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The nation is in too high a ferment for me to 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 altogether useless. What I desire the reader should know concerning me, he will find in the body of the poem, if he have but the patience to peruse it. Only this advertisement let him take beforehand, which relates to the merits of the cause. No general characters of parties (call them either Sects or Churches) can be fo fully and exaflly drawn, as to comprehend all the several members of them; at least all such as are received under that denomination. For example: there are some of the Church by law established, who envy not liberty of conscience to Diffenters; as being well satisfied that, according to 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 On the other side, there are many of our Sects, and more indeed than I could reasonably have hoped, who have withdrawn themselves from the communion of the Panther, and embraced this gracious indulgence of bis Majesty in point of Toleration. But neither to the one nor the other of these is this satire 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
gunshot. 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 same concerning some of those, who have formerly been enemies 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 tłattery, I may praise our own, who has taken contrary nieasures, and those more suitable to the spirit of Christianity. Some of the Diffenters, in their addresses to his Majesty, have said, “ That he has
“ restored God to his empire over conscience.” I confess, 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 fold are, generally speaking, rather made hypocrites than converts.
This indulgence being granted to all the seats, it ought in reason 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 persecutors, what is it elfe, but publicly to own, that they suffered not before for conscience fake, but only out of pride and obftinacy, to separate from a Church for those impofitions, 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 submit 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 shall say no more, than that they ought, and I doubt not they will consider from what hands they received it. It is not from a Cyrus, a heathen prince, and a fo. reigner, but from a Christian King, their native fovereign; who expects a return in specie from them, that the kindness, which he has gracioully shewn