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tainly there is no appeal; but surely, Sir, it is not necessary for me to inform you, that almost every error, heresy, and absurdity, since the foundation of Christianity, has been referred with confidence to precisely the same test, and has, generally speaking, been provable thereby. An appeal, therefore, from the language of Scripture must lie somewhere, and put it how you will, this appeal must, first or last, directly or indirectly, be to reason. Argument and judgment must decide! If you would impose your interpretation, you must prove its correctness, and prove it to the satisfaction of him upon whom you would impose it, or you are hardly justified in condemning him for differing with you.
You have free liberty to propose whatever may seem good and reasonable to yourself, and to support it with such proofs as may suggest themselves, in the best way you can, and, if your practice be consistent with your profession, you have a right to expect that men should give you credit for sincerity, tolerate your eccentricity, and respect your principles.
Thus much, in this age of toleration, I think I can promise you, and that the "charge of singularity" will not stand much in your way. If you do not like to go out on a Sunday, why you may stay at home; if you do not like to go to a raceground or to a theatre, stay away from them; no
body will trouble their heads about the matter: it were gross ill-breeding to observe upon it in your
presence, and if observed upon behind your back, I
can promise you, generally, a defender for every assailant, especially where you abstain, for principle's sake, from any thing usually thought agreeable. But if you will not be contented with this toleration, but must have dominion, and assail others, then you have no right to complain that you yourselves are assailed in turn.
If you will obtrude your opinions as infallible, prepare to support their infallibility with reason and good-humour, for whenever you descend to abuse, far from being thereby convinced, men will rather take it as an evidence of your feeling yourself worsted in argument. Quakers, with all their marked, and sometimes troublesome peculiarities, walk about in their brown coats and slouch hats unmolested and unridiculed; they are respected for their sterling worth, and not only tolerated, but indulged even in their most inconvenient whims, beyond any other class of subjects, but then they have ceased to act upon the offensive. When they thought proper to come into the
steeple-house," and insult the worship of the place, they brought upon themselves retaliation, and their cry of "persecution" was justly ridiculed. Thus, Sir, it is with yourself; the rules of our so
ciety will answer your purpose well enough if you will be content not to outrage them. If you wish to preach, why preach, either vivá voce, if you can collect a willing audience, or in print for those who like to read. But if But if you will insist upon preaching unseasonably, or, under pretence of sermons, write libels upon society, you must expect that your audience will yawn, and your readers will criticize, and you must lay your account to being exposed, whenever you are caught tripping, "with such measure as you mete shall it be meted to you again ;" and of this you have no reason to complain, for you, a real Christian," have begun the fray. Do not imagine, Sir, that even if I am the first who have observed upon the injustice of your remarks, that I therefore am the first who have felt it, or that your accusations have been thus seemingly acquiesced in from their undeniable justice. No, Sir; if they have remained unanswered, it has been because it was the business of no particular person to answer them; and they have been acquiesced in generally from want of observation. We are so accustomed to crimination from writers upon such subjects, and so well aware of our deserving all that can be said upon the score of imperfection, that your abuse has passed as general arraignment with the majority of readers, who have not attended to the particular design of your argument sufficiently
to discover its extent, and feeling each individual charge as advanced to contain some truth, as most of those which are at all definite must do, being charges of general imperfection, they have concluded the whole to be true, and the case made out. Others, again, having been perhaps a little staggered at first by some of your positions, after being tolerably well tired and confused, like a novice reading an Act of Parliament, by the lengthened wording, intermixed with Scripture quotations, have at last arrived at your explanatory concessions, and seizing eagerly upon something so good and reasonable, have forgotten to observe that these contradict entirely the previous arguments; and, satisfied that they have now arrived at your meaning, their suspicions are lulled to sleep, and by the time the conceded point is re-assumed they have totally forgotten their previous jealousy, and conclude all is right, though they cannot remember exactly how. They, in fact, remember but your general charges, which they feel to be true; your concessions, which they look upon as the explanation and summary of your arguments, forgetting the arguments themselves and their consequences; and your good preachment, supported, as it appears to them, by numerous texts from Scripture. Thus the mass of your readers, powerless from mingled confusion, indolence, and habitual humility, in ac
quiescing at once in every charge of imperfection, or excited by the high-flown piety of your style and language, and, above all, borne down by the reiterated assertions of an author of such name and just celebrity, are led to conclude that all you have said must be just and true; and many of them, it is to be feared, to the ulterior conclusions you would apparently enforce, that the Calvinistic minority of the Church of England is alone worthy of its assumed title of Evangelical.
I now pass on, Sir, to a regular review of your book, chapter by chapter, and let those who will read, think, and judge how far I sustain the charges I have ventured to make against it; and how far I have been able to answer the charges it makes against us.
Your humble servant,