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duct of others, and their folly is a shade to your glory. The indolent prefer an easy faith to a painful search, and their reason bleeds on an altar erected to the love of ease. The impatient, like Pilate, ask, IVhat is truth? But never wait for an answer. The proud, though not infallible, are always in the right! The sons of luxury or avarice, like Esau, prefer a meal to a birth-right. What a waste of goodness would it be to propose truth to these? Their minds are preoccupied, and till their vices are dispossessed, it is morally impossible to alter them. A writ of ejectment is the first part of a process with them.
A thousand apologies may be made for studious and serious men, when they miss their way in an argument. The prejudices of education, the want of information, the influence of company and example, gratitude for a past favour, hope in a future one, these, and more such topics will always afford pleas for honest mistaken men, pleas which may diminish the guilt of an error, though they cannot assign to it the merit of truth.
To which of these causes your mistakes about subscription are owing is not the question now. It is enough that
you are open to conviction. Friendship cannot refuse your request; you will therefore receive a letter on each subject in dispute as a multitude of avocations will allow ; and should the issue see cause to change sides, you would but follow the greatest men in their greatest actions, Did not Cicero, the glory of Rome, condemn in his riper years some of his juvenile pieces? Has
not Hippocrates, the prince of antient physicians, owned himself deceived in his judgment of the sutures in the skull? Is not half St. Paul's conversion a public renunciation of his former sentiments? And
pray did ever any body imagine that this lessened their glory?. It increases it, you'll say, as more skill and resolution are needful to correct a bad habit, than to avoid contracting one.
Indeed, the man who undertakes to correct one's mistakes does one a great honour. He remonstrates in hope of reclaiming, but before he can hope to reclaim, he must presuppose all those amiable dispositions which enable a man to say, I AM MISTAKEN. Yet why should any man be ashamed of saying so ? All men make mistakes; there is but one article in which wise men and fools differ; a wise man reforms his mistakes, a fool perseveres. Mr. Bayle's sensible letter to his friend Professor Du Rondel is not foreign from the purpose. “I “ take notice (says he) of some errors committed " by persons, for whom I have an extraordinary esteem, and who honour me with their love. Such I shall spare
will have some reason to com“ plain of me, as it will be an indication that I
imagined they are incapable of hearing reason, ” or able to sustain the least loss. The former
have so ample a reputation, and such vast trea“sures of glory, that an hundred shipwrecks could “not do them any prejudice. If there are any “ whose errors ought to be passed over, it is chiefly " the poorer sort, who on such an occasion would
“ be plundered to their very shirts, was any one "to fall upon their frippery."
Bayle's comparison of men of genius and learning to men of fortune is pretty, but it must be said, that they who can best afford a loss do not always suffer one with a good grace. It is not the ability but the temper that reigns here. Men of learning like men of fortune can often better afford a loss than they can bear one'; and this perhaps is the reason why persons of inferior abilities often discover truths which their superiors cannot : a supreme, disinterested love to truth presides in their inquiries.
You lament, (and indeed who can help lamenting ?) the bad spirit of too many religious controversies. Religion is a sacred thing, and meekness is a part of it: whence then is it, that prejudice and passion in some, fire and flame in others, appear in these disputes ? The gospel is nothing of all this ; the gospel needs nothing of all this ; all this disgraces the gospel : for which reason, perhaps, our Saviour forbad the devils to publish his mission.
The fierce disputes of Christians have always scandalized the good cause, and will always continue to do so, till mildness and moderation succeed violence: and then christianity will reassume her primitive habit, and with that her native prevalence. Errors like prostitutes may paint themselves and pay their bullies, but let truth, especially religious truth, disdain such aid, and show the world a more excellent way.
There is in the life of Archbishop Tillotson a fine example of the deportment here pleaded for. While Dr. Tillotson was Dean of Canterbury, he preached at Whitehall, before his Majesty Charles the Second, a Sermon in which were these words : “ I cannot think, till I be better informed (which
I am always ready to be) that any pretence
of conscience warrants any man, that is not “extraordinarily commissioned, as the apostles s and first publishers of the gospel were, and “cannot justify that commission by miracles, as
they did, to affront the established religion of a “ nation, although it be false, and openly draw
men off from the profession of it, in contempt “ of the magistrate and the laws. All that persons “ of a different religion can in such case reason
ably pretend to, is to enjoy the private liberty " and exercise of their own consciences and resligion, for which they ought to be very thank“ ful.”—&c. &c. When the Dean had ended his sermon, said a certain nobleman to the King, who had been asleep most part of the time, 'Tis pity your Majesty slept, for we have had the rarest piece of Hobbism, that ever you heard in your life. Ods fish, replied the king, he shall print it then. The Dean was accordingly ordered to print it. He did so, and as soon as it came from the press, sent one, (as he usually did) to his friend, the Rev. Mr. John Howe. Mr. Howe (you know) had been ejected for nonconformity, and was at that time pastor of a congregation in London. On reading the Dean's sermon he was exceedingly troubled at the above cited passage,
and drew up a long expostulatory letter on the subject. He signified“ how much he was grieved, “ that in a sermon against popery he should plead " the popish cause against all the reformers. He “ insisted upon it, that we had incontestible evi“ dences of the miracles wrought by the apostles,
and that we are bound to believe them, and take
religion to be established by them, without any “ farther expectations. Whạt (said he) must the “ christian religion be repealed, every time a wick“ed governor thinks fit to establish a new reli“gion ? Must no one stand up for the true reli
gion till he can work a miracle ?” &c. Mr. Howe carried the letter himself, and delivered it into the Dean's own hand, who, thinking they should be less interrupted in the country, proposed Mr. Howe's dining with him at Sutton-court, the seat of the Lady Falconbridge. The invitation was accepted, and Mr. Howe read over the letter to the Dean, and enlarged on its contents, as they were travelling along together in his chariot. The Dean, at length convinced of his mistake, fell a weeping freely, and said that this was the most unhappy thing that had of a long time befallen him. I SEE (says he) WHAT I HAVE OFFERED IS NOT TO BE MAINTAINED. Let bigots censure the good Archbishop Tillotson's friendship and tenderness to dissenters; let them exclaim at his want of zeal; exclusive of the rest of his conduct, the single example above recited, will make you cry with Bishop Burnet, his conduct needs no apology, for it is above it. Farewell.