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told, they have a good intention in general: they reverence what they do not understand, and this is sufficient. Now for the purposes of spiritual dominion, this may be sufficient : and such devotions, as many of theirs are, will, we own, be more reverenced for not being understood. But for the edification of the people, it is far from being sufficient, to have good intentions in general, and no meaning in particular: to pray to God for they know not what; and hear lessons read, which they can learn nothing from.

Another thing, akin to the former, in which we differ from the Church of Rome, is, that we allow and exhort all persons to read the holy Scriptures diligently. They, on the contrary, have expressly decreed, that, since the promiscuous allowance of Bibles in the vulgar tongue does more harm than good, (these are the very words of the Index published in consequence of the Council of Trent's order,) no one shall be suffered to read translations of Scripture, even though made by Catholics, as they call themselves, unless the Bishop or Inquisitor, by the advice of the Curate or Confessor, give him leave in writing : and whoever transgresses this rule, shall not be absolved till he gives up his Bible. Nay, throughout the whole kingdom of Spain, all Bibles in their own tongue are absolutely forbidden. And in all Popish countries, getting one, by the means here prescribed, being a matter of time, and form, and difficulty, and suspicion, the generality seldom put themselves to the trouble of it. So that in many parts of the world there are great multitudes of that Communion, who perhaps have never either read or heard in their own tongue one chapter of the Bible in their whole lives. Or if any one does ask for

leave, it is never granted where they dare refuse it, excepting to such as they are well assured beforehand will see nothing there but what they are bidden. So that where they have permission to read the Scripture, they have none to understand it. Besides that, this permission, even in those countries where they are obliged to indulge it the most freely, as in our own, is but during pleasure, and may at any time be taken away when it will serve the turn better : nor dare the poor deluded people, upon pain of damnation, help themselves. And as to Protestant translations, having one is looked on as a mark of heresy; for which in this very nation, poor creatures have been burnt, and their Bibles with them. Which practice now, think you, is the righter, theirs

, or ours? What authority can there be on earth to forbid any part of mankind from reading what Heaven hath revealed to them. It is the law of our lives, the foundation of our hopes; God hath given it to us, and man hath no right to take it from us. But they tell us, it is from kindness they do it: for there is great danger that the Scripture may be misunderstood and perverted : unlearned and unstable men *, St. Peter hath declared, may wrest it to their own destruction. Now this is possible indeed : and so it is possible every thing may be applied to an ill purpose: health, strength, food, liberty, common daylight : but is this a reason for taking away any of them? It is possible that persons may do themselves harm by having the Scriptures : but is it not something more than possible, that they may suffer harm from the want of them; and be destroyed, as the Prophet tells us, for lack of knowledge t? Why do not these persons, who are so very cautious in this * 2 Pet. ii. 16.

† Hos. iv. 6.

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case, show the same caution in others, which surely need it full as much? Why do they never restrain any body from image-worship, for fear of their falling into idolatry? Why do they never forbid the use of indulgences, for fear of their being mistaken for a licence to sin ? Multitudes of questions like these might be with equal reason asked; and it is very strange, methinks, that they should be suspicious of nothing doing harm but the Bible. But after all, is the danger so very great ? Hath God Almighty inspired men to write and publish so exceedingly unsafe a book, and so very unfit to be read by the generality of those, for whom he intended it; that had not the Church of Rome, in their great wisdom, forbidden persons to look into it, without their leave, it might have done infinite harm, and does not a little still ? We cannot think so. Men were liable to make an ill use of things, to fall into errors and heresies, in all ages. Yet neither the Prophets under the Old Testament, nor our Saviour and his Apostles in the times of the New, ever bethought themselves of this way for preventing it; but recommend and enjoin the reading of Scripture in the strongest terms. Now it is wonderful they should not be as wise as those who come after them.' St. Peter himself, who mentions this danger of men's wresting the Scriptures, yet does not in the least blame, but suppose, every man's reading them notwithstanding. And St. Paul, whose Epistles were the very Scriptures they wrested, yet never requires them to be kept from any one Christian of the several Churches he writes to; nay, most strictly requires the contrary, concerning an Epistle as liable to be misunderstood as any of them all; and which actually was misunderstood immediately, I mean his first Epistle to the Thessalonians. Yet notwithstanding that, I charge you by the Lord, says he, that this Epistle be read unto all the holy brethren*. Did then the ancient Christians, in whose days there were heresies in great plenty, did they restrain any of the people from reading the Scriptures, in order to preserve them from heresy? No: the Romanists do not pretend it. They well know, that a man's delivering up his Bible was always, as it ought to be, the mark of apostacy from religion. They know there is no one thing almost so much insisted on by fathers and councils as the necessity that all persons without exception should be well acquainted with the word of God. Thus little apprehensive was the primitive Church of any danger from this practice. The Church of Rome, we own, has some cause to be apprehensive. For had the people once general liberty to read and judge from Scripture, there is great danger they might come in general to see, what now they who do see dare not own, how widely it differs from the doctrines commonly taught them; we acknowledge then they are wise in their generation. The Scripture is against them; and they will be against the Scripture: lower its credit as far as they dare : keep it out of men's hands, where they can: and where they cannot, they pervert it by false translations, obscure it by false glosses, and make it of none effect by setting up a pretended authority of interpreting it to quite another thing than it evidently means. We, God be thanked, need not these arts, and we use them not. We permit, we beseech, we require you all to read the Scriptures diligently, and judge of their meaning impartially; to compare with them every thing we teach you, and believe nothing but what you find agreeable to them. We

1 Thess. v. 27.

have no fear of your being poisoned by the food of life, or led into error by the word of truth. On the contrary, we know not any surer way of preserving men from errors, and those of the Church of Rome in particular, than that which St. Paul prescribes Timothy in the third chapter of his second Epistle. This know, that in the last days perilous times shall come. Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But continue thou in those things which thou hast learned, and hast been assured of: knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

There are still many other points, in which great corruptions of the Romish Church might be shown you. Such is their equalling the Apocryphal books to the canonical: which the ancient Christians did not. Such is their modern addition of five new Sacraments to those two which Christ appointed, and making the belief of this precise number essential to salvation; making also the Priest's intention so necessary to the benefit of the Sacraments, that nobody shall be the better for them without it: a person baptized, for instance, shall be no Christian notwithstanding, if the Priest had malice enough to design he should not. Of the same bad tendency is their burying every part of religion under a load of rites and ceremonies, that turn it into outward show; and giving it the appearance of art magic by an infinity of absurd superstitions, many of them the undenia

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