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the expedition he could, filling up the vacancies which were in offices and places of trust; that as he doubted not but they would sufficiently provide against Papists, so he hoped they would leave room for the admission of all Protestants that were willing and able to serve.”
But when a bill was shortly after brought into the Lords, for taking away the necessity of receiving the sacrament prior to any admission to an office, it was rejected by a great majority, and the following protest against this decision of the house appears in its journals, signed by eight lords :
“ Because (page 196 of Cobbett's Parliamentary History, William and Mary)—first, a hearty union among Protestants is a greater security to the church and state than any test that can be invented.
“Secondly, Because this obligation to receive the sacrament is a test on Protestants rather than on the Papists.
“ Thirdly, Because so long as it is continued, there cannot be that hearty and thorough union among Protestants as has always been wished, and is at this time indispensably necessary.
“ Fourthly, Because a greater caution ought not to be required from such as are admitted into offices, than from the members of the two houses of parliament, who are not obliged to receive the sacrament to enable them to sit in either house.
“ NORTH AND GREY, « CHESTERFIELD.
56 P. WHARTON." Another effort was made two days after, for it was proposed that it should be sufficient for any man to have taken the sacrament in any Protestant congregation, so that by this proposal the Protestant Dissenters were verbally and distinctly set apart from the Papists. But in vain; the bill was still lost, and all the advantage which the cause of religious toleration obtained was the protest of six of the lords, who on this occasion placed on the journals reasons that will for ever remain unanswerable, and may in time, it is to be hoped, produce their proper effect on the good sense and moderation of the community.
These reasons are to be found page 197 of Cobbett's Parliamentary History. The first, fourth, fifth, and sixth, are of a general nature, and will be easily conceived by those who have considered the question.
“ First, Because it gives great part of Protestant freemen of England reason to complain of inequality and hard usage, when they are excluded from public employments by a law, and also because it deprives the king and kingdom of divers men fit and capable to serve the public several stations, and that, for a mere scruple of conscience, which can by no means render them suspected, much less disaffected to the government.
“ Fourthly, Because it turns the edge of a law (we know not by what fate) upon Protestants and friends to the government, which was intended against Papists, to exclude them from places of trust, as men avowedly dangerous to our religion and government, and thus the taking the sacrament, which was enjoined only as a means to discover Papists, is now made a distin
guishing duty among Protestants, to weaken the whole by casting off a part of them.
“Fifthly, Because mysteries of religion and divine worship are of divine original, and of a nature so wholly distant from the secular affairs of public society, that they cannot be applied to those ends, and therefore the church, by the law of the gospel as well as common prudence, ought to take care not to offend either tender consciences within itself, or give offence to those without, by mixing their sacred mysteries with secular interests.
“Sixthly, Because we cannot see how it can consist with the law of God, common equity, or the right of any free born subject, that any one be punished without a crime; if it be a crime not to take the sacrament according to the usage of the Church of England, every one ought to be punished for it; which nobody affirms. If it be no crime, those who are capable and judged fit for employments by the king, ought not to be punished with a law of exclusion for not doing that which it is no crime to forbear. (Signed) « OXFORD.
“ MORDAUNT. “ J. LOVELACE. “ R. MONTAGUE.
« P. WHARTON. " Paget.” The next attempt of the king was a bill of comprehension ; as he could not relieve the nonconformists, while they remained such, he laboured to induce the church to enlarge her pale, and by omissions and concessions, to render it possible for the dissenters conscientiously to join her communion.
But the difficulty soon started in the House of Lords was, who were the proper persons to decide on these concessions—a committee of the clergy or a committee of the clergy and laity conjointly.
Burnet tells us that he himself made a mistake (and a very egregious mistake it was), and that he argued for the former—the house decided with him; i. e. in favour of a committee of the clergy only.
A protest was, however, again left on the journals, though signed only by three. Among other general and constitutional reasons for the interference of the laity in such subjects, the following one is given more particularly applicable to the case.
« Fifthly, Because the commission being intended for the satisfaction of Dissenters, it would be convenient that laymen of different ranks, nay, perhaps of different opinions, too, should be mixed in it, the better to find expedients for that end, rather than clergymen alone of our church, who are generally observed to have very much the same way of reasoning and thinking.
WINCHESTER. MORDAUNT. J. LOVELACE." But the commons were still more intolerant than the lords, and an address soon appeared from them, requesting the king to continue his care for the preservation of the Church of England, whose constitution they told him was best suited to the support of this monarchy, praying him to call a convocation of the clergy. assuring him, at the same time, that it was their intention to proceed to the consideration of giving ease to Protestant Dissenters.
When the convocation came to decide on the humane intentions of the king, the reasonableness of the protest of the lords was soon apparent.
Burnet, in pages 11 and 30, vol. ii., gives us some account of what passed both before and during these meetings. The more rigid thought, « that too much was already done for the Dissenters;" “ that the altering the customs and constitution of our church, to gratify a peevish and obstinate party, was like to have no other effect on them but to make them more insolent ;" “ as if the church, by offering these alterations, seemed to confess she had been hitherto in the wrong ;" they thought this attempt would divide us among ourselves, and make our people lose their esteem for the liturgy, if it appeared that it wanted correction. • To these arguments, which may be considered as the permanent arguments on the subject, the bishop offers his reply, and then goes on thus :-“ But while men were arguing this matter on both sides, the party that was now at work for King James took hold of this occasion to inflame men's minds; it was said the church was to be pulled down, and Presbytery was to be set up." (Life, &c.)..... “ The universities took fire upon this.” ..
“ Severe reflections were cast on the king as being in an interest contrary to the church." ... " So that it was soon'very visible," says at last the bishop, “ that we were not in -a temper cool or calm enough to encourage the farther prosecuting such a design."
This want of religious moderation, of which the bishop speaks, must be considered as a striking proof of the deep impression that had been made on the community by the civil wars and long habits of religious dispute; for at the time that the Declaration of Rights was becoming the acknowledged constitution of the country; at the time that England had advanced so far before the great rival country of France in all the doctrines of civil liberty ; in religious liberty she was actually a century behind her; the twenty-sixth article of the edict of Nantz, enacted by Henry IV. (the cotemporary of Elizabeth), admitted the Protestants to all civil offices indiscriminately with their fellow Christians, the Roman Catholics.
The real ground on which these religious exclusions were, and always have been defended, is that of terror; terror, lest the inferior sect, by obtaining political power, should, after a struggle for equality, contend at last for Superiority.
It is not very creditable to human nature to observe, that when this terror is really felt, it operates in a contrary way. In the settlement of religious claims and differences, the inferior sect often gains something from the fears, but never from the generosity of the superior; the Protestants, for instance, had waged a long and desperate civil war with the Roman Catholics in France, and the terror which they really inspired, enabled Henry IV, to procure for them such of the terms of the edict of Nantz as are of an equitable nature. Similar effects have been more or less produced in other countries on similar occasions of reconcilement and pacification, through all the periods of these dreadful contentions.
Afterwards, when the Protestants ceased to be such objects of terror, Louis XIV, could indulge his intolerance, and banish them from their country in a manner the most impolitic and cruel.
In England, in like manner, had the Papists been at all competent to
enter into a contest of force with the Protestants, there would never have appeared such a dreadful array of penal laws on our statute books. The Scotch obtained from us, by arms, their kirk and presbytery ; so, 100, the nonconformists in William's time would never have been excluded from offices, or even from the pale of the Church of England, if they had really inspired those apprehensions which their opponents affected to feel, or at least persuaded themselves that they, on the whole, might as well act upon. In seasons of real terror, religious factions either conciliate or positively murder and destroy each other, as in the pacifications with the Hugonots and the massacres of France and Ireland: it is in intervals of comparative repose and of considerable security that the superior sect suffers its malignity calmly to expand into penal statutes, sweeping accusations, and ungenerous suspicions; into arguments that admit not of answer (because they turn upon their own feelings and apprehensions), and into amusing exhortations to the inferior sect, “ to wait for better times," &c. &c.
JAMES II. REVOLUTION.
N the death of Charles II., the Duke of York took as
peaceable possession of the throne as if no effort had ever been made to debar him from the succession.
If the exclusionists had carried their measure, James would have been always represented by a very large and respectable description of writers, as, on the whole, a victim to party rage.
Without perhaps denying exactly the right of a community to provide for its own happiness, they would have contented themselves with observing that religious opinions were in themselves no just disqualification; that it by no means followed that James, though a Papist himself, would have violated the constitution of his country, rather than not make his subjects the same; that the conduct of men altered with their situation; and that, at all events, the patriotism and good sense of James were not fairly tried.
But happily for one of the most important of all causes, the cause of civil liberty, the experiment was really made; and all that the exclusionists had foreseen, all that with very manly wisdom they had endeavoured to prevent, actually took place.
When, however, the expectations of the exclusionists were verified, and the arbitrary and bigoted nature of James was inflamed rather than pacified by the possession of power, it by no means followed that the community would be then able to relieve itself from the calamity which it had incurred. It is very easy for a theorist to say, that a nation has only to will to be free, and to be so.
The affairs of mankind proceed in no such manner.
On such a subject as the Revolution in 1688, the student will surely think that no pains he can bestow are too great.