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gracious designs doth it appear, that we should implicitly rely on our remote Ancestors for our present Opinions and Practice, and, by obstinately or supinely continuing on the same ground, contract all our Ideas within the circle of their knowledge :
I believe, however, that this last is far from being now the prevailing Inclination. The necessary Distinction between sound Faith and thoughtless Credulity is no longer Heretical. I greatly rejoice when I reflect, that no inconsiderable number of our most respectable Clergy, not only conceive themselves to be bound in their Profession, by some very hard and illiberal Engagements of human construction, but, many of them, are also sensible, that some further Amendments in our Doxologies, and Forms of Worship, are become absolutely necessary: They justly think, that these may be rendered more generally unexceptionable and safe, By reducing them to a more direct congruity with those of the Scriptures. Were this measure strictly adopted, it must prevent all controversy and uneasiness, on the point in question (at least among the reasonable part of Mankind), so long as our holy Records are considered as the incontestable Rules of our Faith. It would be most Injurious to suppose, that those Reverend Gentlemen, who are zealous for so desir
able a Reform, have not the welfare of Christianity as much at Heart as their Opposers. Their wishes can proceed from nothing but a watchful and conscientious attention to Religion, and a sincere love of it; with a conviction of its infinite Importance to the World when rightly understood : and they well discern, that, if such a step were taken, it would at once free the Whole from a weight of anxiety and vexation, which every honest Man would be happy to see them fairly rid of.
MY LORD, If what has been said should, upon the whole, appear worthy of any regard; The exalted Station in which Divine Providence hath been pleased to place your Grace enables you to direct the means of such Relief, in these most Important matters, as your Wisdom shall suggest. Your Lordship is undoubtedly well acquainted, that The Public attention is powerfully attracted towards the present Inquiry into the True Object of Religious Worship, a Subject surely the most Interesting that can engage the human Mind.—That the Inquirers into this momentous Article are numerous and respectable.-That the Foundations of our Faith are not now assailed by the shallow and contemptible disquisitions of Atheists and Libertines, but are searched into by Men whose Characters are unimpeachable, whose Abilities and Zeal, in
support of Christianity, are equally ardent and conspicuous, and who assuredly have their own inward quiet and salvation at heart (of which some of them have given the most unquestionable proofs), though the World may not have candour enough to allow that their endeavours reach further than to themselves. Whatever may be the Event of these Inquiries, this is certain, that they never could have arisen among such Men, if the received Doctrines had been clearly founded on the Scriptures and sound Reason.
“Let us, therefore, be intent on studying the pure word of God; and careful to interpret it “ in such a manner, as may do most honour to “ its author ; and at all times encourage a free “ and an impartial study of it. 'Tis now high « time to do this, and to awake out of sleep,
since our Reformation is much nearer than “ when we first believed : and it is to be wished, “ that we ourselves could be persuaded to exa“ mine our own state ;-That we were disposed
to help and forward, rather than check the progress of every serious inquiry; and stop
any further improvements in the knowledge of “ that, which of all things deserves and wants “ them most; rather than withstand a general “ reformation in Religion, by rigorously insist“ing on, and obtruding such things for doctrine,
as are the commandments of men, and very foreign to the essence of it; instead of either
entertaining that Antichristian kind of spirit, " which calls down fire from heaven on all who “ don't receive us; which delights in straight
that leads to life, and shutting up the kingdom of heaven against men; or “ else incurring the woe denounced against those
hypocrites, who are desirous of lading men “ with heavy burthens, and binding upon them
things which are too grievous to be borne; " and which they know, that none need touch “ with one of their fingers.
“ As we see the faults and follies of past ages, a double woe will be to us, if, instead of tak
ing warning by them, and avoiding the like, “ we are resolved to tread the same steps, and fill up
the measure of our fathers *."
* Late Bishop of Carlisle's Considerations on the Theory of Religion, &c., p. 190, fifth edit.
It may not be amiss to observe, that the very same Maxims are urged by some writers of the present times, against any further Reformation, that were made use of by the Catholics in the reign of Henry VIII, to stifle Protestantism in its birth.
The then Established Clergy, “ supposed, as a thing cer“tain, that the Religion professed before Luther's appear
ance, was the true Religion, and being without spot, “ wrinkle, or the like, had no need of Reformation... AC
IF, then, your Lordship should, happily, be inclined to forward any proper measures for the further purifying our forms of Worship, in doing which, without doubt, the Christian Scriptures would be taken as the directive
“cording to that principle, they thought the point was not " to examine it at all, but to compel the Recusants or Here: “ tics to conform. This was the constant Maxim long “ since followed by the Romish Clergy,” &c. A wretched device (not yet entirely dropped), which prefers Hypocrisy itself to Non-Conformity! -See Rapin, vol. i, p. 790.
“ Almost all the Churchmen who had any access to the “ Court, opposed the Reformation; and those who preached “ before the King, filled their Sermons with invectives " against it.”—Ibid. p. 804. He (Henry VIII) was much extolled " for his Zeal against the Lutherans," who, it was maintained, “ were labouring to destroy the Church of
England.”—Ibid. p. 792. The disciples of the famous Wicklif had been, long before, charged by the Clergy, with “ entirely subverting Religion." - Ibid. p. 698. The Advocates for the Divine Unity are now stigmatised, by many,, with the same crime.
Those illustrious men, Grosted (Bishop of Lincoln), Wickliff, Luther, Cranmer, and some others, the honoured Fathers of the Protestant Church (though not entirely purged from the stains of Antichristiunism), overthrow the false assertions, errors, artifices, and self-interested Principles of their numerous Opponents, by a direct appeal to Scripture and to Reason, the only proper spiritual weapons of a Protestant; and, by the same means, what they left undone, will (for the safety and Reputation of the Church) in future be Completed.