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thefe Countries; and no fooner does any Ship of a Proteftant Nation come to Anchor in any Popish Port, where the Inquifition prevails, but he is vifited and fearched narrowly for Heretical Books, and particularly for Bibles, by the Officers of that Court, which are immediately carried to the Inquifition, and there burned.
The brave old Marshal Schomberg, when he was last at Lisbon, told a Friend of mine, with Tears in his Eyes, That having, when he came afhore there, left a Dutch Bible (which had been his Grandfather's) upon the Table of his Cabin, it had been carried from the Custom-house to the Inquifition; and that tho' he had fent to the chief Inquifitor, and had spoken to him himself for it, he had not been able to recover it.
LET us now approach nearer Home, and fee how Proteftants are used in respect to reading the Bible. And in order to confider this Matter, I fhall premife two things: First, That the End and Defign of reading the Bible, is to find out the Will of God, or the Meaning which God holds forth to us therein, that we may regulate our Belief, and form our Pra&tice thereby. And, Secondly, I premise, That to fuch reading the Bible, it is requifite, that we should not be prejudiced by Education, in
Behalf of any Fancies; that we should pay no Regard to the Authority of weak and fallible Men; that no Opinions fhould be imposed on us as Christian Opinions; as for Example, Con. fubftantiation, Predestination, the peculiar Opinions of Arius or Socinus, and other Doctrines, pretended to be derived from the Word of God; and that no Man should be hurt in his Body, Name, or Goods, for understanding the Bible in that Sense which he thinks to have been intended by God; but that we should act, and be permitted to act, in this Matter, as we do in understanding any other Book: For if fuch Arts, and Crafts, and Force are used, to make Men understand the Bible in a Lutheran, Presbyterian, or Socinian Senfe, as form Mens Minds fo ftrongly to thofe Senfes, that not a Man in the Countries, where any of thofe Opi nions prevail, does or dares differ from the Sentiments of the Public, or hurts himself any way by fo doing; that Man is not properly allowed to read the Bible, or to take his Religion from thence, but receives his Religion from his Lutheran, or Presbyterian, or Socinian Priest, and might as well take his Religion from a Popish Priest, without using any Bible at all. For what is the Difference be tween taking a Popish Prieft's Word for the Senfe
Senfe of the Bible, about the Infallibility and Authority of the Pope and the Church, or the Doctrine of Transubstantiation, (which Bible the Prieft keeps folely in his own Hands) and taking a Presbyter's Word, or being influenced by him, as to the Sense of the Bible, in respect to the Doctrines of the divine Right of Pref byters, and Predeftination (which Bible he does, for Form's fake, put into the Laymens Hand, but keeps the Senfe in his own)? If there be any material Difference, it is in this, that the Popish Priest acts a fair, open, and confiftent Part, in denying the Use of the Bible; and that the Presbyter does the fame thing hypocritically; and that the Presbyterian Layman makes a more fhameful and contras dictory Submiffion to his Presbyter, than a Popish Layman does to his Priest.
WHEN the Minds of the Youth, and their Paffions, are thus engaged in behalf of certain human Compofitions; when they are taught to reverence Men, who are hired and paid to maintain those Compofitions; when they are bred up to hate the Perfons of Men of other Perfuafions, to abhor their Doctrines, and think it Matter of just Disgrace to change the Principles of their Education: And when all this is taught as the Dictates of the Holy Scriptures; must they VOL. II. C
nat, under these Prejudices, read the Scriptures, without understanding them? Is not that Impartiality, which is neceffary towards finding out the true Senfe of a Book, intirely taken away? And is not a Partiality, which muft lead Men to mistake the Senfe of a Book, introduced?
BUT even this is nothing to what those must go through, if they dare to understand the Bible differently from what is vulgarly understood in the Country where they live: They will be deemed Heretics; which is "fuppofed "to include every thing that is bad in it: It "makes every thing appear odious and de"formed; diffolves all Friendships, and ex"tinguishes all former kind Sentiments, howcc ever juft and well deferved. And from the "time that a Man is deemed an Heretic, it "is Charity to act against all Rules of Charity. And the more Men violate the Laws "of God in dealing with him, it is, in their "Opinion, doing God greater Service *." And befides being thus put into a Bear-skin,
See a Pamphlet intituled, The Difficulties and Difcouragements which attend the Study of the Scriptures, in the Way of private Judgment. A Pamphlet generally afcribed to Dr. FRANCIS HARE, formerly Dean of Worcester, and late Bishop of Chi chefter, and Dean of St. Paul's.
and made a Scare-crow; what is called Herefy, undoes Men in their Trades and Callings, fubjects them to Ecclefiaftical and Civil Profecutions, and deprives them of all Preferments in the Church or State: Whereas a Perfon who understands the Bible, as he is led by the Nofe to understand it, which is for the most part falfly, has not only fair Quarter and Reputation, and all manner of Preferments in Church. and State attending him; but may be as lewd as he pleases, provided he have a fufficient Portion of Zeal for his Orthodoxy, or rather for the Orthodox Prieft.
Is it not therefore a mere Mock-fhew, to recommend to Men the Reading of the Scriptures, if, when they read them, they must understand them just as their Mafter, the Priest, tells them, under the Penalties of all the foregoing Inconveniencies, and the foregoing Rewards, which the Prieft, by his Power and Influence, bestows? Bishop Bramhall tells us plainly, (and too many of our modern Divines agree with him) That "the promifcuous Li« cence which Proteftants give to all Sorts to "read and interpret the Scripture, is more a prejudicial, nay, pernicious, than the overદ rigorous Reftraint of the Romanifts." This is Proteftant Prieftcraft with a witness! For, as C 2 Mr.