The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 5/Queries Relating to the Sacramental Test
THE SACRAMENTAL TEST.
WRITTEN IN THE YEAR 1732.
query, WHETHER hatred and violence between parties in a state, be not more inflamed by different views of interest, than by the greater or lesser differences between them, either in religion or government?
Whether it be any part of the question at this time, which of the two religions is worse, popery or fanaticism; or not rather, which of the two (having both the same good will) is in the hopefullest condition to ruin the church?
Whether the sectaries, whenever they come to prevail, will not ruin the church as infallibly and effectually as the papists?
Whether the prevailing sectaries could allow liberty of conscience to dissenters, without belying all their former practice, and almost all their former writings?
Whether many hundred thousand Scotch presbyterians are not fully as virulent against the episcopal church, as they are against the papists; or as they would have us think the papists are against them?
Whether the Dutch, who are most distinguished for allowing liberty of conscience, do ever admit any persons, who profess a different scheme of worship from their own, into civil employments, although they may be forced by the nature of their government to receive mercenary troops of all religions?
Whether the dissenters ever pretended, until of late years, to desire more than a bare toleration?
Whether, if it be true, what a sorry pamphleteer asserts, who lately writ for repealing the test, that the dissenters in this kingdom are equally numerous with the churchmen, it would not be a necessary point of prudence, by all proper and lawful means, to prevent their farther increase?
The great argument given, by those whom they call low churchmen, to justify the large tolerations allowed to disssenters, has been; that by such indulgences, the rancour of those sectaries would gradually wear off, many of them would come over to us, and their parties, in a little time, crumble to nothing.
Query, Whether if what the above pamphleteer asserts, that the sectaries are equal in numbers with conformists, be true, it does not clearly follow, that those repeated tolerations, have operated directly contrary, to what those low church politicians pretended to foresee and expect?
Whether any clergyman, however dignified or distinguished, if he think his own profession most agreeable to Holy Scripture, and the primitive church, can really wish in his heart, that all sectaries should be upon an equal foot with the churchmen, in the point of civil power and employments?
Whether episcopacy, which is held by the church to be a divine and apostolical institution, be not a fundamental point of religion, particularly in that essential one of conferring holy orders?
Whether, by necessary consequences, the several expedients among the sectaries to constitute their teachers, are not absolutely null and void?
Whether the sectaries will ever agree to accept ordination only from bishops?
Whether the bishops and clergy will be content to give up episcopacy, as a point indifferent, without which the church can well subsist?
Whether that great tenderness toward sectaries, which now so much prevails, be chiefly owing to the fears of popery, or to that spirit of atheism, deism, scepticism, and universal immorality, which all good men so much lament?
Granting popery to have many more errours in religion, than any one branch of the sectaries, let us examine the actions of both, as they have each affected the peace of these kingdoms, with allowance for the short time which the sectaries had to act in, who are in a manner but of yesterday. The papists, in the time of king James the Second, used all endeavours to establish their superstition, wherein they failed by the united power of English church-protestants, with the prince of Orange's assistance. But it cannot be asserted, that these bigotted papists had the least design to oppose or murder their king, much less, to abolish kingly government; nor was it their interest or inclination to attempt either.
On the other side the puritans, who had almost from the beginning of queen Elizabeth's reign been a perpetual thorn in the church's side, joining with the Scotch enthusiasts, in the time of king Charles the First, were the principal cause of the Irish rebellion and massacre, by distressing that prince, and making it impossible for him to send over timely succours. And after that prince had satisfied his parliament in every single point to be complained of, the same sectaries, by poisoning the minds and affections of the people, with the most false and wicked representations of their king, were able, in the compass of a few years, to embroil the three nations in a bloody rebellion, at the expense of many thousand lives; to turn the kingly power into anarchy; to murder their prince in the face of the world; and (in their own style) to destroy the church root and branch.
The account therefore stands thus. The papists aimed at one pernicious act, which was to destroy the protestant religion; wherein by God's mercy, and the assistance of our glorious [[w:William III of England|king William, they absolutely failed. The sectaries attempted the three most infernal actions that could possibly enter into the hearts of men forsaken by God; which were, the murder of a most pious king, the destruction of the monarchy, and the extirpation of the church; and succeeded in them all.
Upon which I put the following queries: Whether any of those sectaries have ever yet in a solemn publick manner renounced any one of those principles, upon which their predecessors then acted?
Whether, considering the cruel persecutions of the episcopal church during the course of that horrid rebellion, and the consequences of it until the happy restoration, it is not manifest, that the persecuting spirit lies so equally divided between the papists and the sectaries, that a feather would turn the balance on either side?
And therefore, lastly, Whether any person of common understanding, who professes himself a member of the church established, although, perhaps with little inward regard to any religion (which is too often the case) if he loves the peace and welfare of his country, can, after cool thinking, rejoice to see a power placed again in the hands of so restless, so ambitious, and so merciless a faction, to act over all the same parts a second time!
Whether the candour of that expression, so frequent of late in sermons and pamphlets, of the strength and number of the papists in Ireland, can be justified? for, as to their number, however great, it is always magnified in proportion to the zeal or politicks of the speaker and writer; but it is a gross imposition upon common reason, to terrify us with their strength. For, popery, under the circumstances it lies in this kingdom, although it be offensive and inconvenient enough from the consequences it has to increase the rapine, sloth, and ignorance, as well as poverty of the natives, is not properly dangerous in that sense, as some would have us take it; because it is universally hated by every party of a different religious profession. It is the contempt of the wise; the best topick for clamours of designing men; but the real terrour only of fools. The landed popish interest in England, far exceeds that among us, even in proportion to the wealth and extent of each kingdom. The little that remains here is daily dropping into protestant hands, by purchase or descent; and that affected complaint of counterfeit converts, will fall with the cause of it in half a generation, unless it be raised or kept alive as a continual fund of merit and eloquence. The papists are wholly disarmed: they have neither courage, leaders, money, or inclinations to rebel: they want every advantage which they formerly possessed, to follow their trade; and wherein, even with those advantages, they always miscarried: they appear very easy and satisfied under that connivance, which they enjoyed during the whole last reign; nor ever scrupled to reproach another party, under which they pretend to have suffered so much severity.
Upon these considerations, I must confess to have suspended much of my pity toward the great dreaders of popery; many of whom appear to be hale, strong, active, young men; who, as I am told, eat, drink, and sleep heartily; and are very cheerful (as they have exceeding good reason) upon all other subjects. However, I cannot too much commend the generous concern, which our neighbours and others who come from the same neighbourhood, are so kind to express for us upon this account; although the former, be farther removed from the danger of popery, by twenty leagues of salt water; but this, I fear, is a digression.
When an artificial report was raised here many years ago, of an intended invasion by the pretender (which blew over after it had done its office) the dissenters argued, in their talk and in their pamphlets, after this manner, applying themselves to those of the church: "Gentlemen, if the pretender had landed, as the law now stands, we durst not assist you; and therefore, unless you take off the test, whenever you shall happen to be invaded in earnest, if we are desired to take up arms in your defence, our answer shall be, Pray, gentlemen, fight your own battles; we will lie by quietly; conquer your enemies by yourselves, if you can; we will not do your drudgery." This way of reasoning I have heard from several of their, chiefs and abettors, in a hundred conversations; and have read it in twenty pamphlets: and I am confident it will be offered again, if the project should fail to take off the test.
Upon which piece of oratory and reasoning I form the following query: Whether, in case of an invasion from the pretender (which is not quite so probable as from the grand signior) the dissenters can with prudence and safety, offer the same plea; except they shall have made a previous stipulation with the invaders? And whether the full freedom of their religion and trade, their lives, properties, wives, and children, are not, and have not always been reckoned, sufficient motives for repelling invasion; especially in our sectaries, who call themselves the truest protestants, by virtue of their pretended or real fierceness against popery?
Whether omitting or neglecting to celebrate the day of the martyrdom of the blessed king Charles the First, enjoined by act of parliament, can be justly reckoned a particular and distinguishing mark of good affection to the present government?
Whether, in those churches where the said day is observed, it will fully answer the intent of the said act, if the preacher shall commend, excuse, palliate, or extenuate the murder of that royal martyr; and place the guilt of that horrid rebellion, with all its consequences, the following usurpations, the entire destruction of the church, the cruel and continual persecutions of those who could be discovered to profess its doctrines, with the ensuing Babel of fanaticism, to the account of that blessed king; who, by granting the petition of right, and passing every bill that could be asked for the security of the subject, had, by the confession of those wicked men before the war began, left them nothing more to demand?
Whether such a preacher as I have named (whereof there have been more than one, not many years past, even in the presence of viceroys) who takes that course as a means for promotion, may not be thought to step a little out of the common road, in a monarchy, where the descendants of that most blessed martyr have reigned to this day?
I ground the reason of making these queries on the title of the act; to which I refer the reader.