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Being, from my natural bluntness of temper, but too apt to “ call” (as BorLEAU says)“ a cat a cat," it may, perhaps be found, that in some of the following pages, I have treated, with too little complaisance, certain generally-received opinions, as well as practices; in confequence of which, my book and I may chance to have occasion for protection. And, I should think no intercession could be more powerful than that of a person of your R. R. R. Hss's figure, excepting that of a fair lady; to which charming patronage, being neither youth nor beau, parson nor rake, I pretend not to have any claim. Besides, what renders the good Bishop of O. a patron peculiarly proper for a free writer, is, That, if I be not much milinformed, there is not any where to be found a person, of a literary character, who exceeds your R. R. R. H. in candor as to matters of opinion. li is, indeed, according to all accounts, saying but little, to affirm, that there is none of the venerable fraternity, in that part of the world
where your diocese lies, that is less bigotted to established errors, less jealous of free enquiry, and less disposed to intolerance and persecution, to warrants and attachments, than my great little patron. To fpeak plain English, I am no admirer of the odium ecclefiafticum often shewn by the gens togata of the other side of the water. And it is matter of great joy to all good men, that, in England, we fymbolize so little with the principles, as well as pracrices, of the continental church. I hope the character your R. R. R. H. bears at present, will never degenerate into narrowness, and that you will, by and by, lend a helping hand toward removing what little reproach still remains on your native church. It were to be wished, for instance, that, as we do not pretend to infallibility, we did not pretend to decide without appeal. Yet it is to be lamented, that, not long ago, certain definitive prohibitions were laid on the theological enquiries of certain inferior ecclesiastics, by their su. periors ; taking, I suppose, the hint from the maxim, “ That the ch-has poweť
to decree rites and ceremonies, and arı" thority in matters of faith.” But, if we are not infallible, what harm can a little honest searching after truth do us; so we overset not our understandings in the pursuit of knowledge, nor let ourselves be puffed up on account of the acquisition ?
Nor was it pleafing to many persons of the freer way of thinking, to fee, fome years ago, a clerical address to an illustrious relation of your R. R. R. H. exciting him to order the dreadful engine of power to be wound up ready to crush those, who published opinions contrary to the established belief. I appeal to your R. R. R.H. whether the Protestant Religion does not at this time actually triumph over popish delusion, by means precisely of what those grave gentlemen shewed themselves so zealous to restrain ; I mean the exercise of the unalienable-right of private judgment, and liberty of publication.
Nor can I applaud the severities lately inficted (at the instance, as is confidently
affirmed, of certain dignitaries) on a filly old man, for publishing a sheet-full of deistical ribaldry. It were well, that public indecency were properly. discouraged. But may not the cure, if applied with a bad address, prove worse than the disease ? May not the effect of such proceedings prove the discouragement of abler and modefter enquirers into the merits of sundry religious opinions, received among us (as were once all the articles of the R. Catholic religion) but perhaps founded neither in reason nor scripture? May not the opposers of Christianity hence take occasion to pretend (and with some degree of plausibility) that they could overturn our religion, if they dared to publish their objections against it; and that it is our consciousness of the weakness of our cause that puts us on defending it by the argumentanz baculinum? Can we do the interest of religion a more cruel injury? I do not think your R. R. R. H. would contradict me, if I were to affert, that to attack with the flaming sword of justice a feeble goosequill, is but an unfair and cowardly enter
prize ; and that oppofing opinions, with any other weapons than tongues or pens, is only the most probable means for prejudicing the indifferent in favour of those opinions.
I cannot, for my part, nor does, I suppose, your R. R. R. H. see that any one mortal has the least authority over the opinions of another mortal, fo long as they continue mere opinions, whether known or suspected, whether published in conversation or writing. The actions of one man may prejudice another ; if, by direct means of them the latter comes to suffer in his person, his reputation, or his estate. But I see not, that my neighbour's believe ing in SOMMONA Codom, or his wor. shipping OROMAsdes, is any injury to me; nor do I imagine your R. R. R. H. has ever given yourself the least uneasiness on account of the diversity of religious sects, which prevails either here, or in the neighbourhood of your diocese. I cannot, for my part, help looking upon religion as a matter, which lies wholly between God