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P R E F
E F A
the R E A D E R.
HE nation is in too high a ferment, for me to expect either fair
war, or even fo much as fair quarter, from a reader of the oppofite party. All men are engaged either on this side or that; and tho conscience is the common word, which is given by both, yet if a writer fall among enemies, and cannot give the marks of their conscience, he is knocked down before the reasons of his own are heard. A preface, therefore, which is but a bespeaking of favour, is altogether useless. What I desire the reader should know concerning me, he will find in the body of the have but the patience to peruse it. Only this advertisement let him take before-hand, which relates to the merits of the cause. No general characters of parties (call them either fects or churches) can be fo fully and exactly drawn, as to comprehend all the several members of them; at least all such as are received under that denomination. For example; there are some of the church by
poem, if he
law established, who envy not liberty of conscience to diffenters ; as being well satisfied that, according to their own principles, they ought not to persecute them. Yet these, by reason of their fewness, I could not distinguish from the numbers of the rest, with whom they are embodied in one common name. On the other side, there are many of our fects, and more indeed than I could reasonably have hoped, who have withdrawn themselves from the communion of the Panther, and embraced this gracious indulgence of his majesty in point of toleration. But neither to the one nor the other of these is this fatire
intended : it is aimed only at the refractory and disobedient on either side. For those, who are come over to the royal party, are consequently supposed to be out of gun-shot. Our physicians have observed, that, in process of time some diseases have abated of their virulence, and have in a manner worn out their malignity, so as to be no longer mortal: and why may not I suppose the same concerning some of those, who have formerly been enemies to kingly government, as well as Catholic religion? I hope they have now another notion of both, as having found, by
comfortable experience, that the doctrine of persecution is far from being an article of our faith.
It is not for any private man to censure the proceedings of a foreign prince: but, without suspicion of flattery, I may praise our own, who has taken contrary measures, and those more suitable to the spirit of Christianity. Some of the dissenters, in their addresses to his majesty, have said, “ That he has restored God to his empire over « conscience." I confess, I dare not stretch the , figure to so great a boldness : but I may safely fay, that conscience is the royalty and prerogative of every private man: He is absolute in his own breast, and accountable to no earthly power,
for that which passes only betwixt God and him. Those who are driven into the fold are, generally speaking, rather made hypocrites than con
This indulgence being granted to all the sects, it ought in reason to be expected, that they should both receive it, and receive it thankfully. For, at this time of day, to refuse the benefit, and adhere to those, whom they have esteemed their persecutors, what is it else, but publicly to own, that