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the state and progress of the civil, but of the religious liberties of mankind.
As the connexion between them is so natural, it might fairly be supposed that the same advancement which the former seemed at this epoch to have received, would have been received in like manner by the latter ; but there is more difficulty in this latter case than there is even in the former, and the same sort of efforts for religious liberty that failed at the Restoration, failed likewise at the Revolution.
But with respect to these efforts, the merit seems to have belonged almost exclusively to William. The great defender of the religious as well as civil liberties of his own country and of Europe, the great assertor of the Protestant cause in England and on the continent, was not inconsistent with himself; there were no exertions which he did not make to introduce into the houses of legislature, and among the people of this country, those generous and reasonable notions which he did not find, and with which his own elevated nature, even in a religious age, was so honourably animated and impressed.
His first attempt appears to have been to emancipate the Dissenters from the Test Act; this was an act passed in the reign of Charles II., and which was originally levelled against the Papists, or rather against the Duke of York, not against the Presbyterians. They had indeed been persuaded to concur in it, lest at that very critical period the bill should by any hesitation of theirs, or even modification in their favour, be lost; and it was understood that they were subsequently to be released from its provisions. This, however, they never were, nor are they, even at this day; so easy in politics is it to be wrong, so difficult afterwards to become right. King William, for instance, found all his efforts entirely fruitless; the business was indeed agitated in the lords, in the commons, in the nation-the protests in the journals of the lords are remarkable, as are all the proceedings related by Burnet; but the bishop closes his account by saying, “ it was soon very visible that we were not in a temper cool or calm enough to encourage the further prosecution of such designs."
You will see in the note book on the table a few more observations on this subject of the Test Act to explain its history. It has always been represented as the palladium of our constitution in church and state ; this I think is the expression made use of in sermons, and addresses, and episcopal charges. I must take the liberty of considering it, as a monument of national impolicy, and even national want of good faith and honour.
We now therefore turn to consider what this intelligent statesman, really and in point of fact, was able at last to accomplish for the cause of religious liberty in England, at that time the most enlightened country in Europe in all the principles of civil liberty. He obtained then the Toleration Act.
“ Forasmuch,” says the preamble to the act, “ as some ease to scrupulous consciences in the exercise of religion may be an effectual means to unite their Majesties' Protestant subjects in interest and affection," &c. &c. On this account the existing penalties were taken off from the body of Dissenters with respect to the exercise and profession of their faith, on condition of taking the oath of allegiance, an oath to which they had no objection. This act, therefore, with respect to the great body of the Dissenters, was really an Act of Toleration.
But you will observe that besides the body of the Dissenters, there are the teachers of the Dissenters to be considered. With respect to the teachers of the Dissenters, the nonconforming ministers, the existing penalties of Lord Clarendon's act were strong, that they were not to come within five miles of corporate towns, &c. &c. These were by the Toleration Act taken off, but on a certain condition, that these teachers signed those articles of the Church of England which related to faith.
The toleration, therefore, and indulgence granted to the dissenting teachers, was this, that they were excused from signing those articles which related to discipline.
This act, therefore, as far as mere reasoning was concerned (but this, in the affairs of mankind, is only one point among many)—this act, I say, as far as mere reasoning and logic were concerned, bore upon the face of it its own condemnation; for if the dissenting ministers differed from the church in articles of faith, they could not yet sign; and the act extended to them no toleration ; and if they differed from the church only in points of discipline, then those points of discipline and church government should not have been insisted upon by the church, and they should have been brought within her pale. But allowance must be made for mankind on subjects like these.
On the whole, the Toleration Act was an act of relief and indulgence; as such it has always been considered ; it has been administered and interpreted very favourably to the nonconformists, and very inconsistently with the mere letter of it; that is, very creditably to the government, from the increasing humanity and more consistent Christianity of the times.
The Toleration Act was an act with which, defective as it might really be, and must necessarily have appeared to William, still it was perfectly incumbent on him to rest contented, as society was at the time not in a temper to grant more; probably the king thought so, for having made these wise and virtuous efforts soon after his accession, and established the kirk of Scotland, agreeably, as he conceived, to the wishes of the nation, he seems to have turned immediately, and without further expostulation, from this not altogether ineffectual campaign in the cause of religious liberty, to face his enemies in the field in defence of the more intelligible rights of civil liberty.
These enemies he found in Ireland and in the continent of Europe, and he was happy enough to overpower the one, and at least to check and resist the other.
Since I drew up these lectures, the Stuart Papers have been published, and the historical student will naturally refer to them—the Life of James II., edited by Mr. Clarke.
I have not found it necessary to make any alterations either in my first or in this second course of lectures, in consequence of the perusal of them. All the regular conclusions of historians and intelligent writers seem to me only confirmed and rendered more than ever capable of illustration, by the new materials of observation that are now exhibited to our view.
The same might be said, I have no doubt, if the very journal of the king (James II.) had been placed before us; this has unfortunately perished. We have only in the Stuart Papers the representation of it, given by some friend or
confidential agent of the family; but between this representation and the real and original composition of the king himself, the great difference would be, that the king's own journal would have shown, in a manner more natural and striking, all the faults of his mind and disposition; of these there can surely be no further evidence necessary; certainly not to those who understand and love liberty; but after all, these are not the majority; and the loss of the journal, independent of the curiosity belonging to the other characters of these times, must be considered as a great loss, because, though no new light would have been thrown on these subjects, there would have been more; and there cannot be too much light thrown. They who run should read.
EAST AND WEST INDIES.
E must now consider ourselves as having made a sort
of progress through the more important parts of the history of modern Europe. We have alluded to the conquests and final settlements of the barbarous nations, the dark ages, the progress of society, the ages of inventions and
, discoveries, the revival of learning, the reformation, the civil and religious wars, the fortunes of the French constitution and government; the fortunes, in like manner, of our own civil and religious liberties, till they were at length successfully asserted, confirmed, and established, at the revolution of 1688. We have made our comments on that most fortunate event.
We might now, therefore, proceed to the character and reign of William, and to the history of more modern times; but I must first attend to a part of the modern history of Europe, of which I have hitherto taken no notice; and I must go back for nearly two centuries, while I advert to a series of events which distinguished the ages of inventions and discoveries, and which are on every account deserving of our curiosity. I allude to the discovery of the new world, and the conquests and settlements of the different European nations in the East and West Indies.
This omission of mine you have no doubt remarked; but to these topics I have as yet forborne to make any reference, because, among other reasons, I wished not to interrupt the train of your reflections and inquiries, while directed to the subject of the progress of Europe, more particularly in its great interests of civil and religious liberty; a subject which, if surveyed apart, has a sort of unity in it, which I have in this manner endeavoured to preserve.
I must not, however, be supposed insensible to the curiosity