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To as little purpose is it that Mr. Peirce tells us afterwards that he did not mean the church of England in general, and proves it, because Mr. Pilloniere had commended some of the church as being against persecution ; for though Mr. Peirce himself excepts the bishop of Bangor and some others from his charge, yet in this very explication of himself he still thinks there is ground enough to continue the charge of persecution against the church.
I am willing to leave it to any impartial man to judge what Mr. Peirce could mean, when after having in his first book) laid persecution to the charge of the church of England, he proceeds to vindicate the dissenters against the like charge, and says they had not bowed the knee, &c. Is not this a strong implication that the church which he pronounced guilty had bowed the knee to Baal ? ' Can the character given to dissenters and some protestants abroad, merely on supposing them clear of the crime imputed to the church, amount to any thing less than fixing the reverse of that character on the church of England ? Does not the very application of this passage of Scripture to the present case infer this charge ? The holy remnant, who had not bowed the knee to Baal, were distinguished from the idolatrous Israelites : in the comparison the dissenters are the holy remnant; they are therefore distinguished from the idolatrous crowd of persecutors. Ask now Mr. Peirce who they are, and he will still tell you that the church of England is a persecuting church.
He pleads, I know, for himself that he did not so much as put in the word Baal, but only said, they had not bowed the knee, &c.'
An unhappy excuse in my opinion ; for it plainly shows that Mr. Peirce saw how the reflexion pointed; why else did he not put in the word Baal ? or where was the modesty in leaving it out? His not expressing the word is an evidence that he was conscious of the foulness of the charge it carried with it; and his leaving out a word so easily supplied by every reader is no justification.
Were it necessary to show Mr. Peirce's opinion in this matter, we have evidence enough in a book reprinted since this controversy; it is a light thing with him to charge the church
with schismatical rage, and her bishops with tyranny and cruelty; but I have no design to draw on a new controversy with this gentleman ; what I have now said has been forced from me by a very vile accusation. As to Mr. Peirce, I would only, before I take leave, express to him my great concern to see in his late writings so much bitterness of spirit against the church after thirty years' indulgence to non-conformists. These are not the ways of peace, nor are they the fruits which were expected from the toleration.
I have now shown the reader what ground there was for this violent attack on me; and I very willingly submit it to every good and reasonable Christian to judge for whose sake he ought to blush. His lordship had reason, and therefore I join with him in leaving the modest, the blushing part to others; for such is either my crime, or such is his lordship's charge, that, whichever of us shall appear to be guilty, he must at the same time appear to be incapable of blushing for himself.
But to draw towards a conclusion.
His lordship in his introduction has given us four or five reasons to justify the practice of writing publicly against the laws of the country; and according to his wonted goodness, he bas repeated them again towards the close of his book.
I question very much whether such liberty was ever allowed in
any well settled government, or whether any can be safe and easy which does allow it. There are proper ways for men to seek redress against legal hardships, without complaining to the people from the press, of the iniquity and injustice of the laws; which is downright libelling the government. And if this liberty must be reckoned among the common rights of subjects, the case of governors is really to be pitied. As for bis lordship, all the world knows that he has not wanted frequent opportunities of lodging any complaints of this nature in a proper place; and why he chose rather to appeal to the people, and to call the passions and the interests of the multitude to his assistance, is not yet accounted for in any of the reasons with which he has obliged us.
Besides, it is one thing to open the nature and the effects of any law, and in proper language to represent the inconveniences which experience has discovered; and another to charge
the legislature with violence, iniquity, and the oppression of the common rights of subjects; and to proclaim to the people that the legislature were so estranged from the consideration of justice and equity, that they proceeded on the pleasing presumption that all preferments and places of trust and influence ought to be engrossed by those who feel themselves to have power enough to engross them.”
But farther; there is a difference likewise between writing against a particular law, as founded in a mistake, or liable to inconveniences, and writing against the very power and authority itself from which the law flows; and this is his lordship’s
He is not content with saying that the laws for the establishment of the church are improper, but with a high hand he declares to the world that all civil laws relating to the church are incroachments on Christ, and the product of an usurped authority; and that “no human laws can have a proper authority over men considered as creatures capable of religion.”
Our first reformers did indeed mislike the laws made for the support of popery; but so far they were from disowning the authority of the state in religious matters, that restoring the supremacy to the crown was the first step, and the foundation of our reformation. But his lordship not only mislikes the laws now in being, but even the authority by which they are made : and whenever his reformation prevails, it must begin with divesting the legislature of their assumed authority, and in restoring to every man the supremacy in his own behalf:
:-a wild conceit, which his lordship cherishes and is fond of as if it were the whole of his gospel.
This is his lordship's method of writing against the laws of the constitution ; and if he means to justify it, he must find other reasons, for those already given come not up to the point.
I have nothing more to add, but to give the reader in few words an account of the following sheets.
The present controversy consists of three very distinct points.
1. To inquire what is the true meaning and intention of the laws which are the subject of this debate.
2. Whether the intention ascribed to them be in itself just and equitable. i 3. Whether the means made use of to compass this intention are justifiable.
At present I examine the first point only, as that which is the foundation of the whole. The other parts will follow in a reasonable time, and probably both together ; for though I have not gone through many pages of his lordship's book, yet I have answered the greatest part of it, the bulk of it being owing to frequent and almost endless repetitions of the same things; so that it may, I think, in this respect be very fitly compared to a multiplying glass, which though it seldom shows an object distinctly, yet it presents it to you over and over again.
BISHOP OF BANGOR's BOOK, INTITLED, THE COMMON RIGHTS OF SUBJECTS DEFENDED,” &c.
THE TRUE MEANING AND INTENTION OF THE CORPO
RATION AND TEST ACTS ASSERTED, &c.
SECTION I. THERE is nothing more necessary in every controversy to give light to the reader, and to preserve him from being imposed on by the low and mean arts of sophistry, than a clear state of the fact or case about which the dispute is; for this reason I endeavored in my late Vindication of the Corporation and Test Acts, to give, in the first place, the true sense and meaning of those laws; and for the same reason it is, I suppose, that the Bishop of Bangor resents my taking this method, and observes with an air of contempt, that before I come to the main questions I spend above twenty pages in what I call stating the fact of the case. His lordship thinks this so unedifying a way of writing, that he professes to enter into this part of the work merely because I seem to think much depends on it. His lordship, I am persuaded, will be of my mind before he has done, and this much despised part of the work about the state of the case will haunt him in every part of the controversy, and will be a test (dreadful thing !) to distinguish in this debate between plain sense and a labored disguise, between reasoning and shuffling, between truth and falsehood.
After having given the sum of the corporation and test acts, as far as they relate to the present controversy, I observed :* “ the latter of these acts is declared by the act of toleration
* Vindication, &c.-See Vol. iv. p. 433.