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THE PROTESTANT RULE OF FAITH,
EXPLAINED AND VINDICATED.
THE AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE.
THE PROTESTANT AND POPISH WAY
INTERPRETING SCRIPTURE, IMPARTIALLY COMPARED,
IN ANSWER TO “PAX VOBIS," ETC.
TO THE READER.
I was unwillingly engaged in the following dispute ; but at last two or three sheets were put to the press, about a year ago : and then meeting with an unexpected interruption, it lay by so long, till the late great and happy Revolution seemed to make discourses of this nature less necessary than they were when this was first undertaken. It had therefore, perhaps, lain for ever unfinished, if I had not met with the Catalogue of Treatises published against Popery in the late reign; but finding it there named, I thought myself obliged to make good what had been promised for me, though without my knowledge. I have endeavoured to make it as short and plain as I could ; and hope I have made it appear, that the Protestant way of interpreting Scripture will give us as much satisfaction as we need, but that the Papists, upon their own principles, can be certain of nothing.
When I first got a sight of the Dialogues that have passed for some time, under the title of “Pax Vobis," I little imagined that after it had lain so long neglected, as it deserves, so much stress should be now laid upon so slight and frivolous a paper.
It has been hitherto suffered to go up and down without an answer, not for any difficulty there was in it, but because no man could conceive that the world should ever be deluded by such a thin and manifest piece of sophistry. The arguing part is apparently fallacious, and the style so very light and vain, that it does but ill become the seriousness of the matter. Yet I hear these empty toyish Dialogues are esteemed by some absolutely unanswerable ; and because he has not yet been thought worth the considering, the author of them passes with some of his party for such a mighty champion, that they begin to believe there is not a man to be found hardy enough to look him in the face. When, indeed, it is nothing but the weakness of his performance that has hitherto secured him from a reply; and nothing but the insolent brags of his pretended admirers can make one necessary, or so much as excu
But for fear the confidence of these men should prevail upon the easiness and credulity of others, I shall make some short reflection on the book itself; and then examine the fundamental principle upon which he proceeds; and if that be taken away, all the cavils that are built upon it will fall to the ground of themselves.
The book was sent abroad under the mock title of “Pax Vobis, or Gospel and LIBERTY ; against ancient and modern Papists. By E. G. Preacher of the Word.” It consists of a Preface, and certain Dialogues. And here, if it were worth the while, I might take notice how he hampers himself in a plain contradiction at the very beginning; for in the second line of the preface, he bids "the children of the Reformation,” to whom it is directed, “reach their hand to receive this treatise :” and the very first words of the treatise are, “I have read your preface."*' So that in the learned preface it is implied, that the treatise was first writ; and in the very entrance of the treatise it is supposed, that the preface was not only written, but published and read too, before one word of that wise discourse had passed, which is so notably represented in the seven Dialogues, which make up that much admired and
* Page 1.
celebrated treatise. I cannot tell how things may be adjusted; to me the case seems exceeding intricate, and if a difference should chance to arise among the issue of this author's brain, about the rights of primogeniture, they would stand in need of a more infallible judge than himself to determine the controversy. But this is not the only instance wherein he has shewn himself a man of wonderful art, and therefore I shall make no farther remarks
it. The persons who are brought in speaking, through all the Dialogues, go under the names of Isaac and Ishmael. Isaac is represented like a bold dapper fleering fellow, by profession of the Reformed Church, in show a libertine, but in reality a downright Papist. Ishmael is set up for a kind of an honest simple Church of England man, that would fain defend himself if he could ; but the other is so pert upon him, and assaults him so briskly at every turn, that the poor thing is utterly confounded; he knows not what to think, but gapes and stares as if he were in a perfect maze. Isaac is always clattering about his ears with “ This and that is Scripture interpreted by such or such a man of sound judgment; therefore this and that, or what you please, is the doctrine of the Reformation.” This is the sum of all he has to say ; only he is continually trifling with it, and gives it you over and over again several times, in almost every page of the whole book. Which is enough to tire the most patient reader; and to a man of sense makes no pleasanter music than an idle boy, that lies drumming on the head of an empty barrel ; he only loads your ears with the nauseous repetition of the same dull insignificant noise.
He all along affects a certain pleasantness of humour, as he imagines; but it is indeed no better than mere impertinent battology. His drollery is mean and vulgar, without any variety, so much as of the phrase ; there is nothing in it either sharp or surprising, nothing that can be any way diverting, but only that Isaac is painted always grinning, as well becomes a person of his wit and character; which is the only decorum he has ever observed. It were an easy matter to expose the man; and if he had not done it sufficiently himself, make him appear as ridiculous as he has endeavoured to represent the Protestant rule of faith. But so much merriment, which might be excused on some other occasions, would be highly incongruous, if not profane, in so sacred and serious an argument. He must not therefore expect to be “answered accord