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TRACTS. known, most of them, to be the Men who, in a Reign preceding, had like, by their great Moderation and Temper, to have ruin'd our Religion, Laws, and Liberty; yet now they were cried up as the only proper Persons to protect and affert them, their gross Railing magnified as Zeal, and their Navish Obsequiousness was made as Argument of their Affection to the Government, tho' they had given the same Proofs of both before to him they then railed at.
By these a Comprehenfion was laboured, which might admit into the Dignities of the Church and State a Medly of Men, who, ever since the first Spawning of their Sect, have been profess'd Enemies of both, some of which, however they may call themselves Protestants, have not yet been able to prove themselves Cbristians, To bring about this Project, on which the main home Strength of their Scheme depended, the principal Gentlemen all over England, whose Principles and Penetration they feared, were brought into Disgrace with the King and the Mob, whom they perfuaded, whoever had the Courage to oppose their Party, was a Papist, a Jacobite, or a Favourer of France, and disaffected to the Government, as they called themselves. Instead of those, they brought into the Commissions of the Lieutenancy and Peace, almost all England over, a Set of Fellows of no Fortune, Honour or Reputation, or Gentlemen of known Averfion to the Monarchy and Church of England, that by these Promotions the Courage of the Dissenters might be rouzed, and the Ambition of the Mob elevated to afpire to the like Preferments, by insulting their best Patriots, and trampling upon Authority. Huw far they fucceeded in these Attempts may beseen in the almost universal Corruption and Depravation of the meaner People throughout England, and the Affronts which were fo openly put upon the last Parliament by that Party; and tho' we are highly obliged to, and ever ought to be sensible of the gallant Stand then made by many woreby Gentlemen of both Houfes in our Defence, yet it is to providence that we owe the entire Defeat of these curs'd Designs, if yet we may reckon that Work compleat,
The Countenance of the Court, the Hopes of Preferment, and the Clamour and Impudence of the mercenary Promoters of these dangerous Defigns, prevaild upon the Simplicity of the well-meaning People, whom it is necessary, at this. Time, to undeceive, especially those who are truly of the Church of England. But seeing some, whom, from their outward Profession, they thought Churchmen, go into a wrong Interett, have been miled to bear them Company, without apprehending their true Intent and Meaning; to arm all fuch, and all Protestant Diffenters, who have no othir Aim than the peaceable Enjoyment of their own Conscience and Worship, however erroneous, it may fuffice to give such general Cautions as will distinguish with what Principle, and upon what: Views Men act, without defending to personal Reflections, how well foever deferved by fome People.
God has been graciously pleased to give us a Queen as truly English by InInclination, as by Birth, who, both by Principle and Practice, has given us undoubted Demonstration of her fincere Affection and Zeal for our Church
and Constitution. If therefore we do not make use of this Blessing to second her pious Intentions, and establish both for ever, we should be guilty of a great Neglect of Providence, and perhaps put ourselves out of the Protection of it for ever hereafter.
This is not said to inflame any body against those who diffent from us in Opinion, but to warn against the Practices of those who (without any Regard to Religion) have By-ends to pursue, and encourage one Party only to the Destruction of both
Reason and Experience have both taught, that our Church and Constitucion must of Neceflity 'ftand or fall together; and that all those, of whacfoever Sect or Denomination, who have aim'd at the Subversion of one, have labour'd the Destruction of the other likewise. It will therefore highly behove all Protestants, Lovers of the English Conftitution, whether they be Conformists to the established Church or not, to contribute their utmost Endeavours towards the Support of it ; fince with that the English Constitution and Liberty must necessarily fink. . The Reign of Queen Mary, the Ufurpation of the Rump, and the Tyranny of Oliver, have, to our Sorrow, manifestly evinced this long since; therefore they who aim only at Liberty of Conscience, of which they are now fecure, while they continue quiet, can have no interest to shake that Fabrick under which alone they can be sheltred. I shall not enquire upon what Motives ( but it is expected that upon
the Conclusion of this Sessions) this Queen should diffolve this Parliament. Upon Supposition that it will be so, it may not be improper to shew how much it imports the People to be wise and circumspect in their next Choice : For if they shall hereafter be fo_unsteady, so loose, and fo corrupt as they have been in many of their lace Elections, they will lose the faireft Opportunity that they ever had to resettle both Church and State, and give such Head to Faction and Corruption, as may in Time give them Power to dismount their Conftitution.
The People ought to confider, that when they have made Choice of their Representatives, they have parted with their Power, and lodg'd it in them for so long a Time as they continue to be such; and therefore they ought to be very cautious and wary in the Disposition of luch a Trust, and to be very fure of the Fidelity of the Persons in whom they place it. To arrive at such a Certainty as seemos neceffary in so great a Case, appears from the Experiences of many Ages to be very difficult, but more especially in this, when the pretended Principles, and real Practices of some Men (who were desirous to have been thought the only true Friends to the Government ) have been found so little of a Piece, to establish such a Criterion as shall infallibly distinguish the Sound from the Unsound (if the Use of Terms may be allowed, by which a certain Party have affected to discriminate themselves) seems almost morally impoffible; but it may not be very hard to assign some Marks, which may certainly shew that the Persons who bear them are altogether unfit for that Trust and Dignity,
: The profess'd Dissenters from the Church here establish'd by Law, have (one would think) pals'd a Sort of a Bill of Exclusion upon themselves, and with their own. Hands shut the Door of the House of Commons against themselves : But so supinely secure were the Church of England Men, that they have lent their Hands to their Enemies to force open that Door for them which they had fufficiently barr'd against themselves. This is what some Men, who would be thought Friends to the Church, and wise for it, labour'd. hard for, under the Name of Comprehension, a Thing that wou'd let in every Man of what Sect loever that is not called a Papift, except the true Church of England Men, whom only they would exclude. There is little Need of Warning to those who are truely solicitous for the Church, and understand rightly wherein its true Excellence and Securitity consists; but as few are gifted with so much Penetration and Discernment, there are many who profess themselves her Sons, who have given her, thro' their Imprudence, many cruel and dangerous Wounds, not exempting some who have their daily Bread from her, whom we must in Charity believe to have acted what they did without any true Foresight of the natural Tendency of their Actions.
There are two Sorts of People who ought especially to be inform’d of some Errors both in Judgment and Practice, which (if purlu'd) may in Time prove fatal to them ; the Persons hereby meant, are, first, such as think Ecclesiastick Policy and external Forms of Worship Things indifferent, that may without Detriment be altered, or changed, according to the Pleasure of the supreme Magistrate, the Humour of the People, or the Circumstances of the Times ; and next, the modeft Protestant Disenters, (who, I hope, are the greatest Part of them) who, tho' dissatisfied with the Form of Worship establish'd in the Church of England, yet, by their Separation, aim at nothing more than the Liberty of serving God in their own Way.
It is not the Business of chis Paper to convince either of these Parties of their Errors ; let one think themselves right in their Indifference, and t’other in their Separation ; let us wave the religious Part of the Argument, and consider only, how in Prudence both thele Sorts of Mnn ought to act, in regard to the Civil Constitution of England; for otherwise they ought not to have the Benefit and Protection of it.
The first of these being indifferent as to the Form of Ecclesiastical Worship and Government, can't be suppos’d to concern themselves farther about it, than to secure the Ease and Quiet of the Laity, from the Imposi ion and Tyranny of Priests ; what they offer farther, may justly be suspected of Self-design and Interest.
It were easy to prove, were the Matter to be contested, that the Church of England is the most reasonably constituted both to Doctrine and Discipline, for the Ease of the Laity, and the Ends of Religin, of any Christian Church in the World ; for as our Church claims no implicit Faith, as that of Rome does, so neither do her Priests usurp any Power or Jurisdiction overthe Consciences of those whom they are to instruct and take Care of, or pretend to determine of particular Election or Reprobation, as most of our Pro
testant Diffenting Ministers,do;, and thereby gain an Ascendant over the Consciences of ignorant timorous People, which is scarce consistent with Freedom of Mind, or Liberty of Conscience. But should the Church of England be destroyed, some one of these must be set up; or I presume no Man would have us without a national Church of fome kind or other : And let the Man of Indifference pitch upon which of the known Forms he pleases, and he will find himself infinitely more crampt by it, and more a Slave to the Priests, than ever he thought himself in the Church of England. But should the Church of England be diffolved, before the several Sects and Parties were agreed what to set up in the Room of it, what then were we to expect, but that they should fall together by the Ears, and that the crafty Priest that had the best Knack of leading the Mob by the Ears, must necessarily, in the Conclusion, have the fole Direction of all spiritual Matters ; and consequently we should fall into a worse Sort of Popery than that of the Church of Rome? This is no Chimera, no melancholy Dream or Fancy, but such a Truth as Observation and Experience of former Times, even in these Kingdoms, have furnished. This, I suppose, may sufice to convince the indifferent Man, that it will be impossible for him to alter our Ecclesiastical Constitution for the better, according to his Notions.
As for the Protestant Diflenters, whose Scruples, whether juft or unjust, hinder him from conforming to the Discipline and Worship of our Church, if he aims at nothing more than the Liberty of worshipping in Purity, according to his own Sense, he has already, and need not doubt the Indulgence of the Queen, so long as he behaves himself with that inoffensive Modesty, and peaceable Disposition towards the national Church, which is due from a private Separatist, who would not incur the Censure and Penalties of a tur, bulent Schifmatick.
But fupposing the Diffenters were not fo modest in their Desires, as it is hoped most of 'em are) considering the Number and Variety of Sects, and the Weakness of each of them apart, what Benefit can any one Party, propose to itself from the Ruin of the establish's Church, were they able to effect it? Does their Diffention from the Church of England unite them either in Doctrine or Discipline ? Does it bring them nearer to a Conformity with one another? No, but so much the contrary, could they prevail against the Church, they would be bitterer Enemies to one another than ever they were to the Church. We have experienc'd this Truth in those unhappy Days when the Crown and Mitre were trampled upon, and God's House made a Den of Thieves, that fell out and were ready to cut each others Throats about the Possession and Division of it. Our Sectaries then saw how impracticable a Comprehension was, and that there was not one Sect among them that did did not think worse of all the rest than of the Church they labour'd to pull down. But we have more recent Inftances than that, which prove that they cannot bear even the Dawning of Hopes with any tolerable good Accord, - We have seen the two Sticks which a false Prophet of theirs had pronounced
Sermon on the Union of the Pefbyterians and Independents, preach'd at Pinner's. Hall. Vok, III.
to be made one for ever, foon sever'd, and made use of to break each others Heads. An Instance which plainly proves that Faction shall never be at Rest or Unity.
Such Dissenters as I have mentioned ought to be satisfied with the present Indulgence which the Church allows them, and resting themselves contented with the undisturbed Exercise of their Religion and Conscience, to give the established Church no Jealouty of their Ill-meaning or Designs, and thereby provoke them, and indeed, make it necessary to lay them under greater Restraints and Incapacities than are at present intended them, or by destroying (were they able) that Church which now protects them, to fall under the Tyranny of a Sect which would have no such Tenderness for them.
* But if they entertain any Hopes that they, even united, shall be able to bid Defiance to the established Church, they are extremely mistaken in their own Strength; for tho' they have been able to make a confiderable Noife and Bustle in the World, yet were they themselves but weak and inconsiderable ; the main Strength of their Party lay in an auxiliary Body of falte Church-goers, who joined them, not out of any Love or Respect to them, but to their own private Interest. These were Men whose Eyes were always fix'd on the Countenance of the Court, Men that were always resolved to be on the funny Side, be that whatever it was ; these are a Sort of Court Weather-cocks that veer about with every Wind, and watch the Disposition of Ministers and Favourites fo carefully, that they understand a Nod, or a Shrug, and are ready to execute their Pleasure, be it what it will, before it is plainly signified ; however, they may thank their Stars, that they wanted not a Set of Ministers who could make very broad Signs, otherwise they might officiously have mistaken them, and followed the Words of their Disections contrary to their Meaning. It is hardly to be thought that the Diffenters will depend on these Sun-Flowers for their Afiftance at this Time of Day; there is now the shady Side, and these are terder Plants, that cannot endure it. They had no other Reason for joining them before, than that they were favoured by the late Ministry; and they will leave them now, because they are not like to be so by the future. If therefore the Diffenters be Masters of any Temper or Prudence, they will not venture, by a vain Struggle at this Time, to urge those who are infinitely the Majority of the People, and have as well the Laws of the Land, as the Queen and her Court on their Side, to have them in diftrust, and consequently under Guard ; it may therefore be worth their while seriously to consider this, and not by a fruitless Opposition to exp se at once the Weakness and ill Intentions of their Party, but peaceably to enjoy that Liberty of Conscience, and free Exercise of their Religion, which no good Church of England Man will repine at, while they appear to aim at no more.
As for he Church-goers, who pretend to be Sons of the Church, and yet have joined our Enemies in all their Votes, it is plain that Preferment, not Principle, was the Star that guided them ; and it is to as much Purpose to reason with the Weather-cock at St. James's as them ; the same Argument