Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

of England, of which the following is a copy;

Toleration for these ten years past has not been more the cry of some, than Persecution has been the practice of others, though not on grounds equally rational.

“ The present cause of this address is to solicit a conversion of that power to our relief, which hitherto has been employed to our depression; that after this large experience of our innocency and long since expired apprenticeship of cruel sufferings you will be pleased to cancel all our bonds, and give us a possession of those freedoms to which we are entitled by English birth-right.

“ This has been often promised to us, and we as earnestly have expected the performance; but to this time we labour under the unspeakable pressure of nasty prisons, and daily confiscation of our goods, to the apparent ruin of entire families.

“ We would not attribute the whole of this severity to malice, since not a little share may justly be ascribed to misintelligence.

· For 'tis the infelicity of governours to see and hear by the eyes and ears of other

men ;

men ; which is equally unhappy for the people.

“ And we are bold to say, that suppositions and mere conjectures have been the best measures that most have taken of us and of our principles; for, whilst there have been none more inoffensive, we have been marked for capital offenders.

“ 'Tis hard that we should always lie under this undeserved imputation, and, which is worse, be persecuted as such without the liberty of a just defence.

“ In short, if you are apprehensive that our principles are inconsistent with the civil government, grant us a free conference about the points in question, and let us know what are those laws essential to preservation that our opinions carry an opposition to: and if, upon a due inquiry, we are found so heterodox as represented, it will be then but time enough to inflict these heavy penalties upon us.

“ And as this medium seems the fairest and most reasonable, so can you never do yourselves greater justice either in the vindication of your proceedings against us, if we be criminal, or, if innocent, in disen

gaging your service of such as have been the authors of so much misinformation. “But could we once obtain the favour of such debate, we doubt not to evince a clear consistency of our life and doctrine with the English Government; and that an indulging of Dissenters in the sense defended is not only most christian and rational, but prudent also ; and the contrary, however plausibly insinuated, the most injurious to the peace, and destructive of that discreet balance, which the best and wisest states have ever carefully observed. “But if this fair and equal offer find not a place with you on which to rest its foot, much less that it should bring us back the olive-branch of Toleration, we heartily embrace and bless the Providence of God, and in his strength resolve by patience to outweary persecution, and by our constant sufferings seek to obtain a victory more glorious than any our adversaries can achieve by all their cruelties.” This excellent address was followed by a preface. He began the latter by observing, that, if the friends of persecution were men of as much reason as they counted them

selves to be, it would be unnecessary for him to inform them, that no external coercive power could convince the understanding, neither could fines and imprisonments be judged fit and adequate penalties for faults purely intellectual. He maintained the folly of coercive measures on such occasions on another account; for the enaction of such laws as restrained persons from the free exercise of their consciences in matters of religion was but the knotting of whipcord on the part of the enactors to lash their own posterity, whom they could never promise to be conformed for ages to come to a national religion. He then defined liberty of conscience to be “the free and uninterrupted exercise of our consciences in that way of worship we were most clearly persuaded God required of us to serve him in, without endangering our undoubted birthright of English freedoms, which being matter of faith we sinned if we omitted, and they could not do less who should endeavour it.” After this he showed how this liberty of conscience had been invaded by the plundering and oppressing of those who had used it; and concluded by pronouncing that, if such desolation were allowed to

continue, , continue, the state must inevitably proceed to its own decay.

Having finished the preface, he went to the body of the work, which consisted of six chapters. But here I find it impossible for want of room to detail the contents of these. The reader therefore must be satisfied with the following account. He coincided, he said, with many, in considering the union (for the oppressive bill in question)“ to be very ominous and unhappy, which made the first discovery of itself by a John Baptist's head in a charger, by a feast to be made upon the liberties and properties of free-born Englishmen; for to cut off the entail of their undoubted hereditary rights, on account of inatters purely relative to another world, was a severe beheading in the law.” He then maintained that they, who imposed fetters upon the conscience and persecuted for conscience sake, defeated God's work of grace, or the invisible operation of his holy Spirit, which could alone begét faith; that they claimed infallibility, which all good Protestants rejected ; and that they usurped the divine prerogative, assuming the judgement of the Great

Tribunal,

« ZurückWeiter »