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A Caution against Inconsistency,
or, The Connexion between Praying and Swearing in Relation to the Civil Powers.

attributed to Jeremy Collier

London: no publisher indicated, 1690

IN arguing this point I shall not dispute in whom the Right to the Crown lies, whether in J. or W. For the Resolution of this Question I refer the Reader to the Constitution, which, if consulted without Prejudice, will quickly give them satisfaction. The Debate therefore being of a private nature, I hope no Government, whether lawful or pretended, will think it self concerned in it.

Having premised this, I shall enquire whether there is any Consistency of Principles in Praying publickly for a Prince, as our Sovereign, to whom we judge it unlawful to swear Allegiance. I shall endeavour to maintain the Negative, for these following Reasons: Which before I advance, I will lay down this Proposition, viz. That we must believe that Prince to be an Usurper, to whom we believe our selves bound not to swear: For an Oath of Allegiance being a Security which all Subjects owe their Sovereigns, when required; why should we refuse it to a Prince upon demand, unless we believe our selves preingaged, and that our former Obligations stand uncancelled? Such a Denial, if rational, must proceed from a Persuasion, that he has no Right to challenge our Obedience. Now he that has no Right to demand our Subjection, can have none to govern, and therefore must be an Usurper, if he pretends to it. This is so plain that I need not insist any farther upon it.

Having settled the Basis of this Dispute, I shall proceed to show the Unreasonableness of Praying for an Usurper, and that,

1. Because its contrary to the Design of the Liturgy, if we consider it either as an Ecclesiastical Constitution, or as its enjoin'd by Act of Parliament: For we cannot in Reason or Decency imagine, that either the Spiritual or Civil Authority of the Nation, should enjoin any thing in favour of such a remarkable Injustice, and oblige us to pray for the prosperity of an Usurper, which is in other words to pray for the Overturning of the Government, and the Ruin of the Prince, for whose Safety and Honour the Laws are so singularly concerned. On the contrary, to pray for an Usurper, is to pray for him whom the meaning of the Prayers oblige us more particularly and principally to pray against: For we pray that God would defend the King, and give him the Victory over all his Enemies; and if over all, then certainly over those who are most unjustly so, which Usurpers are, for thus much is implyed in the very notion of Usurpation.

2. To pray in this manner is injurious to the King, because the Style of Sovereignty is given to another, to his capital Enemy. Now one principal Cause of Error, as a great Philosopher observes, is the misapplying of Names, and tying up our Conceptions in words, which don't answer the nature of the Things they are to represent. Cartes. Princ. Philosoph. pars 1. p. 20.

For Men generally distinguish their Ideas more by the marks of Speech, than the Properties of things: And therefore when any Person or Office are usually handed about under Names of Dignity and Advantage, the People are apt to take them upon content, and imagine what they describe will reach up to the value and glitter of the Character.

For this reason among others the Regal Style ought to be looked upon as an incommunicable Respect, and peculiar to the Authority it denotes: To give it others, either weakens the Notion of Majesty by Division; or diverts it to a wrong object. This practice (especially when it is attended with Circumstances of Solemnity) appears to be much the same Crime in State, as Idolatry is in Religion; for as those who give the Attributes of God Almighty to a Creature, do as much as in them lies, disown his supreme Excellency: In like manner to mention an Usurper in Sovereign Language, is a dangerous Impropriety; for as far as the abuse of Words can influence, it confounds the Notion of Monarchy, makes One signify Two, and sets Right and wrong upon the same Level. But to press the similitude a little farther: As the ascribing the Perfections of God to the Devil, would be intolerable Blasphemy; so we are to observe, that this Supposition makes the parts of the Comparison more just and agreeable, and draws them nearer to a parallel: For the lawful Prince and the Usurper stand, though in a lower sense, in the same relation to each other as God and the Devil; for they are irreconcilable Adversaries, and the latter endeavours to encroach upon the Honour, and pervert the Subjects of the former. Besides, in one respect this civil Idolatry is worse than the other: Because God is above the reach of Injury; so that he cannot receive any real disadvantage, though his Name should be given to the most wicked Spirit: But a Prince is much the worse for having the Sovereignty of Style given to such an Enemy; especially in publick places, and by Persons of a sacred Character: For,

3. This Custom leaves an ill Impression upon the People, and puts them upon the danger of mistaking their Governor, as has been already proved, and will be shewed more at large afterwards.

4. It argues a great Latitude of Principles in the Person who uses it: For it supposes him to pray for one Prince in publick, and another in private; unless you can fancy him so loyal as never to pray for him whom he believes his lawful Prince. Nay, which is harder, it supposes him to pray knowingly for the wrong, and to omit the right Prince. Farther, In praying for the Usurper under the name of King, he must pray either that his Reign may be successful or unfortunate, short or long: If the former way, his Prayer is at the best but Equivocation and Mockery, and then his Sovereign Lord and Lady have no reason to thank him for his pains; if his Prayer runs in the latter sense, then it may be paraphrased thus:

O God, who art the great Rewarder and Rule of Righteousness, who hast promised to deliver the oppressed, and to help those to Right who suffer Wrong, we beseech thee to act in contradiction to thy ever blessed Nature, and to encourage the breach of thy Laws: Let Justice perish from off the Earth, and support the Violence of the wicked. Prosper thou the Works of their Hands upon them: O prosper thou their handy work.

Now though I do not believe any man intends to pray in this sense, (no more than the Calvinists intend to make God the Authour of Sin,) yet I cannot understand how the Principles of those I am representing can admit of any other Construction: For if its said that the meaning of such a Prayer is onely that the Usurper may act for the common Good, and manage his unjust Acquisitions with Temper and Clemency; in answer to this I desire to know whether it is for the common Good to have the Bulk of a Nation in a state of Rebellion? To have all loyal and consciencious Men clapped under Hatches, and tyrannized over in their Estates, Liberties, and Lives? Whether it is for the common Good to be without Law and Justice, and to have the pretended Magistrates qualify themselves by Perjury for their Office? Whether it ought to be looked upon as an universal Advantage to have a lawful Prince barred of his Right, and pursued with Fire and Sword by his own Subjects? These, and many others of the same Complexion, are the unavoidable consequences of an Usurpation. Now if these are such desirable Blessings, as to become the subject of our solemn Devotions; then I confess it is high time to alter the Liturgy, and to invoke Heaven for Plague, Famine, and Conspiracies, and most of those other Miseries and Sins which we are taught to pray against. As to the other part of the Objection, viz. That in praying for the Usurper we only pray that he may use his Power with Moderation, &c. I answer, That things which are evil in their own nature, as all Acts of Usurpation are, are not allowable in the lowest and most inoffensive Degrees, and consequently not to be wished for; so that we may as well pray that a man may steal, lye, and cheat, within a Rule, as that he may be a kind Usurper. For why we ought to pray for publick and not for private Thieves, is beyond my comprehension; except the greatness of an Injury is an argument for our Intercession. 'Tis true, I am bound to pray for my own Prince, though he should prove an Oppressor. Thus the Apostle commands us, and such was the practice of the Primitive Church: For in this case, though the Magistrate abuses his Power, he is notwithstanding the Minister of God. The Authority is good, though the Man may be otherwise: But an Usurper has no Authority; for all Authority is grounded upon Law and Right. And therefore I can be no more allowed to pray for him, than for a Captain of Moss-Troopers, and Banditi; for the Robbers, &c. of these Realms. Every Act of an usurped Government is unlawful and injurious, for it's a disposal of another Man's Right against his Will, and for the most part against his Interest. Besides, he who governs and commands those he has nothing to doe with, encroaches upon every particular Man's Liberty, and does the People wrong, by a pretended interposing to doe them right. Injustice is the Essence of Usurpation; it's as inseparable from it, as Heat is from Fire; so that to pray for the Usurper, is to desire the maintenance of publick Violence, and that a man may continue in a state of necessary and perpetual Wickedness.

If it's urged that some return is due for the Advantages of Society, and that we are obliged in Gratitude to pray that those who protect us may be protected themselves: For the purpose; If a Man turns my Father out of doors, against all Right and Reason, and hinders me from performing my Duty to him; yet because the new Landlord does not immediately knock me on the Head, I am bound belike to strike the old Gentleman out of my Prayers, and desire God that the Intruder may continue in a peaceable Possession of the Estate and Family. Now if it is not lawful to use such a dutiful Prayer as this is against our natural Parents, then certainly not against those who are the Fathers of our Country, who have a Power over us paramount to the other; and whom we are obliged to obey, though contrary to the Order and Interest of any domestick Relation.

And here it is not improper to take notice of the grossness of that Prayer in particular, viz. That the Usurper may have the Victory over all his Enemies, when all the World knows that the lawful Prince is the Usurper's greatest Enemy, and that he accounts him such. If it is replied, That we only pray that he may succeed against his unrighteous Enemies; and in this sense the true Prince is excepted: To this I answer,

1. That according to this distinction the Prayer is rendered almost useless; because Usurpers have seldom any unrighteous Enemies: For it must be granted, that those Subjects and Allies who oppose the Usurpation in behalf of the lawful Prince; are engaged in a just Quarrel. But,

2. Whether these Enemies are righteous or unrighteous, is nothing to our purpose: For if I am obliged not to pray for an Usurper under the Name of my own Prince upon any account whatever; then though he may possibly have some unrighteous Enemies, (as the worst People may be sometimes injured,) that is no Excuse for my praying for him in a regal Style. For a Man's having a good Cause does not make him a King; and therefore he ought not to be prayed for as such: But if a Preacher cannot be contented without naming a King, or an Emperor in his Prayer, he should take care to choose those who are remote, and have no competition with his own Prince. This, though horribly trifling, would be more innocent; for it would give the People no wrong apprehension, nor confirm them in their Revolt; and therefore the Mogull and Prester John would doe much better than W. and M. if he is dissatisfied with their Title. But above all Mankind he ought to avoid mentioning the Usurper, because this is apt to give a colour to his Pretences, to perplex the Cause, and to misguide the Consciences of the Ignorant.

In short, the only proper Prayer for such a Person is, That he may be brought over to Repentance and Restitution; or else that his Violence may be checked by some speedy and remarkable Providence. And if a Man is not hardy enough to pray for an Usurper in this manner, he had much better let him alone.

5. The fault of praying for an Usurper is still greater, when the Minister is morally assured, that the Majority of his Audience are mistaken about the Person of the Governor, and believe the Usurper to be their lawful Prince. When he finds them so bigoted and passionate for their mortal Error, that they wont so much as endure an omission of Names, for fear the Preacher should deceive them under the general Name of King, pray for his own Prince, and make his Mind and his Tongue go together. Now when the Preacher believes the People thus dangerously deceived about the Seat of Government, one would think he should endeavour to disengage them from a Mistake of such a consequence; if not by open Remonstrance, yet by absolute Non-compliance, and by shewing all the marks of Dislike, which Prudence and Loyalty can suggest. By the use of which Expedients a Man may be both safe and intelligible enough. Now if this be the Duty of every good Subject, and more particularly of Clergymen, as I suppose cannot be denied; I desire to know if it is not a mysterious piece of Conduct to proclaim an Idol of Majesty to the People; and to furnish them with his own Authority, with the most solemn Circumstances of Place and Occasion, to fix and fortify their Mistake. For that the People believe, (and I think very reasonably,) that the giving the Style of Sovereign to a Person in Divine Service, is a solemn acknowledgment of his Title, is apparent by their insisting so much upon this Condition: For without express nomination, let the Pulpit-performance be never so extraordinary, its very difficult to get either their good Word, their Company, or their Contributions; so that it is plain by their Appearance, by the Management of their Purses and Censures, that they imagine they have gained over their Preacher, when they have once worked him up to Naming. And since there is such a Division between the Pulpit and the Pews, Ought not the spiritual Guide rather endeavour to bring the People to his own Opinion, than to humour them in theirs; especially in a case of so great weight. Saint Paul assures us, that if he pleased Men (out of Principles of Interest or Servility) he should not be the Servant of Christ. Gal. 1.10. The serious consideration of which Text is of mighty importance for the Discharge of the Pastoral Office: God grant it may be better practised for the future, than I am afraid it has been of late.

6. This Practice will still appear more unaccountable, if we consider, That a Clergy Man's Prayers are his Arms; and the use of them is the most proper way he has of engaging for his Prince. For this Point we have the consent of almost all Ages and Religions; I shall produce some of the Testimonies of Antiquity: And first,

For this Reason Darius was at so much Charge in the rebuilding and ornamenting the Temple at Jerusalem, and in furnishing the Priests with Sacrifices; i.e. That they might pray for the Life of the King and his Sons. Ezra 6.10. Part of the same Munificence was shewn by Ptolomeus. Philadelphus, and Augustus Caesar, to the same place, upon the same account. (Joseph. Ant. Jud. Lib. 12. c. 2. p. 392. Phil. Jud. Legat. ad Caium. p. 798, 801.) Now if these Jews had prayed for the Prosperity of those who had dispossessed their lawful Emperours; they had without doubt very much perverted the Design of the Benefaction. And to give an Instance of the sense of Christians in this Point, Zouch tells us, out of the Grand Customary of Normandy, That Bishops, and other Ecclesiastical Persons, (who held Lands in Frank Almeine,) are bound to no other Service, but to pray for the Prince. Des. Jur. Temp. sec. Constit. Feudal. pars 1. sect. 9. The same is likewise affirmed by Littleton, who tells us, That none but Churchmen were capable of holding by this Tenure. Ten. de Littleton, Cap. Frank Almoigne.

From all which it appears, That Praying for an Usurper is in effect Beating up for him, and, as far as it is in our power, a kind of virtual translation of Allegiance. And I think I may add, it's tantamount to Swearing, because it's owning him in the Presence of God; and in regard of the frequent Repetition of worse consequence; for it refreshes the Title of the Usurper upon the Minds of the People, and disposes them to believe him their lawful Sovereign; because he is put in the room of one who was confessedly so. Besides, He that swears to an Usurper, makes a solemn Acknowledgment of him but once possibly in his whole Life; whereas he that prays does the same thing every Week, and in a place full as publick as the other. He does it in the Congregation he is to govern, and instruct, where his Person is best known, and his Practice most influential: So that upon the Whole, I think it's Evident, that he who prays for an Usurper without Swearing, does Him much more service than he who swears, but refuses him his Express Prayers in the Church.

I shall add one Testimony more for the Confirmation of this point, which shall be taken from the Practice of St. Ambrose. Now this great Bishop refused to Communicate with those of his Order, who adhered to an Usurper: (Ambr. Ep. Libr. 5. Ep. 27.) And if we believed the Privileges of Church Communion justly denyed to those Who complyed with the Usurpation, we have all imaginable reason to suppose he would never have owned the Principal Offender for his Sovereign. But we need not argue from Parity of Reason, if we will but peruse the fore-mentioned Epistle: For though St. Ambrose was a Nobleman born, and had a suitable Education; yet we may see at what an unceremonious rate he treated Maximus to his Face, never so much as vouchsafing him the name of Emperor, or any other Title of Authority. And though this Tyrant, as Theodoret calls him, pretended the occasion of his War was purely to call the Arian Emperour Valentinian to account for some Hardships he had put upon this good Bishop, and to shelter the Orthodox from Persecution; that is, in modern Phrase, for the Protestant Religion; yet all this Flourish was to no purpose: For the brave St. Ambrose was not to be disobliged out of his Duty, but solicited the Emperor's Cause with the same Frankness and Zeal, as if he had been never unkindly used. Theod. Eccles. Hist. Lib. 5. Cap. 12, 13, 14.

And, to come nearer our own Times, I believe it will be hard to give one Instance of any eminent and loyal Ecclesiastick, who mentioned his Highness the Protector in his Pulpit-prayers.

I know 'tis said by some, that their refusing to swear Allegiance to a Prince is a sufficient Argument that they do not recognize his Title, notwithstanding the regal Style they mention him with in their Prayer. To this I answer, That the Praying for an Usurper is at least as full a Declaration for his Pretences, as the not swearing can be against them; for the first is as publick, more solemn, and likewise a more frequent acknowledgment of him, than the latter is of the contrary; so that such an Excuse can serve to no purpose, but to amuse the People, and make the Preacher incomprehensible. But farther: This defence will be perfectly insignificant, if it appears that the praying for an Usurper is absolutely unlawful in the Nature of the thing, as I think either is, or will be sufficiently proved.

Farther: There are those who allege that they pray for W. and M. only as King and Queen, without mentioning the place of their Dominions; and therefore they hope they doe nothing contrary to their former Engagements. But to shew how slender a Justification this is, I need only reply, That it's not the Custom in our Churches to pray for foreign Princes by Name; and therefore a Man cannot be understood to pray in that sense. Besides, every one knows, that W. and M. are either K. and Q. of England, or of no place at all.

3. They urge that they do not recite the Royal Titles at large, as formerly; but only mention our Sovereign Lord and Lady, or to that purpose, without the Addition of England, Scotland, Defender of the Faith, &c. Which Diversity of Form, they conceive, makes a sufficient Distinction between the Prince they have, and those they have not sworn to. To this it may be returned, That an Omission of a particular and pompous Enumeration of Titles, is not material in this point: For he that owns a Person King of England, must by consequence grant, that all the forementioned Blazon of Style, Prerogative, and Jurisdiction belongs to him.

7. This modern way of Praying is used, because the Parson conceives him self obliged to it, either for God's sake, the Peoples, or his own. But,

1. There can be no Obligation to such a Prayer upon the account of God Almighty; for if there were, it must be either for Information or Protection.

1. For Information it cannot be; for God knows all things: Nay, according to the Non-swearing Principles God is supposed to know that W. and M. are none of our K. and Q. and therefore certainly we cannot be obliged to tell God Almighty, that those are our Governors, when we believe he looks upon them under a quite different Character.

2. Neither can this Address be made to God for the Invoking his Protection: For to recommend a pretended Authority to God's Protection, is to pray for the continuance of Injustice, which is Malum in se; and implies that we desire God would support Violence against Right, and reward those Practices he has so plainly and severely forbidden.

2. Such a Prayer is altogether unintelligible, if you suppose it made upon the Person's account who uses it: For he must be a man of a very singular Thought, who can fansie it his Duty to recommend that Person in his Devotions as his Prince, whom he believes to have no manner of Right to that Title. At this rate, besides other absurdities, a man would be bound to Contradictions: For as he is unquestionably bound to pray for his lawfull Prince; so, according to this Doctrine, he would be obliged to pray against him. For the Interest of the Usurper and the King standing in direct opposition, and both of them laying claim to the same indivisible Sovereignty; whosoever wishes the Support and Prosperity of the one, must (if he is consistent) desire the prejudice and disappointment of the other.

3. Neither can the Preacher be obliged to such a Prayer, for the sake of the People, unless we can suppose him bound to convey false Notions into the Minds of his Hearers, or to countenance those Delusions he finds them prepossessed with.

To conclude: This unacceptable Argument, which though I have not engaged in out of disaffection to any Person; yet I must add, that the Practice I have been examining is so intricate and complete a Riddle, that for my part I despair of disentangling the least part of it. To pray for one Prince, and to own my self a Subject to his Adversary, seems to me as unintelligible as it would be to pray to one God, and to profess our Belief in another.

However I question not but that the sudden Turn of State, and some leading Authorities, may have drawn several well meaning Men into this singular and surprising Devotion: For such I must esteem it, till I am convinced of the contrary. I confess, if this Mystical Point can be cleared, I wish it were undertaken; and whatever Censure this Paper may fall under, yet if it proves so lucky as to dispose any of the Parties concerned either to answer or Acquiesce, it will be no small Satisfaction to, &c.


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