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OF SOME MODERN DOCTRINES CONCERNING · THE RESISTANCE OF INDIVIDUALS AGAINST • THE CIVIL ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGION,
The malco tents discon
A TO man of the flightest obfervation or ? TV reflection can at this day be ignorant tented with of the confidence, with which the malcontents establishment. of the hour inveigh against the ecclesiastical and civil establishment of our present conftitutional polity; insisting upon the absolute subversion of the one, and a general reformation and alteration of the other. But it is an . obvious question, Who are these malcontents? They are not only composed of the remains of some of the old fets of diffenters from the established church, such as anabaptists, puritans, independants, &c. but more generally of the various sets of modern fubdissenting improvers upon their ancient masters, whom Dr. Price seems, with unbounded affection and zeal, to have admitted as his worthy afsociates and fellow labourers in the good common cause of diffent from the principles, and resistance against the establishment of the national church. Of these Mr. Burke speaks,
couragement to didient.
with his usual elegant and nervous poignancy, Dr. Price's on- * “ If the noble seekers should find nothing
to satisfy their pious fancies, in the old staple of the national church, or in all the rich variety to be found in the well-assorted warea houses of the diffenting congregations, Dr. Price advises them to improve upon nonconformity, and to set up, each of thein, a sea parate meeting. house; upon his own particular principles t. It is somewhat remarkable, that this reverend divine should be fo earnest for setting up new churches, and fo perfectly indifferent concerning the doctrines which may be taught in them. His zeal is of a curious character. It is not for the pro.pagation of his own opinions, but of any opinions. It is not for the diffusion of truth, but for the fpreading of contradiction. Lee the noble teachers but diffent, it is no matter from whom or from what. This great point once secured, it is taken for granted their re
* Reflections on the Revolution itt France, P. 14, and 15.
+ « Those who diflike that mode of worship, which is prescribed by public authority, ought, if they can find no worship out of the church, which they approve, to set up a separate worship for themselves; and by doing this, and giving an example of a rational and manly worship, men of weight, from their rank and literature, may do the greatest service to society, and the world.” P. 18, Di. Price's Sermon.
ligion will be rational and manly. I doubt whether religion would reap all the benefits which the calculating divine computes, from this great company of great preachers. It would certainly be a valuable addition of non-descripts to the ample collection of known claffes, genera, and species, which at present beautify the hortus ficcus of diffent.”
Whenever, in the course of this work, I shall have occasion to mention any sets of persons known by a common description or appellation of religious focieties, or sectaries difsenting from the established church, I do not mean even to hint at the religious or theological tenets, doctrines, or principles, by which they differ from it or from each other.
Polemical discussion is not my province. The author's And I have no other motive nor reason to refer to or animadvert upon the tenets, doctrines,
Ng" ciples only of or principles of any such focieties or sectaries, diflenters. but inasmuch as they contradict or counteract those general and fundamental principles of civil government, upon which the system of our present constitution and government is formed and preserved. The inhabitants of this isand certainly form one entire community, to whom it is fully competent to model and establish that conftitution and systein of government, which they shall chuse; and
intention is to
nish refractory members.
from this competency arises the indefeasible right, which the community poffeffes, of
checking and punishing such refractory and The right of the feditious members of her body, who, by their check and pu- open and ayowed principles and actions, en
deavour to weaken, disturb, or subvert that political economy 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 diffenters from the doctrines of
the church of England. Dr. Priestley's By examining the doctrines of Dr. Priestley,
exa- 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 juft, and even conducive
doctrine's about resistance examined.
* Dr. Priestley's Esay on the first Principles of Government, p. 141.
to the good of society, th
y 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 subieet 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 fovereignty of the people,” confequently must be taken for the act of the majority. ..
* Macintosh, p. 297.