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upon that Day Seven-night, resolve itself into a Committee Annog. Geo. II. of the whole House, to consider of the most effectual Means to put á Stop to the great and growing Evil arising from the unwarrantable and illegal Methods of importing Tea and other Goods into this Kingdom ; and the said Petition was order'd to be referred to the Confideration of the said Committee.
March 12. A Motion was made by Mr Walter Plumer, Mi Plumer's MaThat an A&t made in the 25th of King Charles II. intitled, the Terms An Aa for preventing Dangers which may happen from Popish Recufants, might be read ; and the lame being read accordingly, Mr Plumer stood up and spoke as follows :
Sir, • I believe every Gentleman that hears me may easily judge, with what View I have desired this Act to be read to you. It is, Sir, with a Design to have some Part of it repealed, and another Part so amended and explained, as to make it confiftent with that Charity and good Nature which every Member of the Christian Religion ought to fhew to another.
· The Motion I am now to make, Sir, proceeds chiefly from these three Confiderations : That I am, and I hope fall always be, an utter Enemy to all manner of Persecution ; That I have a great Reverence for that solemn Inftitution called the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper ; and That I fall always be for every thing which I think may tend towards etablishing and preserving the Unity, Peace, and Trade of my Country. These are Confiderations which I am persuaded are of as great Weight with every Gentleman of this House as they are with me ; and therefore, if I can fhew that there is any Thing in this Act that looks like Perfecution, any Thing that brings a Contempt upon that holy Institution of our Religion, or any Thing inconfiftent with the Unity and Peace of our People, or with the Trade of our Country, I make no Doubt of having the unanimous Affent of this House to what I am to propose ; and, in my opinion, it would contribute greatly to the Glory of this Generation, as well as the Honour of this House of Commons, to have it agreed to Nemine contra, dicente.
* I hope, Sir, it will be granted me, that the subjecting 2 Man to a great Penalty if he refused to subscribe to an Opinion which he thought inconsistent with the Christian Religion, or to join in any Ceremonies of publick Worlhip which he thought finful or perhaps idolatrous, would be a very heavy Persecution ; and I hope it will likewise be granted, that to render a Man upon any such Account incapable of holding a Land-Eftate, or of succeeding to any Vol. IV.
Anno 9. GEO. II. Efate as next Heir or next of Kin, would also amount to 1735-36.
a high Degree of Persecution: Now in this Statute which has been read to you, there is one Clause which enacts,
That all Persons that shall bear Office, Civil or Military, or receive any Salary or Wages by any Grant from the King, or shall have Command or Place of Trust from or under him, or shall be in his Navy or Houshold, in England, Wales, Berwick, Jersey, or Guernsey, shall not only take the Oaths of Supremacy and Allegiance, in the next Term, or at the Quarter Sessions, within three Months after their Admittance, but shall receive the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper according to the Usage of the Church of England, of which they are to deliver a Certificate, and make Proof, at the Time of their taking the faid Oaths ; in Failure of which they are ipso Facto disabled to enjoy the faid Offices or Employments, or any Profit thereby :' And by another Clause, Persons beyond the Seas or under any of the other Impediments there mentioned, are to receive the Sacrament and take the said Oaths, within four Months after such Impediment removed. By this Regulation it is evident, that no Man can hold or enjoy an Office or Employment, Civil or Military, without declaring himself a Member of the Church of England as by Law established ; and as there are great Numbers of faithful Subjects, who have the Misfor. tune of believing that some of the Opinions established by our Church are not entirely consistent with Chriftianity, and that some of our religious Ceremonies tend towards 1. dolatry, such Men cannot fincerely communicate with the established Church ; upon which Account, and upon that only, they may therefore be subjected to Penalties, or de prived of a yearly Revenue, according to the Nature of the Office they may be named or entitled to ; for if the Poft or Office be such a one as is attended with Trouble only, there is generally a Penalty upon a Man's refusing te serve it ; which Penalty every Man must pay who is not a Member of the Church of England ; because by this Clause he is debarred from serving the Office ; whereas if it were not for this Incapacity he is laid under, he might probably chuse to serve the Office rather than pay the Pe. nalty ; and I would be glad to know the Difference between fubje&ting a Man directly to a Penalty for refusing to join in any religious Opinion or Ceremony, and this indireé Manner of subjecting him to it, by tacking to an Office, in itself meerly temporal, a most folemn Approbation of all the reli. gious Doctrines and Ceremonies of the established Church.
• Again, Sir, if the Poft or Office to which a Man is named or intitled, be one of those to which a yearly Salary or Revenue is annexed, from the Day of his Nomination
he has as good a Right to receive the Profits of that of- Anno 9. Geo. 11. fice as any Man has, or can have, to his Ancestor's Eftate,
1735-36. they being both founded chiefly upon the Law of the Land; nay it often happens, that the Person named to any Poft or Office has by long and faithful Services fully deserved that Nomination ; and this I take to be a more meritorious Title, than the Title any Man can have to the Estate of his Ancestor or next Relation. Suppose we should have a new foreign War of ten Years Duration, as we had in the late Queen's Reign ; suppose a Gentleman of the Dissenting Persuafion should in the Beginning of that War go abroad a Cadet in one of our Marching Regiments, and in Confideration of much Blood loft, and many brave Services performed in the Cause of his Country, should be at laft made Colonel of a Regiment, would not such a Man be fully intitled to the Profits of his Commission, during the Time his Majefty should think fit to continue him in Command ? Would it not be downright Persecution to turn him out of his Commission, and reduce him to a starving Condition, meerly for the sake of a Scruple of Conscience ? Yet the Case would be so, if this Law should be then in Force : Upon the forft Return of the Regiment to England, he would be obliged, within four Months to give up his Regiment, or receive the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, according to the Usage of our Established Church, which his Conscience would not permit him to do, if he should happen to be a fincere Disfenter : Therefore I must look upon this as a much higher Degree of Persecution, than it would be to render a Man, on Account of any religious Opinion, incapable of holding a Land-Estate, or of succeeding to any Eftate as next of Kin.
• From what I have said, Sir, I hope it will appear that a very high Degree of Persecution lurks under the incapacitating Clauses I have mentioned, and therefore, in my Motion for the Repeal of them, I hope I shall have the Concurrence of all those who are real Enemies to that Antichristian Practice ; but when I consider the Reverence due to the Sacrament of the Lord's-Supper ; a sacred Mystery which none ought to approach, without having first diligently examined themselves, and to which all are to be invited, but none to be compelled, I am surprised that it should ever have been turned to such a prophane Use, as that of qualifying a Man for being an Adjutant to a Regiment, or the Bailiff of a little Borough. This, Sir, is perverting it to an Use for which I am sure it was never intended, and this Perversion has already produced, and will always produce,
great Abominations. It is well known how many pave become unworthy Partakers of the Holy Communion, X 2
Anno 9. Geo. II. for the sake only of intitling themselves to some lucrative
Poft or Employment ; it is well known what terrible Indecencies some have been guilty of, upon such Occasions, and what a Scandal has often been thereby given to all those who are truly devout. This is so generally known that it is now the common Practice in all the Churches of England, for the Curate to desire the legal Communicants if any there be, I mean those who come there in Obedience to that Statute, to divide themselves from those who come there purely for the Sake of Devotion; and, indeed, it were to be wilhed that none of the former should ever be allowed to Communicate in the Presence of, much less at the same Table with any of the latter ; for the former are often so well and so generally known to be unworthy Partakers, that their being admitted upon any Pretence whatsoever, gives great Offence to the truly Religious, and tends to subvert the Morals of the Valgar, by lessening that Esteem which they ought to have for the eftablished Religion of their Country, and which wife Magiftrates will always cultivate with all poflible Care; but this by long and general Experience we know, is not to be done by Penal Laws. On the contrary, such Guarantees for the established Religion of any Country, ve always produced Pride, Ignorance, Luxury, and Oppreffion, among those of the Established Church, and invincible, nay, often victorious Enthusiasm, among those of the contrary Religion. Even in this Kingdom, we know, that Penal Laws and Perfecution raised fo high the Torrent of Enthusiasm among us, that our Established Church was at last quite overwhelmed by the diffenting Intereft ; and happy was it for our Church that those Enthufiafts destroyed our Constitution, as well as our established Religion ; for if they had preserved the former, I am afraid the latter had never been restored. Since the Repeal of most of our persecuting Laws, the difsenting Intereit has daily decreased ; and I am convinced those Re mains of it that are now among us, are chiefly owing to the AEt now under our Confideration, and one other Ad of mach the same Nature.
• With regard to the Peace and Unity of our People, I must say, Sir, it is Matter of great Surprise to me, how the Legislature of any Country could be prevailed on to annex temporal Rewards or Punishments to speculative Opinions in Religion. I can easily conceive how Do&ors might differ in speculative Points of Divinity, as well as in speculative Points of Law, Phyfick, or Philosophy ; and I know with what Vehemence a learned Doctor in either of those Sciences maintains his own Opinion, and with what Envy, Malice, and Rige, he pursues his Adversaries ; but I cannot
eafily conceive what Reasons the Lawgivers of any Country Anno 9 Geo. 9. could have, to adopt and establish speculative Opinions of
1735-36. any particular Doctor in Divinity, while at the fame Time they shewed a very great Indifference, with regard to the fpeculative Opinions of the Doctors in all other Branches of Literature : The Cause of this different Behaviour in our ancient Lawgivers, I say, I cannot well comprehend ; but whatever may have been the Cause, if they thereby intended to establish an Uniformity of Opinion with respect to religious Matters, Experience has hewn that they have been most egregiously miltaken ; for the annexing of temporal Rewards and Punishments to speculative Opinions, has been so far from reconciling Men's Minds, and making them agree in
any one Opinion, that it has rendered those of different Opinions in Religion, not only implacable, but most cruel and barbarous Enemies to one another; an Effect which has never been produced by Difference of Opinion in any other Science. In Law, in Phyfick, in Philosophy, there are, and always have been, Doctors of different Opinions ; and among them too there have always been, I believe, some who would have gladly confuted their Adversaries by Fire and Faggot, especially when they found themselves overcome by fair Reasoning; but as the Law of no Country has as yet thought fit to interpose in those Disputes, we find the Followers of these Doctors have generally argued the Matter very coolly, and when the Dispute was over have parted as good Friends as they met. This has hitherto been the Case in all Sciences except Divinity ; but if we should make a Law for punishing those who did not agree with the Newtonian System of Philosophy, or for rendering all such incapable to hold any Poft or Office in our Government, I am persuaded we should have, in a few Years, great Numbers of our People who would be ready to facrifice Life and Fortune in Defence of the Ariftotelian or the Cartesian System : Nay, if any such Law were made against all those who did not believe that the three Angles of every Triangle, are equal to two right Angles, I make no doubt but that this plain Demonstration would be most violently opposed by great Numbers of Men n the Kingdom ; for when the Passions of Men are stirred up by temporal Rewards and Punishments, the most reasonible Opinions are rejected with Indignation, the most ridiculous are embraced with a frantick Sort of Zeal. Thereore, Sir, if we have a Mind to establish Peace among our People, we muft allow Men to judge freely in Matters of Religion, and to embrace that Opinion they think right, vithout any Hopes of temporal Rewards, and without any Fears of temporal punishment.