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ther, may do what you please with the Perfons of your own Members, we without Doors know you to be only our Attorneys, and that you are not sent thither to impose your Angers, Passions, or Prejudices, upon particular Persons or Parties, but to propose calmly and im. partially, according to the Rules of natural and civil Right, Matters which may be for the Benefit of the whole Kingdom. Now, Sir, I say, if the Purpose of this Bill be to deprive the Diflenters of the Liberty of receiving Inftru Ators into their Families, or publick Schoolmasters or School-mistresses but under the abovementioned Reftri&tions, this Bill is to deprive them of all Right, both Natural, Religious, and Civil.
It is inconsistent with the Natural and Original Right of Mankind; for it is an undoubted Truth, thar Men have as much Right to the Means of Knowledge as to the Means of Life: To abridge Med (where there is no Guilt) of a Natural Right, by a small Penalty, is as unjust, tho' not as cruel, as to abridge them of fuch Right by a greater Penalty. And you may, with equal Justice, take away the Lives of the Diflenters, as punish the Diffenters in their Liberty or their Estates for infructing Children their own way.
This is a Step of the highest Degree of Vio. lation, and there can be no Progress further but cutting their Throats ; it is going much faster than our Neighbour Nation went in the like Design. By the Edict of Nants in Erance, the Hugonots had Liberty of Conscience and Toleration ; by that Ediát they had Universities of their own, namely, Sedan and Saumur. There
fubfifted till a little while before the Revoca, tion of the Edi&t. Private Schools subGfted to the last. Protestants might breed their Chil. dren with Papists if they would, but Papists were discouraged if they fent their Children to Protestants; but still Protestants might educate their Children their own way; so if you please it may be here. It is enough for our Church to let Diflenters educate no. Children but their own, and if they will send their Children to us for Education, they may be wellcome; further to go is against all natural Justice.
As to Religious Right, our Blessed Saviour and his Apostles neither used or directed any other Means against Gain-layers than Evidence; and we are often told from the Pulpit by our bef Divines, that in the first Centuries, all Apologies for the Christian Religion constantly
infisted on this as a Fundamental Truth, That it was unlawful to restrain Men from the Means of loftru&tion in the different Forms of Reli. gion. It is against the Interest of the Church of England, as it is a Protestant Church in general; for it is the Chara&eristick of Protestant Churches to admit with all Candour the Li. berty of studying the Scriptures, and consequently of teaching and being taught them. The Scriptures (by being open to Men who are not allowed to Commune with others upon them, and learn from whom they please with all Freedom) may serve only to aggravate their Guilt in conforming to what they in their Consciences may think Criminal. The Delign of the Toleration A& was to give Ease to scrupu: lous Consciences; that supposes there are Men who think they cannot in Conscience Commu.
nicate with us, and this Disability (of which the Diffenter himself is the only Judge) is a sufficient Ground for Indulgence to him.
If a Man cannot in Conscience himself Communicate, he will think himself obliged to a. Farm his Son against our Errours. What a Man thinks the best way to Heaven, it would be monstrous not to new his Child; and if he is debarred from that, he is perfecuted in a Circumstance more grievous to him, than if he were to suffer in Reputation, Fortune, Limb or Life. The Quefton is not whether he is mistaken; he labours under that Miftake, and for his Sins in that (if he does not disturb the Pub. lick Peace) heis accountable to God. But still it is his Belief.
The Government, as I said, if it thinks fit, may hinder him from propagating his Opinion among those who conform to the Church; but it cannot with Reason and Justice, and therefore eannot at all, hinder him from ferving God his own way,and educating his Children in the fame.
The Mabometans are as much persuaded of the Truth of what they profess, as Men can be; and yet, generally speaking, they suffer the Greeks and Armenians to breed their Children their own Way. What Allowance God will give Erroneous Consciences, it is not our Bufiness to enquire; but as an Erroneous may be a fin: cere Conscience, we thould be Barbarous in pretending to Oppress or put Hardfhips upon it:The Welfare of their Children is as dear to the Diflenters, as their own; and if Men would make it their own Cafe, it would not require a moments Tought to determine, in favour of this Unhappy, threatned Peuple.
Now as to Civil Right. As Englifomen, they ate pofTeffed of a Law in their Favour, which indulges them in the Exercise of their Religion; and where there is a Right to a Benefit, there are supposed to go along with it, the necessary means of attaining that Right; These Means are intercepted, when Education towards enjoying this Right is prohibited. The plain and fair method of doing what is intended by this A&, had been to have numbered the Dissenters, and to have made a Law, chat none should diflent from the Church, after the Decease of the Perfons mentioned in a following Lift, and fo to have named all the present Schismaticks; forbidding single Persons among them to Marry, till they had Conformed. This had been perhaps more Offensive at first View, but it had not been so injurious as this Bill will appear, upon Refleation; For it is a much less Evil, to prevent the Encrease of Mankind, than to debar them of their Naiural, Religious, and Civil Rights, after they are coine into the World.
But let us consider this matter more closely, and examine this Bill, First, as it may affect the Tranquility of the Nation in General: And Secondly, as it will affect the Prosperity of the Church of England, for the Safety and Benefit of which it is pretended to be calculated.
As to the Publick Peace, it will naturally bring that into the utmost Distraction, by alienating the Affe&tions of Families, Neighbourboods, and Corporations from each other, by Ten Thousand little Incidents, which cannot be provided against, or described: Conversation throughout the Kingdom will turn upon this Kingdom
Subje&t; and this People the Diflenters, as well as those who have any Compassion for them, will be marked out, to be the Scorn and Derifion of those who are averfe to them; and they, on the other side, will be filled with Rage and Indignation against such their Adverfaries.
Men who are old enough to remember the manner of Executing the Laws formerly Enacted against the Diflenters, will inform you, that Constables attended by Guards, and Commiffion-Officers at the Head of Files of Armed Men, used to visit Meetings, and condu& the poor Wretches to Goals, for calling upon and worshipping God their own way. Let any one read the Tryal of Pen and Mead, and he will see the Spirit of those Days : The whole Nation was made up of Criminals and Accusers, and both believed they were doing Service to God. But as this Bill is in it self to the last degree Cruel, even such as it is, it is not preferved fo well against a Licencious Execution of it, as the Law directs in less Cases,
However well disposed Ministers and Officers may be, it is for the Good of Mankind, to put as many Checks against an Arbitrary Ess ercise of Power as possible; but this Bill puts the whole Body of Dissenters under such Per.' sons, as may be pick'd out, by one Officer of State, to Exercise it in the most Summary and Passionate manner.
According to this Bill, if, in any future Reign, a Chancellor should be an Enemy to that diftressed People, he may bring a Persecution upon them, by naming proper Sets of Justices of the Peace, and himleif fit wellexcused from their Irregularities; for tho'