The Charitable Samaritan. OR, A Short and Impartial Account, OF THAT Eminent, and Publick-spirited CITIZEN Mr. Tho. Firmin Who Departed this Life on Monday, Dec, 20. 1697. In a Letter to a Person of Quality.

By a Gentleman of his Acquaintance.

He being Dead yet Speaketh.

LONDON, Printed in the Year, 1698.

Aeternitati Sacrum. H. S. E.

Thomas Firmin, Londinensis,
Vir Integerrimus, consummatissimus
Cui summa in dictis fides
In moribus svavitas
In quotidiana consuetudine facilitas fuit.
Quem natura industrium,
Cura instructum,
Privata vita fecit illustrem.
Mediocri, at honesto loco natus,
Erecto fretus animo,
Umbratilis desidiae impatiens,
Ad publica munera se totum direxit.
Amicos, pauperes, imo omnes,
Ea fide, charitate, benevolentia amplexus est,
Ut universi orbis Civis,
Orphanorum Pater
Viduarum maritus,
Merito audiit.
Si, quod in pauperes erogatur, Deo creditur,
Maximum faeneratorem jure dixeris.
Male feriatos istos Systematum fabros,
Queis perplexa cavi Spirant Mysteria folles,
Sprevit, irrisit,
[Page] Mendacium ne (que) licebat, ne (que) pati poterat.
Christianae philosophiae adminiculis,
Quam puro, sincero, & avito Dei cultu
Rite condiit,
Ad vitam bene agendam,
Non ad ostentationem, usus est.
Amicitias coluit celebres & magnas,
Clar. Tillotsono [...] charissimus.
Postquam in Dei Opt. Max. cultum,
In civium publicos usus.
In pauperum levamen multa molitus esset,
Plura jam moliretur,
Candidissimam efflavit animam.

XIII Kal. Jan. Ann. Dom. MDCXCVII.

‘Abi Viator, & si potis es, imitare.’

THE Charitable SAMARITAN OR, A Short and Impartial ACCOUNT of that most Eminent, and Publick-Spirited Citizen, Mr. THOMAS FIRMIN.
In a Letter to a Person of Quality.

I Have in Obedience to your Commands, endeavoured to give the World some short Account of our most excellent Friend late­ly Deceased, and to deal Ingenuously with you, tho' your Com­mands have been always Sacred to me, I never in all my Life Obey'd you with greater Alacrity. To do Justice to the Dead, but especially those, who when living, were Ornaments of their Country, is an Office of Gratitude, which is Authorized by the practice of all Times, and Nations. And indeed 'tis highly rea­sonable, that the Memories of those Persons, that obliged not only their own, but succeeding Generations, should be Transmitted to Futurity; for since the present Age is not able to pay the Debt, it is fit that Posterity that shares the Benefit of their Piety, and La­bours, should be charged with part of it, and join in a common ac­knowledgement to the common Benefactors.

I don't here pretend to enter into a detail of all the Particulars of his Life, but only to Recount some passages of it that may be use­ful to the present, and serviceable to future Ages. Those Biographers, that affect to clog their Narration with abundance of frivolous, idle, impertinent Circumstances, as they do no honour to the Deceased; so they seem to have but a mean Opinion of their Reader, when they take such unnecessary pains to Amuse, instead of In­structing him. In the Delineation of a Life, as well as in a Picture, several things ought to be thrown into the Shade, and should not be seen by a full Light, for this reason I shall only consider him in his General Character, leaving other [Page 2] Minure Circumstances to be Recounted by those that have either more Leisure upon their Hands, or a greater Inclination for that way of Writing, and this I shall endeavour to perform in a plain Stile, and the same simplicity with which he Lived.

Mr. Thomas Firmin of London, Girdler, and Mercer, was one of the most Signal Examples of Charity, Candour, Integrity, Justice, and of all other Christian, and Moral Virtues as this, or perhaps any other Age of the World ever produced. He was Devout without Bigot­try, Ill-nature, or Affectation; he was Charitable, without Ostentati­on, or Design; he considered himself as a Citizen of the whole Universe, and took a singular Delight in Relieving the Unfortu­nate, and Oppressed. Tho he was as free from Infirmities, as most Men, yet he had an unconquerable Aversion to that Spirit of Ca­lumny, which is now so predominant, and as it was with much difficulty that he was induced to believe any ill Reports of his Neighbour; so he never Propagated them upon the highest Provocation. He adorn'd a Private Life with the Assiduity, and Vigilance of a Publick Minister, and was ever pursuing what he conceiv'd to be for the General Interest. If, as the Holy Writ assures us, He that gives to the Poor lends to the Lord, he may justly be said to be one of the greatest Usarers in the World; (a name which he abominated,) for he had them always in his Thoughts, his Wishes, and his Endeavours. He supported their wants not only by his private Munificence, which was extraordinary for one of his Rank; but by recommending their Condition with the greatest Fervour to all his Friends. I know it has been impotently objected against him by some Envious Persons, That he was a Gain­er by the Charities, which he Collected for the Needy. You, and I, and all that had the happiness to be Acquainted with him, know well enough, that this Reproach is Ill-grounded.

The Working-House in Little-Britain, (of which, more here­after) that was begun and carried on chiefly at his Expence, and that of his worthy Friends, who joyn'd with him in so excel­lent a Design, was so far from turning to any Advantage, that it proved a continual Charge to him; however, he who never consider­ed his own private loss, when it came in competiton with a Publick Be­nefit, still kept it on to his Dying Day. But this Calumny may be the better supported, since he shares it with so excellent a Person as his Grace, the present Arch-Bishop of Canterbury, who, when he was only private Pastor of a Parish-Church, Erected two Free-Schools, and a Noble Library, and yet has been Traduced by some Malicious Tongues, as if he had kept the greatest part of those Li­beralities, of which he was the Collector, to his own private Uses. [Page 3] As I said before, we that are his Friends may the better support this Injury done to him; since it affects so great a Prelate in com­mon with himself. But what station of Life, and Qualities of Mind, can preserve a Man from the assaults, and wounds of Envy, when so disinteressed a Virtue as Charity, cannot place him above the reach of Slander?

In his private Dealings as a Trades-man, no Man could be more Religiously Exact, and tender then he was; he gave particular charge to his Servants, that when ever there happened a difference in the Accounts between him, and any of his Correspondents, that they should always adjudge it in favour of the latter. He so cautiously avoided the very suspicion of Injustice, that he rather chose to wrong himself, than to make his Neighbour a sufferer. He imagin­ed that his Servants in the hurry of Business might be apt to commit some mistakess through Inadvertency, or Forgetfulness, but it could never enter into his Thoughts, that any one should think it worth their while to injure him, taking a Standard of the Integrity of all Mankind, from that which he so nicely followed himself.

He had observed with that rancour, and bitterness of Spirit, People of different Parties in his time had all along labour'd to black­en one another, and if the Trade of Calumniating, he said, could be so successfully, and generally carried on in so Inlightened an Age as this is, and in so small a Spot of Ground as England, when by the Invention of Printing it is so easie a thing to find out, and di­scover the Truth: He thought a Man in common Discretion should not be too forward to pass a rigid Censure upon several of those Persons, who in the Writings of Epiphanius, and other An­cient Authors, are Branded for Hereticks, and loaded with such execrable, and horrid Crimes, that Humane Nature one would hope could never be capable of. What helped to confirm him in this Opinion, is a famous Passage in Socrates, the Historian, who L. 2. C. 18▪ ingenuously tells the Reader, That it was a common Custom with the Bishops to Accuse those Persons who were turned out of their places, to pronounce them to be Impious, and the like, without giving themselves the trouble to justifie the Particulars of that Impie­ty they charged them with. Thus we have a frank Confession of what was commonly Practised in those Ages of the Church, and whoever doubts whether the same Methods were not carried on afterwards, let him but read what a Monstrous Account the Popish Writers have given of Wickliff, and the Lollards, as they call'd them; how hideously the Monks have blackned those Princes that were not in their Interests; what abominable Stories the Jesuits have reported of Luther, and [Page 4] Calvin; let him, I say, but turn over Sanders's History of the Reformation, the Catalogues of Bale, and Pits, Fox's Martyrs▪ and to come down to our own times, White's Centuries of Scandalous Divines, Edward's Gangrena, the several Mercuries in the late Civil Wars, the Querela Cantabrigiensis; the Histories of F. Maimbourg, and Varillas; the Packets of Advice, and the Observators; the Scotch Pres­byterian Eloquence, and the Answer to it, with a Million of other Ano­nymous Pamphlets, and Secret Histories; and if this don't convince him, I don't know what will.

He was a hearty Assertor of the Liberties of his Native Country, and looked with Indignation, and Contempt on those Citizens, who in a strain of Flattery, scarcely to be matched in the servile. Reigns of Tiberius, and Domitian, most humbly Addressed King Charles II. that he would be graciously pleased to put Chains and Fetters on them, and thus prostituted those Rights and Immunities, which their An­cestors had taken such care to Transmit safely to a most unworthy Generation. He thought that the perpetual Bellowing of Passive Obedience, and Non-Resistance, from the Pulpits, did not a little con­tribute to fix these Slavish Impressions upon People's minds: Admit these Doctrines were as certain as any in the New-Testament, why should they, as it were in preference to the rest, be everlastingly in­culcated to all Congregations? Or where was the Policy, to tell the King, and his Officers, that they might strip the People of all they possess'd in the World, and yet they were in Conscience bound not lift up a finger against them? What Man of sense that desires to keep his Wife honest, would be always ratling in her Ear, ‘Pawn my Plate, and injure my Bed, as often as thou wilt, for my Reli­gion teaches me to bear all patiently.’ Princes are naturally ambi­tious of Power, and don't need Instructors to tell them, that if they please, they may Govern their Subjects Despotically, and then quote them Texts of Scripture for it. But he often used to say, As long as Deaneries, and good Preferments, were to be got by Preaching this absurd stuff, so long the Church wou'd stand by it; but that if ever the Court came to put matters home to these Pas­sive Gentlemen, and pinch the Retailers of this monstrous Hypothe­sis, they would as certainly leave it in the lurch, as they would a starving Curacy in the Hundreds, for a rich Parsonage in a better Air. The event has confirmed the truth of what he said, for no sooner did K. James, and his Priests, begin to pull one of their Tythe-Pigs by, the Ear, but all the Pulpits from the Lands-end, to Berwick upon Tweed, rung of Persecution, and Tyranny; and since His present Majesty's accession to the Crown, the Laity has had the satisfacti­on [Page 5] of seeing their Teachers face about, and declare for the quite contrary Doctrine, or at least restrain it; except a few, whom ei­ther the real belief of a Principle early received, or the shame of being thought Turn-Coats, or Obstinacy, or Interest, and other By-ends, have hindred from taking the Oaths to the Govern­ment.

What was remarkable in a Person of his Private Condition, who had not the advantage of a Learned Education, or of an ample Fortune and Wealth to Support him, he was honoured with the Acquain­tance of the most Illustrious Men that this Age has produced. This he obtained by the Simplicity of his Manners, the Uniformity of his Life, by his Judgment, naturally Solid, and well Determin'd, and his active Genius that was capable of the greatest Undertakings. Not to mention several worthy Citizens of the most distinguish'd Rank, he was particularly Esteemd by the equally Learned, and Pious, Dr. Wilkins, Bishop of Chester; by the Honourable Mr. Boyle, the great Restorer of Natural, and Christian Philosophy; by that Eminent Oracle of the Law, Sir Matthew Hale, and (what will be the most lasting Elogy to our Friend, that I, or any other Hand can give him) he was happy in the Friendship of the most Excellent Prelate, that ever filled the Archiepiscopal Chair, the Incomparable Dr. Tillotson.

Having presumed to mention that great Name, which will be Sa­cred to all Posterity, in so worthless a Paper as this is, I hope, Sir, you'l give me leave to make a short Digression. You know, the Arch-Bishop has been Maliciously Represented in some Libels, as a Betrayer of the Church, and an Enemy to the Christian Faith; be­cause, when he was advanced to that Dignity, which he the best de­served of any of his Function, he was pleased to suffer a Visit now and then from his old Acquaintance. Mr. Firmin. All the Impar­tial World I believe is satisfied, that Dr. Tillotson was far from being a Socinian. His own Works sufficiently testifie it, to the everlasting Infamy of those that laid it to his Charge; and yet an innocent Correspondence with a Person, whose Unhappiness, and not Fault it was, to Dissent from us in some disputed Points, must be impro­ved into the blackest Sin imaginable, as if it were impossible to shew common Civilities to our Neighbour without being of his Opinion. Even the Church of Rome, which by virtue of its Infalliblity, has the best right to Prescribe its Sons what Company to keep, has not been able to influence several of its Worthy Members from paying a due deference to conspicuous Merit, tho' they found it lodg'd in an Enemy. Father Paul thought it no Scandal to him to pass his vacant [Page 6] Hours in Sir Henry Wooton, or Mr. Bedel's Company, tho' they dis­agreed from him in matters of Religion. Our Country-man, Mr. Hobbes of Malmsbury, who was no Friend to the Papacy, all the World knows, was singularly honoured by Gassendus, and F. Mersenne. The Learned Malpigius of Florence, never scrupled to keep a Correspon­dence with the Gentlemen of our Royal Society, tho' in his Coun­try they pass for Hereticks. Nay, before the late War, the King of France, who cannot be suspected of favouring Protestants, used to give Annual Pensions to Learned Men of all Countries, and Religi­ons, as for instance, to Monsieur Huygens, Spanheim, Groevius, and Isaac Vossius. Conversation must be confined to very narrow bounds indeed, if it be a Sin to have any Commerce with those that don't come up exactly to our Sentiments in every Point. But this spite­ful Objection has been chiefly made by two sowr, morose Church­men of our Nation; one of them an abdicated Dean, who has been already chastised for his Insolence by another Hand; the other is the famous Adversary of Dr. Sh—k, who, the truth on't is, deserves none of the civilest usage, but in a Subject that required the greatest Sobriety of Stile he has vented his Eury in a wayso boiste­ous, and unpresidented, (nam etiam sunt Belli jura) that if a System of Scurrility were to be compiled, I know not where the Materials are, to be so plentifully found as in his Writings. If the generality of the Divines were of this brutal, and savage Temper, (as Heaven be praised they are not) were a Man to express a steddy, incurable, unrelenting Hatred, he could not call it by a properer Term, than that of Odium Theologicum, after the same manner as the Pious Provision which both Regulars, and Seeulars take in Popish Countries, not to injure their frail Bodies with bad Liquor, has made the best sort of Wine to be commonly called, Vi­num Theologicum; and one might have reason on his side to apply to such Incendiaries the following passage out of the Preface to the fifth Edition of Father Simon's Critical History in French. Il y a long temps qu'en a remarque que les Theologiens sont gens sans pitie, & quils ne donnent jamais coup de dent sans emporter la piece. I purposely for­bear to Translate it into English, because, as to the general the im­putation is false.

I may venture to say, That no Age, and perhaps no Nation in the World has propuced a Man of a more useful, more Disinteressed, and extended Charity, since the Apostolic al times. He made it his bu­siness, and employed all his Interest (which was very considetable,) to relieve the Necessities of the Poor; under which Denomination, I don't comprehend those sturdy, abandon'd Vagrants, those lazy Counterfeits, and unprofitable Vermin; that to the eternal Scan­dal [Page 7] of our Laws, and Government, are suffered to pester our Streets and Highways, and fill all places with their impudent Clamours. But real Objects of Compassion, such as Orphans, and Widows, and House-keepers, that by unforeseen, and unavoidable Accidents, were reduced to Poverty. He looked upon us to be none of the ablest Politicians in the World, who living in a County natural­ly Productive of the best Commodities, having so much wast Ground to imploy idle Hands; and the Sea on every side of us that lies as much neglected, sting up all these advantages that our Situation, and Soil, have conspired to bestow upon us; and tho we pretend to give Laws to all Europe, yet are content to pay an igno­minous Tribute of 700000l. per Annum, to a parcel of unthank­ful, insolent Vagabonds at home. He was of Opinion, that if the afore­said Sum was thrown into a Common Stock, and Working-Houses Erected in all the considerable Market-Towns in the Kingdom, we should in a few Years find our Poor less burthensom to us than now they are; at least the Republick would derive this benefit from it, that tho the Contributions for them continued in the present State, yet an effectual stop would be put to the reigning Vice of Pilfer­ing, and Stealing: Besides that, by this means, he said, we should soon clear our Roads, and Streets of those troublesom People; we should breed a Healthful Generation of able Bodied Men, fit for the Plow, and Sea-service, and disarm our Beggars of the only tollerable Excuse they have for such a Profligate Life, viz. 'That they are wil­ling to Work, if any one would imploy them. Therefore to set a lead­ing Example to the rest of the Nation, he not only contributed what he thought proper for such a Design out of his own Purse, but enga­ged as many of his Acquaintance as he could, to Erect a Work­ing-House in Little-Britain; and tho the Manufactures that were wrought there, fell considerably short of answering the Expence of the Undertakers were yearly at, yet it produced this good effect, that it constantly imployed abundance of Necessitous Persons all the year round, who must otherwise have betaken themselves to a Vi­tious habit of Life, or else proved burthensom to the respective Parishes where they lived. I have dwelt the longer upon this Article, because, I am in hopes, that so generous, and so fresh a President, will prevail with our Patriots to cure their Country of this lingring Distemper, that has so long annoy'd it; especially at this Conjuncture, when the Ge­nius of England seems to be animated with a new Spirit, when we have a Victorious Monarch at the Head of the Government who is willing to rectifie all the Abuses, and Disorders of our Constitu­ion, [Page 8] and to put in Execution whatever his faithful. Senators advise him to; when the Royal Fishery, that will employ so many hands, has already made such considerable Advances; and lastly, when upon the Disbanding of our Land-Forces, we shall find our selves obliged to make some sort of Provision for the Soldiers, that they who behaved themselves so gallantly in Flanders, may not be ne­cessitated for want of Employment, tobetake themselves to indirect courses to prevent Starving.

As for that other Branch of Christian Charity, which relates to Men, as they unhappily differ from us in Points of Religion, it shin'd in every action of his Life, and indeed was interwoven with his Nature. He rightly judged, that nothing has given greater Scandal to the Jews, nor so sensibly wounded our Religion among Heathens, and Mahometans, nor furnished the Papists with a more Popular Objection? that in short, nothing has been, more effectu­ally made a pretence, even for Atheism, and Infidelity, than our unnatural Divisions, and Animosities, 'Tis indeed certain, that our Controversies about Religion, as we have aukwardly managed them, have at last brought even Religion it self into Disputet among such, whose weaker Judgments have not been able to dis­cern the plain, and unquestionable way to Heaven in so great a Mist, as these Bigots have most unseasonably raised. What renders the Scene more surprizing, those very Persons, whose duty it is to be Messengers of Peace, and to recommend it both by their Example, and Preaching, have rather sounded an Alarm to our contentious Spirits, than a Retreat, or Parly; so that by the distemper'd heat of these indiscreet Chymists, the Life and Spirit of Christianity, I mean, the Practise of it, has been so much rarified in­to airy Notions, and Speculations, that the inward Strength, and Vitals of it have been quite consum'd, and exhausted.

A Friend of mine happened to be once in his Company, when a Mer­chant that had lived several Years in the East-Indies, ask'd him, What he thought of the Mahometans, and Pagans, who, according to his Computati­on, Possessed at least the better half of the Globe. He made no difficulty to own, that as he should always prefer to be guilty of a well meaning Error, than rashly subscribe to a doubtful Truth, that carried great Rigours, and Severities along with it; so he hoped, that the Natu­ral Knowledge which all Men have of God, was capable either to procure them Eternal Felicity, or at least to preserve them from Mi­sery, if wanting other means to be better Instructed, they lived up to the plain, and easie Dictates of Reason: Upon which Head, give me leave, Sir, to to add a few Words of my own. 'Tis certain, [Page 9] that the Fathers of the Church, before they engaged in the warm Disputes with the Pelagians, did not talk of the Celebrated Heroes of Paganism, as Men that were Sentenc'd to everlasting Condemna­tion. Casaubon has proved it at large, in the first Chap. of his Book against Cardinal Baronius, and the famous Monsieur de la Mothe le Vayer, in his Book concerning the Virtue of the Heathens, has justified by adundance of Passages, that several of the Fathers, and School-Divines, (the latter of which, generally speaking, were not Men of the greatest Charity,) have Taught, that the Pagans, that lived Virtuous Lives, were not excluded from Salvation. Zu­inglius, who has been accused for a Man of too much warmth, maintained the same Opinion. Nay, the Jews themselves, who were so jealous formerly, to be thought the only People of God, and had so despicable an Opinion of all the World besides, make no scruple now to own, that a Man may arrive to Happiness, by the bare unassisted Religion of Nature, as the Learned, Dr. Addison, in his Account of them, has shown.

He always looked upon Liberty of Conscience to be the Birth-Right of every Christian, and that every Government was obliged in point of Interest, as well as bound by the common Principles of Hu­manity to indulge it; provided, it maintained nothing that was con­trary to Good-Manners, and the Peace of the Civil Society. I have been told what past in a Conversation between him, and an eminent Divine of this City, in the Year, 1683. when by the Artifices of the Ministry at the Court, the Church Party were made the Tools to carry on an unnatural Persecution against the Dissenters. Remem­ber what I tell you, Doctor, said he, You'l all of you live to Repent of this Inhumane, and unpolitick Usage of your Protestant Brethren. I know what Pretences you have for it, but they are unjust, and weak, Do you think these poor People would Meet in Corners, and that under perpetual apprehensions of being dragg'd to Jayl, and torn in pieces by Processes from Doctors Commons? Do ye think they'd sacrifice their Ease, their Liberty, and (as the World goes,) their Reputation too, for the sake of a peevish humour, that marks them out for Suffering, if not for Ruine, unless they were convinced in the Sincerity of their Hearts, that their way of Worship was right? I don't speak of their Teachers, for whatever Interest they may be presumed to Cultivate, the People I am sure can have none: If they are in an Error, 'tis certain, they are mistaken in good earnest: Nay I'm perswaded, that those that are Educated iu the worst, and falsest Reli­gions, do heartily believe them to be true. Hence I infer, added he, that no Man ought to be insulted upon this score, and the example of so many People, that Err in the simplicity of their Consciences, [Page 10] ought to inspire us with some tenderness towards those, whom we imagine to be mistaken. Besides that, it is a barbarous Solecism in any State, to force their Natives to seek Refuge in Foreign Coun­tries, because they can't believe all that is Prescrib'd to them, which it is not in a Man's Power to do, I have an Argument, continued he, still behind, which, tho it may look like a Paradox at first, yet I believe, will bring you over to my Party, when you have con­sidered it; I affirm then, that it is the interest of the Established Clergy, that the Dissenters should be Tolerated; we find into what abominable Disorders the Church of Rome fell when she Reigned Lady Paramount, in these Western parts of the World, without any one to oppose her; and what happened to one Church, may hap­pen to another; for the same Causes produce the same Effects. 'Tis certain, that the Reformers obliged her to Retrench several no­torious Abuses, and to them is owing all that improvement in Arts, and Sciences, which the Ecclesiasticks of that Communion have made since: In France, and Germany, where the Catholicks live intermixt with the Protestants, and consequently the Priests have a Thousand Spies upon all their Actions, that they are forced to be vi­gilant in their own Defence, like People upon a Frontier, and to live in some Deco [...]; whereas the quite contrary is to be seen in Spain, and Italy; there the Clergy live among a parcel of stupid, implicit Blockheads, that take all they say, for Oracles, have no Enemy to remind them of standing upon their Guard, fear no Reproaches, and apprehend no Rivals, so 'tis no wonder if they are as debauch­ed as ignorant, I know, concluded he, 'tis commonly wished, that all People were of one mind in matters of Religion; but in case it were practicable, I very much question whether it would be for your Interest, Doctor, that if it should be so. I am so well acquaint­ed with the infirmities, and weakness of Mankind, that I believe a state of Laziness and Security would be infinitely more prejudicial to the World, than a state of perpetual Discord, though that too is attended with several inconveniencies.

His Conversation was Easy, Pleasant, Familiar, but always inof­fensive; it was season'd with that agreeable Salt which gives a Life to all Discourse, but had no Bitterness, no Gall mixt with it. He endeavor'd fairly and candidly to convince those that dissented from him in their Opinions, but never affected the modern way of Usurping upon their Reason, much less did he pretend to silence them with an Ipse Dixit; and indeed, a Man that tells me my Sen­timents are ill grounded and irrational, without condescending to refute them by calm and sober Arguments, calls me Fool or Mad­man, [Page 11] with only a little more Solemnity: Yet these are the common Ci­vilities in Religious Disputes of most People to one another, who talk much of right Reason, and always mean their own, and make their private imaginations the Standard of General Truth. He never Diver­ted himself or the Company, at the expence of other People, and next to his own Reputation, which was Sacred to him, he cherish'd and supported that of his Neighbour. He was so far from making the Calamities and Misfortunes of any Man the subject of his En­tertainment, though he chanc'd to be never so inveterate an Enemy to him, that were it proper, I cou'd produce instances of several Citizens, that have represented him as an Atheist, and loaded him with the most Injurious, and cruel Reproaches, and yet when ei­ther by their own ill Management, or the common vicissitude that attends Human Affairs, they have been reduced to Wants, he has visited them in in a most obliging manner, and generously relieved them.

As he was consider'd in the World, as one that had an extraor­dinary interest in Persons of the most eminent Quality, 'tis no won­der that a perpetual Application was made to him, and that his Gates were crowded by Supplicants of all sorts. If any favour was asked him, he was slow to promise, as diffident what success he might meet with in the affair, or unwilling to be too troublesome to his Friends; but when he had once engaged his Word to any one, nothing cou'd be so Assiduous, so Indefatigable, and if I may be allow'd the expression, nothing so importunate. He was naturally Master of a very perswasive Talent of Speaking, and cou'd deliver himself Properly, and Pertinently, upon any Occasion: But tho' his Modesty wou'd never permit him to be a good Solicitor for himself, yet when he undertook to Prosecute the Rights of the Op­pressed, when he appear'd in behalf of indigent Widows and Or­phans, he exerted himself with unusual Vigour and Force, and seldom fail'd of gaining his Point. That Honourable Character, which Cornelius Nepos, bestows upon Pomponius Atticus, viz. That when he espoused any Friend's Cause, he pursued it with so much generous Zeal and Warmth, Ut non mandatam, sed suam rem agere videretur, seems to have been revived in him: He never paid the less respect to Virtue, for being Unfortunate; on the other hand, he took a Noble Pride in relieving and assisting the Afflicted; even those that were betrayed to Poverty by their own Extravagancies or Indiscretions, participated some share of his Charity, but always of his pious Advice, which he thought would make a deeper im­pression upon the party, and be better regarded, when it came ac­companied [Page 12] with some Benevolence. To justifie this Assertion, you know, Sir, I am able to cite abundance of singular Examples, if there were occasion for it, but having tied my self to give only a general Character of our Friend, I cannot, nor is it necessary, to descend to particulars.

Tho', as I have already Observed, his Charity was of so extend­ed a Character, that it reach'd to Persons of all Communions, and Perswasions, yet he cou'd never think of Popery, without the ut­most Horror and Detestation; and indeed, I never in all my Life, heard him mention it, all Candour and Gentleness as he was, with­out a visible Emotion and Resentment. He said, he cou'd forgive their Priests, for affecting a Dominion over the People, and ma­king a Penny of their Credulity; that this was natural enough, and might easily be accounted for, Ambition and Covetousness, be­ing two Vices that have their Spring from within, of which Eccle­siasticks are as well capable, as the Laity; but then he added, that he cou'd never be reconciled to their inhumane Cruelty, in persecuting all that dissented from them, and to that no less absurd, than abominable Idolatry and Polytheism, which was so notoriously visible in their Worship.

As to the former, he used to say, that it argued so Cowardly, so Pusillanimous a Spirit, that it betrayed so violent a distrust of the Merits of the Cause, that it so directly combated all the principles of our Holy Religion, and indeed, all the common impressions of Humanity, that where ever he found any Church abandoning it self to such Black and execrable Methods, for his part he was satisfied it had arrrived to the highest pitch of Corruption, and would look no farther: That such a procedure might be some­what excusable in the Mahometan Religion, which like a Neigh­bouring Prince, was Born with Teeth and Nails, cou'd Scratch and Bite in the Cradle, and fire Towns, and cut Throats before it was a Twelve Month Old; whose Institutor was a Bloody Mer­ciless Wretch, bred up in the Trade of Rapine and Plunder, a Monster compounded of Enthusiasm, Lust, and Cruelty, who left it as the only Legacy to his Followers, to propagate their Belief by the Sword; so this, he said, if it cou'd not be justified, yet no bet­ter cou'd be expected from these barbarous Proselite-Makers, who punctually proved their Master's Will, and took out Letters of Administration for him. But, that Christianity shou'd be made the occasion, at least the pretence, of all that Blood-shed and De­solation, which has been acted in the Western World for several Ages; that the Professors of it, whom formerly their Enemies [Page 13] cou'd not but admire for the sweetness of their Disposition, their Mutual Love, forbearance and condescention towards one another, shou'd now set up for Cannibals, and prey upon their own kind, nay, to inflame their reckoning, should have the impudence to pretend a Commission from their Master for doing all this, was the most unaccountable Prodigy in the world to him, and which (to our disgrace, be it spoken) cou'd not be matched in all the Annals of Paganism. Even among the Druids, the highest Punishment they inflicted upon Offenders, was to prohibit them from assisting at any of their Sacred Rites.Caesar de Bell. Gall. 1. 6. Siquis aut privatus aut publicus eo­rum decreto non stetit, sacrificiis interdicunt, haec paena apud eos est gravissima. If the modern Priesthood would sit down content with this discipline of their Predeces­sors, the Druids, (who were none of the mercifullest of their Cloath) and proceed no farther with their Delinquents, the Laity would have no great occasion to complain of them, for as the World has been since brought about, the Thu­nder of the Church is now degenerated into a Squib, and where it is not inforced by the secular Arm, carries no mighty Terror with it. The Gentlemen of the Black Robe, will perhaps say, that this is wicked Doctrine, but I wonder where the Impiety lies, to affirm that the Devil is not so much in the Clergy's Interest, as to obey their Summons, as often as upon every Triffle, he is served with a Subpaena from an Ecclesiastical Court.

As for the latter, I mean the charge of Polytheism and Idola­try, which he said was so fully proved upon them, by that most admirable Man, the present Bishop of Worcester, he lamented it as an unsurmountable Obstacle to the Conversion, both of the Jews and Mahometans. The Doctors of the Roman Church indeed by their subtile Distinctions of two Greek Words, en­deavour to mince the matter, but after all their pains to wash the Blackamoor, Idolatry is no better nor worse than Idolatry, and will be so to the end of the Chapter. If we look into their Rituals, and judge of their Belief by their Practice, we shall find that they pay to a whole Almanack full of Saints of their own making, the same Ceremonies, in the very same words, accompanied with the same Prostrations, as they do to God Almighty. They directly offer their Prayers, make Vows, and Consecrate Temples to them, nay, what is more, (for Su­perstition [Page 14] has no Bounds) they offer our Blessed Lord and Sa­viour to them, and yet they think to come off with their Termi­native and Relative. These new made Free-men of the Calen­dar, are Worshipt from Lapland to Japan, are invoked in a thousand places at once, and the Beatific Looking-Glass must solve all this, the Dream of some idle Sot of a Schoolman, without the least warrant from Scripture or Reason. They pretend good manners for this, and tell us that God Almigh­ty must not be rudely approached, but that the Petition must be delivered in by some Favourite. I wonder that these Gen­tlemen, that Pray thus by Proxy, shou'd not manage every thing else after this wise rate, and when they are to take Physick, that they don't employ a Friend to take the Dose of Pills, or Electuary in their stead.

He was for a plain intelligible Theology, such as our Sa­viour and the Apostles left it behind them, and such as it conti­nued for some time, till the Jewish and Grecian Converts, but especially the Philosophers, for different ends Debauch'd it with Ceremonies, and Muffled it up in Mystery. And since Religion was Calculated for reasonable Creatures, he thought, that Conviction and not Authority ought to influence Man­kind; for this Reason, he looked upon those Men to have no small share of Vanity, Laziness, or Weakness in their Composition, that suffer themselves tamely to be imposed up­on by magnificent Souuds, and numerous Citations. Plutarch in Solon's Life, tell us, That that famous Legislator inserted a Verse into Homer, to prove, That the Island of Salamis belonged of right to the Athenians; and who knows, what strange Interpo­lations have been made in the Ecclesiastical Monuments by Men, that valued the Interest of their Party, more then the Truth; especially, if we consider, that before the invention of Print­ng, few Copies of Books cou'd be Published at a time, and those fell into few hands, and might easily be supprest or corruptted; to which Temptation, I cou'd heartily wish, those we call the purest Ages of the Church, had never been exposed. An unintelligible, or absur'd Proposition, is to be never the more respected for its having travel'd far, or wearing the Ve­nerable Badge of Antiquity. That former Ages were so pro­digiously cautious and honest, as neither to be imposed upon themselves, nor suffer any Errors to be transmitted to their [Page 15] Posterity, is a Metaphysical Contemplation, with which super­stitious People may amuse or delight themselves in their Clo­sets, but is never to be urged to such Persons, that have ex­amined these matters. with more impartiality and care.

This naturally leads me to that part of his Character, which I confess, I would conceal from the rest of the World, if it lay in my Power, as it does not, since it is no Secret to those that knew him; but as I have pretended to give an impartial Account of our Friend, I find my self obliged to take some notice of it before I conclude. He was then (and I wish once more I cou'd conceal it) he was not so Orthodox, as I cou'd have wished he had been, in his Opinion about the Holy Trinity, and the satisfaction of our Saviour, according to the common Explications. I don't pretend in the least to Vindicate him in either, only give me leave to add, that as few Men in the World have been without their Errors, (I cou'd instance, if I pleas'd, in some of the best and learnedest Fa­thers of the Church) so I think a charitable Construction ought to be given of them, where the Person mistaking, was of no Obstinate, refractory Temper, but show'd in the whole Tenour of his Life, that he aim'd at nothing more than to find out the Truth, so that if he mist it in the pursuit, it should only be ascribed to humane Imbecillity, from which the great­est Men are not exempt. It ought to be consider'd too, that when he first appear'd in the World, he found the Nation involved in a Bloody Civil War, and the Church divided by several Schisms, as the state was distracted by different Facti­ons. The Laity at that time looked upon themselves to be ill used by the Leaders of both Churches, who did not seem to contend for the purity of Religion, so much as they did who should have the Rod in their hands, to jerk the poor People that were under their Power, and as it is natural for Men to run out of one extream into another, they imagin'd a cheat put upon them, even where there was no reason to suspect one. He was naturally inquisitive, and devoted as much time to Reading, as a life so taken up as his, but generally employ'd in the service of others, would well permit. He had observed how inconsistent with themselves, and how dif­ferent from us, the Fathers of the Church were before the [Page 16] Nicene Council, in their Explications of the Trinity, which extorted this Confession from the LearnedEpist. ad Fratrem 152 Gro­tius; Constat mihi Patres in explicatione harum re­rum plurimum dissensisse, etiamsi vocum quarumdam sono inter se conveniunt. That to give an instance or two of their strange confusion or uufairness,Edit. Oxon. p. 81. Theophilus, Anti­ochenus, speaking of the [...], or the second Per­son of the Trinity, calls him the [...], or Holy Ghost, which [...] descended upon the Prophets; thatSimil V. c. 7. Hermas a Writer in the Aposto­lical Times, uses the word Spiritus Sanctus, in the same sense with Mens Humana; that St. Barnabas, or some body under his Name, Cap. 12. quotes Isaias, for [...], Christo meo Domino, instead of [...] Cyro, as the LXX, and we have rightly Translated it; that it is often difficult to know whether a word is to be taken in the figura­tive or proper sense, as the Word Elohim, so much used in this con­troversy among the Jews, in its primary meaning, signifies the Supream and only God, but that it is frequently applied in Holy Writ to Angels and Princes; that as for the famous passage in St. John, Cap. 5. v. 7, 8. which our Bibles, after the See Dr Burnet's Tra­vels, Let. [...]st. Manuscripts of a more modern date, read thus. There are three that bear Record in Heaven, the Fa­ther, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are One, and there are three that bear Witness in Earth, the Spirit, the Water, and the Blood, and these three agree in one. The Alexandrine Manuscript has only these Words, There are three that bear Witness, the Spirit, &c. so have all the Ancient Greek Copies, as also the Syriac, the Arabic, the Aethiopic, and Latin Inter­preters in the oldest Manuscripts; that if the Words, accor­ding as we find them in our Editions, are extant in any of the Ancient Books, they are Written in the Margin, and not in the Text, and generally in a later Hand: That as several learned Annotators have observed, 'tis plain that many of the Fathers did not read the above mentioned Passage about the Witnesses in Heaven, as now we do, because they never make use of it in their Disputes with the Arians, although they cite the other about the Witnesses in Earth, as is evident from the case ofOrat 36. Gregory Nazianzen; that tho' in answer to this, it may be objected, that St. Cyprian read this passage [Page 17] as our Bibles now have it, because in his Book de Ʋnitate Eccles he has these words, De Patre, & Filio, & Spiritu Sancto scri­ptu [...] est,—hi Tres unum sunt. Yet F. Simon, in his Critical History of the New Testament, c. 18. has well observed, it is not probable St. Cyprian read the Words so, and yet St. Austin should never employ them against the Arians of his Time; and therefore that learned Critick, not without good grounds, supposes that St. Cyprian adapted the Words of the 8th. Verse, Et hi tres unum sunt (for so the Vulgar Latin reads it,) to the Father, Son, and holy Ghost; and 'tis certain that St. Cyprian frequently cites several Passages out of the Bible, with the same assurance as if he had cited the very express Words: That however it came about, the same variety of Reading is to be found in several other Texts; as for example, the third Verse in the first Epistle of St. John, c. 4. which the Greek Copies,These Words inclu­ded in the Parenthe­sis, are wanting in the Alexandrine MS. as likewise the Syriac, and Arabic Versions read with us, Every Spirit that confesses not that Jesus (Christ is come in the Flesh) is not of God, the Vulgar Translation, as also Irenaeus, l. 3. c. 18. Tertullian, l. 5. contra Marcionem, c. 16. and Socrates, l. 7. Hist. Eccles. c. 32. read it Omnis Spiri­tus qui solvit Jesum, ex Deo non est: That thus in the fourth Verse of St. Jude, the Word God is not in the Alexandrine MS. nor in two of Beza, nor in five others mention'd in the Oxon. Edition, nor in the Latin Interpreter: That in the Epistle to the the Romans, c. 9. v. 5. Christ is called God blessed for ever, whereas St. Cyprian, l. 2. adversus Judaeos, and Hilary upon the Second Psalm omit the Word Deus, and St. Chrysostom seems to have read it so: That likewise in the first Epistle to Timothy, c 3. 16. where we read it God made manifest in the Flesh, the same Word is left out in the Latin and Syriac Version, which Lection is confirm'd by the Clermont MS. and by another cited in the Oxford Edition, upon which Place Erasmus supposes it to have been added by the Orthodox to stop the mouths of the Arians; but Beza, that it was designedly omitted by those that denied the Divinity of our Blessed Saviour: That thus in Acts, Ch. 20. v. 28. where our Bibles read it the Church of God, the Alex. the Greek and Latin Interpreter, and three Ox­ford [Page 18] MSS. read it [...] of the Lord; others in the same sense [...], the Arabic following the latter, the Syriac the former reading, and this being one of those Places which the Nestorians and Eutyçhians made use of in their Con­troversies, it is not so much to be ascribed to the negligence of the Copier, as to the Design of some Persons that endeavoured to make St. Paul of their Party: That not to insist upon the Variety and I will trouble the Reader with one Instance of this, thô it does not relate to the present Di­spute, to shew how much di­screeter a Part some People would act to be less decisive in their Opinions. In the Epistle to the Romans, c. 5. 14. St. Paul says that Death reign'd from Adam to Moses, even o­ver them that had not sinn'd after the similitude of Adam's Transgression. Origen has ob­served that the Particle not was wanting in many Copies; and Hilary the Deacon prefers this Reading. Yet in this, and the last Age, what ill-natur'd Wars have the Divines rais'd about it, tho' at this distance 'tis impossi­ble to tell which is the genuine Lection. Corruption of the several Texts which the Orthodox and Unortho­dox equally cite for themselves, the Ancient Divines, and principally the Schoolmen, sometimes out of ne­cessity, but oftner out of design, sel­dom keep to the received definitions of Words, from whence proceeds the great obscurity of their Wri­tings, and endless Contentions about Terms; while speaking the same things in other Words, they don't, or will not understand one another: That the old Controversies between the Eutychians and Nestorians seem to have arose from this defect: for while Eutyches call'd that Nature, which others call'd Person; and, on the other hand, Nestorius meant that by the Word Personae, which others did by Natur [...]; the whole Eastern world was set in a Flame by those People, who, as far as we can guess by their Writings at this Interval of Time, meant the very same thing: That St. Austin himself, in his Book, De Trin. c. 9. where he wou'd perswade the Reader that the thing, thô incomprehensible, may be under­stood, but that the Divines want Words to express what they understand, fairly owns that nothing is said all this while by the Words they use, Dictum est tamen tres persona, non ut ali­quid diceretur, sed ne taceretur: That the Citations, which Rit­tangel, and others, bring out of the Jewish Authors to prove [Page 19] the belief of this Mystery amongst that People, seem to be as suspicious as the Testimonies alledg'd by Galatinus a Minorite of the Church of Rome, De Arcanis Cathol. Ver. l. 1. out of Rabbi Cahana, Rabbi Judas, and Rabbi Simeon, and lately by that Turn­coat of Putney Mr. Sclater, to prove the monstrous Doctrine of Transubstantiation; or if they are true they may probably be supposed to be borrowed out of Platonic Writings, with which 'tis certain the Jews from the time of the Lagidae and Seleucidae were not unacquainted: That what has been urg'd of the Nati­ons most renown'd for Antiquity, and deep Speculation, that they fell upon the same Doctrine of a Trinity of Hypostases in one Divine Essence, either comes not up to the matter in hand,De Isid. & Osir. as what is said of the Persians, who, as Plutarch affirms, believ'd a good and a bad Being, together with one of a middle Na­ture; or else is utterly false, as what has been pretended out of Porphyry and Jamblious of the old Aegyptians: That long before the Coming of our Saviour, Plato asserted three Principles,In Timaeo, & Epist. 2 & 5. the first of which he calls [...] the Cause of all things; the second [...], the Word and Gover­nour of things present and to come; the third, [...], the Soul or Spirit of the World; and that he held the second Principle to be begotten or created by the first, and the third by the second: That 'tis a Matter of great difficulty to know whether St. John used the Word [...] in the same sence as Plato and his Disciples used it; for if we affirm he did; it makes for the Arians; and if we deny it, 'tis certain that different things lurk under the same Expression, which creates a great deal of uncertainty: That 'tis doubtful whether the Ancients, when they say that the Hypostasis of the Son was [...] or E­ternal, meant that it was without any beginning, as that of the Father is acknowledged to be, or whether they call'd it so be­cause it was before the World: That Ter­tullian seems to be of the latter Opinion,Contra Hermogenem cap. 3. & 18. where he says, That the Son was not always, and that he was not without a beginning, And [Page 20] that several of the Anti-Nicene Fathers intimate, That the Son was begotten a little before the World, tho' they expresly call him [...]: That the Primitive Christians, who had been Platonists before their Conversion, endeavour'd to accommodate the Notions of Plato to those of the Bible; as we find the We­stern People afterwards play'd the same Tricks with Aristotle; and the Car [...]esians now a-days are not wanting to interpret the Apostles, out of Car [...]esius. That the Nicene Council, which those whose interest it is to admire these Assemblies, set out in such magnificent Terms, was principally compos'd of a pack of wrangling, contentions Graecians, Men bred up in Controversie all their Life, and perpetually quarrelling with one another, and a few ignorant, simple, credulous Divines out of the West, but not a jot better than the former; who, after a World of foolish, shameful squabling between themselves, were brought to Bed at last of a set of obscure Articles, couch'd under none of the most intelligible Terms, which the stupid People were to receive with the same Veneration, as if they had dropt down from Heaven: That there were such visible Adulterations of the Works of the Primitive Authors, of which Ignatius's Epistles will be a lasting Instance, and the Trade of the Pi [...] Fraudes, so universally carried on in the first and best Ages, of which the Sybilline Oracles are Testimonies sufficient, that it was not safe to depend too much upon any Authorities: That lastly, If our Salvation so intirely depended upon the Belief of this Doctrine, which gives so great a shock to unassisted Natural Reason, it seems highly agreeable to the Justice and Wisdom of God, that he wou'd have deliver'd it in plainer and more express Terms, since now both Parties pretend to justifie themselves equally out of the Bible; and (to Instance in no other Passage) the Arians as well as Homoonsians support their Hypothasis out of St. Paul's [...].

I have thus briefly run over some of those Reasons which determin'd our Friend to this Heterodox Opinion, for so with the rest of the World I am oblig'd to call it; and I hope I need make no Apology to my Reader, (I am sure I need make none to you, who know me so well) for thus publickly set­ting [Page 21] them down; for tho' they appear'd convincing and satis­factory to him, or at least kept him from pronouncing Ana­thema's against those that cou'd not come up to the Rigours of the Quicunque vult, they may carry no great weight with any one else. For my part, I who have known the World long enough to entertain no very honourable Notion of Synods and Councils, where Men of Design, and such there will always be, carry'd with them the same Passions and Animosities, that we now be­hold in our Senates and Civil Assemblies, without their Decisi­on take the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity upon Content, such as I find it in the New Testament, and never trouble my Head about the Modus or different Explications with which the Scabies disputandi has (to give it no worse a word) so long a­mus'd the Christian World. Had these pack'd, and as they were manag'd,Gaspar Scioppius. useless Meetings of the Pre­lates (for I am of a late Grammarians Mind who not unjustly defin'd the Representative Church to be Mandra, seu grex jumentorum, sive asinorum) instead of busying their Thoughts about Creed-making, employ'd the Authority they usurp'd, to promote the real practice of Chri­stianity, it had been much happier for themselves, and for us that succeed them.

I have the less to say to the latter Point, I mean the satis­faction of our Blessed Saviour, because our Friend was recon­cil'd to the Term, in the moderate sense of well-pleasedness long before his Death, which, to the Grief of all that knew him, and the loss of his Country in general, happen'd on the 20th. of this Instant December, after two Days Sickness. He wou'd indeed often argue, how a vicarious Punishment cou'd possibly consist with the Divine Justice or Mercy; and how any Redemption cou'd be necessary to atone for Adam's Trans­gression, whom Millions had never heard of, and no one had ever commission'd to transact for him. As for Sacrifices, about which 'tis left to every Man's liberty to think as he pleases, since it is no Article of our Faith, he cou'd never be induced to believe them to be of Divine Institution; but being used by all the Neighbouring Nations, to have been indulg'd the Jews (as [Page 22] the Kingly Government was afterwards) upon the account of their stubborn obstinate Temper, which was much delighted with Pomp and Shew. In this particular, he has several of the most Learned Men of this Age concurring with him; and if I may be allow'd to interpose my own Opinion, I think Dr. Spencer, and Monsieur Le Clark have put it beyond any manner of Dispute, that not only Sacrifices (which, but especially those of the Expiatory kind,The Pagans had a gross Notion, that their Gods, whom they looked upon to be little better than Corporeal, were plea­sed with the Nido [...] of their Victims. seem to have been invented by a Superstitious or design­ing Priesthood) but most of the other Rites and Ceremonies that we meet with in the Jewish Oeconomy, were practis'd first by their Neighbours, and after they were purged of their Idolatrous dross, tolerated in that stiff-necked People.

And now, Sir, I am arriv'd to the Conclusion of this tedious Letter, which if it does not wholly answer Mr. Firmin's Cha­racter, I hope you'll impute it to the hurry and disorder I was in at the time of writing it. I wish you had imposed your Com­mands upon some abler Person, whose manner of managing the Subject, might have born some proportion to the Dignity of it: For to say the Truth, Mr. Firmin was a most excellent Member of our Commonwealth, who bent all his Studies, Labours, and Inclinations to serve and advance the Publick Good. He had his Infirmities as has been shewn, but they ought never to be re­membred to his prejudice, since he had so many Vertues of the first magnitude to over-balance them. Let it never be said, that he who treated all Mankind, with universal Charity, when alive, should not be treated with the same Charity himself now he is in the Grave.

SIR, I am,
Your Humble Servant.

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