Page images
PDF
EPUB

that the abolishment of the Christian religion, will be the readiest course we can take to introduce popery. And I am the more inclined to this opinion, because we know it has been the constant practice of the jesuits, to send over emissaries, with instructions to personate themselves members of the several prevailing sects among us. So it is recorded, that they have at sundry times appeared in the disguise of Presbyterians, Anabaptists, Independents, and Quakers, according as any of these were most in credit; so, since the

fashion has been taken up of exploding religion, the popish missionaries have not been wanting to mix with the freethinkers; among whom Toland, the great oracle of the Antichristians, is an Irish priest, the son of an Irish priest; and the most learned and ingenious author of a book, called “The Rights of the Christian Church,” was in a proper juncture reconciled to the Romish faith, whose true son, as appears by a hundred passages in his treatise, he still continues. Perhaps I could add some others to the number; but the fact is beyond dispute, and the reasoning they proceed by is right: for, supposing Christianity to be extinguished, the people will never be at ease till they find out some other method of worship; which will as infallibly produce superstition, as superstition will end in popery.

And therefore, if notwithstanding all I have said, it still be thought necessary to have a bill brought in for repealing Christianity, I would humbly offer an amendment, that instead of the word Christianity, may be put religion in general ; which, I conceive, will much better answer all the good ends proposed by the projectors of it. For, as long as we leave in being a God and his providence, with all the necessary consequences which curious and inquisitive men will be apt to draw from such premises, we do not strike at the root of the evil, though we should ever so effectually annihilate the present scheme of the gospel : for, of what use is freedom of thought, if it will not produce freedom of action? which is the sole end, how remote soever in appearance, of all objections against Christianity; and therefore, the freethinkers consider it as a sort of edifice, wherein all the parts have such a mutual dependence on each other, that if you happen to pull out one single nail, the whole fabric must fall to the ground. This was happily expressed by him, who had heard of a text brought for proof of the Trinity, which in an ancient manuscript was differently read; he thereupon immediately took the hint, and by a sudden deduction of a long sorites, most logically concluded ; “Why, if it be as you say, I may safely whore and drink on, and dety the parson.” From which, and many the like instances easy to be produced, I think nothing can be more manifest, than that the quarrel is not against any particular points of hard digestion in the Christian system, but against religion in general ; which, by laying restraints on human nature, is supposed the great enemy to the freedom of thought and action.

Upon the whole, if it shall still be thought for the benefit of church and state, that Christianity be abolished, I conceive, however, it may be more convenient to defer the execution to a time of peace; and not venture, in this conjuncture, to disoblige our allies, who, as it falls out, are all Christians, and many of them, by the prejudices of their education, so bigoted, as to place a sort of pride in the appellation. If upon being rejected by them, we are to trust an alliance with the Turk, we shall find ourselves much deceived: for, as he is too remote, and generally engaged in war with the Persian emperor, so his people would be more scandalized at our infidelity, than our Christian neighbours. For the Turks are not only strict observers of religious worship, but, what is worse, believe a God; which is more than is required of us, even while we preserve the name of Christians.

To conclude: whatever some may think of the great advantages to trade by this favourite scheme, I do very much apprehend, that in six months time after the act is passed for the extirpation of the gospel, the Bank and East-India stock may fall at least one per cent. And since that is fifty times more, than ever the wisdom of our age thought fit to venture, for the preservation of Christianity, there is no reason we should be at so great a loss, merely for the sake of destroying it.

A PROJECT

FOR THE

ADVANCEMENT OF RELIGION

AND THE

REFORMATION OF MANNERS. *

O siquis volet impias

Cedes, et rabiem tollere civicam :
Si quæret pater urbium

Subscribi statuis, indomitam audeat
Refrænare licentiam, Hor. Lib, III. Od. 24,

BY A PERSON OF QUALITY,

Written in the year 1709,

TO THE COUNTESS OF BERKELEY.

MADAM, My v intention of prefixing your ladyship’s name, is not, after the common form, to desire your protection of the following papers; which I take to be a very unreasonable request; since by being inscribed to your ladyship, though without your knowledge, and from a concealed hand, you cannot recommend them without some suspicion of

* This treatise was written about 1709, when Swift was chaplain in the family of Lord Berkeley. The praises bestowed upon his countess, to whom it is inscribed, are said to have been as well merited as happily and elegantly expressed. Swift continued to entertain a profound respect for Lady Berkeley, long after he had quarrelled with the Earl. In after-life our author loved to have

this tract accounted a strong but covered attack upon

the Whig administration, and accordingly his biographer, Mr Sheridan, contends at great length, that, by recommending to the queen a reformation of manners, Swift chiefly meant to insinuate a change of administration ; and by advising, that she should call around her person, and to her councils, those who had the cause of religion at heart, he meant that she should chuse her officers and ministers from the Tories and High-Church men. It is no doubt true, that Swift, while he was dispose d to be a Whig in politics, considered himself always as a High-Church man in religion; and many passages of this ireatise may be considered as particularly affecting that party by whom the clergy were held in general and almost systematic contempt. But in this, as in the preceding treatise, the evils pointed out are too general to be imputed as the exclusive attributes of any one party, and I cannot be easily convinced, that so excellent a moral essay was written with a view merely political ; or that Swift, who at this time had no connection with the Tories, was endeavouring without motive to undermine the admi stra ion of Halifax, Somers, and Godolphin, with whom he was living on terms of friendship, at least, if not of expectancy and dependence.

As to the merits of the Project, it must be allowed, that the au. thor has been more successful in pointing out the extent of the evil than in suggesting remedies. The idea of a religious administration and court borders on the visionary; and the plan of censors and itinerant commissioners for the inspection of morals, could hardly be tolerated in a free country. Yet the minor branches of the Project might be successfully adopted. The re formation of the stage, (since happily perfected,) the exclusion of openly vicious characters from the presence of the sovereign, the more selected choice of justices of peace, the reviving discipline in schools, colleges, and inns of court, above all, the exertions of the clergy in a causo peculiarly their own, are sound practical remedies in an age of prevailing and general depravity.

Steele, then an intimate friend of the author, thus distinguished the treatise in the fifth number of the Tatler. The title was so uncommon, and promised so peculiar a way of thinking, that every man here has read it, and as many as have done so have approved it: It is written with the spirit of one

« PreviousContinue »