Two Great Questions CONSIDERED,

  • I. What is the Obligation of Parliaments to the Ad­dresses or Petitions of the People, and what the Duty of the Addressers?
  • II. Whether the Obligation of the Covenant or other National Engagements, is concern'd in the Treaty of Union?

BEING A Sixth ESSAY At Removing National Prejudices Against the UNION.

Printed in the Year M.DCC.VII.

Two Great Questions considered, &c.

I Thought at the Writing each of these Papers, that the Part before me would be the last; and have been always Cautious of Crowding the Reader of these Essays with too many Subjects.

But every Day brings with it New Occasions of Debate, and 'tis in Vain for me to resolve upon silence, unless I will aban­done Truth, and see it every Day insulted with Errors, both in Practice and in Opinion.

I have stood still, and seen the Parliament throng'd with Addresses or Petitions, and some of them in an Unusual Stile, a Stile Parliaments in other Kingdoms resent with more Severity a great deal; I have seen Authority insulted, Her Majesty in the Person of Her Representative very ill Treated, and all past over with Lenity and Gentleness.—To this I have thought my self oblig'd to say nothing, as not in my Sphere: His Grace the High Commissioner and the Parliament kno' how to resent, and when to resent; and 'tis not my Business to presume to Direct.

But after all this, I cannot but take Notice of the Dialect of some People here, which to me is very strange; who have been talking very Confidently, of going to ask the Parliament for an Answer to their Addresses;—this in English, I take to be Equivalent to Calling the Parliament to Account: and some Gentlemen have as good as call'd it so.

[Page 4]Indeed their Resolution has not been equal to their Project, and they have not yet thought fit to put their Schemes in Practice: but I thought it necessary, for the Informa­tion of those who pretend to justifie such a Method, to examine a little the Nature, Right and Obligation of Adres­sing or Petitioning our Superiors, and state the Point of Duty between both Addressers and the Persons Addressed. And this is the first Article I shall enter upon in this Essay.

Of Petitioning Parliaments, and the Duty in that Case both of Parliament and People.

AS this is a nicer Subject than ordinary, and he that writes upon it, may easily be misunderstood; so I desire a little to explain my self, before I proceed to the Particulars.

And first, I desire to note, that I shall not distinguish in this Discourse between Addressing and Petitioning; not but that there are Essential Differences between them, and which used to be observed by the People: Petitioning being applied to Requests only, and Addressing to every thing, congratu­lating, or otherwise summary in representing the Subject, it is upon.

But Custom has now brought these things together, the Address is call'd a Petition, and the Petition an Address: and as the Age makes no Distinction, neither do I; and therefore I desire thro' out this Paper to be understood promiscuously of both.

2dly. I note here, that I shall in no wise dispute, whether it be lawful upon all Occasions for the People to Address to, or Petition the Parliament.

I shall take it for granted, and agree with any Body in this, That it is the undoubted Right of the People of any free Na­tion, [Page 5] but particularly of the three Kingdoms of Scotland, England and Ireland, to present their Grievances to their respective Au­thorities, be it King or Parliament or both, and to do it by Peti­tion, Address, or any other way within the limited Prescription of the Law.

When these Things by way of Note are first granted, I know nothing more in the way of my Discourse, but to come directly to the Subject of Petitioning or Addressing of Parlia­ments; and in this 'tis necessary to consider,

  • 1. The Nature of Petitioning or Addressing.
  • 2. The Manner of Presenting.
  • 3. The Duty of the Persons Addressed to.
  • 4. The Duty of the Persons Addressing.

1. The Nature of Addressing or Petitioning.

And me thinks, I need go no further than the very words themselves, which without troubling my self to dive into their Etymologies and Original, do plainly and ex­presly signify the Posture of Supplicants; a Petition is in its Nature a Prayer, a Begging or Entreating; and let the Sub­ject of the Petition be never so much Matter of Right, it is, by the Nature of the Thing, submitted to the Pleasure of the Persons Petitioned, either when to grant it, or in such manner as they shall see meet, or not to grant it at all.

I confess, we have of late seen different Steps taken in this Case, and some Gentlemen are pleased to tell us of Addresses to the Parliament, Commanding them, &c. Others in their Addresses, come with a We hope and confidently Expect, &c. Of which by it self.

However these Gentlemen think of their Method, I must take the Liberty to tell such, if they will act fairly, and give every thing its proper Stile, they should call such things, Re­presentations or Remonstrances; not Addresses or Petitions.

[Page 6]And therefore in our own Memories, when the People of Scotland applyed themselves to the late King William for the Establishment of their Privileges, they did not call it an Ad­dress or a Petition, but a Claim of Right.

To petition or address must certainly acknowledge a Right in the Persons addressed to, either to grant or not to grant the thing addressed for; referring the Manner and Season of Granting to them, and contents it self with having laid the Request be­fore them.

All other or further pursuing the Subject, is Tumultuary, and tends to Riot and Disorder, the thing ceases then to be an Address or a Petition, and becomes a Demand, a Force or Threatning of Force; which in its Nature, is absolutely De­structive of the very Being and Substance of Government, tends to all manner of Disorders, and cannot be call'd Petiti­oning:

And therefore, that Reverend Divine, that lately Preached in the New Kirk in this City, speaking of this very thing, had this most pertinent Expression, That when he considered some of the Addresses here, they had on the Frontispiece the Words AN HUMBLE PETITION: but if they were to Correspond with the Substance, they should have been Stil'd A BOLD DECLARATION, in Opposition to Authority, and that he could not understand the Meaning of a Petition or Address, Sword in Hand.

No truly, nor can any Man else understand it by the Words; for Petition and Sword in Hand, are two contraries, that do not Illustrate, but really Destroy one another.

In short, to Address or Petition, is to Pray, to Desire and to Submit to the Wisdom and Authority of the Person you Peti­tion or Address to, for the Granting or not Granting the Re­quest, all that goes beyond this, is Excentrick, Remote and Inconsistent, not only with the Due Respect of Subjects to [Page 7] Authority, but with the Nature & Substance of the Thing it self, and indeed ought not to go by the Name of Address or Petition.

When the Flemings, in the time of Philip the II. made the Famous Petition to the Lady Infanta, then Governess of the Spanish Netherlands,—tho they Petitioned for their Native Right and Liberty of Religion, yet they Voluntarily took upon them the Name of Geux or Beggars, and were call'd so on both sides, signifying, That tho' it was really their Right they Demanded, yet while they did it by way of Petition, it ought to be agreeable to the Nature of a Petition, viz. as a Prayer or Humble Request. I omit the Application of this part, till the last, and proceed to Examine,

2. The Manner of Petitioning.

This respects the Words of the Petition, and the Method of Petitioning.

As to the Words or Terms of the Petition. As every Ser­mon ought to Conform to the Text, every Book to its Title, every Application to the Doctrine, so every such Application to Authority, ought to Conform to the Title, which always bears the term HUMBLE in the Front of it, An Humble Address, or An Humble Petition, and the like.

I Confess there is room for Reflection enough here, where Humility takes up the Title, and all manner of Insolencies, Scandals, Reproaches, and unjust Assertions, fill up the Bo­dies of Addresses; and Petitions are made in the Language of the Spanish Beggars, who they say, beg an Alms with the Hat in one hand, and the Sword in the other.

What else can we say of the Addressers, that tell the Parli­ament, they are Acting contrary to the Fundamental Rights of the Nation; that their Votes are Inconsistent with the Constitution of Scotland, Enslaving them to England, and Surrendering the Liberties and Freedoms of the Scots Nation; in plain Words, [Page 8] Betraying their Native Country to the English, and Destroying that Foundation, which is their Duty to preserve and defend, and the like?

In all Nations such Addressings have been esteemed con­trary to the Duty of Subjects, contrary to the Nature of Ad­dressing, and contrary to the Dignity of Authority; and there­fore the Parliament of England, in the Case of the Famous Kentish Petition show'd their Resentment, not at Petitioning in General, for that every Body allowed, was the Privilege of the Subject, but at the manner or Expression, the Words of which were, That they would turn their Humble Addresses into Bills of Supply. Now, tho' it was no Breach of Duty to Pe­tition the Parliament to supply the King's wants for the Pub­lick Good; yet in this particular turn, the Parliament thought the Petitioners took upon them to Reproach the House, with trifling their time away in Complements and Addresses when the necessity of the Nation called for supply­ing the Publick for Action.

This as out of the Sphere of a Petition they resented, and therefore Voted, it Scandalous, Insolent, and Seditious; send for the Persons who presented it in Custody, and afterwards committed them to the Gate-house, tho' Gentlemen of the best Quality in their Country.

I am not arguing from hence, what should be done here, the Government here is Gentle, Mild, and bear a great deal; but they ought not to have the more Insult put upon them for that very Reason.

The manner or method of a Petition, ought to Correspond with its Title, be Humble, the Expression Modest, the Diction Decent, Soft, and Void of every thing Disrespectful, Unmannerly, and much less Untrue, I mean the Language of it.

[Page 9]As to the manner of Delivery, this ought to be still, more Courteously managed, and to sute First the Customs of the Place in the Case of Petitions, Secondly, The Persons Peti­tioning, and Thirdly, The Persons who are Petitioned or Ad­dressed to.

The Decency due to Government, and especially to the Au­thority of Parliament, requires all possible Respect, as it is the Supreme Authority of the Nation, the Body cloathed with the Sanction of Legislature on one Hand, and Sovereign Judica­ture on the other.—An humble Petition, and humbly presented, is without doubt, the just Debt of applying to this Power.—All manner of Tumultuous Assemblings, all manner of Threatning Appearances or Speeches, are in this Case Scandalous, Insolent, and Seditious, to lead, direct, Com­mand, much less threaten and speak roughly to them, is an Insolence destructive to the very Nature of Government, and the Distance of Subjects.—What tho' they are the Ser­vants of the State, and accountable for Justice, Truth, and Liberty; yet, are they not subjected to the Insults of the Sub­ject in the Execution of their Great Trust?—The Authori­ty they exercise is Sacred, and ought not to be treated with Disrespect or Contempt.

The long disputed Case of their being accountable, never amounted to more, than that they are accountable in Con­science, Honour and Interest: But it remains to prove, that ever any Member representing his Country, can be called to account in any Court for things done in Parliament, either in this Kingdom, or in England; if they were, no Man would serve his Country at that Price.

The Method of Petitioning therefore in your Neighbouring Kingdom is thus far Confin'd by Law, to prevent all manner of Tumultuous Assemblies, that not more than five Persons can appear at the presenting any Petition, be the Subject of it of [Page 10] never so Publick a Nature: and this has effectually prevented the great Mischiefs of Riotous Petitioning, which in their turn have proved Pernicious, both to Government and to People in England, and must have ill Consequences in any Country where such Exorbitances are unrestrain'd.

But say the Objectors against this Doctrine, Have we com­mitted all our Power to our Representatives, and is it in their Power to Ruin us all? This brings me to the Third Head.

3. Of the Duty of the Petitioned.

And here I lay some Heads down for others to inlarge upon, for in this small Tract I have not Room.

  • 1. All our Civil Rights are not subjected, no not to Parliament, as particularly, 'tis not in their Power to take away the Right of being Represented, tho' without doubt it is in their Power to Enlarge, or Con­tract, Settle, and Limit the Number of the Representa­tives and the space of the Countries they shall Repre­sent. And whereas some infer from hence, That then they may resolve the whole Representative into a single Person, and they think they have a mighty Victory in this.—I Answer,—Every part of the King­dom, which has been a separate Government, must be separately Represented; because its Right of being Represented, began in its separate State, and cannot be taken away.—But yet every Kingdom, that by themselves or their Representatives, Consent even to Suspend their being Represented at all, may doubtless do it for a time, tho it cannot be for their Posterity; because the Right of being Represetned de­scends with the Land, and the Free-holder himself cannot give it away, Charters, Burghs, or Corpora­tions, [Page 11] may be Forfeited and Disfranchised, but the Free-hold Land shall ever Entitle the Possessor to a Right of being Represented.

According to Mr. Hodges ‘"The Representative has all the Right and Power of the Free-holder P—:"’ And if so, then he has this Authority much more, and may give away all, but I dare not run that length.

  • 2. A Representative cannot bind Conscience, or oblige in Contradiction to the Laws of GOD.—All their Votes, all their Authority ceases, when once they Contraveen the express Laws of GOD, and in that Case, their Power is ipso facto Dissolved, and they cease to be a Legislature, in so far only as they Act a­gainst, or in Opposition to the Divine Law, the Apostles Question in that Case strongly implying the Negation.—Whether it be lawful to obey GOD rather than Man, judge ye?

Nor can they make Laws against Nature or Reason, but in every thing else they have the full Legislative and Judicature committed to them, and it can not be Rational to subject them to the Tumultuous Authority of their Constituents.

I know it is affirm'd here, That the Barons have a Right, if they please, to Decline a Representative, and come up and sit in Person, as the Peers do.

Whether they have such a Right or no, is not my business to Debate here, but I'll offer one Negative to such an absurd No­tion, that I believe will serve to the present Case, viz. That they cannot have such a Right now, for this Current Parliament; they having by their Election, already concluded themselves for this time; if ever they have such a Right, which nevertheless I do not grant, it must be when a new Parliament is to be chosen.—But the Case, for this Parliament is Determin'd, and cannot be altered.

[Page 12] But how far then is a Parliament obliged by the Addresses of the Heretors or Constituents, and what is their Duty in such Cases? For this is the Grand Question before us.

I Answer, Addresses if decently Worded, Dutifully with respect to Authority Presented, and Significant in their Nature, ought to be received; and in this part, I must own, The Parliament of Scotland, have been over and above, regard­ful of their Duty, for that they have received such Addresses, containing such Insulting of their Authority, such Arraigning their Proceedings, such Leading their Voices, such Limi­ting their Legal Power, and such Indecent and Disrespectful Treating their Persons, as no Subject in these Ages have ever, that I remember, done with Impunity, in any Nation but this;—and therefore, I think, with Submission, no Objection will ly against them on that Score.—

2. Nor is it the Duty of Representatives to receive only the Addresses of the Subjects; but indeed they seem to me to owe a Reading, and if the Substance require it, to consider and debate the Matters laid before them in it. If any Man shall ask so weak a Question, as who shall be Judge, whether the Substance require their Debates or no? The Nature of De­bating answers that, for they can debate upon nothing else but the Merits of the Petition; And if they find it fri­volous or vexatious, without question they may either lay it asleep in the house by the still Voice of a general Neglect, or cast it back with Resentment, as the Case in their Opinion de­serves; If this be not in their Choice, then it is no more an Ad­dress or Petition, but a Precept or Mandamus, the People sign­ing it are no more Addressers, Petitioners or Desirers, but Di­rectors and Preceptors, and the whole Scale of Order inverts to Democracy and Confusion.

3. Doubtless, and I believe any Member of Parliament will allow me this, if the Parliament in Case of an Address [Page 13] presented, receiv'd and considered, find Matter of Right in it, the Subjects Grievances truly represented, and the Demand just, if an Oppression to be remedied, if injurious Encroach­ments on Right and Property are to be removed, if any thing previous be there laid before them, in which they see the Sub­ject injur'd, and that 'tis in their Power to right him; tho the Addresser be never so mean, so low, or so despicable, and tho the Injury were back'd with never so much Power, they are bound in Duty, in Conscience, and in regard to the Trust committed to them, to answer the said Request, redress, right, restore, and help the injur'd People, whose Rights they are entrusted to protect and defend.

I shall not enlarge on the Duty of a Representative, I see no Members here stand in need of my weak Instructions, or that want to be put in mind of their Duty to their Country.

4. Of the Duty of Petitioners.

I come now to the last Article, and the main Occasion of this Tract, the Duty of Persons addressing or petitioning; for without question there is a Duty due there too, how negli­gent soever People are of it, and how willing soever some are to forget the Obligation.

And here I must begin with Negatives, and I cannot but put you in mind of the honest Minister at the New Kirk, who told ye, that he did not understand addressing to Authority with SWORD IN HAND: This, as that Gentleman very well said, is rather a bold Declaration, than an humble Address.

If People will address—let them do it like an Address; if they will petition, let it be a Petition—On the other hand, if they will remonstrate, let them remonstrate, and be plain; if they have Reason and Justice, no doubt the Parliament will hear them both ways: But to remonstrate and address both [Page 14] in a breath, that's like the French King making War while he gives Peace to Europe. To have it be an Humble Address in the Title, and a bold Declaration in the Body of the Paper, this is neither Peace nor War; it looks no way and every way, all together: In short, 'tis neither Honest nor Legal; 'tis not Legal, because 'tis against Government, and does not corres­pond with lawful Authority; and 'tis not honest, because it does not correspond with it self, it calls it self one thing, & really is an­other; it has a Silken Face and a Steely Heart, a Smile on the Brow and a Grin in the Thought, 'tis Unjust and Unfair.

If you will be call'd Addressers or Petitioners, you must act as such, or else 'tis honester to quit the Title.

The Duty of Addressers, in the next place, is to leave the Matter of their Addresses to the Consideration of the Persons addressed or petitioned, and to acquiesce in their Determina­tion or Judgment: An Address that will have no Nay, is no more an Address, but, as I said before, a Precept and Dire­ction.

To such, for such I find here, I cannot but speak a word by way of Direction.—At the same time that you plead for a Right of Petitioning, I hope you do not demand a Right, or by it mean a Right of directing.

I confess, I am at some loss to know how some Gentlemen, who address'd the present Parliament, would have us to understand these Words, WE HOPE AND CONFIDENTLY EXPECT; Words frequently used in some Addresses I have seen here, whether they really have any Confidence in the Parliament or no, I cannot tell; 'tis my Opinion, they have ENOUGH in the Expression.

A Right of Petitioning, I agree, is undoubted, but what Authority these Gentlemen will bring for a Right to oblige the Parliament to follow their Di­rections, I cannot imagine any more, than I can how [Page 15] they would properly be called a Parliament, or Re­presentative, if that Power were left in the Persons they represent.

As therefore, I would by no means lessen the Au­thority of the People, in the Reserves of Right left them, and which are not Committed to the Representa­tives; so I would by no means Reduce Parliaments to Mobs and Rabbles, and make them pay their Homage every day to the Absolute Directions of their Constitu­ents; this were indeed, to sacrifice to OUR SOVEREIGN LORD, THE PEOPLE; this were to level the Legislators, as a late Author has it, to the Will and Humour of the People, State of the Controversie. Page 4. This were to make the Members Representatives, and the Mob be the Parliament. GOD deliver this Nation from the Confusion of such a Constitution, and the Consequences of such kind of Doings.

The People, without doubt, have Committed to their Re­presentatives, the Management of all their Civil Affairs, the power of Making, Explaining, Amending, Executing and Re­pealing Laws.—In these terms, are concluded all the Trusts, that are contain'd in Life, Limb, Property and Estate.—This Management extends to Subjecting Life and Estate to Punish­ment for Crimes, Stating Protection to Property, and Admi­nistration of Justice, Regulating, Altering, Limiting, and Declaring all things belonging to Government, Succession, Constitution, and Executive Power.

In all these things, you are to Acquiesce and Submit to the Determination of the Representatives; you, mark that, your selves having Constituted and Appointed them by a Volunta­ry Legal Choice, your Deputies, your Plenipotentiaries, to Concert, Settle and Establish all these things in your behalf.

[Page 16]If your nearest Relations break the Laws they make, you follow them to the Gibbet with Regret and Lamentations, at the Misfortune in Committing the Crime; but no Complaint at the Makers of the Law, ye Acquiesce in that, as the Act and Deed of the Parliament.

'Tis hard, we should Acquiesce in some things, and scruple others, since their Authority is Equal in all.

What has been said on this Part, will however bear this just Inference, and 'tis one of the best Uses I can turn the Discourse to, viz.

This Doctrine quite overthrows the Legality of People, first addressing, and then assembling to make an open De­mand of an Answer, or what else they please to call it to their Address.

And those Gentlemen that find fault with the late Procla­mation, for preventing such Assembling, as Illegal, can ne­ver defend the Legality of their Part, to come in a Body, as some People call it, expecting therefore the more Respect: This can have no other nor better Construction, than to say, We will make such an Appearance as shall awe the Parlia­ment by our Numbers to grant our Demands.

I would not be a forward Censurer of the Designs of any Body, further than Reason justifies; but I cannot see it will bear any other Construction, and if not, then it is directly contrary to the very Nature of Addressing, as well as to the Duty and Deference owing to Parliamentary Authority.

What can the meaning of Number be but Strength, what their Appearing, but Force? The Government therefore are highly justified in exerting the needful Authority entrusted to them for that end, in preventing the early Beginnings of those Assemblies, that contrary to the Nature and true Mean­ing of Addressers, design'd to have aw'd or influenc'd the Parliament in their Appearance.

[Page 17]Those Gentlemen, who ever they are, that contriv'd that Design, were in my Opinion strangely mistaken in their Mea­sures, and have something to account for to their Discretion, if they had really a Design to have insulted the Parliament; for they could not but imagine, that an Attempt of drawing to­gether undiscerned, must be impossible in a City no bigger than this, and in a Government that God be praised has their Eyes about them.

Nor could they expect, but at the first Appearance of a Concourse of Strangers, the Town would be allarm'd, their Design be discovered, and consequently prevented.

But I must own, they made amends for their want of Fore­cast in the Design, by the Discretion of laying it aside at last, and not ruining themselves and their Friends upon the cer­tain Destruction of an impracticable Attempt; and I doubt not, they will be sensible by this time, that they were in the wrong.

But this by the way; that Part I am upon is in short thus: All Tumultuary Parts of Management in Matters of Addres­sing or Petitioning Parliaments or Governours, is not contra­ry to the Laws only, but contrary to the Nature of Addres­sing, contrary to the Duty of Subjects, and ought rather to be call'd, Bold Declarations in Opposition to Legal Autho­rity.

II. Of the Obligation of National Oaths

THis is a new Point, and if handled, in a way that may seem something new, the Gentlemen concerned will, I hope, not be under any Surprize; since it will only discover, that some People raised their Scruples, more for want of due Enquiry, than from the real Difficulty of the Question.

[Page 18]Most People who have entred upon this Article, have a­mused us with the Enquiries into the Extent of the Oaths and Obligations, which this Nation lyes under, and with Debat­ing how far they are, or are not binding to the Posterity of those that took them; and these Enquiries have one peculi­ar, which seems very natural to them, (Scilicet) To leave People as much or more in the Dark, than they found them.

The various Opinions, and weak Arguments on both sides, entangle the Subject, and serve only to leave it a doubtful Point, which no body can unravel; & this is what the Enemies of the Truth aim at, and are very well satisfied with, and in­deed it answers their end but too well.

The Broachers of Opinions in the World, have in all Ages fled to this Refuge, viz. When strength of Reasoning, would not support their Errors, they struggle to cloud the Argument with abstrufe Conjectures, ambiguous Interpretations, dark and difficult Suggestions, and any thing that may render the Subject mysterious; for, that if once the Doctrine has but dif­ficulty enough in it, to divide the Opinions of Men, and have some be of one mind, and some of another in the matter, they gain the Point; and 'tis odd, but some espouse it, be the Error never so gross.

To avoid this Evil in the Case in hand, to take from the Adversary the Advantage of making this a Moot point, and that leaving People Doubting and Unsatisfied, they may bring them out of Love with the occasion. I shall come quite ano­ther way, and I hope a nearer way to the Truth.

To state the Question right, is the way to make this plain Truth yet plainer, and I think it lyes as follows.

There are National Obligations, which have been taken in Scot­land, either by us our Fathers, and which we hold our selves e­qually bound to,—which in their Nature interfere with our Incor­porating with England, in the present proposed Ʋnion.

[Page 19]That this is the true state of the Question, I could prove from too many of the weak and ill temper'd Arguments, which some People have made use of in Publick, to Defend their Clamours at the Treaty; and which I only Conceal, because I would not record the folly of the Persons, who, I hope, may in time, come to be better Inform'd, and I am unwilling to leave them any thing to blush at.

But to put my Argument right, I must back it with one Authentick Quotation, viz. Out of the so well known Address of the Presbytery of Hamilton to the Parliament; a Thing I shall have occasion to mention again in the course of this Tract, the Words are thus.

But that which more especially obliges us in Duty and Consci­ence, as Ministers of the Gospel of Peace, most Humb­ly to Interpose with your Grace and Lordships, is, the Lamen­table and Distracted state of the Kingdom, and particularly the People under our Pastoral Charge, from the sad Appre­hension they have of the Woful Consequences of such an U­nion, to their Liberties, Civil and Religious;—And that IT CANNOT BE ENTRED INTO by the Nation, in the Terms, without Incurring the Guilt of NATIONAL PERJURY.

This is plain to my purpose, and Justifies my proposed state of the Question.

I shall not spend the Readers time here, to state the Obli­gations; nor shall I repeat the Oaths or Covenants, which are here meant, further than to lay it down, just as the Gentle­men themselves alledge, viz. That having taken an Oath, or entred into a Solemn Engagement, either they or their Fathers, for that they say is all one, obliging themselves, as far as shall be in their power, to Support and Maintain the Reformation, of Religion against all Error or Novations whatsoever, together with an Obligation to Maintain and Defend the Kings Person, [Page 20] the Laws and Parliamentary Authority, all the lawful Juris­dictions, &c. as may be seen at large, in the National Con­fession.

This, they say, obliges them to have no Union, with a Na­tion professing contrary to this Principle; much less, with a Na­tion, whose Church is establisht upon that very Episcopacy, which they think themselves obliged by their Oath, and in both their National and Church Capacity, to Abolish and pull down.

Then as to Civil Matters, they are oblig'd, they say by this Oath, to Maintain and Defend the Parliament, Government and Sovereignty of Scotland, and the like, which they appre­hend, they do not do by the Union.

I'll do the Gentlemen that Justice, to acknowledge, that they begin very much to decline the last Objection, being, as they search into it, further and further Convinc'd, of the Weak­ness of that part;—and especially as a thing they are not so Solicitous about.—But as to the first, they seem very positive and warm in the case.

I shall not lay the stress of this Matter, where these People do, and therefore the Triumph they make, over those that Argue against the Obligation of National Oaths, on the Poste­rity of the People taking them, shall stand them in no stead here, for I'll readily grant them for Argument sake, whether I believe it or no is not material, That the National Oaths or Co­venant, or both, which their Fathers took, has all that Obli­gation they alledge, let that also be what it will, on us their Children; That they having eaten these sour Grapes, our Teeth are set on edge by them, and that by no Shift, Evasion, Subterfuge, or whatever Contrivance, we can be cleared of the Bond.

Having granted this, I hope no Man will take it ill, if I very narrowly search all the unhappy Policies of this perverse [Page 21] Generation, to bring us in Bound by these National Obligations not to unite with England.

'Tis not at all to the present Purpose, whether we are bound by these Oaths, but whether do these Oaths prevent our joining with England in the Terms of the Union, and whether it be true or no, as is quoted from the Presbytery of Hamilton, That it cannot be entred into without incurring the Guilt of National Perjury.

To enquire directly into this,—it will be necessary to distinguish here the Obligation of the Oath, and the Substance of the Treaty of Union.

The Obligation is against the Invasions of Error, and for preserving the Purity of Religion; 'tis an Oath to maintain and defend the Presbyterian Government and Discipline of the Church. This I take to be a fair Abstract of it.

Now against this let us set the Treaty, and see what are the Stipulations between the Two Kingdoms; and without running thro' the Articles, they consist in general Heads of Agreement and mutual Coalition in Matters of Civil Go­vernment, Communication of Privileges, Regulations of State and Postulata of Trade.—And pray Gentlemen, take it along with you, there is not in the Treaty one word of the things contain'd in the Oaths we are upon; nor are any of the Heads of those Oaths concern'd here: Of which presently.

Next, let us distinguish here of the Subjects of these Oaths on one hand, and the Subjects of the Treaty on the other hand, and the several Capacities of either, as they respect the Case in hand; and here we shall find them also as distinct and unconcern'd, as if they were not the same Persons.

The Subjects of the Oaths are the People of Scotland, Na­tionally consider'd, in their Ecclesiastick Capacity, or the Peo­ple of Scotland in their Religious Capacity, as Presbyterians, reform'd from Popery and Prelacy, and erected in a Na­tional [Page 22] Church, which they engage solemnly to defend; and I would have them defend it to the end of the World.

The Subjects of the Treaty of Union are the People of Scotland in their Politick Capacity, as a Government under a limited Monarchy, a Queen reigning vested with a Legal, Undoubted and Undisputed Right; a Parliament Represent­ing, Sitting and acting by Law, and both together legally, and beyond the Power of Cavil, vested with Right and Au­thority, to debate of and determine every thing which may be for the Publick Good of the Body to be Governed, and which relates to Civil Right, Law, Justice and Policy.

That to distinguish the People of Scotland thus in their se­veral Capacities Politick and Religious, is just and to the Pur­pose, will easily appear in that they are distinguish'd so alrea­dy, both in the Nature of the Thing and in the different Pacts of Government.

The Government of the State, including all the latter Branch of the above Distinction, is entirely separate from, Uncon­cern'd with, has no Influence upon, nor is at all influenc'd by the Government of the Church, which is the former Branch of the said Distinction. The Parliament represents the People in their Civil Capacity; the Church has no Voice in the Election, nor is at all Represented there; nor is any thing co­gnizable there, relating to the Religious Capacity of any In­dividual Subject of Scotland: The Civil Government has in­deed the Ecclesiastick in its Protection, and 'tis its Duty to defend and support it.—But even the Queen and Parlia­ment cannot, no not by Law, dethrone the Power and Con­stitution of the Church of Scotland, as Presbyterian,—be­cause it will for ever be just, as is express'd in the Claim of Right, That the People ought to have that Religion establish'd which is their own Choice.—

[Page 23]Nor are they distinct in the Government only, but in the very Persons governing; the People of Scotland in their Civil Capacities, are governed by the Queen; and the Laws, Justice and Legislature is lodg'd in the Queen, and the Parliament; and all Men are Subject to it.

The People of Scotland in their Religious Capacity are go­verned by the Ecclesiastick Authority of Session, Presbytery, Synod and Assembly; and to these even the Sovereign and Parliament in their Ecclesiastick and Separate Capacity are pleased to be Subject.

Thus I defend the Distinction as to the Subjects of the re­spective Cases before us.

Things thus set clear of one another, and examin'd apart, I must confess, to me it is one of the profoundest Mysteries in Nature; and I can see no shadow of a Discovery, how the Union of two Nations in their meer Civil and Politick Con­cerns, can affect their Religious Concern:

But to come nearer yet,—These Things are not only divided and distinguish'd in their own Nature, but they are expresly distinguish'd in the Treaty it self, which professes to unite the two Kingdoms in their Civil and Politick Capacity, as to Oeconomy, Government, Interest and Commerce; but expresly reserves to each, the Separate State and Absolute Independency of all their Religious Affairs.

To make this more clear, care was taken to remove all manner of Jealousies on either hand, by expresly providing, limiting and forbidding, That the Commissioners on either side, should have any Authority, to Treat of Matters relating to the Church.

The Reason was plain, the Union was not concern'd in it; the Churches in either Kingdom were settled, fixt and Established, and were so to remain; They were not to Unite or to Treat about Uniting: the Business of the Union [Page 24] is not to bring them together, but to keep them asunder; not to bring them into one Government, but to secure them in their being two.

The Church of Scotland, or the People of Scotland in their Religious Capacity, have no Concern in the Treaty, they are not at all Uniting, the Pale of Distinction is as firm, and if I may say it, the Church of Scotland better Secured, and bet­ter Fixt as to Humane Power, than ever it was before: hav­ing the Faith of a Treaty, perhaps more Solemn than ever was yet made in the World to Support her, and all the Men of Honesty and Principle in the whole Island, to Support and Defend, to Recognize and see to the Execution of that Treaty.

If then the Independency of the Religious Government in Scotland be thus reserv'd and secur'd, I cannot see which way the Oaths or Covenants of the People of Scotland in Religious Matters, are any way infring'd, because indeed, not any way concern'd in, or subjected to any Article of the Treaty.

The First Objection I meet with here, is, Yet we are sub­jected to the Legislation of Bishops.

To this much might be said, as that they are Barons, and Vote in the House of Lords as such, but exercise no Spiritual Authority there: And I do not see, but if an Ecclesiastick in Scotland, either by Blood came to be a Peer, or by Vote was Chosen a Representative in Scotland, he might sit in Par­liament too; but I wave that. My direct Answer here, is,

  • 1. You as a Church, have no hand in the placing them there; for in your Ecclesiastick Capacity, you have no Concern in the Ʋnion at all, nor the Church of Eng­land neither.
  • 2. To clear your Consciences from the Guilt, and your selves from the Subjection, you Protest against your [Page 25] being Subjected in any Religious Matters to their Vote.

And let what Pretences so ever be made here, I see no Room for any Question, whether this does not effectually clear you, since you have neither Agency in the Fact, nor are subjected to the Consequences. How then can the Oath be affected here?

2. But say some Gentlemen, more willing to be Scrupulous than to be answered; We are bound, as far as lyes in us, to pull down Prelacy, even in England.

This is a wild Objection, I confess, and more wildly made use of by some People.

Either this is an Ecclesiastical Obligation, or a Civil one, both it cannot be.

If it be a Civil Obligation, how will you understand it? Are you to do it by Force? If so, the very Words, As far as in our Power are against you, Ʋltra posse non est esse. I pre­sume, no Man will say, he is bound to the Attempt, whether possible or no, like the Fifth Monarchy-mad-men in England, who were to Crown King Jesus with an Army of 25 Men, and so went out to fight the Lord against the Mighty. 'Tis plain, the Impossibility on that side Dissolves the Nature of the Oath.

If it be an Ecclesiastical Oath, it must be executed in an Ec­clesiastical manner, and here all your Weapons are put into your Hands, and a fair Field given you; and I long, I con­fess, to see the War begun. But what are the Weapons? Tru­ly they are terrible ones, THE WORD and PRAYER; and here you may Execute your Engagements to the full, PRAY them down, and PREACH them down, and LIVE them down; and the sooner this Strife begins, the better, I am sure the Union will be far from Obstructing it; and I [Page 26] wish all the Strife in Britain, I mean as to Religion, was re­duced to this.

In short, to any that are willing to judge Impartially, it must be evident, the Church of Scotland has no manner of Concern in this Treaty as a Church, her Establishment is founded upon the Laws, which Laws are made Inviolable by the Treaty, no ways subjected to the Parliamentary Power that shall follow, and Consequently intirely free from the Legislation of the Episcopal Clergy of England.

Upon this Foundation being laid, it must follow, that the Oaths or Obligations insisted upon here, are not at all affected by this Ʋnion; And therefore, with Submission to the Pres­bytery of Hamilton, there can be no shadow of National Perjury in it.

As to any parts of the Oaths which seems to engage the People of Scotland not to alter their Constitution, it would be Ridiculous and Absurd. For then, (1mo.) They must pretend they are Bound never to mend their Condition, tho' the greatest Advantages in the World were to be offered them. (2do.) Tho' Subversion at Home, or Invasion Abroad, offered it self, they could not Unite with any Body, tho for the support & Preservation of themselves, to bind themselves to these things, would make it an unlawful Oath, for every Man, and every Go­vernment, is bound to do all possible and lawful things for the Good and Advantage of the Publick, and to Swear not to do that Good which is your Duty would be unlawful.

All the Cavils at the Form have been effectually answer'd already; I shall repeat nothing, nor enquire any more into the Suggestions, of the Treaty being an entire Surrender of the Constitution dissolving, subjecting, &c. The word U­NION is an Answer to it; Union cannot be a Subjection; the word TREATY is another; How can a Treaty upon [Page 27] Conditions be a Surrender of Freedom? how can making of Agreements upon Articles be call'd a Subjection?

I see nothing needful to add to this Argument: I would be glad to hear what any Mens Scruples may dictate by way of further Objection; But till then I must conclude, the Oaths and National Obligations of the People of Scotland, are not at all concern'd in this Union, how binding soever they may be in other Cases.

To fill People then with Scruples at the Publick Affairs, and alarm them with breaking Oaths, National Perjury, and the like: Where the Oath is not at all concern'd, is nothing but the Effect of Party Insinuations, a Handle form'd to be taken hold of to serve a Turn, and to fright Innocent People from joining in the Good of their Native Country.

I must confess, I know not what to say to the Multiplying Oaths on either hand, and heartily wish, neither Nation were so much encumbred with them, as they are. A General Uni­on of Temper and Affection, which, I hope, will at last fol­low the Union of Politicks, will soon take away, not the Obli­gation, but the occasion of these Bonds from us all.

I cannot therefore sufficiently Applaud the Prudence of the Publick, in the case of a new invented Oath here, lately of­fered in the Commission, and afterward in Parliament, and Rejected in both.

I must confess, I think there are good Reasons to be given against Imposing Oaths of any sort upon the Subject, other than the common Oath of Obedience to the Government, which is a Reciprocal Obligation; the King or Queen taking an Oath to Govern, and the Subjects to Obey, and both with this San­ction, as the Test of the Obligation, viz. ACCORDING TO LAW.

The frequency of Oaths, has in my Observation, these Fa­tal but Constant Mischiefs attending it. First, That it tends [Page 28] to lessening the Solemnity of the thing, by making a formal Swearing familiar to the People; and I could give sad Instan­ces of this in England, where the Word a Custom-House Oath is become such a Proverb, and the thing such a Jest, that 'tis fitter to be called a Customary Oath; and in some other Cases, I believe, I could instance in some Oaths of Freedoms and Corporations, which I may say, 'tis Impossible to keep.

If these things are true, as I do not desire to prove, be­cause I had rather conceal them; I think, they should caution any Nation against Crouding the People with Oaths, and e­specially unnecessary ones.

2. In all kinds of Oaths relating to payment of Taxes, there are snares to the People, and this effect follows of course, that he gets most Money whose Conscience is loosest, he that can Swear hardest, pays least; and the Man of Conscience, who dare not Tamper with his Maker, nor hurry up his Meaning in Suppositions, but when he is to Swear, considers of the Fact, and confines himself to the Truth, lyes under the Discouragement of paying the most Duties, and being Under­sold and Injured in his Trade.

This is my Observation, only on Oaths in general, but as to Religious Tests and Oaths, by way of Equivalent, I must con­fess, there is something Astonishing in it, to see some Gentle­men warm for them, that have so freely Censured, and per­haps too justly, their Neighbours, for making the like.

I frankly own, I believe the Sacramental Test Imposed in England, a thing unlawful in its Nature, and Irreligious, as it is a Debasing the Sacred Institutions of Christ Jesus, to Uses Differing, Remote and perhaps Contrary, to their Primitive Institution; and I make no question, but even the Church of England themselves, when further Inlightned from Heaven, and the time of their Compleat Reformation shall come, will free the Nation from those Ecclesiastical Fetters, which are the [Page 29] only remains of the Tyranny and Popish Practices of the late Abdicated times.

But how it came into the Thoughts of any People here, who at the same time have been very free with England on that head, to fall into the same evil, and prepare the very same Chains for their Native Country, under which their Neighbours so loudly groan, and for which they so loudly have blam'd them, is a Mystery past my understanding.

The Parliament have therefore very wisely Rejected their Proposal, as the Commission had done before; and the Gentle­men, who too hastily came in to it, will I doubt not, in time see, that they have cause to be Thankful, for being deliver­ed, tho' against their Wills.

I kno' 'twill be objected here, that the Oath proposed, was only design'd for such of the English Nation, &c. that should come to enjoy Places of Trust or Profit in Scotland.

But give me leave, to let such Gentlemen know, that ye had thereby opened the Door to the thing in general; and by Approving the placing Religious Oaths, on their Civil Im­ployments, tho now confin'd to Strangers, they for ever stop­ped their own Mouths, against all possible Objection, if the same in time to come, should on any other occasion be ex­pected of them.

They could never have argued against the Lawfulness of the thing; they could never have fenc'd against the Propha­ness and Irreligion of it, the Dishonour, &c. It is to the Institu­tion and Nature of an Oath, since their Mouths would be ef­fectually stopp'd, by telling them, That when it serv'd their own turn, they could descend to the very same thing, and were for hampering the Consciences of others.

Besides, who is it they would have bound to own the Pres­byterian Church of Scotland upon Oath? And let us examine a little the Reason and Kindness of it.

[Page 30]The Answer will be ready, I kno', 'tis the English—Well, Gentlemen, and who among the English would you entangle thus? the honest Men or the Knaves? 'Tis plain, the last will not be entangled by it, for they'll take fourty Oaths to get a good Place; there's none but the honest Men that you can have a Design upon, and 'tis a little hard you should contrive Methods to let the Knaves in among you, and shut honest Men out.

Well, but says another warm Gentleman, We would keep Church of England Men out in general.—

Say you so, Sir, Then you should have alter'd your Oath, and have made it, that the Person should have sworn, That he was not of the Church of England, or to abjure Episcopacy, or some Oath particularly bent against Prelacy in general, or the Church of England in particular: But 'tis plain, this Oath would as effectually have fore-closed three parts in four of all the Dissenters in England, as well as all that were Conscienti­ous among the Church; So that in short only one Sect of Dis­senters might come among you; for which many of your honest Brethren of the Dissenters, with whom you make no scruple to join in Communion, when you come to England, are exclud­ed, for which they are very much beholding to you.

I might here enter upon a Debate against the making an Oath of Faith;—I believe there is room to question, whe­ther in the Nature of the Thing, call'd Faith, every Man can swear to what he believes, swear that he believes this or that Church to be the only true Church, or this or that Wor­ship to be the only true Worship.

Likewise I must own, I think 'tis very hard to make any Man swear, as in a certain Oath is express'd, to continue in the Profession & Obedience of this or that Religion or Opinion all the days of our Lives; whereas perhaps the Person may be some [Page 31] time or other possessed in his Conscience with Convictions, that he ought to alter some part of that Profession, either as to Doctrine or Discipline, Fundamental or Circumstance.

But I omit entring on this Debate, not that I think it dif­ficult, but with the Apostle I say, I hope without prophaness, I have many things to say, but you cannot bear them now.

The End of this Discourse is in order to open the Eyes of those well-meaning People, who seem prejudic'd, that the Parliament has not agreed to the proposed Oaths, but has cau­tiously refused to put that Knife into their Hands, with which they would ha' wounded themselves.

They can have no Reason to be uneasy at this, since 'tis what no Man can defend; 'tis the Burthen, the Bondage, and in my Opinion the Scandal of their Neighbour Nation; and what I could say, if the Season were proper, this Treaty would in some measure ha' delivered them from, had the Gentlemen here not thought fit to raise that Devil, which, I doubt, will not be in their Power to lay. But of this I may have occasion to speak hereafter, and at present do not think it reasonable to explain my self further.

I believe both Nations freest from Bondage when they are freest from Oaths of Distinction; and while they continue, I shall never esteem the Union as perfect in all its parts, to have, made new ones here therefore, would have been a Step to prevent, or at least delay, that more Christian Union of Hearts and Affections among all the Subjects of Britain: which all wise Men wish, and good Men pray for.


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