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INFIDELITY & UNCHJRITJBLENESS.
Hmrjl and reasonable Christians would be of the same religion, if they were thoroughly understood by one another—if they did but talk enough together every day, and had nothing to do together but to serve God, and live in peace with their neighbour.
Pope's Letters To Bishop A'tterbury.
TESTIMONIES IN BEHALF OF CANDOUR & UNANIMITY.
BY MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND.
EDWARD STILLINGFLEET, D.D.
BISHOP OF WORCESTER*.
'ERE this an age wherein any thing might be wondered at, it would be matter of deserved admiration, that we are still so far from being cemented together in the unity of the sfiirit
* The above extract I have made the iniroduBory testimonyj because it best expresses the design of the subsequent quotations, which are chronologically arranged. This is my reason for placing Stillingfleet at the head of them, though he did not die till the year 1699.
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and the bond of peace. Must the fire of our uncharitable animosities be like that of the temple, which was never to be extinguished? However, 1 am sure it is such an one as was never kindled from Heaven, nor blown up with any breathings of the holy and divine Spirit.
May we be happily delivered from the plague of our divisions and animosities! Than which there hath been no greater scandal to the Jews, nor opprobium of our religion among Heathens and Mahometans, nor more common objection among the Papists, nor any thing which hath been more made a pretence even for Atheism and Infidelity. For our controversies about religion have brought, at last, even religion itself into a controversy among such whose weaker judgments have not been able to discern where the plain and unquestionable way to- heaven hath lain, in so great a mist as our disputes have raised among us. Weaker heads, when they once see the battlements shake, are apt to suspect that the foundation itself is not firm enough; and to conclude, if any thing be called in question, that there is nothing certain.
Religion hath been so much rarified into airy notions and speculations, by the distempered heat of men's spirits, that its' inward strength, and the vitals of it, have been much abated and consumed by it. Men, being very loth to put themselves to the trouble of a holy lise, are very ready to embrace any thing which may but dispense with that; and, if but listing themselves under such a party may but shelter them, under a disguise of religion, none are more ready than such to be known by distinguisiing names; none more zealous in the desence of every tittle and punctilio that lies most remote from those essential duties, wherein the kingdom of God consists—righteousness and pcace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
It will require both time and skill to purge out these noxious humours. 1 know of no prescription so likely to effect this happy end, as an infusion of the true spirit of religion; thereby to take men off from their eager pursuit after ways and parties, notions and opinions, and to bring them back to a right understanding of the nature, design, and principles of Christianity.
Christianity is a religion which it is next to a miracle men should ever quarrel or fall out about, much less that it mould be the occasion, or at least the pretence, of all that strife and bitterness of spirit, of all those contentions and animosities which are, at this day, in the Christian world. But our only comfort is, that, whatever our spirits are, our God is the God of peace, our Saviour is the Prince of peace; and that wisdom which this religion teacheth, is both pure and peaceable. Christians were once known by the benignity and sweetness of their disposition—by the candour and ingenuity of their spirit—by their mutual love, forbearance, and condescension towards one another. But either this is not the practice of Christianity, or it was never calculated for our meridian, wherein men's spirits are of too high an elevation. If pride and uncharitableness, if divisions and strises, if wrath and envy, if animo-: sities and contentions were but the marks of true Christians, Diogenes never need light his lamp at noon to find out such among us. But if a spirit of meekness, gentleness, and condescension, if a stooping to the weakness and infirmities of others, if a pursuit after peace, even when it flies from us, be the indifpensible duties and characteristical notes of those who have more than the name of Christians, it may possibly prove a difficult inquest to find out such for the crowds of those who shelter themselves under that glorious name.
The very commands of our Saviour shewed his meekne/s; his laws .were jweet and gentle laws, not like Draco's, that were writ in blood, unless it were his own blood that gave them.
Preface to his lrenicum.
WILLIAM CHILLINGWORTH, A. M.
CH A N CELLOROK SAL IS BURY, AND PREBEND OF BRIXWORTH, NORTHAMPTONSHIRE.—DIED 1644 :';".
'HHHIS is most certain, that, to reduce Christians to unity of communion, there are but two ways that may be conceived probable; the one by taking away diversity of opinions, touching matters of religion; the other by shewing, that the diversity of opinions, which is among the several sects of Christians, ought to be no hindrance to
• Though Chillingworth was not one of the reformers, yet he was the first writer who ably and completely yindicated the reformation against the Papists in his immortal work—The Religion of the Protestants a safe Way to Salvation. The famous passage, which has been so often quoted with applause—The Bible is the Religion of Protestants, &Y. would have been .here introduced, bad it not been already inserted under the article Protestantism, in "The Sketch of the Denominations of the Christian World." Protestant, as well as Popish Divines, charged this great and good man with pulling down old buildings in a better manner than he could raise new ones, only because he pulled down and confuted the infallibility of the church of Rome. To this curious objection Chillingworth made this memorable reply: " You impute to me," (fays he) " that "the way 1 take is destructive only, and that I build no"thing. Which first is not a fault, for the Christian Re. "ligion is not noiv to be built; but only I desire to have '* the rubbish and impertinent lumber taken off, which you "have laid upon it, and which hides the glorious Jimfilicity "of it from those who otherwise would embrace it."