« PreviousContinue »
A DEFENCE OF THE
BY JOHN WESLEY.
Various pieces, under different signatures, having appeared in the public prints, casting unjust reflections on the Protestant Association, and tending to quiet the minds of the'Protestants at the present alarming crisis, by insinuating that there is no danger arising from the toleration of Popery, and that such associations are necessary; 1 think it a piece of justice, which I owe to my countrymen, to give them a plain and true account of the views of this assembly, and lay before them the reasons which induced them to form this association, and determined them to continue.
Whether the gentlemen who have favoured the public with their remarks on this occasion, are really Protestants, or Protestant Dissentere, as they style themselves; or whether they are Papists in disguise, who assume the name of Protestants, that they may be able to undermine the Protestant cause with the greater success, is neither easy nor necessary to determine; but it is easy to see that they are either totally ignorant of the subject on which they write, or else they wiliully disguise it. ...
The pieces I refer to, are written with different degrees of temper. One gentleman in particular, appears to be very angry, and loads the association, and their friends, with the most illiberal and unmanly abuse. If this gentleman had clearly stated the cause of his resentment, he might have been answered; but as he appears to be angry at he knows not what, he can only be pitied. Others have written with more candour and moderation, and would have been worthy of regard, had they not been deficient in point of argument. If these are sincerely desirous of being informed, they are requested to attend to the following particulars:
However unconcerned the present generation may be, and unapprehensive of danger from the great growth of Popery, how calmly soever they may behold the erection of Popish chapels, hear of Popish schools being opened, and see Popish books publicly advertised, they are to be informed that our ancestors, whose wisdom and firmness have transmitted to us those religious and civil liberties, which we now enjoy, had very different conceptions of this matter; and had they acted with that coldness, indifference, and stupidity, which seems to have seized the present age, we had now been sunk into the most abject state of misery and slavery, under an arbitrary prince and Popish government.
It was the opinion of our brave, wise, circumspect, and cautious ancestors, that an open toleration of the Popish religion, is inconsistent with the safety of a free people* and a Protestant government. It was thought by them, that every convert to Popery, was by principle an enemy to the constitution of this country; and as it was supposed that the Roman Catholic religion promoted rebellion against the state, there was a very severe law made to prevent the propagation of it. Such was the state of things in the reign of the great Elizabeth: and Popery having, notwithstanding such restriction, gained ground! in the reign of James II. though the encouragement it then received from the state, was not equal to what it has now obtained, the nation was alarmed; and the noble and resolute stand which the Protestants then made against the advances of Popery, produced the Revolution.
In the reign of William the Third, the state was thought to be in danger from the encroachments of Rome; to prevent which, the act of Parliament was made, which is now, in the most material parts, repealed, and several Protestanta being of opinion, that this repeal will, in its consequences, act as an open toleration of the Popish religion, they are filled with the most painful apprehensions: they think, that liberty, which they value more than their lives, and which they would piously transmit to their children, to be in danger: they are full of the most alarming fears, that chains are forging at the anvil of Rome for the rising generation: they fear, that the Papists are undermining our happy constitution; they see the purple power of Rome advancing, by hasty strides, to overspread this once happy nation: they shudder at the thought of darkness and ignorance, misery and slavery, spreading their sable wings over this highly favoured isle: their souls are pained for their rights and liberties as men, and their hearts tremble for the ark of God.
Inspired with such sentiments, and under the influence of such reasonable and well-grounded fears, they think it duty which they owe to themselves, their posterity, their religion, and their God, to unite as one man, and take every possible, loyal and constitutional measure, to stop the progress of that soul-deceiving and all-enslaving superstition' which threatens to overspread this land. It is to be hoped, that an attempt, so just and reasonable, will be crowned with success; but should it fail through the supineness or groundless prejudices of those who ought to stand first kt this cause, the members of this Association will enjoy the satisfaction of a self-approving mind, conscious of having done its duty; while those who meanly desert the Protestant cause, and tamely suffer the encroachments ef Rome, may see their error when it is too late, and be filled with bitterness and rembrse at a conduct so mean and despicable, and so unworthy their profession.
Whatever such persons may think of themselves and their conduct, and however they may dress themselves up in the splendid robes of candour and moderation, they are to bo informed that their conduct is highly criminal, and may bo attended with the most deplorable consequences; as, by their neglecting to appear on this great occasion, they give our rulers reason to conclude, that it is the sense of the nation that Popery should be tolerated.
It is sincerely to be lamented that Protestants in general are not more apprehensive of the danger. Have they forgot the reign of the bloody queen Mary? Have they forgot the fires in Smithfield, and can they behold the place without emotion where their fathers died? Will it ever be believed in future times, that persons of eminent and distinguished rank among the Protestants, and persons of high and exalted religious characters, refused to petition against Popery; and let it overspread our nation without opposition? Will it be believed that Englishmen were so far degenerated from the noble spirit of their ancestors, as tamely to bow the neck to the yoke of Rome?' Tell not in Gath, publish it not in « the streets of Askelon; lest the daughters of the Philistines 'rejoice; lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph.'
It is not to be wondered at that the Papists, either openly or in disguise, take every method to prevent the just and reasonable .view of the Protestant Association, and therefore represent them as factious, seditious, and enemies to toleration. These charges, and every other which the malice of our enemies, or the groundless fears and prejudices of our mistaken friends shall hereafter exhibit, will be separately and distinctly considered in the course of these letters; and such an account given of the views of the Protestant Association, and the Tine of conduct which they have pursued, and intend to pursue, in order to accomplish the great end for which they associate, as will, I hope, obviate every objection, remove every scruple, and excite the Protestants to join hand in hand, and unite as one man, in that cause, in which their present and future welfare is so nearly concerned, by
-TtEMAIlKS ON THE FOREGOING •' "iifll
■■''«■ >■ '■ ■ :W
TTER: AND DEFENCE, .,„'
• '. ..#._• A t ;>
■! « • -■ . I I . If
Addressed to the Conductors of the Free Press. "~
'• < 'J % ,
"' •- -' ■■ • *« .. -., •
I Know that it is loss of time, and a loss to the public; impatient for a paper in which they have first discovered the outlines of their country's rights, and from whence they daily expect new illustrations, on the most important subjects—to take up The Freeman's Journal with idle controversy. Were controversy the subject, I should be the last to enter the list.
In your paper, which has already made its way to the Continent, on account of the late exertions of the Irish, and which should contain nothing unworthy of the nervous eloquence and liberal principles of your numerous and learned correspondents, Mr. Wesley, in a syllogistical method, and the jargon of the schools, has arraigned the Catholics all over the world, with their kings and subjects, their prelates and doctors, as liars, perjurers, patentees of guilt aod perjury; authorized by their priests to violate the sacred rules of order and justice, and unworthy of being tolerated even by Turks and Pagans* Such a charge carries with it its own confutation, but are there not prejudiced people still in the world? The nine skins of parchment, filled with the names of petitioners against the English Catholics, owe the variety of their signatures to pulpit declamations and inflammatory pamphlets, teeming with Mr. Wesley's false assertions. And, to the disgrace of the peerage, in this variety of signatures, is not the lord's hand-writing stretched near the scratch of the cobler's awl? For the parchment would be profaned, if the man who does not know how to writes made the sign of the cross.
I am a member of that communion which Mr. Wesley aspersed in so cruel a manner. I disclaimed upon oath, in
* See Mr. Wesley's letter, page 112.