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P R E F A CE.
NFIDELITY has always had its Advocates amongst us; there never was a Time
when they totally dehfted from promoting its Cause ; but never, till now, have they dared to attack the Christian Religion, by forming themfelves into a public Society, and endeavouring to form those ancient Bulwarks, which the Piety, Prudence, and Wisdom of our Forefathers, bave erected, as Means for its Prote&tion and Defencë in this Kingdom.
Christianity is so interwoven in the very Con= ftitution of this free State, that a great Lawyer bas not without Reafon styled it “ Part of the “ Law of the Land.” Our Kings have been its nursing Fathers, our Queens its nurfing Mothers; and when, by the gracious Providence of Almighty God, it was delivered from the Corruptions of the Papists, and established in its genuine Beauty and Luftre by tbe holy Zeal of our Protestant Reformers, every Step which could be taken, every Caution which could be observed, was by them most studiously provided A 2
for, in order to continue it down to the lateje Posterity.
To this, under God, we owe the inestimable Blesing of our Liturgy and Articles, those Repositories of true and undefiled Religion, which, like impregnable Fortresses, have for Ages defended that Protestant Citadel the Church of England, against the Attacks of Popery from without, and the Malice of Infidels from within.
The better to secure this, the Laws of the Land have enlisted themselves on the side of the Liturgy and Articles, and by making it imposfible for any Persons to be ordained to teach in the Congregation without first subscribing them, they have either shut out Papists and Infidels entirely, or if any have been profligate enough to set their Hands to what they do not believe, yet they have not dared to avow what all the World miist condemn, at least not in so open a Manner as they would have done, if the present legal Restraints were taken out of the Way.
That such a Violence done to their Consciences, Jould be attended with painful After-thought, is not to be wondered at, any more than that they firculd try to deliver themselves from it for the Time to come.
To this the present daring Attack upon the Peace of the Church and Kingdom owes its Rise; its Contrivers and Abettors have advertised their Meetings, they have published their Proceedings: The only Instance of Modesty relating to them is, that they have hitherto concealed their Names; but this will soon bave ani End, as they have signed them to a Petition which they have agreed upon, and which they have determined shall be presented to the Parliament at its next Meeting.
I am sorry to find that such a' Proceeding comes from some of the Clergy, it should be hoped that but few of these espouse such a Cause ; surely the Generality will say, as“was said of Simeon and Levi of old, “ My Soul come not thou “ into their Secret, unto their Assembly mine 6. Honour be not thou united.”-Indeed this rather appears to be the * Cafe, for the Petitioners have been forced to beat up for Recruits, amongst the two other learned Professions of civil Law and Physic.
What * It must be confessed, that there are those who differ in Sentiment from this Paragraph, and who imagine that the Opposers of Subscription to the Liturgy and Articles are much greater, both in Weight and Number, than the Author füpposes ; but that, for certain prudent Reasons, they serve the Cause of the Petition, as Numbers of Jacobites served the Cause of the Pretender in *1745-not caring to interfere till they fce How MAT
TERS WILL GO.
vi) What the Fate of their Petition will be, is no very difficult Matter to foresee; it may as probably be fupposed that the Parliament of England would pass a Law to drive the Protestant Religion out of the Land, as liften to a Petition against the ancient and effectụal Means of its Support.
Tbt Pretences for this Proceeding are various, the chief Complaint is, that “ Subscriptions to “ the Liturgy and Articles are contrary to “ Christian Liberty”--that they are contrary to infidel Licentiousness may be true, but to profess, fign, and acknowledge the Truth of Scripture, and that publicly and openly, is indeed Christian Liberty, and that Sort of Liberty which our Reformers dearly purchased for us, at the Expence of their Blood, and which i pray God to continue to us for his Mercy's Sake!
But, say they, “ the Liturgy and Articles " are the Words of fallible Men." True, but they are the exact Meanings of the Word of God, and therefore stand upon the same Founs dation, unlefs a found and important Distinction can be made between the Word of God, and its express Meaning
But “ the Church has no Right to impose “ her Interpretations upon me.” At least as
good a one as I have to impose my Interpretations upon her.–And it
may be reasonably concluded, that the “ Articles agreed upon by the “ Archbishops and Bishops of both Provinces, " and the whole Clergy in the Convocation “ bolden at London 1562, and afterwards de“ liberately read, and confirmed again by the
Subscription of the Hand of the Archbishops " and Bishops of the Upper-bouse, and by the
Subscription of the whole Clergy in the nether
House of Convocation 1571," bid as fair for laying before us the true Sense of the Scriptures, as the Members of this new Society, at their very respectable Meeting at the Feathers Tavern in the rear 1771.
The Times of Popery might well be called the dark and ignorant Ages of the Church, but such an Infinuation, with respect to the Time of the Reformation, would almoft lead one to sufpeet, that there is some Clause in the Associationbond, against the Truth of History the Evidence of Facts—and the Dictates of common Sense. - The Reftoration of Learning in Europe, and the Number of Men of Genius that arose, were the happy Fore-runners of the blessed Reformation. These were the In;lruments, in the Hands of a gracious Providence, to dispel the Gloom of Ignorance and Superlition, and