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As to the political views, base artifices, and exactions of the Romish 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 hiftory of the ftate of religion in Great-Britain, from the first planting of chriftianity, 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 encroachments of the Church of Rome on the prerogatives of the British kings, and the common rights of their fubjects, as well as by the grofs corruptions of the original purity and fimplicity of chriftianity, as must ever be deemed peculiar incentives to the English nation, to throw off that yoke if poffible, and pursue a reformation in earneftand at the fame time, he will obferve fuch difficulties attending it, as must give us an high opinion of our principal reformers, and lead us to value our liberties, both civil and religious.
In the hiftory of the reformation abroad and at home, and of the state of religion, more especially in the established Church, and from that remarkable period to the revolution, I must own I have much exceeded my intended limits; but when I confidered, the neceffary connection between the reformation in the Low Countries, France, and in England, the many interefting circumstances that occurred, in which our principal reformers were exhibited to view (which indeed deferve to be ever preferved, and handed down to the latest posterity) and which I doubt not will be perufed by many, with pleasure and improvement, I was not willing to omit them.
Having mentioned Wickliffe as the morning flar of the reformation, I have likewife given a general hiftory of the period in which he lived, to the reign of king Henry the VIIIth, the reputed time when Proteftantifm took its rife: in this interval I have found many circumftances of an interefting nature, relative to the neceffity of a reformation, the difficulties attending it, and likewise of incidental occurrences contributing thereto, which, at length, made it rife fuperior to oppofition. How far the reformation was intended or effected by king Henry VIII, is a point in which even critical hiftorians are much divided: Í have therefore fought the materials of this difficult part of my history, from antient MSS, as well as modern tracts; and I have been somewhat more diffuse in this part, as I have felected from two MSS, his profeffion of faith wrote in 1536, and Memoirs of his Character, compiled much about the fame time.
My next province is to give a history of the state of religion in the fucceffive reigns, down to the prefent time, in which I
have been careful to introduce whatever has been fignal and interefting, either in the ecclefiaftical history of the established Church, or of such remarkable tranfactions and revolutions, in the civil hiftory of this nation, as are connected with it for more than two hundred years, and as the prevailing opinions and parties, gave rife at different times, to a variety of tranfactions in council, in parliament, and ecclefiaftic convocations, fome of a remarkable interefting nature, I thought them the proper fubjects of fuch an hiftory: but as many of them are peculiar to different denominations, that part of them I have inferted in the refpective history of those fects, and what properly relate to the ecclefiaftical polity and government of the Church of England, comes under that head.
In the prosecution of this part, I have attempted fome account of the princes, and most eminent prelates and divines, whofe lives and writings have done honour to the Chriftian Proteftant Church, and also of fuch as have attempted to fap the foundation of truth, liberty, and virtue.
In treating of the articles of the Church of England, I have first given them in the established form, contained in the book of Common Prayer; I have then endeavoured to give their true fenfe, from fundry of the most approved expofitions of those articles, by fome diftinguished prelates of our Church, and other divines of note, and generally by extracts in their own words; fave where I have thought it might be more properly abridged, and in that cafe I have given an abftract, with due regard to the fenfe and meaning of the Author, and of the articles in their original form, in a fenfe in which the more judicious divines would recommend them to be understood. Mr. Welchman, in his expofition of thefe articles, pays a particular regard to the fenfe of the antient fathers, St. Auftin, St. Chryfoftom, St. Ignatius, Irenæus, &c. and it appears that the language and fentiment contained in them, are in great measure borrowed from the writings of thofe lights of the primitive Church, which, by the way, fhews the great veneration and efteem our first compilers had for antiquity; and very often to the neglect of more certain, effential, and important rules and principles of judging, concerning the truths of the facred Scriptures but this is only a hint; for I muft declare that I have made it a general rule, throughout the whole of this work, to relate facts and defcribe things as I found them, without at tempting to animadvert thereon.
In reprefenting the conftitution and doctrines of other denominations of Chriftians, I have made it my conftant rule to fhew that I understood the subject, and was under no undue biafs,
Impartiality I efteemed effentially recommendatory of this work, and the best apology I could make for whatever involuntary errors and imperfections might attend the publication.
Throughout the whole I have aimed at concifeness, as far as I judged would comport with the plan I had in view, its entertainment and usefulness; for I have characterized each fect, and explained their doctrines, more especially their peculiar tenets, where I could, in their own words.This method will afford not a barely fuperficial and partial account of what may be the particular fentiments of here and there a private perfon and obfcure fociety; but of the genuine principles of that body or community, which is neceffary to forming a juft idea of them; and whenever it has been neceffary, I have had proper information from correfpondence, or given a perfonal attendance at their affemblies and taken minutes, for greater certainty and fatisfaction.
By attempting fuch a compendium of the religious principles of particular denominations, I imagined I might particularly adapt this work to the perufal of many young perfons, and other well difpofed Chriftians, who may not have leisure or inclination to read, many diftinct treatifes, and it may answer a particular good purpofe, in regard to their information and im
As this work was not entered upon with any party views, or profecuted with prejudice and declamation, so it has been no hafty production; it has been compiled at different times, and by flow degrees, in a courfe of feveral years; now and then, indeed, it spread itself into branches, and leaves, like a plant in April, and fometimes it lay by without growth, like a vegetable in winter; but it ftill exifted, and acquired its prefent texture and bulk according as health, leisure, and other advantages favoured the undertaking.
"Nor do I apprehend the Reader will look upon this as a prolix hiftory, when he confiders not only the extent of the plan, but that many of the hiftories neceffary to be confulted are very voluminous; as Eufebius's, Dupin's, Bingham's, and Collier's Ecclefiaftical Hiftories; Richer's of Councils, Father Paul's of that of Trent, Picart's religious Ceremonies, and the Collections of Tracts for and against Popery, Brandt's Hiftory of the Reformation in the Low Countries, Burnet's and many others, of the Reformation in England, and Laval's of that in France; Calderwood's, Spotfwood's, and divers others of the Kirk of Scotland; Sewel's of Quakerifm; Neal's of the Puritans, and Crosby's of the English Baptifts: besides a great
variety of tracts on points of controversy, dictionaries, &c. that must be referred to, and confulted, on such a number of subjects; Rapin, Hume, Smollet, and other civil Hiftorians of our own nation, neceffary for afcertaining and illuftrating all fuch matters, as have an immediate connection with the principal defign of this work. So that, upon the whole, I may venture to fay, it has been an arduous task, the refult of much reading and enquiry. But notwithstanding the affiftance I have received, from fo many eminent Hiftorians, I have followed no Author any farther than I apprehend him to coincide with truth.
After having been at all this expence and trouble to procure materials and proper helps for the execution of my plan, it is very probable and almoft unavoidable, that many things may have efcaped my notice, which might have contributed to il luftrate, confirm, or embellish, the feveral parts of it. I can only flatter myself that the Reader will find a fufficient number of quotations to afcertain the genuine principles of the feveral focieties refpectively, their rites, ceremonies, &c. of which I have given the following Hiftory. And I hope the judicious Reader will look on it as no diminution of the value of this work, that many of the ideas, as well as the language, in which they are expreffed, are borrowed from the writings of the most eminent Divines of the established Church, and other denominations, especially as, in many inftances, it was neceflary for authenticating the account I gave of the different fectaries; and very often, I found my fentiments fo happily expressed in them, that I prefumed from my own approbation it would be mo agreeable to my Readers."
Such is the account the Author gives of his plan; those who are defirous of feeing in what manner he has executed it, we muft refer to the work itself: which was lately published in periodical numbers, and is now compleated. R.
An Effay concerning the Human Rational Soul. In Three Parts. Shewing, 1. the Origin; 2. the Nature; 3. the Excellency of this Soul. Upon natural as well as revealed Principles. With a Dedication, and an Introduction, in Defence of Revealed Religion. 8vo. 3s. 6d. Fletcher.
T would certainly be attended with many good confequences to the public, tho' it might poffibly be productive of fome inconvenience to private perfons, if the friends or relations of a man were legally impowered, when his understanding should be
found to have taken a certain wrong turn, to debar him the ufe of pen, ink, and paper; in order to prevent his expofing his own weakness, and communicating the like infirmity to others. What a number of fools have been converted into madmen! how many thousands of harmless, ignorant people have we feen blown up into Zealots, and fet blazing, by the epidemical ravings of one religious or political Enthufiaft! When it happens, indeed, (as is not uncommon) that these Apoftles and Patriots are unable to read or write, the mischief they do to the community is limited, being confined to what they can propagate viva você within the circle of their acquaintance, or more publicly from a joint-ftool in the fields, or a tub in a garet. But when they are pretenders to literature, and are capable of dreffing up their nonsense in the garb of letters, the prefs affords them more extensive means of diffusing their folly, with the mischiefs attending it.
We do not take upon us to fay, at what time the friends of this Effayift, had they been fo authorized, fhould have laid him. under the above-mentioned restraint. We cannot help thinking, however, that if this work made its appearance in Dublin, fo long ago as the year 1759, as mentioned in the title, they fhould have exerted themselves, for the credit of the Author and his family, as well as for the good of the public, to prevent its being re-printed at Oxford, in 1764.
We learn from the dedication, which appears to have been addreffed to the Duke of Bedford, when Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, that our Author's name is Zachary Langton, probably an Irish Divine: and, though it may feem natural enough for a Clergyman of that country to enter into a defence of the Athanafian Creed, we have had a remarkable instance of a learned Prelate of the church of Ireland, who diffented totis viribus again it. The Dedication, indeed, containing almost as many pages as the Effay itself, confifts almoft entirely of a defence of this Creed, and the Liturgy of the established Church; plentifully fprinkled with abuse of those who diffent from it; particularly the Octagon Gentry, as he calls the new Congregation at Liverpool, His unbounded veneration for our molt excellent Creeds, Articles, and Common Prayer, through all its Offices, by law established,' may be gathered from the following note; as well as the very charitable and chriftian-like manner in which he feems difpofed to excite the like veneration, or supply the want of it in others.
The Teftimony given by the King and Parliament to the Common Prayer in the Act, which establisheth the use of it, is very memorable, and fure should never be forgotten by their fucFrom the form in which their church is built.