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BEFORE I enter on the principal design of the present undertaking, it may be proper to throw together some preliminary observations, by way of preface, that the main thread of our historic enquiry may, afterwards, proceed the more evenly and uninterruptedly.
In February, 1769, Í published a pamphlet, entitled, “ The Church of England vindicated from the Charge of Arminianism, and the Case of Arminian Subscription particularly considered" which I addressed to a learned and respectable Oxonian, who had lately presented us with an apology for the Arminian principles; and whose arguments against the real doctrines of our established church, my counter vindication was designed to obviate.
That omniscient Being, to whom “ all hearts are open,” knows, that a feeling regard to his glory, and a tender solicitude for the honour of truth, were my sole determining motives to that humble attempt. I could sincerely adopt the appeal of archbishop Bradwardin, who wrote on a similar occasion, and in defence of the same doctrines :. Scis, quòd nusquam virtute meâ, sed tuâ, confisus, tantillus aggredior tantam causam (a). Far, exceeding far, from presuming on any imaginary abilities of my own, and equally remote from wishing to distinguish myself on the stage of public observation, I resolved to conceal my name; though I could not resolve, by continuing entirely silent, to forego my allegiance to God, and my duty to the church.
The controversy had, indeed, been recently in the hands of a person, whose zeal for the principles of the reformation adds dignity to his rank, and lustre to his talents; I mean the able and learned
(a) In Pref. ad libros De Causâ Dei.
author of Pietas Oxoniensis : And I freely confess, that I was under some doubt, whether it might not carry an implication of self-confidence, should I glean up, and lay before the public, a few of those authentic facts and testimonies, the mention of which had, for the most part, been omitted by that masterly writer. Considering, however, that of old, even those persons who had but a mite to throw into the treasury, were not therefore wholly exempted from the duty of contribution ; I fluctuated no longer; but hastily threw together such observations as then occurred, and in a few weeks transmitted them to the printer. I have much reason to bless God for their publication. That tract, hurried and unfinished as it was, met with a reception, which, in such an age as the present, I could neither expect nor imagine.
Upwards of two years after, i. e. in the summer of 1771, a Mr. Walter Sellon (who stands in the same relation to Mr. John Wesley, as Celestius did to Pelagius, and Bertius to Arminius; viz. of Retainer-general and White-washer in Ordinary) hands a production into the world, designed to prove, that Arminianism and the church of England are as closely connected, as the said Messieurs Walter and John are with each other. The piece itself is the joint-offspring of the two associated heroes. As, therefore, in its fabrication, those gentlemen were united, even so in its confutation, they shall not be parted.
Arminianism is their mutual Dulcinea del Toboso. And, contrary to what is usually observed among co-inamoratos, their attention to the same favourite object creates no jealousy, no uneasiness of rivalship, between themselves. High mounted on Pine's Rosinante, forth 'sallies Mr. John from Wine-street, Bristol, brandishing his reed, and vowing vengeance against all who will not fall down and worship the (6) Dutch image which he has set up. With almost an equal plenitude of zeal and prowess, forth trots Mr. Walter from Ave-mary-lane, low inounted on Cabe's halting dapple. The knight and the squire having met at the rendezvous appointed, the former prances foremost, and, with as much haste as his limping steed will permit, doth trusty Walter amble after his master.
How successful these combatants are, in their attack on my first defence of the Doctrinal Calvinism of the Church of England, I cheerfully leave to the decision of the public. This, however, I may venture to say, that, after a tedious incubation of sixand-twenty months, they ought to have hatched an answer that might carry some show, at least, of plausible argument. But even craft itself seems, in the main, to have discharged them from her service. Here is neither subtilty, nor solidity. I am, in fact, going to encounter a phantom. No laurels, therefore, will crown the conquest; and the poor phantom should, for me, have stalked unmolested, had not the importance of the subject retrieved, in some measure, the insignificancy of the performance.
One of them (for it is not always easy to distinguish the immediate speaker) charges me with
crying up the abilities of some against whom I have written, only that I myself may appear to have greater abilities of my own, in vanquishing such able antagonists. Malice has here forged an accusation, too ignoble even for malice to believe. The brace of brothers are, indeed, either too blind to see, or too disingenuous to acknowledge, the excellencies of any from whom they dissent; else they would never have termed those great reformers, Luther and Calvin, a pair of “ weathercocks (c);" nor
() Pelagianism was revived in Holland, under the new name of Arminianism, toward the beginning of the last century.
(c) Page 11.
have contemptuously styled St. Austin the “giddy apostle of the Calvinists (d).” For my own part, I acknowledge, with pleasure, the eminent talents of very many worthy persons, from whom I differ extremely in opinion. Mr. Sellon, however, may make himself easy as to this particular. Unless he should improve miraculously, I shall never cry up his abilities. I must want common sense, to suppose him a man of parts; and I must want common modesty, to represent him as such. I can distinguish a barber's bason from a helmet; of course, all the fruit to be reaped from the contest now depending, is, not an ovation for myself, but the acquisition of a tributary pepper-corn to the doctrines of the church.
Mr. Wesley should bave lain the burden of his alliance on other shoulders than those of Mr. Sellon. The lot could not possibly have fallen on a more incompetent man. He is much too unknowing, and too hot, to come off, with any degree of credit, in an engagement which has foiled so many of the wise and prudent. He should have remembered the example of Dr. Waterland and others.
As the church is now internally constituted, her Calvinism is impregnable; while she lives, this is immortal. The legislature have it, indeed, in their power (God forbid they should ever have the inclination), to melt down her liturgy, homilies, and articles; and, when her component particles are severed by state chymistry, to cast her into the Arminian mold: but, until this is really done, all the artifice of man will never be able to fix the banner of Arminius in the citadel, how daringly soever some of his disciples may display it on the walls. Our pulpits may declare for free-will; but the desk, our prayers, and the whole of our standard writings as a church, breathe only the doctrines of grace.
(d) Page 7.