By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: An Account of the Growth of Deism in England
Author: Stephens, William
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "An Account of the Growth of Deism in England" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



Printed for the Author, MDCXCVI.



'Tis now three Years since you and I had a serious Discourse concerning
the rise and progress of _Deism_: which is an Opinion of late Years
crept into _England_, tho not so widely spread here as in other parts of
_Europe_. I well remember we were both agreed, that there was no shadow
of Reason why any one should suspect the _Gospels_ of Forgery, since the
matter contain'd in them hath not the least favour of any worldly
Interest, or indirect Design, but all the Lines of them do only center
in the highest Improvement Humane Nature is capable of. So that in
conformity every Man may take great comfort in himself, and all Mankind
live well with one another. Besides, the Preachers of this excellent
Doctrine had at first all the Discouragements which an irreligious and
idolatrous Age could give them, (as is confessed by their Enemies)
insomuch that nothing but their own personal full Conviction of the
Truths they professed could engage them to Preach 'em; and the
intrinsick Goodness of the Law of _Christ_, was sufficient to gain mens
hearts, after _Miracles_ had born down their Prejudices, and gain'd
their serious Attention. In fine, you and I could see no reason to doubt
of the Truth of any matter of Fact contain'd in the _Gospels_, which
relate the miraculous Birth, Life, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of
_Jesus Christ_; but what would oblige us to deny the truth of all
History whatsoever. And from these Considerations laid together, we
concluded that the Doctrine of our Lord _Jesus Christ_ was undoubtedly
sent to us by God.

This still made it appear more strange to us both, how _DEISM_ (which is
a denial of all reveal'd Religion) should creep in upon us where the
_Scriptures_ are made so publick, and where so many Learned Treaties are
written, which so strongly assert their Authority to be Divine. I
confess, I was as desirous to know upon what Grounds Men rejected the
_Gospel_, as you your self were, and therefore I willingly undertook the
Task you laid on me, _viz._ To collect and put together those Motives
whereby some had been induced to lay aside all _Revelation_. For which
Performance I was the fitter, because it doth not require any Learning
and strength of Wit, but only Observation, and Inquiry, which I might
easily make, because of the numerous Acquaintance I have contracted in
Town, where (you know) I spend the Winter, and in the Country, where I
bestow my Summer Visits. But all I shall do in this matter, is barely to
give you a Relation of those Prejudices, and (as I think) false
Reasonings, which have drawn some of my Acquaintance from _Revelation_
to _DEISM_.

1. Now, first I have observed, that some who pretend themselves
_Deists_, are Men of loose and sensual Lives; and I make no wonder that
they dislike the _Christian_ Doctrine of Self-denial, and the severe
threatnings against wilful Sinners. You may be sure they will not
alledge this Reason: But having read _Spinosa_ and _Hobbes_, and been
taught to laugh at the story of _Baalam_'s Ass, and _Sampson_'s Locks;
they proceed to ridicule the reality of all _Miracle_ and _Revelation_.
I have conversed with several of this Temper, but could never get any of
'em serious enough to debate the reality of _Revelation_: But a witty
Jest and t'other Glass puts an end to all further Consideration. These
are meer _Sceptics_, and practical _Atheists_, rather than real

2. But there are others, who, although they have not a due regard to
_Revelation_, are Men of Sobriety and Probity, who with great freedom
have let me into their Thoughts, whereby I can very clearly and fully
(as I think at least) discern the rise and progress of this their
Opinion, which is this;

1. In the time of King _Charles_ the First, (which confineth my longest
acquaintance with Men) 'twas usual for Gentlemen to send their Sons
abroad into _Italy_, _Spain_, _France_, _Germany_, _&c._ to accomplish
themselves by Travel. But lest they should be prevail'd upon to change
their _Religion_, care was taken that their Tutor or Governour, who
travelled with 'em, should shew them the Idolatry and Superstition of
the _Roman Religion_; and also let 'em in to see that _Popery_ in all
its Branches was only a device of the _Priesthood_, to carry on a
particular Interest of their own; to encrease their Wealth, Honours,
and Power over the Lay-people; to exalt the Head of their Order above
all the Crowned Heads in the World, and equal one whole Order of their
Clergy, _viz._ the Cardinals, to the Princes of _Christendom_. Nay,
since all People were obliged to make their Confessions to, and receive
their Absolution from the _Priest_, the meanest of which Order could
create a God for the People's Worship; 'tis plain, that their Religion
was calculated for the Profit, Power and Honour of the whole Order of
the _Priesthood_ in this World, whatsoever advantages they might find by
it in the other. Now the Young Gentleman being throughly convinced of
this Holy Cheat, returneth to Old _England_; where he meets with very
zealous Contests about Religion (as was pretended) between the _Church_
of _England_, headed by Arch-Bishop _Laud_ on the one part, and the
_Presbyterian Kirk_ on the other; and having carefully read the Debate
(as it appeared in the Prints) on both sides, with those very Eyes which
he had so lately cleared up in _Italy_ or _France_, he could not forbear
to see that both these _Protestant_ Parties, under the pretence of
Religion, were only grasping at _Power_, and that the Controversy at
bottom, was not who's Religion was best, but only what Sect of the
_Clergy_ should make the best Market of the _meer Lay-men_. And as this
Young Gentleman had before resolved with himself not to become a
Property to the _Popish Priesthood_, no longer now will he be such to
the _Protestant Clergy_ of any Denomination, since both pursue the same
Ends. He perceiveth that our _Protestant High-Priests_ do all of them
rival the Sovereign Power; the _Bishop_'s House like that of the _King_,
must be called his _Palace_, he must still keep up his claim to the
_Miter_ and _Crosier_, to vie with the _Crown_ and _Scepter_; and as
the Stile of the King's Courts is _Anno Regni nostri_, i.e. In the Year
of our Reign: So that of the Bishop's Court is _Anno Consecrationis
nostræ_, i.e. In the Year of our Consecration; the Year of the King's
Reign being unknown in the Bishop's Court: The King speaking to the
People doth usually call 'em his Loving Subjects; the _Bishop_ doth not
make himself so familiar, but stileth the People of his _Diocese_ barely
his Subjects, _Jurisdictioni nostræ subditos_: The King is _Inthroned_,
and the Arch-Bishop _Inthronized_; both derive their Power from a
_Divine Right_; but the Bishop is the higher Power, because by the
Principles of Episcopacy he can Excommunicate the King, _i.e._ forbid
him the very Conversation of his Subjects, and thereby render them
uncapable to make good their Oath of Allegiance, in yielding their Aid
and Assistance.

Nor do's he find that the _Presbytery_ claims any inferior Powers; each
Party alledge _Scriptures_ and _Fathers_ on their side; and for ought I
can see, (says this Gentleman) they are all in the right. Through an
excess of Prejudice thus occasion'd, he makes a further step towards
_Deism_, and Reasons after this manner: 'Tis not impossible (continues
he) that the ancient _Clergy_ might be possess'd with the same Spirit of
Pride, which has prevail'd over the modern. If those Writings, which
they call _Holy Scriptures_ are of their side, as they all say they are,
I make no doubt but they were of their own inventing; and if _Jesus
Christ_ their Patron, laid the Foundation of those Powers, which both
_Popish_ and _Protestant Clergy_ claim to themselves from under him, I
think the old _Romans_ did him right in punishing him with the death of
a Slave. After this manner I have heard it said of late, by another of
the same Constitution, that as the Church of _Rome_ was a modelled
Faction against all other Christians, so was the Church of _England_, by
Law Established, against all other Protestants, who were by Law excluded
from every Office of Profit and Trust; who were made subject to the
Piques and Malice of every Church-man, and became a constant Revenue to
Apparitors and Spiritual Catch-poles. And though at present there be a
_Toleration_ by Law granted, yet 'tis full opposed by the Spirit of the
Church, as appears by Sermons preached at Visitations, and the constant
ordinary Discourses of the _Clergy_, in which the Church of _England_ is
always represented, as at this time, in greater danger than ever it was;
though I should think the danger had been as great in King _James_'s
Time: And notwithstanding the Toleration (said he) no Man can enjoy a
place of Profit or Trust, though he be ever so dutiful a Subject, and
ever so able or honest a Man, unless he hath a Conscience by Law
Established: By which Church-device Men are deprived of the Privileges
of their Country to which they are born, and for the discharge whereof
they never did in any respect incapacitate themselves; and hereby it
comes to pass, that the Nation cannot act vigorously in its own defence,
being debarr'd the Use of one Moiety of it self; and notwithstanding
this, they have the Confidence to tell us Lay-men, that we ought to love
our Neighbours as our selves. Now if this be the way of the
_Christians_, (concluded he) let my Soul be with the _Philosophers_.

2. And this brings to my Thoughts what another _Deist_ said jestingly to
me, _viz._ That since I was a Christian, 'twas lucky for me that I was
of the Bishop's Church; for though you were ever so Loyal (said he) to
the King, yet if you did not pay as dutiful an Allegiance to the
Bishops, you could not hold the Place you now enjoy; for as certain as
the _Cross_ is above the _Crown_, so sure a thing is it, that the
_Bishop_ will be above the _King_; which he undertook would appear to me
if I looked back to King _Charles_'s Restoration, or King _William_'s
Revolution. The _Presbyterians_, though they quarrelled with _Charles_
the First, yet became the loving Subjects of _Charles_ the Second;
joined with the _Episcopalians_ in assisting him to the Throne, and made
no scruple of Swearing their Allegiance to him, and owning his
Supremacy. But after all this, the King was not able to support these
his Loving Subjects against the Power of the Bishops, who in two Years
time outed 'em of their Livelihoods, and after that, drove 'em five
Miles distance from all Market-Towns; and at last the Acts made against
_Papists_ were extended to them. But since King _William_'s Revolution
the Case is alter'd; for the _Jacobite Clergy_, though turn'd out of
their Livings by Law, for refusing Allegiance to the King, yet from the
Allegiance they bare to the Bishops, they find such Favour from their
Lordships, that if the Livings they lose are in the Bishops gift, he
shall present any Friend which the dispossessed _Jacobite_ shall
recommend; now what can be more by them desired, than to enjoy the
Profits of their Livings, and put in what Curate they please? And after
all, that they may enjoy the full Profits of their Livings, and pay
their Curates another way, these _Jacobites_ may hold their Conventicles
where they please, nay, Preach publickly and seditiously in an open
Church near _Cheap-side, London_, without the least offence to the
Spiritual Power. And is it not plain (said this Gentleman) from all
this, that on this side the Water as well as on the other, the Clergies
Zeal for their Communion, Church and Religion, is only meant to support
their own Party, Dominion and Empire?

3. Now the oldest _Deists_ of my Acquaintance having conceiv'd so great
a Prejudice against the Christian Faith, from the Behaviour of the
Clergy, and having levened their Disciples therewith, it has fal'n out
unhappily, that the late Revolution has by another way also confirmed
them in this their Prejudice.

For the late happy Revolution, (which came on too soon, and was cut off
too short) though it was not so highly beneficial to us, as was by some
expected, was yet of very great Importance. But as there is nothing in
this World ever so good, but what hath some appending disadvantage; so
by meer Accident this Revolution, which has saved not only the Church of
_England_, but (as I hope) the whole Protestant Interest throughout the
World, has wonderfully encreased Mens Prejudices against the _Clergy_,
and so by false Consequence (such as Men through Resentment will make)
against the Truth of Religion it self. The old _Deists_ tell those of
their Pupils, who never travelled abroad, that there is now no need of
going over the Water to discover that the name _Church_ signifieth only
a _Self-interested Party_, and that the _Clergy_ have no Godliness but
Gain. Have you not (say they) for many Years together heard them Preach
up the _Divine Right_, and indefeizable Authority of Kings, together
with _Passive Obedience_, as the chief distinguishing Doctrines whereby
their Church approved it self _Apostolick_ beyond all other Churches?
Nay, were not the Doctrines of _Loyalty to the King_, insisted upon
more than _Faith in Christ_? and yet when their particular Interest
required it, their Doctrine of _Non-Resistance_ was qualify'd by
_Non-Assistance_, the whole Stream of Loyalty was turn'd from the King
to the Church, the indefeizable Right was superseded by a miraculous
Conquest without Blood, the Oath of Allegiance to the _Divinely Rightful
King James_ has its force allay'd by another Oath of the same Importance
made to the _de facto_ King _William_ and Queen _Mary_, and all this is
Sanctify'd by the name of the Church, _i.e._ their own Party and
Interest, for the sake whereof it is done. This is indeed keeping to the
Text--_Rem rem quocunque modo rem_.

       *       *       *       *       *

And the wretched Defence they make for this their Apostacy (say the
_Deists_) maketh the matter worse. For notwithstanding King _James_ is,
as they will have it, Conquer'd; and his Throne, which was declared
vacant, is legally filled by one who by Act of Parliament is declared
our Rightful King; yet after all this Dr. S---- will reserve a Right to
King _James_, though through Success and Settlement he will allow a
Right also to King _William_. And this Notion the Clergy generally
adhere to, because thereby they kill two or three Birds with one stone.
1_st._ They preserve to themselves their ancient Right of giving Titles
to Sovereignty. For though both King and Parliament have disclaimed and
damned the Conquest, yet the Clergy still insist upon it. 2_ly._ They
make fair Weather with King _James_, by keeping his Title alive, and by
still asserting his Right, open him a Door to recover his Possession
again. For what honest Christian can oppose a Rightful King in regaining
the Possession of his Throne, which is kept from him by a Successful
Usurper? and 3_ly._ They think they have obliged King _William_
sufficiently by the formality of an Oath, and owning him in his
Possession. Put all this together and 'twill prove, that

  _When all the Argument is out,
    'Tis Interest still resolves the doubt._

Thus (cry they) you plainly see, that your Church is nothing but a
Party, to which whosoever joineth, himself shall find his Account
thereby, notwithstanding any Error, Heresy, Immorality or Disloyalty to
the present Government whatsoever; whilst any other who is conformable
to the _Rubricks_ and _Canons_, whose Learning and Morals are an Honour
to his Gown, and who is truly dutiful to his Majesty, shall be excluded
from all those benefits his Profession would entitle him to. Thus the
bold Asserters of King _James_'s Right enjoy some of the best
Preferments, and particularly Dr. S---- sits D---- of St. P---- whilst
honest Mr. _Johnson_ is starving upon Charity.

The Church of _England_ is a meer Party, (say they again) and has a
Watch-word whereby they know one another, which they can vary upon
occasion. _Non-Resistance_ was the Word in King _Charles_'s days. For
though at that time you did conform to every tittle and ceremony,
injoin'd by Rubrick and Canon, yet if you failed in the Point of
_Non-Resistance_, you were a _Phanatick_ and _Republican_, a _Rebel_,
and what not? Now if this Doctrine be contain'd in the Book of Homilies,
as the _Jacobites_ say, 'tis a Sacred Record of the Unjustice of some of
those who concurred in the late Revolution. The _Shiboleth_ of the
Church now is King _William's de facto Title_; And no Conformity to
Homilies and Rubricks will make you owned by the present Church, if you
should acknowledge the King to be otherwise said than a meer _de
facto_. Now (say they) although we grant that Men will submit to the
Government, upon their own particular Principles, and therefore 'tis
reasonable that the King should admit the Obedience of his Subjects upon
what Grounds they please, yet we know no Reason why the Church should
set up the _de facto_, as the only Principle of Obedience: And when the
King had better Titles to his Crown, as the Consent of the People in
Parliament, and his Matrimonial Title with the Queen, yet he must be
made to pay the greatest price for the weakest and worst of all Titles;
and give Dr. _S----_ Sixteen Hundred Pounds a Year, for a _Defactoship_

You see, Sir, that the _Deists_ want not Occasions for their Prejudices,
how far soever they are from having Reason o' their side. And pray
resolve me, why must this false Title be set up as 'twere by the King's
Consent, to worm out the only true one? Why must none be preferr'd to
Church-Dignities, but such who come in upon this Title only? And those
who own the King's Right upon the Consent of the People, be still
labouring under the Church's highest displeasure? and poor _Johnson_, a
Man against whom no Immorality was ever objected, that is an Object even
of the _Deists_ Compassion, be left to starve for the Cause? Nay, they
have gone so far upon the Strength of Dr. _S----_ Convocation-Title, in
Opposition to that of Parliament, that since the good Queen is dead, and
the Consent of the People, according to them, null and void; they have
left the King a bare Possession, without any Title at all.

4. I am acquainted with a Gentleman, who for some Years has not gone to
Church, having taken offence at those Practices I was now writing upon.
This Man, you must know, had an extraordinary Veneration for the
profound Learning (so he thinks much reading and common-placing to be)
of a certain Eminent Divine, who had a fat Bishoprick bestow'd on him by
King _William_ and Queen _Mary_. But he to requite their Kindness, when
a Bill was brought before the Lords, declaring the King and Queen's
rightful and lawful Title to the Crown, not only opposed and voted
against it in the House; but when it had passed, he entred his
Protestation against it in the Journal. Nay (said this Gentleman) if
King _William_ be only King _de facto_, then the Bishop is _de facto_
only. Truly Sir, you may believe me, that I was amaz'd at this Relation;
for (as I then said) though most Men look no further, than only to get
Mony _de facto_, and do not with much strictness inquire _quo jure_;
yet 'twas strange that any Man should protest that he had no right to
that Estate, which he openly continued in Possession of. But I was
soon answer'd by this his former Admirer, that if that Bishop had
strengthened his own Title to the Bishoprick from King _J._ I might
cease my wonder.

I am indeed sorry to hear Stories of this Nature, especially when they
assure me of the Truth of 'em, and when I see the ill Consequences of
them. For though nothing be more certain than that the Baseness and
Falshood of Man can never disprove the Truth of God; yet when Men are
highly Scandaliz'd, and greatly deceived by those for whom they had
Esteem, and by whose Authority they in great measure governed
themselves, they will stretch their Conclusion beyond their Premisses,
and disown Religion in their Principle, because 'tis disregarded by some
great Men in their Practice.

But though to strict Reasons, such Arguments for _Deism_ appear
ridiculous; yet from the Promotion of these _de facto_ Men, I am told,
hath arisen great disadvantage to the King, and those Subjects, whose
Principles and Practices have been always faithful to his Majesties
Interest: Since hereby it is, that it hath always been in the power of
the open and professed Enemies of the King to oppress his most dutiful
Subjects. For these _de facto_-men, and the _Jacobites_, were but lately
the same sort of People, both of the same Principle and Temper. And
though the _Jacobites_ do now rail at them, for their base Complyances
(as they term it) with the _P._ of _O_'s Revolution; yet the _de factos_
are unwilling, for old Acquaintance sake, to pass by their Railing, and
underhand to shew 'em any kindness: And this they submit to, as being
Self-conscious, that the _Jacobites_ have a Right to reproach them; so
that they are willing to appease the anger of their old Friends by their
best Services. Now the _Jacobites_ having always an innate Hatred to the
_Whigs_, (as they now stile all those who think themselves obliged to
own the King for their rightful Sovereign) and being willing to keep up
their old Master's Right to the Crown, (to which the _Whigs_ are
irreconcileable Enemies) easily prevail upon these _de factos_ to
oppress those other sort of Men, which is an Office they are as willing
to undertake, as the _Jacobites_ can be to put it upon 'em. Thus it
cometh to pass, that according as an open professed Enemy to the
Government shall dictate, a Church-man shall strenuously exert that
Power the King has given him, to discourage and oppress his Dutiful and
Loyal Subjects. I will only (said a certain Person) make a Supposition,
to shew you how this may be; suppose the King should bestow a Bishoprick
upon a _de facto_ Doctor, and this Doctor should there find his old
Acquaintance Dr. _H._ and being a Stranger in his Diocese, should be
willing to instruct himself in the Characters of Men from the good D.,
would it not fall out so, that the Clergy of that Diocese must be used
well or ill, as the most open and notorious Enemy the Government hath,
shall design? And was it not possible that the E. of _N._ might oblige
his old Friends in the same manner? Thus, though King _James_ be at last
excluded, his Subjects reign in his stead. And whether an _Oath_ of
_Abjuration_ laid upon the _Jacobites_ Proxy-men, will put an end to
this Corruption, Time must tell us.

5. But to return to the Reasons, (or Prejudices I may rather call 'em)
which occasion _Deism_; It hath been observed to me, that where the
Notion of a Church hath been carried on with the highest Tide, there
even natural Religion is at the lowest Ebb; as in _Italy_ of old, and
lately in _France_, where gross Immoralities and Atheism are at the
greatest height. And though in our Reformation we discarded some
Idolatrous and Superstitious Doctrines and Practices, which were grown
scandalous among the People, yet still _Christ_ was made to serve that
turn, which his Holy Vicar can no longer do, _viz._ Support an Holy
Order of Men in as haughty Insolences, in as proud, ambitious and
malicious Designs, as those which King _Henry_ (though a Son of the
Church) and his Times could not bear. Now in answer to this, I bid these
_Deists_ only read the _Bible_, and see if the Spirit of that Book be
not as good as their Thoughts can reach to; or let 'em read the
Character of the Christian Religion, given by Sir _Matthew Hale_ in the
first of his Three Letters concerning Religion, where he saith, _It
teacheth and tutors the Soul to a high Reverence and Veneration of
Almighty God, a sincere and upright Walking, as in the Presence of the
invisible all-seeing God. It makes a Man truly love to Honour, to Obey
him, and therefore careful to know what his Will is: It renders the
Heart highly thankful to him, both as his Creator, Redeemer and
Benefactor: It makes a Man entirely to depend upon, to seek to him for
Guidance and Direction, and Protection, to submit to his Will with all
Patience, and Resignation of Soul: It gives the Law not only to his
Words and Actions, but to his very Thoughts and Purposes: It bringeth
Man to such a Deportment both of External and Internal Sobriety, as may
be decent in the Presence of God and his holy Angels: It crusheth and
casts down all Pride and Haughtiness, both in a Man's Heart and
Carriage, and gives him an humble frame of Soul and Life, both in the
sight of God and Men: It regulates and governs the Passions of the Mind,
and brings them into due moderation and frame: It gives a Man a right
estimate of this present World; and sets the Heart and Hopes above it,
so that he never loves it more than it deserves. It makes the Wealth and
Glory of this World, high Places and great Preferments, but of a low and
little value to him, so that he is neither covetous nor ambitious, nor
over-sollicitous concerning the advantages of it: It brings a Man to
that frame, that Righteousness, Justice, Honesty and Fidelity, is as
'twere part of his Nature; he can sooner dye than commit or purpose that
which is unjust, dishonest or unworthy a good Man: It makes him value
the love of God and Peace of Conscience above all the Wealth and Honours
in the World, and be very vigilant to keep it inviolably: Though he be
under a due Apprehension of the Love of God, yet it keeps him humble and
watchful, and free from all Presumption; so that he dares not under a
vain Confidence of the Indulgence of God, commit or purpose the least
injury to man: He performs all his Duties to God in Sincerity, Integrity
and Constancy; and while he lives on Earth, his Conversation, his Hopes,
his Treasure, and the Flower of his Expectation is in Heaven; and he
entirely endeavours to walk suitably to such a Hope. In Sum, it restores
the Image of God unto the Soul in Righteousness and true Holiness._

I prevail'd upon one of my Friends, a _Deist_, to read those three
Letters, because therein the Substance of the Christian Religion is
distinguish'd from the Circumstantials and Appendages; for want of which
distinction being well understood, _Deism_ has arose, as that great Man
in the fore-cited Letter hath observed. _When Men_ (says he) _see so
much Religion placed by Professors of Christianity in these things which
every intelligent Man values but as Forms, or Inventions, or Modes, or
Artifices, and yet as great weight laid upon them, as great fervour and
animosity us'd for or against them, as almost for any Points of
Christian Religion; They are apt presently to censure and throw off all
Religion, and reckon all of the same make._ Thus that Upright Judge,
whose three Letters my Friend having read, did well approve of 'em,
acknowledging, that with great Exactness he had distinguished between
Religion and Priest-craft: And he added, If you will shew me, Sir, any
Christian Church where that distinction is observed, I will become a
Member of it. I recommended the Church of _England_; he presently told
me that he had read the 39 Articles, and observed that 3 of them were
wholly design'd to uphold the Power of the Clergy over the People. And
then he had me only compare the _Design_, which has been, and still is,
carrying on under the Name of the Church of _England_, with the Design
of the Christian Religion, as 'tis described by Sir _Matthew Hale_; and
I should find the one in all its parts a Contradiction to the other.
'Tis plain (_said he_) the Clergy do not allow of Sir _Matthew_'s
Notions, nor will they suffer us to take any thing for Religion, that is
distinguished from their particular Interest. To what end have so many
Persecutions and Penal Laws been set a foot by the Clergy in
Christendom? was it to bring Men to any one Point of that full
Description of Christian Religion, which you cited from Sir _Matthew
Hale_? or only to bring them to that short Article of their Clergy
Religion, _i.e._ to submit to their Power? Did not the Honourable Sir
_R. H._ lately write a Treatise, wherein with great Learning and
accurate Judgment he distinguished betwixt Religion and Priest-craft?
and was he not treated for it with a true Priestly Insolence and Malice
in the Pulpit at _White-hall_, by _A._ one of their Majesties Chaplains,
and represented as a Scorner and an Atheist, because he scorns to submit
to any Religion but what is of Christ's Institution? Suppose a Man
should govern himself by the Law of _Christ_, and go no further, is
there any Christian Church which would own such an one for a Member? If
you will be a Son of the Church of _England_ you must hold Kings and
Bishops to be _jure divino_, the Apostolical Doctrine of _Passive
Obedience_; you must not be indifferent to their Ceremonies, though
declar'd but indifferent things; and the Reason is, because you must
have a profound Respect for the Power of the Bishops, by which these
Ceremonies were ordain'd: And besides this, you must shew a perfect
Abhorrence of all who do not submit to the Spiritual Royalties of their
Diocesan Bishops; for your Churchmanship will not appear by any Mark so
well, as by the Hatred you bear to all Dissenters, in Conjunction with a
deep aversion to all the ancient Rights and just Liberties of your
Native Country. In fine, (_said he_) when your Clergy Preach the Law of
_Christ_ without turning it to any By-end, or false Interest, you shall
meet me at Church. You know the Clergy love Precedency of the Laity; Let
them turn Christians first, and I can follow.

6. I have known some, who have alledged as a Reason why they have
forsaken the Christian Faith, the impossibility of Believing. Many
Doctrines (_say these_) are made necessary to Salvation, which 'tis
impossible to believe, because they are in their nature Absurdities. I
replied, That these things were _Mysteries_, and so above our
Understanding. But he asked me to what end could an unintelligible
Doctrine be revealed? not to instruct, but to puzzle and amuse. What can
be the effect of an unintelligible _Mystery_ upon our Minds, but only
Amusement? That which is only above Reason must be above a rational
Belief, and must I be Saved by an irrational Belief? If a Proposition be
inconsistent with it self, I cannot but believe it to be false: 'Twas
once to serve a Turn against the _Papists_ your Church held all
Doctrines necessary to save Souls, were plainly revealed in Scripture;
How could you say plainly revealed unless you understood the Revelation?
Besides, I cannot think that the belief of any unprofitable Doctrines,
_i.e._ such as admit of no Application to Moral Duties, can be a saving
Faith so much as in part; nor can I imagine that Faith tends to save a
Soul, because what we believe is only _True_, (for so the belief of
_Euclids Elements_ might have a saving Effect upon Souls) but because
our Belief is _Good_, it has a practical Effect, and tends to make us
better Men. Besides, you all agree the Belief of your Trinity is
absolutely necessary to Salvation, and yet widely differ in _what_ we
must believe concerning it; whether three Minds or Modes, or Properties,
or internal Relations, or Oeconomies, or Manifestations, or external
Denominations; or else no more than a Holy Three, or Three Somewhats; or
otherwise only one of these Three to be God in the highest Sense, and
each of the other two to be a God without Self-subsistence and
Independence. I am confident, if I should be perswaded that an
Explanation of the _Trinity_ were necessary to save my Soul, and see the
Learned so widely differing and hotly disputing what it is I must
believe concerning it, I should certainly run mad through despair of
finding out the Truth: But since these Doctors cannot agree which Party
of 'em shall captivate my Belief in Obedience to his Faith, I will
reserve it to be the Hand-maid of Truth; whenever she appears she shall
command it.

7. I remember one Gentleman objected to the Christian Faith, that it
made Men insolent, quarrelsom and ill-natur'd. From whence I concluded,
(as I told him) that he had never read over the _Gospels_; truly he
could not say that he had read 'em carefully, but yet that in reading
the History of what had passed in Christendom, he observed that most of
the Quarrels in which this part of the World had been engaged, arose
from Contentions among the Christian _Priesthood_. Church-History is
chiefly a Relation of Church-mens Wrangles, and D. _Cave_ in a late Book
of his had denominated every Century from some eminent Quarrel which
arose among the Clergy. But besides this, what was the Holy War, what
all the holy Massacres and Croisados which filled _Europe_ with Blood,
but the Inventions of Holy Church? And what is holy Inquisition, but a
perpetual Series of Murthers carry'd on in barbarous Forms of Law
against the common Sense of Mankind? Does History account for any
Barbarities so great as those committed by the Popes? Any Cruelties so
savage as those of the Holy Inquisition? Any Murthers so solemn, and
religiously brutal as the Acts of Faith? Any Pragmaticalness so
insufferable as that of the Jesuits? is not their Humanity extinguished
by their Christian Religion? such is their Malice that no Man can eat
Bread where they have to do, unless he submit his Faith to their
guidance, witness the present _French_ Persecution. Nor can any
Sovereign Prince keep his Word or Oath, though he had only sworn to
maintain those Laws by which he Reigns as King, any longer than this
Spiritual Fatherhood will give him leave, as _Lewis_ XIV. of _France_,
and _James_ II. of _England_ do witness. Let these Inhumanities be
considered, as supported and carried on by the name of Catholick Church,
and (if the Devils believe) you may as decently say Church of _Hell_ as
Church of _Rome_.

And as Devotion, continu'd our _Deist_, to holy Church is the center
upon which all things turn on the other side the Water, so is it the
same thing here. Do not our Priesthood of _England_ make as high
Pretences to dispose of all Offices and Trusts in the Kingdom, to those
of their own Faction, as those of _Rome_? Have they not long since got
their Bill of Exclusion to be passed into a Law, whereby no Man can
enjoy a Place of Profit or Trust in the State, but whom they qualify at
their Altars? where Men were capacitated to be Bumbails, keep
Gaming-houses and sell Ale. What was it but the Insolence of the
Priesthood that brought about Father _Laud_'s and Father _Peter_'s
Revolutions? Besides (said he) do you not observe what a keen Edge
Christian Faith puts upon the ill-nature of Divines, when they are
disputing about matters of Religion? 'Tis common for Philosophers,
Lawyers, Physicians, _&c._ to differ about matters which concern their
Professions, and write one against another: But you will find some
Temper and Decorum observed in their Writings. But let the Controversy
be about any Branch of Christian Faith; and then see the _Odium
Theologorum_, the Malice of Divines in the late Writings of two of your
Church Doctors against each other; at least this shews that Christian
Faith doth not improve the Temper of such Men who are of mean Birth, and
narrow Education. And I cannot but observe, that your _Protestant_
Malice is under a worse Management than the _Popish_; they only thirst
for the Blood of Protestants, but you are for sucking one anothers
Blood; as when for the Service of King _Charles_ the II. (who was Head
of your Church) and his Popish Brother, the Blood of the best
Protestants in _England_, (and some of them of your own Church) was to
be spilt, the Court Blood-suckers, _viz._ Attorney general, and Judges,
besides Juries and Evidence, were all of 'em chosen Men out of your own
Church; and the _Posse_ of the Clergy was raised to hold their Heads to
the Block, by Preaching the Doctrine of _Passive Obedience_.

But in requital, it must be confessed, that your Clergy require the King
to do their Persecuting Journey-work with the same Insolence as the
Popish Priesthood use; For must not the Sovereign Monarch of _England_,
_Scotland_, _France_ and _Ireland_, by his Authority Royal, execute the
Decrees and Anathema's of the Arch-deacons and Bishops Chancellors, by
Imprisoning his loyal and useful Subjects, for not conforming to their
Ceremonies? If a King will submit to this Drudgery, he shall have the
_vox Cleri_ of his side, and be as great as Noise and fulsom Flattery
can make him; but in the mean time is really King but of one Moiety of
his People, whilst the danger which the other half apprehend from the
Secular Arm directed by Spiritual Power of Necessity, weaneth their
Hearts from the Government. Thus _Charles_ the II. who for two Years
after his Return, reigned in the Hearts of all his People, was by the
Act of Uniformity reduced to be King of the Church-party; and at last,
whilst the _Popish_ and _Protestant_ Priesthood zealously contended
whose Property he should be, (like the Truth among Controversial
Divines) he was lost in the Scuffle.

He instanced in likewise the late King _James_, who (said he) had it in
his power to be universally beloved and obey'd, beyond any King of
_England_ this Age has produced. His Right to the Crown was owned by
all; his Wilfulness had passed upon the Church of _England_ Party for
Magnanimous Resolution, which struck such an Awe upon them, that they
were coming to a Temper, and would have consented to a Toleration of
Protestant Dissenters, and _Roman_ Catholicks too, provided their
Maintenance might be continued to them. Thus the Heart of all _England_
had been set upon the King; but the Popish Priesthood would be content
with nothing less than delivering the whole Nation to Satan, and their
King must execute the dreadful Anathema, though 'twas manifest that he
must thereby lessen himself to the size of one of the 7 Kings of _Kent_;
for he could be Sovereign of no more than the Two hundredth part of the
People. For King _Charles_ in numbering the People, had found that the
Proportion between _Papist_ and _Protestant_ was as 1 to 200: whereas
had his own Priesthood been so favourable to him, as to have excused him
from executing that Satanical Power, which by a Right purely Divine was
vested in Sacred Majesty, his Reign might have been happy, and his
Memory precious. What an unhappy Effect had the Spirit of Father _Laud_
upon King _Charles_ the First? And what hath brought _Lewis_ the XIV. to
the present Diminution of his Glory, but that haughty Insolence and
unnatural Cruelty in Persecuting his own Subjects, which Father _la
Chaise_ has inspired him with? What Figure will this Grand Monarch make
in Story? His Name will pollute the Annals of this Age, and his cowardly
Conquests be the Scorn of Posterity. Now from all that he had said, he
concluded, that for Luck-sake, as well as to preserve his good Nature,
he would be cautious of being (at least) a zealous Christian.

8. 'Twas not long since I met one of my old Acquaintance, who told me
that he had lately cast off these Prejudices he had conceived against
the Christian Faith, by the Assistance of a Book called, _The Five
Letters of Inspiration._ By the last of those Letters he was convinced
of the reality of reveal'd Religion, from the Intrinsick value and
Excellency thereof; and he was fully confirmed in his Judgment by a late
Book called, _The Reasonableness of Christianity, as delivered in the
Scripture_. Upon this, he had read over the _Old-Testament_ once, and
the _New_ several times, with great attention of Mind. Indeed he always
thought the Moral part of the _Bible_ very good; but then he also
thought, that by the strength of his own Reason, he could have written
as good a Moral himself. But by the last of these Books he was
convinced, that he was indebted to _Revelation_ more than he thought of,
and considering how long the Ceremonial Law had obtain'd among the
_Jews_, and what a profound respect they paid to the Scribes, Pharisees,
and Spiritual Guides and Rulers; he plainly saw that there was need
enough of Miracle to bear down their Prejudices, to make 'em leave their
Ceremonies, and listen to that excellent Moral which Christ gave 'em;
nay, he was convinced that no Miracles were strong enough to prevail
over the Priest, or a Priest-ridden People, to become Proselytes to the
Doctrine of universal Love and Charity; for (said he) if a Teacher
should now be sent from Heaven with this Message, that all the
Protestant Parties in _England_ should be reconciled and live well with
one another, making nothing necessary to their religious Communion, but
what Christ had appointed, and such Circumstances as Time and Place, and
what in the nature of the thing was needful, and if this Teacher's
Mission were confirm'd by Miracle, it would have (as he thought) no
better effect upon our several Sects of Clergy, and those who are
bigotted to their Parties, than it had upon the _Pharisees_ and their
Disciples of old.

Having heard him speak so sharply against the Clergy after his old way,
I could not but tell him that I perceived he was but almost a
Christian; for he who loveth the Institution of Christ, cannot but
respect those who are the Ministers thereof; at least, I hoped that he
would pay a respect to the Clergy of the Church of _England_, which was
the best Reformed Church in the World; and therefore I expected that he
was already a Member of our Church: He reply'd, that he should always be
ready to pay his respect to every good Man of what Order or Degree
soever; he should always be willing to hear a good Minister Preach the
Gospel of Jesus Christ to him, and exhort him to the sincere Practice of
it. That he was ready to contribute his share to the Maintenance of such
Ministers, and to join with that Church-of-_England_ Congregation near
to which he liv'd, in publick Worship; but yet he could not condemn the
Worship of other Congregations, nor exclude himself from joyning with
them as occasion should serve him. So that as to Church-membership he
could be a Member of any Church, which would own him upon the terms of
Faith and Practice, contained in the Book he mentioned, concerning the
Reasonableness of the _Christian Religion_, &c. But still he conceiv'd,
that Church-Communion in holy Offices was designed only to raise his
Devotion towards God, not towards the Clergy, which made him admire the
unparallell'd Impudence of the _Roman_ Priesthood, who measure the
Religion of all Christians by their Devotion to the See of _Rome_, i.e.
indeed to themselves; and he doubted whether any Church were
sufficiently Reformed from Popery, which made any Doctrines of Faith
necessary to Salvation that were not declared so in the Gospels, and
where the Clergy would always distinguish between Church and State, and
give the Precedency to themselves. But yet he would join with any Church
as far as it promoted the Honour of God, and separate from it, wherein
on pretence of Religion, he saw, that it aimed at a By-end of its own.

Here I urged him again to joyn to our Church, which had no other design
but God's Glory. To this he said, that he should be glad that the Church
of _England_ would own him, though he could not be of their Party: He
would willingly pass as a Church-man for his Credit-sake; for (said he)
though a Man doth ever so firmly believe Jesus Christ to be the Messiah
whom God had of old promised, and in due time sent to give us a perfect
Rule of Life, in order to make us truly religious here, and ever happy
hereafter; and though a Man should shew forth his Faith by an agreeable
course of Life, in doing Justice, loving Mercy, and an humble walking
with God; yet if he were not owned as a Member of some Church, he would
by all Churches be accounted, if not an Atheist, yet a Sceptic, a Man of
no settled Principle, but own who has his Religion to choose. For if you
look over the State of Religion as it standeth in Christendom, there is
no Church whatsoever which will accept you as a Member of its Communion,
but upon some particular terms of Belief, or Practice, which Christ
never appointed, and it may be such as an honest and a wise Christian
cannot consent to. I am not more able to give up my Reason to the Church
of _England_, than to give up my Senses to the Church of _Rome_; it
looks like a Trick in all Churches to take away the use of Mens Reason,
that they may render us Vassals and Slaves to all their Dictates and
Commands. But what greater slavery than to force on Men a Belief of such
things as necessary to Salvation, of which 'tis not possible to form any
Idea? Though I am satisfied there is no such thing as a change of Bread
into the Flesh of Christ, yet I can form an Idea, that such a thing may
be, that the same Power which changed Earth into a Man, may change Bread
into Flesh: But I can frame to my self no Idea of what your Church
Teacheth in the Sacrament, that the Body and Blood of Christ are
_verily and indeed taken and received of the faithful_: And when I ask
how can this be understood by a Protestant, who believeth that there is
no other Body but that of Bread? I am told that the Church meaneth it in
a Spiritual Sense. Now I have try'd, and find it impossible for me to
form to my self an Idea of a Body verily and indeed in a Spiritual

And therefore I must say 'tis an unwise and a hard Thing for any Church
to impose absurd or unintelligible Notions (especially such
Speculations, which tend to make no body the better) as necessary to
Salvation; for Wise Men, and such who will take Courage to examine what
they Believe, will not submit to such an Usurpation; and weak Men are
kept all their Life long in Fears and Doubts of their Eternal State, as
being always uncertain whether they firmly believe such Doctrines, or

Besides this (said he) your Church will require me to believe other
Absurdities as bad as these, as that Kings and Bishops have a Divine
Right to that Power, which they exercise over us, whereas with my own
Eyes I saw our Great and Gracious King accept the Crown of _England_, as
the Gift of the People. And I see as plainly, that Bishops are an Order
of Men of their own (not of Christ's) making. I was told that our
Bishops Order was founded in that of the 12 Apostles, and the Presbyters
Order in the 70 Disciples: Upon this I resolved to see if the 12 and the
70 were different Orders, or no, and read over the 10th Chap. of
_Matthew_, the 3d and 6th of _Mark_, and the 9th of _Luke_, in which
places the Power which Christ gave to the 12 is set forth, which
amounteth to this, _viz._ a Charge to Preach the Gospel, a Power to work
Miracles in casting out Devils, healing the Sick, _&c._ And I also read
in the 10th Chapter of _Luke_, that the 70 were sent forth for the same
Reason, and with the same express Power as were the 12, _viz._ To preach
the Gospel, heal the Sick, and cast out Devils, _vers._ 2.9.17. And he
telleth the 70 at the 16th Verse, _That he who heareth them, heareth
him; and he who despiseth them, despiseth him_, as he had said to the
12, in _Matthew_ 10.40. Indeed they were only added to the number of the
12, _Because_ (as 'tis said there) _the Harvest was great, and the
Labourers few_, i.e. because Multitudes followed Christ, and were
disposed to become Christians, therefore he encreased the number of his
Apostles, or Teaching Disciples. I can find no Footsteps of any
Jurisdiction given to the 12 over the 70, or indeed over any body else;
and in the 18th Chapter of _Matthew_, where Christ speaketh of binding
and loosing, 'tis manifest from the first Verse, that his discourse was
made to his Disciples. So in the 20th of _John_, the Holy-Ghost and
Power of remitting and retaining Sins, was given to the Disciples which
met together after Christ's death, _vers._ 19. in which meeting, there
might be some of the 70 as well as some of the 12: 'Tis certain the 70
received the Holy-Ghost, and if Baptism be a Key of Admission into the
Church, they had it: If binding or loosing be declaring wherein we are
bound in duty, and wherein we may use our liberty; if remitting and
retaining Sins be declaring what Iniquity God will forgive, and what he
will not; the 70 shared this Power with the 12. As for delivering up to
Satan, and inflicting Diseases; since 'twas a miraculous Power, which we
read not that Christ appropriated to the 12, we have no reason to think
'twas detained from the 70. If then Christ appointed but one Order,
_viz._ that of Teachers, the Order of Rulers dignified themselves above,
and distinguished themselves from their Brethren, yet I am willing to
submit to those Powers, which the Laws of _England_ have given to the
Bishops, though what they claim by Divine Right, I esteem as an

Moreover (says he) although I am become a Christian, I have not ceased
to be an _English-man_, and for that reason cannot be in party with the
Bishops, who by their false-prerogative Doctrines, and other shameful
Assistances, so lately betray'd the Charters and Liberties, Rights and
Privileges of their Country, were setting up an absolute irresistible
Power in K. _Charles_ II. which being demised to K. _James_, endangered
not only the Liberty and Property, but Body and Soul of the Nation. Nor
can I so soon forget how their long debates, about admitting the _P._ of
_Orange_, our Good and Great King, to the Sovereignty, was the occasion
of spilling so much Protestant Blood in _Ireland_; nor the late
Protestation of some of the chief of their Party against his Majesties
Right to the Crown; nor how careful they have been since, that (as it
now falls out) he should have no pretence to any rightful Title. If any
Clergy-man was so honest as to Preach up his Right, as justly grounded
on the Consent of the People, (as Mr. _Johnson_ for instance) he must
lie under pain of the Church's highest displeasure, though otherwise
ever so Orthodox and Conformable; so that since the beloved Title of
Conquest is burnt by the Parliament, and the Matrimonial Title is (to
the great grief of all good Men) dead and buried with the Queen; it
remaineth according to Holy Church, that he hath no Title at all, but
only bare Possession; and this they mean when they call him _de facto_.

But I cannot find that they will allow him to be King of the Clergy so
much as _de facto_. Alas! his Livings, whereby alone he is capable to
oblige them to call to mind their now forgotten Loyalty, which of late
years they preached up, as the summ of the Law and the Prophets; Alas!
these good Things are taken out of his hands by the Conquering Bishops,
that the Clergy may have a separate Interest from the State on this side
the Water, and be led to pay an intire Allegiance to the holy Order.
When _Hen._ VIII. came to know that his Bishops swore Allegiance to the
_Pope_, he began to think of some ways and means how to make himself
King of his Clergy, which he saw could not be done but by casting out
the _Pope_'s Power; and hence sprung that King's Reformation of his
Politicks, rather than Religion. And if our good King were sensible of
the Reasons why an _English_ Papacy is settled in a Committee of Six,
_viz._ to fix the Obedience of the Clergy on themselves exclusively,
(for no Man can serve two Masters) I doubt not but he would think fit to
demand what is so much wanted, _viz._ the Allegiance of the Clergy to
their King; if he dissolves this Committee he may ask and have, for
where their Treasure is, there their Hearts will be also. For
these Reasons (said he) I shall be cautious how I enter into
Church-membership, since I plainly see that every Party of Christians
embodied, organized, clergy'd and modelled into a National Church,
casteth an awe upon the Sovereign Power, and suffereth it not to provide
equally for the Common Good of the Subject; but will appropriate the
_salus publica_, and influence the Government to serve its own
particular, its own private Ends.

Thus, Sir, I have given you an account of those Prejudices, which have
brought forth _Deism_. But yet these very Prejudices without a strong
assistance of Passion, could never have wrought upon Men to cast off
Revelation; for you see the same Prejudices remain in the _Deist_ turn'd
Christian. Whosoever therefore, upon the fore-mentioned Reasons turneth
_Deist_, cannot be excused, tho' I could heartily wish all these
Pretences could be taken away from 'em. I am far from begrudging the
Bishops and Clergy that small Maintenance, which by Law is settled upon
them; and, I hope, they have no other aim in discharging their Offices,
but to save our Souls, by imprinting on our Hearts the Reason, the
Excellency and Advantages of the Law of Christ. I hope also, that they
comport themselves to the Common Interest of their Native Country, and
of the Protestant Religion throughout the World. Truly I could wish that
Notional Divinity were laid aside for Practical; and that unintelligible
Mysteries were not insisted on, as matters of necessary Belief. He, who
lately wrote his Thoughts of the Causes and Occasions of Atheism, might
have consider'd, that he, who cloggeth the Notion of God with
Absurdities, mis-leadeth Men beyond _Deism_. I pray God give me his
Grace, by which I may sincerely conform my self to the Law of Christ,
and I will never concern my self with the Speculative Drs. in Divinity.
And I heartily join with our Church in that Petition, _Give grace, O
heavenly Father, to all Bishops and Curates, that they may both by their
Life and Doctrine, set forth thy true and lively Word, and rightly and
duly Administer thy holy Sacraments_. By this they would bring Souls to
Heaven, gain the Love of all good People, secure their own Temporal
Interests, stop the Mouths of their Adversaries, and compel the Deists
to become Christians.

                                        _I am, Sir,_
                                              _Your Affectionate_, &c.


       *       *       *       *       *

If your Curiosity should lead you to be an Ear-witness of such
Discourses I have here Written to you, when I come to Town, which
will be as soon as the Parliament Sits, I will endeavour to give
you that Satisfaction.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "An Account of the Growth of Deism in England" ***

Copyright 2023 LibraryBlog. All rights reserved.