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this is to beg the question ; that is to take it for granted that a decree is false, and then compare it with the scripture to see whether it be true. If this is your method, you must unavoidably con. clude as your advisers have done before you. To prevent which, I recommend those words of the wise man--He that answereth a matter, before he heareth it, it is folly, and shame unto him.o A Protestant who enters upon a mock inquiry with these prejudices and anticipations, is guilty of great injustice towards his Christian brethren, and is all the while putting a trick upon
himself. If you
consult the discourse to the reader, prefixed to the Catholic doctrine, you will see, to. ward the latter end of it, upon what grounds I have charged the learned Dr. Clarke, and his followers, with this unfair practice of bringing to the scripture that knowledge which they ought to receive from it. Perhaps you never heard any history of that author, therefore I will tell you thus much of him : that he was a man greatly to be respected for his temper and scholarship; but it happened, unfortunately for his character as a Christian, that he wrote a celebrated book upon the being and attributes (or perfections) of God; and having discovered, as he thought, by the force of his own wit, what God was and must be in all respects, he rejected the Christian doctrine of the trinity; and to put the best face he could upon his unbelief, spent much of the remainder of his life in writing am
o Prov. xiv. 13.
biguous comments, and finding various readings, that is, in picking holes in the Bible.
The author of an Appeal to the Common sense of all Christian people, calls him, the immortal Dr. Clarke,p and has borrowed from him the substance of that whole book, which was the worst thing he ever wrote in his life. The glittering characters of great, learned, and im. mortal, are frequently thrown out with an intention to dazzle the eyes of common readers ; and chiefly by those writers who are most forward to accuse us of an implicit obedience to human authority, and the decrees of fallible and interes. ted men.
But if you leave the faith and hope of a Christian, your loss will be equally great, whether you are tempted to it by the Pope of Rome, or by the immortal Dr Samuel Clarke.
VIII. Now we are upon the subject of human characters, I will propose to you, on the other hand, those learned and godly martyr's, who were concerned in reforming the church of England from the errors of Popery. If the doctrine of the trinity is so contrary to the scripture, as our adversaries would have you believe, how did it happen that these men, who were certainly endued with all the advantages and ornaments of human learning, and had the Bible so often in their hands, that they translated every word of it into the English tongue, suffer. ed this doctrine of the trinity to stand unreform. ed ? I will shew you how the Arians endeavour. ed to solve this difficulty, which is indeed a very
great one. They say " it may tairly be presumed, that as they were just come ou oi :he gross corruptions of Popergo, they did not see the whole truth as it is in Jesus.”q So that notwithstanding their resolution to reform, yet Popery hung about them still, and they did not retorm so much as they ought to have done. But if you are to be guided by presumptions, you will soon discover, that the fairer presumption is on the other side, when the nature of men and things upon such occasions is rightly considered. When tares growing amongst wheat are to be plucked up, there is not nearly so much danger that any tares should be left behind, as that some of the wheat should be plucko ed up along with them. If you have a crooked stick in your hand, and would make it straight, the first step you take is to bend it too much the contrary way; after which it may come la be right at last. Just so it happens, that if mankind are offended with any thing, and sensible of a past error, they are apt to fly from it with such an undistinguishing version, as to fall-before they are aware, into the contrary extreme : and their prejudice if they have any, is not for but against, what they are correcling. Instead of doing too little, they are in danger of being in such a heat as to overdo every thing they set about ; whence it is most naturally to be inferred, that our divines, who reformed the errors of Popery, were not then inclined to act in fa. Por of Popery. A spirit of reformation is an
9. Ibid. p. 45
excellent thing; and I wish to God it abounded amongst us more than it does, provided it would exert its force against those real corruptions, which are but too visible to all serious members of the church of England; but unless it is tempered with great wisdom and caution, it degenerates naturally into a spirit of contradiction. Which things being considered, I would advise you not to be influenced by any presumptive reflections upon the judgment of our first reformers, till the Arians are able to prove, by some direct evidence, that the doctrine of the trinity, as now expressed in our creeds and offices, is an unreformed article of Popery.
IX. Our adversaries lay so great a stress up. on this charge of Popery, and find it so conve. nient at every turn, that they are determined to make Papists of us at any rate : therefore they assure you, in words not fit for a Christian to repeat, that “ the church of Rome had as good a right to impose the worship of angels, and the virgin Mary, upon the consciences of men, as the church of England had to impose the worship of the holy Spirit as God, and of three persons as one God.”r The Papists, without question, will thank them for putting the worship of the virgin Mary upon a level with that of the holy Spirit. But this respect being paid to the Papists at our expense, it is proper you should be made acquainted with the merits of this affair.
The Papists do not pretend to justify their worship of the blessed virgin by any preceptor example of the scripture ; but tell you in some fabulous legends, what heavenly favors have been granted to her worshippers ; that ignorant people may be encouraged to the like idolatry. But where will the Arians find any such stories imposed by the church of England, to justify the worship of the Holy Ghost ?
r P. 2
If you ask the Papists how they can prove that we ought to worship the blessed virgin, the best argument they can allege, is the prac. tice and infallibility of their own Roman catholic church : but do we ever attempt to quiet your scruples with any pretensions, to unscriptural authority, or personal infallibility?
Let us pass at length to the scripture itself, which will shew you how dangerous it is for unlearned and well.meaning people to trust themselves in the hands of an Arian reasoner.
Doth the scripture in any chapter or verse of it, call the bodies of Christian people the temple of the virgin Mary? But the apostle St. Paul saith-Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost is And what is the use of a temple ? Is it not an house of prayer, praise, and sacrifice ? He that has a temple must be enti. tled to divine honours in it; or we shall be guil. iy of idolatry when we worship him in his own temple ; which is absurd. The apostle himself makes his practical inference in the words which immediately follow-Therefore glorify God in your body. And if the word God in this place de
$ See Cath. Doct. Chap. ii. Art. 10.