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THIS edition of the PLEA FOR RELIGION is enlarged with a considerable quantity of fresh matter, and is more than double the size of the former.
The whole of the first edition is retained, with some trifling alterations, and several of its parts enlarged and improved.
The anecdotal additions are many and important, and, it is hoped, will be found to furnish a good degree of profitable
Remarkable deistical conversions, with instances of unhappy and triumphant dissolutions, are here also more numerous.
This edition is also considerably extended in the religious and practical part, and, the author trusts, not without advantage, as a lively and experimental sense of divine things upon the human mind is vindicated from the charge of enthusiasm, and the vile aspersions of a world that lieth in wickedness.
The prophecies concerning CHRIST, and his church in these latter days, are treated pretty much at large, with a view to demonstrate the divine authority of the Sacred Writings.
Other arguments for the truth and authenticity of the Scriptures are suggested, the most common objections stated and answered, and the whole rendered as concise and satisfactory as may be.
Mr. PAINE's objections to the Bible are particularly considered, and brief answers returned. His abuse of the Sacred Writ. ers is also noticed with the severity it deserves, and his ignorance and malignity exposed.
Many extracts from our most celebrated Poets are interspersed. This will be considered as an excellence by some, and an imperfection
Consult SIMPSON's Essay on the Authenticity of the New Testament, in answer to VOLNEY and EVANSON; but more especially JONES's New and Full Method of settling the Canonical Authority of the New Testament, 3 vols. octavo: a most learned, able, valuable, and decisive work, just reprinted by the University of Oxford, though written by a Dissenting minister: an instance of liberality not always to be met with. Can any good thing come out of Galilee?
imperfection by others. The literary reader will call to mind, that several of the most valuable authors among the ancients have written in the same manner :
"A verse may catch him, who a sermon flies,
A compendious account of the present state of Church-preferments is introduced, besides a general view of the Dissenting congregations in this kingdom.
The present state of the Methodist societies in Great Britain, Ireland, America, and the West Indies, is likewise noticed, with some account of the rise and meaning of that denomination of Christians.
Some shameful instances of non-residence, patronage, and pluralities of livings, now in existence among the Bishops and Clergy of the land, are here detailed, and strongly reprehended.
The Articles and Canons, the Liturgy, and other Public Offices of our church are reviewed, and, in some respects, reproved. At the same time, most of the defects in our ecclesiastical frame are confirmed by the opinions of some of our most learned and respectable writers.
If he is thought severe upon the episcopal and clerical orders of men, let it be remarked, that he esteems them all very highly in love for their office' sake, because he is persuaded it is of divine appointment; and that, if at any time he has given way to his indignation, and expressed himself in strong terms against these orders, it is never intended to affect any but the culpable part of them; and that both the Prophets under the Old Testament dispensation, and CHRIST with his Apostles under the New, have done the same. We cannot follow better examples.
"But, in a Plea for Religion and the Sacred Writings, where "is the propriety of exposing the imperfections of the Church, "with her Bishops and Clergy?"
Because the undiscerning world in general, and our deistical fellow-creatures in particular, constantly unite them together, and wound the pure and immortal religion of JESUS CHRIST, and the Holy Scriptures, through their sides: whereas they are things essentially different. What has the character and gos
pel of CHRIST to do with the treachery of JUDAS, the cowardice of PETER, the ambition of JAMES and JOHN, the lukewarmness and worldly spirit of our Bishops and Clergy, or with the superstitious and secular appendages of the Church of Rome, the Church of England, or any other human establishment under heaven! They are things perfectly distinct. And if we mean to defend the Gospel to any purpose, it must be the Gospel alone, independent of every human mixture and addition. Corrupt churches and bad men cannot be defended.
The best part of the book, in the opinion of the author, is that where he has enlarged upon the excellence and utility of the Sacred Writings. He confesses he is anxious to recommend them to the daily perusal of every man; because he is persuaded both our present peace and future welfare very much depend upon the practice. He trusts, therefore, if all the rest of the book is rejected with contempt, this will be attended to with peculiar seriousness.
The reduction of the national religion to the pure standard of the Gospel, and the moral and religious reformation of all or ders of men, are repeatedly insisted on, and with singular earnestness; as what alone, in his judgement, can save us from impending ruin. This is done, because he is firmly persuaded there can be no general spread of evangelical principles and practices, while the Hierarchy is in its present contaminated state, and the Bishops and Clergy continue in a condition so generally depraved. The good of his country is what he has exceedingly at heart, however much he may be mistaken in the means he thinks necessary to promote that end.
The missions to the Heathen are here spoken of with zeal and approbation. These noble efforts for the salvation of mankind, he believes to be one reason, among others, why, in the midst of abounding iniquity, our fate, as a nation, is, for a season, suspended *.
Is it not an instance of the most unamiable bigotry that ever was exhibited in a Christian country, that when such generous, disinterested, and noble efforts have been making for two or three years past, by various denominations of men, for the civilization and christianization of the South Sea islands, which are situated in the centre of some hundreds of millions of gross idolaters, scarcely one Bishop or dig nified
The extravagances of the French governors are incidentally touched upon, and the vileness of their conduct, both towards their own people, and the neighbouring nations, exposed †.,
He has taken the liberty of mentioning a variety of books upon different subjects. Some of these he has particularly recommended; others are only inserted among those of the same class. Young readers may find their advantage in this part of his Treatise.
Both believers and unbelievers, he trusts, will meet with something or another that will be useful to them. Whatever is conceived to be pernicious, they will do well to reject, remembering that we are enjoined by a very high authority, to prove all things, and hold fast that which is good.
Several other miscellaneous matters are interspersed through the whole, which he wishes may be both profitable and pleasant -utile dulci.
nified Clergyman of the Church of England; scarcely one Arian or Socinian congregation, those more opulent bodies of Dissenters; scarcely one Nobleman, and but very few rich Commoners, appear to have contributed a single shilling out of their ample revenues towards promoting this expensive and god-like design?—The honour and blessedness of the glorious attempt is left to the poor!-Is not such a conduct among our great Ones speaking in the strongest of all language, that it is better the poor, miserable, benighted Heathen nations should continue in their present deplorable condition, than that they should be brought out of darkness into the glorious liberty of the children of GOD, in any other way than that prescribed by them! Oh! shame to these several Orders of men. What a curse has not bigotry ever been to mankind?—Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and we forbade him, because be followed not us, said the selfish and party-spirited Apostles. Forbid bim not, replied the benevolent and liberal-minded SAVIOUR, for there is no man that can work a miracle in my name, who will lightly speak evil of me.—I add, with the Apostle, If CHRIST is preached, and souls saved, I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice, whoever is the instrument.
The difference between the English and French in point of piety is more than once noticed in the following pages. I observe here still further, in honour of the brave Admiral Lord NELSON, that the very next morning after the victory, August 2, 1798, while all must have been yet hurry and confusion, he issued the following Memorandum to all the Captains of his squadron:
"ALMIGHTY GOD having blessed his Majesty's arms with victory, the Admiral « intends returning Publie Thanksgiving for the same at two o'clock this day, and "he recommends every ship doing the same as soon as convenient,"
Public thanks were accordingly returned at the hour appointed.
This solemn act of Gratitude to HEAVEN seemed to make a very deep impres sion upon the minds of several of the French prisoners, both officers and men.
If any of his clerical brethren are so far offended at the freedoms he has taken with his own order, or the established religion of his country, as to make a reply, he shall think himself at liberty to return an answer or otherwise, as he may judge expedient. So far as the moral and religious conduct of the Clergy is concerned, the best answer to his charges will be, to correct and amend what is amiss. So far as the durability of the ecclesiastical constitution of the country is in question, he would refer his indignant reader to the prophetic declarations of the St. JOHN of the Old Testament.
Some repetitions will be found, and some mistakes discovered. The reader will have the goodness to excuse the former, and correct the latter.
Two Appendixes are subjoined, the former of which contains some farther thoughts on a national reform, and the latter, the author's reasons for resigning his preferment in the religious Establishment of the country, and declining any longer to officiate as a Minister in the Church of England.
To the whole is added a copious Index, whereby every thing most important may be turned to without loss of time.
If the author has advanced any thing that is wrong, uncharitable, unchristian, or unbecoming his station, in the course of these strictures, he is heartily sorry for it, and wishes it unsaid. Let him not, however, accept any man's person, neither let him give flattering titles unto man; for he knows not to give flattering tiles; in so doing his MAKER would soon take him away. It has been, therefore, his desire to speak the plain honest truth, as it appears to him, without courting any man's favour, or fearing any man's displeasure. He makes no question but a large number of good men are to be found both in the church established and out of it. Even the most despised of Sectarists, he con
* King GEORGE II. who was fond of the late Mr. WHISTON, happened to be walking with him one day, during the heat of his persecution, in Hampton Court gardens. As they were talking upon this subject, his Majesty observed, that "however right he might be in his opinions, it would be better if he kept them "to himself."—" Is your Majesty really serious in your advice?" answered the old man. "I really am," replied the King. Why then," said WHISTON, "had MARTIN LUTHER been of this way of thinking, where would your Maje"sty have been at this time?"