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And thus our Confeffion is a proper Standard of Minifterial Commur grion in our Church; and a Rule whereby it must be judged whether a Perfon, in so far as relates to his Principles, be endued with these Qualifications which, after our most impartial Consideration, we think we may juftly expe& in a Gospel Minister, who would answer the Ends for which the sacred Office was instituted : And tho what is really Truth can never be determined by a Majority, we hope there is no Abfurdity in affirming, That the publick Rules which
any Society designs to lay down for the Government of it, and particularly for trying the Qualifications of Persons to be admitted to publick Offices, may and indeed muft neceffarily be determined by the Majority.
From what hath been now difcoursed, it appears that the Determinations of a Council concerning, Articles of Faith, and their De
cilions of Controversies, fo far as they relate to the prefent Queftion, are not founded upon any Authority, which one Set of Men have over others to govern their Çonfciences, and make Creeds for them; but take their Rife from that natural Power, which every Man, and every Society hath to follow the Dictates of its own Understanding, to embrace that Scheme of Religion wherein it perceives the greatest Luftre of a divine Character, and to fubmit to those Ministers who appear qualified to promote the Interests of Truth and Holiness. , And consequently we may with Pleafure obo ferve, That the Authority of our General Asembly in her Canons and Decisions, is bottomed upon that noble and unalienable Privilege of a rational Creature; The Right of private Judgment: And we hall heartily approve of all the great Things that can be faid by the warmest Lover of Freedom, in order to heighten its ExcelJency, as a very important Advantage to our Caute; Gince we shall at leaft have thereby the fame Liberty, to value, applaud and adhere to Confeffions, which others think they have to vilty and reject them.
Did indeed any Society oblige. People independent of it to incorporate with them, and fubfcribe to their Conftitutions and DeciGons in religious Matters: Did they either force an Aflent to their established Confessions at the Beginning; or after the Perfor had once agreed to them, did they, in a strict Sense, punish him for an Alteration of his Sentiments afterwards, and for abandoning the publick Standard upon a more impartial Enquiry, and on that Account deprive him of any Advantage he had a Clairn to independent of the Society : This were indeed to exceed the Boundaries of a private Judgment; and could not be justifiable unlefs fuch could produce a Right to regulate the Judgments of others, and lord it over their Faith. But then neither the Principles nor Pradice of our Church lead that Way, or are in the leaft expofed to the Objection.
We abhor Persecution in every Shape in which it hath appeared, and are never for compelling others to subscribe our Confessions, or fubmit to our Institutions: Being sensible that every Man hath an equal Right with us to follow the Light of his Understanding
and the Di&ares of his Conscience; and that the Terrors of Blood and Torture are Arguments entirely foreign to the Design and the Spirit of Christianity,can never tend to advance its Interests, nor be posibly reconciled with two great fundamental Maxims of it, Meckwess and Charity ; and that Bani hment, Confifcations, or imprifonments, are Methods
of Periwasio, by which no Man, or Body of Men, have a Title to recommend their Doctines to others. We are convinced that hele are not the Arms whereby Truth and Righteousness spread iheir Victories over the Minds of Men
3 and that they are only the Tools of Error and Ignorance, calcu
to root out all Religion, opprefs Virtue, and extingui'h Light: We have as great a Horror as the most violent Enemies of Confes fions, at that Antichristian Church which utes these Means of Conviation, and have as tright. ul Idea's ot that Monster of Tyranny and Cruelty, and will ever look upon it as a very bud Sign of a Causo when it leans upon tuch Supports ; so that we don't deny to others the fame Liberty which we take to our felves. And 'tis hoped ic will atterwards appear, that any temporal Lolles which an Ecclefiaftical Officer with us may be exposed to, when convicted of departing trom our established Contession, can in no Sense be called Persecution, and are of a Nature entirely different from it.
Wherefore however strong and perswafive the Reafonings of our Adverfaries be against the tyrannical Pretensions of the Church of Rome, or the Claims of any other which grasps at an Authority over the Faith of the People; with whatever Hatred and Contempt all those humane comosures hould be treated, which invade the Piace due to the Holy Scriptures in the Determination of religious Controversies, and would fetter the Consciences of Min'ind by their tallible Decisions, and how juft and commendable foever the warmest Zeal, and most vigorous Opposition against all Projects of this Nature are in every Man and Ch istian; we hope it is evident that the Practice of the Church of Scotlard, and the Usefulness and Allowableness of Confeflions as a Sta idard of Ortłodoxy, in the Senfe wherein we have explained it, are not in the least exposed or injured thereby : Since ihey are bottomed upon quite different Principles, and tend to very contrary Purpofes.
And, we doubt not, our Readers will by an eafy Application, perceive how little all these strong and vehement Keatonings, which we have formerly mentioned, against an ufurped Power over the Understandings of Mankind, and in Favours of the noble Proteftant Principle of private Judgment, affect our Cause; and that all that can be laid of the Excellency of the Holy Scriptures, and their peculiar Prerogative as the only Judge f Controversies and Stang dard of Truth and Error, are peitectly reconcilable with it: And that these frightful Images of Tyranny Perfecution and Slavery, whereby our adversaries e..deavour to impress the Minds of Men with fo horrible Notions of Confeffions in general are easily dislipated: And how justly foever they may heighten our Terrors at Popery and all Popish Pretens10.15, chat it applied to us they are the Creatures.of Fancy, and owe their Being to mistaken Apprehun
Gons or wilful Partiality, and give us Ground to complain, that the Writers of the other Side have not treated us or our Opinions with that Charity, Moderation, and impartial Enquiry which they fo much glory in.
So little Reason have these Gentlemen to load our Confession with these Calumnies, or charge us with departing from the Principles of the Reformation, and raisi.g the Authority of our publick Standard on the fame Bottom which fupports the Roman Pontiff, that on the contrary, there seems to be place enough in the prefent Question for applying the common Maxim, That Superftition and Atheism, or absolute Infidelity and implicite Belief, are frequently
, near one another, and maintain an intimate Alliance : Nor will it perhaps appear an ill grounded Observation. That the Noife made by the inveterate Enemies of Confeffions, tends to clamour the Churches of Christ out of the natural and unalienable Rights of Mankind, to overs turn private fudgment, and oppress our Co: sciences; and confequently that this Extreme of inaginary Liberty, and these high Pretenlions to Freedom and Impartiality, are very apt to meet with the other Extreme of arbitrary Power and an haughty impofing Spirit.
In order to the clearing whereof, we shall but just mention a few Consequences that naturally follow from the Reasonings and the Schemes of that Party : Namely, That a Society hath not Power to make Rules for itsGovernment that may not be overturned and tranf gress’d by every Man who dislikesthem.
That tho'a Church be convinced in her Conscience that such Doctrines only are agreca le to Divine Revelation, and ought to be preached to the People ; and therefore she inclines to make Choice of such only for her Paftors, who believe these Truths themselves, and will inculcate thema upon others: Yer she must be denied that Liberty, a Person of Principles direaly opposite mutt have Access to her Pulpits; nor muft he be abandoned or turned out of his Office because of Differences in Opinion ; that is, such a Church must be imposed upon, forced to hear Doctrines the thinks inconGftent with her Edification and Improvement in Christianity; that is, Persons who desire to attend publick Ordinances, that they may make Progress in the Truths of Religion and be animated in its Practice, must yet fùbmit to Schemes, whereby, in stead of gaining this End, they may be entertained from the Pulpit with Notions very contrary to these Purposes, and which, according to their Opinion, tend ra ther to retard than advance them in the Ways of Holiness; and be obliged to spend the Sabbath in a Manner very disagreeable to these Deligns for which it was fan&tified.
According to these noble Principles of Liberty that are so much boasted of, fome Men, the greatest Pleafiire of whose Life, and Satisfaction to their Confciences it
, perhaps would be, to be. joined to a Society of Christians who maintained the Unity of
and to have access to pure Ordinances, and uncorrupted Doctrine, dispensed by those who were qualified for that Office, and had kept themselves free from the Poifon of Error; Must
21 yet bë denied that Privilege, obliged to pollute themselves by
mixing with the Impurities of a corrupted Ministry, and to have y their Ěars grated by Doctrine which they, deteft as pernicious, or
despise as useless or uncertain ; and so they must be robbed of their greatest Joy and Comfort, or, which is the same thing, they, must be hindred from using what appears to them the necessary Means of attaining these Benefits, and arriving at a Security concerning the Faith and Qualifications of their Teachers
That tecause fich Free-thinkers, entertaining little Thoughts of the Doctrines of Christianity, are for allowing an unbounded Latitude in Matters of Faith į and Inoking upon a Person as neither a worfe Man or Minister, for his Sentiments in; what they are pleas, fed to call, Matters of Speculation ; would not think of separating. from him on that Occasion, or requiring a satisfying Account of his Belief as a necessary Qualification for an Ecclefiaftical Office : Therefore we who think quite otherways, and believe that the Doctrines of Christianity are of the highest Importance, and a Denial or contradicting them of the worst Coniequence to the Souls of Men; and that the Knowledge and Faith of them are glorious Privileges of the Gospel-State, and distinguish'd Characters of a Chriftian ; muft act in Contradiction to our own Understandings in order to gratifie their Inclinations, must be as coldly indifferent
as to the Interests of Truth, and as little concern'd about what our. of Pastors and Rulers teach and believe:
That because they are fully satisfied as to the Orthodoxy of one to:
whose Ministry they would submit; if he own the Scriptures, d
and express his Sentiments in the precise Words and Phrases to be sy found there ; tho'he decline giving any other Evidence of his
Soundness, and refuse his Affent to Articles of Faith in any other of
Terms : Therefore we who are perswaded from the fullest Expe
rience, that cunning Hereticks wrejt the Scriptures to their own Perdition, F and rack them that they may come up to their Notions; that they
understand these Phrases in a quite contrary manner to whatothers think the plain Sense of them, and conceal under that fair Varnish the most unfcriptural Schemes and decestable Errors, and con
fequently that their using these Phrases is no Proof what kind of 7 • Doctrine they embrace ; must notwithftanding thereof be conten;
red with the same talle and deceitful Test of Orthodoxy : And if we act the same cautious Part, that every Man will do for the smala left Şum of Money he gives in Loan, by seeking some plainer and less doubtful Security for a Matter of incomparably greater Conse. quence ; we must be treated with Contémpt, and exposed to pube lick Scorn, as sowr, morose, narrow-spirited Creatures, mifrepresented
as Favourers of aspiring Tyrannical Councils, and Enemies to the Perfection 3 of the Holy Scriptures, which as foine of the Writers on that side affirm,
are all Engines of Cruelty and Persecution as well as external Force,
In a word that we may not be allowed to value, esteem and cm. brace Confessions, when we pretend only to a Liberty of acting and thinking according to our best Light, without impoling upon our
Neighbours ; because other People difesteem and run down all fuch Composures.
These are a few of the extraordinary Benefits, which Liberty and the Right of privatc fudgment owe to the Endeavours of those, that give out themselves to be the most zealous Sticklers for them These are a few of those uncommon heights of Freedom to which they have elevated it by their Discoveries ; a Freedom, at the bora tom, to dissolve the sacred Bonds of Christian Societies, the Unity of Faith, to jumble Light and Darkness, and make an inglorious Composition of Truth and Error ; a Liberty to impofe if not Articles of Faith, at least a Disbeliet and Contempt of them upon others and under a painted Mask of Freedom, to dictate their own Notions and Schemes of an airy fantastical Liberty to others, in as imperious a manner, and with as magifterial an Authority, as these whom they fo much exclaim against.
Every Person in the least acquainted with Books or Men, will be foon fensible what numberlefs Prejudices the greatest Part labour under, and what confused Notions they have of Things; that a Set of Words are frequently used and obstinately inaintained, while very little is clearly understood by them: And that Words and Phrales of a very good Intentand Signification originally, have been wrested, and abused, and employed to cheat the Populace, and inflame the Passions of such as are generally more influenced by Words than by Things. And we shall readily own the Justice of the Obfervation which the Author of the Occasional Paper makes, (a) That Religion, Irush, Church, Orthodoxy, &c. have been thus Thamefully perverted, to serve the worst Purpofes of Ambition, Luft of Power, and all kind of Oppression civil and religious ; , and perhaps others besides the Church of Rome may be chargeable herewith:
But is there not ground enough to apply the fame Obfervation to a different Purpose ? Have not these favourite Words of a Party, Liberty: Free-thinking, Impartial-enquiry, private Fudgment, &c. been
prostituted to as mean and unworthy Purposes; and in the Mouths of fome been perverted to as little, or as uncertain, or as dangerous a Signification? Have they not been Tools to promote Atheism and Infidelity; and a fair Mask, under which hatred to God and Goodness, and an Apoftacy from Christianity have disguised themselves? Did they ever make a louder Noife than in the
Mouths of Deists? And have not ignorant and vain Infidels, when driven from all their strong Holds, and attacked by the most clear and convincing Arguments, skreened themselves ander the Covert of those ufetul Words ; as much as ever the most bigot Zealots do by the help of the Church or Orthodoxy? Don't we know that in the Mouths and in the Lives of many, Liberty means an unrestrained Licenfe, and a Neglect of Religion and Virtue ; and that the Love of it is brought as an Excuse, for a cold Unconcernedness about the Doétrines of our Blessed Saviour and a Difregard to Truth and Light? And have not the Enemies of the Gofpel who had nothing elle to
(a) Occasional Paper, Vol. II. N. 1. p.48 69 70