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LORD BISHOP OF ST. DAVID'S.
goes a pamphlet abroad, just published, entitled, Instructions to the Right Reverend Richard, Lord Bishop of St. David's, in Defence of Religious Liberty; by Jonathan Jones, Esq. The conceitedness of the title in some measure shows the man, and what we may expect from him. This gentleman, it seems, thinks himself qualified to be a public instructor, and to prescribe to our Prelates. It is not merely liberty of private judgment, that the fraternity are contending for, but liberty of setting up as apostles of infidelity, in opposition to the Christian guides, and to draw away people from paying any respect or deference to Christ, and his religion. He begins with telling the world, that this excellent Prelate has published a defence of Christianity, begun and carried on with a professed defence of persecution. But where has this gentleman learned that the punishing of blasphemy and profaneness, or the executing the laws against irreligion and immorality, is persecution? We have heard of persecution for religion, for conscience, for truth: but what means persecution for no religion, no conscience, no truth? It is prosecution certainly that he means; only he has not been used to speak with the exactness of Divines. I pass over a page and a half which are mere impertinence, and of no significancy at all, but to show how
full the writer is of himself. He talks magisterially about the Bishop's style, as if he were a judge of it; looks down with contempt and commiseration upon his Lordship; and with an air of superiority professes himself “ heartily willing to set him right;" with more such pert, puerile insultings, quite out of character and decency; that one would take him for some young declaimer of the sect, just listed into the service, full of fire and mettle, and wanting the sedateness and caution of the older and
“ He would not offer this worthy Pre“ late his humble advice,” he says, “ without his ablest
reasons, and therefore, &c. a" What a favour is it to have his advice, unasked, and his ablest reasons too! it is mighty obliging, and very condescending in him, thus to teach his, betters. His able reasons now follow in their order.
I. The first runs thus: b« He (the Bishop) calls aloud upon the royal authority to draw the sword of ven
geance, when he ought to remember, that prayers and “ tears are the only weapons of the Church.” Could any thing be more impertinent or captious than this parágraph? The Bishop did remember that prayers and tears were the only weapons of the Church; and therefore it was that he called for the weapons of the State, in a matter belonging to their cognizance. But this author perhaps has blabbed out his wishes and expectations too soon, in supposing us reduced to the last refuge of prayers and tears, while there are courts of justice to support religion and virtue, and to punish offenders against either.
II. “ He (the Bishop) would have that religion to be “ maintained by fire and sword, which his great Master
« meant to establish in meekness and truth.” His great Master and ours, undoubtedly, never meant to make converts by fire and sword, nor to force belief upon infidels : but be meant to leave the ruling powers of every state in the same condition as he found them; “ to be a terror to “ evil doers," and to “ execute wrath upon them that do “ evil d.” For the purpose, to correct those that needlessly and causelessly disturb the public tranquillity, to restrain those that libel the established religion, without offering any better, or any equivalent; to curb the insolence, and humble the pride of such as fly in the face of authority, and pretend, without commission or qualifications, to instruct, and, under that colour, to insult their superiors. These and the like misdemeanors, arising from pride, and vanity, and a turbulent spirit, it concerns the magistrates to take cognizance of, and to punish as the laws direct.
III. “ He (the Bishop) implores the vengeance of the secu“ lar arm in the cause of that God, who himself has said, “ Vengeance is mine, I will repaye.” And where can the magistrate execute vengeance better, than in the cause of that God who gave him commission so to do, and who looks upon it as his vengeance when executed under him, and for him, by his vicegerents. True, the text says,
Avenge not yourselves :" neither does the magistrate, in executing wrath, avenge himself, but the public; which would otherwise suffer from unruly and turbulent men. And it was never thought or imagined by any sober and intelligent man, except this forward instructor, that God had so confined all vengeance to himself, that he admitted no deputies to act under him.
IV. “ And because his Lordship justly thought their Ma
Rom. xiii. 4. 1 Pet. ii. 14.
jesties bad too much discernment and true religion, to
persecute (leg. prosecute) men for God's sake, there“fore he implores the royal power to do this execution “ for his own sake f.” How free with his Lordship, and their Majesties too! and perfectly well qualified to judge of their discernment: though it may look a little too familiar towards their Majesties, to measure their discernment by his own, and to put nonsense and impertinence upon sacred royalty. I see nothing in the suggestion here against the Bishop but dull malice, like the rest. No doubt but his Lordship would have men, so obnoxious to the law, prosecuted and punished according to law, for the glory of God, the honour and welfare of his Majesty's person and government, and the good of the whole kingdom. Libelling religion in such a way as has been lately practised, if suffered to go on with impunity, may
leave us neither religion, nor morals, nor strength, nor any thing but the most deplorable confusion.
V. g“ His Lordship represents, that government cannot “subsist if religion be taken away, because of the Divine “ restraints upon human hearts, which he thinks are ex
pected in vain from laws and motives merely political.“ His Lordship then should inform us how government “ subsisted for the first four thousand years of the world, “when only the Jewish nation had Divine restraints, and “ all the people of the earth besides obeyed the higher
powers from laws and motives merely political.-If he “ should reply, they had restraints upon them which “ they received as Divine, his Lordship will then equally “ advance imposture and superstition with true and ra“ tional religion; from whence it will follow, that the
worship of false gods is of the same advantage to the
higher powers as the religion of Jesus Christh.” Here observe, that this author directly asserts, that all the people of the earth (Jews excepted)“ obeyed the higher
i Page 8.
powers from laws and motives merely political.” This is thoughtlessly said of him, and more than he had need to have said ; only he has unawares discovered his principles, and shewn that his scheme is Atheism. A Deist would have said, that the rest of the world obeyed the higher powers from laws and motives of natural religion, which might seem a tolerable answer to the Bishop's argument for positive. But this gentleman says roundly, that they obeyed upon motives merely political ; which though entirely false, yet represents truly this author's scheme, Atheism direct : for whoever believes a God, and a Providence, (which stand or fall together,) does not obey merely upon political motives. The heathens, generally, did believe in one supreme God, and in a future state of eternal rewards and punishments, had a sense of the law of nature, and remains of ancient tradition, and some conscience; and so by the strength of those principles, though mixed with much superstition, government was kept up and preserved in the heathen world; and not by motives or laws merely political. Assyrians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, all had their respective religions, and all equally abhorred irreligion. The story of Diagoras and his prosecution for Atheism will set this matter in a clear light: I shall relate it in the words of the late learned Dean Prideaux i.
“ About this time happened at Athens the condemna“tion of Diagoras the Melian. He having settled in that “city, and there taught Atheism, the Athenians pro“ secuted him for it. But by flying out of that country “ he escaped the punishment of death, which was in“tended for him, although not the sentence. For the “ Athenians having in his absence condemned him for his “ impious doctrine, did set a price upon his head, and de66 creed the reward of a talent to whosoever should kill
i Connect. vol. i. p. 323.