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country and of Ireland :—the character, the liberties, and the faith of our present Ca tholics, such arguments do not, or ought not to, affect.
The following work is divided into two parts: the first treats of the history of Catholicism to the time of the Reformation: the second delineates the leading doctrines, and the principal branches of discipline. The views of Catholics respecting civil authority I have traced at some length, in various printed documents, and the Articles of Faith I have carefully collected from such works of acknowledged authority as have fallen in my way ; nor have I spared either labour or expense in procuring correct information on these several subjects.
There are no words in which I can sufficiently express my sense of the great openness and unreserved readiness with which the clergy and the laity of the Roman Catholic Church have made their communications to me, whenever I have applied to them for information. If I stood in need of any inducement to think favourably of the good sense and candour of these insulted people, I should find it in that frankness and generosity, which every where, except in one solitary instance, have been exer
cised towards me. When I first suggested to them the plan and design of this work, I was a perfect stranger, otherwise than as I might be known through the medium of my former publications; but they all earnestly urged me to undertake it, and to form my account of their Church and tenets from their own formularies, and writings of acknowledged authority among them, and not from the publications of their adversaries. They, moreover, advised me to distinguish between the Articles of their Faith, and the opinions of individuals. With these intimations, and this advice, seconded by the greatest condescension and goodness in procuring me such books as lay in their power to supply me with, they left me to my own impressions, without, in the most distant or slight degree, attempting to influence me in my inferences or conclusions. If, therefore, I have erred in my statements, the fault must be my own-if I be correct, I owe it not to any positive assistance, otherwise than by books and general advice; and I may be allowed to claim, at least, the merit of patient industry and impartial investigation. The name of the gentleman, who kindly furnished me with the short view of the arguments in support of the Pope's supremacy, is given along with that paper.
When, on a former occasion, I ventured
before the public as the author of a Portraiture of Methodism,* a system of faith supported by people very different in many of their habits and views from those whose history I have now attempted to delineate, I felt myself secure in the general accuracy of all my statements. I wrote with freedom, because I knew it was impossible for me materially to err: but in this instance, I must confess, almost every page has been committed to press with fear and trembling, lest I should injure, through my mistakes, rather than promote by the faithfulness of my representations, a cause in which I feel a deep and serious interest THE EMANCIPATION OF ROMAN
* Perhaps I may be allowed, in allusion to that work, in this place to say, that, had I been aware of the ill use which some persons, professed enemies of the Methodists, have since made of some facts therein stated, I certainly should not have felt myself free to have communicated them; and even could I have conceived it possible, that the general strain of writing pursued in the Portraiture of Methodism could have been construed into an indirect attack on a numerous and valuable body of my fellow Christians, among whom I have still the pleasure to enumerate some of my warmest and most affectionate friends, I should have paused ere I had written any thing that could be regarded as disrespectful to religion, or painful even to the harmless prejudices of any pious and well-meaning Christian. With these concessions, which I make in the niost voluntary manner, I wish to be perfectly understood, that I have no fact to contradict--no statement of consequence to deny.
CATHOLICS, AND THE REPEAL OF ALL THOSE DISGRACEFUL PENAL STATUTES WHICH AGGRIEVE AND OPPRESS THE DISSENTERS OF THIS GREAT AND ENLIGHTENED EMPIRE.
Ever accustomed freely and openly to express my sentiments, religious or political, whatever inconveniences I might suffer in consequence, I have not hesitated, in the following pages, at times, to write in terms which I fear will not prove pleasing to any party. In mentioning the Fathers, for instance, on page 25, if I have seemed to speak with disrespect concerning those venerable sages, it has not been because I feel no regard for the opinions or the reasonings of many of the ancient and primitive defenders of our common salvation; but I am nevertheless convinced, that an implicit reliance on the reasonings or decisions of even those early writers is injurious to the cause of truth, and the real interests of reli. gious inquiry; and I may here add, that in asserting that the Fathers have agreed in hardly a single point of doctrine or discipline, I am supported by no less an authority than our own Royal Martyr (as he is oddly termed), Charles I., who speaking of these very writers, in his conference with the Marquis of Worcester, A. D. 1646, in
Ragland Castle, thus expresses himself: “ I discover no Father's nakedness, but deplore their infirmities, that we should not trust in arms of flesh. Tertullian was a Montanist ; Cyprian a Rebaptist ; Origen an Anthropomorphist; Jerome a Monoganist; Nazianzen an Angelist ; Eusebius an Arian: St. Austin had written so many errors, that he wrote a book of Retractations; and, indeed, they have often contradicted one another, and sometimes even themselves.”
If in some instances it should be thought I have written with too much freedom respecting the Church establishment of this country, or rather against Church and State unions in general, I beg it may be understood, that so far from wishing to feel disrespect towards the national Church, I have a sincere and warm regard for the morals and learning of many, nay, of a large majority of our clergy, and this regard I have never failed to express on all proper occasions. But I am, nevertheless,
* Certamen Religiosum, p. 114.
+ It may not be improper here to notice, that I am at present engaged in collecting materials for “ A PORTRAITURE OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND; or, a View of the Origin, History, Doctrines, Discipline, and present State of the reformed Religion of GREAT BRITAIN.” Should any of my readers favour' me, through the medium of my booksellers, with their advice or assistance in this undertaking, I shall hold myself under great obligations to them.