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Church, but give no Matter of Offence or Jealousy to Diflenters? Where: as, if the Qualification for Offices is to consist not so much in frequent and devout Attendance on the publick Celebrations, as in a Distance and Aversion to Diffenters, this cannot but minister just Cause of Fear, that those Assemblies, at which once to be present exposes to so great a Censure, are not likely to continue long allowed by Law. :
No Man can doubt but a Censure of this Kind would prove a notorious Mark of Infamy upon the Assemblies of Dissenters, and in that Respect would affe&t them beyond the Case of Officers ; and the reviv'd Definition of a Converticle, being under the Pretence and Colour of the Exercise of Religion, (it deserves to be considered) whether it might not be construed to allude to, and imply somewhat of those dangerous Practices the. suspended Laws have connected with the said Definition, but there are: other obvious Inconveniencies in this new Method of Qualification ; for it. would expose more a great deal than the present Way (as will be shewn ellewhere) to the predatory Mercy of Informers; it debars the common, natural Respect of Relations, in Baptisms, Funeral Sermons, and the like: It casts a hazardous Discouragement upon Family Prayer, whereat often, among Perfons of Quality, and sometimes others, more than Five may happen to be present, and it brings all foreign Churches under a Censure too ; whereas the. Azt of Uniformity provides, that the Penalties thereof mould not extend to any Reformed Churches of Aliens, allowed, or to be allowed, by his Ma.. jesty or bis Successors ; come such have since bad Encouragement for their Set.. tlement from Parliament, and have proved beneficial in Manufa£tures to this Kingdom ; toward which their Liberty of Conscience, without Reflection, has not a little contributed.
The second Distinction I have made of the Extent (or enacting Part of this Bill) is of the Offices intended by it to be affected, which clearly falls under a twofold Definition, one, the same with that in the Act, 25 Car. II, For preventing Dangers which may happen from Popish Recufants; the other of the 13th of Car. II. For well governing and regulating Corporations. Now because this seems the most tender and sensible Part of the Bill, most liable to Mistake, and upon the right Apprehension whereof our. Judgment of the whole must very much depend; before I descend into a Disquisition of it, I beg Leave to deviate a little from the just Method of Discourse ; and therefore, before I endeavour to prove what the Bill, under this Head, would have enacted-new, I will first lay down and consider the Reason com-, monly alledg'd, why the same ought to be.
What is commonly alledged, as the Ground of the new Provisions in this Bill, amounts to thus much; that a National Church being absolutely needful to a Government, the only effectual Way to preserve it, is by keeping the Civil Power in the Hands of such whose Practice and Principles are agreeable thereto; and that this is equally necessary to the Safety and Peace of the State likewise; but, say they, the present Laws proving too weak to secure those Blessings, because they are eluded by occasional Con
guithe Church and State may be agreed to 99
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ere taken to enjom approve it, tho' there
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formity, therefore there wants some new Expedients to support them; these Maxims we can readily grant ; so far as the Security and Prace of the State appear undoubtedly concerned, so much is allowed on all Hands for inconteftible; but the Matter in Question before us seems to be, whether Occasional Conformity of Diflenters has really endanger'd the Safety, and violated the Peace of Church and State? Or has any Principles in it difagreeable therewith? Which Matter cannot yet be taken for concluded, · as the Proceedings of Parliament published do evince, and whereof therefore che present Juncture and Occasion give Liberty to speak.
In order to examine then this Matter aright, we think proper to distinguish the Relation which the Occasional Conformity of Diffenters may bear to the Church and State severally; first therefore in Reference to the State, Occafona! Conformity (it may be agreed to us) is no new Thing, but even Coæval with the Act of Uniformity itself; fo that in 40 Years Experience, if it were evident that Injuries to the Peace of the Government had arose thence, how came it to pass they pould be overlookt so long? But while several Ways were taken to enjoin Conformity, how Occasional soever, it was in no Kind before made penal to approve it, tho' thereby. Offices were attained ; after such a large Attestation from Fact, it would be needless to say, Occasional Conformity of Disfenters has in itself no Principles dangerous to the Peace of the Government, if there were not anotherSort of Conformity which does obstinately maintain such as withdraw Men from their Allegiance to her Gracious Majesty, and from all Respect to the present Establishment of the Crown ; but as to Principles, further than is obvious from Practice, it is not my proper Province to discourse, that being already sufficiently treated of by Divines.
If the Time past has not produced a Necessity of any new Provision as gainst Accidental or Occasional Conformity, I think we may be confident the present much less does; for if the Laws already in being do intend, that Men in Office should be entirely conformable, Her Gracious Majesty has assured all the World, there can be no Danger from Occasional Conformity in this auspicious Reign, by these Words of Her last Speech to the Parliament; I shall always make it my particular Care to encourage and maintain this Church as by Law established, and the least Member of it, in all their just Rights and Privileges. And now having delivered my Sentiment, upon Observations of the past and present Time, to go further would be to wade into the Politicks beyond my Depth. I can say nothing certain of Futurity; but since the Diffenters are known, beyond doubt, to be very cordially affected to the Protestant Succeflion, methinks, whatever Qualifications may be judged requisite for Places of Magistracy and publick. Trust, they may well expect (beyond a Provision for that) no Hardships will be laid upon them now.
Secondly, To consider Occasional Conformity in Reference to the Church, it might suffice to say, the Affairs of it (distinct from those of the State) do no Ways lie under the Cognizance of such, whom that may vest with
Goveroment; but for what properly concerns the Honour and Welfare of the Church of England, the firīt Words of this Bill do imply, that her greatest Glory confifts in the Character of Moderation, Sweetness, and Charity, truly Christian and Apoftolick, and very justly ; for this would recommend her to all the Reformed Churches of Christendom, as wortly to be ackrowa. ledg’d their chief and best. In the Reigir of Queen Elizabeth, all the Papists in England came to Church, and were Occasional Conformists, yet the Government was not uneasy, and in Danger by it; but the Pope, fearing what that was like foon to grow to, put a Stop to it by Bull, and the Church of Rome does generally to this Day encourage every Thing like to Occasional Conformity of Protestants ; and the Effects new they are in the right, and gain their Ends by it. In like Manner, can it be thought that the Church has gained from any sort of the Disenters among us, as from those who have al., lowed and frałt i sed an Occasional. Conformity with her ? Has me not, by permitting it, obtained many useful and worthy Members? Does not the Practice of it weaken the Dissenters, and encrease her Reputation and Authority? Where then has been the Damage to the Church from Occasional Conformity? It would be difficult to Thew what Security, Honour or Interest, she has lost, during the greatest Indulgence to Dissenters in the late Reign, of any Thing she possess'd before that Time, during the imspeakable Sufferings of others; therefore it must be an Accession of Honour and Safety unto her, that she is now, by Clemency, become reverenced of those who formerly were suspected for her Enemies.
Having thus made Enquiry, what Reason there is to apprehend that the Safety of the Church and State has been, or is, endanger'd: by the Latitude allowed to Disfenters, from the present Condition of the Laws ; I proceed, according to Promise, to enquire what Alteration would arise on the Head of Offices from the Bill now under Consideration, which I shall do in two Denominations of them; I mean, those comprehended in the Test Act, and those peculiarly affected by that for regulating Corporations ; premising here only, that the Offices of the latter Sort, which do directly fall within the Test, I judge better to consider in that Denomination, becaufe thereby what remains will be more distinct and intelligible, when we handle it apart.
First, For the Test Clause, which is the former in this part of the Bill, without reciting the Words of it, we may be allowed to say upon good Authority, That manifestly and indisputably it does comprebend all the confiderable Offices and Employments of publick Trust in the Kingdom, in which the Security of the Government may be concerned; the Experience of 30 Years poft has justified the Measures taken by that Law, that it is extensive enough as to the several sorts of Offices for publick Security; the Terms of it are express, clear, and universally understood, without any Uncertainty as to what Employments it relates, which is net so evident in those of the Corporation AEZ ; the said Ast includes all Offices of Magistracy, in especial, as well within Corporations as without ; and at the enacting of it, there was little Regard had
to the Aft for regulating Corporations, because a more effettual Security to the Church was given hereby. It cannot be taxed as insufficient to compass the End designed by it, which was exprelly to prevent Dangers that night happen from Popish Recufants, and to exclude from Offices all others who will not take the Sacrament according to the. Uluge of the Church established. After this Manner, and in a due Medium, as would be easy in another Sort of Discourse, to make appear the Safety and Peace of the Church and State, have been fully provided for ; nor have the Measures of it to procure those been any Ways (in particular the Penalties) found deficient.
This Act being fo extensive and compleat, that it reaches whatever OFfices concern the Safety of the Government, and is not deficient in any Means to attain its End. If Dangers should from Occasional Conformity arise, it were easy at any Time to enjoin such Frequency at the publick Offices of the Church, as might denominate an entire Conformist, without a Brand upon separate Assemblies, to raise again the Seeds of fatal Animosities; but as to the Places of Magistracy and publick Truft, already comprehended in the Test, as they concern the Security of State much more, so they affect the Body of Dislenters much less, than those in the Corporations; for which Cause, what is to be said in their Behalf is more properly referr'd to that Head. It would also be very unbecoming any Sort of Men to enter into Argument with their Governors upon those high Points, which are so absolutely in the Legislature to judge of and determine ; 'tis not fit for me so much as to offer an Opinion : An Explanation of the Test, more to the Disadvantage of Disfenters, might indeed deprive several of some profitable Places, in the Royal Houshold, the Exchequer, the Navy, the Excise, the Customs, and elsewhere ; but the Magistracy of the City would be the chief Import of this Matter ; concerning which, what Inconveniences have arose to the Government from the Course of Things for near twenty Years past there, and how an Alteration in it will any Ways tend to the Advantage of the State, is equally to me undiscernible ; but this I do adventure to say, that if Men, whom the Negative Qualification of this Bill would have rendered incapable to serve in such Offices, should have been finable nevertheless for not serving them, and that toties quoties, as the Humour of the World might lead, chat Sort of Persecution might possibly rise pretty high.
Secondly, It remains to examine what the proposed Bill would have introduced de novo, upon the Head of the Corporation Act diftinctly; the Clause whereof, expressive of the Offices it would affect, is in these Words: Any Mayor, Alderman, Recorder, Bayliff, Town-Clerk, CommonCouncil-Man, or other Person, bearing any Office of Magistracy, or Places, or Trusts, or other Employment, relating to, or concerning, the Government of the respective Cities, Corporations, Boroughs, Cinque-Ports, and their Members, and other Port-Towns. As to so much hereof as concerns Magistracy, the Test Act having better provided, my Discourse is to be hence
forth restrained to what herein touches only intrinsick and inferior Employments, relating to the several Boroughs respectively, wherein the Security of the Church and State does not seem to be much concerned.
Most of our Laws have sprung from the evident Necessities of the Times, and so came in as Remedies to the proper Distempers of them, which is in none more apparent than this of the Corporations, the 1316 Car. II. Thoje deplorable Confusions which had tormented the Nation, for nigh twenty Years preceding, lay fresh upon the Minds of the Parliament, when that AEt was made ; and 'tis evident, that nothing but so extraordinary a Juncture could bave excused some parts of it : Nay, it was principally founded upon Reasons fo peculiar to that Time, they are far from being pertinent to ours; for there is now no solemn League and Covenant needs to be renounced; the Declaration in it, that it is not lawful, upon any Pretence whatsoever, to take up Arms against the King, and of Abhorrence of that traiterous Position of doing so by bis Authority against his Perfon, or those commisjoned by him, (which was the Touchftone of the said Act and Times) is now utterly. abrogated, and no Person henceforth can be obliged to take the same, as appears in the AE Primo W. and M. for appointing other Oaths; the Oaths of Supremacy and Allegiance therein are also chang'd; the Power given by it to the Crown, to constitute Commissioners for two years to turn out, and put in the Corporation Officers ad libitum, tho' they were conformable to the Qualifications*required by the Aet, was an Extra. vagance the present Age would scarce approve ; tbe Preamble Speaks of it as a Tbing too well known, that notwithstanding his Majesty's unparallelld Good. ness in pardoning what was past, there were many evil Spirits ftill working. We do not therefore herein go about to censure the Measures of that Act, as they were suited to the Juncture; but as the Reasons, the Jealousies and Foundations, whereon that Act was built, were so appropriate to that Time, that the several Parts of it here above-mentioned (as unsuitable to any other) are since abolished. It is pretty clear that the primary Intent thereof had its full and due Effect from the Commissioner's Power, and the Imposition of renouncing the Covenant and Declaration of Fidelity; for there was little Regard had to it at the Time that a more effe&tual Security to the Church was provided by the Test.
We come therefore to consider in the next Place, what remains yet unrazed of that Act in 13 Car. II. for well governing and regulating Corporations ; and then will clearly be discerned what the proposed Bill would have superadded, touching the Offices of Magiftracy, the Test Act has much better and effectually provided, which has been already consider'd ; and cherefore, as to what is distinctly under my present Head of Discourse to be treated of, there remains in Substance of the Corporation Act yet in Force no more than this, That no Man shall be placed, elected, or chosen in or to any Offices, or Places, or Trusts, or other Employment relating to, or concerning the Government of the respective Boroughs, &c. who has not, within one Year before such Election, taken the Sacrament according to the Rites of the Church of England; In Default whereof, every fuck Election is thereby de