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THE

PREFACE

TO THE

READER.

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 oppofite 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 confcience, 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 defire the reader fhould 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 exactly drawn, as to comprehend all the feveral members of them; at least all fuch 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 fatisfied that, according to their own principles, they ought not to perfecute them. Yet thefe, by reafon of their fewnefs, I could not diftinguifh from the numbers of the reft, with whom they are embodied in one common name. On the other fide, there are many of our Sects, and more indeed than I could reasonably have hoped, who have withdrawn themfelves from the communion of the Panther, and embraced this gracious indulgence of his Majesty in point of Toleration.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 these is this fatire any way intended: it is aimed only at the refractory and difobedient on either fide. For those, who are come over to the royal party, are confequently fuppofed to be out of gunshot. Our phyficians have obferved, that, in procefs of time, some diseases have abated of their virulence, and have in a manner worn out their malignity, fo as to be no longer mortal; and why may not I fuppofe the fame concerning fome 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 perfecution is far from being an article of our faith.

It is not for any private man to cenfure the proceedings of a foreign prince; but, without fufpicion of flattery, I may praise our own, who has taken contrary measures, and those more fuitable to the fpirit of Christianity. Some of the Diffenters, in their addreffes to his Majefty, have faid, "That he has

"restored God to his empire over confcience." I confefs, I dare not stretch the figure to fo great a boldness; but I may fafely fay, that confcience is the royalty and prerogative of every private man. He is abfolute in his own breaft, 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 fects, 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 perfecutors, what is it elfe, but publicly to own, that they fuffered not before for confcience fake, but only out of pride and obftinacy, to separate from a Church for thofe impofitions, which they now judge may be lawfully obeyed? After they have fo long contended for their claffical ordination (not to speak of rites and ceremonies) will they at length submit to an episcopal? If they can go fo far out of complaifance to their old enemies, methinks a little reason should perfuade them to take another step, and fee whither that would lead them.

Of the receiving this toleration thankfully I fhall say no more, than that they ought, and I doubt not they will confider from what hands they received it. It is not from a Cyrus, a heathen prince, and a foreigner, but from a Chriftian King, their native fovereign; who expects a return in fpecie from them, that the kindness, which he has graciously fhewn

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