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and the beauty of virtue, with the lamentable consequences that never fail to attend the one, and the advantages that always follow the other, wheresoever they are entertained, both to private persons and governments, to church and state. In which, as he went to the bottom, and dealt plainly with every party, so he did it without any animosity to their persons; and shews he laboured their reformation, affectionately, truly and thoroughly, both by letting them see the snares they have fallen by, and how to get out of them.
Three words may be said to comprehend this whole treatise: Vice, Presumption, and Violence; for under them is comprised the matter he strikes at, from first to last. They have their agreeable contraries, Virtue, Humility, and Charity, if not Unity. But we cannot come at them while the other stand in the way.
He has exposed vice in its deformities, and pointed to us the inevitable and dismal effects of it, in those countries where it has prevailed: a seasonable and informing lecture for our own times; which he chiefly refers to the civil magistrate, whose duty therein he shews and presses, with the next and proper means to suppress it; to wit, by a due execution of our just laws upon the present vicious livers, and a better education of our youth; that by preserving them from the infections of vice, the next generation at least may have some better pretence to virtue.
He is very close, and perhaps sharp, upon presumption in religion. This he detects likewise, and the many mischiefs it has done to Christian fellowship, and civil society too, by setting up men's opinions for articles of faith, and ties of religious communion; mistaking the nature of true faith, and debasing morality, in its work and weight in religion; and subjecting reason and truth to the results of human authority: whereby it has happened, that people have not had the witness in themselves for what they have embraced, nor their own convictions to warrant their conformity or profession; but an ancestor, a minister, their education, for the best reason and proof of their confession. And such as could not frame themselves to an easy compliance, but suffered inquiry to take place of authority, and would not allow an ipse dixit, or a constable's staff, for a sufficient resolution of their scruples, have suffered deeply in their per
sons or estates.
Not that I would have church-society, or authority, to be despised; they that do so, are much in the wrong: let every thing have its due place and just share; parents, education, church-power, &c. But let them have no more. Let God
have his part, who is sovereign of the conscience, and to whom every knee must bow: and they that bow in point of religion, without the convictions of his spirit, are rather idolaters than believers; to be sure they are merely formalists, and guilty of that implicit faith and blind obedience, which at other times we make so great a fault, and a sufficient reason of separation.
Violence, which is the last word, and that takes up the last part of this discourse, to which the presumption before expressed naturally tends, is that coercive power, used by those who are the strongest party, to impose their opinions and formalities upon the rest, at the hazard of their lives or estates that refuse to conform ; though they dissent out of pure conscience to God: the breaches, ruin and destruction that have followed upon penal laws for religion, as they rise from creed-making, and the impatience of men to bear dissent from their own opinions, are become the scandal of Christianity all over the world. These two words, presumption and violence, are more immediately referred to the clergy of all persuasions, every where : though their hearers are invited to examine themselves, how far they lie under the guilt hereof, or are touched with a disposition to entertain the spirit that leads to persecution about religion. Nor does the author charge it upon every one of the clergy: but the faulty are reprehended, and the ignorant instructed, and the guiltless commended and confirmed in their moderation. And what is said of this kind of the clergy, may be yet as reasonably said of the laity: for though it is true that the civil officers that often prove the most violent executioners of penal laws for religion, are from among them; yet it is as true, that from among them also are found the most temperate and merciful spirits, that will least touch with cruelty, and are the most sensible of the miseries of the persecuted, and express the greatest compassion for them, and from whom, at last, the best part of their relief comes.
But to avoid comparisons, and do what we can to be wholly upon the healing and truly reforming hand, it is greatly to be wished that the practice of piety were the main end and scope of men, the subject of their care and emulation ; and that their hatred were to things, not to persons; to sin, and not to sinners. If we were as captious at our own actions, as we are at other people's faiths, we should live better lives, and they would live better by us : for so holiness and peace would be promoted. O that we could but once be persuaded to think of “working out our salvation !" It is not knowing, but doing, that recommends us to God, gives us peace, and fits us for heaven. That were the ready
way "to make our great calling and election sure." And
of all virtues and graces; without which, religion is a cypher, a bubble, an apparition at most; no solid or valid thing. Charity is comprehensive of all right love. It reaches to God, to our neighbour, and ourselves, both inwardly and outwardly: it reaches to heaven, as well as to the ends of the earth. It loves all, and acts towards all upon a principle of love; yea it is that love. "Charity," says the apostle, “suffers long and is kind :* charity envieth not: charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never fails." Men are too often the worse for their wit, for their learning, aye for their religion too, if charity does not humble and sanctify them.Ye know not of what spirit ye are" said the blessed Saviour of the world, to some of his overzealous disciples. There is a false, as well as a true zeal, and by their fruits we shall know them. True zeal is against sin, and shown best upon a man's self, his own life and conduct: it is tempered with wisdom, and will not outshoot the mark, especially towards others. But false zeal is nothing but passion in the name of religion. It is impatient, froward, angry, and revengeful. It can slander, quarrel, beat, plunder, and kill too, and all for God's sake! alas! their zeal is the excuse of their choler; and, for the most part, those that are captivated with it, are worse livers than those they so evilly treat; and, at best, shew most busy and concerned about the outside of religion. David was zealous, but not after this sort; for though he tells us that his "Zeal for God's house had eaten him up," yet he never said it had eaten up his neighbours. That furious zeal is strictly forbidden by Christ, the great Lord of the Christian religion.
It will therefore do us no hurt, if we try our own spirits, and see with what spirits we profess religion, and act for it. They that act not from religion, can never act rightly for religion; their spirits must be wrong; let their zeal swell as big as mountains, their faith can never remove one: they build upon the sand, and the fall of their building will be, at last, as terrible to themselves, as their ignorant zeal made it formerly burdensome to others.
Well then, where shall we pitch the nature and business of religion, under the various notions and shapes we find it wears among men, and that plainly and intelligibly? And with our answer to this, let us conclude this preface.
Religion, in the judgment of this author, is Living up
* Cor. iii. 5, 6, 7, 8.
to what a man knows of the mind of God; and attending diligently upon that light in himself, which gives him that knowledge of his duty."
This is the gift of God by Christ, that " enlightens every man that comes into the world." This is the talent that men are intrusted with, to improve to the saving of their souls. And the apostle tells us, that " whatsoever may be known of God, is manifest in them, by this light,” because “whatever makes manifest is light.” Peruse John i. 9. chap. iii. 21. Rom. i. 19. Ephes. v. 13, 14. He that knows and acquaints himself with this holy light in himself, that comes by Christ, the great light of the world, and brings his deeds and thoughts to it, and squares his desires and will according to the manifestations and directions of it, will approve himself a disciple of Christ, a lover of religion, and therefore a religious man indeed : the nature and end of religion being our conformity to the will of God, which the apostle expounds to be our " sanctification;" and that can. not be, till we receive this holy leaven in ourselves, by which the whole lump of man comes to be leavened ; man in body, soul, and spirit; man, throughout; man to be a new man : for so the apostolical doctrine instructs us, “that as we have long borne the image of the earthly, so we may come to bear the image of the heavenly man, the Lord from heaven;" and, like him, to be heavenly-minded. And truly, that is the man I would chose to associate myself with, and the church, society, or people, whose communion I would prefer, that are followers and children of this light of Jesus; wbo, destitute of pompous worship, and of tedious and difficult creeds, resolve all into an humble and daily watch and obedience to this light of Christ in the conscience, both as to their worship to God, and conversation among men, whatever the unjust unthinking world is pleased to judge of them.
I shall detain the reader no longer from the book itself. He will find virtue and charity the great tendency of it. And though it may be objected by some, that much of the service of it is over, because the current of persecution is stopped; they are under a great mistake : the service of it is not over; would it were : for debauchery of all sorts was never more impudent and epidemical; and as great uncharitableness still appears among people. Their hands are in some measure stopped or diverted, but their tongues are not, for they were never more on fire against one another; and we know, "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. They do not only whisper, but rail and threaten one another; and, to be sure, religion must be much of the