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is so purged away in so many descents that it ceases to be so in the present possessor: however, he will never file away the stain that may yet remain in his skin, with an instrument that will open all his veins, till his very heart's blood issue and be drawn out. Nor can it be expected that he who hath innocently and lawfully purchased what was innocently and lawfully to be sold, because he finds afterwards that those lands had so many years since belonged to some religious house; which if he had known he would not have bought, will therefore lose his money, and leave the land to him whose conscience will give him leave to take it; for though he might innocently, because ignorantly, buy it, he cannot after his discovery sell it with the same innocence; but he will chuse a lawyer rather than a bishop for his confessor, and satisfy himself with that title which he is sure can be defended. In a word, he must depart too much from his natural understanding, who believes it probable, that all that hath been taken from the church in former ages, will be restored to it in this or those which shall succeed, to the ruin of those many
thousand families which enjoy the alienations, though they do not think that it was at first with justice and piety aliened; but will satisfy themselves with the possession, and by degrees believe, that since it must not be restored to those uses and ends, to
which it was at first dedicated and devoted, it may be as justly enjoyed by them with their other title, as by any other persons to whom it may be assigned. Whereas, if learned, prudent, and conscientious men, upon a serious deliberation and reflection of the great mercy of God, and that under the law he both permitted and prescribed expedients to expiate for trespasses and offences, which, by inadvertency and without malice, men frequently run into, and therefore that it may be piously hoped, that in a transgression of this nature, he will not be rigorously disposed to exact the utmost farthing from the heirs of the transgressors; who with the authority of the government under which they lived, and in many cases with the consent and resignation of those in whom the interest was fully invested, became unwarily owners of what in truth, in a manner, was taken from God himself: I
say, if such men, upon such and other recollections which might occur to them, would advise a reasonable method, in which they who are possessed of estates and fortunes of that kind, may well assign a proportion of what they enjoy to such pious and charitable uses, as may probably do as much good as those estates did when they were in their possession from whom they were taken, and yet not deprive the owners of more than they may without great damage part with. It is very possible, that
very many out of the observation of the misfortunes which have often befallen the posterity of those who have been eminently enriched by those sacred spoils, and it may be out of some casual reflections and reluctancy which now and then may interrupt the most cheerful divertisements, would dedicate somewhat of what they enjoy, towards the reparation of what charity hath for a long time suffered; and by this means the poor bishoprics, which cannot support the dignity of the function, may be better endowed, poor vicarages comfortably supplied, and other charitable works performed in the education of poor children, and the like. And they who thus contribute, out of the freedom and bounty of their own natures, will find a serenity of mind that will please them, and make them believe that the rest will prosper the better, and that they have more left than they enjoyed before ; and when the matter hath been well and discreetly weighed, and good mediums instilled into the minds of men, by conference and conversation, the method and prescription will be most powerfully given by the liberality and example of those who are wrought upon by the other, or by their own contemplation.
It is observable, that in these violent and furious attempts against the church, albeit his majesty hath always publicly declared, that his not complying with them in that particular, (the doing whereof
many have supposed would have procured him his desires in all other particulars) proceeds purely from matter of conscience, and principally from the conclusion, that what they desire is sacrilege ; there hath been no application to his person, nor any sober animadversion in writing, to inform his judgment that it is not sacrilege, but only some allega. tions of former times, it may be too faulty in that particular, and the authority of that council which think they have power to compel him to consent to it, whether it be sacrilege or not; nor hath that assembly of divines, who have so frankly given their consent to the destruction of that hurch to which they had formerly subscribed, and who are so ready to apply satisfaction to the consciences of men in many things which are enjoined against the light of their own, yet presumed to publish any thing to inform the minds of men in this argument. So that there being so little said for it, how much soever is done, a man cannot so easily enlarge his thoughts in a dis quisition against it ; but had best enlarge his heart by prayer, that the torrent of worldly power, or temptation of profit, may neither overwhelm or corrupt him, to what his conscience, reason, or understanding, can never otherwise be invited.
OF THE REVERENCE DUE TO ANTIQUITY.
There is not, it may be, a greater obstruction in the investigation of truth, or the improvement of knowledge, than the too frequent appeal, and the too supine resignation of our understanding to antiquity; to what was supposed long since to be done, or what was thought or known to be the opinion of some men who lived so many ages before
say supposed to be done, because we are so totally ignorant of all that was originally done from that time that deserves the name of antiquity, that we know nothing of what was done in the most ancient times, but by the testimony of those men who lived so many hundred, nay thousand years after the persons lived, or the things were done of which they give us the account. So that we were in a very ill condition, if it any way concerned us to know what was said or done in those times, of which we have so dark and obscure, at least very questionable, relation and information given to us, And as we are liable to be misled in the forming our practice or judgment by the rules and measures of antiquity, with reference to the civil and politic actions of our lives, so antiquity will be as blind a guide to us in matters of practice or opinion relating to religion, otherwise than as that antiquity is