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Tempers, that they are ashamed of a Cause so weakly conducted, and so ridiculously supported; insomuch that even among the Gentlemen of the Army, where our great Strength was once supposed to lie, I know several, who are univerfally acknowledged to be Men of Genius, Worth, and Honour, who were never known to want either Courage or Presence of Mind in an Article of Danger, yet are now become so—so, what shall I call it! so superstitious, as to be asraid of doing or laying what the Believers call a profane or irreligious Thing; they even make a Scruple of breaking one of the Ten Commandments; they are not ashamed to go to Church, to read the Bible, to soy their Prayers, to give Alms, and even to converse with a Parson without affronting his Character; nay, some of them carry the Matter so far, as to appear zealous for the Interest and Honour of Religion; nay, much more so than many who are obliged by their Interest, as well as their Duty and Prosession, to adorn an4 desend it. This is a mortifying Consideration.—If Things go on at this rate, we know not how they will end, for these Gentlemen can fight as well as talk for Religion; and if they should once take it in their Heads that Religion was a Cause worth fighting sor^ it might go a great Way towards hindering free Debate upon religious Subjects, and do irreparable Mischies to our Cause; of which I myself have seen two or three very fatal Instances. I was once at a Coffee-house, where a very sprightly young Fellow was entertaining the Company with a great many unlucky Jokes and Flings upon Religion in general. An Officer who fat near him, at length interrupted him: Sir, faid he, that God, whose Name you have dishonoured,
•whose IVorfhip you despise, whose Religion you treat uMh Irreverence and Contempt, is my Creator, my Father., end my best Friend; and though I cannot dispute for him, yet I can fight for him, and in his Name I demand Satisfaction. Ttys unexpected Rebusf made so violent an Impression upon the Spirits of the young Orator, that it immediately threw him into a Colliquative Diarrhœa, which carried him off in less than four and twenty Hours, and has ever smce given me an incurable Aversion to these bloody-minded Crufado .Christians, who are for running a Man through the Body, in order to fave his Soul.
What then must be done! Why the Malady points cut the Remedy, the Disease directs us to the Cure; there is no other Way of recovering our Reputation tut by acting a more discreet Part for the suture, and laying this undisciplined Rabble under proper Restraints and Regulations. Among the many Projects that have been started in the Course of my Lucubrations upon this Subject, I had once a Thought of trying our Interest with the Legislature, to procure a Charter of Incorporation for all Free-thinkers in general; the Governor, or Governors, of which should be invested with sull Powers and Privileges to examine, admit, and restrain, by wholesome Laws of Discipline and Order, all such as should, at any time, offer themselves as Candidates to be gremial or honourary Members of our Society: But the late ill Success of eurBrethren, the Quakers and other Protejtant Dissenters, who have been Petitioners upon much the fame Pretensions, has convinced me, that there is too great a Majority of Believers in both Houses to expect any Good at present from that Quarter. However we
may may, under the Protection of the Tole ration-Acty form ourselves into a voluntary Society for promoting the fame Cause, obtaining the fame Ends, and answering all the real Purposes of a legal Incorporation: A short Scheme of which I shall endeavour to lay before you, which I shall submit to be examined and amended by such of our Friends as you (hall think best qualified to advise in so important an Asfair.—My accidental Mention of the Quakers suggests to me a lucky Hint, which your good Sense cannot fail to improve. Every body knows that they are the most politic thriving Body of Men that ever subsisted in this or any other Nation without—without, did I fay !— nay, in direct Defiance to a legal and national Establishment; and therefore, as there is a very great Resemblance betwixt our Principles and theirs, particularly in the great Articles of Priesthood, Consecrated Places, Ecclejiastical Order, Sacraments, Articles of Faith, and Payment ofTytbes; so I cannot but think it would be good Policy to copy after their Plan of Association,.. and build upon their Model, I mean only as to the political Interests of the Society.
The Quakers, (if I am not misinformed) besides their weekly Meetings, have their quarterly Meetings of Deputies from their several Congregations, within.. such particular Districts, and a general Meeting of. Deputies from the whole Body,. who assemble regularly at London, every Feast of Pentecost, (as they call it) by which the Intercourse and Communication betwixt the several Members and Congregations of the whole Society is maintained. This Scheme, with some proper Alterations suited to our different Circumstances, I cannot but think would be extremely convenient
venient for us.—Suppose therefore that there were lit every County of Great-Britain, several Societies, Meetings, or Lodges in Proportion to the Extent of the County, and Numbers of Brethren, who should meet on any Day of the Week (Sunday only except- ed) and at any Hour of the Day, or rather of the Night, if the Majority snail think it more convenient: That in each of these Societies, or Lodges, there should be appointed an annual Ossicer to admit and register the Names, Age, Places of Residence, Prosessions, bV. of all Candidates that shall appear worthy to be admitted; and that, out of each of these, two Deputies should be sent to a quarterly Meeting at the CountyTown the Monday, following the respective QuarterSessions holden at each Town; where all Matters and Causes relating to the particular Interest of each separate Lodge, or Society, and the general Interest of the whole might be examined and settled. And that a general Meeting of two Deputies from each Congregation mould assemble every Year on the first Day of April, atva proper Place to be hereaster settled and agreed upon by a Majority of Votes. London I can by no means think a proper Place, though Custom has made it the very Center of Business and Correspondence; yet forasmuch as we are in a particular Way of Thinking, and owe no Reverence to the Fashions and Opinions of others, but only consult our own Ease and Convenience, it appears more agreeable to us to pitch upon some Place near the Center of the" Kingdom, for the greater Ease of the Deputies who are to assemble there. And here my good Genius directs me to make use of this Opportunity, to pay my unseigned Reverence and Respect to a once renowned,
though long neglected Seminary of Wit and Learning, famous in the Annals of former Ages, whose wise Inhabitants were no less celebrated in the Songs and Proverbs of ancient Times, than the venerable Sages of ancient Greece and Rome. You will easily imagine I can mean no other than the famous Town of Goat/jam in Nottingham/hire, whose Ruins I have long bewailed: with a more than filial Piety, and hope to see it once more restored by the united Zeal and Labour of our Friends to its pristine Fame and Splendor, so as to equal, at least, if not eclipse, all our established Seminaries of blind Zeal, Bigottry, and Superstition* Here I hope to see begun, at least, if not completed, a noble and ample Foundation, richly endowed by some of our opulent Friends, to be a Nursery for future Champions of Liberty and Free-thinking, till it become the Establishment of these Kingdoms. Nor can this be thought an improbable or unreasonable Prospect, by any that considers the unwearied Zeal, and unbounded Benevolence that distinguish our Leaders from the Friends of Slavery and Superstition, whose Heads and Hearts are cramped by narrowNotions of Orthodoxy, Discipline, and Order. But till this can be accomplished, it were a desirable Thing, that private Seminaries or Academies were erected in convenient Places, for the Reception and Education of proper Persons, to be sent out from time to time upon the Million, with proper Instructions how to act agreeably to their several T,!ents and Capacities, as, the different Exigencies of the Public may require. I would therefore humbly propose, that no Person of what Age, Rank, or Quality soever should be permitted to act or talk in public as a Free-thinker, who