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THEREFORE I freely own, that all Appear ances are against me. The Syftem of the Gofpel after the Fate of other Syftems is generally antiquated and exploded; and the Mafs or Body of the Common People, among whom it seems to have had its latest Gredit, are now grown as much afhamed of it as their Betters. Opini ons like Fashions always defcending from thofe of Quality to the Middle Sort, and thence to the Vulgar, where at length they are dropt and vanish.
Bur here I would not be miftaken, and muft therefore be fo bold as to borrow a Diftinction from the Writers on the other fide, when they make a Difference betwixt Nominal and Real Trinitarians. I hope no Reader imagines me fo weak as to ftand up in the Defence of Real Chris fianity, fuch as used in Primitive Times (if we may believe the Authors of thofe Ages to have an Influence upon Mens Belief and Actions: To offer at the Reftoring of That would indeed be a wild Project; it would be to dig up Foundations, to destroy at one Blow all the Wit, and half the Learning of the Kingdom; to break the entire Frame and Conftitution of Things, to ruin Trade, extinguish Arts and Sciences with the Profeffors of them; in fhort, to turn our Courts, Exchanges and Shops into Deferts; and would be full as abfurd as the Propofal of Horace, where he advifes the Romans, all in a Body, to leave their City, and feek a new Seat in fome remote Part of the World, by way of a Cure for the Corruption of their Manners.
THEREFORE I think this Caution was in it felf altogether unneceffary (which I have infert ed only to prevent all poffibility of Cavilling)
fince every candid Reader will eafily understand my Difcourfe to be intended only in Defence of Nominal Christianity, the other having been for fome time wholy laid afide by general Confent, as utterly inconfiftent with all our prefentSchemes of Wealth and Power.
BUT why we should therefore caft off the Name and Title of Chriftians, although the general Opinion and Refolution be fo violent for it, I confefs, I cannot (with Submiffion) ap prehend the Confequence neceffary. However, ince the Undertakers propofe fuch wonderful Advantages to the Nation by this Project, and advance many plaufible Objections against the Systems of Christianity, I fhall briefly confider the ftrength of both, fairly allow them their greatest Weight, and offer fuch Anfwers, as I think moft reafonable. After which I will beg leave to fhew what Inconveniencies may poffibly happen by fuch an Innovation, in the prefent Pofture of our Affairs.
Fift, ONE great Advantage propofed by the Abolifbing of Christianity is, That it would very much enlarge and establish Liberty of Confcience, that great Bulwark of our Nation, and of the Proteftant Religion, which is ftill too much limited by Prieft-craft, notwithstanding all the good Intentions of the Legislature, as we have lately found by a fevere Instance. For it is confidently reported, that two young Gentlemen of real Hopes, bright Wit, and profound Judg ment, who, upon a thorough Examination of Caufes and Effects, and by the meer Force of natural Abilities, without the leaft Tincture of Learning, having made a Difcovery, that there was no God, and generously communicating their Thoughts
Thought for the good of the Publick, were fome time ago, by an unparallell'd Severity, and upon I know not what obfolete Law, Broke for Blafphemy. And as it hath been wisely observed, If Perfecution once begins, no Man alive knows how far it may reach, or where it will end.
IN Anfwer to all which, with Deference to wifer Judgments, I think this rather fhews the Neceffity of a Nominal Religion among us. Great Wits love to be free with the higheft Objects; and if they cannot be allowed a God to revile or renounce, they will fpeak evil of Dignities, abuse the Government, and reflect upon the Miniftry, which I am fure few will de ny to be of much more pernicious Confequences according to the Saying of Tyberius, Deorum Of fenfa Diis cure, As to the particular Fact re lated, I think it is not fair to argue from one Inftance, perhaps another cannot be produced, yet to the Comfort of all thofe, who may be apprehenfive of Perfecution) Blafphemy we know is freely poke a Million of times in every Coffee-Houfe and Tavern, or where-ever elfe good Company meet. It must be allow ed indeed, that to break an English Free-born Officer only for Blafphemy, was, to fpeak the gentleft of fuch an Action, a very high train of abfolute Power. Little can be faid in Excuse for the General; perhaps he was afraid it might give Offence to the Allies, among whom, for ought we know, it may be the Cuftom of the Country to believe a God. But if he argued, as fome have done, upon a Miftaken Principle, that an Officer, who is guilty of speaking Blafphemy, may fome time or other proceed fo far as to raife a Mutiny, the Confequence is by rigi
no means to be admitted; For, furely, the Commander of an Engli Army is like to be but ill obey'd, whofe Soldiers fear and reverence him as little as they do a Deity.
Ir is further objected against the Gofpel-Syfem, that it obliges Men to the Belief of Things too difficult for Free-Thinkers, and fuch who have fhook off the Prejudices that ufually cling to a confin'd Education. To which I anfwer, that Men fhould be cautious how they raise Objections which reflect upon the Wisdom of the Nation. Is not every Body freely allowed to be lieve whatever he pleafes, and to publifh his Belief to the World whenever he thinks fit, efpecially if it ferves to ftrengthen the Party which is in the right? Would any indifferent Foreigner, who fhould read the Trumpery lately written by Afgill, Tindall, Toland, Coward, and Forty more, imagine the Gospel to be our Rule of Faith, and to be confirmed by Parliaments? Does any Man either believe, or fay he believes, or defire to have it thought that he fays he be lieves one Syllable of the Matter? and is any Man worfe received upon that Score, or does he find his want of Nominal Faith a Disadvantage to him in the purfuit of any Civil or Military Employment? What if there be an old dormant Statute or two against him, are they not now obfolete, to a degree, that Empfon and Dudley themfelves, if they were now alive, would find it impoffible to put them in Execution.
Ir is likewife urged, that there are, by Computation, in this Kingdom, above Ten Thoufand Parfons, whofe Revenues added to thofe of my Lords and Bifhops, would fuffice 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, fo great a Number of able [bodied ] Divines might be a Recruit to our Fleet and Armies. This indeed appears to be a Confideration of fome Weight: But then, on the other fide, feveral things deferve to be confidered likewife: As, firft, Whether it may not be thought neceffary that in certain Tracts of Country, like what we call Parifhes, there fhould be one Man at leaft, of Abilities to Read and, Write. Then it seems a wrong Computation, that the Revenues of the Church throughout this Ifland would be large enough to maintain two hundred Young Gentle men, or even half that Number, after the prefent refined way of Living, that is, to allow each of them fuch a Rent, as in the modern Form of Speech, would make them eafy. But ftill 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 would become of the Race of Men in the next Age, if we had nothing to trust to befides the Scrophulus confumptive Production furnished by our Men of Wit and Pleasure, when having fquandred away their Vigour, Health and Eftates, they are forced by fome difagreeable Marriage to piece up their broken Fortunes, and entail Rottennefs and Politenefs on their Pofterity? Now here are Ten thoufand Perfons reduced by the wife Regulations of Henry the Eighth, to the neceffity of a low Dyet, and moderate Exercife, who are the only great Reftorers of our