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“ Errare possum, hæreticus esse nolo.”-ST. Aug.
66 To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this
PUBLISHED BY R. GROOMBRIDGE, PANTER ALIEY, AND
AND G. RIDGE, SHEFFIELD,
Previously to the commencement of the following pages, the Author received repeated solicitations to publish his reasons for leaving the Dissenters and conforming to the Established Church, not only from several of his old friends, but also from some highly respectable and worthy Churchmen, who urged it upon him as an imperative duty. To such requests, seconded by the circumstances and events of the times, he at length acceded, but with no small degree of reluctance and diffidence: not that he entertained the slightest doubt of the truth and rectitude of the opinions he has advocated, or of the falsehood and pernicious tendency of the principles and sentiments he has opposed; but simply because he was afraid, lest the Holy Cause which he felt most anxious to serve should suffer through his incompetency and inexperience as a writer; and because there were numbers who, to say nothing of their being much more interested, were, in point of talent, learning, and leisure, incomparably better able than himself to defend the Church and oppose her enemies. Having daily business to attend to, besides other necessary engagements, he was aware that his labours in the work of composition, would unavoidably meet with numerous interruptions. But, notwithstanding such discouragements, he cominenced the task, and, considering all things, has executed it as well as he was able. Had he had more time, and been at liberty to have devoted
his sole and undivided attention to the work, it would, he feels persuaded, have contained fewer defects and imperfections; and, as to method and arrangement, have appeared in a different state. Such as it is, howerer, he presents it to the Christian Public for their serious thought and consideration, humbly trusting, that it will in some degree answer his intention of serving the cause of Christ and his Church. If any one should think, that it will not accomplish the object intended, as well as it might have done, the course is clear, let him act accordingly; if the writer of this shall have the happiness to know, that he has only been the means, even through his own inability, of provoking to the contest a nobler champion in defence of Truth, he will be abundantly satisfied.
With regard to language, the Author conceives that it may be whetted as the fool sharpened his knife; and as some are desirous of reforming the Church, until it has neither strength nor utility left, he has, therefore, studiously avoided everything in the shape of that capricious refinemen-that spruce and affected delicacy which too often pleases the ear without benefitting the understanding; and has laboured to be plain, with a view of being more generally understood, particularly by Dissenters, the majority of whom are not only extremely illiterate, but actually consider it commendable to be so. If, at the same time, he should be thought to have unnecessarily failed in points of courtesy, it is purely unintentional, and must be attributed to his Dissenting education, of the effects of which he fears his utmost endeavours have not yet entirely succeeded to divest his mode of expression. He candidly confesses, however, that he has given no quarter to the aryuments of his enemies, and that he never intended to do so ; for, as Bishop Burnett
has well remarked, “Whatever moderation or charity we owe to men's persons, we owe none at all to their errors, and to that frame which is built on and supported by them.” Thoroughly convinced of the wicked nature and evil tendency of the principles of Dissent, and the shameless dis.. honesty generally manifested in their defence, the writer has endeavoured to expose and treat them accordingly; and happy would he have felt, could he have discovered a method by which those false principles, and the equally false rea. soning which is built upon them, might have been successfully opposed, without at all involving the persons of those who espouse, or pretend to espouse them. The slightest knowledge of human nature, however, clearly evinces that this is absolutely impossible; had it been otherwise, the inhabitants of the old world would not have been destroyed their errors and vices would alone have suffered. The conduct, also, of our Lord himself on various occasions, particularly as recorded in the Twenty-third Chapter of St. Matthew's Gospel, demonstrates that persons and their errors are indissolubly connected. Concerning those who depraved Christianity in the primitive ages, the Apostle says, “The man that is a heretic reject,” not the heresy only, which would have been impossible, but the man. Rebuke them sharply a rotóws cuttingly. And had John the Baptist rebuked adultery without rebuking the adulterous Herod, he would not have lost his head. Those who attempt to combat errors abstractedly and independently of the persons who hold them, resemble the army of Mithridates, which lost the day by mistakingly aiming their arrows, not at the persons, but at the shadows of the Roman soldiers.
Were Dissenting Teachers (for they are the persons par. ticularly alluded to in the following Work) really a quiet,