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Conclusions to be made from the forcgoing
History. The religion of Christ, or the will of God by him delivered to men, was easy to be understood by those to whom he and his apostles first preached it. This his religion was afterwards put down in writing by his apostles and disciples. And this faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3); is to be carefully preserved by us. It would be impious to take upon us to add to or diminish aught from it. This however has been done by many, though oft, I believe, without design and without knowing it. It was by insensible degrees, and the work of many ages; by enlarging creeds one after another, and after all by the laborious sophistry of monkish schoolmen, that the present complicate system of an orthodox belief was framed. And it must be by the same slow steps and labour, that we can expect to clear away and remove this rubbish of ages, which has disfigured, and nearly smothered the fair fabric of the word of God.
These honourable predecessors, with others before them, who, with great labour and hazard and loss, have stood up to oppose the corruptions of God's true worship, are to be followed and imitated by us. And, as they have made the way of truth more easy and accessible to us, we shall be without excuse, if we do not
endeavour to secure and improve the discoveries they have made and the advantages they have gained for us, and to hand down the lamp of God to light those that come after us.
Pious persons may be shocked at first in surveying the great corruptions which have all along prevailed, and still prevail in the Christian church. Besides those errors which we see and lament at home amongst ourselves, how deformed the dæmon-worship, the worship of dead men and women deified, and together with it the pitiful idolatry of a breaden god,* which
* “ It is affirmed by the church of Rome, that their god being eaten, may by the squeamish stomach be cast up again ; witness that canon, si sacerdos eucharistiam, &c., which doth exhort the priest when he doth vomit up the sacra. ment to wipe it, and try once more to eat it. They also intimate that the communicant may spit him out upon the ground; witness their caution in their ritual, that after the reception of the eucharist, they do not for a season spit, ne sacramenti species de ore decidant, lest the species of the sacrament should fall from their mouth. And lastly, to complete their blasphemy, they do acknowledge that, in diseases which take away digestion, their god comes whole out of the draught; so it hath huppened, saith Paludanus; so it must happen in this case, saith Soto, for shame should not constrain us to deny the truth. Now to be spit out of the mouth or cast out of the stomach, or to be ejected at the draught, are the peculiar excellencies of this mass-god, which all the follies of the heathen cannot parallel."-Whitby. Irrisio Dei penarii Romanensium, the Derision of the breaden God wor. shiped in the Romish church, pp. 74, 75. This fine tract of
has subsisted for many ages, and still subsists in the church of Rome; that is, a large part of Christendom!
But we should consider that, although God is perfect, and all that comes from him is originally so, yet man is a creature full of prejudice, which he takes in with his nurse's milk, and overwhelmed with various errors; and that, as there is scarce any evidence so clear which passion and corrupt interest will not incline him to set aside, there is no doctrine so plainly laid down, which early prepossession and wrong habits will not darken and perplex. Unless, then, Almighty God had new moulded the race of men, when he gave them a revelation of his will, the purt doctrine of the gospel would unavoidably take a tincture from the manners, dispositions, and habits of those who received it, as water from the beds of minerals through which it passes. The truth of God therefore was necessarily left to take its chance in the world, if we may so speak, and to be more or less corrupted in different times and places; yet not without his own watchful oversight in the mean while, and the fullest assurances and predictions, for the encouthis learned man and true Protestant, deserves to be adopted by our religious societies in the list of their books to be dispersed, and would help to preserve our own people Protestants, and convert the Papists themselves from their more than Pagan idolatry, much better than graver books.
ragement of his true worshipers, “that truth and virtue would finally prevail over the spirit of error and wickedness.” We are not judges how far God intended his dispensations of light and knowledge, and moral improvement, to take effect at any given time; but undoubtedly they are made to attain the end he proposed, though not all that our precipitate judgments would lead us to expect.
What Mr. Whiston remarks concerning Bishop Smallridge, may, I apprehend, influence some worthy men like him, to sit down contented with established forms of religious worship which they are far from approving; namely, “the dread of the ill consequences of discovering so great and lasting errors in the church, with a suspicion of the harm politicians and unbelievers would turn such discoveries to, instead of uniting with good men to correct the errors themselves."*
Politicians and unbelievers cannot certainly be expected to turn reformers. But with regard to the discoveries which Bishop Smallridge was afraid of making and having divulged, relating, I suppose, to the Athanasian and scholastic Trinity, which has been held in veneration and worshiped these fourteen centuries past, whatever was the case in his time, its little agreement with the Scriptures or early Fathers has been long no secret to the Morgans, the St. Johns, the Vol
* Whiston's Life of Dr. S. Clarke, p. 97.
taires, &c, nor have they made any secret of it; but have thence taken a handle to accuse some of our great and learned churchmen of shutting their eyes for political ends, or else believing as little of the revealed system as themselves.
We may assure ourselves, that no discovery of error, no fair representation of facts, can hurt true religion, though it may shake the empire of priestcraft and superstition. We ought rather to be the more excited to search and inquire, and bear our public but peaceable testimony to oppressed truth, because for want of this having been done in time, things are come to the pass which we now complain of, and with which the adversaries of our common faith reproach us.
But those men will fall under heavy condemnation, who persist in abetting known corruptions, out of mean lucrative views, and the flattery of princes and great men, and instead of lending a helping hand to the work, calumniate and discourage those who seek to remove these stumbling-blocks to truth and integrity.
This looks peculiarly ill in men famous for learning and abilities, teachers of humanity, virtue and religion, who are placed on an eminence, and draw others after them.
- Woe unto the world, because of offences, for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh." -Matt. xviii. 7.
In the mean time, Many are purified, and made