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STATE AND FATE
THE world is at this day filled with discourses about the Protestant religion, and the profession of it; and that not without cause. The public opposition that is made unto it, the designs that are managed with policy and power for its utter extirpation, and the confidence of many that they will take effect, must needs fill the minds of them whose principal interest and concerns lie in it, with many thoughts about the event. Never was there a greater cause brought on the stage for a trial. A causè wherein the glory of God is concerned above any thing at this day in the world. A cause wherein the most eminent prevailing powers of the earth are visibly engaged as unto its ruin; and whereunto all the diabolical arts of men are employed. A cause wherein those who embrace that religion, do judge that not only their lives, but the eternal welfare of them and their posterity is inevitably concerned. This cannot but fill the minds of all men with various conjectures about the issue of these things, according as their interest works in them by hopes and fears. Some of them therefore do endeavour by their counsels and other ways for the preservation and continuance of this Protestant religion amongst ourselves, according as they have an accession unto public affairs; and some whose lot is cast into a private capacity, do engage faith and prayer unto the same purpose. The enemies of it in the mean time are powerful, active, and restless; many amongst us being uncertain in their minds, as not resolved where to fix their interest, and a greater multitude, like Gallio, care for none of these
things. This being a matter therefore wherein all men, who have any sense of religion, are so deeply concerned, it may not be unseasonable, briefly to inquire what is this Protestant religion which is so contended about; what is its present state in the world; what its strength and weakness as unto its public profession, and what is like to be the issue of the present contest. This is that which the ensuing leaves are designed unto: and it is hoped they may be of use unto some, to extricate their minds from involved fruitless thoughts, to direct them in their duty, and to bring them unto an acquiescency in the will of God.
The Protestant religion may be considered either as it is religion in general, that is, Christian religion; or as it is distinct from and opposite unto another pretended profession of the same religion, whereon it is called Protestant.
In the first sense of it, it derives its original from Christ and his apostles. What they taught to be believed, what they commanded to be observed in the worship of God; all of it, and nothing but that, is the Protestant religion. Nothing else belongs unto it, in nothing else is it concerned. These, therefore, are the principles of the religion of Protestants, whereinto their faith and obedience are resolved.
1. What was revealed unto the church by the Lord Christ and his apostles, is the whole of that religion which God will and doth accept.
2. So far as is needful unto the faith, obedience, and eternal salvation of the church, what they taught, revealed, and commanded, is contained in the Scriptures of the New Testament, witnessed unto and confirmed by those of the Old.
3. All that is required of us that we may please God, be accepted with him, and come to the eternal enjoyment of him, is that we truly believe what is so revealed and taught, yielding sincere obedience unto what is commanded in the Scriptures.
Upon these principles, Protestants confidently propose their religion unto the trial of all mankind. If in any thing it be found to deviate from them, if it exceeds in any instance what is so revealed, taught, and commanded; if it be defective in the faith or practice of any thing that is so revealed or commanded, they are ready to renounce it. Here
they live and die, from the foundation they will not depart : this is their religion.
And if these principles will not secure us, as unto our present acceptance with God in religion, and the eternal enjoyment of him, he hath left all mankind at an utter uncertainty to make a blind venture for an invisible world; which is altogether inconsistent with his infinite wisdom, goodness, and benignity.
Being in possession of these principles of truth and security from Christ and his apostles, it belongs unto the Protestant religion not to change or forego them, and to repose our confidence in the infallibility or authority of the pope of Rome, or of the church whereof he is the head. For these principles of assurance are such as every way become the wisdom and goodness of God; and such as that our nature is not capable in this life, of those which are higher, or of a more illustrious evidence. Let the contrary unto either of these be demonstrated, and we will renounce the Protestant religion. To forego them for such as are irreconcilable unto divine wisdom and goodness, as also to the common reason of mankind, is an effect of the highest folly and of strong delusion.
For that all mankind should be obliged to place all their confidence and assurance of pleasing God, of living unto him, and coming unto the enjoyment of him for eternity, on the pope of Rome and his infallibility, however qualified and circumstantiated, considering what these popes are and have been, is eternally irreconcilable unto the greatness, wisdom, love, and kindness of God; as also unto the whole revelation made of himself by Jesus Christ. The principles of Protestant religion before mentioned, do every way become, are highly suited unto, the nature and goodness of God. No man living shall ever be able to instance in one tittle of them, that is not correspondent with divine goodness and wisdom. But on the first naming of this other way, no man who knows any thing what the pope is, and what is his church, if he be not blinded with prejudice and interest, will be able to satisfy himself that it is consistent with infinite goodness and wisdom to commit the salvation of mankind, which he values above all things, unto such a security.
Neither hath this latter way any better consistency with
human wisdom, or the common reason of mankind; namely, that those who are known, many of them, to be better and wiser men than those popes, should resolve their religion, and therein their whole assurance of pleasing God, with all their hopes of a blessed eternity, into the authority and infallibility of the pope and his church; seeing many of them, the most of them, especially for some ages, have been persons wicked, ignorant, proud, sensual, and brutish in their lives.
This then is the foundation of the Protestant religion, in that it is built on those principles, which are every way suited unto the divine nature and goodness, as also satisfactory unto human reason; with a refusal of them which are unworthy of infinite wisdom to give, and the ordinary reason of men to admit or receive.
Secondly, As the name Protestant is distinctive with respect unto some other pretended profession of Christian religion; so it derives this denomination from them who in all ages, after the apostacy of the church of Rome came to be expressly antichristian, departed from the communion of it, opposed it, reformed themselves, and set up the true worship of God according unto the degrees and measures of gospel light which they had received.
This was done successively in a long tract of time through sundry ages, until by an accession of multitudes, princes and people, unto the same profession, they openly testified and protested against the papal apostacy and tyranny, whence they became to be commonly called Protestants. And the principles whereon they all of them proceeded from the first to last, which constitute their religion as Protestant, were these that follow:
1. That there are in the Scripture, prophesies, predictions, and warnings, especially in the book of the Revelation, and the Second Epistle of Paul the apostle to the Thessalonians, that there should be a great apostacy or defection in the visible church from the faith, worship, and holiness of the gospel; and in opposition unto what was appointed of Christ, the erection of a worldly, carnal, antichristian church-state, composed of tyranny, idolatry, and persecution, which should for a long time oppress the true worshippers of Christ with bloody cruelty, and at last be itself consumed with the