Images de page

that God will prosper attempts, especially in matters of religion, so disingenuously conducted? No, before we can rationally hope to unite in any system, we must honestly labour to beat down the prejudices on both sides, not by indelicately attempting to cool each other, but by every one of us, according to his sphere of influence, endeavouring to assuage the spirit of opposition in his own party, and to teach those who will lend him an ear, to look on the points in dispute, as matters of too little consequence to embroil the peace of the church. Till this is done, and hath succeeded, we all know, it is in vain to think of offering schemes of accommodation to synods or convocations; so that men of sense who publish books, avowedly with the view of exposing the errors of the establishment, in order to their amendment, while the minds of men are not sufficiently disposed to a coalition, must excuse us, if we fear, they are aiming at the quite contrary ends.

If you here object, that it would be altogether unreasonable to complain of the Dissenters at large for the performances of particular men, who, in the present liberty allowed every man of publishing what he pleases, may say such things to the public as the body or party to which he belongs do not approve of, and therefore ought not to answer for; we shall readily grant it. But you will give us leave at the same time to observe, that the body of your people (a small number only of a more peaceable and ingenuous turn excepted) do make the writings, complained of, their own, by printing, reprinting, reading, approving, applauding them, on all occasions; while the leading men among you are known to be the authors of these incendiary writings, and the body of the dissenting clergy are very far from publicly disapproving or censuring them, your people every where greedily imbibe their contents, and therewith imbitter their hearts against us and our persuasion. You see this; you use no endeavours to amend it; too many of you rejoice in it. Is it thus, my friends, that you prepare for uniformity and coalition? Is it thus you seek peace and ensue it?' Were we but half as much inflamed on the other side, could the most sanguine promoter of peace, think you, entertain even a distant hope of agreement in any new model that could possibly be proposed?

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

But farther, that which still more strongly shews the too great alienation of heart wherewith you generally regard us, is the unaccountable use you make of arguments drawn from Popish, and invectives from Deistical writers, to run down our church and clergy. How often have you been prompted by Rome herself, to ridicule our church for having a king and sometimes a queen for its head, though you know this headship is only in temporals; though you know our kings and queens have been, as God promised they should be, the nursing fathers, and nursing mothers' of Christ's church, both here and on the continent? Did you ever, or would you now, refuse the assistance of temporal power, were it offered, to strengthen and establish your church? And have our princes done any thing else by us? Have they ever prescribed what we should believe, or impeded the exercise of purely spiritual powers among us? Why then is his majesty's ecclesiastical supremacy in temporals, which was introduced only to protect us against a Papal supremacy, both in temporals and spirituals, so frequently struck at by Protestants, in the very words of our Popish adversaries? Is this brotherly? Or is it either brotherly or Christian to gather all the filth of Shaftsbury, of Tindal, and of Collins, Trenchard, Gordon in the Independant Whig, and to fling it in the faces of our clergy? Were not these men professed Deists, and enemies to Christianity? How come they then to be your friends and prompters? It is surely worse than calling in the Turk, to ask assistance from allies like these. Had they any other view in their invectives than to wound our religion through the sides of its preachers? And would they not have served. your ministry in the same manner, had it been rendered an object of their envy, by legal establishment, by honorary and lucrative provisions? Were you to be high church tomorrow (and surely you are not so unambitious as to decline it) all the railleries of these books would be just as applicable to you as they are now to us. The libertine writers, with whom too many of you now associate to serve a turn, would then be your adversaries, and it is to be questioned whether you would as patiently bear the gross treatment you encourage them to give us, if once offered to yourselves, as we do. Yes, I say encourage, for is there any kind of 2 B


writings, in our language, which you so greedily buy, which you read with so much pleasure, which you retail with so much keenness on all occasions? And have not many of you, while they only aimed at gleaning the satirical reproaches, at the same time unhappily sucked in the poisonous principles of these admired writers? Are the distinctions of Protestant and Papist, and even of Christian and Deist, to be lost in that of churchman and dissenter, as of more consequence to truth, to piety, and to virtue?

No, my brethren, even if we are to quarrel, let us quarrel like brothers, ever ready to postpone our private animosities to the general interest and honour of that cause in which we are both equally embarked. Let us not discharge against each other those arrows doubly dipped in poison, which a mistaken zeal would prompt us to draw from the quiver of a common enemy. But why should we quarrel at all? In the name of Christ, the prince of peace,' what is it we are contending about? Is it about things necessary to our eternal salvation? No, it is (how am I pained to speak it! how are our Popish and Deistical enemies pleased to hear it), it is about--but I will be silent, lest our children despise us for contending about matters, which we on both sides confess to be indifferent. O shameful! O senseless contention! But who is to blame for it? Tell me, my dissenting brethren, whether of the two is more difficult, for you to comply with the present establishment, or for us so to new model the church as to please all parties? Or if the latter, though the more difficult, is the better expedient of the two, tell us, as men who speak before the searcher of hearts, are your minds disposed to meet us half way? Are you ready to give up every thing but the fundamentals of religion, for peace and charity, which is itself a great fundamental? Are you so well agreed among yourselves, as to know what you would be at, and to have but one catalogue of demands?

As for us, if our candour and moderation hitherto are not a sufficient defence for us before the impartial world, nor encouragement enough to you to hope for every reasonable compliance, on our part, we can do no more, either to justify ourselves or satisfy you. But this I will be bold to say, that for one step you make towards peace, you will always find us ready to make two, provided no sacrifice is

to be made to that peace, either of Scriptural truths or of what Christ and his apostles have established. In all things else you may be gratified, as soon as ever you are agreed among yourselves, and have given such proofs as reason and Christianity require, of the good temper and candour of your own hearts.

But till this can be done, or rather to promote this as much as in you lies, let brotherly love and tenderness towards us, take place of jealousy and distaste in your hearts. Let indifferent things be thought of with due indifferency. 'Let the peace of God which passeth all understanding,' both of divines and statesmen, teach you the infinite sweets and beauty of peace among men. In imitation of the meek and merciful Jesus, who loved us, and gave himself for us,' let us love and give ourselves for one another. And if there be any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the spirit, if any bowels and mercies; fulfil ye' both your own joy and ours, that ye be like minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vain-glory, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem the other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Do all things without murmurings and disputings.'

[ocr errors]

But that we may all of us be the better disposed to follow this excellent advice of the apostle, let us reflect a little on the circumstances we are in. Our religion itself is struck at by the Deists, and the fundamentals of it by the Arians and Socinians. Our liberties, both religious and civil, are attacked by the pope, and a popish pretender. These adversaries are none of them destitute of zeal, art, or power to hurt us. Is this a time my brethren to fall out with one another, about things indifferent? Be assured there is a tincture of irreligion in our contentions, or we could not so impiously put truth and charity to the hazard, for prejudices so very childish as ours; and if temporal things may be mentioned with spiritual, we shall prove ourselves as bad sons to our country as to the church, unless we quickly unite, if not in religious sentiments, at least in religious affections towards one another. We ought seriously to consider what infinite mischiefs often arise from

[ocr errors]

trifling causes, magnified by groundless prejudices, and an untoward temper of mind. The last independent duke of Burgundy owed the ruin of himself and his family, and France her grandeur, to a quarrel between that prince and the Swiss, which began about a load of sheep-skins. Not more important to the eye of a manly and unprejudiced understanding do those things appear, I mean those religious differences, for which we fell out in the reign of Charles the first. Had France then been in a condition to take advantage of our distractions, this kingdom might long since have been a province of that. And is it not possible our dissentions may again embroil us, at a time when that ambitious monarchy shall be more at leisure to strike in? We want nothing but good agreement to make us a match for her or the most powerful of our other neighbours, and to render us the most happy people in the world. But our divisions which once tore us all to pieces, and sheathed our swords in one another's bowels, may possibly do the same again; at least we have reason to fear, and our enemies to hope, they may. Hence distrust and dread, hence weakness and cowardice on our side; and hence a continual invitation to bold encroachments on theirs. We have no one power on the continent to attack us, either in church or state, who hath not a party among us, from whom he may hope for assistance. Besides, there is this unhappy peculiarity in every one of our parties, that it is double, and forms both a sect, in regard to religion, and a faction, in regard to the state. This multiplies the handles by which our enemies may lay hold of us, and consequently our fears. Is he a Christian, is he a patriot, is he a wise or an honest man, who will not do his utmost to bring us out of a situation so every way dangerous and shocking? No, were he a Christian, he would feel more warmth for the general interest of his religion than for the detached advantage of his persuasion, should they at any time happen to come in competition. Were he a patriot, he would consult the happiness of his country, not the advancement of a faction. Were he a wise or an honest man, he would labour to the uttermost of his power to unite and strengthen that community which hath protected, and still protects him, in the enjoyment of every thing he holds either sacred or dear to him. Were he all,

« PrécédentContinuer »