Page images
PDF
EPUB

once set a foot; and having frequent reference to the writings of the adversary, are not to be clearly understood without recourse to those writings, which yet are rarely to be met with. Many of them were complaints, that Popery had been misrepresented, which produced as many answers to justify the representations that our writers had given of their doctrines, and to prove

them to be no other than what were delivered and maintained as such, by public determinations and the most eminent writers of their own Church. In that branch of the Controversy (which was large, and carried on under the names of Representer and Misrepresenter, &c.) the truth or falsehood of the doctrines themselves was not so much considered or entered into, as the question of fact, whether the doctrines were justly chargeable or not? The bringing down Popery to a less distance from Protestantism, as well as the raising Protestantism to as many degrees nearer Popery, has been an artificial method of winning over unwary and ignorant people, who were not capable of entering into the real merits of the cause; and was, therefore, to be diligently guarded against at that critical time, when the cause of Popery was pushed on with such violence, and when the secular advantages attending it were so many temptations to hope and believe that the passage from one Church to the other, was not so large a step as had been generally represented. At such a juncture, every quarter was to be guarded with the greatest care and watchfulness; and no arguments, however weak or trifling in themselves were to be left unan

answered, lest a triumph should be raised as if they were unanswerable.

But the most instructive and valuable part of the writings in that reign were Discourses upon the particular doctrines of Popery, openly maintained by their Church, and condemned by ours. Those Discourses came up directly and immediately to the merits of the cause, and were the result of much study and deliberation, and, by stating every point upon the foot of Scripture, reason, and antiquity, have in effect exhausted the several subjects. . Of these, therefore, the following collection consists;

and to make it more uniform as well as more useful, the whole is digested into a regular system, and the several Discourses ranged under the titles and chapters to which they properly belong. And when it happens, as it sometimes dees, that the Discourse incidentally touches upon matters which do not directly and immediately relate to the principal subject of it, but to some other points of Popery ; references to such

places will be found in the Index, under the heads to which they belong.

It is fit the reader should be acquainted, that there are other Discourses of the same kind, which might well have deserved a place in this collection; but the work being expensive, and the success not certain, the undertakers were not willing to go beyond two volumes ; and there was the less occasion to reprint some of those Discourses, however excellent in themselves, because they have been published among the works of their respective authors, and are already in many hands, and to be easily met with ; particularly Doctor Barrow's most judicious and elaborate Discourse against the Papal supremacy.

But though the present collection contains the Discourses which were found most material, and though these, as digested under their proper heads, will appear to be an excellent confutation of the Popish doctrines, and in the same degree a vindication of our own; it is to be wished, that the undertakers may find sufficient encouragement to proceed to a third volume, to consist of some other Discourses which might be of good use, and of such of the controversial writings as are not barely answers to adversaries, but have also in them a considerable mixture of Discourses upon particular points, which occasionally fell in the writer's way.

II. As to the Discourses which are now published together; if they needed any other recommendation besides their own intrinsic worth, they might justly claim it from the character of their authors; many of whom were persons of great eminence at that time, and afterwards advanced to the chief stations in the Church. And

many others were persons of distinguished learning and abilities; on account of which, and of their seasonable service to the Protestant cause under that fiery trial, they were afterwards rewarded with suitable dignities and honours, and were ornaments to the age in which they lived. For the truth of this, there needs no other proof than the reader's casting his eye upon the names and stations of the several authors; which, in justice both to them and the work, are added to the titles of the respectable treatises at the end of this Preface.

III. If the question be asked, Why it is thought expedient to publish a collection of tracts against Popery, particularly at this time? The answer is, Because at this time, and for some time past, an uncommon diligence and openness in perverting the members of our Church to Popery, has been a matter of

be so.

general observation and complaint, and very justly continues to

What effects this liberty, if suffered to go on, may have upon government as well as religion, is left to the consideration and judgment of the legislative and executive powers. But, surely, it is fit that the parochial clergy, who have the care of souls, and the greatest part of whom have been born since the Popish controversy in effect died, should have their thoughts turned to the subject, and be furnished with the weapons which their predecessors used with such success, and by which they obtained so remarkable a victory over the cause of Popery, notwithstanding the support it had from

the secular power.

IV. If on this occasion an enumeration should be made of the punishments which the laws have provided, “ Against the Exercise of Episcopal Power by Popish Bishops;” “ Against the keeping of Popish Schools and Seminaries ;" “ Against the giving Protections to English and Irish Priests;" and, “Against the perverting or attempting to pervert any Protestant subject to the Romish Religion.” This might look like a design to stir up prosecutions, and which I dare say is very far from being in any one's desire or intention, without such provocations on their part, as render them evidently necessary. But when the laws on one hand are so strong against them, and on the other hand are suffered to sleep, it might well be expected, that both priests and people should retain a grateful sense of the lenity of the government, and take care to behave in the most cautious and inoffensive manner, especially when their known attachment to two foreign heads renders them so liable to be suspected, and would well justify the Government in keeping the strictest eye over them and their behaviour.

This is what might reasonably be expected from the Papists in general. But the priests, in particular, must suppose that our governors are not only asleep, but in a lethargy, if they think they do not feel the evil effects of conversions to Popery; particularly if they do not see that those conversions are really so many additions of new strength to a Popish Pretender to the Crown. Whatever may be said of other liberties in the exercise of their religion, and of the connivance of the civil power at the openness of them ; here, religion as such is not concerned. So that if this practice were laid under such restraints as the laws have provided, any complaint of severity would be neither more nor less than a complaint that they are not suffered, with impunity, to deprive the king of the hearts

and affections of his subjects, and to enlist them in a foreign service.

However, this is the proper province of the civil powers; and our present concern is not with government, but with religion ; in other words, not with penalties, but with arguments. And whatever may be the reasonings of governors in the state, with regard to the wisdom and expedience of exerting themselves in this or that manner, at this or that juncture; it will at all times be the duty of Protestant ministers to preserve their flocks from the infection of corrupt principles; and by furnishing themselves with proper arguments and a thorough knowledge of the cause, to be always in readiness to oppose. and defeat every attempt to corrupt them. The priests of the Church of Rome are trained up to the work, and instructed in all the most plausible methods and arguments for winning over people to their Church ; and if Protestant pastors should be uninstructed, and unable to manage the argument, and take off the colours that the adversary lays on, a victory must of course ensue, and the convert be carried off in triumph.

V. To prevent this reproach upon a Protestant clergy, and to preserve well-meaning people, by their endeavours, from being seduced into a very corrupt Church, is the design of publishing this collection of tracts against Popery. But the success of it will depend upon a serious and diligent application on the part of the clergy, and a resolution to be provided with sufficient armour against all events. How soon, or how late, we may be called to the same severe trial and service that our predecessors were, God alone knows. If it be true, as it certainly is, that the Reformation from Popery, and the zeal with which it was carried on and maintained, were founded in a serious concern for the purity of religion in doctrine and practice; the Protestant cause must grow weaker and weaker, in proportion to the decay of that serious concern among us. If the foundation be faulty, the superstructure cannot stand ; and to what degree most Protestant countries, and particularly our own, are fallen from their ancient seriousness in religion, and zeal for it, is too well known. It cannot be a secret to any one who opens his eyes, how fast infidelity, and an indifference to all religion, has been growing among us for some years past; and it is no less plain, that if people have no concern for Christianity in general, it must be matter of indifference with them, under what denomination of it they live. Only, the less inward regard they have to religion, the more they will be pleased with a public worship of outward show and pomp.

It has, indeed, been urged, in opposition to this way of reasoning, that several persons of distinction in the reign of James the Second, who appeared by their lives to sit loose from religion in general, were yet as zealous against all the measures of that prince for introducing Popery, as the most serious and sincere Protestants. But this argument will be of little force when it is considered, “That a neighbouring prince was then in the height of his glory, and pushing for universal monarchy;" “That if King James succeeded in his measures for establishing Popery in Great Britain, it must evidently have been by succours from him ;” and, “That the intended establishment could not be maintained but by a dependence upon him.” The consequence of all which must have been, the swallowing up our civil liberties, and the enslaving us to a foreign power. These were considerations which could not but have great weight with Englishmen as such, abstracting from the point of religion. But when there are not the like fears about civil rights or liberties, no reason can be assigned why such men should be concerned for the Protestant religion in opposition to Popery, much less why they should subject themselves to temporal losses or inconveniences by adhering to it. Whenever things shall come to the trial, the only sure support of the Protestant cause, will be the serious and sincere Christian, who prefers his religion before Popery, because it is more agreeable to the rules of the Gospel and the true spirit of Christianity, and who laments the open profaneness and neglect of God's worship, and the contempt of every thing that is sacred, which are found in this Protestant country. These, at present, afford the priests of the Church of Rome a very specious argument, in their attempts upon those who are not able to enter into the real merits of the cause ; and must, in the event, draw down some heavy judgment, if a timely restraint be not laid upon them.

These things are mentioned here as by no means foreign to the subject; to let high and low see where the true strength and support of the Protestant interest lies; and particularly to suggest to the clergy, that the best way of promoting that interest in the ordinary course, is the preserving upon the

minds of their people a serious sense of religion, and a reverence for things sacred ; and next, to convince those who are in authority, that open profaneness and impiety in a Protestant nation, is the greatest blow that can be given to a Protestant succes

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »