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CHURCH OF ENGLAND
AND PROVED TO BE
THE GENUINE AND JUST CONSEQUENCE
ALLEGIANCE WHICH IS DUE TO JESUS CHRIST,
THE ONLY LAWGIVER IN THE CHURCH :
• BEING THE
DISSENTING GENTLEMAN'S LETTERS, &c.
IN ANSWER TO THE
LETTERS OF THE REV. MR.WHITE,
ON THAT SUBJECT,
BY MICAIAH TOWGOOD.
THE TWELFTH EDITION.
. TO THE
I HE gentleman to whom these Letters are addressed, having made it necessary for the dissenters to vindicate their religious principles and practices, they think themselves happy, that, in consequence of the enlarged and liberal sentiments of the present age, they can make their defence without much danger of the heavy fines and imprisonments to which their forefathers were exposed.
A calm and unprejudiced examination of their cause, is the only method by which they wish to promote it. Such an examination, they are confident will shew,- That they are nonconformists to the established church in those points only, in which she is not conformed to the primitive and apostolic plan of discipline and of worship, as established in the word of God; and that, if the governors of this church would lay aside those things, which many of the most eminent of the clergy, as well as the most discerning of the laity, have long known, and even . acknowledged, to be no part of genuine christianity, the differences between churchmen and dissenters would cease, and we should immediately join together with one heart, and one mouth, giving glory to God.
The dissenters cheerfully appeal to every candid and impartial inquirer, who will attend to the subject, whether their dissent from the church of England is not founded on the most weighty and cogent reasons. They have only
one principle on which they rest their cause-THAT THE SCRIPTURES ARE A PERFECT RULL OF FAITH AND OF MANNERS, and that, as the power of interpreting authoritatively, for others, those scriptures, which contain the christian religion, cannot be assumed by any man without directly, opposing the genius and spirit of that divine religion, no civil magistrate has, ever had, or ever can have, any right, authority, or power, over the consciences and religious opinions of christians.
The dissenters, therefore, believe it to be their duty to enter their most solemn protest against the new edition of christianity, with corrections and amendments, which their brethren of the establishment have taken upon them to set forth; and they have much satisfaction in knowing, that many of the wise and learned, and the good amongst all ranks and degrees, both of the clergy and the laity of the established church, have adopted, and are in many respects influenced by, the peculiar distin guishing principles of the dissenters, though, from various motives, they do not openly profess them. selves to be dissenters.
No one, who entertains a just sense of the dignity of human nature, can forbear to treat with an honest indignation, every restraint which ) the authority of the church presumes to lay on his reasoning powers; and to this laudable pride of man it must be imputed that to those who are unhappily tempted to submit to the unchristian usurpation, so many appear solicitous to reassert their liberty and independence, and to make by this means some atonement for the treason of which they have been guilty against the sacred right of conscience. Hence it is, that often in their conversation and their sermons, and not seldom in their publications, they resume those unalienable privileges, which they once
pretended to renounce; and shew, that they will think and reason for themselves, notwithstanding their former solemn declarations of assenting and consenting to the determinations of the church.
While things continue in this state, the dissenters are well warranted in asserting, that their cause is countenanced, and that their disa tinguishing principles are virtually espoused by a very respectable number of the established church ; for, all those who print, preach, speak, or even think on religious subjects, in any degree · contrary to the articles which they have subscribed, are so fạr dissenters that they renounce the authority of the church in matters of faith. Over men of this description, the non-subscribing dissenters have the greatest advantage in respect to that consistency of character, which“ is of so much importance to the true dignity and happiness of man.
It is hoped, that every person who reads the following defence of the principles of the dissenters, will remember, that the only point in dispute between them, and the defenders of the established church is this :
WHETHER MEN ARE TO REASON AND JUDGE FOR THEMSELVES CONCERNING THE ARTICLES OF FAITH, AND THE RIGHTS AND CEREMONIES OF RELIGION, AS APPOINTED! BY JESUS CHRIST, THE ONLY LAW GIVER OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH? OR,
WHETHER THE CHURCH, AS BY LAW' ESTABLISHED, HAS POWER TO DECREE RITES AND CEREMONIES AND AUTHORITY IN CONTROVERSIES OF FAITH?
May the God of truth judge between the contending parties ! He will judge in righteousness: and to him alone be the glory of dominion over. conscience, and all authority in religion throughout all churches, in all ages. Amen.