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gospel, that it is astonishing that men could ever dare thas to arrogate to themselves that power, to which they had no right; and it is still more astonishing that mankind have permitted such a gross usurpation of their dearest and most valuable privilege. But what intolerant men have imposed, indolent and wordly-minded men have submitted to.
It is even yet more wonderful, that when the papal authority was expelled from these kingdoms, and several of the doctrines of the church of Rome were disowned and rejected, as burdens too grievous to be borne, the reformers only transplanted that authority from papal into regal hands; and all those doctrines which were admitted by the principal actors in that scene (themselves involved in the darkness and superstition of their age) were retained in our resormed church. While nothing seems more plain to the humblest capacity, than that the fame arguments which applied to the power of the church of Rome, would apply to the fame power in the church of England, or in any other church. It is equally obvious, that if there remained any right in the protestant community to impose one opinion, there existed the same right to impose sifty, or sue hundred.
Kugenius. You do not, surely, mean to in» sinuate that the spirit of the church of England is as intolerant as that of the church of Rome; or
th'it the gross doctrines of the latter are not infinitely more objectionable than those of the former.
Theophilus. I not only mean to insinuate, But to insist and prove, that the character of intolerance (which is the marked character of Antichrist) is not consined to papal Rome, but transferred into every church, which lords it over God's heritage, and teaches for doctrines the commandments of men. I decline the use of all hard names: but while the argument applies with equal force against the claims and practice of all churches, I do not think it consistent with justice, to appropriate it to one church, only because I shall be joined in such appropriation by another: it ought to be applied to all churches alike,-which shall alike remain so far un— reformed as to fall within its reach.
Eugenius. This must be granted to be fair rea* ftning; and, as we are told that " many antichrists shall arise," it will deserve the most serious attention of every society of christians, by whatever name they may be pleased to distinguish themselves, to take especial care that they come not under that description, or sufser wreck upon that rock which has been so fatal to their brethren. As protestants pretend not only to have discovered, but to be directed by, the light and liberty of the gospel,- which lay hid and concealed under the corruptions of popery, through a long night of darkness and ignorance; and, in consequence cf that; discovery,,to have publicly protested E 3 against
against the abominations and the intolerance of the church of Rome, it is certainly more blameable in them, and directly subversive of the foundation principles of their own cause, to assume to themselves that authority which they do not allow to others.
Theophilus. It was this inconsistent behaviour of the protestants which gave occasion, very soon after their separation from the church of Rome, to the reproachsul observation of their adversaries, which was couched in the question, '* Where was your religion-before the time of Luther?"
The proper answer to the reflection intended by this inquiry, is, that it might be found in the bible) where it still remains: for " the bible, and the bible Only, is the religion of protestants." The question has a popular cast with it; and the charge conveyed in it, can only be wiped away by an improved and more consistent conduct in protestants themselves: for while so many of the same seatures are discernible in both communions, they conspire to form that re* semblance which we generally denominate " a samily likeness."
Eugenius. These, observations tend to prove» what I before virtually admitted, that a surther reformation of the doctrines and pretensions of the established church is much Wanted. But of the expedience of such a measure, I am not so sully satisfied. The spiritual governors of the church, and the civil governess of the state, are so closely leagued together, in opposing every attempt towards a review and reform of the ecclesiastical system, that any further reformation is, to fay the least, an hopeless prospect, and Very unlikely to happen in any time, short of the revolution of a century. Precipitation, therefore, would only protract any favorable issue to the reasonable expectation of liberal men, and expose those who were well disposed to the cause of reformation, to the indignant resentment of their superiors, without forwarding the end for which they laboured.
Theophilus. The unpleasant appearances which are distinguishable in the ecclesiastical hemisphere, seem to determine you to a patience acquiescence under the impositions of power; nor does your despondency sind any relief, but in the very distant hope of further reformation, when you are gone to rest. But a conviction of the great importance and of the righteousness of such a cause, should not be cramped by considerations of merely imaginary expediency, conceived only through despair, and calculated to cloud the dawning of that future day, when the gospel of Christ shall be offered to the world, pure, and without human mixture or alloy. We are, indeed, necessarily affected by the wretched policy of the powers which bear rule in this world, but we should not be accessary to their delinquency, or partners in their guilt, by silently suffering the multiplied grievances under which the church of
Christ Christ is made to groan, to subsist and remain without complaint.. So far as we apprehend the oracles of God to be corrupted and perverted, and the rights of christians to be despoiled; it is surely a part of our duty to God, and the best proof of our brotherly love and affection for our sellow christians, to call' their sober and dispassionate attention to their ownconduct,, and to lay before them the sad depredations they have made upon, and the impediments they have . laid in the way of, the success of the gospel. For these things we shall be answerable before the judge of all the world, if we acquit not ourselves like men, .andstand not fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, according as we shall have attained the knowledge of it,,and had ability and opportunity of doing good. It is our duty to follow the light: and conviction we have obtained, and to hold them forth to others, that, they also may be benesitted! thereby, if so it shall seem good to the wise disposer of all things..
1 here are in the highest orders of the church, many very good and excellent men, but their very situation is unfavourable to the restoration of the knowledge of the gosoel, or the admission os the rights of christians to their due extent.. Those who may be well-disposed to reformation, may be afraid to meet the obloquy which would be thrown upon them sor their endeavours in such a cause; like father Paul, they may not have the spirit of Luther. But I mean neither to