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ECCLESIASTICAL

CHARACTERISTICS.

INTRODUCTION.

THA

HE reader will doubtless agree with me, that mode.

ration is an excellent thing, and particularly the noblest character of a church-man. It is also well known, that as all churches have usually in them a moderate, and a zealous, high-flying, wild party; so our church hath at present a certain party, who glory in, and fight for moderation; and who it is to be hoped justly) appropriate to themselves wholly the character of moderate men: neither is it a small presage of a glorious and blessed state of the church, in its approaching periods, that so many of our young men are smitten with the love of mocle. ration, and generally burn with desire to appear in that noble and divine character.

This hath inspired me with the ambition and expecta. tion of being helpful in training up as many as are desirous of it, in this most useful of all sciences. For however perfectly it is known, and however steadily practised by many who are adepts ; and notwithstanding there are fome young men, of pregnant parts, who make a sudden and surprising proficiency, without much assistance ; yet I have often observed, that there are several persons, who err, in many instances, from the right path, boggle at sunVOL. III.

Dd

dry particular steps of their leaders, and take a long time before they are thoroughly confirmed in their principles and practice. The same persons also, by an unstable conduct, or by an imprudent or unseasonable discovery of their designs, haye brought a reproach upon their par. ty, and been an obstruction to whatever work they had

then in hand.

These bad effects, I humbly conceive, flow chiefly, if not only, from the want of a complete system of modera. tion, containing all the principles of it, and giving a dif. tinct view of their mutual influence one upon another, as well as proving their reasonableness, and showing, by examples, how they ought to be put in practice.

There is no work of this kind, to my knowledge, yet extant, which renders my present undertaking of it the more laudible, and will, I hope, render it the more acceptable.

I mult inform the reader, that after I was fully con, vinced of the necessity of fome such piece as what follows, but before I entered upon it myself, I earnestly intreated several of the most eminent men of the moderate stamp among us, those burning and Niining lights of our church, who are, and are esteemed to be, our leaders, that some of them would fet about it. However, they all devolved it upon me; and made this fatisfying excule for themselves, that they were so busied in acting mode. ration, that they could not have time to write upon it. This fogn led me to think, what would become of many noble designs, and what advantage our discontented zealots might take, if any of the expert steerlmen of this ec, clesiastical veslel of ours should retire from the helm; but so long time as would be necessary to bring a work of such a nature, to the perfection in firength, symmetry, and elegance, that the reader will perceive even this of minę is arrived at.

I shall now proceed to the principal part of the work, after I have informed the reader of the plan of it; which is briefly this, to enumerate distinctly and in their pro. per order and connexion, all the several maxims upon which moderate men conduct themselves : and fora!

much as the justice of many of them, being refined pie. ces of policy, is not very evident at first sight; I shall lubjoin to each an illustration and confirmation of it, from reason or experience, or both. N. B. I shall make but very little use of Scripture, because that is contrary to some of the maxim's themselves; as will be seen in the fequel.

M A X IM I:

All ecclesiastical persons, of whatever rank, whether

principals of colleges, professors of divinity, ministers, or even probationers, that are suspected of heresy, are to be esteemed men of great genius, vast learning, and uncommon worth; and are, by all means, to be supported and protected.

ALL moderate men have a kind of fellow-feeling with beresy, and as soon as they hear of any one suspected, or in danger of being prosecuted for it, zealously and unanimously rise up in his defence. This fact is unquestionable. I never knew a moderate man in my life, that did not love and honor a heretic, or that had not an implacable hatred at the persons and characters of heresyhunters; á name with which we have thought proper to stigmatize thefe fons of Belial, who begin and carry on prosecutions against men for herefy in church. courts.

It is related of the apostle John, and an ugly story ic is, that upon going into a public bath, and observing the heretic Cerinthus there before him, he retired with the utmost precipitation, left the edifice should fall, and crush him, when in company with such an enemy of the truth. If the ftory be true, the apostle's conduct was ridiculous and wild; but Dr. Middleton has shown that the story is not true; and indeed, the known beDevolence and charity of John's writings make it highly probable. However, not to enter into that controversy, vhether it be true or not, the conduct of all moderate men is directly opposite.

As to the justice of this maxim, many folid reasons may be given for it. Compassion itself, which is one of the finest and most benevolent feelings of the human heart, moves then to the relief of their distressed brother. Another very plain reason may be given for it: moderate men are, by their very name and constitution, the reverse, in all respects, of bigotted zealots. Now, it is well known, that many of this last fort, both clergy and common people, when they hear of a man suf. pected of heresy, conceive an averfion at him, even before they know any thing of the case; nor after he is acquitted (as they are all of them commonly in our church.courts) can they ever come to entertain a favorable opinion of him. The reverse of this then is, to be as early and as vigorous in his defence, as they are in his prosecution, and as implicit in our belief of his orthodoxy, as they are in their belief of his error,

I remember, when I was discoursing once to this pur. pose, a certain raw unexperienced person said, he had always thought, that not moderation, but lukewarmness and indifference to truth, was the reverse of excessive żeal; and that moderation was ftuated in the middle betwixt the two. To whom I answered, Young man you do not reflect, that no fierce man can be resisted but by one as fierce, nor overcome but by one fiercer than himself; if, therefore, no body would oppose the zealots, but such calm midsmen as you mention, in every such instance the balance of power must lean to their fitle, and the poor heretic muft fall a facrifice, to the no small detriment of the cause of moderation ; which by the bye, is commonly supported by the heretics in their stations, and therefore they deserve a grateful return.

This brings to my mind another reason for the maxim, viz. That heretics being so nearly related to the mode. rate men, have a right to claim their protection out of friendship and personal regard. This ferves a very no- . ble end; for it vindicates the Christian religion from the objection of some infidels, who affirm that it does not recommend private friendship; now moderate men having all a very great regard to private friendihip, and personal connexions, do, by their practice, which is the most folid way, confute this slander.

I may add to these another argument for the great character of heretics, as asserted in the maxim, which I picked up from the preaching of a feceding minister." He told his hearers, that when the devil looks out for an instrument to propagate error, he never makes choice of a weak filly man, but one able and learned ; as well knowing, I suppose, that though God can support his cause by any instrument whatever, yet he needs always the best and most sufficient he can get. Now, though I hope no man will reckon me of this fanatic's principles, so far as to think the devil the source of error; yet the citation serves my purpose, as it shews that he himself was convinced of the ability and learning of heretics; and all the world knows, that the testimony of an enemy is the strongest of all evidences upon a man's side.

I shall conclude this maxim with observing, that such tenderness for heretics, however due from some, is yet, in many of the moderate character, an instance of the most heroic and generous friendship. It is quite disinterefted, as they themselves run not the smallest hazard of ever being in the like circumstances. Heretics are commonly an honest fort of people, but with all their book learning, of no great stock of prudence or policy. They publish and assert whatever they believe upon all points, without considering the reception it is like to meet with, from those of opposite principles. They affront the pub- . lic to its face, which Lord Shaftsbury tells us ought not to be done. On the other hand, men thorough-paced in moderation, discover their principles only at such times, and to such persons, as are able to bear them. By this means they preserve themselves from heresy; and indeed they cannot poslibly fall into it, unless by mistake ; in which cafe, as soon as they are challenged, (if it is like to be attended with any temporal inconveniency) they deny it, explain it away, or repent, and ask pardon.

In all this they follow the noble example of Mr.who, in the affembly debates, upon Professor Simfon's affair, happening to say something that was challenged

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