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zes of Villany and Debauchery; and the Celebration of the Holy Sacrament it felf, was held forth as a more horrid and frightful Ceremony,than any of the Myfteries of Bacchus or Venus, and as a Rite defigned to initiate Men into the diffolute Practice of every Impurity and Abomination. And all this was reprefented as the tendency and defign of their Religion, as we are at large informed by the Writers of the first Ages, and particluarly by that beautiful and elegant Work of Minutius Falix, the admirable Octavius, where thefe Diabolical Calumnies are fully explain'd and refuted: So that confi dering the fcandalous notion the People had got of Chriftians, it was not fo much the Thing as the Name which they perfecuted; when their Character was fo blackned and defaced, no wonder that it became odious and contemptible; and when they were clothed with the Skin of a ravenous Tyger, the Devil eafily prevailed on the blinded World to rid themfelves of them, and Chriftianos ad Leones was the natural Confequence of the Idea which had been received of them,
In fuch Circumftances it was neceffary to the Honour of their Religion, and that Juftice which every Man owes to his Good Name, for the Chriftians to give a fair Reprefentation of the Nature and Tendency of that Religion which they had made choice of, whereby the falfhood of all thofe hellifh Calumnies would become evident; and the World must be convinced, that a Religion calculated to promote Vertue and Purity, and advance the Glory and Happiness of our Natures, to reconcile Men to God, and unite their Minds by the moft difinterefted Love and extenfive Charity, could never give the smallest Countenance to any of thefe Abominations which were charged upon its Profeffors, And this was the more neceffary, because thofe odious Colours which had been put upon Chriftianity, appear'd the more plaufible from the Conduct of the Gnofticks and the other Monsters which infefted thofe Times; who tho' they fcarce retain'd one Principle of our Religion, and had formed the moft impious and abfurd Schemes of Doctrine which were in all refpects contradictory to it, yet they ufurped the Name of Chriftians, and the Heathens, who knew little more of it but the Name, confounded all together who bore it, and attributed to the whole the Exceffes of Debauch and Impurity, which they faw thefe Hereticks abandon themfelves to: It was therefore of the laft Confequence to the Church, to diftinguish betwixt the Gnofticks and themselves, and fhow that their Principles and Practice had nothing common with thefe filthy brutish Sects.
It was for this Purpose then, amongst others, that Creeds and Confeffions were at the beginning framed, which gave a fhort Summary of the principal Articles of the Chriftian Faith, and afforded every Perfon the eafieft Accefs to form fome Notion of a Chriflian : And, 'tis hop'd, in fo far they fprung neither from luft of Power and spiritual Pride, nor from a tyrannical Dominion ufurped over the Confciences f Men (which have been given out in this Age as their
only Rife) but that their Original was both just and neceffary. It was for the fame purpose that Juflin Martyr, Tertullian, &c. publifhed their Apologies for Chriftianity, which in fo far were of the fame Nature and Tendency with Confeffions; tho' the Condition of the Church at that time, made it impracticable to frame fuch large Accounts of their Faith by common Confent.
At the Reformation from the Apoftacy of the Antichriftian Church, the Papifts ufed the fame Engines to obfcure the Light of the Gofpel, and put a ftop to its Progrefs, as the Heathens had done formerly; the fame irreconcilable Enmity to the Glory of the Meffiah's Kingdom equally animating them both, and infpiring them with Rage and Falfhord. As the Pagans dealt by the Chriftians, fo did they by the Reformers, abus'd their Perfons, and traduc'd the Doctrines which they taught; and not content to affault them with Argument and Violence, they defamed them by noify Calumnies; and however unjust and abominable any Imputation was, they never fcrupled to charge it upon them, if thereby they could either incite the Wrath of thofe in Power, or ftir up the furious Zeal of the unthinking Populace againft them: Hence all the Measures taken by our Heroick Forefathers, who threw off the Romish Yoke, were reprefented as proceeding wholly from a contempt of all Authority, and a Difregard of the Laws and Orders either of Church or State, and from a fond Inclination to Novelty and to a diffolute Life that fhould have nothing to curb its Extravagancies; they were exclaim'd against as the Perfons whe turned the World upfide down.
There was fo much care taken to fpread thefe Falfhoods, and the Matter was of fo great Importance,that it feems to have been the chief Defign of the feveral Confeffions compofed by the Reformed Churches, to provide a remedy against this Evil, which they endeavoured to do, by publishing to the World a plain and genuine Account of the Doctrines which they maintain'd,and of the Springs whence the Reformation flowed, and of the Purpofes it aimed at, that it might appear they were entirely different from the invidious Reprefentation their Adverfaries made of them, and that fuch were extremely impos'd upon, who credited their Ślanders.
For this end, as the Prefaces to many of the Proteftant Confeffions inform us, they defign'd thofe Compofures, that the EmpeFor and other Princes, under whom they lived, might difcover how little Ground there was for perfecuting them as Difturbers of the Publick Peace, and Enemies to Magiftracy, when in the strongest manner they taught its Divine Original, and its abfolute Neceffity to the Happiness or even Being of any Society: And tho' they expofed the Tyranny of the Papacy, and ftrove to beget in their People fuch a Value for the Liberties of a Christian, as might make them abhor that unfufferable Bondage which the Toman Pontiff had enflaved the World into, they at the fame time recommended Obedience to thofe Powers which are ordained of God, and embraced no Principle that had the fmalleft Tendency to Licence and Diforder.
They intended to fhow by their Confeffions, that when they difclaim'd the Authority of the Antichriftian Church, undervalued itsCenfures, and ftood unfhaken by the Thunders of the Vatican, they were not moved by a hatred to Difcipline, a Spirit of Sedition, nor a Love of unreftrained Pleasures, but by a juft Regard to the Honour of God, and the genuine Defigns of Ecclefiaftical Government, and by a noble Abhorrence of an Ufurpation upon the Dominion of Christ in his own Kingdom, and the Liberties of his Subjects; and in a word, that it might become evident that the Corruptions of Popery were grown to fuch an exorbitant Height,and had fo univerfally polluted the Doctrine and Worship of that Church, that the Grounds of their Separation from that Commu nion were of the utmost Importance, and laid them under an abfolute neceffity openly to renounce it.
One thing alfo was directly aimed at by our Fathers, that the World might fee how different their Doctrine was from the Dreams and Ravings of the Anabaptifts, and other monftrous Hereticks who acted fo extravagant a part in Germany, about the time of the Reformation.
We have fpoken at greater length upon this End, which both the Primitive Chriftians and the Reformed Churches propofed in framing of their Creeds, becaufe it is of very confiderable Impor tance with respect to the Doctrine of our Church, and one thing that,'tis hoped, may be gain'd by a tolerable Acquaintance with our Confeffion: Never was there a Church whofe Principles were more unjustly mifreprefented, and loaded with Calumnies more diftinguifh'd for their Blacknefs and their Variety; and confequently this Ufe of a Confeffion, whereby a genuine Account may be given of what we maintain, is become of the greatest Neceffity tous; for, befides thofe Slanders and Reproaches, which we share with all the Proteftant Churches from our common Enemies, there are many peculiar Circumftances with relation to the State of religious Matters in Britain, which gave rife to Divifions of feveral Kinds, put an Edge upon the Spirits of Parties violently animated against one another, and occafioned the more calumnious Mifreprefentations of Perfons and Doctrines.
Every body knows in what unhappy diftracted Times, the Weftminster Affembly met and compos'd that Confeffion of Faith, which hath fince been received and own'd by the Church of Scotland, as containing the pure and uncorrupted Doctrine of Chriftianity: The Flames of a Civil War raged at that time thro' the whole Nation, and there were few Breafts which had not been heated and difordered thereby; Contention, Revenge, Hatred, and the other angry uncharitable Paffions, had with moft People got the Mastery over the sweeter and gentler Fruits of the Chriftian Life, and univerfally prevail'd: When things had come to fo melancholy an Extremity, that the Sword was unfheathed, and the contending Parties not only difputed but fought it, there was little place, amidst the Noife of Arms and the Horrors of Blood and Violence, for
Meeknefs, Love, a Forbearance of one another, and a charitable Conftruction of Opinions and Actions; nor were Temper and Moderation almoft any where to be met with, the whole Body was in a Fever, and the fermented Humors broke over all the Bounds of Reafon and Confideration, and the Fiercenefs and Rage of their Battles mix'd with and envenom'd their Difputes; and it may be without difficulty believed, that angry Men would readily be tempted, to blacken and calumniate the Opinions of thofe whom they ftrove to deftroy, and give the most odious Colours to their Doctrines, that might conduce to vilifie and expofe their Perfons.
Upon the one hand, fuch as were remarkably zealous for the Proteftant Caufe and the Liberties of the People, were animated, by their Affection to their Country and Apprehenfions of its danger,with the greater Warmth against thofe who they thought betrayed it; or maintained Principles that feemed to look towards Popery and Arbitrary Power; and made them both think and fpeak things of them, that were perhaps carried too far, and more harth and rigid than was reafonable. While on the other fide, uncharitable Paflions boiled over with no lefs Violence; the pernicious Defigns of fome who favoured Popery and Tyranny,enraged them against the most active and fteady Oppofers thereof: And the Clergy of the Church of England, whofe Power and Dignities were very much lowered upon the prevailing of the Parliament, and many of whom were turned out of their Livings, were no doubt extremely difgufled and moved with Refentment againft fuch as they fancied the Authors of their Misfortunes, and got their Spirits gradually fowred by the Ufage they met with: This naturally made them entertain the worfe Opinion of every thing that came from the fide of the Parliament, and, amongst o thers, the Presbyterians who had generally gone that way, had large Share of their unfavouarble Thoughts; fo that befide the Queftions immediately in Debate, the Doctrines which they embraced, and the Confeffion of Faith fram'd by the Westminster Affembly, upon that very account that they were theirs, became odious; the blackeft and moft injurious Notions thereof were indulged, and the contrary Principles eagerly received and propagated.
When publick Affairs were in fo difordered a Condition, the Government both of Church and State fluctuating and unstable, and the various Humors and Paffions of Men in a preternatural Heat, there arofe a great Number of different Sects and Parties; giddy, defigning or ambitious Perfons, would fix upon nothing, but fet up for Authors of new Schemes, run down the old Princi ples of Religion, and dreamed Fancies of their own which they then freely propagated, and found too many weak and unfettled enough to follow fuch blind and perverfe Leaders, as Quakers, Antinomians, Fifth-Monarchy-Men, Muggletonians, &c. whofe Names were as harth and barbarous, as their Doctrines were deftructive of all Government, and contradictory to the plainest Rudiments of Religion.
Now tho' thefe Sects were indeed as different from the Fathers of our Church, as they were from the Epifcopal Party, and purfued them with an equal Hatred: Yet becaufe at the Beginning all of them joined in maintaining the publick Liberties, and oppofing the Meafures of the King, which appeared arbitrary and inconfiftent with the juft Privileges of Parliament, their Adverfaries jumbled and confounded them altogether; and while they confidered them as one Party, whatever Extravagancy was advanced by any vifionary Sect, was without Scruple charged upon the Whole, and improved to render all equally odious and defpicable, under the common Denomination of Fanaticks; tho' with not much more Reason, than if all the Abfurdities of Popery, should be charged upon the English, because Britain and Spain were once Confederated to bring down the exorbitant Power of France; and with the fame Juftice, that fo oppofite Things as Rome and Geneva, have been often of late joined together by fome paffionate ignorant Writers.
One Thing alfo contributed not a little to the unworthy Sentiments entertain'd of our Fathers, that there was no Care taken to diftinguish betwixt the Beginning, Progrefs and End of the Civil Wars, nor betwixt the Perfons who acted, and the Springs of Management during those different Periods; tho' they were not only diftinct but frequently contrary to one another. The Parliament and their Adherents thro' the Nation, were imprefs'd, by a Train of unhappy Events, with a deep Conviction, that, in Order to preferve the finking State, and the decaying Interefts of the Reformation from utter Ruin, it was abfolutely neceffary to make a vigorous Refiftance to the imperious Defigns of the Court, which had of a long Time been fondly grafping at a tyrannical Domination; and to put a Stop to the innovating Principles and bold Attempts of fome High Church Prelates, which feemed to lead us back again to Rome, and fap the Foundations of the Proteftanc Faith.
As this was the Rife of the Civil War, it is certain that many were engaged in it who propofed only to maintain Liberty, and give a due Life and Vigour to the Laws, to reform Abuses, remove Papifts, and evil Counfellers; and to eftablish Things on fuch a firm and ftable Bottom, that the Power of the King might not be dangerous and fatal to the Conftitution: But never had it in their Thoughts, to overturn the Government, or introduce Diforder and Licence; and of this Sort were moft, or rather all the Presbyterians. During the Progrefs of the War, Perfons of quite different Complexions prevailed, Men of levelling Principles grew bold and numerous; the Sectaries got into the Army, and gathering Strength, intirely difpoffeffed the Parliament of their Authority, brought the King to the Scaffold, and, together with Epifcopacy, overturned all Government in the Church, being as great Enemies to Presbytery as to the Hierarchy. Notwithstanding whereof, by a very unaccountable Turn of Thought, the different Perfons who be