« السابقةمتابعة »
time by the reformation of any errors seem innovators in religion, ought to be punished, as difturbers of the peace of the public. Now this advice being given but a little before our Saviour came into the world, 'tis very unfortunate that it fhould be given at fuch a time, when it must have entirely prevented the fpreading of his doctrines, and the teaching mankind that the gods which the heathens worshipped were no gods. Our bleffed Lord ought, in confequence of this advice, to have been punished as perverting the nation, as innovating in religion, and as fowing fedition and difcord among the people, fuch as it feems no man could foretel, every good man might fear.
2. This advice muft neceffarily have prevented the reformation from popery had it been followed at that time, becaufe that was a remarkable inftance of innovation in religion. Suppofe that any statesman had advised Henry VIII. or Edward VI. or queen Elizabeth in that manner, and they had admitted it, muft not the fuperftition and idolatry of Rome have continued the established religion of this country? Muft not we have been kept in the dregs of corruption ftill? And must not the light of the gofpel have been fhut from our eyes?
3. If this be right, then all those princes that have followed this advice, have acted a righteous part in perfecuting to the utmoft all that have attempted to innovate in religion. The late king of France did right to dragoon, his proteftant fubjects; and the duke of Savoy justly drove out the Piemontife; and every prince that is most barbarous and cruel, acts an upright juftifiable part, and what is most acceptable unto God, when he refuses to fuffer any fuch under his government, whom he may charge with disturbing the peace of the state by not complying with the established religion of the country.
4. Every nation in the world thinks, or pretends to think, that the religion established amongst them is acceptable unto God; and that the way in which they pay their honour and worship is fuch as is fit and proper, and will draw down the bleffings of heaven upon them. Every nation too has its peculiar orthodoxy, and a fet of tenets, the truth of which it afferts as the words of God himself. 'Tis impoffible that all these can be true, nay that every particular chriftian church can hold opinions contradictory, perhaps to their next neighbours, and yet be in the right. Or were this poffible, fure we are that the heathen and
the mahometan nations, are in the groffeft errors. If therefore it be a duty incumbent on every man to keep his mind open to truth, and to receive it when offered to him, the advice never to fuffer innovations in region must be abjurd in ijelf, because it would be to prohibit a great part of mankind the knowledge. of truth; and it would be to prevent the reception of the gospel in all fuch places where the benefit of it is not at prefent known.
Your lordship, I am fure, would not on any account propose a scheme fo destructive to truth and to common christianity as this. But under a plenary conviction of mind that your lordship's notions are true, and that we of this nation are so happy as to have the truth eta-blished here; and that in confequence of that, every innovation here neceffarily being for the worse, you think the advice to be just and right.
But then your lordship knows, that hitherto we have in vain been fearching for a fure and infallible criterion of truth; that every nation, and every man, how erroneous foever, is orthodox to himself; and that those who are under the misfortune of error, are as pofitive and confident, as those who have truth on their fide. 'Tis therefore of little confe
quence in the prefent cafe, and in our prefent inquiry, whether one or another has the truth on his fide; for whilft every body is fully affured of the truth of his notions, every body will plead the fame right; and in the confequence, error will reap every privilege which truth itself can claim.
But your lordship not infifting on this, but on the evidence of fact for the reason why innovations of religion are not to be suffered; and Macenas (who was an heathen) pretending that an innovation of religion was the means to fubvert the government, this will deserve our moft ferious confideration. And here,
It must be granted that usually innovations in religion have been attended with difturbances in the ftate. But then the reafon why innovations in religion have been attended with feuds, and animofities, disturbances and miferies in the flate, is, because the State intermeddles in that fort of property to which it has no right. The people always affert and vindicate this, as a first principle, that 'tis better to obey God than man; and whilft that is allowed to be true, (which no body I think will deny exprefly, tho' they may explain. it away) whatever the confequences of it are, they will affert and maintain it. A man can
no more refuse his affent to truth, when it appears clear to him, than he can refuse to fee the light at noon-day when his eyes are open. If therefore any ftate refufes to fuffer men to change their fentiments, or pretends to hinder them from obeying what they think to be the will of God, oppofition must be expected; and if difturbances enfue, they are not to be imputed to change of religion, (which has nothing vicious or evil in it, nothing that . is diforderly and inconfiftent with the public peace,) but to the ill conduct of fuch advifers as that heathen Maecenas, who refuse to permit men to follow their own confciences ins things pertaining to God and not hurtful to any man, and will have them obey men rather than God.
Innovations in religion have no natural or neceffary connexion with disturbances or dif orders of the fa'e: and 'tis just the fame abfurdity to impute the one to the other, as 'tis to pretend that to alter a man's notions of worshipping God muft deftroy his private property, or at least muft caufe confufion in it. 'Tis evident that the one has no relation to the other, but let what changes you please happen in property, religion is the fame; or let the ways of honouring God be altered, property is the fame, except in the cafe where