Page images
PDF
EPUB

)

more pernicious consequence ; according to the saying of Tiberius, Deorum offenfa diis cure. As to the particular fact related, I think it is not fair to argue from one instance; perhaps another cannot be produced : yet (to the comfort of all those who may be apprehensive of prosecution) blasphemy, we know, is freely spoken a million of times in every coffee-house and tavern, or wherever elfe good company meet.

It must be allowed, indeed, that to break an English freeborn officer, only for blasphemy, was, to speak the gentlest of such an action, a very high strain of absolute power. Little can be faid in excuse for the General. Perhaps he was afraid it might give offence to the allies, among whom, for aught we know, it may be the custom of the country to believe a God. But if he argued, as some have done, upon a mistaken principle, that an officer who is guilty of speaking blasphemy, may, some time or other, proceed fo far as to raise a mutiny; the consequence is by no means to be admitted : for surely the commander of an English army is like to be but ill obeyed, whose soldiers fear and reverence him as little as they do a Deity.

It is further objected against the gospel-fyftem, That it obliges men to the belief of things too difficult for free-thinkers, and such as have shaken off the prejudices that usually cling to a confined education. To which I answer, That men should be cautious how they raise objections,

which

D 2

which reflect upon the wisdom of the nation. Is not every body freely allowed to believe whatever he pleaseth, and to publish his belief to the world whenever he thinks fit, especially if it serves to strengthen the party which is in the right? Would any indifferent foreigner, who should read the trumpery lately written by Afgil, Tindal, Toland, Coward, and forty more, imagine the gospel to be our rule of faith, and confirmed by parliaments? Does any man either believe, or fay he believes, or desire to have it thought that he says he believes one fyllable of the matter? And is any man worse received upon that score; or does he find his want of nominal faith a disadvantage to him, in the pursuit of any civil or military employment? What if there be an old dormant statute or two against him? Are they not now obsolete, to a degree, that Empfon and Dudley themselves, if they were now alive, would find it impossible to put them in execution ?

It is likewise urged, That there are, by computation, in this kingdom, above ten thousand parsons; whose revenues, added to thofe of my Lords the bishops, would suffice to maintain, at least, two hundred young gentlemen of wit and pleasure, and free-thinking; enemies to priestcraft, narrow principles, pedantry, and prejudices; who might be an ornament to the court and town: and then again, so great a number of able [bodied] divines might be a recruit to our fleet and armies. This, indeed, appears to be a confideration of some weight. But then, on the other side, several things deserve to be considered likewife: as, first, whether it may not be thought necessary, that in certain tracts of country, like that we call parishes, there should be one man, at least, of abilities to read and write. Then it seems a wrong computation, that the revenues of the church throughout this island, would be large enough to maintain two hundred young gentlemen, or even half that number after the present refined way of living; that is, to allow each of them such a rent, as, in the modern form of speech, would make them easy. But still there is in this project a greater mischief behind; and we ought to beware of the woman's folly, who killed the hen that every morning laid her a golden egg. For, pray, what will become of the race of men in the next age, if we had nothing to trust to, beside the fcrophulous, consumptive productions furnished by our men of wit and pleasure; when, having fquandered away their vigour, health, and estates, they are forced, by some disagreeable marriage, to piece up their broken fortunes, and entail rottennefs and politeness on their pofterity? Now, here are ten thousand persons reduced, by the D3

pleasure, * Afyil wrote an argument to prove, that man may be translated from hence into eternal life, without passing through death.

Toland published fome deistical books.
Tindal's writings were blafphemous and atheistical.
Coward asserted the mortality of the foul, and alledged the

of it to be in the blood. Hawkes.

wife

wife regulations of Henry VIII. to the necessity of a low diet, and moderate exercise, who are the only great restorers of our breed; without which, the nation would, in an age or two, become one great hospital.

Another advantage proposed by the abolishing of Christianity, is, the clear gain of one day in feven, which is now entirely lost, and consequently the kingdom one feventh less considerable in trade, business, and pleasure; besides the loss to the public of so many stately structures now in the hands of the clergy; which might be converted into play-houses, market-houses, exchan. ges, common dormitories, and other public edi. fices.

I hope I shall be forgiven a hard word, if I call this a perfect cavil. I readily own there hath been an old custom, time out of mind, for people to assemble in the churches every Sunday: and that shops are still frequently shut, in order, as it is conceived, to preserve the memory of that ancient practice. But how this can prove a hindrance to business or pleasure, is hard to imagine. What if the men of pleasure are forced, one day in the week, to game at home, instead of the chocolate-house? Are not the taverns and coffeehouses open ? Can there be a more convenient feason for taking a dose of physic? Are fewer claps got upon Sundays than other days? Is not that the chief day for traders to sum up the accounts of the week, and for lawyers to prepare their briefs? But I would fain know, how it can be pretended, that the churches are misapplied ? Where are more appointments and rendezvouses of gallantry? where more care to appear in the foremost box, with greater advantage of dress? where more meetings for business? where more bargains driven of all sorts ? and where so many conveniencies or incitements to seep?

There is one advantage, greater than any of the foregoing, proposed by the abolishing of Christianity; That it will utterly extinguish parties among us, by removing those factious diftin&tions of High and Low Church, of Whig and Tory, Presbyterian and Church of England; which are now so many grievous clogs upon public proceedings, and are apt to dispose men to prefer the gratifying themselves, or depressing their adversaries, before the most important interest of the state.

I confess, if it were certain, that so great an advantage would redound to the nation by this expedient, I would submit, and be filent. But will any man fay, that if the words whoring, drinking, cheating, lying, stealing, were, by act of parliament, ejected out of the English tongue and dictionaries, we should all awake next morning chaste and temperate, honest and just, and lovers of truth? Is this a fair confequence? Or, if the phyGcians would forbid us to pronounce the words, pox, gout, rheumatism, and stone, would that expedient serve, like so many talismans, to destroy the diseases themselves ? Are party and

faction

« PreviousContinue »