Imatges de pÓgina

dissenter; and therefore the law which provided this test only, could not intend to exclude dissenters.

In answer

to which I say, that from the beginning it was not so; and I have shown from the laws in being when the test act was made, that it could not be so. I say farther, that the toleration was intended only to exempt dissenters from penalties, and not to make their way easy to power; and that the advantage which they have made in this respect on the removal of the penal laws, is contrary to the intent of the laws still in being, and to the very conditions of the toleration; and that the occasional bill was not an encroachment on any right given or intended to be given to dissenters, but a means only to prevent their encroachment on the true intent and meaning of the laws still remaining in force.

That this was the case appears sufficiently from the act of toleration itself ; but the steps previous to this act make it still plainer.

On the 16th of March 1688, King William made a speech to both Houses, in which he says, “I am, with all expedition I can, filling up the vacancies that are in offices and places of trust by this late revolution ; I know you are sensible there is a necessity of some law to settle the oaths to be taken by all persons to be admitted to such places. I recommend it to your care to make a speedy provision for it, and as I doubt not but you will sufficiently provide against papists, so I hope you will leave room for the admission of all protestants that are willing and able to serve.

“ This conjunction in my service will tend to the better uniting you among yourselves, and the strengthening you against your common adversaries.”

How this proposal from the throne to make room for the admission of all protestants without distinction into offices and places of trust was taken by the two Houses, may be seen by their joint address, presented the 19th of April, 1689; in which, after their most humble thanks rendered to his Majesty for his declaration, and repeated assurances that he would maintain the church of England established by law, they add

“We humbly pray your Majesty will be graciously pleased to continue your care for the preservation of the same, whereby you will effectually establish your throne, by securing the hearts of your Majesty's subjects within these your realms, who can no better

way show their zeal for your service than by a firm adherence to that church whose constitution is best suited to the support of this monarchy.

“We likewise humbly pray that according to the ancient practice and usage of this kingdom in time of parliament, your majesty will be graciously pleased to issue forth your writs as soon as conveniently may be for calling a convocation of the clergy of this kingdom to be advised with in ecclesiastical matters, assuring your majesty that it is our intention forthwith to proceed to the consideration of giving ease to protestant dissenters.”

The king had desired room for the admission of all protestants into offices of trust; his two Houses humbly pray him to continue his care for the preservation of the church of England, which would effectually establish his throne; and with respect to dissenters, they promise to proceed to the consideration of giving them ease.

The king's answer, signed by himself, and delivered to the House of Lords, April 20, 1689, was

“ Though I have had many occasions of assuring you that I will maintain the church of England as by law established, yet I am well pleased with every opportunity of repeating those promises, which I am resolved to perform by supporting this church, whose loyalty, I doubt not, will enable me to answer your just expectations. And as my design in coming hither was to rescue you from the miseries you labored under, so it is a great satisfaction to me that by the success God has given me, I am in a station of defending this church, which has effectually shown a zeal against popery, and shall always be my peculiar care ; and I do hope the ease you design to dissenters will contribute very much to the establishment of this church, which therefore I do earnestly recommend to you, that the occasions of differences and mutual animosities may be removed, and as soon as conveniently may be I will summon a convocation.”

In consequence of this, the act of indulgence, which gave ease to dissenters, but left no room for their admission into

offices of trust, was prepared, and passed the royal assent, May 24, 1689; and the king, as far as I can recollect, never made any other attempt in favor of dissenters.


The intention of the Occasional Act briefly considered. That nothing might pass unanswered that fell from my pen, his lordship has taken pains to give a new meaning even to the occasional act, as it is commonly called. I had observed that “when the doctrine of occasional conformity for places prevailed, it broke in on the evidence (required by the corporation and test acts) just as the doctrine of equivocation and mental reservation broke in on the evidence of an oath.” In answer to this his lordship says, “that receiving in the church is no evidence of constant communion with it,” which has been already considered : and he concludes that the “ act of occasionally receiving gave the evidence required by the test act;" the contrary to which the reader has seen asserted both by Lords and Commons in their preambles to an occasional bill, anno 1702. And bis lordship himself tells us that should papists once come to receive occasionally, the evidence would then be broken through, and new methods of exclusion must be found out; which difference between the occasional conformity of papists and dissenters he grounds on this, that the test act did intend to exclude papists, and not dissenters. His lordship was conscious this reason would not bear being applied to the corporation act, which was made peculiarly to exclude dissenters, and therefore he very wisely confines his observation to the test act only. And if what I have said of the intention of the test act be true, his lordship must own the occasional conformity of dissenters did break in on the evidence of that also; so that this argument is only the old account over again, that the test act had no relation to dissenters.

His lordship asks me with what justice the doing a thing accounted lawful by myself can be said to be criminal. In answer to which I say, that whether occasional conformity be criminal

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or not criminal, is not my present business to inquire ; be it never so innocent a practice, nay, be it highly commendable, yet still it broke in on the evidence required by the law; and in this respect only I compared it to mental reservation. And if nothing is criminal which a man accounts to be lawful, his lordship will find it hard to prove even mental reservation to be criminal in any particular case; but will he for that reason say that it is no evasion of the evidence of an oath required by law, because he who swears with mental reservation does every thing required by law? that is, repeats the words of the oath, kisses the book, &c.

But to proceed.

Either his lordship or the occasional act is chargeable with great inconsistency; for at p. 55. we are told that it was resolved (as the ground of the occasional act) to confine all offices to constant conformists : at p. 60. we are assured that the act allowed such a behavior in private, as supposes the man in office not intirely satisfied with a total uninterrupted conformity. What this private behavior is, which is inconsistent with constant conformity, and allowed by the act, I know not. Conformity is in its nature a public thing; it relates to public assemblies and worship, and meddles not with men's private behavior in their closets or in their families : how then should a man's private behavior show him to be dissatisfied with constant conformity, in which his private behavior has no concern. It may just as well be proved from a clergyman's wearing a morninggown in his study, that he is no approver of the canonical apparel ; especially, should he pray with his family in that dress, it would follow in his lordship’s method that he was an enemy to the surplice. His lordship knows that the church does not restrain her members from using other prayers than the liturgy in private; he knows that many of the best conformists do use other devotions in their families ; how then can any thing of this sort show a man not to be satisfied with a constant conformity, when the most constant conformists are known to approve in themselves and others such practices ?

The ground of all this is, as his lordship informs us, “ that the act leaves persons in office the liberty of having such wor

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ship as themselves like in private, and allowing a congregation of nine above their own family.” But does this suppose persons in office to be dissatisfied with constant conforming? His lordship might as well say that all our acts of uniformity, and all other laws and canons relating to the church, are built on a supposition that the people are dissatisfied with constant conformity, since the members of the church are not restrained by any of these laws from the like liberty; and much more strongly might he prove that all the church of England divines, who have composed or recommended forms of family prayer different from those of the liturgy, were dissatisfied with constant conformity.

The clause in the occasional act on which his lordship founds this objection, was inserted to prevent the laws being abused by men in office on one hand, and by malicious informers on the other, and therefore it fixes what shall be adjudged in law a conventicle; and it has made every meeting for the exercise of religion, where the liturgy is not used, to be a conventicle, if ten or more besides the family are present at it; which is a proper provision

1. That men in office may not, under the pretence of family devotion, keep conventicles in their houses; and,

2. That they may not be liable to prosecutions or forfeitures for not confining themselves to the liturgy in their family prayers; which no law whatever requires they should do.

But this clause appears to his lordship in another light, and he thinks that it “ supposes many persons to be well qualified for offices, who like another church better than that established.” But how a man's not liking the church established is to be inferred from his not using the liturgy in his family, which no law of the church requires him so to use, is a secret not yet disclosed.

But I wonder his lordship did not, for the advantage of his argument, lay hold rather on another provision there is in the act. For as a family meeting for devotion shall not be adjudged in law to be a conventicle, although the liturgy be not used, provided there be not present ten or more besides the family; so neither shall any meeting, not being of ten or more


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