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rowly Into the scripture, for fear of meeting with something to make their preconceived opinions and prejudices; so is it with all public and national Jyjlems. Asthese have been fashioned by human contrivance, they are not, for very obvious reasons, over-fond of too narrow a scrutiny on the single footing of divine revelation; lest, as they are formed like the feet of the image in Nebuchadnezzar s dream, which were part of iron, and part of clay, so these being composed of the heterogeneous mixture of divine wisdom and human contrivance, a too curious investigator should, like the Stone there mentioned—^// upon them, and break them to pieces.
The Author of the following sheets professes himself a Free-thinker not in the usual sense of that word, as what he has written must abundantly testify, but as an assertor of that right, which every reasonable creature is invested with, to search, think, and judge for himself. He therefore has endeavoured to lay some points, which he cannot but esteem of the utmost consequence, before the world, that others may exercise their privilege as the Author hath done his.
As for the abuse which any subject herein treated may be liable to—What is not abused^ What in nature, providence,
or revelation, has not been abused and. per-, verted to some vile purpose or other? T;he very Gospel Of Peace hath been abused, to. sanctify fraud, violence, oppression, and persecution—to justify massacres, tortures, murders, even to men's roasting alive their fellow-creatures, and thinking they did Goo service! insomuch that, were we to judge of the great Head of our holy religion, by the abuse which has been made of His authority, we should invert what He fays, Luke ix. 56. and imagine, that He came not to Save men's lives, but to Destroy them. Eut what does all this prove? Nothing but the ignorance, perverseness, cruelty, and wickedness of human nature; and that corruptio optimist pesstma: but it does not prove, that the God of heaven, who foresaw and foreknew such abuses^ should not have revealed His mind and will to mortals j nor that any part of that revelation should be concealed, suppressed, or hidden from the eyes of men, for fear of its being abused. For this may be taken as a certain rule, that no abuse of the scriptures ever yet happened from a real understanding and knowledge of their contents, but from an ignorance, either in ourselves, or imposed on us by the design and artifice of others.
The grand question to be tried is, whether u System, filled with obligation arid
responsibility responsibility of men to women, and of women to men, even unto death itself, and this established by Infinite Wisdom, is not better calculated to prevent the ruin of the female sex, with all its horrid consequences, both to the public and individuals, than a System of human contrivance, where neither obligation nor responsibility are to be found, either of men to women, or of women to men, in instances of the most important concern to both, but more especially to the weaker sex?
The whole of the evidence on both fides is faithfully collected, and laid open, without any reserve or disguise, in this book—let every Reader look upon himself as impannelled on the jury—let him impartially hearken to the cause—and a true verdicJ give according to the evidence.
TO call in question the truth of longreceived opinions, is a fort of employment which few chuse to be engaged in; not only from the natural indolence and supineness of the human mind, but from the reception which such attempts are likely to meet with from the generality, who are always jealous of whatsoever may seem an attack on principles which have the sanction of antient custom; and from thence, even of laws themselves, for their support.
We need but look * back to the times
* If we carry our researches into the history of the Heathen world, we shall find that it was an established maxim adopted by Plate, and in which all the other philosophers without exception concurred, that " every nation should worship the gods according "to the established laws and customs, to which also "every private person in his own practice ought to "conform." By this artifice of the devil (who i» emphatically styled the god of this world, thzt-Minds
Vol. I. B <** of the Reformation, in order to see this abundantly verified. Our Reformers no sooner began the salutary work of enquiry after truth, and its infallible consequence, the detection of error, than the whole Cbrijlian world, so called, was in arms against them. Councils were summoned, synods held, and their sentences were, in substance, what that of the " men, brethren, and fathers," of the Jews was against that supposed innovator, Paul of Tarsus, when they said, "Away with such a fellow from the earth, for it is not Jit that he should live." Acts xxii. 22*
Had not Luther quarrelled with Pope Leo X. and brought himself into dif
the minds of men,''' 2 Cor. iv. 4.) not only the Heathen world, but a great part of the Christian world, hath been enslaved in chains of error and delusion. On the footing of this maxim it was, that when Socrates, who was the wisest of the philosophers, attempted to awaken his countrymen to a more rational and spiritual sense of divine things than they had been accustomed to, he was accused at Athens by Anytus and Melitus, that " he did not believe those to be •* gods which the city believed, and that he intro*' duced other new gods" — for this he was put to death. How many Cbri/lians have been put to death on a similar principle, let the annals of those declare who are now crying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dojl thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth f Rev. vi. 9, 10.
So Cicero binds it as a duty upon the people '* to "follow the religion of their ancestors." Cic. de Leg. lib. ii. c. B. — ritus familiapatrumqueservanto.