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TO

SACRED TRUTH;

TO

LIBERTY;

TO

THE INTEREST AND CAUSE OF JESUS CHRIST, THE ONLY KING, IN HIS KINGDOM

THE CHURCH;

TO

THE CONSCIENCE AND CONSIDERATION OF EVERY MAN, WHO EXPECTS TO BE JUDGED, AND WHO

HOPES TO BE SAVED, BY JESUS CHRIST;

This Little Tract is humbly Dedicated,

BY

A Lover of TRUTH and PEACE.

A CALM and PLAIN

ANS WER, &c.

To MR.

SIR,

IN many

of our late conversations on the sufficiency of scripture as a rule of faith, on the rights of conscience, and the authority of fallible men to prescribe articles, as a test of orthodoxy in the christian church, I remarked with pleasure, that you expressed an earnest desire to be acquainted with the principles on which we founded our dissent from the church of England.

You observed, that you had often heard us represented as a prejudiced, bigotted, and obstinate set of people, who separated from the mode of religion established in our country, not so much from any regard to conscience as frum vanity and perverseness, and that such was the character lately given of us in a sermon preached before a great personage.

You candidly owned, indeed, that you sometimes suspected there were reasons for our dissent which you never thoroughly understood; because you knew many men of solid learning, and exemplary piety, who voluntarily embraced poverty and distress rather than accept the fair dignities and emoluments possessed by the church, and held out to their acceptance. Besides this, you are too. well acquainted with the English history to forget that there were near two thousand of the clergy (men of unsullied characters) in the reign of Charles II. who quitted their livings in the church when it took its present form, and threw themselves and their numerous families on the providence of God and the wide world for their support, rather than conform to that establishment w bich now takes place.

I own I do not wonder that these facts, with which history and your own observation have furnished

you, should cause you to suspect that there are some powerful reasons for our dissent; and I the more readily comply with your request of fairly representing them to you, as I promise myself that you have faith and fortitude sufficient to follow truth wherever it may lead you, even though your attachment to its sacred cause should subject you to some worldly inconveniences.

Were you, my friend, as much devoted to the world and all its vain concerns as some men I have known, I should despair of your calm altention to any subject like this, which has neither profit nor pleasure in the worldly sense to propose : but you, I flatter myself have such ingenuity and rectitude of mind, that you will religiously attach yourself to the cause of truth wherever you discover it, and that you will judge now upon this case, as one who expects himself to be hereafter judged for the talents which he possesses.

The ability of perceiving and professing the truth, is a most important talent or trust, for which we are to be accountable to the great fountain of truth by whoin it was given. One principal end of our Lord's coming into the world was to bear witness to the truth, and one principal glory and characteristic of his disciples is,

that they love the truth, that they seek and prefer it to all worldly considerations. The improvement, therefore, which we have made, and the reverence which we have paid, to this part of the Divine Image in which we are formed, cannot surely pass unnoticed at that awful tribunal, where nothing but integrity and truth can appear with honour.

Believing you, Sir, to feel the full force of these important considerations, I shall endeavour to inform you, with the sincerity of a christian, and the freedom of a Briton, why I am a dissenter from the church of England. The first general principle on which I found my dissent (a principle which I shall frequently refer to, and particularly apply) is this, that no civil magistrate has, ever had, or ever can have any right, authority, or power over the consciences and religion of men; that his claiming to himself the interpretation of the scriptures which contain the christian religion, is assuming a power with which no civil magistrate ever can be invested, without directly opposing the very genius and spirit of that divine religion which it pretends to establish: for the christian religion is an address to the reason and understandings of mankind; establishments are an address to their prejudices and passions. In the one, the love and the pursuit of truth is strongly inculcated : in the other, it is weakened if not destroyed by the temptations of interest and Worldly preferment. The language of the christian religion is, Prove all things, hold fast that which is good, but that of the civil magistrate is, I have proved and examined for you, and unless you hold fast what I have determined to be right, you shall be deprived of many temporal advantages here, and without doubt perish everlastingly hereafter.

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