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in point of practice. All this he knavishly denominates reviling; and thus prepares for punishment by putting on it the livery of crime !
He goes on as follows:
“ And, first, of the offence of reviling the ordinances of the church. This is a crime” (mark the word, “a crime'), “ of a much grosser nature than the other or mere non-conformity, since it carries with it the utmost indecency, arrogance, and ingratitude. Indecency, by setting up private judgment in opposition to public; arrogance, by treating with contempt and rudeness, what has at least a better chance to be right than the singular notions of any particular man; and ingratitude, by denying that indulgence and liberty of conscience to the members of the national church, which the retainers to every petty conventicle enjoy."-Ib. 50.
Here is 'reviling in abundance, and of the genuine kind, not one of its abominable ingredients omitted, and all in the highest state of concentration. This is one of the most shameful passages in any book of authority in the English language, and speaks a severe condenination of the people by whom it could be endured.
What is it, what is the malignant thing, upon which all this abuse is lavished; which is a crime, a crime of peculiar grossness, which carries with it an affected phrase, meaning that it includes) the utmost indecency, arrogance, and ingratitude ? The sacred right of private judgment! This it is, which is thus to be blackened, in order that it may be punished, as often as its exercise, at least in freedom of speech, carries with it diversity from the church of England, diversity, at any rate, upon all the points which said church is pleased to call important.
The exercise of private judgment is a crime of peculiar grossness; first, because it is “ indecent." And it is indecent, because “ it sets up private judgment in opposition to public." Why, this is simply to have private judgment. The yery existence of private judgment is thus to be a crime. For a man to exercise private judgment for no purpose but to agree, right or wrong, with some other party, is to exercise no judgment at all. The total want of judgment not only suffices, but answers best for that end. Is not this a pretension, on the part of a priestly corporation, of some extent? Is any thing needed, in addition to this, to render their dominion absolute over the minds and bodies of men ?
Observe that the phrase, here too made use of, is deceptious and fraudulent. To set any thing up against the public, means, commonly, the act of endeavouring the subversion of some public institution by criminal force. The simple and peaceable declara. tion of a mere diversity of opinion from the church of England
on certain points, is here declared, by foul insinuation, to be a crime of this description.
The next part of the abuse heaped on the exercise of private judgment is, that it is arrogant. To make out the arrogance, a curious process is instituted. First, expressing the result of one's own acts of judgment, this, and this simply, is called contempt and rudeness, But we deny the contempt and rudeness ; and next we affirm, that contempt and rudeness, even when committed, are offences against good manners, to be punished by manners, not by the penalties of law. The second part of the process, to fasten the charge of arrogance upon the right of private judgment is, that the contempt and rudeness are exercised upon “ what has at least a better chance to be right, than the singular notions of any particular man.” What ? has it really been found that men could assert such a proposition as this, and dare to look society in the face? The singular (meaning individual, for here again we have a term which is deceptious and fraudulent) notions of some particular men, wherever men are al-' lowed the free exercise of their understandings, are sure to be right, as far as the limits of the human faculties permit. But the tenets put forth by a corporation of priests, if not subject to opposition, are sure to be wrong, and wrong to the bighest pitch of mischief, as being wholly directed to their own ends against the interests of mankind.
We now pass to the last portion of this attack on the right of private judgment. To exercise this right is to incur the crime of ingratitude. To make out this charge, a memorable assertion is hazarded. The act of uttering opinions opposed by the church of England, or endeavouring to show the error of opinions which she maintains, is, with the height of impudence, declared to be “ denying that indulgence and liberty of conscience, to the members of the national church, which the retainers to every petty conventicle enjoy." What ? do the retainers to every petty conventiele enjoy the privilege of speaking against “ the retainers to conventicles,” both “petty” and large, in pretty considerable latitude? Again, who denies " that indulgence and liberty of conscience to the members of the national church, which the retainers to every petty conventiele enjoy?” This author begins with mendacious insinuation, and, gaining courage as he proceeds, ends with direct and glaring falsehood.
We thought it of importance to exhibit a specimen of the exposure of this law scribe of the church in one passage: there are many others of like import, to which the reader may easily apply the same mode of examination for himself.
The next subject, in respect to which we are solicitous to present à correct estimate of the purposes of a corporate clergy, is the Liberty of the Press.
The aversion of the Romish church to the progress of mind needs no illustration. By every Protestant, the hostility of that corporation to the liberty of the press will be allowed to be constant and natural. We shall therefore confine ourselves to the evidence of the disposition manifested by the church of England.
Before proceeding to the items of this account, it may be well for the reader to call briefly to his recollection, what we mean, when we use the term liberty of the press. Minor points being left out of consideration, it is evident that liberty of the press is a vain sound, unless, in respect to the two subjects of primary importance, to wit, government and religion, every man has the power of publishing and maintaining any opinions which he pleases, and of making any remarks which he pleases on the opinions published by others, either as unsound in point of reason, or leading to mischievous consequences in practice.
If the law is not hus equal, but one set of men are distin, guished by the privilege of publishing what they please, while other. men are not allowed to publish any thing but what the men of privilege may approve, it is evident what opinions will be allowed to be heard by the people, and will always be uttered in their hearing with praise; of course opinions calculated to lodge power in the hands of those who thus possess the monopoly of opinions, and to lay the rest of the community, bound in mental chains, the most cruel and destructive of all chains, at the feet of unlimited, unchallenged, insatiable, masters and tyrants, Such are the interests involved in the liberty of the press,
and such is the instrument of human weal, against which it is the nature of a corporate priesthood to wage interminable war!
We shall not dwell upon the atrocities of the Convocation and the Star-chamber, when Laud placed in so dazzling a light the conviction of himself and brethren, that the extinction of a free press, even in the blood of its employers, was absolutely necessary for the accomplishment of their designs. This man is the idol of the church of England : has been the boasted pattern of a churchman from his own to the present day. Better evidence of the early and continued disposition of that church towards the liberty of the press can hardly be required, and the extreme importance of the subject is the only reason which could induce us to employ another word in its illustration.
When the enemies of any great instrument of human good are unable wholly to prevent its existence, they may show an equal degree of bitter enmity, and show it no less decisively, by a constant endeavour to damage the instrument, and cramp its ope,
: ration, than in other circumstances by endeavouring and accomplishing its ruins.
In regard to the press, the church of England are chargeable with both enormities. As long as their utmost endeavours could
accomplish the horrid ipurpose of preventing entirely the liberty of printing, they did prevent it: they kept the instrument in their own hands, and allowed it to be employed for none but their own purposes, or purposes allied to their own. They had influence to retain it under licence, and the licence in their own custody, till four years after the Revolution.
The spirit of free inquiry, aided by the use which was made of the licensed press, became too strong at last to submit to this restraint. But when the licence was taken off, the press was left in a condition far indeed from free. It was interdicted from all those exertions by which the extraordinary benefits it is calculated to yield are most certainly realized. Severe punishment was provided against free discussion in matters of religion and government-the two sources of the greatest evil to mankind, when allowed to be made subservient to the purposes of the few against the many, and impossible not to be so made, whensoever the press is not active and free.
We now state broadly, that all the hurtful and hateful powers, which were thus preserved, of restraining the freedom of the press, and depriving mankind of the greatest of its benefits, the clergy have, until the present hour, shown the greatest disposition to employ ; that they have employed them, as far as the spirit of the age would permit their being employed; and that every attempt to diminish them, and to give to the press any additional portion of its beneficial freedom, has found in the clergy its most strenuous and furious opponents.
We know not that on this subject we have occasion to do any thing more than refer our readers to what each of them may recollect of the prosecutions, and punishments, for libel, since the censorship was abolished, and the proceedings in parliament and out of it, on the occasion of every motion, from that to the present time, which has had the press for its object.
If any of them cast about for evidence of the disposition of the clergy towards freedom of discussion during the period in question, he cannot light on any thing more pregnant, than that memorable passage of Blackstone, on which we have already commented, respecting what he calls reviling of the church. Though words spoken are there also included, words printed are of course the object chiefly aimed at, because the printed words have the greatest diffusion and the greatest power. The effort, there made, to second the purposes of the church, is an effort to limit, or rather to destroy the freedom of the press, as regards religion. And the remarkable circumstances of that effort we need not again present to the minds of our readers, on which we trust they have made as deep an impression as they have on ours. To employ the press with freedom on matters of religion, is there stamped “à crime”—a “
gross crime"-a crime, “ which carries with it thé- utmost indecency, arrogance,
and ingratitude;" and which should be open to any punishment by the officers of the church, not extending to extirpation and destruction.
Having this evidence, need we be very solicitous about adding to it, by multiplying instances in detail ?
William Whiston was one of the most learned men whom this country has ever produced, and a man the excellence of whose life and character will bear an advantageous coinparison with that of any man of any country or of any age. The friend of the great Newton, and his successor in the mathematical chair at Cambridge, a sincere and zealous Christian, an indefatigable promoter of learning and knowledge, he contracted, unhappily for himself, a strony opinion of the unchristian spirit and tendency of the Athanasian creed; and being a man in whose mind the interests of truth far predominated over all personal considerations, he fearlessly promulgated and maintained his heresy. We cannot enter into the particulars of the persevering and merciless persecution which he underwent. Suffice it to say, that he was ruined, and compelled for the remainder of his days to subsist mainly upon charity. Nor was high church satisfied with striking him down, till it had the pleasure of also trampling upon him when down. The scurrility of the Rev. Dr. Swift, upon such a man, in such circumstances (“ Wicked Will Whiston," &c.) relished, as the monuments of the times inform us it was, is an indication of a spirit which we leave our readers, to characterize.
Another remarkable case is that of Mr. Woolston, of whom the following is the account given by. Whiston. “ He was a Fellow of Sidney College, in Cambridge. He was in his younger days a clergyman of very good reputation, a scholar, and well esteemed as a preacher, charitable to the poor, and beloved by all good men that knew him. Now it happened that after some time he most unforiunately fell into Origen's allegorical works, and poring hard upon them without communicating his studies to any body, he became so fanciful in that matter, that he thought the allegorical way of interpretation of the scriptures of the Old Testament had been unjustly neglected by the moderns, and that it might be useful for an additional proof of Christianity. Insomuch that he preached this doctrine first in the college chapel, to the great surprise of his audience, though (his intentions being known to be good, and his person beloved) no discouragement was shewed him there.
His notions appeared to be so wild, that a report went about that he was under a disorder of mind : which when he heard instead of that applause he thought he had deserved by retrieving a long-forgotten argument for the truth of Christianity, he grew really disordered, and, as I have been informed, he was accordingly confined for a about a quarter of a yeer, after which, though his notions were