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What! are you, Sir, amongst the weak and uncharitable miods who damn to the pit of hell those who cannot receive all the dark and inysterious points set forth in that creed! Do
you in your conscience think that there is no salvation for those who do not faithfully believe the several articles it contains, and that whosoever doth not keep whole and undefiled the faith therein delivered, he shall without doubt perish everlastingly? What! the many great and worthy persons, bright ornaments of your own church, (who, instead of keeping it whole and undefiled, have openly disavowed, preached, and wrote against it, dying in this unbelief,) have they without peradventure everlastingly perished? Alas! for the good Doctors Clarke, Whitby, Burnet, &c.
for the illustrious Sir Isaac Newton, &c. &c. Yea, alas! for the whole Greek church, who, for having rejected that clause, both in the Athapasian and the Nicene Creed, commonly called Filioque, which asserts that the Holy Ghost is of the Father and the Son, neither made nor créated, nor begotten, but proceeding, are gone down, it seems, to the infernal pit; so that, notwithstanding their great knowledge and piety in this world, yet, for not believing the Athanasian creed, they are sunk into everlasting darkness and damnation in the other ! Do you wonder that deism prevails if this be genuine christianity?
It is a fact, I presume, indisputable, that a great part of the most learned and viriuous of your clergy are departed from the Athanasian doctrine; and that those of them, who are not, do by no means think its belief absolutely and indispensably necessary to salvation. What now must a deist think, when he hears both the one and the other, thirteen times a year, most so. lemnly declaring, in the presence of Almighty God, and as instructors of his people, that whoever zeill be saved, it is before all things necessary that he hold the Athanasian faith; and most peremptorily denouncing, everlasting damnation upon those who do not believe it; that is, many of them denouncing damnation upon themselves! Is this your “powerful and effectual “means of preserving the christian faith?” I should think it one of the most effectual to sub vert and destroy it. It has, no doubt, been in fact, a great stumbling-block in the way of Infidels and Jews, and hardened them in their
орposition to the religion of Christ, when they see it dooming to undoubted and everlasting perdie tion, all who do not heartily and sincerely (for that must be meant by faithfully) believe these deep and mysterious points, which you must acknowledge to be inexplicable, and far above the powers of reason to comprehend.
“But the dissenting ministers, you tell me, “ who have complied with the terms of the tole“ ration, have solemnly subscribed the villth “ article, which approves the Athanasian creed."* Let Dr. Calamy answer :t “ The dissenting mi“ nisters about the city, in a body, gave in « their sense of the articles when they subscribed "them; and among the rest, of this VIIIth ar“ticle; in the gloss upon which the damnatory " clauses of this creed are expressly excluded " the subscription. And there was sometbing “ of the same nature done in several parts of " the country.” Now the fathers and predecessors of the present dissenting ministers having made this public protest and declaration at their subscription, and the legislature having accepted, or at least not rejected it under the favour of this protest, their successors may be supposed now to subscribe with the same disapprobation of the damnatory clause. If it were not to be
* Appendix, p. 78. + Life of Mr. Baxter,.p. 2362
thus taken, there is, I hope, not a minister among us but would publicly disown and re. nounce his subscription.
I should now proceed, Sir, to the examination of the other parts of your letters, to shew the great insufficiency of your arguments and objections; and to observe, that, in many instances, you have extremely mistaken, and given quite wrong representations of our religious principles and practice:
-But I relieve your patience for the present. If this province be undertaken by no other hand, you may, in some time, expect to hear farther from,
Your very humble servant,
*This subscription to the articles has since been entirely done away by act of parliament.
Sir, It is with regret I proceed in vindication of my dissent, as it will constrain me to say some things which may seem to be disrespectful to established forms of worship. But self-defence is a principle which generous minds allow strongly to operate. I highly reverence and esteem, and most heartily rejoice in, the great number of illustrious and excellent persons, both clergy and laity, of which the church of England can boast. But yet, as the present established forms were drawn up when this kingdom just emerged out of popish darkness; and, as in drawing them up, especial regard was had to the then weakness of the people, who could not be all at once entirely bronght off from the old ceremonies and forms; as there are several parts of our liturgy and ecclesiastical constitution which a great number, I apprehend, if not all our bishops and clergy, wish to see altered; and finally, as the alteration of those, and the removing a few things, acknowledged in themselves to be mutable and indifferent, would heal the unhappy breach, and restore the chief part of the dissenters to the church; upon all these accounts I may be allowed, I hope with freedom to make my defence against your vigorous attacks; and to represent my objections, and the grounds of my dissent, in as strong a light as I am able.
The part of a public monitor, and of my instructor in this affair, which you have voluntarily taken upon you, will allow ine, as I go along, to put you in mind of one or two great objections which dissenters are wont to urge, but which you have quite overlooked, and to intreat you will direct me how to get over thein.
“ We letter-writers, you say, have a privilege « of setting down our thoughts as they offer " themselves, without scrupulously adhering to " strict and close method."* This privilege you have indeed, with great freedom taken ; I shall therefore be indulged in the same.
To begin then, with your defence of sponsors in baptism. When an infant is brought to be entered by baptism into the family or church of God, and a solemn vow or engagement are to be made before the churcb for its religious education, it is the opinion of the dissenters, that the parents whose child it is, and to whom both God and nature have committed its education, are the proper persons to stand forth, and take upon them this great and important trust; and to bind themselves by a solemn vow faithfully to discharge it. Now our objections to the order and practice of your church are,
1. That, in a very arbitrary and strange manner, without the least shadow of authority from Feason or 'scripture, or the ancient practice of the church, you actually set aside the parents in this solemnity, and forbid them to stand forth, and take upon them this great charge to which God hath called them. For, your XXIXth canon expressly commands, That no purent shall be burged to be present at his child's haptism, nor be admitted to answer as godfather for his own child.. And,
2. That you require other persons to appear in the parents stead, and to take upon them this important trust, and most solemnly to promise, before God and the church, the performance of that which few of them ever do, or ever 'intend to perform, or perhaps are ever 'ca
Lotter III. p. 60.