Abbildungen der Seite

of piety, and a course of virtue ; religion should be unmasked and exposed in its own beauty to their view : at present it appears to them an unmeaning encumbrance of expensive forms. Their infants are questioned, and sprinkled their wives pay a shilling and are churched - they are generally funny at a wedding, and feel no expence but the ringthey eat cross buns on Good-Friday they are merry at Easter--and mad at Christmasthey pay small tithes through life-and are buried in form when they die--and they call this the Christian Religion in the best constituted church in the world, and abuse all who thing otherwise as knaves and fools, ignorant of God and disloyal to the king! As te holidays, let the poor-take as many as they can afford, and their masters can spare. Far be it from us to wish to abridge their liberty, or diminish their little enjoyment of life: but let us not make religion of their gambols, nor enroll their pastimes among the laws of Jesus Christ.

There were in the ritual of our ancestors above two hundred festal days,many of them in seed-time, hay-time, and harvest. Great complaints were made to parliament: the church, it was said, would ruin the state. While the people were telling beads, and the priests chaunting and spouting away, the corn lay rotting in the fields, cattle were neglected, commerce was at a stand, and the nation was starving. The legislature struck off, first, harvest holidays, and then others, and what remain were left for a decoy to papists, to the great grief of numbers, who submitted to them, and who wished to get rid of superstition, the root and the rind of popery.

If any imagine these festivals necessary for the sake of informing people of the events that are commemorated on them, and of preserving and perpetuating the remembrance of them, we only beg leave to ask-Where was Christianity so well understood as in the primitive churches, which celebrated none of them? Where is the Christian religion less understood than in the Roman community, where they are celebrated without end ? Who understood Christianity best, our Saxon ancestors, who had many festivals, or our immediate parents, who had few? Is religion better understood in those reformed churches where they are celebrated, than in those where they are omitted ? Does religion consist in the bare remembrance of a few events in the life of Jesus Christ ? May not all the ends proposed by the observation of churchholidays be better answered without it? Do we not sacrifice many great advantages, and put ourselves to unnecessary inconveniences and expences for mere shadows, which can never be substantiated without civil coercion ? Is not the likeliest method to make the clergy loath the necessary parts of their office, the obliging of them to drudge alone in unnecessary exercises ?-Many articles are omitted --under-rated-and half reasoned-but we have said enough--- perhaps too much on the dl polity of Good-Friday.

Should any parish priest of genuine and generous, piety (for to sycophants and bigots we have nothing to say) who loves God, reveres his king, wishes well to his country and to all mankind should such a man say, I mourn for the vices and calamities of my country, and I dread those chastisements of providence, which national sins deserve ; I wish to contribute my mite to the public good; but I know no better way of promoting it than by inculcating the observation of fasts and feasts, and approved rituals, I would venture to say to him · Reverend Sir! I give you credit for being a man too wise to quibble about style, where matters of the highest importance are in hand; and too good to be offended with the honest bluntness of one, whose reigning passion is to wish felicity to all mankind, Pardon me, then, if I take the liberty to gay=The cool, disinterested part of mankind consider a hierarchy as they consider a standing military force. In absolute monarchies, where the main principle of the constitution is that of governing by fear, an hierarchy is essentially necessary to the despotism of the prince; but in free states an hierarchy will always justly be an object of jealousy. Hierarchical powers have found many a state free, and reduced each to slavery: but there is no instance of their having brought an enslaved state into christian liberty. Your country, Sir, is almost the only one in the universe, in which civil liberty is the very end and scope of the constitu tion. You should therefore acquaint youself well

with all the singular polity of this country, which is governed by a system of laws all tending to the one great design, civil liberty, and you should not put off the man, the citizen, and the christian, when you put on the clerical character.

You profess a religion, Sir, which agrees with civil polity; you know how some of your order have deprived it of this glory by resisting or duping their civil governors in order to aggrandize themselves. Recover that character to christianity, which those crimson tools of a desperate cause, Austin and Lanfrank, Dunstan and Anselm, Thurstan and Becket, Longchamp and Peckham, Arundel and Chichley, Woolsey and Bonner, Parker and Whitgift, Bancroft and Laud, have vilely squandered away. Leave secular affairs to secular men. Have no more to do with commissions of the peace, county elections, commission for roads, the civil affairs of hospitals, corporations, and so on, than what you cannot possibly avoid. You may have rights as a gentleman; but it is not necessary you should lay aside the character of a gentleman for the sake of asserting them. Civil government administered by clerical men always inspires the lay gentry with jealousy, and the poor with contempt. In your office, be no aspiring statesman's tool for filthy lucre's sake. Do not dare to lift your unhallowed hand against the sovereign's title to the crown, and the people's right to liberty, by brandishing the obsolete and execrable doctrines of passive obedience, non-resistance, the divine


rights of kings, and all the unconstitutional positions, which the supreme legislature consigned to eternal, oblivion at the glorious revolution. Your superior may put you on uttering what he dare not utter himself, in order to feel the popular pulse, and he may procure interested hirelings to applaud you, and promise that preferment to you, which he intends for himself. If you perish in the attempt, what cares he? But do not deceive yourself. The present royal family will never prefer men of arbitrary and unconstitutional principles. His majesty perfectly comprehends the British constitution, and as he magnanimously aspires at the glory of * reigning over a free people, who have confidence in his wisdom and goodness, it is impossible he should smile on those, who lay the ax to the root, the constitution, and would by one fatal blow fell those admired branches, his title and his people's liberties. Stir up no strife in your public preaching, nor teach your parish to abhor an inhabitant of it for praying in a barn. Never persecute for religion's sake. Never oppress conscience. Never discountenance piety in other communities, lest men should think you not a minister of religion, but a tool of a party. Never condemn denominations, in the gross, nor impute principles and practices to them, which they abhor. Sow no jealousies and discords in families. Cultivate the general principles of christianity more than the peculiarities of your own party, and the rights of all mankind rather than the ritual of a very inconsiderable part of them.

« ZurückWeiter »