Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

case, that the laws were not chargeable with so much impiety, I added an observation from the corporation act, which was, that a man might give the evidence required by that law without knowing that his receiving would ever be such an evidence; and consequently without receiving in any other manner, with

any other view, intention, or thought, than what devout Christians have at all times ; which shows that the use made of the sacrament by this law does not turn aside the sacrament from its original use, or introduce any use contrary to its nature. His lordship has mistaken this argument, and reasoned against something else for about two pages, which as they concern not me, so neither will I be concerned with them.

His lordship’s next attack is on the use I make of two statutes of James I. The first of them (3 Jac. I. cap. 4.) expressly charges the papists with complying with the letter of the laws before in being, to hide their false hearts; which his lordship, who thinks the letter of the law the law, should have observed; and for the better discovery of such persons, a sacramental test is provided. And yet in opposition to the declared sense of the act, his lordship goes on with the old story of outward acts, of total conformity; and then, to show that inward affection had nothing to do in the case, he adds a proof, which I wonder he did not call a demonstration : his lordship tells us that the legislature required the receiving the sacrament as an outward act only, which popish recusants did not and were not allowed to perform, &c. I desire to know whether papists are under any natural impossibility of receiving the sacrament in the church ; for if they have a natural power to do it, supposing they had the will, it is plain their not doing it can only discover their will or inward affection. And yet this test, which is a test solely on the wills and affections of papists, we are told is a proper test; which is a very proper conclusion of a long discourse against the possibility of having a test on inward affections.

As to the second of the two acts (7 Jac. I. cap. 2.), his lordship will allow all I contend for, that the sacramental test was proper to show who were protestants, (though I trust to be a protestant consists in more than externals only,) provided we will be content that, by the religion established in England in

[ocr errors]

James the First's time, he may understand not the religion of the church established, but the protestant religion in general, whether according to the conventicle or the church. I am not disposed to allow him this, and so we must not agree; and I must be content that his lordship should ring over his changes again on occasional conformity, outward acts, legal intent of the letter of the law, &c.

But for a finishing stroke, we are told that there is no arguing from one law to another, from the known sense of the expressions or provisions of one, to the probable sense of the same expressions and provisions in another; that the true and undoubted meaning of the sacramental test in two acts of James I. is no ground for fixing the meaning of the same test, used for the same purpose, and expressly applied to the same sort of persons by an act of Charles II.

His lordship here should have considered what I had observed to him, that a test is used because of its natural signification : the law cannot impose a signification on, or make it denote any thing but what it naturally denotes; and therefore the proper and natural signification of a test is always the same, , though used in twenty acts; and the certain meaning of it in any one must be the meaning of it in all the rest. But I will not argue this point. If his lordship can make this rule prevail against interpreting one statute by another, much may be done towards reforming the pleadings and arguings in Westminster Hall; and I willingly resign all my interest in this solid observation to the gentlemen who are likely to have more use for it than ever I shall.

I have now gone through the several arguments which his lordship thought fit to make use of, with respect to the meaning and intention of the laws before us; from which I hope it will appear to every

reader how little reason there was for his lordship’s repeated insinuation, that the intention ascribed to these laws is owing to my invention, that it is my supposition, contrived to answer my own wishes and design. For my own part, I think it a greater crime to counterfeit the law of the land than the coin of it. I cannot but think it very injurious to charge me with such a design, but I have learned not to be surprised at any thing of this sort that comes from his lordship’s hand. What ground he had for such a charge will farther appear from hence.

In the first year of the Queen, anno 1702, a bill for preventing occasional conformity passed the House of Commons; when it came to the Lords it underwent many alterations and amendments, which were the subject of several conferences between the two Houses. It will not be supposed that the Lords and the Commons agreed to put a new sense on the corporation and test acts manifestly injurious to the dissenters, who wanted not at that time very discerning advocates to secure them from all oppressions; but yet this very meaning of the two acts, which his lordship is pleased to ascribe to my invention and design, was admitted on both sides as the foundation of the new law then under consideration. The preamble of the bill as sent up

from the Commons, had this clause. “ Nevertheless, whereas the laws do provide that every person to be admitted into any office or employment, should be conformable to the church as it is by law established, by enacting that every such person so to be employed should receive the sacrament of the Lord's Supper according to the rites and usage of the church of England: yet several persons dissenting from the church as it is by law established, do join with the members thereof in receiving the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, to qualify themselves to have and enjoy such offices and employments, and do afterwards resort to conventicles or meetings for the exercise of religion in other manner than according to the liturgy and practice of the church of England, which is contrary to the intent and meaning of the laws already made : be it therefore enacted,” &c.

As the bill was amended by the Lords the clause stood thus :

“ But nevertheless whereas several persons dissenting from the church, as it is by law established, do join with the members thereof in receiving the sacrament of the Lord's Supper to qualify themselves to have and enjoy offices and employments, and do afterwards resort to conventicles and meetings for the exercise of religion in other manner than according to the liturgy and practice of the church of England, which is contrary to the intent and meaning of the laws already made : be it therefore enacted,” &c. It is evident that both Lords and Commons do agree

that for any person to receive the sacrament for an office, and afterwards to resort to conventicles, was contrary to the intent and meaning of the laws requiring the sacramental test. This is so plain, that I wonder by what light Dr. Calamy* discovered that the Lords disowned that it was the intention of the law, that all persons should be conformable to the church, who were obliged to receive the sacrament, &c. The Lords

say

in their own bill, that it was contrary to the intent of the laws for such persons to go to meetings; and I suppose the doctor will not impute it to the Lords that it was their opinion that the law intended to dispense with all public worship. The Lords knew best their own reason for altering the Commons' preamble, and they tell us it was because the part left out by them asserted a fact which they apprehended to be otherwise ; namely, that every person to be admitted into any office was bound to take the sacrament; whereas the Lords apprehended that there were some offices which might be had and enjoyed without receiving the sacrament; but that the laws which require the sacramental test did not intend thereby a conformity to the church established, they never say, nor could they say it consistently with the preamble of their own bill. The then Bishop of Salisbury did indeed at the free conference, in answer to a charge of hypocrisy brought against occasional conformity, observe that, “ it is not a certain inference that because a man receives the sacrament in the church, he can therefore conform in every other particular;” but he does not pretend to say, in opposition to the bill he was to maintain, that the law had no intention to secure a conformity to the church by the sacramental test. The conferences between the two Houses on the occasional bill were published by each House separately; and every one may satisfy himself from them whether I am truly chargeable with inventing a new intention for the corporation and test acts, agreeably to my own

A bridgment of Mr. Baxter, &c. p. 626.

wishes and design; a charge, which perhaps it may be expected I should submit to with silence, but which, had it come from me to his lordship, would, I doubt not, have been advertised as a calumny long before this time.

On the whole, let any one consider the state of dissenters before the toleration and since, and that alone will enable him to determine this part of the controversy. Before the revolution non-conformists of all sorts were subject both to penal laws and disqualifying laws. The former laws extended to the suppressing of all conventicles, and to the punishment of every subject who should be found to have resorted to a conventicle for the exercise of religion; the latter were made to exclude all but members of the church established from places, and for that reason required of every man, in order to his having and enjoying a place, &c. that he should receive the sacrament according to the rites of the church of England. This test was enacted whilst the penal laws subsisted, and was effectual to that purpose in conjunction with them; there was no reason to add a particular provision to the law, that such as qualified for places should not afterwards resort to conventicles, at a time when there were very severe laws restraining every subject from that practice.

At the revolution a toleration was granted to dissenters, which was intended to ease them from the penal laws, but not from the disqualifying laws; for the act of toleration expressly excepts the disqualifying laws, and declares and continues all dissenters under them.

But the removal of the penal laws did in the consequence enervate and weaken the disqualifying laws, and opened the way for such dissenters as would come once to church to qualify themselves, to go to conventicles for ever after ; for which evasion of the law there could be no room as long as it was penal to every man to resort to conventicles.

From the case as it now stands since the toleration, the bishop argues that it never was the intention of the corporation and test acts to exclude dissenters from offices of trust; and his main argument is, that by the principles of occasional conformity a man may give the test required, and yet continue a

« AnteriorContinua »