Page images

the idea I had formed of Dr C
-1, from
his differtation on miracles, and from the cha-
racter which he univerfally poffeffes as a man of
great parts and folid learning, is fuch, that,
from a ferious examination of this fermon, of its
confequences and tendency, I should rather be
apt to fufpect, that it is a fpurious piece; and
that its author had only borrowed the Doctor's
name for interested views. It is in this light
then, that I would wish to attack it, in the fol-
lowing obfervations: Namely, as giving you my
reafons, why I cannot allow myself to think it
the work of Dr C▬▬l, rather than as appear-
ing to you in the character of an antagonist to fo
great a man; fo that my defign is more to vin-
dicate the Doctor, from what I think unworthy
of his name, than to combat his opinions.




You tell me, this fermon is looked upon, by all who have perufed it, as "the production of a candid, of a humane, of a charitable heart; as tending to establish the Christian religion in "its native purity, and, what is of still greater importance in a Proteftant country, as giving a fatal and irrecoverable blow to Popery." It may be fo, my friends: But, in my humble opinion, it will not be long able to fupport fo glorious a character. The generality of mankind are but fuperficial readers; and fuperficial readers, you know, are apt to be dazzled with the curfory perufal of a book genteelly written, efpecially when it appears under a celebrated name; for, under fuch a fanction, bold affertions eafily pafs for proofs, and fly infinuations for folid reafonings; but when the run is over, and the charms of novelty a little difpelled, reafon will be apt to refume its throne, and a little ferious reflection discover the

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small]

delufion. Of this, we have seen many examples, in fimilar cafes; and, I dare venture to fay, the prefent fermon, on the spirit of the gospel, will foon add one to the number. For my own part, the more I confider it, the more I am convinced, that it deferves a character directly oppofite to what you fay it has met with. And, I think, it will be no very difficult matter to show, as, in the following obfervations, I fhall endeavour to do, that the author, whatever fine profeffions of charity he makes, is void of all charity; that he establishes tenets directly oppofite to the exprefs words of the Holy Scripture, and dangerous to Christianity itself; and that, inftead of giving a blow to Popery, he has put arms in the hands of Roman-Catholicks; which, if they please to use them, as it is not to be doubted but they will, if this piece falls into their hands, may be of more real advantage to them, than if he had written directly in their favours. Now, as I can never suspect Dr C- -1 capable of a defign of this kind, and have too high an opinion of his parts to fuppofe a production of fuch a nature could ever have escaped his pen unobferved; for this reafon, I can never allow myself to think, that this fermon is really his; but muft look upon it as the production of fome malevolent heart, of latitudinarian principles, no less an enemy to Christianity in general, than to Proteftancy in particular.

To proceed in order, then, in my animadverfions upon this piece, I begin with the laft of the three articles of which I have impeached it; namely, To fhow the great advantages which it puts in the hands of the Roman-Catholicks; be

caufe this point, being once fettled, the others will appear more diftinctly. In the year 1766, a great many publications appeared in several of our London papers, complaining of the great increase of Popery in that metropolis, and propofing different schemes for preventing fo great an evil. A gentleman, who ftyled himself a real freethinker, confidering the many difadvantages that Popery lies under in these kingdoms, and justly surprised, that, under fuch disadvantages, it should have any being at all amongst us, much less be upon the increasing hand, fet himfelf impartially to investigate the caufes of this odd phænomenon. His obfervations he communicated to the public, in a series of letters published in the Ledger, one of our weekly papers, which were that fame year collected together, and printed by themselves in a small volume, with several other papers upon the fame fubject, under the title of, A free examination into the common methods employed to prevent the growth of Popery. The author of this little piece handles his fubject in so genteel a manner, with fuch clearnefs and precifion, and, at the fame time, fhows fo much candour and humanity, in all he fays, that it has juftly gained him the approbation and esteem of all who have read it. The grounds upon which this ingenious writer proceeds are thefe: He fuppofes, as an axiom, which no Protestant will call in queftion, That the Proteftant cause is the cause of truth and of the gospel; and that of Popery, the cause of fuperftition and errour. obferves, as another undoubted principle, That it can never be lawful for any party or church to controul the truth, or confecrate falfehood; and that falsehood can never be a lawful, or indeed an effectual means, to


[ocr errors][ocr errors]

defend the truth. He takes notice, in the third place, as a notorious fact, That all worldly motives of intereft, honours, public favour, or the like, are entirely against Papifts in the kingdoms of great Britain and Ireland. Fourthly, He fuppofes, which I dare fay none will refufe, That the Proteftant clergy, for learning, addrefs and eloquence, by far outfhine thofe of the Roman-Catholick communion, at leaft in thefe countries: And lastly, He confiders it as a propofition, as obvious as any in Euclid, That truth and reafon, equally fupported, are, by vaft odds, an over-match for falsehood and nonfenfe. From these undoubted principles, he expreffes his juft furprise, how it is poffible that Popery, under fuch immense disadvantages, should ever be able to make any kind of progress, or even maintain its ground without being utterly overwhelmed! And, he justly concludes, That the cause of this furprising mystery cannot poffibly be on the Popifh fide which lies under every restraint; but muft certainly be owing to fome fatal mifinanagement of their caufe by the Proteftants, and to fome grofs neglect of the advantages they enjoy. He then proceeds to inquire, what thefe defects are in the procedure of Proteftants against the Roman-Catholicks, which contribute fo much to keep these last in being. He points out feverals; and fhews, in the moft fatisfactory manner, the fatal confequences they have to the Proteftant intereft, and the great advantage which they give their opponents.

Amongst the false steps made by Proteftants in the establishment and support of their religion, which enables Popery to make a stand before it, this judicious author gives, with great reason, a principal place to that ungenerous practice, fo



common among Proteftants of all denominations in this country, of rendering Roman-Catholicks odious in the eyes of their countrymen, by calumny and mifrepresentation; that this is too too often practifed, is an uncontestable fact, of which I fhall, by and by, give you some glaring examples; and the evil tendency of it, is fet down with great precision by the above writer. In his third letter, he expreffes himself thus: "A fettled design and determined drift to render any man or party odious to the public, and obnoxi"ous to the laws, may attain its end while the "passion is heated and kept up: but in the hu"man mind there is a reflux when the paffion " is cooled, that brings it back as far to oppo"fite views and fentiments; and we are apt to "look upon those who have been too warmly "accufed, as objects of particular pity and fa66 vour. In cafes of controverfy and litigation, "it has always been found fatal to give the reins "to paffion; in fo much, that it does mifchief " and wrong even to the cause of truth to de"fend it by prevarication and falfehood, because "it gives a fkilful adversary an opportunity of raising a prejudice against the truth, by expofing the prevarication and calumny of the



[ocr errors]



This moft judicious remark he goes on to exemplify in his fourth letter, in the following man"Mifrepresentation cannot serve to con"vert the Papift, but rather to confirm him effectually in his own opinions, as well as in his prejudices against the reformation; and it gives a candid discerning Proteftant, a fufpicion of "the integrity of his brethren, and of the cause they defend by fuch unworthy means-The



[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »