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and uncertain determinations of such councils, whose faction, prejudice, and cruelty soon paralleled the foregoing heatheaish persecutions. And yet that the results of persons so incompetently qualified, should at this day in their authority remain unquestioned by the nations, is matter both of astonishment and pily. But an implicit faith has ever been the consequence of ignorance, idleness, and fear, being strong impediments to a judicious inquiry, how far professed and imposed opinions have their consistency with reason, and the true reli»gion. But that which most of all deserves a lamentation, is, that Protestants, whose better arguments have confuted the plea of such as made tradition, and men's prescriptions unquestionble in circumstantials, should themselves, by print and practice, so openly declare and contend for its authority in essentials; as must be obvious to any that observe their zealous anathemas against whomsoever refuse a compliance with them in doctrines, manifestly bottomed upon men's nice inventions.
This is the right state of the controversy that is maintained by us, contemptibly called Quakers, against the world, and the undoubted reason of our severe treatment at its hands. The end of God Almighty's raising us, being for no other purpose, than to declare that which our eyes have seen, our ears heard, and which our hands have handled of the eternal word,” in opposition to the private opinions, conjectures, and interpretations of men concerning God and religion, that all people might thereby be reduced to faith in, and obedience to, the universal grace which brings salvation ; which as it only can restore sound judgment concerning God, and effect redemption from iniquity, so its
being relinquished by men, was the very ground botiz of their division in judgment, and corruption in man
That this has been, and is our case, I shall produce an instance, which is indeed the occasion of this teatise.
Two persons lately of Thomas Vincent's auditory in Spittle-Fields, (who goes under the notion of a Presbyter), being desirous to prove all things, and to hold fast the best, visited our meeting, to understand if we were as really deserving blame, as represented by our enemies; where it then pleased divine goodness to visit them with the call of his Light, from the inventions, carnal observations, will-worship, and vain conversation of those to whom they were formerly related, that they might be made children of the day. And though its appearance might be small, yet suffi. cient to discover them to have been inhabitants of the night, and can never be rejected, but it shall bring that condemnation which will further testify it to be of God.
But their relinquishing his congregation, so incensed this Presbyterian preacher, that his peevish zeal trans. ported him beyond, not only the moderation of chris. tianity, but the civility of education, venring his folly and prejudice much to this purpose : “ That he had as lieve they should go to a bawdy-house, as to frequent the Quakers' meetings, because of their erroneous and damnable doctrines.” And pointing to the window, said: "If there should stand a cup of poison, I would rather drink it, than suck in their damnable doctrines." He further expressed himself in this manner to one of them: “If ever you go again, I will give you up, and God will give you up, that you may believe a lie, and be damned.” Which storms of foul and railing
accusations, proving ineffectual to shipwreck that little grain of faith, his hearers, as forgetting they hold their preaching by connivance, and the many appeals made by their non-conforming brethren, for an indulgence, came with this caution to the pater-familias, (or he that was both husband and father to the concerned parties), that he would exercise his authority, as well to refuse them to all Quaker visitants, as prohibit them the liberty of their consciences in frequenting our meetings.
All which we could not for the truth's sake, let pass in silence, and therefore did require him to let us have a public meeting, in which we might have liberty to answer on the behalf both of ourselves and principles which after some demur, was granted, the day he appointed, and at the second hour in the afternoon. But that he might not want the applause of many voices, and doubtless to prevent our friends, as, I am iaformed, bespoke his usual auditory to be there at one. And, as a man that would not overspend himself, or incur a a non-plus for want of seconds, he had his third and fourth, to wit, Thomas Danson, Thomas Doolittle, and
Maddocks, who at their times (and often out of them) did interpose, to whom George Whitehead mostly answered; nor had there any thing been spo. ken by another, but from their own example.
The matter in controversy, will be related in the beginning of this treatise, as a necessary preludium, or introduction to the following discourse. The manner of it was so gross, that I know not how to represent it better, than by the levity and rudeness of some prize; laughing, hissing, shoving, striking, and stigmatizing us with the opprobious terms of " confident fellow," " impudent
villian," « blasphemer," &c. And, as the usual refuge of shallow persons, when they have little else to say, to prepossess their hearers with prejudice against the principles of such as oppose them, he questioned much whether I was not some Jesuit; not remembering, or at least unwilling to let the people know, that none have been, nor are more instant in the vindication of that doctrine he and his brother did assert, to wit, God subsisting in three distinct persons, than the Jesuits. So that if I should not as well reflect a scandal upon their learning by a comparison, as he did upon my principle, I could more truly invert “Jesuitism” upon himself. In short, they neither would keep to scripture terms themselves, nor suffer it in others. But looking upon George Whithead's explanation of their terms, and reduction of their mat ter, (if possible), to a scripture sense, thereby fitting it to the auditors' apprehension, to be an indirect way of answering, (as that which nakedly exposed their traditional folly to the vulgar), Thomas Vincent, in an abrupt manner, fell to his prayer, in which he falsely, and with many strangely affected whines, accused us for blasphemers unto God. And that he might prevent the clearing of ourselves, he desired the people, when he had finished, to be gone, giving them an example by his and three brethren's retreat. But we being desirous further to inform the people of our innocency, they did not only (as before) endeavor to pull us down, but put the candles out, though several persons, of good esteem, continued whilst we spoke in vindication of ourselves, from the invectives of our adversaries.
The people still remaining undispersed, Thomas Vincent came very palely down the stairs, having a