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to defend, and which are looked on as Folly to the Libertine, and a Scandal to the Protestant ?"*
In the Church of England, it is well known great Alterations have taken place fince the Reformation : At that Time the generality of the English Divines, especially the Majority of the Committee for Compiling the Articles of this Church, were strict or rigid Calvinists, who, in Spite of all the Opposition they met with, modelled several of the Articles in Favour of Calvinism, which now the greatest Part of the English Divines would fain explain contrary to their literal Sense and Meaning; represent them as, at best, ambiguous and capable of a Sense more consistent with the general Tenour of the Scriptures, and the Reason and common Sense of Mankind.--In like Manner Athanahus's Creed was then, by Authority, inserted in the Book of Common Prayer, and, with all the incomprehensible Mysteries and exceptionable Clauses, cordially received by fome, and imposed on others, as the true Catholic Faith ; whereas now, to say no more to explode it, the Church in general “would be glad to be well rid of it.” If the Question were asked, What are the genuine Sentiments of the Church of England ? it would be a very, vague, indeterminate and false Answer, to say they are contained in the XXXIX Articles; when it is well known that the Majority of our most eminent Prelates and Divines of the established Church, have embraced and professed, and in their public Preaching and Writings endeavour to inculcate, Principles more consistent with the Nature of genuine Christianity.
The same Observation, is equally true, with respect to many other Denominations, namely the
Picart's Edition of the Religious Ceremonies, Vol. II. P. 25.
Kirk or Church of Scotland, the English Prefbyterians, Baptifts, Quakers, &c. as would be no? difficult Matter to particularize in many Instances, were it not unnecessary, as will evidently appear in the Course of this Work:
This may be one Reason why all the Histories extant, of the several Sectaries of Christians, differ so widely from each other, and are fo very
imperfect and erroneous : I wish this was the only Reason, and that there did not appear fome evident Marks of a malevolent Design to misrepresent Sectaries, in order to expose them to Censure and Contempt. This I hint with particular Regard to Rofi's View of all Religions, being, of all others, the most scurrilous and false ; and to that voluminous Edition of the Religious Ceremonies of all Nations, in which the Author appears greatly mistaken in the Constitution and Principles of several Societies of Englis Protestant Dissenters; and also to Bossuet's History of the Variation of Proteftant Churches in the Low Countries.
But this Crime of Misrepresentation is not applicable only to a few Histories of our own or foreign Nations, and those for the most part obsolete : Certain modern Writer's seem to have taken a secret Pleasure in blackening the Characters of some Societies of Christians, and exposing and censuring such Doctrines' or Rites as they learned not in their Infancy to believe or practise ; forgetting, though ashamed to deny, the Right of private Judgment, and Liberty of Conscience ; and too often ignorant of the genuine Principles of those Societies they cenfure, and of the Arguments upon which they are founded. Indeed I have been often surprized to find Persons
of Credit, and otherwise of good Understanding, fo extremely ignorant, not only with respect to the genuine Sentiments of other Denominations of Christians; but in a very high Degree, of the distinguishing Tenets or Principles of that Religion they themselves profess; and consequently of the Arguments on which they rest. This was one Motive to the Prosecution of the present Work; and another was to fupprefs “Bigotry, Prejudice, and Cenforiousness, too apt to take Poffeffion of narrow Minds; and, in their Place, to inculcate and improve that mutual Love and Charity, even for Persons of differing Opinions, which is so agreeable to the Dignity and Honour of Men and of Christians.
I write for no Party ; my Aim is to recommend a free and impartial Enquiry into the genuine Principles of Christianity, which is the just Foundation of Truth and Virtue, Liberty and Charity.
That generally-received Maxim, Rome was not built in a Day, is as undoubtedly true with respect to the Constitution, Doctrine and Ceremonies of the Romish Church, as of its external Form and stately Edifices; for this Reason 1 have judged a brief Account of the principal Revolutions and Variations in the Government, Worship, &c. of that Church for seventeen Centuries, a proper Preliminary to the History of its present State.
The Account I have given of the Principles, &c. of the Romish Church, I have first expressed in the Words of Pope Pius's Creed, which was established by the Council of Trent, and has been ever since 3
esteemed by the Votaries of that Church, of the greatest Authority. I have likewise endeavoured to explain or ascertain their true Sense, from Authors of their own, well approved of by that Church, and whose Books have been licensed by public Authority; disclaiming and carefully avoiding, as much as poffible, the fallacious Glosses, and artful. Disguifes of designing Priests on the one Hand, and the Misapprehensions of the Vulgar on the other. For this purpose I have consulted the most valuable Histories of that Church, their Constitution, Doctrine and Ceremonies published at that remarkable Period, when the Controversy subsisted between ma
of our eminent Prelates and of their Priests and Cardinals from the Year 1682 to 1688, inclusive.
I have also made several Extracts from Dr. Middleton's Letters from Rome, wherein he has shewn, (conformable, to several other Authors) that many of the Rites and Ceremonies of the Romish Church were of Heathen original, and destitute of fuperior Authority for their Practice : In thefe Extracts, I have not thought it necessary to Change his Language, to avoid the Reprehension of those Sentiments and Ceremonies ; nor have I allowed myself to exclaim or to detail out such Invectives as are too generally used, but have no proper and natural Tendency to convince the Papift, or confirm the Protestant, —If I have given any Scope to Cenfure, it is in the Article of Perfecution, where it was impoffible, after reading so many tragical Accounts of the horrid Cruelties of the Inquisition, and other inhuman Executions, to be impartial and honest without expressing the utmost Abhorrence and Detestation of such Practices, and the Principles that led to them; a superficial Mention of which, will alarm every true Protestant who has ever considered B
the Value of civil and religious Liberty and knows how to prize them. — With Respect to other Senti, ments and Practices that are unscriptural and merely of human Invention, I am sorry to see, in the Defences of Popery, how much they are founded upon the Authority of ancient Fathers, and that they are so often shewn to be consonant with some former Practices of our established Church ; with certain of the Canons, Articles, and Liturgy ; which may fully convince us, that most of the Exceptionable Parts of our Articles and Liturgy arose from the undue Veneration which the Compilers of them paid to the Fathers St. Augustine, St. Cyprian, St. Ambrose, &c. and likewise sufficiently demonstrate to the impartial Reader, that Antiquity is a wretched Guide to a Searcher after Truth ; and that human Formularies of Faith are a chief Obstacle to real Knowledge.
As to the political Views, base Artifices, and Exactions of the Roinish Priests, too much of it will appear in the Course of this History: An impartial Mention of them is in Fact to explode them : Particularly in the History of the State of Religion in Great Britain, from the first planting of Christianity, at the latter End of the VIth and Beginning of the VIIth Century, to the Middle of the XIVth Century, when Wickliffe made fome Efforts towards a Reformation. The Reader will find many remarkable Occurrences, in Respect to the Incroachments of the Church of Rome on the Prerogatives of the British Kings, and the common Rights of their Subjects, as well as by the gross Corruptions of the original Purity and Simplicity of Christianity, as must ever be deemed peculiar' Incentives to the English Nation, to throw off that