The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 16/Remarks upon ''The Rights of the Christian Church''
Written in the Year 1708, but left unfinished.
BEFORE I enter upon a particular examination of this treatise, it will be convenient to do two things:
First, To give some account of the author, together with the motives that might probably engage him in such a work. And,
Secondly, To discover the nature and tendency in general, of the work itself.
The first of these, although it has been objected against, seems highly reasonable, especially in books that instil pernicious principles. For, although a book is not intrinsically much better or worse, according to the stature or complexion of the author, yet when it happens to make a noise, we are apt, and curious, as in other noises, to look about from whence it comes. But however, there is something more in the matter.
If a theological subject be well handled by a layman, it is better received than if it came from a divine: and that for reasons obvious enough, which although of little weight in themselves, will ever have a great deal with mankind.
But when books are written with ill intentions, to advance dangerous opinions, or destroy foundations; it may be then of real use to know from what quarter they come, and go a good way toward their confutation. For instance, if any man should write a book against the lawfulness of punishing felony with death; and upon inquiry, the author should be found in Newgate, under condemnation for robbing a house; his arguments would, not very unjustly, lose much of their force, from the circumstances he lay under. So, when Milton writ his book of divorces, it was presently rejected as an occasional treatise; because every body knew, he had a shrew for his wife. Neither can there be any reason imagined, why he might not, after he was blind, have writ another upon the danger and inconvenience of eyes. But it is a piece of logick which will hardly pass on the world, that because one man has a sore nose, therefore all the town should put plasters upon theirs. So, if this treatise about the rights of the church should prove to be the work of a man steady in his principles, of exact morals, and profound learning, a true lover of his country, and a hater of Christianity, as what he really believes to be a cheat upon mankind, whom he would undeceive purely for their good; it might be apt to check unwary men, even of good dispositions toward religion. But, if it be found the production of a man soured with age and misfortunes, together with the consciousness of past miscarriages; of one, who, in hopes of preferment, was reconciled to the popish religion; of one, wholly prostitute in life and principles, and only an enemy to religion, because it condemns them: In this case, and this last I find is the universal opinion, he is likely to have few proselytes, beside those, who, from a sense of their vitious lives, require to be perpetually supplied by such amusements as this; which serve to flatter their wishes, and debase their understandings.
I know there are some who would fain have it, that this discourse was written by a club of freethinkers, among whom the supposed author only came in for a share. But, sure, we cannot judge so meanly of any party, without affronting the dignity of mankind. If this be so, and if here be the product of all their quotas and contributions, we must needs allow, that freethinking is a most confined and limited talent. It is true indeed, the whole discourse seems to be a motley, inconsistent composition, made up of various shreds of equal fineness, although of different colours. It is a bundle of incoherent maxims and assertions, that frequently destroy one another. But still there is the same flatness of thought and style; the same weak advances toward wit and raillery; the same petulancy and pertness of spirit; the same train of superficial reading; the same threadbare quotation; the same affectation of forming general rules upon false and scanty premises. And lastly, the same vapid venom sprinkled over the whole; which, like the dying impotent bite of a trodden benumbed snake, may be nauseous and offensive, but cannot be very dangerous.
And indeed, I am so far from thinking this libel to be born of several fathers, that it has been the wonder of several others, as well as myself, how it was possible for any man, who appears to have gone the common circle of academical education; who has taken so universal a hberty, and has so entirely laid aside all regards, not only of Christianity, but common truth and justice; one who is dead to all sense of shame, and seems to be past the getting or losing of a reputation, should, with so many advantages, and upon so unlimited a subject, come out with so poor, so jejune a production. Should we pity, or be amazed at so perverse a talent, which, instead of qualifying an author to give a new turn to old matter, disposes him quite contrary to talk in an old beaten trivial manner upon topicks wholly new? to make so many sallies into pedantry without a call, upon a subject the most alien, and in the very moments he is declaiming against it, and in an age too, where it is so violently exploded, especially among those readers he proposes to entertain?
I know it will be said, that this is only to talk in the common style of an answerer; but I have not so little policy. If there were any hope of reputation or merit from such victory, I should be apt, like others, to cry up the courage and conduct of an enemy. Whereas to detect the weakness, the malice, the sophistry, the falsehood, the ignorance of such a writer, requires little more than to rank his perfections in such an order, and place them in such a light, that the commonest reader may form a judgment of them.
It may still be a wonder how so heavy a book, written upon a subject in appearance so little instructive or diverting, should survive to three editions, and consequently find a better reception than is usual with such bulky spiritless volumes; and this, in an age, that pretends so soon to be nauseated with what is tedious and dull. To which I can only return, that, as burning a book by the common hangman, is a known expedient to make it sell; so, to write a book that deserves such treatment, is another: And a third, perhaps as effectual as either, is to ply an insipid, worthless tract, with grave and learned answers, as Dr. Hickes, Dr. Potter, and Mr. Wotton have done. Such performances, however commendable, have glanced a reputation upon the piece; which owes its life to the strength of those hands and weapons that were raised to destroy it; like flinging a mountain upon a worm, which instead of being bruised, by the advantage of its littleness, lodges under it unhurt.
But neither is this all. For the subject, as unpromising as it seems at first view, is no less than that of Lucretius, to free men's minds from the bondage of religion; and this, not by little hints and by piecemeal, after the manner of those little atheistical tracts that steal into the world, but in a thorough wholesale manner; by making religion, church, Christianity, with all their concomitants, a perfect contrivance of the civil power. It is an imputation often charged on this sort of men, that, by their invectives against religion, they can possibly propose no other end than that of fortifying themselves and others against the reproaches of a vitious life; it being necessary for men of libertine practices, to embrace libertine principles, or else they cannot act in consistence with any reason, or preserve any peace of mind. Whether such authors have this design (whereof I think they have never gone about to acquit themselves) thus much is certain; that no other use is made of such writings: Neither did I ever hear this author's book justified by any person, either whig or tory, except such who are of that profligate character. And I believe, whoever examines it, will be of the same opinion; although indeed such wretches are so numerous, that it seems rather surprising, why the book has had no more editions, than why it should have so many.
Having thus endeavoured to satisfy the curious with some account of this author's character, let us examine what might probably be the motives to engage him in such a work. I shall say nothing of the principal, which is a sum of money; because that is not a mark to distinguish him from any other trader with the press, I will say nothing of revenge and malice, from resentment of the indignities and contempt he has undergone for his crime of apostacy. To this passion he has thought fit to sacrifice order, propriety, discretion, and common sense, as may be seen in every page of his book: but I am deceived, if there were not a third motive as powerful as the other two; and that is, vanity. About the latter end of king James's reign, he had almost finished a learned discourse in defence of the church of Rome, and to justify his conversion: all which, upon the Revolution, was quite out of season. Having thus prostituted his reputation, and at once ruined his hopes, he had no course left, but to show his spite against religion in general; the false pretensions to which had proved so destructive to his credit and fortune; and at the same time, loth to employ the speculations of so many years to no purpose; by an easy turn, the eame arguments he had made use of to advance popery, were full as properly levelled by him against Christianity itself; like the image, which, while it was new and handsome, was worshipped for a saint; and when it came to be old and broken, was still good enough to make a tolerable devil. And therefore, every reader will observe, that the arguments for popery are much the strongest of any in his book, as I shall farther remark when I find them in my way.
There is one circumstance in his titlepage, which I take to be not amiss, where he calls his book 'Part the First.' This is a project to fright away answerers, and make the poor advocates for religion believe, he still keeps farther vengeance in petto. It must be allowed, he has not wholly lost time while he was of the Romish communion. This very trick he learned from his old father, the pope; whose custom it is to lift up his hand, and threaten to fulminate, when he never meant to shoot his bolts; because the princes of Christendom had learned the secret to avoid or despise them. Dr. Hickes knew this very well, and therefore, in his answer to this Book of Rights, where a second part is threatened like a rash person he desperately cries, Let it come. But I, who have too much phlegm to provoke angry wits of his standard, must tell the author, that the doctor plays the wag, as if he were sure it were all grimace. For my part, I declare, if he writes a second part, I will not write another answer; or if I do, it shall be published before the other part comes out.
There may have been another motive, althoucrh it be hardly credible, both for publishing this work, and threatening a second part: it is soon conceived how far the sense of a man's vanity will transport him. This man must have somewhere heard, that dangerous enemies have been often bribed to silence with money or preferment: And therefore to show how formidable he is, he has published his first essay; and in hopes of hire to be quiet, has frighted us with his design of another. What must the clergy do in these unhappy circumstances? If they should bestow this man bread enough to stop his mouth, it will but open those of a hundred more, who are every whit as well qualified to rail as he. And truly, when I compare the former enemies to Christianity, such as Socinus, Hobbes, and Spinosa, with such of their successors, as Toland, Asgil, Coward, Gildon, this author of the Rights, and some others; the church appears to me like the sick old lion in the fable, who, after having his person outraged by the bull, the elephant, the horse, and the bear, took nothing so much to heart as to find himself at last insulted by the spurn of an ass.
I will now add a few words, to give the reader some general notion of the nature and tendency of the work itself.
I think I may assert, without the least partiality, that it is a treatise wholly devoid of wit or learning, under the most violent and weak endeavours and pretences to both. That it is replenished throughout with bold, rude, improbable falsehoods, and gross misinterpretations; and supported by the most impudent sophistry, and false logick, I have any where observed. To this he has added a paltry, traditional cant of priestrid and priestcraft, without reason or pretext as he applies it. And when he rails at those doctrines in popery (which no protestant was ever supposed to believe) he leads the reader, however, by the hand, to make applications against the English clergy; and then he never fails to triumph, as if he had made a very shrewd and notable stroke. And because the court and kingdom seem disposed to moderation with regard to dissenters, more perhaps than is agreeable to the hot unreasonable temper of some mistaken men among us; therefore, under the shelter of that popular opinion, he ridicules all that is sound in religion, even Christianity itself, under the names of Jacobite, tackers, high church, and other terms of factious jargon. All which, if it were to be first rased from his book (as just so much of nothing to the purpose) how little would remain to give the trouble of an answer! To which let me add, that the spirit, or genius, which animates the whole, is plainly perceived to be nothing else but the abortive malice of an old neglected man, who has long lain under the extremes of obloquy, poverty, and contempt, that have soured his temper, and made him fearless. But where is the merit of being bold, to a man that is secure of impunity to his person, and is past apprehension of any thing else? He that has neither reputation nor bread, has very little to lose, and has therefore as little to fear. And as it is usually said, "Whoever values not his own life, is master of another man's"; so there is something like it in reputation: He that is wholly lost to all regards of truth or modesty, may scatter so much calumny and scandal, that some part may perhaps be taken up before it fall to the ground; because the ill talent of the world is such, that those who will be at pains enough to inform themselves in a malicious story, will take none at all to be undeceived, nay, will be apt with some reluctance to admit a favourabie truth.
To expostulate, therefore, with this author for doing mischief to religion, is to strew his bed with roses; he will reply in triumph, that this was his design; and I am loth to mortify him, by asserting he has done none at all. For I never yet saw so poor an atheistical scribble, which would not serve as a twig for sinking libertines to catch at. It must be allowed in their behalf, that the faith of Christians is not as a grain of mustard seed in comparison of theirs, which can remove such mountains of absurdities, and submit with so entire a resignation to such apostles. If these men had any share of that reason they pretend to, they would retire into Christianity, merely to give it ease. And therefore men can never be confirmed in such doctrines, until they are confirmed in their vices; which last, as we have already observed, is the principal design of this, and all other writers, against revealed religion.
I am now opening the book which I propose to examine; an employment, as it is entirely new to me, so it is that to which, of all others, I have naturally the greatest antipathy. And indeed, who can dwell upon a tedious piece of insipid thinking, and false reasoning, so long as I am likely to do, without sharing the infection?
But, before I plunge into the depths of the book itself, I must be forced to wade through the shallows of a long preface.
This preface, large as we see it, is only made up of such supernumerary arguments against an independent power in the church, as he could not, without nauseous repetition, scatter into the body of his book: and it is detached, like a forlorn hope, to blunt the enemy's sword that intends to attack him. Now, I think, it will be easy to prove, that the opinion of imperium in imperio, in the sense he charges it upon the clergy of England, is what no one divine of any reputation, and very few at all, did ever maintain; and that their universal sentiment in this matter is such, as few protestants did ever dispute. But if the author of the Regale, or two or three more obscure writers, have carried any points farther than Scripture and reason will allow (which is more than I know, or shall trouble myself to inquire) the clergy of England is no more answerable for those, than the laity is for all the folly and impertinence of this treatise. And therefore, that people may not be amused, or think this man is somewhat, that he has advanced or defended any oppressed truth, or overthrown any growing dangerous errours, I will set in as clear a light as I can, what I conceive to be held by the established clergy, and all reasonable protestants in this matter.
Every body knows and allows, that in all government there is an absolute, unlimited, legislative power; which is originally in the body of the people, although, by custom, conquest, usurpation, or other accidents, sometimes fallen into the hands of one, or a few. This in England is placed in the three estates (otherwise called the two houses of parliament) in conjunction with the king. And whatever they please to enact, or to repeal in the settled forms, whether it be ecclesiastical or civil, immediately becomes law, or nullity. Their decrees may be against equity, truth, reason, and religion, but they are not against law: because law is the will of the supreme legislature, and that is themselves. And there is no manner of doubt but the same authority, whenever it pleases, may abolish Christianity, and set up the Jewish, Mahometan, and heathen religion. In short, they may do any thing within the compass of human power. And therefore, who will dispute that the same law, which deprived the church not only of lands, misapplied to superstitious uses, but even the tithes and glebes (the ancient and necessary support of parish priests) may take away all the rest, whenever the lawgivers please, and make the priesthood as primitive, as this writer, or others of his stamp, can desire?
But as the supreme power can certainly do ten thousand things more than it ought, so there are several things which some people may think it can do, although it really cannot. For it unfortunately happens, that edicts which cannot be executed will not alter the nature of things. So, if a king and parliament should please to enact, that a woman who has been a month married is virgo intacta, would that actually restore her to her primitive state? If the supreme power should resolve a corporal of dragoons to be a doctor of divinity, law, or physick, few, I believe, would trust their souls, fortunes, or bodies, to his direction; because that power is neither fit to judge or teach those qualifications which are absolutely necessary to the several professions. Put the case, that walking on the slack rope were the only talent required by an act of parliament for making a man a bishop; no doubt, when a man had done his feat of activity in form, he might sit in the house of lords, put on his robes and his rochet, go down to his palace, receive and spend his rents; but it requires very little Christianity to believe this tumbler to be one whit more a bishop than he was before, because the law of God has otherwise decreed; which law, although a nation may refuse to receive, it cannot alter in its own nature.
And here lies the mistake of this superficial man, who is not able to distinguish between what the civil power can hinder, and what it can do. "If the parliament can annul ecclesiastical laws, they must be able to make them, since no greater power is required for one than the other." See preface, p. 8. This consequence he repeats above twenty times, and always in the wrong. He affects to form a few words into the shape and size of a maxim, then tries it by his ear, and according as he likes the sound or cadence, pronounces it true. Cannot I stand over a man with a great pole, and hinder him from making a watch, although I am not able to make one myself? If I have strength enough to knock a man on the head, does it follow I can raise him to life again? The parliament may condemn all the Greek and Roman authors; can it therefore create new ones in their stead? They may make laws, indeed, and call them canon and ecclesiastical laws, and oblige all men to observe them under pain of high treason. And so may I, who love as well as any man to have in my own family the power in the last resort, take a turnip, then tie a string to it, and call it a watch, and turn away all my servants, if they refuse to call it so too.
For my own part, I must confess that this opinion of the independent power of the church, or imperium in imperio, wherewith this writer raises such a dust, is what I never imagined to be of any consequence, never once heard disputed among divines, nor remember to have read, otherwise than as a scheme in one or two authors of middle rank, but with very little weight laid on it. And I dare believe, there is hardly one divine in ten that ever once thought of this matter. Yet to see a large swelling volume written only to encounter this doctrine, what could one think less, than that the whole body of the clergy were perpetually tiring the press and the pulpit with nothing else?
I remember some years ago a virtuoso writ a small tract about worms, proved them to be in more places than was generally observed, and made some discoveries by glasses. This having met with some reception, presently the poor man's head was full of nothing but worms; all we eat and drink, all the whole consistence of human bodies, and those of every other animal, the very air we breathed, in short, all nature throughout was nothing but worms: and, by that system, he solved all difficulties, and from thence all causes in . Thus it has fared with our author, and his independent power. The attack against occasional conformity, the scarcity of coffee, the invasion of Scotland, the loss of kerseys and narrow cloths, the death of king William, the author's turning papist for preferment, the loss of the battle of Almanza, with ten thousand other misfortunes, are all owing to this imperium in imperio.
It will be therefore necessary to set this matter in a clear light, by inquiring whether the clergy have any power independent of the civil, and of what nature it is.
Whenever the Christian religion was embraced by the civil power in any nation, there is no doubt but the magistrates and senates were fully instructed in the rudiments of it. Besides, the Christians were so numerous, and their worship so open before the conversion of princes, that their discipline, as well as doctrine, could not be a secret: they saw plainly a subordination of ecclesiasticks, bishops, priests, and deacons: that these had certain powers and employments different from the laity; that the bishops were consecrated, and set apart for that office by those of their own order: that the presbyters and deacons were differently set apart, always by the bishops: that none but the ecclesiasticks presumed to pray or preach in places set apart for God's worship, or to administer the Lord's supper: that all questions, relating either to discipline or doctrine, were determined in ecclesiastical conventions. These and the like doctrines and practices, being most of them directly proved, and the rest, by very fair consequence, deduced from the words of our Saviour and his apostles, were certainly received as a divine law, by every prince or state which admitted the Christian religion; and consequently, what they could not justly alter afterward, any more than the common laws of nature. And therefore, although the supreme power can hinder the clergy or church from making any new canons, or executing the old; from consecrating bishops, or refuse those that they do consecrate; or, in short, from performing any ecclesiastical office, as they may from eating, drinking, and sleeping; yet they cannot themselves perform those offices, which are assigned to the clergy by our Saviour and his apostles; or, if they do, it is not according to the divine institution, and consequently, null and void. Our Saviour tells us, "His kingdom is not of this world;" and therefore, to be sure, the world is not of his kingdom; nor can ever please him by interfering in the administration of it, since he has appointed ministers of his own, and has empowered and instructed them for that purpose: so that I believe the clergy, who, as he says, are good at distinguishing, would think it reasonable to distinguish between their power, and the liberty of exercising this power. The former they claim immediately from Christ; and the latter, from the permission, connivance, or authority of the civil government; with which the clergy's power, according to the solution I have given, cannot possibly interfere.
But, this writer, setting up to form a system upon stale, scanty topicks, and a narrow circle of thought, falls into a thousand absurdities. And for a farther help, he has a talent of rattling out phrases, which seem to have sense, but have none at all: the usual fate of those who are ignorant of the force and compass of words, without which, it is impossible for a man to write either pertinently, or intelligibly, upon the most obvious subjects.
So, in the beginning of his preface, page 4, he says, "The church of England, being established by acts of parliament, is a perfect creature of the civil power; I mean the polity and discipline of it, and it is that which makes all the contention; for as to the doctrines expressed in the articles, I do not find high church to be in any manner of pain; but they who lay claim to most orthodoxy can distinguish themselves out of them." It is observable in this author, that his style is naturally harsh and ungrateful to the ear, and his expressions mean and trivial; but whenever he goes about to polish a period, you may be certain of some gross defect in propriety or meaning: so, the lines just quoted, seem to run easily over the tongue; and upon examination, they are perfect nonsense and blunder: to speak in his own borrowed phrase, what is contained in the idea of established? Surely, not existence. Does establishment give being to a thing? He might have said the same thing of Christianity in general, or the existence of God, since both are confirmed by acts of parliament. But, the best is behind: for, in the next line, having named the church half a dozen times before, he now says, he means only the polity and discipline of it: as if, having spoken in praise of the art of physick, a man should explain himself, that he meant only the institution of a college of physicians into a president and fellows. And it will appear, that this author, however versed in the practice, has grossly transgressed the rules of nonsense (whose property it is neither to affirm nor deny) since every visible assertion gathered from those few lines is absolutely false: for, where was the necessity of excepting the doctrines expressed in the articles, since these are equally creatures of the civil power, having been established by acts of parliament as well as the others? But, the church of England is no creature of the civil power, either as to its polity, or doctrines. The fundamentals of both were deduced from Christ and his apostles, and the instructions of the purest and earliest ages; and were received as such by those princes or states who embraced Christianity, whatever prudential additions have been made to the former by human laws, which alone can be justly altered or annulled by them.
What I have already said would, I think, be a sufficient answer to his whole preface, and indeed to the greatest part of his book, which is wholly turned upon battering down a sort of independent power in the clergy; which few or none of them ever claimed or defended. But there being certain peculiarities in this preface, that very much set off the wit, the learning, the raillery, reasoning, and sincerity of the author; I shall take notice of some of them, as I pass. ——
But here, I hope, it will not be expected, that I should bestow remarks upon every passage in this book, that is liable to exception for ignorance, falsehood, dulness, or malice. Where he is so insipid, that nothing can be struck out for the reader's entertainment, I shall observe Horace's rule:
Quæ desperes tractata nitescere posse, relinquas.
Upon which account I shall say nothing of that great instance of his candour and judgment in relation to Dr. Stillingfleet, who (happening to lie under his displeasure upon the fatal test of imperium in imperio) is high church and Jacobite, took the oaths of allegiance to save him from the gallows, and subscribed the articles only to keep his preferment: whereas the character of that prelate is universally known to have been directly the reverse of what this writer gives him.
But, before he can attempt to ruin this damnable opinion of two independent powers, he tells us, page 6, "It will be necessary to show what is contained in the idea of government." Now, it is to be understood, that this refined way of speaking was introduced by Mr. Locke; after whom the author limps as fast as he is able. All the former philosophers in the world, from the age of Socrates to ours, would have ignorantly put the question, Quid est imperium? But now, it seems, we must vary our phrase: and since our modern improvement of human understanding, instead of desiring a philosopher to describe or define a mouse-trap, or tell me what it is; I must gravely ask, what is contained in the idea of a mouse-trap? But then to observe how deeply this new way of putting questions to a man's self makes him enter into the nature of things; his present business is to show us, what is contained in the idea of government. The company knows nothing of the matter, and would gladly be instructed; which he does in the following words, p. 6.
"It would be in vain for one intelligent being to pretend to set rules to the actions of another, if he had it not in his power to reward the compliance with, or punish the deviations from his rules, by some good, or evil, which is not the natural consequence of those actions; since the forbidding men to do or forbear an action, on the account of that convenience or inconvenience which attends it, whether he who forbids it will or no, can be no more than advice.'*
I shall not often draw such long quotations as this, which I could not forbear to offer as a specimen of the propriety and perspicuity of this author's style. And indeed, what a light breaks out upon us all, as soon as we have read these words! how thoroughly are we instructed in the whole nature of government! what mighty truths are here discovered; and how clearly conveyed to our understanding! and therefore, let us melt this refined jargon into the old style for the improvement of such who are not enough conversant in the new.
If the author were one who used to talk like one of us, he would have spoke in this manner: "I think it necessary to give a full and perfect definition of government, such as will show the nature and all the properties of it; and my definition is thus: One man will never cure another of stealing horses, merely by minding him of the pains he has taken, the cold he has got, and the shoe-leather he has lost, in stealing that horse; nay, to warn him, that the horse may kick or fling him, or cost him more than he is worth in hay and oats, can be no more than advice. For, the gallows is not the natural effect of robbing on the highway, as heat is of fire; and therefore, if you will govern a man, you must find out some other way of punishment than what he will inflict upon himself."
Or, if this will not do, let us try it in another case (which I instanced before) and in his own terms. Suppose he had thought it necessary (and I think it was as much so as the other) to show us what is contained in the idea of a mouse-trap, he must have proceeded in these terms: "It would be in vain for an intelligent being to set rules for hindering a mouse from eating his cheese, unless he can inflict upon that mouse some punishment, which is not the natural consequence of eating the cheese. For, to tell her, it may lie heavy on her stomach, that she will grow too big to get back into her hole, and the like, can be no more than advice; therefore, we must find out some way of punishing her, which has more inconveniencies than she will ever suffer by the mere eating of cheese." After this, who is so slow of understanding, as not to have in his mind a full and complete idea of a mouse-trap? Well. — The Freethinkers may talk what they please of pedantry, and cant, and jargon of schoolmen, and insignificant terms in the writings of the clergy, if ever the most perplexed and perplexing follower of Aristotle, from Scotus to Suarez, could be a match for this author!
But the strength of his arguments is equal to the clearness of his definitions. For, having most ignorantly divided government into three parts, whereof the first contains the other two; he attempts to prove that the clergy possess none of these by a divine right. And he argues thus, p. vii. "As to a legislative power, if that belongs to the clergy by divine right, it must be when they are assembled in convocation: but the 25th Hen. VIII, c. 19, is a bar to any such divine right, because that act makes it no less than a præmunire for them, so much as to meet without the king's writ, &c." So that the force of his argument lies here; if the clergy had a divine right, it is taken away by 25th of Henry the Eighth. And as ridiculous as this argument is, the preface and book are founded upon it.
Another argument against the legislative power in the clergy of England is, p. viii, that Tacitus tells us; that in great affairs, the Germans consulted the whole body of the people: "Da minoribus rebus principes consultant, de majoribus omnes: Ita tamen, ut ea quoque, quorum penes plebem arbitrium est, apud principes pertrectentur." Tacitus de Moribus & Populis Germaniæ. Upon which Tindal observes thus: "De majoribus omnes," was a fundamental among our ancestors long before they arrived in Great Britain, and matters of religion were ever reckoned among their majora. (See Pref. p. viii, and ix.) Now it is plain, that our ancestors, the Saxons, came from Germany: It is likewise plain, that religion was always reckoned by the heathens among their majora; and it is plain, the whole body of the people could not be the clergy, and therefore the clergy of England have no legislative power.
Thirdly, p. ix, They have no legislative power, because Mr. Washington, in his "Observations on the ecclesiastical Jurisdiction of the Kings of England, shows from undeniable authorities, that in the time of William the Conqueror, and several of his successors, there were no laws enacted concerning religion, but by the great council of the kingdom." I hope likewise, Mr. Washington observes, that this great council of the kingdom, as appears by undeniable authorities, was sometimes entirely composed of bishops and clergy, and called the parliament, and often consulted upon affairs of state, as well as church, as it is agreed by twenty writers of those ages; and if Mr. Washington says otherwise, he is an author just fit to be quoted by beaux.
Fourthly. — But it is endless to pursue this matter any farther; in that it is plain, the clergy have no divine right to make laws; because Henry VIII, Edward VI, and queen Elizabeth, with their parliaments, will not allow it them. Now, without examining what divine right the clergy have, or how far it extends; is it any sort of proof that I have no right, because a stronger power will not let me exercise it? or, does all that this author says through his preface, or book itself, offer any other sort of argument but this, or what he deduces the same way?
But his arguments and definitions are yet more supportable, than the grossness of historical remarks, which are scattered so plentifully in his book, that it would be tedious to enumerate, or to show the fraud and ignorance of them. I beg the reader's leave to take notice of one here just in my way; and the rather, because I design for the future to let hundreds of them pass without farther notice. "When," says he, p. x, "by the abolishing of the pope's power, things were brought back to their ancient channel, the parliament's right in making ecclesiastical laws revived of course." What can possibly be meant by this "ancient channel?" Why, the channel that things ran in before the pope had any power in England: that is to say, before Austin the monk converted England; before which time, it seems, the parliament had a right to make ecclesiastical laws. And what parliament could this be? Why the lords spiritual and temporal, and the commons, met at Westminster.
I cannot here forbear reproving the folly and pedantry of some lawyers, whose opinions this poor creature blindly follows, and renders yet more absurd by his comments. The knowledge of our constitution can be only attained by consulting the earliest English histories, of which those gentlemen seem utterly ignorant, farther than a quotation or index. They would fain derive our government as now constituted, from antiquity: And because they have seen Tacitus quoted for his Majoribus omnes; and have read of the Goths military institution in their progress and conquests, they presently dream of a parliament. Had their reading reached so far, they might have deduced it much more fairly from Aristotle and Polybius; who both distinctly name the composition of rex, seniores, et populus; and the latter, as I remember particularly, with the highest approbation. The princes in the Saxon Heptarchy did indeed call their nobles sometimes together upon weighty affairs, as most other princes of the world have done in all ages. But, they made war and peace, and raised money, by their own authority: they gave or mended laws by their charters, and they raised armies by their tenures. Besides, some of those kingdoms fell in by conquests, before England was reduced under one head, and therefore could pretend no rights, but by the concessions of the conqueror.
Farther, which is more material, upon the admission of Christianity, great quantities of land were acquired by the clergy, so that the great council of the nation was often entirely of churchmen, and ever a considerable part. But our present constitution is an artificial thing, not fairly to be traced, in my opinion, beyond Henry I. Since which time it has in every age admitted several alterations; and differs now as much, even from what it was then, as almost any two species of government described by Aristotle. And it would be much more reasonable to affirm, that the government of Rome continued the same under Justinian, as it was in the time of Scipio, because the senate and consuls still remained, although the power of both had been, for several hundred years, transferred to the emperors.
Remarks on the Preface.
Page iv, v. "IF men of opposite sentiments can subscribe the same articles, they are as much at liberty as if there were none." May not a man subscribe the whole articles, because he differs from another in the explication of one? how many oaths are prescribed, that men may differ in the explication of some part of them? Instance, &c.
Page vi. "Idea of Government." A canting pedantic way, learned from Locke; and how prettily he shows it. Instance —
Page vii. "25 Hen. VIII, c. 19, is a bar to any such divine right [of a legislative power in the Clergy.]" Absurd to argue against the clergy's divine right, because of the statute of Henry VIII. How does that destroy divine right? The sottish way of arguing; from what the parliament can do; from their power, &c.
Page viii. "If the parliament did not think they had a plenitude of power in this matter, they would not have damned all the canons of 1640." What does he mean? A grave divine could not answer all his playhouse and Alsatia cant, &c. He has read Hudibras, and many plays.
Page viii. "If the parliament can annul ecclesiastical laws, they must be able to make them.*' Distinguish, and show the silliness, &c.
Ibid. All that he says against the discipline, he might say the same against the doctrine, nay, against the belief of a God, viz. That the legislature might forbid it. The church forms and contrives canons; and the civil power, which is compulsive, confirms them.
Page ix. "There were no laws enacted but by the great council of the kingdom." And that was very often, chiefly, only bishops.
Ibid. "Laws settled by parliament to punish the clergy." What laws were those?
Page x. "The people are bound to no laws but of their own" It is fraudulent; for they may consent to what others choose, and so people often do.
Page xiv, paragraph 6. "The clergy are not supposed to have any divine legislature, because that must be superiour to all worldly power; and then the clergy might as well forbid the parliament to meet but when and where they please, &c." No such consequence at all. They have a power exclusive from all others. Ordained to act as clergy, but not govern in civil affairs; nor act without leave of the civil power.
Page xxv. "The parliament suspected the love of power natural to churchmen." Truly, so is the love of pudding, and most other things desirable in this life; and in that they are like the laity, as in all other things that are not good. And therefore, they are held not in esteem for what they are like in, but for their virtues. The true way to abuse them with effect, is to tell us some faults of theirs, that other men have not, or not so much of as they, &c. Might not any man speak full as bad of senates, diets, and parliaments, as he can do about councils; and as bad of princes, as he does of bishops?
Page xxxi. "They might as well have made cardinals Campegi and de Chinuchii, bishops of Salisbury and Worcester, as have enacted that their several sees and bishopricks were utterly void." No. The legislature might determine who should not be a bishop there, but not make a bishop.
Ibid. "Have they not trusted this power with our princes?" Why ay. But that argues not right, but power. Have they not cut off a king's head? &c. The church must do the best they can, if not what they would.
Page xxxvi. "If tithes and first-fruits are paid to spiritual persons as such, the king or queen is the most spiritual person, &c." As if the first-fruits, &c. were paid to the king, as tithes to a spiritual person.
Page xliii. "King Charles II thought fit that the bishops in Scotland should hold their bishopricks during will and pleasure; I do not find that high church complained of this as an encroachment, &c." No; but as a pernicious counsel of lord Loch.
Page xliv. "The common law judges have a power to determine, whether a man has a legal right to "the sacrament." They pretend it, but what we complain of as a most abominable hardship, &c.
Page xlv. "Giving men thus blindly to the Devil, is an extraordinary piece of complaisance to a lay chancellor." He is something in the right; and therefore it is a pity there are any; and I hope the church will provide against it. But, if the sentence be just, it is not the person, but the contempt. And if the author attacks a man on the highway, and takes but two pence, he shall be sent to the gallows, more terrible to him than the devil, for his contempt of the law, &c. Therefore he need not complain of being sent to Hell.
Page lxiv. Mr. Lesley may carry things too far, as it is natural, because the other extreme is so great. But what he says of the king's losses, since the church lands were given away, is too great a truth, &c.
Page lxxvi. "To which I have nothing to plead, except the zeal I have for the church of England." You will see some pages farther, what he means by the church; but it is not fair, not to begin with telling us what is contained in the idea of a church, &c.
Page lxxxiii. "They will not be angry with me for thinking better of the church than they do, &c." No, but they will differ from you; because the worse the queen is pleased you think her better. I believe the church will not concern themselves much about your opinion of them, &c.
Page lxxxiv. "But the popish, eastern, presbyterian and jacobite clergy, &c." This is like a general pardon, with such exceptions as make it useless, if we compute it, &c.
Page lxxxvii. "Misapplying of the word church, &c." This is cavilling. No doubt his project is for exempting the people; but that is not what in common speech we usually mean by the church. Besides, who does not know that distinction?
Ibid. "Constantly apply the same ideas to them." This is in old English, meaning the same thing.
Page lxxxix. "Demonstrates I could have no design but the promoting of truth, &c." Yes, several designs, as money, spleen, atheism, &c. What? will any man think truth was his design, and not money and malice? Does he expect the house will go into a committee for a bill to bring things to his scheme, to confound every thing? &c.
Some deny Tindal to be author, and produce stories of his dulness and stupidity. But what is there in all this book, that the dullest man in England might not write, if he were angry and bold enough, and had no regard to truth?
Remarks upon the Book, &c.
Page 4. "WHETHER Lewis XIV has such a power over Philip V?" He speaks here of the unlimited, uncontrollable authority of fathers. A very foolish question; and his discourse hitherto, of government, weak and trivial, and liable to objections.
Ibid. "Whom he is to consider not as his own, but the Almighty's workmanship." A very likely consideration for the ideas of the state of nature. A very wrong deduction of paternal government; but that is nothing to the dispute, &c.
Page 12. "And as such might justly be punished by every one in the state of nature." False; he does not seem to understand the state of nature, although he has borrowed it from Hobbes, &c.
Page 14. "Merely speculative points, and other indifferent things, &c." And why are speculative opinions so insignificant? do not men proceed in their practice according to their speculations? so, if the author were a chancellor, and one of his speculations were, that the poorer the clergy the better; would not that be of great use, if a cause came before him of tithes or church-lands?
Ibid. "Which can only be known by examining whether men had any power in the state of nature over their own, or others actions, in these matters." No, that is a wrong method, unless where religion has not been revealed; in natural religion, &c.
Ibid. "Nothing at first sight can be more obvious, than that in all religious matters, none could make over the right of judging for himself, since that would cause his religion to be absolutely at the disposal of another." At his rate of arguing (I think I do not misrepresent him, and I believe he will not deny the consequence) a man may profess heathenism, mahometanism, &c. gain as many proselytes as he can; and they may have their assemblies, and the magistrate ought to protect them, provided they do not disturb the state: and they may enjoy all secular preferments, be lords chancellors, judges, &c. But there are some opinions in several religions, which, although they do not directly make men rebel, yet lead to it. Nay we might have temples for idols, &c. A thousand such absurdities follow from his general notions, and ill-digested schemes. And we see in the Old Testament, that kings were reckoned good or ill, as they suffered or hindered image-worship and idolatry, &c. which was limiting conscience.
Page 15. "Men may form what clubs, companies, or meetings they think fit, &c. which the magistrate, as long as the publick sustains no damage, cannot hinder, &c." This is false; although the publick sustain no damage, they will forbid clubs where they think danger may happen.
Page 16. "The magistrate is as much obliged to protect them in the way they choose of worshipping him, as in any other indifferent matter." — Page 17. "The magistrate to treat all his subjects alike, how much soever they differ from him or one another in these matters." This shows, that although they be Turks, Jews, or heathens, it is so. But we are sure Christianity is the only true religion. &c. and therefore it should be the magistrate's chief care to propagate it; and that God should be worshipped in that form, that those who are the teachers think most proper, &c.
Page 18. "So that persecution is the most comprehensive of all crimes. &c." But he has not told us what is included in the idea of persecution. State it right.
Ibid. "But here it may be demanded, if a man's conscience make him do such acts, &c." This does not answer the above objection: For, if the publick be not disturbed with atheistical principles preached, nor immoralities, all is well. So that still men may be Jews, Turks, &c.
Page 22. "The same reason which obliges them to make statutes of mortmain, and other laws, against the people's giving estates to the clergy, will equally hold for their taking them away when given." A great security for property! Will this hold to any other society in the state, as merchants, &c. or only to ecclesiasticks? A petty project: Forming general schemes requires a deeper head than this man's.
Ibid. "But the good of the society being the only reason of the magistrate's having any power over men's properties, I cannot see why he should deprive his subjects of any part thereof, for the maintenance of such opinions as have no tendency, that way, &c." Here is a paragraph (vide also infra) which has a great deal in it. The meaning is, that no man ought to pay tithes, who does not believe what the minister preaches. But how came they by this property? When they purchased the land, they paid only for so much; and the tithes were exempted. It is an older title than any man's estate is; and if it were taken away to morrow, it could not, without a new law, belong to the owners of the other nine parts, any more than impropriations do.
Ibid. "For the maintenance of such opinions, as no ways contribute to the publick good." By such opinions as the publick receive no advantage by, he must mean Christianity.
Page 23. "Who by reason of such articles are divided into different sects." A pretty cause of sects! &c.
Page 34. "So the same reason, as often as it occurs, will oblige him to leave that church." This is an excuse for his turning papist.
Ibid. "Unless you suppose churches like traps, easy to admit one; but when once he is in, there he must always stick, either for the pleasure or profit of the trap-setters." Remark his wit.
Page 20. "Nothing can be more absurd than maintaining there must be two independent powers in the same society, &c." This abominably absurd; show it.
Page 33. "The whole hierarchy as built on it, must necessarily fall to the ground, and great will be the fall of this spiritual Babylon." I will do him justice, and take notice, when he is witty, &c.
Page 36. "For if there maybe two such [independent powers] in every society on Earth, why may there not be more than one in Heaven?" A delicate consequence.
Page 37. "Without having the less, he could not have the greater, in which that is contained." Sophistical; instance wherein.
Page 42. "Some since, subtler than the Jews, have managed commutations more to their own advantage, by enriching themselves, and beggaring, if Fame be not a liar, many an honest dissenter." It is fair to produce witnesses, is she a liar or not? The report is almost impossible. Commutations were contrived for roguish registers and proctors, and lay chancellors, but not for the clergy.
Page 43. "Kings and people, who (as the Indians do the Devil) adored the pope out of fear." I am in doubt, whether I shall allow that for wit or not, &c. Look you, in these cases, preface it thus: If one may use an old saying.
Page 44. "One reason why the clergy make what they call schism, to be so heinous a sin." There it is now; because he has changed churches, he ridicules schism; as Milton wrote for divorces, because he had an ill wife. For ten pages on, we must give the true answer, that makes all these arguments of no use.
Page 60. "It possibly will be said, I have all this while been doing these gentlemen a great deal of wrong." To do him justice, he sets forth the objections of his adversaries with great strength, and much to their advantage. No doubt those are the very objections we would offer.
Page 68. "Their executioner." He is fond of this word in many places, yet there is nothing in it farther than it is the name for the hangman, &c.
Page 69. "Since they exclude both from having any thing in the ordering of church matters." Another part of his scheme: for, by this, the people ought to execute ecclesiastical offices without distinction, for he brings the other opinion as an absurd one.
Page 72. "They claim a judicial power, and by virtue of it, the government of the church, and thereby (pardon the expression) become traitors both to God and man." Who does he desire to pardon him? or is this meant of the English clergy? so it seems. Does he desire them to pardon him? they do it as Christians. Does he desire the government to do it? but then how can they make examples? He says, the clergy do so, &c. so he means all.
Page 79. "The popish clergy make very bold with the Three Persons of the Trinity." Why then, don't mix them; but we see whom this glances on most. As to the Congé d' élire, and Nolo episcopari, not so absurd; and if omitted, why changed.
Page 78. "But not to digress" — Pray does he call scurrility upon the clergy, a digression? The apology needless, &c.
Ibid. "A clergyman, it is said, is God's ambassador." But you know an ambassador may have a secretary, &c.
Ibid. "Call their pulpit speeches the word of God." That is a mistake.
Page 79. "Such persons to represent him." Are not they that own his power, fitter to represent him than others? Would the author be a fitter person?
Ibid, "Puffed up with intolerable pride and insolence." Not at all; for where is the pride to be employed by a prince, whom so few own, and whose being is disputed by such as this author?
Ibid. "Perhaps from a poor servitor, &c. to be a prime minister in God's kingdom." That is right. God takes notice of the difference between poor servitors, &c. Extremely foolish — show it. The argument lies strongly against the apostles, poor fishermen; and St. Paul, a tent maker. So gross and idle!
Page 80. "The formality of laying hand over head on a man." A pun; but an old one. I remember, when Swan made that pun first, he was severely checked for it.
Ibid. "What more is required to give one a right, &c." Here show, what power is in the church, and what in the state, to make priests.
Page 85. "To bring men into, and not turn them out of the ordinary way of salvation." Yes; but as one rotten sheep does mischief — and do you think it reasonable, that such a one as this author should converse with Christians, and weak ones?
Page 85. See his fine account of spiritual punishment.
Page 87. "The clergy affirm, that if they had not the power to exclude men from the church, its unity could not be preserved." So to expel an ill member from a college, would be the way to divide the college; as in All-Souls, &c. Apply it to him.
Page 88. "I cannot see but it is contrary to the rules of charity, to exclude men from the church, &c." All this turns upon the falsest reasoning in the world. So, if a man be imprisoned for stealing a horse, he is hindered from other duties: And you might argue, that a man who does ill, ought to be more diligent in minding other duties, and not to be debarred irom them. It is for contumacy and rebellion against that power in the church which the law has confirmed. So a man is outlawed for a trifle, upon contumacy.
Page 92. "Obliging all by penal laws to receive the sacrament." This is false.
Page 93. "The want of which means can only harden a man in his impenitence." It is for his being hardened, that he is excluded. Suppose a son robs his father in the highway, and his father will not see him till he restores the money, and owns his fault. It is hard to deny him paying his duty in other things, &c. How absurd this!
Page 95. "And that only they had a right to give it." Another part of his scheme, that the people have a right to give the sacrament. See more of it, p. 135 and 137.
Page 96. "Made familiar to such practices by the heathen priests." Well; and this shows the necessity of it for peace sake. A silly objection of this and other enemies to religion, to think to disgrace it by applying heathenism, which only concerns the political part, wherein they were as wise as others, and might give rules. Instance, in some, &c.
Page 98. "How differently from this do the great pretenders to primitive practice act, &c." This a remarkable passage. Does he condemn or allow this mysterious way? It seems the first; and therefore these words are a little turned, but infallibly stood in the first draught as a great argument for popery.
Page 100. "They dress them up in a Sanbenito." So, now we are to answer for the Inquisition. One thing is, that he makes the fathers guilty of asserting most of the corruptions about the power of priests.
Page 104. "Some priests assume to themselves an arbitrary power of excluding men from the Lord's Supper." His scheme; that any body may administer the sacraments, women, or children, &c.
Page 108. "One no more than another can be reckoned a priest." See his scheme. Here he disgraces what the law enacts, about the manner of consecrating, &c.
Page 120. "I shall, in the following part of my discourse, show that this doctrine is so far from serving the ends of religion, that 1. It prevents the spreading of the Gospel, &c." This independent power in the church is like the worms; being the cause of all diseases.
Page 125. "The people were set against bishops by reason of their tyranny." Wrong; for the bishops were no tyrants: their power was swallowed up by the popes, and the people desired they should have more. It was the regulars that tyrannised and formed priestcraft. He is ignorant.
Page 139. "He is not bound by the laws of Christ to leave his friends in order to be baptized, &c." This directly against the Gospel. — One would think him an emissary, by his preaching schism.
Page 142. "Then will the communion of saints be practicable, to which the principles of all parties, the occasional conformists only excepted, stand in direct opposition, &c." So that all are wrong but they. The Scripture is fully against schism. Tindal promotes it, and places in it all the present and future happiness of man.
Page 144. All he has hitherto said on this matter, with a very little turn, were arguments for popery: for it is certain, that religion had share in very few wars for many hundred years before the Reformation, because they were all of a mind. It is the ambition of rebels, preaching upon the discontents of sectaries, that they are not supreme, which has caused wars for religion. He is mistaken altogether. His little narrow understanding and want of learning.
Page 145, "Though some say the high-fliers lives might serve for a very good rule, if men would act quite contrary to them." Is he one of those some? Beside the new turn of wit, &c. all the clergy in England come under his notion of high-fliers, as he states it.
Page 147. "None of them (churchmen) could be brought to acknowledge it lawful upon any account whatever, to exclude the duke of York." This account false in fact.
Ibid. "And the body politick, whether ecclesiastical or civil, must be dealt with after the same manner as the body natural." What, because it is called a body, and is a simile, must it hold in all circumstances?
Page 148. "We find all wise legislators have had regard to the tempers, inclinations, and prejudices, &c." This paragraph false. — It was directly contrary in several, as Lycurgus, &c.
Page 152. "All the skill of the prelatists is not able to discover the least distinction between bishop and presbyter." Yet, God knows, this hath been done many a time.
Page 158. "The epistle to the Philippians is directed to the bishops and deacons; I mean in due order after the people, viz. to the saints, with their bishops and deacons." I hope he would argue from another place, that the people precede the king, because of these words; "Ye shall be destroyed, both you and your king."
Page 161. "The pope and other great church dons." I suppose he means bishops: but I wish he would explain himself, and not be so very witty in the midst of an argument; it is like two mediums; not fair in disputing.
Page 167. "Clemens Romanus blames the people, not for assuming a power, but for making a wrong use of it, &c." His great errour all along is, that he does not distinguish between a power, and a liberty of exercising that power, &c. I would appeal to any man, whether the clergy have not too little power, since a book like his, that unsettles foundations, and would destroy all, goes unpunished, &c.
Page 171. "By this or some such method the bishops obtained their power over their fellow presbyters, and both over the people. The whole tenour of the Gospel directly contrary to it." Then it is not an allowable means: This carries it so far as to spoil his own system; it is a sin to have bishops as we have them.
Page 172. "The preservation of peace and unity, and not any divine right, was the reason of establishing a superiority of one of the presbyters over the rest. Otherwise there would, as they say, have been as many schismaticks as presbyters. No great compliment to the clergy of those days." Why so? It is the natural effect of a worse independency, which he keeps such a clatter about; an independency of churches on each other, which must naturally create schism.
Page 183. "How could the Christians have asserted the disinterestedness of those who first preached the Gospel, particularly their having a right to the tenth part?" Yes, that would have passed easy enough; for they could not imagine teachers could live on air; and their heathen priests were much more unreasonable.
Page 184. "Mens suffering for such opinions is not sufficient to support the weight of them." This is a glance against Christianity. State the case of convert infidels; the converters are supposed few; the bulk of the priests must be of the converted country. It is their own people therefore they maintain. What project or end can a few converters propose? they can leave no power to their families, &c. State this, I say, at length, and give it a true turn. Princes give corporations power to purchase lands.
Page 190. "It is the clergy's interest to have religion corrupted." Quite the contrary; prove it. How is it the interest of the English clergy to corrupt religion? The more justice and piety the people have, the better it is for them; for that would prevent the penury of farmers, and the oppression of exacting covetous landlords, &c. That which has corrupted religion, is the liberty unlimited of professing all opinions. Do not lawyers render law intricate by their speculations, &c. And physicians, &c.
Page 209. "The spirit and temper of the clergy, &c." What does this man think the clergy are made of? Answer generally to what he says against councils in the ten pages before. Suppose I should bring quotations in their praise.
Page 211. "As the clergy, though few in comparison of the laity, were the inventors of corruptions." His scheme is, that the fewer and poorer the clergy the better, and the contrary among the laity. A noble principle; and delicate consequences from it!
Page 207. "Men are not always condemned for the sake of opinions, but opinions sometimes for the sake of men." And so, he hopes, that if his opinions are condemned, people will think it is a spite against him, as having been always scandalous.
Page 210. "The meanest layman as good a judge as the greatest priest, for the meanest man is as much interested in the truth of religion as the greatest priest." As if one should say, the meanest sick man has as much interest in health as a physician, therefore is as good a judge of physick as a physician. &c.
Ibid. "Had synods been composed of laymen, none of those corruptions which tend to advance the interest of the clergy, &c." True. But the part the laity had in reforming, was little more than plundering. He should understand that the nature of things is this, that the clergy are made of men, and without some encouragement they will not have the best, but the worst.
Page 215, "They who gave estates to, rather than they who took them from, the clergy, were guilty of sacrilege." Then the people are the church, and the clergy not; another part of his scheme.
Page 219. "The clergy as they subsisted by the alms of the people, &c." This he would have still. Show the folly of it. Not possible to show any civilized nation ever did it. Who would be clergymen then? The absurdity appears by putting the case, that none were to be statesmen, lawyers, or physicians, but who were to subsist by alms.
Page 222. "These subtle clergymen work their designs, who lately cut out such a tacking job for them, &c." He is mistaken — every body was for the bill almost, though not for the tack. The bishop of Sarum was for it, as appears by his speech against it. But it seems, the tacking is owing to metaphysical speculations. I wonder whether is most perplexed, this author in his style, or the writings of our divines. In the judgment of all people, our divines have carried practical preaching and writing to the greatest perfection it ever arrived to; which shows, that we may affirm in general, our clergy is excellent, although this or that man be faulty. As if an army be constantly victorious, regular, &c. we may say, it is an excellent victorious army: But, Tindal, to disparage it, would say, such a serjeant ran away; such an ensign hid himself in a ditch; nay, one colonel turned his back, therefore it is a corrupt, cowardly army, &c.
Page 224. "They were as apprehensive of the works of Aristotle as some men are of the works of a late philosopher, which, they are afraid, will let too much light into the world." Yet just such another; only a commentator on Aristotle. People are likely to improve their understanding much with Locke: It is not his Human Understanding, but other works, that people dislike, although in that there are some dangerous tenets, as that of no innate ideas.
Page 226. "Could they, like the popish priests, add to this a restraint on the press, their business would be done." So it ought: For example, to hinder his book, because it is written to justify the vices and infidelity of the age. There can be no other design in it. For, is this a way or manner to do good? railing does but provoke. The opinion of the whole parliament is, the clergy are too poor.
Ibid. "When some nations could be no longer kept from prying into learning, this miserable gibberish of the schools was contrived." We have exploded schoolmen as much as he, and in some people's opinion too much, since the liberty of embracing any opinion is allowed; they following Aristotle, who is doubtless the greatest master of arguing in the world: But it has been a fashion of late years to explode Aristotle, and therefore this man has fallen into it like others, for that reason, without understanding him. Aristotle's poetry, rhetorick, and politicks, are admirable; and therefore, it is likely, so are his logicks.
Page 220. "In these freer countries, as the clergy have less power, so religion is better understood, and more useful and excellent discourses are made on that subject, &c." Not generally. Holland not very famous, Spain has been, and France is. But it requires more knowledge than his, to form general rules, which people strain (when ignorant) to false deductions to make them out.
Page 232. Chap. VII. That this hypothesis of an independent power in any set of clergymen, makes ail reformation unlawful, except where those who have this power do consent. The title of this chapter, a Truism.
Page 234. "If God has not placed mankind in respect to civil matters under an absolute power, but has permitted them in every society to act as they judge best for their own safety, &c." Bad parallels; bad politicks; want of due distinction between teaching and government. The people may know when they are governed well, but not be wiser than their instructors. Show the difference.
Ibid. "If God has allowed the civil society these privileges, can we suppose he has less kindness for his church, &c.?" Here they are distinguished then, here it makes for him. It is a sort of turn of expression, which is scarce with him, and he contradicts himself to follow it.
Page 235. "This cursed hypothesis had, perhaps, never been thought on with relation to civils, had not the clergy (who have an inexhaustible magazine of oppressive doctrines) contrived first in ecclesiasticals, &c." The seventh paragraph furious and false. Were there no tyrants before the clergy, &c.?
Page 236. "Therefore in order to serve them, though I expect little thanks, &c." And why so? Will they not, as you say, follow their interest? I thought you said so. He has three or four spritely turns of this kind, that look as if he thought he had done wonders, and had put all the clergy in a ferment. Whereas, I do assure him, there are but two things wonderful in his book: First, how any man in a Christian country could have the boldness and wickedness to write it: And how any government would neglect punishing the author of it, if not as an enemy of religion, yet as a profligate trumpeter of sedition. These are hard words, got by reading his book.
Ibid. "The light of nature, as well as the Gospel, obliges people to judge of themselves, &c. to avoid false prophets, seducers, &c." The legislature can turn out a priest, and appoint another ready-made, but not make one; as you discharge a physician, and may take a farrier; but he is no physician, unless made as he ought to be.
Ibid. "Since no more power is required for the one than the other." That is, I dislike my physician, and can turn him off, therefore I can make any man a physician, &c. Cujus est destruere, &c. Jest on it: Therefore, because he lays schemes for destroying the church, we must employ him to raise it again. See what danger lies in applying maxims at random. So, because it is the soldiers business to knock men on the head, it is theirs likewise to raise them to life, &c.
Page 237. "It can belong only to the people to appoint their own ecclesiastical officers." This word "people" is so delicious in him, that I cannot tell what is included in the idea of the "people." Does he mean the rabble or the legislature, &c. .? In this sense it may be true, that the legislature gives leave to the bishops to appoint, and they appoint themselves; I mean, the executive power appoints, &c. He shows his ignorance in government. As to high church, he carries it a prodigious way, and includes, in the idea of it, more than others will allow.
Page 239. "Though it be customary to admit none to the ministry who are not approved by the bishops or priests, &c." One of his principles to expose.
Ibid. "If every one has not an inherent right to choose his own guide, then a man must be either of the religion of his guide, or, &." That would make dellcate work in a nation: What would become of all our churches? They must dwindle into conventicles. Show what would be the consequence of this scheme in several points. This great reformer, if his projects were reduced to practice, how many thousand sects, and consequently tumults, &c. Men must be governed in speculations, at least not suffered to vent them, because opinions tend to actions, which are most governed by opinions, &c. If those who write for the church writ no better, they would succeed but scurvily. But to see whether he be a good writer, let us see when he has published his second part.
Page 253. "An excellent author in his preface to the account of Denmark." This man judges and writes much of a level. Molesworth's preface full of stale profligate topicks. That author wrote his book in spite to a nation, as this does to religion, and both perhaps on poor personal piques.
Ibid. "By which means, and not by any difference in speculative matters, they are more rich and populous." As if ever any body thought that a difference in speculative opinions made men richer or poorer; for example, &c.
Page 258. "Play the Devil for God's sake." If this is meant for wit, I would be glad to observe it; but in such cases I first look whether there be common sense, &c.
Page 261. "Christendom has been the scene of perpetual wars, massacres, He does not consider that most religious wars have been caused by schisms, when the dissenting parties were ready ta join w ith any ambitious discontented men. The national religion always desires peace, even in her notions, for its interests.
Page 270. "Some have taken the liberty to compare a high church priest in politicks, to a monkey in a glass-shop, where, as he can do no good, so he never fails of doing mischief enough." That is his modesty, it is his own simile, and it rather fits a man that does so and so, meaning himself. Besides, the comparison is foolish: So it is with men, as with stags.
Page 276. "Their interest obliges them directly to promote tyranny." The matter is, that Christianity is the fault which spoils the priests, for they were like other men before they were priests. Among the Romans, priests did not do so; for they had the greatest power during the republick. I wonder he did not prove they spoiled Nero.
Page 277. "No princes have been more insupportable, and done greater violence to the commonwealth, than those the clergy have honoured for saints and martyrs." For example in our country, the princes most celebrated by our clergy are, &c. &c. &c. And the quarrels since the Conquest were nothing at all of the clergy, but purely of families. &c. wherein the clergy only joined like other men.
Page 279. "After the Reformation, I desire to know whether the conduct of the clergy was any ways altered for the better, &c." Monstrous misrepresentation! Does this man's spirit of declaiming let him forget all truth of fact, as here, &c.? Show it. Or does he flatter himself, a time will come in future ages, that men will believe it on his word? In short, between declaiming, between misrepresenting, and falseness, and charging popish things, and independency huddled together, his whole book is employed.
Set forth at large the necessity of union in religion, and the disadvantage of the contrary, and answer the contrary in Holland, where they have no religion, and are the worst constituted government in the world to last. It is ignorance of causes and appearances which makes shallow people judge so much to their advantage. They are governed by the administration and almost legislature of Holland through advantage of property, nor are they fit to be set in balance with a noble kingdom, &c. like a man that gets a hundred pounds a year by hard labour, and one that has it in land.
Page 280. "It may be worth inquiring, whether the difference between the several sects in England, &c." A noble notion started, that union in the church must enslave the kingdom; reflect on it. This man has somewhere heard, that it is a point of wit to advance paradoxes, and the bolder the better. But the wit lies in maintaining them, which he neglects, and forms imaginary conclusions from them, as if they were true and uncontested.
He adds, "That in the best constituted church, the greatest good which can be expected of the ecclesiasticks, is, from their divisions." This is a maxim deduced from a gradation of false suppositions. If a man should turn the tables, and argue that all the debauchery, atheism, licentiousness, &c. of the times, were owing to the poverty of the clergy, &c. what would he say? There have been more wars of religion since the ruin of the clergy, than before, in England. All the civil wars before were from other causes.
Page 283. "Prayers are made in the loyal university of Oxford, to continue the throne free from the contagion of schism. See Mather's Sermon on the 29th of May, 1705." Thus he ridicules the university, while he is eating their bread. The whole university comes with the most loyal addresses, yet that goes for nothing. If one indiscreet man drops an indiscreet word, all must answer for it.
Page 286. "By allowing all, who hold no opinions prejudicial to the state, and contribute equally with their fellow-subjects to its support, equal privileges in it." But who denies that of the dissenters? The Calvinist scheme, one would not think proper for monarchy. Therefore, they fall in with the Scotch, Geneva, and Holland; and when they had strength here, they pulled down the monarchy. But I will tell an opinion they hold prejudicial to the state in his opinion; and that is, that they are against toleration, of which if I do not show him ten times more instances from their greatest writers, than he can do of passive obedience among the clergy, I have done.
"Does not justice demand, that they who alike contribute to the burden, should alike receive the advantage?" Here is another of his maxims closely put without considering what exceptions may be made. The papists have contributed doubly (being so taxed) therefore by this rule they ought to have double advantage. Protection in property, leave to trade and purchase, &c. are enough for a government to give. Employments in a state are a reward for those who entirely agree with it, &c. For example, a man who upon all occasions declared his opinion of a commonwealth to be preferable to a monarchy, would not be a fit man to have employments; let him enjoy his opinion, but not be in a capacity of reducing it to practice, &c.
Page 287. "There can be no alteration in the established mode of church discipline, which is not made in a legal way." Oh! but there are several methods to compass this legal way, by cunning, faction, industry. The common people, he knows, may be wrought upon by priests; these may influence the faction, and so compass a very pernicious laws and in a legal way ruin the state; as king Charles I began to be ruined in a legal way, by passing bills, &c.
Page 288. "As every thing is persecution which puts a man in a worse condition than his neighbours." It is hard to think sometimes whether this man is hired to write for, or against dissenters, and the sects. This is their opinion, although they will not own it so roundly. Let this be brought to practice: Make a quaker lord chancellor, who thinks paying tithes unlawful. And bring other instances to show that several employments affect the church.
Ibid. "Great advantage which both church and state have got by the kindness already shown to dissenters." Let them then be thankful for that. We humour children for their good sometimes, but too much may hurt. Observe that this 64th paragraph just contradicts the former. For, if we have advantage by kindness shown dissenters, then there is no necessity of banishment, or death.
Page 290. "Christ never designed the holy sacrament should be prostituted to serve a party. And that people should be bribed by a place to receive unworthily." Why, the business is, to be sure, that those who are employed, are of the national church; and the way to know it, is, by receiving the sacrament, which all men ought to do in their own church; and if not, are hardly fit for an office; and if they have those moral qualifications he mentions, joined to religion, no fear of receiving unworthily. And for this there might be a remedy: To take an oath that they are of the same principles, &c. for that is the end of receiving; and that it might be no bribe, the bill against occasional conformity would prevent entirely.
Ibid. "Preferring men not for their capacity, but their zeal to the church." The misfortune is, that if we prefer dissenters to great posts, they will have an inclination to make themselves the national church, and so there will be perpetual struggling; which case may be dangerous to the state. For, men are naturally wishing to get over others to their own opinion: witness this writer, who has published as singular and absurd notions as possible, yet has a mighty zeal to bring us over to them, &c.
Page 292. Here are two pages of scurrilous faction, with a deal of reflexions on great persons. Under the notion of high churchmen, he runs down all uniformity and church government. Here is the whole lower house of convocation, which represents the body of the clergy, and both universities, treated with rudeness, by an obscure, corrupt member, while he is eating their bread.
Page 294. "The reason why the middle sort of people retain so much of their ancient virtue, &c. is because no such pernicious notions are the ingredients of their education; which it is a sign are infinitely absurd, when so many of the gentry and nobility can, notwithstanding their prepossession, get clear of them." Now the very same argument lies against religion, morality, honour, and honesty; which are, it seems, but prejudices of education, and too many get clear of them. The middle sort of people have other things to mind than the factions of the age. He always assigns many causes, and sometimes with reason, since he makes imaginary effects. He quarrels at power being lodged in the clergy: When there is no reasonable protestant, clergy or laity, who will not readily own the inconveniences by too great power and wealth, in any one body of men, ecclesiasticks, or seculars: But, on that account to weed up the wheat with the tares; to banish all religion, because it is capable of being corrupted; to give unbounded licence to all sects, &c. And if heresies had not been used with some violence in the primitive age, we should have had, instead of true religion, the most corrupt one in the world.
Page 316. "The Dutch, and the rest of our presbyterian allies, &c." The Dutch will hardly thank him for this appellation. The French huguenots, and Geneva protestants themselves, and others, have lamented the want of episcopacy, and approved ours, &c. In this and the next paragraph, the author introduces the arguments he formerly used, when he turned papist in king James's time; and loth to lose them, he gives them a new turn, and they are the strongest in his book, at least have most artifice.
Page 333. "Tis plain, all the power the bishops have, is derived from the people, &c." In general the distinction lies here. The permissive power of exercising jurisdiction lies in the people, or legislature, or administrator of a kingdom; but not of making him a bishop: as a physician that commences abroad, may be suffered to practise in London or be hindered; but they have not the power of creating him a doctor, which is peculiar to a university. This is some allusion, but the thing is plain, as it seems to me, and wants no subterfuge, &c.
Page 338. "A journeyman bishop to ordain for him." Does any man think, that writing at this rate does the author's cause any service? is it his wit or his spleen that he cannot govern?
Page 364. "Can any have a right to an office, without having a right to do those things in which the office consists?" I answer, the ordination is valid. But a man may prudentially forbid to do some things: as a clergyman may marry without licence or bans; the marriage is good; yet he is punishable for it.
Page 368. "A choice made by persons who have no right to choose, is an errour of the first concoction." That battered simile again! this is hard. I wish physicians had kept that a secret, it lies so ready for him to be witty with.
Page 370. "If prescription can make mere nullities to become good and valid, the laity may be capable of all manner of ecclesiastical power, &c." There is a difference; for, here the same way is kept, although there might be breaches; but it is quite otherwise, if you alter the whole method from what it was at first. We see bishops: there always were bishops: it is the old way still. So a family is still held the same, although we are not sure of the purity of every one of the race.
Page 380. "It is said, that every nation is not a complete body politick within itself as to ecclesiasticals. But the whole church, say they, composes such a body, and Christ is the head of it. But Christ's headship makes Christians no more one body politick with respect to ecclesiasticals, than the civils." Here we must show the reason and necessity of the church being a corporation all over the world: to avoid heresies, and preserve fundamentals, and hinder the corrupting of Scripture, &c. But there are no such necessities in government, to be the same every where, &c. It is something like the colleges in a university; they all are independent, yet joined, are one body. So a general council consisteth of many persons independent of one another, &c.
However there is such a thing as jus gentium, &c. And he that is doctor of physick, or law, is so in any university in Europe, like the Respublica Litteraria. Nor to me does there seem any thing contradicting, or improper in this notion of the catholick church; and for want of such a communion, religion is so much corrupted, and would be more, if there were not more communion in this than in civils. It is of no import to mankind how nations are governed; but the preserving the purity of religion is best held up by endeavouring to make it one body over the world. Something like as there is in trade. So to be able to communicate with all Christians we come among, is at least to be wished and aimed at, as much as we can.
Page 384. "In a word, if the bishops are not supreme, &c." Here he reassumeth his arguments for popery, that there cannot be a body politick of the church through the whole world, without a visible head to have recourse to. These were formerly writ to advance popery, and now to put an absurdity upon the hypothesis of a catholick church. As they say in Ireland, in king James's time they built masshouses, which we make very good barns of.
Page 388. "Bishops are, under a premunire, obliged to confirm and consecrate the person named in the congé d'élire." This perhaps is complained of. He is permitted to do it. We allow the legislature may hinder, if they please; as they may turn out Christianity, if they think fit.
Page 389. "It is the magistrate who empowers them to do more for other bishops than they can for themselves, since they cannot appoint their own successors." Yes they could, if the magistrate would let them. Here is an endless splutter, and a parcel of perplexed distinctions upon no occasion. All that the clergy pretend to, is a right of qualifying men for the ministry, something like what a university doth with degrees. This power they claim from God, and that the civil power cannot do it as pleasing to God without them; but they may choose whether they will suffer it or not. A religion cannot be crammed down a nation's throat against their will; but when they receive a religion, it is supposed they receive it as their converters give it; and upon that foot, they cannot justly mingle their own methods, that contradict that religion, &c.
Page 390. " With us the bishops act only mlnisterially, and by virtue of the regal commission, by which the prince firmly enjoins and commands them to proceed in choosing, confirming, and consecrating, &c." Suppose we held it unlawful to do so: How can we help it? But does that make it rightful, if it be not so? Suppose the author lived in a heathen country, where a law would be made to call Christianity idolatrous; would that be a topick for him to prove it so by, &c. And why do the clergy incur a premunire; to frighten them? Because the law understandeth, that, if they refuse, the chosen cannot be a bishop. But, if the clergy had an order to do it otherwise than they have prescribed, they ought and would incur a hundred rather.
Page 402. "I believe the catholick church, &c." Here he ridicules the Apostles Creed. Another part of his scheme. By what he says in these pages, it is certain, his design is either to run down Christianity, or set up popery; the latter it is more charitable to think, and, from his past life, highly probable.
Page 405. "That which gave the papists so great advantage was, clergymen's talking so very inconsistent with themselves, &c." State the difference here between our separation from Rome, and the dissenters from us, and show the falseness of what he says. I wish he would tell us what he leaves for a clergyman to do, if he may not instruct the people in religion, and if they should not receive his instructions.
Page 411. "The restraint of the press a badge of popery." Why is that a badge of popery? why not restrain the press to those who would confound religion, as in civil matters? But this toucheth himself. He would starve perhaps, &c. Let him get some honester livelihood then. It is plain, all his arguments against constraint, &c. favour the papists as much as dissenters; for both have opinions that may affect the peace of the state.
Page 413. "Since this Discourse, &c." And must we have another volume on this one subject of independency? or, is it to fright us? I am not of Dr. Hickes's mind, Qu'il venge. I pity the readers, and the clergy that must answer it, be it ever so insipid. Reflect on this sarcastic conclusion, &c.
- These Remarks, though left unfinished by the dean, and but the slight prolusions of his strength, show how sincere, how able a champion he was of religion and the church.
- The excellent treatise of Mr. West (on the Resurrection) and that of lord Lyttelton (on the Conversion of St. Paul) will afford a remarkable proof of this observation.
- This is not grammar — it should be the adverb instead of the adjective, "quite contrariwise."
- Page 5, he quotes bishop Stillingfleet's vindication of the doctrine of the Trinity, where the bishop says, that a man might be very right in the belief of an article, though mistaken in the explication of it. Upon which Tindal observes: "These men treat the articles as they do the oath of allegiance, which, they say, obliges them not actually to assist the government, but to do nothing against it; that is, nothing that would bring them to the gallows."
- A ludicrous name for White Friars, which was formerly a privileged place, and consequently a receptacle for sharpers.
- See Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity, Book v, §. 77.