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Earl of NOTTINGHA M.
S your lordship's great name commands a particular regard to be paid to whatever your lordship thinks fit to publish, no wonder that most men were pleased to see your lordship engaging yourself in a controverfy of fo much confequence to christianity. Perfons of your lordship's station have this advantage above other writers, that they always fpeak with authority. I was not therefore much furprised to see our famous university of Oxford returning to your lordship their public thanks for the fervice you have done in relation to the controverfy concerning the trinity; becaufe principles or doctrines recommended
recommended to the world by a perfon of your lordship's quality, and with that serious nefs and gravity with which your lordship has wrote, are always embraced fo readily, and are affented to with fo little hesitation, that 'twill be deemed prefumption by many to make doubt of any thing maintained in your lordfhip's book.
When the university of Oxford had set the example, it could not be thought abfurd or unreasonable to attempt to bring the clergy into the fame meafures. How far 'tis ufual for the London Clergy to address their thanks to any person who has vindicated any doctrine of chriftianity, I know not. But as I could not come into the motion made by the archdeacon of London on that occafion, I must beg Icave to lay before your lordship and the world, the grounds upon which, I think, thofe are to be juftified, who refufed compliance with him.
'Tis not my design to enter into the merits of the controverfy concerning the trinity with your lordship; but only to point out fome natural confequences of feveral principles in your lordship's book, which they must avow and approve, who return your lordship their thanks for your answer to Mr. Whiston.
When fuch great bodies declare their fentiments of any book, the impreffion is ftamped fo deep, that few can refift the weight of fuch authority. Yet who would imagine that in the very book fo much recommended, the lawfulness of perfecution should be afferted ;and fuch notions maintained, as are inconfiftent with the propagation of that christianitywhich your lordship, has defended?
The first thing, in which I am forced to differ from your lordship is this, that you approve of the advice of Maecenas to Augufius, and recommend it to the world as right and good. It was the advice of Macenas to Auguftus, fays your lordship,
never to fuffer any innovation in religion, because the peace of the ftate depended upon it: that ' prince had peace in all the world; but what disturbances, what miferies, innovations in religion have caufed in this nation, the 'hiftory of the last age informs us fufficiently; and how fatal the feuds and animofitics, occafioned by pretenders to religion, in this may be, no man can foretel, every good man fears. p. 157.
I readily acknowledge that this was the advice of a very great statesman; and I cannot but obferve, that statesmen and politicians of G. 5
all religions generally espouse these notions and regulate their practices accordingly. Mecenas (who was a heathen) gave the advice to Auguftus, "That he should follow
conftantly the established religion of his country, "because all innovations in that would foment "fedition in the ftate, and be a means to "fubvert his government:" and as if this were an axiom in politics, that statesman is fcarce to be found in the world, who does not embrace this notion. Mr. Hobbes (who found mankind bad enough, but left them much worfe) has worked up a system of ftate-religion, whereof the main principles are, that the interpretation of all laws as well facred as fecular depends upon the
authority of the fupreme power' That the 'civil powers have a right to command the manner of honouring God.' That obedience is due to the fovereign in all things,
as well fpiritual as temporal.' And lastly, that whatever is commanded by the fovereign 'power is commanded by God himself.' Now admitting thefe for principles, it plainly fol lows, as Mr. Hobbes has more than once deduced, that the fupreme power has a right to prohibit fuch doctrines to be taught as he judges improper' that every one commits a crime, and may be juftly punished for
"the fame, who perfuades men to receive a 'new religion' that diffentions in religion are the caufes of war, and therefore the
eftablished religion, (or that which the fu'preme power commands) ought to be followed.' Such are Mr. Hobbes's principles, and fuch the confequences drawn from them!
Statesmen and politicians feldom pay too great a regard to religion; and as feldom to the truth of things: 'tis ufual therefore for them more particularly to condemn men as factious, and their writings as tending to difturbances, if they recede a hair's breadth, from common opinions. Right or wrong,true or falfe, is frequently not fo much the point, as how it fuits with a particular in-tereft. Whether this conduct answers the end propofed, (tho' I cannot but think that the continuation of fects and factions in religion is entirely owing to thefe political ar- tifices) whether this conduct, I fay, answers the end propofed I fhall not inquire; fince 'tis not my defign to confider this advice in a political view, but whether it be right or wrong, fit or unfit in itself to be given.
In this light I muft obferve,.
1. That if this advice be good and right in itself, it plainly follows that all, who at any G 6