SOM FREE REFLECTIONS Upon Occasion of the PUBLIC DISCOURSE ABOUT Liberty of Conscience, And the Consequences therof in this pre­sent Conjuncture.

In a Letter to a Friend.

By one who cordially imbraces whatsoever there is of tru Religion in al Professions, and hates every thing which makes any of them hate or hurt one another.

Licenced August the 11th. 1687.

LONDON, Printed, and Sold, by Andrew Sowle, at the Crooked-Billet in Holloway-Lane in Shoreditch, and at the Three Keys in Nags-Head-Court in Grace-Church-Street, over-against the Conduit, 1687.

SOM Free Reflections, &c.

Dear SIR,

THE Information you gave me upon my first arrival here of the great Ferment that is now raised in mens mindes by the Kings late Decla­ration for Liberty of Conscience; and the Coun­sel you were pleased to giv me therupon for my own Conduct, that I should be cautious in asserting any O­pinions contrary to the currant Stream of the Times; This Information, and this Counsel, I say, were so Prudent and so Friendly that I acknowledg my self obliged to you for them, and therfore I now return you my hearty thanks. I know not how you came to imagin that such a precaution was necessary for me, who have been so long a Stranger to my own Country, and by consequence, who am not much wedded to any of those particular Factions, that have this long while miserably divided it. But I must confess to you, that so it is. The News I had heard of that Declaration a­broad, had been so pleasing to me, as seeming the only possi­ble Cure for those unhappy divisions, that without your previous advice I should have been astonished at the dislike I have heard exprest of it by many of my best Friends; and [Page 4] perhaps not able therupon to refrain from opposing them, so directly as might have lost me their Esteem and Friendship which I am very desirous to conserv. Wel, it is to you then that I ow the obligation of some prudent reservedness, which I have yet maintained in all occasions of converse about public Concerns, during these eight or ten Days that I have been here: And it is to you therfore that I am now resolved to address my self for further directions. Such a reservedness has indeed in it a Prudence which self Interest wil always exhort unto: But when the matter is of public and great concernment, so narrow a confinement seems unsuitable to the generous Principle of universal Charity, wfiich the Christian Religion insites us unto. That Principle, you know, is apt to move me when occasions seem to require it. And therfore that I may not er in my general aim of contributing towards the public good, I desire you to weigh with me those Considerations which have rendred the pros­pect of a general Liberty of Conscience so pleasing to me; that I may, upon your better advice, either propagate or stifle them, as shal appear most consonant to my Duty.

The thing in it self is so agreeable to the nature of Man­kind, and to the particular Laws of the truly Primitive Christian Religion, that it is much to be wondered how so sociable a Creature as Man is, and so meek a Creature as a Christian ought to be, should have ever infringed such an excellent Rule. Can any thing be more reasonable than for e­very man to allow unto another that Liberty which he desires for himself? Can any thing be more peaceable than that Prin­ciple, which, allowing such a Liberty, dos therby take away the occasion of bitterest Contention? The very Light of Na­ture directed the Wise Heathens unto it, during som Thousands of Years; insomuch that whatever other Differences hapned among them, upon account of civil Interest, their Societies [Page 5] were never disturbed by the disagreement of their Conceptions in matters of Religious Speculation. The Jews, who had greater reason than any other Nation to set a high valu upon their own Law, as having received it by an extraordinary Ministration, yet nevertheless attempted not to force any one to a compliance therwithal, who lay not under the same Conviction as themselves. The Primitive Christians, who reasonably may be supposed to have had the truest sense of their great Master's Instructions; were so far from inculcating any Principles of Persecution, that they exclaimed against the practice of it, as the greatest mark of that Antichristianism which had been▪fore-told them was to spring up in the World. The Arguments with which this Principle of Liberty, or Toleration, has been defended ar many and strong. But it would be very superfluous in me to insist upon them unto you, who have seen and heard them repeated of late Years in a thousand Forms, and who I know ar your self▪ convinced of the natu­ral equitableness of the thing, not withstanding al the incon­veniencys that you have represented to me in its practice. I wil therfore ad only one reason for it, which seems to me in­vincible, and then pass to the consideration of those inconve­niencys, which is my main design.

I say then that the establishing of any Religious Perswasion by Force is unreasonable, because indeed it is impossible. The Minde of man is not capable of receiving any conviction but either by sensible proof, or rational demonstration. Blows and Torments may force an outward Complyance, but they cannot work any change in the Heart; and therfore, neither can any such forced complyance be acceptable to God, be­cause 'tis only the Heart that he looks after. Thus then it is evident that al the effect of any forcible Imposition in Reli­gion, in those that ar so forced, can be nothing but Hypo­crisie; and consequently that nothing can be more unjust, [Page 6] nor more ridiculously absurd than to attempt the establishment of any Religion by such like means. Let it be therfore concluded between you and me, as I know it is, that no man has right to impose upon another in matters purely Religious; Which is to say, That every man has right in those matters to enjoy his own Liberty. And now let us examine what Advantages or Inconveniencys may arise from that Liberty in the present Conjuncture of Affairs in England; and con­sequently, whether a Prudent and an Honest man ought sincerely to wish for it, and contribute unto it, in such oppor­tunities as Providence puts into his hands, or no. That is the very Question which now concerns me, and therfore I wil endeavor to lay it before you as plainly and as impartially, as I can.

The Liberty of Conscience now aimed at in England, in the ordinary Discourse of People, implys no less than the change of our Laws; and that especially in those two im­portant Heads, the Penalties imcumbent upon Dissenters, and the Test for the discovery of Dissenters. These have been looked upon by som as the Bulwarks of our security; and therfore it is not much to be wondred if the discourse of their removal dos alarum those mens mindes. Nevertheless if it be considered how little security those things have been unto us, how little rest they have procured us; nay on the contrary, what discontent and murmuring, what contests and factions they have raised and fomented among us; I say, if this be considered, methinks the ground of mens present apprehen­sions should in a great measure be taken away. What good is it, in truth, that those Laws have don us? They have not hindred the spreading of any fanciful Opinions among the different Sects into which we ar divided. But they have rendred al those Sectaries discontented, inclined them to Sedition and Rebellion, and therby made the Government it [Page 7] self uneasy and unsecure. This is plain matter of fact, most evidently visible to every one that dos not wilfully blinde him­self. Why therfore should any one be alarumed at the change of those Laws which we have experienced to be so insignifi­cant, not to say so contrary unto the very ends for which they were Established? And why should not we al much rather rejoyce at the prospect of this new Experiment of Li­berty, which affords more lively hopes of stable Comfort? Truly the design appears to me so plausible, that I cannot conceiv any thing but Interest capable to blinde mens mindes in the consideration of it.

But to that supposition of mine it may perhaps be here replyed with confidence; That it is indeed Interest which causes the reluctancy we ar speaking of, and that their Interest being such, it is fitting men should maintain it, and oppose al innovations contrary therunto: For this they think suffici­ently, authorized by that Fundamental Maxim, of Salu [...] Populi, &c. which affirms the Peoples Interest to be the su­premest Law.

This Maxim indeed I allow to be unquestionably just; and if their application of it to this case be so too, we must ac­knowledg they have reason, and joyn with them. But if, on the contrary, the continuance of the Test and Penalties be only the Interest of a very smal part of the Nation, and that the general Interest of the whole lys in the Liberty now de­signed, then wil the force of their main Artillery be found pointed against themselves, and their Argument easily de­stroyed. It is necessary therfore to consider whose Interest it is to introduce this Liberty, and whose to oppose it; that we may judg which of the two is the most general. But that judgment is so easy, that no man can be long in suspense about it. The whole Body of Dissenters from the Church of England, however subdivided and distinguished in other [Page 8] things, ar al united & comprehended in that common Cause. They have al been straitned, persecuted and oppressed; and therfore nothing can be more natural than for them to desire Liberty and Ease. Now this collective Body of the several Dissenters is manifestly greater than the Church of England alone. But besides these, it is also evident that a great part of the Church of England it self, I dar boldly say the best part of it, those Learned and Rational Divines, I mean, who have som­times by opprobry been termed Latitudinarians, (tho in truth, the word sound nothing but honorable) Those have always de­clared themselvs of moderate Principles, their Interest lys also evidently in Moderation and Forbearance, because they ar no less hated by the severer sort of their own Brethren than even the Disienters themselvs; and the People that have been in­fluenced by their Doctrin is so numerous, that the remaining strict and narrow-spirited Church-of-England-men, whose In­terest ingages them to maintain their own Priviledges by in­fringing the just Rights of their Neighbours; this remaining number, I say, is so smal in comparison of the whole Body of the Nation, that it is even ridiculous for them to build their pretences upon the forementioned Maxim, which in effect is directly contrary therunto.

Now if this be so indeed, that Liberty of Conscience is not only the Right of every particular Man, but also the general Interest of the whole Nation, methinks no Man ought any longer to be a shamed of, or alarumed at the project of it; but rather every honest Man ought to contribute his Endeavours that it may succeed.

Yes, may somday, if it were only Liberty of Conscience that were pretended to, there could be little objected against it: Nay, it must be confest that the bent of the Nation that way is now so strong, that the most part would freely enough consent to the abolishing of those Penal Laws which [Page 9] have hitherto restrained it. But, say they, that is not al. Those that design the abolishing of the Penal Laws, do at the same time design to take away the Test, and therby not onely to permit the Exercise of the Roman Catholic Religi­on, but also, to admit Roman Catholics into a share of our Government; which, they ad, is a Consideration wholly of a different Nature from that of meer Liberty of Conscience, and the Practice wherof would be very unpolitic. This is the Objection that makes the great Cry in this Conjuncture. Those that endeavour to introduce Liberty of Conscience aim also to take away the Test: Those that would take away the Test ar secret if not open Papists: And both the one and the other, under pretence of Liberty of Conscience, ar Betrayers of the tru Libertys and fundamental Laws of their Country. With this Cry many modest and honest Men ar born down, and silenced. And indeed it requires more than ordinary Courage and Strength to bear up against so impetuous a Tor­rent. But when all is don, Truth and Reason ar able to bear up against any thing: And therefore I will now examin im­partially whether they be found on the side of these Objectors, or of the forementioned Patrons of Liberty.

Two things especially ar here to be inquired into. First, whether the Test, as it is by Law imposed upon Roman Ca­tholics, be really an Intrenchment upon the natural and just Liberty of their Consciences, or whether indeed it be a meer political thing of a different Nature, without any Relation therunto. And in the next place, whether the taking away of that Test may probably prove advantagious or prejudicial to the general Interest of the Nation. Upon these two Conside­rations lys the Stress of this whole Debate.

Now to the first, I must needs affirm that in my Opinion the imposing of that Test is a thing of a mixt Nature. It is indeed political, because the design of it is to exclude the Ro­man [Page 10] Catholics from public Imployment: But it is also Reli­gious, because it makes their Opinion in Religion the Con­dition of that Exclusion: And therefore it can in no wise be said to be of so different a Nature from the Liberty of Consci­ence we are speaking of, as to have no Relation at al therunto. On the contrary, I conceiv not how any one can doubt it to be an infringement of that Liberty. For those Imployments being not hereditary, the way to them is by Nature open to every Man, according as his Capacity and other Circumstances may fit him for them. Now if a Person otherwise duly qua­lified for such an Imployment▪ which might inable him and his Family to live in Ease and Comfort, shall by reason of some Opinion in religious Matters be excluded from that Im­ployment, and therby exposed to Penury and Hardship; this indeed is not a direct putting that Person to Death for that Opinion, but it is a taking away from him that Talent which Nature or Industry had given him as a Provision for the Comfort of his Life. And can any one now say that such a Practice is not a Burden or a Snare to that Mans Conscience? What real Difference is there, I beseech you, whether the Laws of the Land do authorise a Minister of Justice to op­press and torment a Man for his Opinion, or that they cast the Man himself into such Circumstances that his own Ne­cessities do the same thing? Surely there is none at al. It is as clear therfore as Noon day that the imposing of this Test is a straitning of the natural and just Liberty of such a Per­sons Conscience. And therfore whoever dos acknowledg in general that Liberty of Conscience is a Right of Nature and of Christianity, as hath before been hinted, must in par­ticular acknowledg that the Test is unwarrantable, because it is an evident Infringement therof. Now the far greater Part of the Nation, at this day, seeming inclin'd, by that Reason, to the abolishing of Penal Laws; if they would act [Page 11] consonantly to their own Principles, they ought, for the same Reason, to desire the Abolishing of the Test also.

This Point being once gained, that the imposing of this or any other such like Test, in matters of Religion, is an In­fringment of our Natural and Christian Liberty, the remain­ing Considerations that ar urged in favor of it, ought not to be of any great weight with upright and honest-minded Men. Tho som Advantage might be pretended to be found in the doing of it, we ought not for any Advantage to transgress so fundamental a Law. We must not sin that Grace may abound. We must not do Evil that Good may ensue. Those ar known Precepts; and if they were attended to, this Debate might here be ended. But Interest, Interest, is a strange thing. People ar possest with an Opinion that the admitting of Roman Catholics into a share of our Government is against the Inte­rest of the Nation: And therefore they still think they ar bound to oppose it, per fas & nefas. I must therfore go on still further, in examining now whether the extending of Li­berty of Conscience so far as I have shown that it ought to go, viz. To the taking away of the Test, and by consequence to the admitting Roman Catholics into publick Offices, be con­trary to the general Interest of the Nation or no.

That we may judg rightly of this Question, we must con­sider in what Circumstances the Nation is now scituated, both in respect of the Head and Body of it. Our Prince is a Catho­lic: and we our selves ar divided into several Sects, of which the Catholics ar in number the least considerable. The Inte­rest of all those Sects, excepting only a smal number of ri­gid and narrow-spirited Church of England Men, has been al­ready shown, to lie in Toleration and Liberty. But there is no reason to expect the King should indulge them in that be­loved Liberty, unless they consent to allow him the same Li­berty for those of his own Perswasion. Now that Indulgment [Page 12] and that Consent do necessarily imply the same Extent on the one side as on the other. The Protestant Dissenters claim a Right to public Imployments: And shall not the King demand the same Right for Catholic Dissenters also? He may do it so much the more reasonably as the Conformity of their Principles with his may naturally induce him to confide more in their Affection and Fidelity. This being so, and the Liberty which we thirst after not being obtainable at any other Price, who can be so unmannerly and so il natured as to refuse unto the King that which they demand of him for themselves? Or who can be so childlishly humorsom, and so devilishly ma­licious, as to refuse unto themselvs their own reasonable and necessary Comforts, rather then allow others to enjoy the like? So strange an Extravagance as that can not, certainly, fal into very many Heads. For it being evident by this Consi­deration, that al those whose Interest obliges them to desire Li­berty for themselvs (which is to say the far greater part of the Nation) ar obliged by the same Reason to allow the same Liberty, in its utmost extent, unto others: Because their own is not otherwise obtainable: I say this being so, though it may seem hard to say, yet really it is much harder not to suspect som Defect either in the Intellects or Integrity of those that oppose it.

But prehaps I sing of Victory too soon. The Opposers of that Branch of Liberty which I now plead for, wil be apt to tel me that it is not simply upon the account of their Religi­on that the Roman Catholics ar excluded from any share in our Government; but because their Principles tend to the Oppression of others, and make them restless until they them­selves become absolute Masters. This Objection indeed would have som Force if it proceeded from Persons who were them­selvs innocent of the Crimes they impute unto others: But [Page 13] where al are equally Guilty, it may be wondred with what forhead any one can produce it. The plain Truth is, that e­ver since Religion became twisted with secular Interest, and the Profession of Divinity became a Trade, al sides have strove to get uppermost; and being so, have persecuted their Fel­lows. The Invention of new Creeds or Tests, and the Per­secution of Dissenters, is too too ancient. The tru Simplicity of our Saviors and his Apostles Doctrin, and the meekness of their Spirit, lasted not many Ages: I dar not say how few Years. But let us look nearer Home. Calvin, the great In­stitutor of Presbyterianism, shewed the narrowness of his Spirit in the Niceness of his Theological System, the Cruel­ty of his Spirit in the Death of Servet; and his Followers have trod faithfully in his Steps, as well by the frequent Superfoeta­tion of their Articles of pretended Orthodoxy, as by their Persecution of Dissenters where they have had Power, and by their Resistance even in open War, where they have been abridged of the Privilidges they pretended unto. Shall I in­stance also in our Church of England? I am loth to discover our own Shame. But, alas, it lys already too open, without my Discovery. She has persecuted ever since her first Establish­ment: And som of the Penal Laws then made, ar now the very Subject of this present Debate. This Guilt has been Uni­versal. And if Jesus Christ should now say unto the Parti­zans of al Sects, as of old unto the Pharisees who accused the Woman taken in Adultery, let him that is Innosent cast the first Stone, I am perswaded the Effect would now be the same as then; they would al go away Convicted. Let not that therfore be urged against any one unto which al ar e­qually obnoxious. An Objection looses al its Force when it may so justly be retorted against the Objector.

O but, will som say, the Case is not equal. The Danger is greater from the Roman Catholics than fromothers, in that the very [Page 14] Principles of their Religion do dissolve their Obligation to Fidelity, and leave them at liberty to pursu the Advance­ment of their Church by the Violation of al the most sacred Bonds with which other Men ar tied. For shame, let us in the End learn to be more equitable, and not impute unto any Man as a Principle of his Religion that which he utterly dis­owns. If there have been Men amongst them of such perni­cious Principles, have there not been such also amongst us? If som of their Casuistical Doctors have palliated in som Oc­casions the Crimes of Treason and Rebellion, have not som of our zealous Ministers in other Occasions incouraged unto the same? We want not our Authors that maintain mischie­vous Principles, no more than they want theirs: witness the List of those condemned not long ago by the Ʋniversity of Oxford. Now will any Presbyterian think he has fair Play shown him by those that shal impute unto him al the Con­sequences which may be drawn from the Writings of Bucha­nan; or a Church of England Man from those of Julian John­son? Crimes are personal. And Societies must not be condem­ned for the Miscariages of particular Persons. Let every Man then bear his own Burthen. Let us al henceforward cease from criminating others with things wherwith we our selves may be so justly recriminated. Now the surest way to stifle these Reproaches is by mending the Faults. Wherfore let us now on al sides study to reform whatever is amiss: Let us unani­mously renounce the Principle of Persecution: and let that be the only Test, upon which our Government be modelled, as has been already judicially advised by another Hand. In do­ing so, there is no Fear but the common Union and Interest of al Parties, in a League of mutual Liberty, will be incom­parably a better Security for us against any particular Usur­per, then our several Factions have been hitherto one against another.

[Page 15]But stil this Answer is not direct enough. Those that ar Partys in such a Case are seldom sensible of the Danger wherwith they threaten others, but always intent upon those Dangers wherwith they conceiv that others threaten them. It is not sufficient therfore to tel them that the Danger on both sides is mutual. No, they expect that on their Side there should be no Danger at al. Let us endeavor therfore to satisfy them in that Point also: and then let them shew themselves to be worthy Citizens, by a cheerful Compliance with their own Duty, and our common Interest. What can this Dan­ger be that is apprehended by the taking away of the Test? That the Papists should Lord it over us, and with an open Force extirpate our Religion by the ancient Method of Fire and Fagot, or work our Conversion by the new Mode of Dragooning? But that is not rationally to be appre­hended from so inconsiderable a Number of Men as they ar. Is it supposed that their Numbers may increase, and in the end grow formidable? That Argument strikes more directly against the Toleration of their Religion than against the abolishing of the Test: For it is the Toleration alone which will giv them Oppertunity of spreading their Doctrins, and laboring to make Proselites. Wherfore that Argument ought not to be urged by those who acknowledg that Toleration to be a natural Right and a Christian Duty; which certainly most Men now do, and al Men ought to do. No, but it wil be said that the Temptation to Popery wil be yet greater, by the open way to advantagious Imployments, when the Test shal be taken away. But do not those Objectors see and consider the uncertainty of the Continuance of those Advantages, or perhaps even some stinging Consequence attending them, un­der a Protestant Successor? Ay certainly they ar not so blinde as to be ignorant therof. Experience has shown them already the Force of that Antidote in som eminent Instances, which [Page 16] may assure them that no poisonous Effects, at least no mortal ones, ar now to be apprehended from this guilded Pil of Pre­ferment.

I might here ad many other Considerations to dissipate this panic Fear. As, The Spirit of the Nation, now animated more than ever against Popery. The Interest of the Papists themselves to keep within modest and moderate Bounds, lest too great a stretching after things out of their Reach, should make them lose their present Footing. And, not improper­ly, The Word of a King, who has solemnly promised us that he will not suffer any Man to be oppressed in the just Liberty of his Conscience: Of a King, I say, who dos not now first begin to affect that Language, but who has been long known to assert the same Principle: Of a King, who values himself more upon his Integrity and Faithfulness than upon all the Glories and Advantages of his Crown: And of a King, in fine, whose Interest as wel as Honour obliges him to keep his Word. These ar al Considerations of weight. But after a Demonstration of the Impossibility that the Roman Catho­lics should arrive to that Strength as to be able to hurt us, (tho we suppose them to be never so willing) it is superfluous to inlarge upon Topics of a weaker Nature. That which can­not happen in humane Probability, need not be feared in hu­mane Conduct, nor ought it to be objected in humane Con­sultations.

I wil therefore here stop the Course of these Reflections; which I must acknowledg do now seem unto me strong enough to dissipate those Fears which your Prudence first in­stilled into my Minde, and to incourage an honest Heart to go on streight forwards, as Providence shall enable him, in the present Work of this Day, notwithstanding any Opposition or Reproach that may attend it. The thing in it self is good. And therfore I declare to you, that I will no longer be [Page 17] ashamed or afraid to shew my Approbation of it, and to dis­pose others▪ as I may be able, unto the same Sentiments. I ought indeed, in good Manners, to have expected your Judg­ment, before I made so express a Declaration of my own. But I know your Honesty too wel to doubt of your Concurrence herein, and your Friendship too wel to fear any hard Cen­sure for my transgressing those little Rules of formal Decen­cy. Let us both of us put our Hands to the Work, in Gods Name, in the Sphere where we are placed. And to begin the Attempt, if you judg that these Reflections of mine may be in any degree useful unto the Public, I giv you free Liber­ty to disperse them as you think convenient. But that Per­mission ingages me to ad yet a few Words more; which ar not indeed much needful to your self, but may perhaps not be unuseful to others.

In perusing what I have writ, I cannot but suspect that a Prejudice may arise against me in some Mens Mindes, from the Disinteressedness I have shewn in respect of the different Sects of Protestants; as if I were my self a Papist, and design­ed wholly to favorize that Party. To obviate that Prejudice, I therfore desire the World may know that I am so far from being ingaged in any Party, that I sincerely desire the Distincti­ons of all Parties may be obliterated amongst Mankind, and that al the Ends of the Earth may be brought into Subjection and Obedience unto the Gospel of the Holy Jesus, and own no other Name or Profe­ssion but that of Christianity. Oh what glorious Days, Oh what transporting Comforts, and so­lid Happiness, would that Temper of Spirit bring into the World! Then would the Root of Contention be cut up, when al Men were engaged in the same Cause. Disputes would surely cease, when Men came to know that the Religion which Jesus Christ came to institute upon Earth▪ consists not in any airy Speculations, nor shadowy Ceremonys, but wholly [Page 18] and solely in actual Obedience to his Holy Precepts. They would then easily infer, from such a Foundation; that Noti­ons and Doctrins, and much more outward Cults, ar only so far necessary unto Salvation as they ar proper to influence Mens Lives. They would then know that the Grace of God which bringeth Salvation hath appeared unto al Men; and that therfore it doth not ly hid in Difficultys and Obscuritys, which few or none do comprehend; but that the Rules it prescribes us ar plain, even to the meanest Capacitys, teach­ing us, that denying Ʋngodliness and worldly Lusts, we should liv soberly, righteously, and Godlily in this present World. This would make al Men more intent upon then Duty, upon the strict Observance of the Rules of Justice, of Truth, and of universal Charity and Good-wil towards one another, which is the choicest Flower in al the Garland of Christian Vertues. And in the same Proportion as those Vertues increased, stil fur­ther Knowledg, and a sound Judgment in Divine Truths would increase with them; and the Seeds of Discord would at the same time be destroyed. We should then turn our Swords into Plow-shares, and our Spears into Pruning-hooks; we should not learn War any more, but rest Fearless under our own Vines, and our own Fig-trees, and every Man walking in the Name of his God. Princes would not then press Uniformity in things of smal Consequence, with a Violence only tolera­ble in Occasions of the most fundamental and greatest Impor­tance: Subjects would not refuse Conformity in things in­different, with a Headstrongness only excusable in Points most essential: Nor would either the one or the other mistake those fundamental and essential Points, when al were agreed that they consisted only in Piety, Sobriety, and Vertu. An Au­thority tempered with Sweetness, and a Subjection mixed with Lov, would make al Estates of Men as happy as our frail Condition of Mortality can admit.

[Page 19]This Thought, you see, has a little warmed me; and no wonder it should: For indeed it is the only Fire that heats my Zeal, the only Spring that gives Motion to my sluggish and indifferent Temper. God grant that it may kindle som Mea­sures of a like Flame, nay a higher Measure, I beseech him, in those that read it. Then should I hope daily to see more and more considerable Advancements in the Work that Pro­vidence seems to be now acting in the World. Shal I ex­plain my Meaning? Why not? I am sure it tends not to the Injury of any Man, and therfore it can not be reputed Crimi­nal. Wel, 'tis this. The Persecution we have heard of in France, I am wel informed, has inspir'd a strange Spirit of Re­formation into the Romish Clergy themselvs: They acknow­ledg the Abuses that ar in their Church, as far as ever its outward Oeconomy and public Authority wil admit: They preach openly at Paris against al manner of Superstition and Idolatry▪ They instruct their Auditors in a spiritual Adora­tion of the supreme Deity: They do not rack the Conscien­ces of their Penitents with any strict Determination in Points incomprehensible, but they turn them wholly to the Essential Dutys of Life: And in this Manner they endeavor to produce and maintain Ʋnity between themselvs and their New Con­verts, as they cal them, in the Bond of Peace. This appears to me an Antiperistasis to the Designs of the Authors of that Persecution; a Rebound guided by Providence, which pro­duces a far different Effect from the direct Blow. But this is not al. We have heard of somthing like it in Italy, and in Spain; which has already made som Noise and a very con­siderable Progress in those Countrys. Perhaps indeed these things may be censured by som Doctors of that Communion, who ar as much wedded to their old-fashioned Popery as the narrower sort of Church-of-England-Men (amongst Pro­testants) ar wedded to their liturgical Rites and Ceremo­nys. [Page 20] But however it is one Step, nay a great Advancement, towards a general inlightning of Mens Minds in tru Religion, which I strongly hope wil be conducted by Providence to a happy Issu. And as I contemplate the Prospect of our Eng­lish Liberty, as a Dispensation of Gods own Direction, ex­tended unto us by a Hand from whence we least expected it; as an Instrument more exactly fitted by him for the Atchiev­ment of this great Work than those others aforementioned; so I heartily wish that al tru-hearted Englishmen would put their Hands unto this Work; that we may be al found dili­gent Laborers in the Vineyard where we ar placed, faithful Servants in the Improvement of the Talent committed unto us, and by no means barren and unfruitful in the Knowledg of our Lord Jesus Christ, unto which we have so much pretended.

Pardon, I intreat you, this Excursion. It is now time for me to return to my first Theme, and draw towards a Con­clusion of this tedious Letter. Those that read it with un­prejudiced Eys wil easily discern that I write it not to serve the Interest of any one Party, further than that Interest tends to the general Good: And that I despise the Censures of al Partys, in comparison to the Satisfaction I propound unto my self in contributing towards that Good. My Rule is streight. Let others make theirs so too, and we shal al in­fallibly arrive at that happy Rest which we al breath after. I wil sum up what I have said, or supply what I have omit­ted, in a few Words. Liberty of Conscience is the natural Right of Mankind, and the general Interest of England. Pe­nal Laws and Tests ar direct Infringements of that Right, and they tend evidently to the ruin of that Interest. Wil we therfore acquit our selves like honest and prudent Men, let us settle our selves in that our natural Priviledg, and let us abolish every thing that is opposite therunto. Let us a­bolish those things, I say, we that ar private Persons, in [Page 21] perswading every Man his Neighbor to that Disposition: And when we shal be called to it, let us elect such Mem­bers to serv in Parliament as shal be disposed to consent unto the abolishing of them by Law. That is the surest Means to ingage the King unto us, and to ingage us al unto one another. His Government wil be so much the more ea­sy as he finds his People the more compliant with his just Desires▪ And our Security wil be so much the greater, nay it wil be intire, when our Propertys, our Libertys, and our Religion, shal be defended by the common Union of al Partys against our onely public Enemies, al turbulent and ambitious Innovators.

I am, Dear Sir,
Yours, &c.
FINIS.

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