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The passage particularly referred to in these lines occurs in a tract, entitled, “ Reasons against repealing the Act of Parliament, concerning the Test,” which is the first of six papers published by Dr Burnet when in Holland, and reprinted at London in 1689. His words are these :
“ IX. I am told some think it very indecent to have a test for our parliaments, in which the king's religion is accused of idolatry; but if this reason is good in this particular, it will be full as good against several of the articles of our church, and many. of the homilies. If the church and religion of this nation is so formed by law, that the king's religion is declared over and over again to be idolatrous, what help is there for it? It is no other than it was when his majesty was crowned, and swore to maintain our laws.
“ I hope none will be wanting in all possible respect to his sacred person; and as we ought to be infinitely sorry to find him engaged in a religion which we must believe idolatrous, so we are far from the ill manners of reflecting on his person, or calling him an idolater: for as every man that reports a lie, is not for that to be called a liar; so that, though the ordering the intention, and the prejudice of a mis-persuasion, are such abatements, that we will not rashly take on us to call every man of the church of Rome an idolater; yet, on the other hand, we can never lay down our charge against the church of Rome as guilty of idolatry, unless at the same time we part with our religion.
We cannot suppose that Burnet was insensible to the poignancy of Dryden's satire; for, although he attempts to treat the poem with contempt, in the defence of his “Reflections on Varillas' His. tory,” his coarse and virulent character of the poet plainly shows his inward feelings. “ I have been informed from England, that a gentleman, who is known both for poetry and other things, had spent three months in translating M. Varillas's History; but that, as soon as my Reflections appeared, he discontinued his labour, finding the credit of his author was gone. Now, if he thinks it is recovered by his Answer, he will perhaps go on with his translation; and this may be, for aught I know, as good an entertainment for him as the conversation that he had set on between the Hinds and Panthers, and all the rest of animals, for whom M. Varillas may serve well enough for an author: and this history and that poem are such extraordinary things of their kind, that it will be but suitable to see the author of the worst poem, become likewise the translator of the worst history, that the age
has produced. If his grace and his wit improve both proportionably, he will hardly find that he has gained much by the change he has made, from having no religion to choose one of the worst. It is
true, he had something to sink from, in matter of wit; but as for his morals, it is scarce possible for him to grow a worse man than
He has lately wreaked his malice on me for spoiling his three months' labour, but in it he has done me all the honour that any man can receive from him, which is to be railed at by him. If I had ill-nature enough to prompt me to wish a very bad wish for him, it should be, that he would go on and finish his translation. By that it will appear, whether the English nation, which is the most competent judge in this matter, has, upon the seeing our debate, pronounced in M. Varillas's favour, or in mine. It is true, Mr D. will suffer a little by it; but at least it will serve to keep him in from other extravagancies; and if he gains little honour by this work, yet he cannot lose so much by it, as he has done by his last employment.”
They long their fellow-subjects to enthral,
Part of the controversy which now raged, turned on the precise meaning of the king's promise, to maintain the church of England as by law established. The church party insisted, that the Declaration of Indulgence was a breach of this promise, as it suspended their legal safeguards, the test and penal laws. The advocates for the toleration answered, that the promise was conditional, and depended on the church consenting to the abrogation of these laws. This was stated by Penn, in his “ Good Advice ;" to which the following indignant answer is made by a champion of the church, perhaps Burnet himself:
“ And if there be no other way of giving the king an opportunity of keeping his word with the church of England, in preserving her, and maintaining our religion, but the repealing of the penal and test laws, as he intimates unto us, (Good Advice, p. 50.) we have not found the royal faith so sacred and inviolable in other instances, as to rpb ourselves of a legal defence and protection, for to depend upon the precarious one of a base promise, which his ghostly fathers, whensoever they find it convenient, will tell him it was unlawful to make, and which he can have a dispensation for the breaking of, at what time he pleaseth. Nor do we remember, that when he pledged his faith unto us, in so many promises, that the parting with our laws was declared to be the
condition upon which he made, and undertook to perform them. Neither can any have the confidence to allege it, without having recourse to the Papal doctrine of mental reservation. Which being one of the principles of that order, under whose conduct he is, makes us justly afraid to rely upon his word without further security. However, we do hereby see, with what little sincerity Mr Penn writes ; and what small regard he hath to his majesty's honour, when he tells the church of England, that if she please, and like the terms of giving up the penal and test laws against Papists, that then the king will perform his word with her; (Good Advice, p. 17.) but that otherwise, it is she who breaks with him, and not he with her.” (Ibid. p. 44.)
No rights infringed, but license to oppress.-P. 237. The declaration for liberty of conscience was a strange and incongruous, as well as most impolitic performance. It set out with declaring, that although the king heartily wished that all his subjects were members of the Catholic church, (which they returned, by heartily wishing that he were a Protestant,) yet he abhorred all idea of constraining conscience; and therefore, making no doubt of the concurrence of Parliament, 'declared, 1. That he would protect and maintain the hishops, &c. of the church of England, as by law established, in the free exercise of their religion, and quiet enjoyment of their possessions. 2. That all execution of penal laws against non-conformists be suspended. 3. That all his majesty's subjects should be at liberty to serve God after their own way, in public and private, so nothing was preached against the royal authority. 4. That the oaths of supremacy and allegiance, and the tests made in the 25th and 30th years of Charles II., be discontinued. 5. That all non-confo doned for former offences against the penal laws and test. 6. That abbey and church lands be assured to the possessors.
Such were the contents of this memorable Declaration, in which a bigotted purpose was cloaked under professions of the highest liberality; and prevarication and falsehood were rendered more disgusting, by being mingled with very unseasonable truth.
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Free of his farm.-P. 237. When the king had irreconcileably quarrelled with the church, he began to affect a great favour for the dissenters; and, as has been often hinted, endeavoured to represent the measure of universal toleration to be intended as much for the benefit of the Protestant dissenters as of the Catholics. He dwelt upon the rigour of the church courts, and directed an inquiry to be made into all the vexatious suits which had been instituted against the dissenters, and the compositions which had been exacted from them, under pretence of enforcing the laws. In short, Burnet assures us, that the royal bed-chamber and drawing-room were as full of stories to the prejudice of the clergy, as they used formerly to abound with declamations against the fanatics.
Dissolving in the silence of decay.-P. 238. In the preceding lines, the poet had intimated the increase of trade and wealth; an effect of toleration, much dwelt upon in James's proclamation for liberty of conscience, and, indeed, the ostensible cause of its being issued. But Dryden, as every one else, further augured from the Declaration of Indulgence, under the circumstances of the time, the speedy downfall of the church of England, though he is willing to spare the king the odium of hastening what he represents as the natural consequence of her own ambition and intolerance. A writer of his party is less scru. pulous in expressing the king's intentions : “ So, on the whole matter, the loyal church of England must either change her old principles of loyalty, and take example by her Catholic neighbours, how to behave herself towards a prince who is not of her persuasion, or she must give his majesty leave not to nourish a snake in his own bosom, but rather to withdraw his royal protection, which was promised on account of her constant fidelity: For it is an approved axiom in philosophy, Cessante causa, tollitur effectus ; and we have a common saying of our own, No longer pipe, no longer dance. And now let us leave the holy mother church at liberty to consult what new measures of loyalty she ought to take for her own dear interest, and, for aught I know, it may be worth her serious consideration.”-New Test of the Church of England's Loyalty.
And may be tempted to his former fare.-P. 239. Dryden insiņuates the improbability, that the high and low church party would long continue in union, since the authority assumed by Burnet, their present advocate, was inconsistent with that of Sancroft the primate, Compton bishop of London, and other leaders of the high church party among the clergy. He resumes the theme of Burnet's alleged disinclination for episcopacy. In fact, although his lot cast him into the church of England, the bishop of Sarum, in many parts of his writings, expresses an unfavourable opinion of her clergy, whom in one place he calls the most remiss of any in Europe. Even this harsh expression is nothing to the following account of the controversy between the clergy and dissenters, as it stands in the MS. of his history; for it is greatly softened in the printed copy :
Many books came out likewise against the church of Enge land. This alarmed the bishops and clergy much; so that they set up to preach against rebellion, and the late times, in such a strain, that it was visible they meant a parallel between these and the present time. And this produced at last that heat and rage into which the clergy has run so far, that it is like to end very fatally. They, on their part, should have shewed more temper, and more of the spirit of the gospel ; whereas, for the greatest part, they are the worst natured, the fiercest, indiscreetest, and most persecuting sort of people that are in the nation. There is a sort of them do so aspire to preferment, that there is nothing so mean and indecent that they will not do to compass it ; and when they have got into preferments, they take no care, either of themselves, or of the flocks committed to their charge, but do generally neglect their parishes. If they are rich enough, they hire some pitiful curate, at as low a price as they can, and turn all over on him; or, if their income will not bear out that, they perform the public offices in the slightest manner they can, but take no care of their people in the way of private instruction or admonition; and so do nothing to justify the character of pastors or watchmen,