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with refractory meinbcrs.
concerning Resistance from this competency arises the indefeasible right, which the communicy possesses, of
checking and punishing such refractory and The right of the feditious members of her body, who, by their check and pita open and avowed principles and actions, en
deavour to weaken, disturb, or subvert that political æconomy of the state, which is the deliberate and free choice of the community. It will therefore be more proper in future to treat and speak of these persons, rather as political opponents of the principles of the state, than religious disenters from the doctrines of
the church of England. Dr. Priestley's By examining the doctrines of Dr. Priestley, doctrine's about relistance ex.d- upon this very important subject, the appli
cation of the principles, which I have already laid down, as admitted by all, will more clearly appear. *“ In examining the right of the civil magistrate to establish any mode of religion, or that of the subject to oppose it, the goodness of the religion, or of the mode of it, is not to be taken into the question ; but only the propriety (which is the same with the utility) of the civil magistrate, as such, interfering in the business. For what the magistrate. may think to be very juit, and even conducive
* Dr. Priestley's Essay on the first Principles of Government, p. 148.
to the good of society, the subject may think to be wrong and hurtful to it.”
If Dr. Priestley here means, by the term magistrate, the supreme legislative power of the state, from what has already been said, it will clearly appear, that the subject is bound and concluded by the act of his own trustees and delegates; and such are the three estates of our legislature, as I shall hereafter more particularly observe. It is not possible, therefore, in the present system of the British conftitution, for the subject (if by the term subsect is meant the majority of the community) to think that wrong and hurtful, which the representatives of the community, who must be supposed to speak the language of the real majority, think to be just and conducive to the good of the society. But although the minority of the community should think so differently of the act of the majority, their disapprobation or consideration of the measure will neither invalidate the act; nor justify any resistance against it; when it has once acquired the force of a law: for ** every law is a direct emanation of the sovereignty of the people,” consequently must be taken for the act of the majority.
• Macintosh, p. 297.
But if by the term magifirate, he means that executive magistratical power, which by the constitution is vested in the king or supreme executive power of the state, and from him is derived to all subordinate civil magistrates throughout the realm, the observation is perfectly absurd and irrelevant: for the executive magistrate has no legiNative power; and he is equally bound by his duty and trust to enforce the laws, which make or which concern the civil establishment of religion, as any other laws whatsoever, which is very pointedly noticed by Dr. Priestley himself in another part of his works. *«The civil magistrate has nothing to do with the truth of religion, being obliged to provide for that, which is professed by the majority of the fubjects, though he himself should be of a different persuasion. Thus the king of Great Britain must maintain episcopacy in England and presbyterianism in Scotland, whether he be a presbyterian as king William, a Lutheran as Geo. I. or a true churchman as his present Majesty."
“ Others have the moderation and good sense to admit the reasonableness of persons
The civil ma. gistrate 10thing to do with the truth of religion.
* Letters to Mr. Burke, Lett. vi. p. 51.
+ Priestley's Essays on the First Principles of Government, p. 145.
being allowed to judge for themselves, and to think as they please in matters of religion, and even to exercise whatever mode of religion their consciences approve of; but they will not admit of any thing, that has a tendency to increase the obnoxious sect, no publication of books, or other attempts to make profelytes, nor even a reflection upon the established religion, though it be necessary to a vindication of their own. But what sige. nifies a privilege of judging for ourselves, if we have not the necessary means of forming a right judgment, by the perusal of books containing the evidence of both sides of the question? What some distinguish by the names of ačtive and passive opposition to an established religion, differ only in name and degree. To defend myself, and to attack my adverfary, is, in many cases, the very fame thing, and the one cannot be done without the other.”
This assumption of a right to reprobate and resist the civil establishment of religion appears to be founded upon the presumption, that it is equally competent for every individual of the community to form his own mind upon the subject of religion. So says Dr. Priestley to Mr. Burke, *“It is no un
• Dr. Priedley's Letters to Mr. Burke, Let. vi. P. 51.
common thing for what appears to be profound and extensive wisdom to one man, to appear the extreme of folly to another; and unfortunately, owing perhaps to the difference of our education and early habits, this is precisely the difference between you and me. What you admire I despise; and what you think highly useful, I am per
fuaded is highly mischievous.” Now were The dispute ile this a matter of mere personal variance bestituted by Dr. Priestley upon tween Dr. Priestley, and Mr. Burke upon
a point of controvertible matter, those, who might think it worth their while to take the point of difference under their consideration, would either decide upon it by the degree of deference and authority, which they would allow to the contesting parties, or by the internal merits and evidence of the question in dispute. But in the present case the question is, how far any one individual is authorised to oppose the folemn and formal act of the majority of the community. Mr. Burke has expressed the known and avowed fentiments of the majority of this community, who have for some centuries thought proper to apply a part of their power and authority, in supporting that religious system, which was the result of their own free election. Dr. Priestley on behalf of himself, and of some