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that may not have recourse to vent themselves in some of those orders; which are so many retreats for the speculative, the melancholy, the proud, the filent, the politic, and the morose, to spend themselves, and evaporate the noxious particles : for each of whom, we, in this island, are forced to provide several sects of religion, to keep them quiet. And whenever Christianity shall be abolished, the legislature must find some other expedient to employ and entertain them. For, what imports it, how large a gate you open, if there will be always left a number, who place a pride and a merit in refusing to enter ?
Having thus considered the most important objections against Christianity, and the chief advantages proposed by the abolishing thereof; I shall now, with equal deference and submission to wiser judgments, as before, proceed to mention a few inconveniencies that may happen, if the gospel should be repealed; which, perhaps, the projectors may not have sufficiently considered.
And, first, I am very sensible how much the gentlemen of wit and pleasure are apt to murmur, and be shocked at the sight of so many daggledtail parsons, who happen to fall in their way, and offend their eyes. But,' at the same time, these wise reformers do not consider, what an advantage and felicity it is, for great wits to be always provided with objects of scorn and contempt, in order to exercise and improve their talents, and divert their spleen from falling on each other, or
on themselves ; especially when all this may be done without the least imaginable danger to their persons.
And, to urge another argument of a parallel nature: If Chriftianity were once abolished, how could the free-thinkers, the strong reasoners, and the men of profound learning, be able to find another subject fo calculated, in all points, whereon to display their abilities? What wonderful productions of wit should we be deprived of, from thofe, whose genius, by continual practice, hath been wholly turned upon raillery and invectives against religion, and would therefore never be able to shine, or distinguish themselves upon any other subject ? We are daily complaining of the great decline of wit among us; and, would we take away the greatest, perhaps the only topic we have left? Who would ever have suspected Afgil for a wit, or Toland for a philosopher, if the inex. haustible stock of Christianity had not been at hand to provide them with materials ? What Other subject, through all art or nature, could have produced Tindal for a profound author, or fur. nished him with readers ? It is the wise choice of the subject, that alone adorns and distinguishes the writer. For, had an hundred such pens as these been employed on the side of religion, they would have immediately funk into silence and oblivion.
Nor do I think it wholly groundless, or my Icars altogether imaginary, that the abolifhing of
Chriftianity. Christianity may perhaps bring the church in danger, or at least put the senate to the trouble of another securing vote. I desire I may not be mistaken. I am far from presuming to affirm, or think, that the church is in danger at present, or as things now stand; but we know not how soon it may be so, when the Christian religion is repealed. As plaubble as this project seems, there may be a dangerous design lurking under it. Now thing can be more notorious, than that the Atheists Deifts, Socinians, Antitrinitarians, and other fubdivisions of free-thinkers, are persons of little zeal for the present ecclesiastical establishment. Their declared opinion is for repealing the facramental test; they are very indifferent with regard to ceremonies ; nor do they hold the jus divinum of Epifcopacy. Therefore, this may be intended as one politic Step towards altering the constitution of the church established, and setting up Presbytery in the stead; which I leave to be further considered by those at the helm. , ,
In the last place, I think nothing can be more plain, than that, by this expedient, we shall run into the evil we chiefly pretend to avoid ; and 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 hath been the constant practice of the Jesuits, to send over emiffaries, with instructions to personate themselves members of the several prevailing sects a E 2
mong us. So it is recorded, that they have, at fundry times, appeared in the guife of Presbyterians, Anabaptists, Independents, and Quakers, according as any of these were moft in credit : so, fince the fashion hath been taken up, of exploding religion, the Popish missionaries have not been wanting to mix with the free-thinkers ; among whom, Toland, the great oracle of the Antichriftians, 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 Romith faith ; whose true son, as appears by a hundred pafsages in this 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 Chriftianity 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 faid, 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 fo 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 fole end, how remote foever in appearance, of all objections against Christianity? and therefore, the free-thinkers 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 fai bric muft 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 forites *, most logically concluded, Why, if it be as you say, I may safely whore and drink on, and defy the parson. From which, and many the like instances, easy to be produced, I think nothing can be more manifeft, 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. E 3
* A sorites differs from a syllogism, in that it takes only the minor proposition. An example of this figure may be seen, Yol. VII. in John Bull, part 2. chap. 17. near the end. Hawkela