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PRE FACE TO THE READER.
expect either fair war, or even so much as fair quarter, from a reader of the opposite party. All men are engaged either on this fide or that; and though conscience is the common word, which is given by both,
yet if a writer fall among enemies, and cannot give the marks of their conscience, he is knocked down before the reasons of his own are heard. A preface, therefore, which is but a bespeaking of favour, is al-' together useless. What I desire the reader Thould know concerning me, he will find in the body of the puem,' if he have but the patience to peruse it. Only this advertisement let him take before-hand, which relates to the merits of the cause. No general characters of parties (call them either fe&ts or churches) can be fo fully and exactly drawn, as to comprehend all the several members of them; at least all such as are received under that denoinination. For example; there are some of the church by law established, who envy not liberty of conscience to dissenters ; as being well satisfied that, according their own principles, they ought not to persecute them. Yet these, by reason of their fewness,' I could not distinguish from the numbers of the rest, with whom they are embodied in one common name. On the other side, there are many of our feets, and
more indeed than I could reasonably have hoped, who have withdrawn themselves from the communion of the Panther, and embraced this gracious indulgence of his majesty in point of toleration. But neither to the one nor the other of there is this fatire
any way intended : it is aimed only at the refractory and disobedient on either side. For those, who are come over to the royal party, are consequently supposed to be out of gun-fhot. Our physicians have observed, that, in process of time, some diseases have abated of their virulence, and have in a manner worn out their malignity, so as to be no longer mortal : and why may not I suppose the fame concerning some of those, who have formerly been eneinies to kingly government, as well as Catholic religion ? I hope they have now another notion of both, as having found, by comfortable experience, that the doctrine of persecution is far from being an article of our faith.
It is not for any private man to censure the proceedings of a foreign prince : but, without suspicion of flattery, I may praise our own, who has taken contrary measures, and those more fuitable to the spirit of Chriftianity. Some of the disenters, in their addresses to his majesty, have said, “ That he has restored God to “ his empire over conscience.” I confels, I dare not stretch the figure to so great a boldness : but I may safely say, that conscience is the royalty and prerogative of every private man. He is absolute in his own breast, and accountable to no earthly power, for that which passes only betwixt God and him. Those who are driven into the sold are, generally speaking, ratner made nypocrites tnon converts.
This indulgence being granted to all the feets, it ought in realon to be expected, that they should both receive it, and receive it thankfully. For, at this time of day, to refuse the benefit, and adhere to those whom they have esteemed their perfecutors, what is it else, but publicly to own, that they suffered not before for conscience-fake, but only out of pride and obstinacy, to separate from a church for those impositions, which they now judge may be lawfully obeyed ? After they have so long contended for their classical ordination (not to speak of rites and ceremonies), will they at length fubmit to an episcopal ? If they can go so far out of complaisance to their old enemies, methinks a little reason should persuade them to take another step, and see whither that would lead them.
Of the receiving this toleration thankfully I fall say no more, than that they ought, and I doubt not they will consider from what hand they received it. It is not from a Cyrus, a heathen prince, and a foreigner, but from a christian king, their native sovereign ; who expects a return in fpecie from them, that the kindness, which he has graciously shewn them, may be retaliated on those of his own persuasion.
As for the poem in general, I will only thus far. satisfy the reader, that it was neither imposed on me, nor so much as the subject given me by any man.
It wils written during the last winter, and the beginning of this spring; though with long interruptions of i!l health and other hindrances. About a fortnight before I had finished it, his majesty's declaration for liberty of