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TO

THE MOST REVEREND FATHER IN GOD

NARCISSUS,

LORD ARCHBISHOP OF DUBLIN, HIS GRACE.33   This dedication refers to the twelve sermons next following.

My Lord,

THE particular acquaintance and friendship which your Grace was pleased to honour me with while you lived at Oxford, have emboldened me to address myself to your Lordship at this great distance of place, and greater of condition; in hopes that by your Grace’s advancement to so high a station in the church, that, which before was only friendship, may now improve into patronage and protection. And yet, as ambitious as I am of so ennobling a patronage, and as singular a value as I have for your Grace’s favour, I must needs own, that the design of my present application to your Grace, is not so much to crave a favour, as to pay a debt; and, in answer to the many obligations I lie under, to congratulate your Grace on that height of dignity and greatness to which Providence has so happily raised you, and your own worth so justly entitled you; and so, without your seeking (and much less sneaking) for it, made you, to your great honour, to be sought for by it: there being (as from my heart I believe) few examples in the world of so much merit and so much modesty in conjunction.

It is indeed no small infelicity to the church of England, to have parted with so extraordinary a member; but none at all, I conceive, to your Grace, that you are placed where 226you are; especially, if your Grace shall consider the present estate of our church here, as through the arts of her enemies she stands divided against herself: and that only by two or three odd new terms of distinction maliciously invented, and studiously made use of for that base purpose; such a sovereign, or at least such a peculiar method, have some found out for preserving our church, if the best way to preserve a body be by cutting it asunder. For those of the ancienter members of her communion, who have all along owned and contended for a strict conformity to her rules and sanctions, as the surest course to establish her, have been of late represented, or rather reprobated, under the inodiating character of high churchmen, and thereby stand marked out for all the discouragement that spite and power together can pass upon them; while those of the contrary way and principle are distinguished, or rather sanctified, by the fashionable endearing name of low churchmen, not from their affecting, we may be sure, a lower condition in the church than others, (since none lie so low but they can look as high,) but from the low condition which the authors of this distinction would fain bring the church itself into, a work in which they have made no small progress al ready. And thus by these ungenerous, as well as unconscionable practices, a fatal rent and division is made amongst us: and, being so, I think those of the concision who made it, would do well to consider, whether that, which our Saviour assures us will destroy a kingdom, be the likeliest way to settle and support a church. But I question not but these dividers will very shortly receive thanks from the Papists for the good services they have done them; and in the mean time they may be sure of their scoffs.

Never certainly were the fundamental articles of our faith so boldly impugned, nor the honour of our church so foully blemished, as they have been of late years; while the Socinians have had their full uncontrolled fling at both; and the Tritheists have injured and exposed them more by pretending to defend them against the Socinians, than the Socinians themselves did or could do by opposing them. For surely 227it would be thought a very odd way of ridding a man of the plague by running him through with a sword; or of curing him of a lethargy by casting him into a calenture; a disease of a contrary nature indeed, but no less fatal to the patient; who equally dies, whether his sickness or his physic, the malignity of his distemper or the method of his cure, despatches him. And in like manner must it fare with a church, which, feeling itself struck with the poison of Socinianism, flies to Tritheism for an antidote.

But at length happily steps in the royal authority to the churches relief, with several healing injunctions in its hands, for the composing and ending the disputes about the Trinity then on foot; and those indeed so wisely framed, so seasonably timed, and (by the king, at least,) so graciously intended, that they must, in all likelihood, (without any other Irenicon,) have restored peace to the church, had it not been for the importunity and partiality of some, who having by the awe of these injunctions endeavoured to silence the opposite party, (which by their arguments they could not do,) and withal looking upon themselves as privileged persons, and so above those ordinances which others were to be subject to, resolved not to be silent themselves; but renewing the contest, partly by throwing Muggleton and Rigaltius, with some other foul stuff, in their adversaries 1 faces; and partly by a shameless reprinting (without the least reinforcing) the same exploded tritheistic notions again and again, they quite broke through the royal prohibitions, and soon after began to take as great a liberty in venting their innovations and invectives, as ever they had done before; . so that he, who shall impartially consider the course taken by these men with reference to those engaged on the other side of this controversy about the Trinity, will find that their whole proceeding in it resembles nothing so much, as a thief’s binding the hands of an honest man with a cord, much fitter for his own neck.

But, blessed be God, matters stand not so with you in Ireland; the climate there being not more impatient of poisonous 228animals, than the church of poisonous opinions: an universal concurrent orthodoxy shining all over it, from the superior clergy who preside, to the inferior placed under them: so that we never hear from thence of any presbyter, and much less of any dean, who dares innovate upon the faith received: and least of all (should such a wretch chance to start up among you) can I hear of any bishop likely to debase his style and character so low, as either to defend the man, or colour over his opinions. Nor, lastly, do we find that in the judgment of the clergy there, a man’s having wrote against one sort of heresy or heterodoxy, ought to justify or excuse him in writing for another, and much less for a worse.

The truth is, such things as these make the case with us here in England come too near that of Poland about a hundred and twenty or a hundred and thirty years ago,44   See a learned tract in 8vo. entitled, The Growth of Error, &c. sect. 8. printed in the year 1697. where the doctrine of three distinct infinite spirits began and led the dance, and was quickly followed (as the design was laid) by Socinianism, whereupon their old popery got a firmer establishment and more rigorous imposition than before, (the government preferring a less pure and perfect Christianity before the most refined Turcism.) This was the method taken there, and I wish it may not have the like issue here.

But on the contrary, amongst you, when a certain Mahometan Christian, (no new thing of late,) notorious for his blasphemous denial of the mysteries of our religion, and his insufferable virulence against the whole Christian priest hood, thought to have found shelter amongst you, the parliament, to their immortal honour, presently sent him packing, and without the help of a fagot soon made the kingdom too hot for him: a sufficient argument, doubtless, how far we are from needing those savage executions used by the Papists to rid the church of heretics and blasphemers, 229where authority, animated with due zeal, will attempt that worthy work, by other more humane, but not less effectual means. Nothing certainly but power, as the world now goes, can keep the church in peace.

And now, my Lord, may that God by whom princes and prelates govern, and churches stand, long preserve your Grace, and that excellent church which you are so eminent a pillar of, and ornament to; and which, by her incomparable courage and faithfulness lately shewn in preserving that great depositum, the holy religion committed to her trust, has gotten herself a name which will never die; and such a solid well-founded reputation, as no bending this way or that way, no trimming or tricking it, ever could or can give so ample and so considerable a body: for it is lead only that bends to almost every thing, which the nobler metals cannot do, and the nobler sort of minds will not.

But I fear I trespass too far upon your Grace’s time and business; and therefore humbly imploring your Grace’s blessing, I lay these poor papers at your feet, infinitely unworthy, I confess, of the acceptance of so great a person, and the perusal of so judicious an eye; but yet at present the best pledges I can give your Grace of those sincere respects and services, which your Grace ought always to claim, and shall never fail to receive from,

My Lord,

Your Grace’s ever faithful

and most obedient servant,

ROBERT SOUTH.

Westminster,

April 30, 1698.

231
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