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tions of virtue are nothing but essays on this con-
To build, to plant, whatever you intend,
In all, let NATURE never be forgot.
Go a step farther. Make this philosopher a tutor, and commit to his tuition a company of youths; he will no more think of uniforming these young gentlemen, than of teaching his horse to fly,
* As a philosopher.
or his parrot to swim. Their geniusses differ, says he, and I must diversify their educations: NATURE has formed this for elocution, and that for action. And, should the blind fondness of parents complain, his answer is ready, what was I that I could withstand God? In short, place such a man in what disinterested sphere you will, and his principles guide his practice; exceptindeed he should be chosen to represent a county; then probably, not having the fear of philosophy before his eyes, he might vote for an act of uniformity.
A law that requires uniformity, either requires men to be of the same sentiments, or to practise the same ceremonies. Now if it should appear that the first is impossible, the last will fall of itself. For then the question will be, ought two men who confessedly differ in sentiment, to profess that they agree? Ought an honest man to be one thing, and appear another? Heaven forbid that any should maintain so dangerous a thesis !
You are a man of extensive knowledge; you know the ancient and modern creeds; you remember that Harry the eighth injoined "all preachers " to instruct the people to believe the WHOLE bible, “THE THREE CREEDS, the Apostles', the Nicene, "and the Athanasian, and to interpret all things “according to them." You know that in Edward the sixth's reign, TWO AND FORTY ARTICLÉS, drawn up by Cranmer and Ridley, were thought necessary to be published, for the avoiding diversity of opinions, and establishing consent touching true religion. In the beginning of Elizabeth's reign, you know, ELEVEN articles were “set out by order “ of both archbishops, metropolitans, and the rest “ of the bishops, for the UNITY of doctrine to be “ taught and holden of all parsons, vicars and “curates ; as well in testification of their common “CONSENT in the said doctrine, to the stopping of “the mouths of them that go about to slander the “ ministers of the church for DIVERSITY of judg“ment, &c.” Two years after all the former were reviewed, and THE WHOLE BIBLE, the THREE Creeds, the TWO AND FORTY articles, and the ELEVEN articles, were collected into one aggregate sum, and made THIRTY NINE. Subscription to these hasbeen essential ever since, which subscription is an argument (as his Majesty's declaration says) that ALL clergymen AGREE in the TRUE, usual, literal meaning of the said articles.
Whatever be the true meaning of these articles, it is not only certain that clergymen explain, and consequently believe them in different and even contrary senses; but it is also credible that no thirty nine articles can be invented by the wit of man, which thirty nine men can exactly agree in. It is not obstinacy, it is necessity.
Suppose the thirty nine articles to contain a giyen number of ideas, and, for argument's-sake, suppose that number to be fifty: suppose the capacities of men to differ, as they undoubtedly do, and one man's intelligence to be able to comprehend fifty, a second's five hundred, and a third's but five and twenty. The first may subscribe these fifty
points of doctrine, but who can confine the genius of the second ? Or who can expand the capacity of the last? In minds capable of different operations, no number of points of doctrine can possibly be fixed on as a standard for all; for fix on what number soever you will, there will always be too many for the capacities of some, and for
others too few. If this be the case who can estaba lish an uniformity of sentiment? What earthly power can say “ WE WILL NOT ENDURE ANY VA-. “ RYING OR DEPARTING IN THE LEAST DEGREE?”
Moreover, it may be asked whether all these points of doctrine be capable of an equal degree of evidence; and if not, whether it be possible to inforce an uniform degree of belief. Take for example two propositions. “ The Bishop of Rome “ hath no jurisdiction in this realm of England.” -“ Athanasius's creed-may be proved by most “ certain warrants of holy scripture."
The first of these propositions is capable of demonstration, but the last is very doubtful; and if the degree of assent ought to be exactly proportional to the degree of evidence, a magistrate, who would establish uniformity, must either give falshood the evidence of truth, or oblige men to believe a probable as fully as a certain proposition. But if neither of these can be done, what becomes of uniformity? An uniform assent to fifty propositions, some of which are probable, others certain, and others, (pace tantis talibusque viris*) false !
* Begging pardon of so mały illustrious men,
It is the easiest thing in the world to retire, sit down, invent and publish a system on any subject. Imagination, always prolific, contributes largely; and it is not difficult to erect an ideal world with, Berkeley; an ideal republic with Plato; or in short a philosophical romance of any kind. All sorts of men, poets, philosophers, orators, divines, some of each class have erred on this. head; the most ingenious wandering the farthest: but when these romantic machines are applied to real life, to the tillage of a field, the government of a state, the forming of a church, they appear only elaborate trifles; amusive, but not useful. If such ingenious inventors are great men, there is another class greater still, a class whose motto is DUCE NATURA SEQUAMUR.* .
After all, what is uniformity good for? Is it essential to salvation? Is it essential to real piety. in this life? Does it make a subject more loyal to his prince? A husband more faithful, or a parent more tender? Çannot a man be honest and just in his dealings without knowing any thing about St. Athanasius? Nay, has not this act produced more sophistry and cruelty than any other act of parliament from the reformation to this day? Not secu-. lar but spiritual severity; not the sophistry of the bar but the sophistry of the church.
Did the great Supreine govern his empire by an act of uniformity, men might be damned for believing too little, seraphs degraded for believing too.
* Let us follow where nature leads.