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divers books, written by Faldo, Hicks, and others, heaped up many wrong charges, defamations, slanders and false accusations against us; all which were refuted, and wiped off in our books, printed in answer thereunto; nor have those of other professions been so forward to attack us since. But now that liberty of conscience, in the free exercise of religious worship, is by authority granted, and thereby outward sufferings in a great measure abated, our old enemy envying us so great a benefit, though but in common with others, hath contrived ways and means to raise a new war against us, by stirring up some who have formerly walked with us, and for some time professed to be of us, but upon some peevish discontent or other have turned aside and left us, to turn now against us, and oppose us, and to pour forth floods of reproach, slanders and false accusations upon us.
His chief agent, at present, in this work, is George Keith, a Scotchman, whose ambitious aims not being answered, nor his absurd and fan. tastical notions received by and amongst the people called Quakers, he is now become of a seeming friend, a real enemy. He having published many books against us; and in defence of those books wrangled with us for a while in print, till he found himself too closely pinched, to be able to give an answer fit to be seen in print, hath at length bethought him. self of a wile, to excuse himself from answering; which was to set up a kind of judicial
court, of his own head, and by his own authority, in a place at his own command, on a day of his own appointing, there to charge and try divers of us who are called Quakers, whether present or absent, concerning matters of faith and doctrine ; and that the rude multitude might not be wanting to his assistance there, he gave publick notice of it some time before, by an advertisement in print, and there. in a sort of summons to some of us by name, to others by designation, to be present. This arbitrary proceeding, and usurped authority, as we judged it unreasonable in him to impose, so we did not think fit to submit to, or own, and therefore forbore to appear at the time and place by himn appointed. Yet lest any whom he should draw thither, might mistake the cause of our not appearing, the reasons there. of, drawn up in short heads, were sent thither, to be read, and given among the people, which they were. However, according to his before declared intention, to proceed whether any of us were there or no, he being judge in his own court, over-ruled our reasons, and went on to arraign, and convict us absent. The pageantry of which day's work, as acted there by hinself, he hath since published, with his name to it, under the title of an Exact Narrative of the Proceedings at Turner's hall, &c. Together with the Disputes and Speeches there, between George Keith, and other Qua. kers, differing from him in some Religious Principles. How idle is this in him, to pre
tend in his title to give , account of disputes and speeches between him and other Quakers, when, as his narrative itself gives no account of any dispute there, nor any thing like it; and of that little that was said by any of those few Quakers that were present, most was to the people (tending to shew them the unreasonableness of his undertaking, and desiring them to reserve one ear for the other side) very little of it to him.'
Then he goes on to shew George Keith's falsehood, in calling it an exact narrative, and yet not inserting the reasons why our Friends did not appear, which he confesses were read, and his fallacies in evading them; which therefore Thomas Ellwood sets down and obviates George Keith's quibbles on them ; so proceeds to answer his narrative; clearing the quotations he brought out of our Friends books, from his perversions, being either unfairly or falsely quoted, or perverted in their sense, to what they never intended ; according to his carping and cavilling way. Vindica. ting the soundness of their doctrine, shewing George Keith's self-contradictions, in opposing what he had so often vindicated as ortho. dox, and yet pretending to hold the same doctrines and principles still; and laying open his deceit, falsehood and prevarications so plainly and effectually, that George Keith nevet replied to it; and good reason why, because he could not to the purpose, being answered home, and defeated in all his vile pretences, envious cavils, and false accusations.
But being pinched and driven to a nonplus, by quotations out of his own books, in favour of what he opposed (which he could not an. swer,) wherein he had asserted or defended the same doctrines and principles, in as plain or higher words, which he now blamed Friends for as gross errors, &c. Which yet he would not allow to be so in himself, but palliated them under the soft term of mistakes. Saying, (Narrative, p. 15,) 'I know not any fundamental principle, nor indeed any one principle of Christian faith, that I have varied from to this day, ever since I came among the Quakers, which is about thirty-three years ago.'-And in his preface to his Narrative, p. 6, he says, the things (he does not call them errors, nor hardly ever uses the word error with respect to himself and his own writings) that need correction in my books, compared with the vile errors in theirs, are but as my motes to their beams : nor are they such things as oppose any christian principles of faith, but of an inferior nature ; and yet they were as full in the points as any he could cite out of ours. And in the true copy of a paper, printed 1694 ; where, in p. 17, he faintly intimates a purpose to publish some short explication, &c. of some words and passages in his former books. . He adds, for upon a review of my former books, I freely acknowledge, I have found some passages and words, that not only need some further explanation, but even in some parts an emendation and correction. How gently doth he touch
himself? says Thomas Ellwood; how softly doth he handle his own sores ? Not a syllable of errors or heresy there; no, the hardest word he can afford to give them, is his former mistakes. And lest the reader should extend them too far, he explains it in the next page, saying, • Upon the most impartial search I have made, I find not any cause to correct either my judgment or books, as touching any of the great doctrines and principles of the christian religion ; nor do I know that I am of another faith in any one principle of christian doctrine, contrary to what I believed ever since I went under the profession of a Quaker, so called.' With much more to the same purpose.
Thus partial was he to himself, notwithstanding his loud clamours and outcries of vile errors against the Quakers, for the same things he had held himself, which yet were no errors in him; such a hypocrite was he to dissemble with God and man. So that when he found his doctrines compared with what he accused Friends of, and saw they were the same, or parallel, it was to no purpose for him to go to vindicate or clear himself of what was so no. torious ; and therefore procured another, or at least he undertook it for him, under disguise of the Snake in the Grass. And so to slide by the quotations out of his books, that lay in his way ; which would have been a shame for George Keith to do, (a Snake in the Grass indeed) pretending in his preface, that it was not meant as a defence of George Keith, any