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from scripture, and the first and purest ages of the church; which makes up a great negative union.
And it cannot be unknown to men read in the reasons of the reformation, that a protestation made by the German reformers against the imperial edicts of Charles the Fifth, imposing Romish traditions, gave beginning to the word Protestant.
In short, it is the interest of the ruling or church-protestants of England, that the pope should have no claim or power in England. It is also the interest of the dissenting-protestants, that the pope should have no claim or power here in England, because they are subject to the same mischiefs and sufferings in their civil and religious rights that the churchprotestants are liable to: if then both are like to lose by pope and foreign authority, their interest must needs be one against pope and foreign authority; and if they have but one interest, it will follow, that the church-protestant cannot prejudice the dissenting-protestant, but he must weaken and destroy his own interest.
The civil-interest of English protestants being thus the same, and their religious interest too, so far as concerns a negative to the usurpation and error of Rome; I do humbly ask, if it be the interest of the government to expose those to misery, that have no other civil interest than that of the government? or if it be just or equal, that the weaker should be prosecuted by the more powerful protestants, whose interest is postively the same in civils, and in religion negatively? One would think it were reasonable that they should not suffer by protestants, who, if popery have a day, are likely to suffer with them, and that upon the same principles. Experience tells us, that the wisest architects lay their foundations broad and strong, and raise their squares and structure by the most exact rules of art, that the fabrick may be secure against the violence of storms; but if people must be destroyed by those of the same interest, truly that interest will stand but totteringly, and every breath of opposition will be ready to shake it.
It was the inconfutable answer Christ made to the blasphemers of that power by which he wrought miracles; "A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand:" what he said then, let me on another occasion say now, 'An interest divided against itself must fall.'
I know some men will take fire at this, and by crying The church! the church!' hope to silence all arguments of this nature; but they must excuse me, if I pay no manner of regard to their zeal, and hold their devotion both ignorant and dangerous at this time. It is not the way to fill the
church, to destroy the people. A church without people is a contradiction; especially when the scripture tells us, that it is the people that make the church.
And it is not without an appearance of reason that some good and wise men are apprehensive, that the greatest sticklers for persecuting protestant dissenters, in favour of the church of England, are men addicted and devoted to the church of Rome, or at least animated by such as are; who, despairing of doing any great feats, if known, hide themselves under these pretences; but the meaning of it is to debilitate the protestant cause in general, by exciting the church of England to destroy all other protestant interests in these kingdoms, that so nothing may remain for popery to conflict with, but the few zealous abettors of that church.
And that this may not look disingenuous, or like a trick of mine, I will enforce it by a demonstration. It is plain fact, that the church of Rome hath, ever since the reformation, practised the restoration of her religion and power in these kingdoms. It is as evident, that religion is with her a word for civil interest; that is, that she may have the rule over men, both body and soul. For it is government she aims at, to have the reins of power in her hand, to give law, and wield the sceptre.
To do this, she must either have a greater interest than the protestants, that are now in possession, or else divide their interest, and so weaken them by themselves, and make them instruments to her ends. That her own force is inconsiderable, is clear: she has nothing within doors to give her hope, but the discord of protestants. It follows then, that she must of necessity bestir herself, and use her arts to inflame the reckoning among protestants, and carry their dissents about religious matters to a division in the civil interest. And it is the more to be feared, because whatever she has been to others, she has been ever true to herself.
If this then be the only domestic expedient left her, we are sure she will use it; and if so, it must needs be of great importance with all protestants to let fall their private animosities, and take all possible care that their dissents about faith or worship, (which regard the other world) divide not their affection and judgment about the common and civil interest of their country; because if that be kept intire, it equally frustrates the designs of Rome, as if you were of one religion. For since, as I said before, religion, with the great men of that church, is nothing else but a softer word for civil empire, preserve you but your civil interest from fraction, and you are, in that sense, of one religion too; VOL. III
and that such an one, as you need not fear the temptation of Smithfield, if you will but be true to it.
This being the case, I would take leave to ask the zealous gentlemen of the English church, if conformity to the fashion of their worship be dearer to them than England's interest and the cause of protestancy?' If their love to churchgovernment be greater, than to the church and her religion, and to their country and her laws? or, lastly, whether, in case they are sincere in their allegations for the church, (which, I confess ingenuously, I am apt to suspect) it is to be supposed that the present churchmen (conformists I mean) are better able of themselves to secure protestancy, and our civil interest, against the attempts of Rome, than in conjunction with the civil interest of all protestant dissenters? If they say, 'Yes;' I would have them at the same time, for the same reason, to give it under their hands, that it is a standing rule in arithmetic, that ONE is more than six, and that hitherto we have been all mistaken in the art of numbers.
Being brought to this pitch, I conceive they must say, that they had rather deliver up their church to the power and designs of popery, than suffer dissenters to live freely among them, though protestants, of one negative religion, and of the same civil interest; or else hasten to break those bonds that are laid upon dissenters of truly tender (and by experience) of peaceable consciences; and by law establish the free exercise of their worship to Almighty God, that the fears, jealousies, disaffection, and distraction, that now affect the one common interest of protestants, may be removed; for it seems impossible to preserve a distinct interest from both. But to which of these they may incline, I must not determine; and yet, I hope, they will not be of the mind of a late monk of Cullen, who in his public exercise exhorted the civil magistrates to choose to have their city poor and catholic, that is popish, rather than great and opulent by the admission of trading heretics; but if they should, may our magistrates have at least their prudence; for the Culleners gave him the hearing, but were as true to their interest, as the monk to his superstition.
Under favour, the civil government is greatly concerned to discountenance such bigotry; for it thins the people, lessens trade, creates jealousies, and endangers the peace and wealth of the whole. And, with submission, of what should the civil magistrate be more tender, than of suffering the civil interest of a great people to be disturbed and narrowed for the humour of any one party of them For since
the civil interest lies as large, as the people of that interest, the people must be preserved, in order to preserve that common interest. Other notions ever did divide and weaken empire, and in the end they have rarely missed to pull the old house about their ears, who have governed themselves by such disproportionable measures: by all means, interest the affections of the people in the prosperity of the government, by making the government a security to their particular rights and properties.
I ask, ' If more custom comes not to the king, and more trade to the kingdom, by encouraging the labour and traffic of an episcopalian, presbyterian, independent, quaker, and anabaptist, than by an episcopalian only?' If this be true, why should the rest be rendered incapable of trade, yea, of living? What schism or heresy is there in the labour and commerce of the anabaptist, quaker, independent, and presbyterian, more than in the labour and traffic of the episcopalian?
I beseech you give me leave: is there ever a churchman in England, that in distress would refuse the courtesy of one of these dissenters? If one of them should happen to fall into a pond or ditch, would he deny to be helped out by a dissenter's hand? Is it to be supposed, he would in such a pickle be stomachful, and choose to lie there, and be smothered or drowned, rather than owe aid to the good-will of a poor fanatic? Or if his house were on fire, may we think that he would have it rather burnt to the ground, than acknowledge its preservation to a nonconformist? Would not the act be orthodox, whatever were the man? So, in case of being sick, imprisoned, beset, benighted, out of the way, far from kindred or acquaintance, with an hundred other cases that may happen daily, can we think that such men would ask questions for conscience sake, or charge schism upon the relief given them? No, no; self will always be true to its interest, let superstition mutter what it will.
But since the industry, rents, and taxes of the dissenters are as current as their neighbours', who loses by such nar rowness more than England, than the government and the magistracy? for till it be the interest of the farmer to destroy his flock, to starve the horse he rides, and the cow that gives him milk, it cannot be the interest of England to let a great part of her sober and useful inhabitants be destroyed about things that concern another world. And it is to be hoped, that the wisdom and charity of our governors will better guide them, both to their own real interest, and their people's preservation, which are inseparable; that so they may not
starve them for religion, that are as willing as able to work for the good of king and country.
I beseech you, let nature speak; who is so much a better friend to human society, than false or froward opinion, that she often rectifies the mistakes of a prejudiced education; so that we may say, how kind, how gentle, how helpful does she teach us to be to each other, till that make-bate, opinion (falsly called religion) begins the jangle, and foments to hatred.
All the productions of nature are by love; and shall religion propagate by force? If we consider the poor hen, she will teach us humanity. Nature does not only learn her to hatch, but to be tender over, her feeble chickens, that they may not be a prey to the kite. All the seed and plants that grow for the use and nourishment of man, are produced by the kind and warm influences of the sun. Nothing but kindness keeps up the human race men and women do not beget children in spite, but affection. It is wonderful to think by what friendly and gentle ways nature produces and matures the creatures of the world; and that religion should teach us to be froward and cruel, is lamentable: this were to make her the enemy, instead of the restorer, of nature. But, I think, we may without offence say, that since true religion gives men greater mildness and goodness than they had before, that religion which teaches them less, must needs be false. What shall we say then, but that even nature is a truer guide to peace, and better informs us to preserve civil interest, than false religion, and consequently, that we ought to be true to the natural and just principles of society, and not suffer one of them to be violated for humour or opinion.
Let us go together as far as our way lies, and preserve our unity in those principles which maintain our civil society. This is our common and our just interest; all protestant dissenters agree in this; and it is both wise and righteous to admit no fraction upon this pact, no violence upon this concord. For the consequence of permitting any thing to break in upon the principles of human society, that is foreign to the nature of it, will distract and weaken that society.
We know, that in all plantations the wisdom of planters is well aware of this: and let us but consider, that the same ways that plant countries, must be kept to for preserving the plantation, else it will quickly be depopulated.
That country which is false to its first principles of government, and mistakes or divides its common and popular