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ed with such dangerous Adherents. If this Course (I lay) were taken, that each Sect did urge its own Plea single, by and for, it self, there were then fome ground for Charity , and we might possibly have some hope, that their aims looked no higher than an Indulgence: And by fo inoffensive a way of asking favour , Authority would have some ground whereupon to be perswaded, that they would use any favour which they could obtain with the very fame. Modesty with which they do desire it: But when they shall all unite with a joynt Consent in one and the same Clamour for that very Demand, about which themselves neither ever did, nor ever can agree ; and within which Pretence no one name is wide enough to comprehend them, besides that of Nonconformity , viz. Dislenters from the present Constitution : Of which difsent it is more than possible to alledge, not only divers , but contrary Reafons, and doth only tell us what it is they would not have, but not at all what they would have. It is but too
evident, evident, that Indulgence is not the only thing aimed at, but is only proposed in order to something else; and the plausible name of Conscience may upon these terms be suspected to be only. a handsome Artifice whereby to disguise that combination, which no other word is rolemn enough to authorize, or of compass large enough to be a fufficient shelter for; and by which they hope to become a · Match for some common Enemy: And accordingly as their success doth chance to happen in that , each Sect doth flatter it self with the particular Advantages to be reaped from it. And in this I am the more confirmed, because that the late Act of Parliament against Conventicles, which hath been the matter of so much Lamentation and Complaint, hath been so tender, even of the needless Scruples of Conscience, as to allow these men their own Fancies in their way of Worfhip in their own Families, and four of their Neighbours to joyn with them: But there Good men are persecuted, if they are only tolerated; they lose
their ends unless they make Profelytes, and have opportunities to form themselves into Parties.
But if this Plea of Conscience be so very Omnipotent, as that it must bear all things down before it, and no other Consideration whatever must in the least presume to stand in its way : Suppose the Case should so happen , as that this Plea should become so utterly inconGstent with it self, as that it is impossible but that in one respect or other, it must necer sarily be over-ruled ; and this is a Case which may occurr very frequently: As for Example, suppose that my Conscience tells me that I ought to be of this or that Opinion, and not only fo, but that I am obliged not only to entertain it my self, but withall to vent and propagate it to others; and on the contrary, the Magistrates Conscience tells him, that he is appointed by God to be a Keeper of both the Tables, and that it is his Duty to take care not only of Peace, but Truth ; and the Doctrines which I am so very fond of arę not only erroneous, but likewise of very ill consequence, both as to the Souls of men and to the pub. lick Peace; and that to so high a degree, as that he is firmly perswaded, and as he really believes and thinks himself able to give a very good account upon weighty grounds, that he should be much wanting, both to the Duty which he oweth to God, and the Care which he ought to take of his People, both as to their Temporal and Eternal Welfare, if he doth not make use of his Authority in the restraining me from venting any such perni. cious Doctrines within his Dominions.
What now is to be done in this case? My Conscience tells me, that I am obliged to preach such and such Doctrines, as being precious and soulsaving ones, the Truths of God and Gospel-discoveries ; the King's Conscience tells him, that they are the Doctrines of Devils (as Saint Paul did upon occasion declare some Doctrines to be) and that he ought not to give me Liberty to preach any such in his Kingdom : What now is to be done in this case? Here is Conscience on both sides; the King is as firmly perswaded as I am, and thinks himself as well informed as I either am or can be ; If the King restrains me from preaching after my own way, then I cry out that he is a Persecutor : He replies, that I am a Seducer , nay, a Blasphemer, and he neither will nor ought to suffer any such in his Countries; either his Conscience or mine must over-rule; Both cannot be satisfied; one or other must necessarily either yield or alter ; or else I must Preach, and he must Punish, and the Almighty must at his own time be Judge between us ; and in the mean time as to all the purposes of this World, the King's Conscience hath reason to expect to be more Authoritative than mine and withall he is concerned to take care both of himself and all other men, to Judge both as to his own particular, and likewise as to the Concerns of His whole Nation.