Jonathan Swift.

The Prose Works of Jonathan Swift, D.D. — Volume 03 Swift's Writings on Religion and the Church — Volume 1 online

. (page 1 of 26)
Online LibraryJonathan SwiftThe Prose Works of Jonathan Swift, D.D. — Volume 03 Swift's Writings on Religion and the Church — Volume 1 → online text (page 1 of 26)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Produced by Terry Gilliland and PG Distributed Proofreaders. Produced
from images provided by the Million Book Project.







BOHN'S STANDARD LIBRARY

THE PROSE WORKS OF JONATHAN SWIFT

VOL. III


[Illustration: _Jonathan Swift,

from a picture by Frances Bindon

In the possession of Sir F R Falkiner_]


THE PROSE WORKS

OF

JONATHAN SWIFT, D.D.

EDITED BY

TEMPLE SCOTT

WITH A BIOGRAPHICAL INTRODUCTION BY

THE RT. HON. W. E. H. LECKY, M.P.

VOL III

1898


SWIFT'S

WRITINGS ON RELIGION AND THE CHURCH

VOL. I

EDITED BY

TEMPLE SCOTT

1898




PREFACE.


The inquiry into the religious thought of the eighteenth century forms
one of the most interesting subjects for speculation in the history of
the intellectual development of western nations. It is true, that in
that history Swift takes no special or distinguished part; but he forms
a figure of peculiar interest in a special circle of his own. Swift had
no natural bent for the ministry of a church; his instincts, his
temperament, his intellect, were of that order which fitted him for
leadership and administration. He was a born magistrate and commander of
men. It is, therefore, one of the finest compliments we can pay Swift to
say, that no more faithful, no more devoted, no stauncher servant has
that Church possessed; for we must remember the proud and haughty temper
which attempted to content itself with the humdrum duties of a parish
life. Swift entered the service of that Church at a time when its need
for such a man was great; and in spite of its disdain of his worth, in
spite of its failure to recognize and acknowledge his transcendent
qualities, he never forgot his oath, and never shook in his allegiance.
To any one, however, who reads carefully his sermons, his "Thoughts on
Religion," and his "Letter to a Young Clergyman," there comes a
question - whether, for his innermost conscience, Swift found a
satisfying conviction in the doctrines of Christianity. "I am not
answerable to God," he says, "for the doubts that arise in my own
breast, since they are the consequence of that reason which he hath
planted in me, if I take care to conceal those doubts from others, if I
use my best endeavours to subdue them, and if they have no influence on
the conduct of my life." We search in vain, in any of his writings, for
any definite expression of doubt or want of faith in these doctrines.
When he touches on them, as he does in the sermon "On the Trinity," he
seems to avoid of set purpose, rational inquiry, and contents himself
with insisting on the necessity for a belief in those mysteries
concerning God about which we cannot hope to know anything. "I do not
find," he says, in his "Letter to a Young Clergyman," "that you are
anywhere directed in the canons or articles to attempt explaining the
mysteries of the Christian religion; and, indeed, since Providence
intended there should be mysteries, I don't see how it can be agreeable
to piety, orthodoxy, or good sense to go about such a work. For to me
there seems a manifest dilemma in the case; if you explain them, they
are mysteries no longer; if you fail, you have laboured to no purpose."

It must at once be admitted that Swift had not the metaphysical bent;
philosophy - in our modern sense of the word - was to him only a species
of word spinning. That only was valuable which had a practical bearing
on life - and Christianity had that. He found in Christianity, as he knew
it - in the Church of England, that is to say - an excellent organization,
which recognized the frailties of human nature, aimed at making
healthier men's souls, and gave mankind a reasonable guidance in the
selection of the best motives to action. He himself, as a preacher, made
it his principal business, "first to tell the people what is their duty,
and then to convince them that it is so." He had a profound faith in
existing institutions, which to him were founded on the fundamental
traits of humanity. The Church of England he considered to be such an
institution; and it was, moreover, regulated and settled by order of the
State. To follow its teachings would lead men to become good citizens,
honest dealers, truthful and cleanly companions, upright friends. What
more could be demanded of any religion?

The Romish Church led away from the Constitution as by law established.
Dissent set up private authority, which could no more be permitted in
religious than it was in political matters; it meant dissension,
revolution, and the upheaval of tried and trusted associations.
Therefore, the Church of Rome and the teachings of Dissent were alike
dangerous; and against both, whenever they attempted the possession of
political power, he waged a fierce and uncompromising war. "Where sects
are tolerated in a State," he says, in his "Sentiments of a Church of
England Man," "it is fit they should enjoy a full liberty of conscience,
and every other privilege of free-born subjects, to which no power is
annexed. And to preserve their obedience upon all emergencies, a
government cannot give them too much ease, nor trust them with too
little power."

Swift had no passionate love for ideals - indeed, he may have thought
ideals to be figments of an overheated and, therefore, aberrated
imagination. The practically real was the best ideal; and by the real he
would understand that power which most capably and most regulatively
nursed, guided, and assisted the best instincts of the average man. The
average man was but a sorry creature, and required adventitious aids for
his development. Gifted as he was with a large sympathy, Swift yet was
seemingly incapable of appreciating those thought-forms which help us to
visualize mentally our religious aspirations and emotions. A mere
emotion was but subject-matter for his satire. He suspected any zeal
which protested too much for truth, and considered it "odds on" it being
"either petulancy, ambition, or pride."

Whatever may have been his private speculations as to the truth of the
doctrines of Christianity they never interfered with his sense of his
responsibilities as a clergyman. "I look upon myself," he says, "in the
capacity of a clergyman, to be one appointed by Providence for defending
a post assigned me, and for gaining over as many enemies as I can.
Although I think my cause is just, yet one great motive is my submitting
to the pleasure of Providence, and to the laws of my country." If anyone
had asked him, what was the pleasure of Providence, he would probably
have answered, that it was plainly shown in the Scriptures, and required
not the aid of the expositions of divines who were "too curious, or too
narrow, in reducing orthodoxy within the compass of subtleties,
niceties, and distinctions." Truth was no abstraction - that was truth
which found its expression in the best action; and this explains Swift's
acceptance of any organization which made for such expression. He found
one ready in the Church of England; and whatever his doubts were, those
only moved him which were aroused by action from those who attempted to
interfere with the working of that organization. And this also helps to
explain his political attitude at the time when it was thought he had
deserted his friends. The Church was always his first consideration. He
was not a Churchman because he was a politician, but a politician
because he was a Churchman. These, however, are matters which are more
fully entered into by Swift himself in the tracts herewith reprinted,
and in the notes prefixed to them by the editor.

It was originally intended that Swift's writings on Religion and the
Church should occupy a single volume of this edition of his works. They
are, however, so numerous that it has been found more convenient to
divide them into two volumes - the first including all the tracts, except
those relating to the Sacramental Test; the second containing the Test
pamphlets and the twelve sermons, with the Remarks on Dr. Gibbs's
paraphrase of the Psalms, in an appendix. It is hoped that this
division, while it entails upon the student the necessity for a double
reference, will yet preserve the continuity of form enabling him to view
Swift's religious standpoint and work with as much advantage as he would
have obtained by the original plan.

The editor again takes the opportunity to thank Colonel F. Grant for the
service he has rendered him in placing at his disposal his fine
collection of Swift's tracts. The portrait which forms the frontispiece
to this volume is one of those painted by Francis Bindon, and was
formerly in the possession of Judge Berwick. For permission to
photograph and reproduce it here, thanks are due to Sir Frederick R.
Falkiner, Recorder of Dublin.

TEMPLE SCOTT.




CONTENTS:

ARGUMENT AGAINST ABOLISHING CHRISTIANITY

PROJECT FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF RELIGION

SENTIMENTS OF A CHURCH OF ENGLAND MAN

REMARKS UPON "THE RIGHTS OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH"

PREFACE TO THE BISHOP OF SARUM'S "INTRODUCTION"

ABSTRACT OF COLLINS'S "DISCOURSE OF FREETHINKING"

SOME THOUGHTS ON FREETHINKING

LETTER TO A YOUNG CLERGYMAN

ARGUMENTS AGAINST ENLARGING THE POWER OF BISHOPS IN LETTING LEASES

REASONS OFFERED TO THE ARCHBISHOP OF DUBLIN

ON THE BILL FOR THE CLERGY'S RESIDING ON THEIR LIVINGS

CONSIDERATIONS UPON TWO BILLS RELATING TO THE CLERGY OF IRELAND

REASONS AGAINST THE MODUS

ESSAY ON THE FATES OF CLERGYMEN

CONCERNING THAT UNIVERSAL HATRED WHICH PREVAILS AGAINST THE CLERGY

THOUGHTS ON RELIGION

FURTHER THOUGHTS ON RELIGION

PRAYERS FOR MRS. JOHNSON

AN EVENING PRAYER

OBSERVATIONS ON HEYLIN'S "HISTORY OF PRESBYTERIANS"

***** ***** ***** ***** *****




AN ARGUMENT

TO PROVE THAT THE

ABOLISHING OF CHRISTIANITY IN ENGLAND

MAY, AS THINGS NOW STAND, BE ATTENDED WITH SOME INCONVENIENCES, AND
PERHAPS NOT PRODUCE THOSE MANY GOOD EFFECTS PROPOSED THEREBY.

WRITTEN IN THE YEAR 1708.


NOTE.

In November, 1707, Swift left Dublin in the train of the then Lord
Lieutenant, Lord Pembroke. His travelling companion was Sir Andrew
Fountaine, who, on landing in England, set out with Lord Pembroke for
Wilton, while Swift went on to Leicester to visit his mother. He stayed
with her until some time in December, but, by the middle of the same
month, he was in London. During this absence from Ireland Swift
corresponded somewhat freely with Archbishop King of Dublin, and with
Archdeacon Walls - the letters to the former were first printed in
Forster's "Life of Swift." For these Forster was indebted to the Rev.
Mr. Reeves (vicar of Lusk, co. Dublin), who discovered them in the
record-room of the see of Armagh (see "Life," p. 205 et seq. and note).
One of Swift's intentions, while in the metropolis, was to push forward
the claim of the Irish clergy for the remission of the First Fruits and
Tenths, a grant which had already been conceded to the English clergy;
and his letters to King often include requests for the necessary papers
by means of which he could lay the matter before either Godolphin or
Somers. Walls had written to Swift of the vacancy of the see of
Waterford, and, from the reply to the archdeacon, we learn that even at
so early a date Swift suffered a grievous disappointment; for in
January, 1708, the bishopric, of which Swift had hopes, was presented to
Dr. Thomas Milles. In his letter to Walls Swift confesses that he "once
had a glimpse that things would have gone otherwise.... But let us
talk no further on this subject. I am stomach-sick of it already. ...
Pray send me an account of some smaller vacancy in the Government's
gift." It was to Somers, and through him to Lord Halifax, that Swift
looked for recognition, either for services rendered, or because of
their appreciation of his abilities. But, however much he may have been
disappointed at their inaction, it may not be argued, as it has been,
that Swift's so-called change in his political opinions was the outcome
either of spleen or chagrin against the Whigs for their ingratitude
towards him. It is, indeed, questionable whether Swift ever changed his
political opinions, speaking of these as party opinions. From the day of
his entrance, it may be said, into the orders of the Church, his first
thought was for it; and on all political questions which touched Church
matters Swift was neither Whig nor Tory, but churchman. It was because
of the attitude of the Whigs towards the Church that Swift left them;
and in his writings he does not spare the Tories even when he finds them
taking up similar attitudes. On purely political questions Swift was too
independent a thinker to be influenced by mere party views. That he
wrote for the Tories must be put down to Harley's personal influence,
and to his foresight which saw in Swift a man who must be treated as an
equal with the highest in the land. Swift's intercourse with the leading
men of his day only served to accentuate his consciousness of his
superiority; and a party which would permit him the free play of his
powers would be the party to which Swift would give his adhesion.
Godolphin, Somers, and Walpole either did not recognize the genius of
the man, or their own "points of view" did not permit them to give him
the free play they felt he would obtain. Be that as it may, Harley
gained not only a splendid party fighter, but a friend on whose
affection he could ever rely.

In these tracts on Religion and the Church, which he wrote in the year
1708, Swift is not a party man, speaking for party purposes. He
believed, and sincerely believed, that for such beings as were the men
and women of this kingdom, the Church was, if not the highest and
noblest instrument for good, yet the worthiest and ablest they had.
Swift never lost himself in theories. He was, however, not blind to the
dangers which an established religion might engender; but whatever its
dangers, these would be inevitable to the most perfect system so long as
human nature was as base as it was. The "Argument" is written in a vein
of satirical banter; but the Swiftian cynicism permeates every line. It
is the first of four tracts which form Swift's most important expression
of his thoughts on Religion and the Church. Scott well describes it as
"one of the most felicitous efforts in our language, to engage wit and
humour on the side of religion," and Forster speaks of it as "having
also that indefinable subtlety of style which conveys not the writer's
knowledge of the subject only, but his power and superiority over it."

I have not been able to find a copy of the original edition of the
"Argument" upon which to base the present text - for that I have gone to
the first edition of the "Miscellanies," published in 1711; but I have
collated this with those given by the "Miscellanies" (1728), Faulkner,
Hawkesworth, Scott, Morley, and Craik.

[T. S.]


AN ARGUMENT AGAINST ABOLISHING CHRISTIANITY.


I am very sensible what a weakness and presumption it is, to reason
against the general humour and disposition of the world. I remember it
was with great justice, and a due regard to the freedom both of the
public and the press, forbidden upon several penalties to write,[1] or
discourse, or lay wagers against the Union, even before it was confirmed
by parliament, because that was looked upon as a design, to oppose the
current of the people, which, besides the folly of it, is a manifest
breach of the fundamental law that makes this majority of opinion the
voice of God. In like manner, and for the very same reasons, it may
perhaps be neither safe nor prudent to argue against the abolishing of
Christianity, at a juncture when all parties appear[2] so unanimously
determined upon the point, as we cannot but allow from their actions,
their discourses, and their writings. However, I know not how, whether
from the affectation of singularity, or the perverseness of human
nature, but so it unhappily falls out, that I cannot be entirely of this
opinion. Nay, though I were sure an order were issued for my immediate
prosecution by the Attorney-General, I should still confess that in the
present posture of our affairs at home or abroad, I do not yet see the
absolute necessity of extirpating the Christian religion from among us.

[Footnote 1: This refers to the Jacobitism of the time, particularly
among those who were opposed to the Union. A reference to Lord Mahon's
"Reign of Queen Anne" will show how strong was the opposition in
Scotland, and how severe were the measures taken to put down that
opposition. [T.S.]]

[Footnote 2: Craik and Hawkesworth print the word "seem," but the
"Miscellanies," Faulkner, and Scott give it as in the text. [T.S.]]

This perhaps may appear too great a paradox even for our wise and
paradoxical age to endure; therefore I shall handle it with all
tenderness, and with the utmost deference to that great and profound
majority which is of another sentiment.

And yet the curious may please to observe, how much the genius of a
nation is liable to alter in half an age. I have heard it affirmed for
certain by some very old people, that the contrary opinion was even in
their memories as much in vogue as the other is now; and, that a project
for the abolishing of Christianity would then have appeared as singular,
and been thought as absurd, as it would be at this time to write or
discourse in its defence.

Therefore I freely own that all appearances are against me. The system
of the Gospel, after the fate of other systems is generally antiquated
and exploded, and the mass or body of the common people, among whom it
seems to have had its latest credit, are now grown as much ashamed of it
as their betters; opinions, like fashions, always descending from those
of quality to the middle sort, and thence to the vulgar, where at length
they are dropped and vanish.

But here I would not be mistaken, and must therefore be so bold as to
borrow a distinction from the writers on the other side, when they make
a difference between nominal and real Trinitarians. I hope no reader
imagines me so weak to stand up in the defence of real Christianity,
such as used in primitive times (if we may believe the authors of those
ages) to have an influence upon men's belief and actions: To offer at
the restoring of that would indeed be a wild project; it would be to dig
up foundations; to destroy at one blow all the wit, and half the
learning of the kingdom; to break the entire frame and constitution of
things; to ruin trade, extinguish arts and sciences with the professors
of them; in short, to turn our courts, exchanges, and shops into
deserts; and would be full as absurd as the proposal of Horace,[3] where
he advises the Romans all in a body to leave their city, and seek a new
seat in some remote part of the world, by way of cure for the corruption
of their manners.

[Footnote 3: This proposal is embodied in the 16th Epode, where, in an
appeal "to the Roman people," Horace advises them to fly the evils of
tyranny and civil war by sailing away to "the happy land, those islands
of the blest:"

"Nos manet Oceanus circumvagus! arva, beata
Petamus arva, divites et insulas!"
[T.S.]]

Therefore I think this caution was in itself altogether unnecessary,
(which I have inserted only to prevent all possibility of cavilling)
since every candid reader will easily understand my discourse to be
intended only in defence of nominal Christianity; the other having been
for some time wholly laid aside by general consent, as utterly
inconsistent with our present schemes of wealth and power.

But why we should therefore cast off the name and title of Christians,
although the general opinion and resolution be so violent for it, I
confess I cannot (with submission) apprehend the consequence
necessary.[4] However, since the undertakers propose such wonderful
advantages to the nation by this project, and advance many plausible
objections against the system of Christianity, I shall briefly consider
the strength of both, fairly allow them their greatest weight, and offer
such answers as I think most reasonable. After which I will beg leave to
shew what inconveniences may possibly happen by such an innovation, in
the present posture of our affairs.

[Footnote 4: I give the reading of the "Miscellanies" (1711), Faulkner
and Hawkesworth. Scott and Craik print it: "I confess I cannot (with
submission) apprehend, nor is the consequence necessary." [T.S.]]

_First,_ One great advantage proposed by the abolishing of Christianity
is, that it would very much enlarge and establish liberty of conscience,
that great bulwark of our nation, and of the Protestant Religion, which
is still too much limited by priestcraft, notwithstanding all the good
intentions of the legislature, as we have lately found by a severe
instance. For it is confidently reported, that two young gentlemen of
real hopes, bright wit, and profound judgment, who upon a thorough
examination of causes and effects, and by the mere force of natural
abilities, without the least tincture of learning, having made a
discovery, that there was no God, and generously communicating their
thoughts for the good of the public, were some time ago, by an
unparalleled severity, and upon I know not what obsolete law, broke for
blasphemy.[5] And as it hath been wisely observed, if persecution once
begins, no man alive knows how far it may reach, or where it will end.

[Footnote 5: No record of this "breaking" has been discovered. [T.S.]]

In answer to all which, with deference to wiser judgments, I think this
rather shews the necessity of a nominal religion among us. Great wits
love to be free with the highest objects; and if they cannot be allowed
a God to revile or renounce, they will speak evil of dignities, abuse
the government, and reflect upon the ministry; which I am sure few will
deny to be of much more pernicious consequence, according to the saying
of Tiberius, _Deorum offensa diis curae._[6] As to the particular fact
related, I think it is not fair to argue from one instance, perhaps
another cannot be produced; yet (to the comfort of all those who may be
apprehensive of persecution) blasphemy we know is freely spoken a
million of times in every coffeehouse and tavern, or wherever else good
company meet. It must be allowed indeed, that to break an English
free-born officer only for blasphemy, was, to speak the gentlest of such
an action, a very high strain of absolute power. Little can be said in
excuse for the general; perhaps he was afraid it might give offence to
the allies, among whom, for aught we know, it may be the custom of the
country to believe a God. But if he argued, as some have done, upon a
mistaken principle, that an officer who is guilty of speaking blasphemy,
may some time or other proceed so far as to raise a mutiny, the
consequence is by no means to be admitted; for, surely the commander of
an English army is likely to be but ill obeyed, whose soldiers fear and
reverence him as little as they do a Deity.

[Footnote 6: Tacitus, "Annals," bk. i., c. lxxiii. [T.S.]]

It is further objected against the Gospel System, that it obliges men to
the belief of things too difficult for free-thinkers, and such who have
shaken off the prejudices that usually cling to a confined education. To
which I answer, that men should be cautious how they raise objections
which reflect upon the wisdom of the nation. Is not every body freely
allowed to believe whatever he pleases, and to publish his belief to the
world whenever he thinks fit, especially if it serves to strengthen the
party which is in the right? Would any indifferent foreigner, who should
read the trumpery lately written by Asgil, Tindal, Toland, Coward,[7]
and forty more, imagine the Gospel to be our rule of faith, and
confirmed by parliaments? Does any man either believe, or say he
believes, or desire to have it thought that he says he believes one
syllable of the matter? And is any man worse received upon that score,
or does he find his want of nominal faith a disadvantage to him in the
pursuit of any civil or military employment? What if there be an old
dormant statute or two against him, are they not now obsolete, to a
degree, that Empsom and Dudley[8] themselves if they were now alive,
would find it impossible to put them in execution?

[Footnote 7: John Asgill (1659-1738), became a member of Lincoln's Inn,
and went over to Ireland in 1697, where he practised as a barrister,
amassed a large fortune, and was elected to the Irish parliament. For
writing "An Argument, proving that Man may be translated from hence
without passing through Death," he was, in 1700, expelled the House, and



Online LibraryJonathan SwiftThe Prose Works of Jonathan Swift, D.D. — Volume 03 Swift's Writings on Religion and the Church — Volume 1 → online text (page 1 of 26)