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I believe there can hardly be framed a better and more consistent defence of an established church, nor particularly of our most excellent spiritual conftitution. I dare say, this scheme will be found a sufficient security for all that is valuable to our clergy; and will answer all the ends of religion to a civil
gavernment. It is not hereby proposed to support or advance any interest of true religion, a true church, or the salvation of men: Nor
any civilinterest intended, but the strength of the governing part, and the quiet submis. fion of the people, each enforced by the POWer and riches of the clergy.
I must not, however, conceal two considerable objections that I have met with against this performance. The first is, that here is no sort of provision for the support and encouragement of true religion; but all pretensions are left to shift as they can amidst the interests and passions of society. No obligations are laid on the conscience by any of these religious laws; since they are mere policies of state, and attend equally the professors of truth or error. And thus this religion (as it is called) by law establisb’d, is a mere creature of the state, neither pagan, christian nor mahometan, but ftri&ly and literally the religion of the magistrate, or such ordinances as he pleascs to appoint or agree to.
I think this objection may be obviated by our author's professed scheme, which is not to adyance truth or religion of
any fort, but
the interest of the government only; and therefore obedience to this establishment can be no farther a duty, than particular interest is concerned, or the manifest good of the publick can be advanced. It is indeed mere ignorance, superstition and folly, in this view, to have any religious zeal about it; or to fancy that virtue or piety is at all concerned in our behaviour on this head. However, as it is not virtue or christian religion which is thus established, so neither (as our author well observes) will virtue or true religion be in danger of corruption or destruction by the failure or overthrow of the establishment.
The other objection is, that this reasoning, fairly attended to, will engage Governors, not only to contract with any one religion that will serve their purposes best, but with all that can any ways do them any good. And thus every church and fect that holds the main principles (which I think all do that I ever heard of) will have a right to protection at least, if not to encouragement;
may make itself worth purchasing upon count or other. And this will render an ex. clusive teft-law impertinent, or rather will require no teft but of civil affection: And thus the argument for religious establishments will vanish, and subside into a general and u. niversal toleration, or protection of all religions and opinions that admit the belief of a deity, moral differences of action, and a
future judgment; with such immunities and inaintenance of those who shall publickly teach the people any religion consistent with these doctrines, and useful to the society, as shall be judged proper.
This, indeed, will be an establishment that none can reasonably oppose, and which every honest man will be glad to support; and therefore this consideration may serve as a full answer to the objection itself: That it is only an enlargement of our author's principles, and a just consequence of all the force of his reasonings; and is no otherwise an objection, than as it goes a little farther than perhaps our author faw, or chose to carry his argument; and is only an improvement of his scheme for the publick good, and a more universal benefit. I am,
Tour humble Servant,
NU M B.
Am fensible, that what I am about to ad
vance will be liable to the imputation of novelty, and that I myself may have the hard fate to be misrepresented and abused as
a visionary chymerical projector : but wise men are above being intimidated by undeserved names of reproach, and men of a steddy honesty despise them. I am resolved, therefore, to support myself under all such rash and unjust censures, by the consciousness of my own integrity, and laudable design to serve the public, and open the eyes of my countrymen and fellow-protestants; and have, moreover, this fingular comfort, that the scheme which I have fo laboriously framed and digested, and am now going to lay before the World, must easily recommend itself to all staunch and thorough-paced politicans, and to the reverend body of the clergy; since 'tis entirely calculated to advance their power and influence, and serve the darling cause of passive obedience, and a blind implicit submission. Besides, as mankind are, in some cases, as passionately fond of novelty, as they are apt to decry it in others, an author may very modestly expect, that this instance of their caprice will for once be on the right side; and if it should take this happy turn, that, which in a general estimate is the most probable means of his disgrace, will be the basis of his greater fame and usefulness.
I thought proper to say something by way of preface to obviate this most formidable objection, that the prejudices of my readers might be a little softened, and their minds disposed for a favourable reception of what I have farther to offer ; which, with the grounds and reasons of it, take as follows.
The licentiousness of the present age, especially with respect to its opinions, has been the subject of loud and most pathetic complaints; and many methods have been taken, if possible, utterly to eradicate, or at least to put a stop to the growth of, this evil. But as they have all been hitherto found, by experience, to be but quack remedies, I presume I may be allowed humbly to propose a noftrum, which I am confident must answer the end in view; and that is, that the exercise of thinking and reafoning be entirely abolished: which, tho'it may have somewhat of a ludicrous aspect at first, deserves the serious consideration of all who are friends to religion, and well-wishers to the peace and prosperity of their naa tive country, for the following most weighty and cogent reasons.
ist. That there can be, in the nature of things, no other sure and infallible prevention of infidelity and heresy, and that variety of strange and unwarranted opinions, which derogate from the authority of the church, and destroy the unity of its faith and order. If we admit of, and encourage thinking in any degree, this grievance may still continue, notwithstanding our most palsionate exclamations against it : For halfthinkers may be infidels; half-thinkers are the only likely persons to entertain mon