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ART I CLES OF RELIGION. 219
The legislature of the 13th Eliz. is the imposer, whose intention the subscriber is bound to satisfy.
They who contend, that nothing less can juftify subscription to the thirty-nine articles, than the actual belief of each and every separate proposition contained in them, muft suppose, that the legislature expected the consent of ten thousand men, and that in perpetual succession, not to one controverted proposition, but to many hundreds. It is difficult to conceive how this could be expected by any, who observed the incurable diversity of human opinion upon all subjects short of demonstration.
If the authors of the law did not intend this, what did they intend ?
They intended to exclude from offices in the church, .
1. All abettors of popery.
2. Anabaptists, who were at that time a powerful party on the continent.
3: The Puritans, who were hostile to an episcopal constitution; and in general the members of such leading sects or foreign establishments, as threatened to overthrow our own.
Whoever finds himself comprehended within these descriptions, ought not to subscribe.
During the present state of ecclesiastical patronage, in which private individuals are permitted to impose teachers upon parishes, with which they are often little or not at all connected, some limitation of the patron's choice may be necessary, to prevent unedifying contentions between neighbouring teachers, or between the teachers and their respective congregations. But this danger, if it exist, may be provided against with equal effect, by converting the articles of faith into articles of peace.
THE fundamental question upon this fub
ject is, whether Wills are of natural or of adventitious right? that is, whether the right of directing the disposition of property after his death belongs to a man in a state of nature, and by the law of nature, or whether it be given him entirely by the positive regulations of the country he lives in ?
The immediate produce of each man's perfonal labour, as the tools, weapons, and utensils, which he manufactures, the tent or hut he builds, and perhaps the flocks and herds which he breeds and rears, are as much his own as the labour was which he employed upon them, that is, are his property naturally and absolutely ; and consequently he may give or leave them to whom he pleases, there being nothing to limit the continuance of his right, or to restrain the alienation of it. But every other species of property, especially
property in land, stands upon a different foundation.
We have seen in the Chapter upon Property, that, in a state of nature, a man's right to a particular spot of ground arises from his using it, and wanting it; consequently ceases with the use and want; so that at his death the estate reverts to the community, without any regard to the last owner's will, or even any preference of his family, farther than as they become the first occupiers after him, and fucceed to the same want and use.
Moreover, as natural rights cannot, like rights created by act of parliament, expire at the end of a certain number of years ; if the testator have a right by the law of nature, to dispose of his property one moment after his death, he has the same right to direct the disposition of it, for a million of ages after him ; which is absurd.
The ancient apprehensions of mankind upon the subject were conformable to this account of it: for wills have been introduced into moft countries by a positive act of the state, as by the laws of Solon into Greece, by the twelve tables into Rome ; and that, not till after a considerable progress had been made in legislation, and in the economy of civil life. Tacitus relates, that
amongst the Germans they were disallowed; and, what is more remarkable, in this country, since the conquest, lands could not be devised by will, till within little more than two hundred years ago, when this privilege was restored to the fubject, by an act of parliament in the latter end of the reign of Henry the Eighth.
No doubt many beneficial purposes are attained by extending the owner's power over his property beyond his life, and beyond his natural right. It invites to industry ; it encourages marriage ; it secures the dutifulness and dependency of children. But a limit must be assigned to the duration of this power. The utmost extent to which, in any case, entails are allowed by the laws of England to operate, is during the lives in existence at the death of the testator, and one and twenty years beyond these : after which, there are ways and means of setting them aside.
From the consideration that wills are the creatures of the municipal law which gives them their efficacy, may be deduced a determination of the question, whether the intention of the testator in an informal will be binding upon the conscience of those, who, by operation of law, fucceed to his estate. By an informal will, I