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to impose their irreligion, blasphemy, and profaneness, upon all men ; which in reality is persecuting the establishment, and persecuting the truth.
Enough has been said in answer to the introduction. There follows a mock dedication to the Queen, a boyish performance, and thrown in, I suppose, to oblige the bookseller. What is argumental in it has been considered; the other trash is below notice. All I shall observe of it is, that besides the ludicrous, unmannerly insult upon a venerable Prelate, and Lord of Parliament, there is a breach of duty and decency in making so free with majesty, in one continued strain of Aam and banter, which must give great offence to as many as have any reverence for crowned heads. Such fooling, if not properly animadverted upon, and seasonably suppressed, may arrive to a greater height, and be attended with very mischievous effects.
There is one objection, not mentioned in the book itself, but in the ntock dedication, which, upon second thoughts, I have a mind to take notice of, for the insulting manner wherewith it is urged, and not for its strength, pertinence, or ingenuity. The author thus words it. p“ For, Madam,” speaking to the Queen, “ they are so “ far from trusting in their arguments offered for Chris
tianity, that even when they offer them, they endeavour
effectually to deter all men from answering them; “ whilst they implore the civil magistrate to sheath the “ sword of vengeance in the heart of religious liberty," &c. But let it be considered, if any man were to write against his Majesty's title to the crown, (as these men write against our blessed Lord's title to the Messiahship,) whether it would be thought disturbing his Majesty's right, or the arguments by which it is defended, to have the traitor punished according to his deserts. Or suppose a minister of state, or peer of the realm, had been traduced by lies and slanders, would it argue any distrust in
his cause or character, if, besides a written vindication of himself and confutation of the libel, he should further demand to have the libeller punished as the law directs ? A vindication in such cases may be of use to undeceive those that have been imposed upon by misreport; but perhaps may neither spread so fast nor so far as the calumny had done, or at least will be short of reparation even for the time present; and as to the time to come, the libeller, if he is impudent and insolent, (as undoubtedly he will be, if not awed by penalties,) may immediately repeat the same calumnies, or invent new ones; or if he does not, others may, and probably will, while encouraged by the impunity of the first libeller. So that though a vindication be ever so full and satisfactory, it may be farther necessary to punish offenders, in order to prevent their repeating the offence, and to deter others from following their example.
Now to apply this reasoning to the point in hand ; this gentleman may please to know that the defenders of Christianity have no distrust at all in their arguments or replies, nor any great idea of the adverse party, either as to their learning or their logic, especially in a cause so wretched and despicable: yet he is so far right, that those who prosecute infidels do discover a distrust, (for every punishment is a kind of caveat, and implies distrust,) though nothing like to what he vainly imagines; but the meaning of it is, 1. That be their arguments or replies ever so full and unanswerable, yet possibly they may not spread fast enough or far enough to undo the mischiefs which infidels have been doing. 2. That if they could get over that suspicion, yet they can by no means trust in the honesty, good sense, or modesty of infidels, who, if they escape with impunity, will presently renew the same wicked calumnies, though abundantly before confuted. Arguments are feeble artillery against insult: and though they want no strength proper to them, yet they will no more stop a lying tongue, or scolding pen, than put by a sword, or turn off a bullet. 3. They can have no well
grounded assurance as to other persons, but that they, at least, may revive the same calumnies, or invent greater, if not deterred by some exemplary severities. 4. They cannot altogether trust to the ingenuity, attention, or impartiality of several readers; and therefore they think it by no means proper, that libels against Christianity should be thrown among them, though answers also should be immediately sent after them: for where a constitution is infirm, the antidote may be insufficient to expel the poison. 5. They think it would be tedious, trifling, and endless, to permit every ignorant impertinent disputant to pelt Christianity, and impose upon weak readers, only that wiser and good men, who could employ their time better, may be constantly exercised in works so much below them; answering scurrilities. ' It would be reasonable in any other parallel case; then be it so in this. If it be reasonable to suffer men to be assaulted and wounded because surgeons may heal; or poison to be administered, because physicians may cure; or firebrands to be thrown abroad, because somebody may quench them; then may it be reasonable to permit infidels to propagate irreligion, because the pious Clergy may (if perchance they may) stop the effect of it. In all other cases of like nature, wise men are used to trust more to early precautions than to after remedies.
I shall conclude with observing how this libertine sect, within a very few years, have grown in assurance, and improved in confidence. When the author of the Grounds, &c. first published his piece, he was so modest as not to claim toleration or indulgence for himself, or his followers, directly; he knew it would be a gross affront to our laws and constitution, as well as to common sense;
but being an artful man, he shuffles in his pleas for liberty under Mr. Whiston's name, in which view they looked tolerable, because there is much more to be said for a man of conscience and integrity, a mistaken believer, than for an infidel; and the pleas for liberty in one case are much stronger and more rational than in the other. However, it was not long before the literal scheme came abroad, which directly and with open face claimed a right to oppose publicly the legal establishment, in behalf even of infidelity. The same demand was pursued in some smaller pamphlets, and with a very unbecoming fierceness and bitterness against the Bishop of Lichfield and Dr. Rogers. The latter replied to them in a set treatise, a very complete and finished performance upon the subject, which for closeness of argument, and strength of reason, as well as purity of style, is inimitable, and will stand the test. Notwithstanding which, this writer here carries on the same claim of liberty, against plain and express law; and not content with that, threatens bishops with scaffolds, and judges with the bar of the House, for standing by our constitution. His words are; “However terrible “ inferior tribunals may show themselves, the proudest
men that ever swelled in scarlet have often kneeled at “ the bar of that most august judicature 9.” This because the judges in Westminster Hall determined in favour of Christianity, as above mentioned. These are brisk advances in so short a time, and are sufficient to let us see what spirit they are of.
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