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in this manner: “Why should we make the choosing « of a speaker a party cause ? Let us fix upon one, “ who is well versed in the practices and methods of “ parliament.” And I believe, there are too many who would talk at the same rate, if the question were not only about abolishing the sacramental test, but the sacrament itself.
But, suppose the principles of the most artful speaker would have no influence, either to obtain, or obstruct any point in parliament; who can answer what effects such a choice may produce without doors ? It is obvious how such a matter serves to raise the spirits and hopes of the dissenters, and their high flying advocates : what lengths they run, what conclusions they form, and what hopes they entertain. Do they hear of a new friend in office ? that is encouragement enough to practise the city, against the opinion of a majority, into an address to the queen for repealing the sacramental test; or issue out their orders to the next fanatick parson, to furbish up his old sermons, and preach and print new ones directly against episcopacy. I would lay a good wager, that if the choice of a new speaker, succeeds exactly to their liking, we shall see it soon followed by many new attempts, either in the form of pamphlet, sermon, or address, to the same, or perhaps more dangerous purposes.
Supposing the speaker's office to be only an employment of profit and honour, and a step to a better ; since it is in your own gift, will you not choose to bestow it upon some person, whose principles the majority of you pretends to approve, if it were only to be sure of a worthy man hereafter, in a high station, on the bench, or at the bar ?
I confess, if it were a thing possible to be compassed, it would seem most reasonable, to fill the chair with some person, who would be entirely devoted to neither party : bit, since there are so few of that character, and those either unqualified or unfriended, I cannot see how a inajority will answer it to their reputation, to be so ill provided of able persons, that they must have recourse to their adversaries for a leader; a proceeding, of which I never met with above one example, and even that succeeded but ill, though it was recommended by an oracle ; which advised some city in Greece to beg a general from their enemies, who, in scorn, sent them either a fiddler or a poet, I have forgotten which ; and so much I remember, that his conduct was such, that they soon grew weary of him.
You pretend to be heartily resolved against repealing the sacramental test; yet at the same time, give the only great employment you have to dispose of, to a person, who will take that test against stomach, (by which word I understand many a man's conscience) who earnestly wishes it repealed, and will endeavour it to the utinost of his power; so that the first action after you meet, will be a sort of contravention to that test: and will any body go farther than your practise, to judge of your principles ?
And now I am upon this subject, I cannot conclude, without saying something to a very popular argument against that sacramental test, which may be apt to shake many of those, who would otherwise wish well enough to it. They say, it was a new hardship put upon the dissenters, without any provocation ; and, it is plain, could be no way necessary, because we had peaceably lived together so long withVOL. X.
out it. They add some other circumstances, of the arts by which it was obtained, and the person by whom it was inserted. Surely such people do not consider, that the penal laws against dissenters, were made wholly ineffectual, by the connivance and mercy of the government; so that all employments of the state, lay as open to them as they did to the best and most legal subjects. And what progress they would have made, by the advantages of a late conjunction, is obvious to imagine ; which I take to be a full answer to that objection.
I remember, upon the transmission of that bill with the test-clause inserted, the dissenters and their
partizans, among other topicks, spoke much of the good effects produced by the lenity of the government: that the presbyterians were grown very inconsiderable in their number and quality, and would daily come into the church, if we did not fright them from it by new severities. When the act was passed, they presently changed their style, and raised a clamour through both kingdoms, of the great numbers of considerable gentry who were laid aside, and could no longer serve their queen and country; which hyperbolical way of reckoning, when it came to be melted down into truth, amounted to about fifteen country justices, most of them of the lowest size, for estate, quality, or understanding. However, this puts me in mind of a passage told me by a great man, although I know not whether it be any where recorded : That a complaint was made to the king and council of Sweden, of a prodigious swarm of Scots, who, under the condition of pedlars, infested that kingdom to such a degree, as, if not suddenly prevented, might in time prove dangerous to the state,
by joining with any discontented party. Meanwhile the Scots, by their agents, placed a good sum of money, to engage the officers of the prime minister in their behalf; who, in order to their defence, told the council, “ He was assured they were but a few incon“ siderable people, that lived honestly and poorly, “and were not of any consequence.” Their enemies offered to prove the contrary : whereupon an order was made to take their numbers, which was found to amount, as I remember, to about thirty thousand. The affair was again brought before the council, and great reproaches made to the first minister for his ill computation ; who, presently taking the other handle, said, “He had reason to believe, the number yet
greater than what was returned;” and then gravely offered to the king's consideration, “ Whether it was “ safe to render desperate so great a body of able men, “ who had little to lose, and whom any hard treat
ment, would only serve to unite into a power
capable of disturbing, if not destroying, the peace « of the kingdom.” And so they were suffered to continue.
THE REPEAL OF THE TEST.
THOSE of either side who have written upon this subject of the test, in making or answering objections, seem to fail, by not pressing sufficiently the chief point, upon which the controversy turns. The arguments used by those who write for the church, are very good in their kind; but will have little force under the present corruptions of mankind, because the authors treat this subject tanquam in republica Platonis, et non in fece Romuli.
It must be confessed, that considering how few employments of any consequence, fall to the share of those English who are born in this kingdom, and those few very dearly purchased, at the expense of conscience, liberty, and all regard for the publick good, they are not worth contending for: and if nothing but profit were in the case, it would hardly cost me one sigh, when I should see those few scraps thrown among every species of fanaticks, to scuffle for among themselves.
And this will infallibly be the case, after repealing the test. For every subdivision of seçt will, with