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In the English, as well as every other community, each individual member of it has the
same right, duty, and obligation to follow the Man onght not dictates of a sincere conscience. As long, for speculative therefore, as in this he does nothing to injure opinion of reli
nor offend the community, so long ought he not in any manner to be punished or chastised for differing either in doctrine or difcipline from that religious fociety, which has received the civil sanction of the state. “Therefore, says Dr. Priestley, in his Effay on the First Principles of Government,
* « as a being capable of immortal life (which is a thing of infinitely more consequence to me, than all the political considerations of this world) I must endeavour to render myself acceptable to God, by such dispositions and such conduct as he has required, in order to fit me for future happiness. For this purpose, it is evidently requisite, that I diligently use my reason, in order to make myself acquainted with the will of God; and also, that I have liberty to do whatever I believe he requires, provided I do not moleft my fellow creatures
by such assumed liberty.” The corima
In vain will
attempt to palnity will not judge any ac
liate or juftify an action, that is offensive or injurious to the community, by the plea or
defence of its being directed or enjoined by dictated by roligioiie
cion that rends to fuhvert government to be
his religion ; for as it is by the particular ora dination of Almighty God, that society is necessary for man, and society carinot fubfift without government; and as Almighty God left the particular form of goverment to the option of each community, and has in the most express manner enjoined and commanded the individuals of every community to submit to, and obey that government, which in exercise of the liberty, which he had granted them, they have formed for themselves, it is evident, that the community is fully warranted in judging, that no action, which tends to disturb or subvert the end or preservation of the government, can have been directed or enjoined by that deity, whose justice and consistency are equal with all his other infinite perfections. These false pretences or calls of conscience to disapprove, refift, or oppose the religion sanctioned or established by the state, are more pointedly reprobated by the learned divine, whom I have so often quoted. *“ A pretence of conscience for opposing the right of the magiftrate (or supreme sovereign power) to establish any religion at all, cannot be fupported by the plea of a special mission from
God; because a doctrine fo absurd and deftructive to human society, reason cannot admit to be from God: and he, who pretends to come from God with such a message, brings with him fuch an internal disproof of his mission, as would overrule any outward proofs of it; and he may as well pretend a revelation, requiring him to tell us, there is no God.”
Every man is presumed to be affected towards his religion, in proportion as he thinks, and feels, that it is the pure effect of his own voluntary choice *. From hence arise the love and reverence, which the majority of the English nation bear to their church; and from hence also is redoubled the obligation upon all difsenters from that church, to submit unto, because they are supposed to join and concur in all the acts of the legiNature,
by which the church receives the civil fancThe consciences tion of the state. Nor can their consciences not concerned be in any manner affected by such concur
in the truth of the religion which receives the civil establishment.
* Mr. Burke, a professed member of the nåtional church, speaks, as all other such members feel about it. “ First, I beg leave to speak of our church establishment, which is the first of our prejudices; not a prejudice destitute of reason, but involving in it profound and extensive wisdom. I speak of it first. It is the first, and last, and midt in our minds." Reflections on the Revolu- , tion in France, p. 136.
Tence, although they should disapprove of, or condemn the tenets of that church; since, as Dr. Rogers observes, a religion becomes not one jot the more true for being established. The difference, therefore, is great between the fubmiffion, which, upon the principles of all civil government, we are bound to Thew generally to the civil sanction or estab. lishment, which the state gives to any religious system, and the intellectual adoption of the peculiar tenets and doctrines, which distinguish that particular fociety from any other. The toleration, which the legislature grants to those, who differ from the established religion, is the only proof that needs be alledged, that they do not mean to force or impose the belief of their religious tenets upon the consciences of any member of the fociety. For * " what can be more just and equitable, than to leave every person at full liberty to act according to his own understanding, in matters which regard none but himself?”
Before I leave this subject, it will be proper to say something upon the nature of church lands, or ecclesiastical property, concerning which many erroneous notions are
• Noodt's Discourse on Liberty of Conscience, P. 97, 98.
conceived and propagated, from inattention to their origin or source. When the state establishes a religion, it clothes or invests the clergy of that religion with certain political qualities; one of which is a corporate capacity, by which they are made perpetual bodies, always represented by fucceffors. By this quality of perpetuity, whatever property is once acquired by a clergyman in his corporate capacity, it is rendered unalienable for ever, and was therefore formerly expressed by our ancestors, by the term Mortmain ; which imported, that the hands, into which the
property had paffed, poffeffed no active power nor capacity of transferring it to others. Now the right of holding, modelling, and transferring property, is given and regulated by the sovereign power of every
state and therefore the civil power alone could enable individuals to vest the land, which by the state they were permitted to enjoy to the exclusion of others, in these corporations; or, to use the words of the statute (7 Ed. I.) per quod in manum mortuam devenerint. Whatever land was given by the state, or by the municipal law was permitted to be given by individuals to the church, was to most purposes divested of those transferable and defcendible, or inheritable qualities, with which