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system of religion which supports them, whether it be true, or false, this being a propofition, the truth of which is supported by universal experience and fact; so this exhibits an obvious reason to us, carefully to examnine what comes from that quarter, because it is by them we are in the greatest danger of being misled, by implicitly submitting to their didłates, as they are the ministry we are immediately concerned with, whether Mahometan, or Christian, whether popish, protestant, or otherwise. For example, suppose a Man, in a Mahometan country, to be under fome doubt, as to the divine original of the Coran, and suppose it concerns him to be satisfied, whether the Coran be a divine revelation, or not; the
question is, who is proper to be applied to ? And the answer is most obvious, not to a Mahometan Priest, because he stands engaged, by office and interest, to defend the divinity of the Coran, and therefore will do it; and consequently, he, of all others, is the most unfit to be applied to, or depended upon ; and this, surely, will be allowed, by all Christians, as the case is not their own.
In like manner, suppose a man, in a popish country, should be doubtful of
the doctrine of transubstantiation, and suppose he has a right to enquire into the truth of it; the question is, who is him to apply to, and depend upon ? not, surely, to a popish priest! because he is obliged, by office and interest, to support popery, at all adventures, of which the doctrine of transubstantiation is a part; and therefore, this he will do, as popery is the religious constitution he is immediately related to, and is supported by ; and, consequently, every Protefiant will allow, that truth is not likely to meet with fair play from that quarter. Again, suppose a man, among us, should be doubtful of the truth of some article, or branch, of the constitution of the church of England; for instance, let it be that of Inzfant-Baptisin; and let it be admitted, that the doubtful person ought to pursue truth the question is, who is proper to be applied to, and to be depended upon ? And here the general vote, no doubt, will be for the parish-priest ; whereas, were men to be as impartial in judging in their own case, as they are in that of others, then the general vote would be against the parish-priest, for the reasons before mentioned. And this is not arraigning the abilities and integrity
of the English clergy, but only observing, that they act upon the same principles that all other bodies of clergy do, and which, most certainiy, is the case. Every parishpriest is pre-engaged and pre-determined, by office and interest, to support and maintain the doctrines and constitution of the Church of England, as it is what supports and maintains him; and, therefore, when any
article of it is impeached, he becomes concerned to make use of all the arguments and evi , dence, that his abilities and reading can furnish him with, to support and maintain it, and, as a true son of the church, may think it his duty fo to do. And tho’Infant-Baptism must needs appear, to an attentive mind, to be a mere bauble or insignificant ceremony, that can answer no wise and good end, (except the promoting good eating and drinking be considered as such) as it cannot possibly have any moral influence on the subject ; yet how insignificant and useless foever it be, when once it is become a part of the constitution of any church, the true fons of that church will do their best to support and maintain it, and which is our case. And this has been, and is, and always will be, the case, whilst man continuos
to be the same creature that he now is. For tho', perhaps, at the opening of any new dispeniation, or the founding any new sect, 2 great furplus of religious zeal usually boils in the breasts of it's first converts, which ardent zeal produces much greater degrees of mortification, self-denial, and contempt of this world, than ordinarily takes place among men ; yet, constant experience thews, that such itrains of zeal, except they are kept up by a violent opposition, gradually decay, and, by degrees, wear off ; tho', perhaps, the name, and the outward appearance, may remain. This, surely, has been exemplified, in many instances, and this may, perhaps, have been the case of Christianity itself, whatever reform upon mankind may, at first, have been intended, or even produced thereby. And, supposing any body of clergy should infift, that the religious system they recommend, is the only true religion, and should urge it's being such, as a reason why they ought to be depended upon, in their promulgation of it, and in their preachments about it ; as this is what all bodies of clergy asime, with respect to the religious constitution they are in pay to maintain ; fo this is a reason why they ought not to be trusted,
with relation thereto, because, if it should be an error, (of which the ipse-dixit of any such body does not shew, or prove, the contrary) it is what they stand engaged, by office and interest, to support, under the character they have stamped upon it; and this they will do, to the utmost of their power, as it is what supports and maintains
; as thereby they execute the trust reposed in them, by their mother, the church; and as thereby they are true to their principles, which, otherwise, they would not be confidered to be. And if the religious conftitution, that any body of clergy are thus engaged to support, should happen to be wholly founded in truth, which is not very likely to be the case ; then such clergy ought to sew, or plainly make it appear to be so, and not authoritatively impofe it upon any ; because man ought to be dealt with suitably to his intelligent and manly nature, and not like the brute beasts, that have no understanding, but must go whithersoever their leader, or driver, pleases.
The sum of the arguments is this; the Bible is a colle&tion of writings, which, to appearance, at least, are greatly confused; which holds forth examples for us to copy