Page images

many instances, in former times, of people boasting loud. !y of their liberty, as well as of the panie of religion, while they have, in fact, known little more of either than the empty name; even while they have sometimes been practically demonstrating, that what they profeffed so highly to venerate, has been really the object of their contempt, or deteftation. Recent experience, he is afraid, may affcrd new examples of this, in addition to the former.

Were the workings of the spirit of despotism in human governments now entirely fublided, or were the principles of persecution indeed so far funk in credit and in power, as no longer at present to appear formidable, yet would not the precaution of raiting barriers against their return, be either un.caionabse, or needless Jabour.

When the waters are low then is the fittest season for cm banking: In the fury of the storm, and at the height of the innundacion it would be labour in vain But I am iar from thinking that the great conteft is yet fo fula ly decided in favour of human liberty, and the rights of conscience, as to leave no room to fear a reverse. I apprehend the present crisis is big with more serious dan. gers in respect to these, than the greater part seem to be aware. Never since the writer was capable of paying at. reriion to the course of public transactions, has he conteo. piated them with more pungent grief and anxiety of mind. Escited by what he felt and feared, at a time when in person, poffcfied cf the smallelt degree of public Spirii, can lock on with indifference, he has, in livglenels of heart, without regard to the jarring voice of iaclion, or what the love of eale, or a selfish worldly prudence might seem to dictate, adventured to submit the following Rcficclicns to the Public; intended at lealt, to serve its bct interes.

At all times the friends cf liberty ought to watch it with the most jealous care.

The citadel on every side, as well as every movement of its adversaries, oughi to be surveyed with an eagle eye ; lelt it should be affailed from some unsuspected quarter, or while an attack is made more directly on one side, another should be left unguarded. Civil and religious liberty are but two great branches of the fame expanded tree. They have

ever been found most intimately allied. They have both had the same common enemies; and nearly the fame preterts and methods have been employed to undermine and destroy both. When a certain king of Israel, degenerating from falutary counsels, shut up a prophet in a prison-house, he oppressed some of the people at the same time. These considerations should inspire the friends of civil and religious liberty, and the promoters of political and ecclefiaftical reform, with unanimity, as for a common cause. It is furely their wisdom as it is their interest to cultivate an amicable correspondence, & on all trying occasions to act in concert. Though fometimes the one may seem more immediately to be attacked, yet the other can never have just cause to r lign them. selves to security, or witness without concern the opprefa fion or defeat of their brethren. If at any time they should be so blind, they would soon have reaion to rem gret their supineness, when they hould perceive them. selves marked oui, like the remainder of Ulysses' companions, by a gigantic insatiable Polyphemus, for the next meal, after their fellows had been devoured.

Time was, wben the burden of oppressive power, and the severity of penal laws, fell chiefly upon religious reformers, and the affertors of Christian liberty; and the important conflict was lett almost wholly in their "hands. Slate patriots, and were political relormers, were too often disposed to stand at a diliance, or have but too coldly, partially, or tardily, esponsed their ins terélt, perhaps when all appeared otherwise to be inevia.

[ocr errors]

tably. loft: though mature expericace usually inclined at lat to exculpale and juftify their principles, and ne, celliy more than once has driven bodies politic to adopt sheir ideas and measures. Of late the ride throughout Europe, leems somewhat to have varried its direction. Whiie diversity of opinions and practices, merely religi. ous, is generally overlooked, certain political and phi. lofophicalopinions, are aow profcribedwhilc plans and affuciations for civil reform are the marked obje&s of jealousy and severity, Thole acts and proceedings which have lately caused alarm and complaint, are evidently pointed this way. • The religious part of the nation, especially those who, from conscience, are engaged in testifying against a variety of errors, and public corruptions, which they pero ceive to be stiil authorized in human constitutions, and who have adopted the principles, and are prosecuting -the meatures, which tend to an ecclesiastical reforma. tions (as all faithful Christians in every age

have done) -have reason to be very thankful for the quiet and refpite they enjoy, while the boilterous winds are held from blowing directly upon them, to their hurt. But in the "maxims disseminated, and ineasures lately recommend. ed, by the present adminiftration (whose influence and pernicious counsels have greatly difturbed the empire.) auds which have already atfe&ted 10 many of their fellow subjects, they may easily discern v:bat is the door of all reizious didsenters, and of all reforming associators, without exception, whenever a fimilar alarm fhall be railed of danger to the Britilh conititution, and the ecclefiaitical laws, from tbe free toleration of religious opinions, and of church associations. In these maxims and mca.ures, the germ of religious intolerance and of peric. cution for con cience sake, may be seen,ready to bed and ipsing , fom the faine rool which have already einit

ted the luxoriant stalk of political intolerance. It ap

pears to be more owing to circumstances, than any el * fential difference between the two cases that religious ? writings attacking certain abuses in the legally establifh. Zed chorches, and schemes for reforming then, have not e been treated by the present ministry with the same leven

rity with those of another kind. Perhaps the difference in a great measure arises from the general coldness of all

in the cause of religious reform, and the little attention e which men at present bestow on every thing relatiog to

religion, except when combined with other views and interefts,

The late Proclamation (viewed as the prolific error, and effe&t of the faulty counsel of minifters) is, in the following sheets, chiefly considered in the reference it the sacred rights of conscience, and the great Charter of Protestants. Dear as the civil privileges of mankind are to him, these he accounts fill more valuable and dear, If Christians shall ever be debarred from freely examin. ing all the doctrines, edi&ts, and injunctions of meti, relating to the interests of religion, if it thall be made cri. minal for them to pronounce any judgment, or censuro, upon the principles or conduct of their homag rulers, if compulsion shall be employed to oblige them to fuppress their clearest sentiments and convictions, it will be of Imall consequence, wbether they dwell in the Britif foil, or under the jurifdi&tion of the holy Inquifition, within the limits of St. Peter's Patrimony, or under the eye ot eastern Bashaws and their armed Janizaries.

has to religious sentiments, and ecclefiaftical reform, . which however obvious at the very firft reading of it,

has not been fo generally adverted to, nor particularly animadverted on by others. No distinction is made ben tween writings which attack the establilued constitution

in the church and in the state, or in the attempts which - may alienate men from any of the laws ecclefiaftical or

civil, but all of them seem to be indiscriminately denounced feditious. The North British Protestant is glad to fee so many spirited advocates raised up to plead the taufe of political freedom, and the right of prosecuting a civil reform. He is particularly happy to hear of a lau. dable association formed for maintaining the freedom of the Press. Though he has never attended any of the Societies, aor engaged in any of the late affociations, for these purposes, he cannot hold himself as uninterested in the Aruggle, or in the success. But his situation, Nu. dies, and habits of life, concur in fixing his attention chiefly on the dangers, which he apprehends may probably arisc, from the fpirit and measures of the time, to

On the great principles of British liberty, and of Pró. testant reform, the author had long formed his opinion, before the late debates arose about revolutions abroad, or reform at home; fo that he had less difficulty in deter. mining, amidst the rising heats, and alarming division of the nation, on what side these were most likely to be found. He has not knowingly advanced any thing here beyond the just limits and native consequences of these principles, which he supposed to have been too firmly er tablished to be now openly called into question, and which, ever since the revolution, have been allowed on all hands to pass current in Britain. If any should now represent them as obnoxious, and no longer tolerable, if they are men who ever knew what British and Proteltart liberty meant, he could only impuie this to some unaccountable change in their own spirits, or rules of judging, and not to the objects of their offence. To persons of this disposition, before they rush into acts of anti-christian violence, or inftigate others to them, he would only recommend the awful address of our blelled

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »