Page images

firft Impression) he shews an humble Diffidence of his youthful Performance; and desires another Sense might be given of bis several Quotations; (if need required) for better Information of himself and others : I confess I saw need enough of ihat, at my first Perufal of his Book, and not a little wonderd, that no friends ly Hand had done that Kindness for him long before. As to my own Part, I had never walked in the unpleasant Paths of Controversy to that Day; and, besides the Consciousness of my Unfitness for it, had Averfion enough ever to set a foot in them; but seeing none had an. Swered, or was answering, (as I could hear of) Yo reasonable a Defire, though Men of Letters in both Kingdoms, of our United Island, had declared an earnest Expectation of it, and the Holy Church of England in Particular, has reproached the Silence of her Children in an Argument that fo plainly ftruck at her Foundation ; filial Obedience (I may fay) to fo faithful a Parent, moved me to use the best En. deavours I could, to vindicate her truly Apoftolical Constitution, and to plead the Cause of injurd Antiquity, as well as hers; for that both are truly one, in this case, the inpartial Reader will easily observe, when he fees the palpalle Mistakes corrected, and the unfair Representations of the Venerable Fathers of the Church (so obvious in almost every Page, of

those those plausible Collections) restor’d to their genuine Sense again.

This is what may be expected here: And I am not conscious I have ftrain'd any one Pas. {age in Antiquity, beyond the true Meaning of the venerable Authors themselves, to form a different Construction of it from that of the . ingenious Enquirer. I should count it the worft of Sacrilege to do so; the Goods of the Church are not so sacred as her Sense is. What each Quotation appeared to me, from the best Authority, and closest Attention I could use, 7 bave fairly represented bere; If defective in apprehending ihe true Sense, or injudicious in the Inferences from them, I heartily submit (in my Turn) to the Charity of better Information. For as I write with a conscientious Regard to undeceive fome, so I am infinitely more concerned not to be deceived my self; and I wish no greater Freedom, from Prejudice or Party,

who read or censure these Papers, than I am conscious of in the composing of them.

Every one too well knows, of what a large and extensive Nature this unhappy Subject is, and that the Controversial Books about it are sadly numerous, and full of different Schemes and Arguments, according to the Genius of Sects, and Times, and Persons ; many of which might have fallen in, with several Parts of şhis Discourse, had I been inclined to dispute


in any

A 3

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

(as I bless God I am not,) but I have kept the single Treatise before me, and that for two Reasons especially.

ist. Because I heard from many Hands, that the less learned, and more prejudiced, Adversaries of the truly Primitive Church of England, have made their Boasts of it, and from its not being answer'd get, have proclaim'd it an unanswerable Vindication of their Separation from Her.

2dly, Because I think, that all the scatter'd Arguments and Pleas, for their unwarrancable Schism, are reducible to some one or other, of the great Variety of Quotations cited in it. For a good Part of those mistaken Brethren (we know) with great Zeal plead, the Authority of Holy Scriptures to be clear on their Side, and these sit down contentedly, and triumph in their own Comments, and Constructions of those Holy Oracles; others pay fome Deference also to venerable Antiquity; and these two great Witnesses seem to be agreed upon by all, not only to give in their Evidence, but even to be Umpires for them, to determine all the Fundamental Points in Difference between them. The Reader will find the Testimony both of one and the other fairly summ'd up here ; and I enly pray he may bring a prepared Mind with


him, to sit down by the Peaceful Award, which those Authentick Arbitrators make, for the Blessed Union of all Christians, in one and the fame Holy Catholick Church together; which individual Church of Christ, then visibly enough diftinguislo for us all, from every Counterfeit Image of it, by the truly Primitive, Single, and Apostolical Constitution of it. And as for those who regard little, either one or the other, of these two great Authorities, but over-rule aút Outward Testimony, of God or Man, by an Inward Witness of their own, (subject to no Trial of the Holy Scriptures themselves, and impatient to hear of a visible Church, and the Teachings of Men,) I dispute not with them; they Supersede all that Trouble for me. I on. ly recommend them to the Divine Compasion for their better Instruction, with affectionate Grief and Prayer for them.

To the Reader I have this only to observe farther, that fince these Papers were nigh wrought of the Press, an Ingenious Treatise came to my Hands, Intituled, The Invalidity of the Dissenting Ministry, Sc. wherein some particular Quotations in the Enquiry, relating to the Presbyter's Power of Ordinacion, are judiciously explain'd, and with clear Reasoning answered to the full; which might have shorten'd my Work, and the Author's Trouble in that single Point, had I been so


A 4

[ocr errors]

fortunate as to have known it in Time: Howa ever, 'tis but one Link of the Chain of Mi. ftakes in that whole Performance (to use that Learned Author's Phrase) which fell under his Confideration; and therefore less Offence will be taken, (I hope) if something like it, tho in a more imperfect Manner, Thould be met with here again.

I must add for the Ingenious Enquirer's Sttisfaction too, that I have all along been mindful of his strid Charge, not to wander out of the streight Bounds he set me, of the three first Centuries of the Churcb; I think he will have little Reafon io complain of that. But as to the particular Editions, of the several Author's he quotes,

I can't say I have been so happy, as to have it in my Power, to make ufe of none but them, tho? I gladly would have done it, in Answer to fo reasonable a Defire; but Choise of impressions has not always fallen in my Way. To make the best Amends I could, I think I bave seldom failed, to mention the Edition I ise, which I hope will be accepted, where I could do no more.


« PreviousContinue »