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Parliament, and to place us on the same footing with the Catholics at the commencement of the present reign, would that be no infringement on religious freedom? This would still be no positive persecution ; we might still enjoy our prayer-meetings and conferences—at least as long as the government thus constituted would permit us; it would still be as much a question of political power as the present. To be eligible to places of trust and responsibility—to be able to serve our country in an exalted sphere-is as much our birth-right as the choice of men to legis. late for us. If our right to be chosen be taken away, our right to choose is equally liable to be wrested from us. And should we then remain silent? Should we then content ourselves with our religious assemblies, and our hopes of a better country? Certainly not. And why? It would be a deprivation that would come home at once to every man's bosom ; it would not affect the aspiring few only, but the humble many.- Protestant Dissenters! is this your patriotism, is this your zeal for religious liberty? Have you no regard to the finer minds, who would reflect immortal honor on your illustrious body, if allowed the common chance of obtaining the prizes of pure and lofty ambition ? Have you no regard to the welfare of your brethren-none to the rights of your children? Is all your zeal for religious liberty a mere desire of private convenience, without aspiring after general advantage, and future security ?-If the virtuous feel. ing you have derived from your ancestors, be more than a wish to preserve your prayer.meetings and chapels from outrage during your own lives, coine forward manfully to petition for an investigation of the rights of your brethren, and of yourselves to raise the dignity of your cause, and assert the purity of your motives - to stifle every party feeling and inveterate prejudice and to raise the foundations of liberty of conscience on a basis that can never be shaken. :
If you still feel any doubts of the question being really one of religious freedom—if you still hesitate to believe civil disqualifications an infringement on the rights of conscience, let me bring the matter still closer to you - let me suppose, that the Parliament, acting on this idea, refused to all Dissenters the liberty of making a will, or obliged them to pay a larger portion of taxes than their neighbours; you would not then sit still unconcerned ; you would not tolerate the impoverishing of your families, and Aying to your still protected chapels, declare that the people of God had as little to do with wealth as with power; and although starvation, servitude, and degradation, were the penalties of your sincerity, as long as your worship was not molested, you were bound with lamb-like meekness “to kiss the hand just raised to shed your blood.” As well might you contend, that the law allows liberty to an insolvent debtor, because it protects him to a certain extent within the walls of his own house, as that religious freedom can never be taken away by external and worldly penalties, while your meetings are defended from violence.
It is true that these are extreme cases very unlikely to occur: but they as fairly result from the principle of disqualification as the hardships of which the Catho. lics now complain. My object has been to show that this is real persecution : that it proceeds from the same accursed source and may be productive of the same horrible and terrific effects. If this proposition be established, it needs no argument to persuade a Protestant Dissenter that it is most unjust. Let us, however, take one simple and natural view of the subject which will tend to corroborate our preceding remarks.
Suppose government were to raise its supplies by a lottery to which all were compelled to contribute, and to confine its prizes to one particular sect of Christians--would not the proceeding be palpably unjust ? But would this be more unjust than the exclusions we are deploring ? As long as speculative opinions have no connection with political conduct, and do not interfere with the order of society, it would be more reasonable to give all the offices of state exclusively to men of a particular cast of countenanceor shape of body, than those who profess certain peculiar sentiments respecting form and creeds ; for though the excluded party might mourn most bitterly their wide mouths or flat noses, it is evident no en. couragement could be given to hypocrisy ; no premium to inordinate ambition ; no temptation to the suppression of truth, or the prevalence of craft and turpitude.
To insist on the impolicy of the continuance of tests, after all that has been written and spoken on the subject, is surely unnecessary. A measure which deprives a state of the benefit of a large part of her talents and virtues--which causes the conscious degra. dation of a portion of her members which irritates while it oppresses and which causes' her internal wounds to fester and imposthumate--which gives a pretext to the discontented, and an encouragement to the rebellious-can scarcely be too earnestly deprecated or too firmly opposed.
If I have established the first proposition I proposed to support, and have animated my fellow-christians to claim their own rights, it may yet be made a question how far the Catholics are intitled to the same advantages: because it is asserted that their opinions are not merely religious or speculative, but of a nature to render them fit objects for moral reprobation. It is asserted that their oaths are not to be trusted--that. their doctrines of indulgences, remissions and dispensations would instigate them to the blackest deeds and that their general belief renders them treacherous, blood-thirsty and reckless by what means they enlarge the borders of their communion.
In answer to these terrible and horrific charges we have various kinds of evidence to adduce. In the first place it seems abundantly manifest that no sect professing and acting on such sentiments-holding the common principles of faith and honor as easily and lightly to be dispensed with—and devoutly believing that money could expiate every crime, and a few drops of holy water purify from every pollution-could pos. sibly exist as a society. Yet these have maintained large and florishing communities ; nor does history record a single instance of a breach of public or private faith which was justified by such an appeal. It was these gloomy and ferocious barbarians, these faithless
savages, that laid, in the ages of chivalry, the founda. tion of all that is courteous and honorable, all that is refined and delicate in modern society.
It is well known that the supposed objectionable tenets of the Catholics have been publicly and solemnly disclaimed, with surprise and horror, by the six most celebrated Catholic Universities in Europe.
They abjure all such ideas as that they are doing God service in the destruction of heretics--that they have no obligation to keep faith with them--and that the Pope can dispense, at pleasure, with any oaths which they may take, to advance their temporal or religious interests. Indeed the two last of these charges directly contradict each other—for if they are allowed by their faith to keep no faith with us, there can be no occasion either for dispensation or absolution. One single proof will be sufficient to set these two formidable and sapient accusations at rest for ever-THE PRESENT EXERTIONS OF THE CATHOLICS FOR EMANCIPATION --the very clamors which are considered by the same ingenious persons as another obstacle to their obtaining their birth-right. If indeed their efforts, their desires are directed to the destruction of our country and the subversion of our religion ; and if they hold perjury no crime when employed in such a cause, they have only to employ it in order to obtain the power they are asking; and, masked in the garb of friendship, to sap the very foundations of our liberties and happiness.
That Catholics consider it a duty to injure and de. stroy heretics is a charge founded on misrepresentation and falsehood.