principal means, under providence, of preferving the purity as well as decency of our national worship. Nor can their continuance to this time be thought too fevere and intolerant; when we confider, that they are levelled at an offence, to which men cannot now be prompted by any laudable motive; not even by a mistaken zeal for reformation: fince from political reasons, fufficiently hinted at in a former volume *, it would now be extremely unadvifeable to make any alterations in the fervice of the church; unless it could be fhewn that fome manifeft impiety or shocking abfurdity would follow from continuing it in its prefent form. And therefore the virulent declamations of peevifh or opinionated men on topics fo often refuted, and of which the preface to the liturgy is itself a perpetual refutation, can be calculated for no other purpose, than merely to disturb the confciences, and poifon the minds of the people.
2. Non-conformity to the worship of the church is the other, or negative branch of this offence. And for this there is much more to be pleaded than for the former; being a matter of private confcience, to the fcruples of which our prefent laws have fhewn a very juft and Chriftian indulgence. For undoubtedly all perfecution and oppreffion of weak confciences, on the fcore of religious perfuafions, are highly unjustifiable upon eve ry principle of natural reafon, civil liberty, or found religion. But care must be taken not to carry this indulgence into fuch extremes, as may endanger the national church: there is always a difference to be made between toleration and establish
• Non-conformifts are of two forts: first, fuch as abfent themselves from the divine worship in the established church, through total irreligion, and attend the fervice of no other perfuafion. Thefe by the ftatutes of 1 Eliz. c. 2. 23 Eliz. c. 1. and 3 Jac. I. c. 4. forfeit one fhilling to the poor every Lord's day they fo abfent themselves, and 20%. to the king if they continue fuch default for a month together. And if they keep any inmate, thus irreligiously difpofed, in their houses, they forfeit 10l. per month.
The fecond fpecies of non-conformifts are thofe who offend through a mistaken or perve:fe zeal. Such were efteemed by our laws, enacted fince the time of the Reformation, to be Papifts and Proteftant diffenters: both of which were fuppofed to be equally f hifmatics in departing from the national church; with this difference, that the Papifts divide from us upon matefial, though erroneous, reafons; but many of the diflenters up
* Vol, I. p. 98,
on matters of indifference, or, in other words, upon no reason at all. However the laws against the former are much more fevere than against the latter; the principles of the Papifts being defervedly looked upon to be fubverfive of the civil government, but not those of the Proteftant diffenters. As to the Papifts, their tenets are undoubtedly calculated for the introduction of all flavery, both civil and religious: but it may with juftice be queftioned; whether the fpirit, the doctrines, and the practice of the fectaries are better calculated to make men good fubjects. One thing is obvious to obferve, that these have once within the compafs of the last century, effected the ruin of our church and monarchy; which the Papifts have attempted indeed, but have never yet been able to execute. Yet certainly our ancestors were mistaken in their plans of compulfion and intolerance. The fin of fchifm, as fuch, is by no means the object of temporal coercion and punishment. If through weakness of intellect, thro mifdirected piety, through perverfenefs and acerbity of temper, or (which is often the cafe) through a profpect of fecular advantage in herding with a party, men quarrel with the ecclefiaftical eftablishment, the civil magiftrate has nothing to do with it; unless their tenets and practice are fuch as threaten ruin or difturbance to the ftate. He is bound indeed to protect the eftablifhed church, by admitting none but its genuine members to offices of truft and emolument; for, if every fect was to be indulged in a free communion of civil employments, the idea of a national establishment would at once be deftroyed, and the Epifcopal church would be no longer the church of England. But, this point being once fecured, all perfecution for diverfity of opinions, however ridiculous or abfurd they may be, is contrary to every principle of found policy and civil freedom. The names and fubordination of the clergy, the pofture of devotion, the materials and colour of the minifter's garment, the joining in a known or an unknown form of prayer, and other matters of the fame kind, must be left to the option of every man's private judgment.
With regard therefore to Proteftant diffenters, although the experience of their turbulent difpofition in former times occafioned feveral difabilities and reftrictions (which I fhall not undertake to juftify) to be laid upon them by abundance of ftatutes, yet at length the legislature, with a fpirit of true magnanimity, extended that indulgence to their fectaries, which they themselves, when in power, had held to be countenancing fchifm, and denied to the church of England. The penalties are all of them fufpended by the ftatute 1 W. & M. ft. 2. c. 18. commonly called the toleration-act; which exempts all diffen17 Car. II. c. 2, 22 Car. II. c. I.
31 Eliz. C. I.
ters (except Papifts, and fuch as deny the Trinity) from all penal laws relating to religion, provided they take the oaths of allegiance and fupremacy, and fubfcribe the declaration against Popery, and repair to fome congregation registered in the bifhop's court or at the feffions, the doors whereof must be always open and diffenting teachers are alfo to fubfcribe the thirtynine articles, except those relating to church-government and infant-baptifm. Thus are all perfons, who will approve themfelves no Papifts or oppugners of the Trinity, left at full liberty to act as their confcience thall direct them, in the matter of religious worship. But by ftatute 5 Geo. I. c. 4. no mayor, or principal magiftrate, muft appear at any diffenting meeting with the enfigns of his office, on pain of difability to hold that or any other office: the legiflature judging it a matter of propriety, that a mode of worfhip, fet up in oppofition to the national, when allowed to be exercited in peace, fhould be exercited alfo with decency, gratitude, and humility.
As to Papijis, what has been faid of the Proteftant diffenters would hold equally ftrong for a general toleration of them; provided their feparation was founded only upon difference of opinion in religion, and their principles did not alio extend to a fubverfion of the civil government. If once they could be brought to renounce the fupremacy of the pope, they might quietly enjoy their feven facraments, their purgatory, and auricular confeffion; their worship of reliques and images; nay even their tranfubftantiation. But while they acknowledge a foreign power, fuperior to the fovereignty of the kingdom, they cannot complain if the laws of that kingdom will not treat them upon the footing of good fubjects.'
Dr. Priestley, in a pamphlet, entitled, Remarks on fome Paragraphs in the fourth Volume of Dr. Blackftone's Commentaries on the Laws of England, relating to the Diffenters †, has made fome very pertinent and fpirited obfervations on what our Author has advanced on this fubject, though in a manner fomewhat too hafty and acrimonious.-Dr. Blackftone, (in a small pamphlet), has replied, in a very genteel and candid manner, to Dr. Priestley's remarks, and explained his fentiments with refpect to religious liberty, which, he says, Dr. Priestley has greatJy mifreprefented.
Sir Humphrey Edwin, a lord mayor of London, had the impradence foon after the toleration-act to go to a Prefbyterian meetinghoufe in his formalities: which is alluded to by dean Swift, in his Tale of a Tub, under the allegory of Jack getting on a great horse, and eating cuftard.
+ 8vo. I s. Johnfon and Paynę. 8vo. 6d. Bathurst.
In Dr. Blackstone's Reply we have the following paffage, which we infert with pleasure, as it does great honour to his candour. I shall own very frankly, fays he, that (on reviewing this paffage) I am convinced, that it is fomewhat incorrect and confufed; and might lead a willing critic to conclude, that a general reflection was intended on the fpirit, the doctrines, and the practice of the body of our modern diffenters. A reflection which I totally difapprove: being perfuaded, that by far the greater part of those, who have now the misfortune to dif fer from us in their notions of ecclefiaftical government and pu→ blic worship, have notwithstanding a proper and decent refpect for the church established by law; deteft all outrageous attacks on its minifters, liturgy, and doctrines; and are zealous in fupporting thole two great objects of every good citizen's care, and which are not fo incompatible as fome perfons feem to imagine, the civil liberties and the peace of their country. And so far am I from wishing to perpetuate or widen our unhappy differences, that I fhall make it my care, in every fubfequent edition of this volume, fo to rectify the claufe in queftion, as to render it more expreffive of that meaning which I here avow; and which, if read with a due degree of candour, might before have been easily difcerned.'
Our Readers will likewife be pleafed with the manner in which he concludes his Reply; it is as follows. With regard to the want of logical and historical knowledge which Dr. Priestley has difcovered in the commentaries, and his perfonal reflections on the Author's political connections, I fhall leave him in full poffeffion of them: remarking only, that this is not an age in which a man who thinks for himself, and who endeavours to think with moderation, can expect to meet with quarter from any fide, amid the rage of contending parties. If, in a matter of mere hiftory and fpeculation, he condemns the conduct of the elder Charles, but difapproves of the tragical extremes to which his opponents proceeded, he is a friend to popery and arbitrary power; whatever proofs to the contrary may abound in the ref of his writings, If, after a concurrence of many years together in most of their political measures, he differs from his friends in one great conftitutional point, in confequence of the moft diligent enquiry and mature reflection, he becomes immediately connected with, and poffefes the confidence of a ministry, to which he has scarce the honour to be known, and from which he holds himself totally detached. If he argues for toleration and indulgence to diffenters of every denomination, but cenfures with fome warmth all indecent attacks upon the establishment, he commences a bigot and a perfecutor. In this temper of the times, I am fenfible that all apologies are idle, and all vindica tions ufelefs. Yet I thought it a duty to myself thus publickly
to declare, that my notions, in refpect to religious indulgence, are not quite fo intolerant as Dr. Pricftley has endeavoured to reprefent them; especially as fome expreffions of my own (not fufficiently attended to, when the work was revifed for the prefs) may have countenanced fuch an opinion in a fuperficial or captious reader. But, when thus fet to rights and explained, I trust they will give no offence to any moderate and confcientious diffenter; and that Dr. Prieftley hinfelf, when he comes to reconfider his remarks, will wish they had been written less haftily, and had of courfe been more agreeable to juftice as well as to common civility.'
Dr. Prieftley makes fome obfervations on Dr. Blackstone's Reply, in a letter inferted in the St. James's Chronicle of October 10th. This letter is written in a fenfible and liberal manner, and with a temper and spirit very different from that of his Remarks.
I have, fays he, juft received your Reply to my Remarks, and I fincerely thank and efteem you for it. It is a genteel and liberal answer to a pamphlet, written, as you candidly and juftly conjecture, in great hafte; and which, I frankly acknowledge, is not, in all refpects, fuch as I wish it had been. My pamphlet, if it be the occafion of making the flighteft improvement in a work fo valuable as yours, will not be without its merit to the public. It was literally the creature of a day, and, figuratively fpeaking, its existence cannot be of much longer duration; whereas, your Commentaries on the Laws of England, will probably laft as long as the laws themfelves.'
Such of our Readers as are defirous of being more particularly acquainted with this fhort controverfy, we must refer to the Remarks, Reply, &c. already mentioned. We now return to
the volume before us.
In our Author's eighth chapter, wherein he treats of that fpecies of offence, called præmunire, we find the following paffage:
It may juftly be obferved, fays he, that religious principles, which (when genuine and pure) have an evident tendency to make their profeflors better citizens as well as better men, have (when perverted and erroneous) been ufually fubverfive of civil government, and been made both the cleak and the inftrument of every pernicious defign that can be harboured in the heart of The unbounded authority that was exercifed by the Druids in the weft, under the influence of pagan fuperftition, and the terrible ravages committed by the Saracens in the east, to propagate the religion of Mahomet, both witness to the truth of that antient univerfàl obfervation; that, in all ages and in all countries, civil and ecclefiaftical tyranny are mutually productive of each other. And it is the glory of the church of England, as well as a strong prefumptiv argument in favour of the purity of her faith, that he hath been (as her prelates on a trying