Freethought Archives > Thomas Woolston > Six Discourses on Miracles

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Mr. Woolston's Defence







Against the Bishops of St. David's and London, and his other Adversaries.

Part I.

Res Religionis non Verberibus sed Verbis est peragenda.


London: Printed for the Author, and Sold by him, next Door to the Star in Aldermanbury, and by the Booksellers of London and Westminster, 1729.

[Price One Shilling.]




Not long since the Bishop of St. David's presented to Your Majesty his Vindication; as I would have done this my Defence, if I had known how to get Access to Your Royal Presence.

Your Majesty will perceive, that here's a sad War broke out between the Bishop and my self, about Miracles; which, in all probability, will cost a large Effusion of Words; and, unless Your Majesty can accommodate the Difference, will hardly be terminated without the Slaughter of many Notions and Arguments.

The Bishop is for making Your Majesty the Arbitress of our Controversy, which I consent to; and he talks of Your singular Qualifications to preside at it, which I as certainly believe, as that a Bishop will not lye nor flatter.

Had I known before of Your Majesty's Abilities at this Controversy, I should have gone near to have applauded You for them; and the World would readily have believed my Praises of You to be just, because I had no Bishoprick nor Translation in View for them.

If Your Majesty has no extraordinary Talent at this Controversy, I trust, You are wiser than to think the Better of Your self for the Bishop's Compliment. You'll not be vain; tho' he is fulsome.

But the Bishop, Madam, has done me wrong. He would insinuate, that I am disaffected to the King's Title and Government; which is entirely false. I Love and Honour Your whole Royal Family, and often pray for Your Majesty too, without Pay, which is more than any Bishop in England has done for You.

And what are my Prayers for Your Majesty? That God may prolong Your Days to the comfort of Your Royal Progeny, and the Joy of these Nations; That the Felicity of Your Life may be uninterrupted by Enemies and Misfortunes; and That after a good old Age, when Life is no longer desirable to the happyest Princes, You may be transferr'd to an heavenly and immortal Crown of Glory. This is the hearty and voluntary Prayer of,

27, 1729.

Your Majesty's
most humble,
most obedient,
and faithful Servant,
Thomas Woolston.

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Chapter Bar.




Discourses on Miracles.

At Last, one Volume of Bishop Smalbroke's mountainous Work, that the Press has been so long pregnant with, is brought forth: And I don't doubt, but it answers the Expectations of the Clergy, who will extol it to the Skies, and applaud it to the Populace, as an absolute Confutation of my[Pg 2] Discourses; but I would advise them, if it be not too late, not to be too profuse in their Commendations of it, for fear that an Occasion should be given them to blush for their want of Judgment. We have had Instances of Books before now (and one very remarkable, in the Case of Boyle against Bently) that have met with a general Approbation, till they have been sifted into, and upon Examination found empty; and it is not impossible, but this of the Bishop before us, may meet with the same Fate.

I had conceived a great Opinion of this Bishop's Learning and Abilities, and, if he had not sent[338] two simple Harbingers before-hand, should have been so apprehensive of his Acuteness, that nothing, but a thorough Persuasion of the Goodness of my Cause, and of my Power to defend it, could have kept me from Flight before him. But I stand my Ground, and shall, against greater Adversaries than this Bishop, who has more weakly and maliciously attack'd me, than you'd have been expected from one of his reputed Candour and Learning; and given me greater Advantages[Pg 3] to insult and triumph over him, than I could wish or desire.

Many other little Whifflers in Divinity have before attack'd me with their Squibs and Squirts from the Press, but I despised them all, as unworthy of my particular Regard and Notice, reserving my self for Defence against this Bishop's grand Assault; when, by the by, I might have an Opportunity to animadvert on one or other of them. Some of these Whifflers, like Men of Honour, have set their Names to their Works; others very prudently have concealed their Names, which, upon the best Enquiry I could make, I have not been able to discover, or I had given them a Rebuke for their Impudence and Slanders. It may be wonder'd, that any polemical Authors, especially when they write on the orthodox and establish'd Side of the Question, should conceal themselves, and that they are not tempted with the Hopes of Reward and Applause to make themselves known. I will say what I think here, that it's never Modesty in such anonymous Authors (for we Scribblers in Divinity, whatever we may pretend, have always a good Conceit of our selves) but Apprehensions of a sharp Reply to their Dishonour. And this is the true Reason, why some of my Adversaries industriously[Pg 4] conceal themselves, knowing that they are guilty of wilful and malicious Lies and Calumnies, which I should chastise them for. But, as their Names are supprest, they know, it's to no Purpose for me to expose their Malice, because no body can be put to shame for it.

The Bishop of St. David's acts here a more glorious Part: He comes not behind me, like other Cowards, to give me a secret Knock on the Pate, but like a courageous Champion, looks me in the Face, and admonishes me to stand upon my Guard. This is bravely done in him! And I have no Fault to find, but that he is providing himself with Seconds in the Controversy, I mean the Civil Powers, and calling upon them to destroy me, before the Battle is well begun, and whether he gets the better of me or not. This is not fairly nor honourably done of the Bishop, and I have Reason to complain of it. Tho' I think my self equal, if not superior in the Dispute, to any of our Bishops, yet I am not a Match for the King's Power, neither would I lift up my Hand, or use my Pen against him for all the World. If the Bishop will yield to a fair Combat, and desire the Civil Authority to stand by and see fair Play between us, I will engage with him upon any Terms. But to make the[Pg 5] Civil Powers Parties in our Quarrel, and to bespeak them, right or wrong, to favour his Side, is intolerable, and what we spiritual Gladiators ought to abhor and detest.

I liked the Bishop, when he proposed to the Queen to be Arbitress of our Controversy. As I will not here question her Qualifications to judge in it, so the first Opportunity I have of waiting on her Majesty, I will join my Requests to her to accept of the Trouble and Office. After she has fix'd the Terms of Disputation, and thought of a proper Reward for the Victor, or a Punishment for the Conquer'd, then will we proceed, and either dispute the Matter from the Press, or scold it out in the Queen's Presence, as she shall think it most conducive to the Edification of herself, and of her Court-Ladies.

But the Bishop's Proposal here, and Compliment on the Queen, is but the Copy of his Countenance. He'll submit to no Arbitration: No, no, he's for having the Civil Powers to be immediate Executioners (without further hearing what I have to say for my self) of his Wrath and Vengeance upon me. He's for having them to take it for granted, that he has proved me an Infidel and Blasphemer, and would have them to inflict some exemplary Punishment[Pg 6] upon me, so as to incapacitate me for ever writing more. Wherefore else does he say thus?[339] "Indeed a more proper Occasion cannot possibly happen in a Nation, where Christianity is establish'd by human Laws, to invigorate the Zeal of the Magistrate, in putting the Laws in Execution against so flagrant a Sort of Profaneness, that tramples with such Indignity on the Grounds of the Christian Faith; and to convince the World that the Minister of that God, who is so highly affronted, bears not the Sword in vain. And certainly the Higher Powers have great Reason to exert their Authority on this and the like Occasions."

I was astonish'd at this Passage, with some others, in the Bishop's Dedication, and could hardly believe my Eyes when I read it; that a Scholar, a Christian, and a Protestant Bishop, should breath so much Fury and Fire for the kindling again of Smithfield Faggots! That any Thing of human Shape should so thirst after that Destruction of another, which would turn to the Ruin of his own Reputation and Honour! Does the Bishop believe that he has clearly confuted me, or does he not?[Pg 7] If he believes, and others know that I am absolutely confuted, then there's an End of the Controversy, the Danger of my blasphemous Books is over; and why should I undergo any Punishment, which would move the Compassion of many, and give a greater Reputation to my Writings than they do deserve? Does the Bishop think he has confuted me? This is Honour and Triumph enough to him; who, of all Men, should not desire me to be otherwise punish'd, for fear of getting the Character of a merciless and implacable Conqueror. Am I in my own Opinion confuted and baffled? This would be Pain and Mortification enough, even worse than Death. For, however we polemical Writers may pretend a Readiness to part with our Errors upon Conviction, as if we could easily yield to our Adversaries, yet it goes to the Hearts of us to be out-done in Reason and Argument. As it is said of Bishop Stillingfleet, that, being sensible of his Insufficiency to contend with Mr. Lock, he grieved and pined away upon it: So I, upon Supposition the Bishop of St. David's has confuted me, must not only necessarily afflict my self, but undergo the Shame of the Reproaches of the People, for my wicked and impotent Efforts to subvert their Religion: And what would[Pg 8] the Bishop have more? He could desire no more, if he had absolutely confuted me: But it's plain he dares not trust to his own Confutation of me; it's plain he's afraid of, what he is conscious may be made, a smart Reply to him, and therefore he calls upon the Civil Magistrate for his Help to prevent it.

After that the Bishop of London had publish'd his Pastoral Letter, and it was reported that the Bishop of St. David's was preparing a strenuous Vindication of the litteral Story of Jesus's Miracles, I concluded that the Prosecution would immediately be dropp'd, and that the Clergy were betaking themselves to that Christian, Rational, and Philosophical Course of Confutation, and would no longer make use of Persecution, which is the Armour of hot, furious, and ignorant Bigots. And there is one Passage in the Bishop's Pastoral Letter, which I interpreted as a Grant of full Liberty; but, whether I am apt to mistake the Sense of the Fathers of the Primitive Church or not, I find I did misconstrue the Words of a Father of our English Church, and turn'd them to another and better Purpose than he aim'd at. His Words are these[340] "And as to the[Pg 9] blasphemous manner, in which a late Writer has taken the Liberty to treat our Saviour's Miracles, and the Author of them; tho' I am far from contending, that the Grounds of the Christian Religion, and the Doctrines of it, may not be discuss'd at all Times in a calm, decent, and serious Way (on the contrary, I am sure that the more fully they are discuss'd, the more firmly they will stand) yet I cannot but think it the Duty of the Civil Magistrate, at all Times, to take Care that Religion be not treated in a ludicrous or reproachful Manner, and effectually to discourage such Books and Writings as strike equally at the Foundation of all Religion, &c." What the Bishop of L. here says, of his thinking it the Duty of the Civil Magistrate at all Times, to take Care that Religion be not treated in a ludicrous manner, I understood as an Excuse for what he had done in stirring up the Civil Magistrate to a Prosecution of me; and that now, like a Philosopher, he was for letting Truth and Religion to take its Course, and for leaving it to a free Discussion, whether in a ludicrous or in a calm, decent or serious Way. But I confess, I have mistaken the Bishop's Words, finding by Experience, that (for all the[Pg 10] natural Import of his Expression, that Liberty should be used to discuss the Grounds of Religion in a serious Manner) he'll no more suffer it, if he can help it, to be contested in a serious, than in a ludicrous Way; wherefore else did he move for the Prosecution of a late London Journal, which was all calm, decent, and serious Argument. And the Bishop of St. David's his furious Dedication now, confirms me in this Opinion, that our Clergy (for all their preaching up Liberty with as much Force and Strength of Reason as any Men, and for all their Invitations to Infidels, to say and print their worst against Christianity) will by no means, if they can hinder it, suffer any Attacks to be made upon their Religion, nor cease their Importunities and Solicitations of the Civil Magistrate to Persecution. Blessed be God, the Bishops are not my Judges as well as my Accusers, or I know, what would become of me.

Mr. Atkinson, a little Writer against me, says,[341] "That I call the pretended Divines of the Church my Prosecutors, when they were not my Prosecutors. And again, That there was no need of my Supposition, that the Clergy would[Pg 11] have more Wit than to prosecute me again for this Discourse; for he did not know that they had been concern'd in any Prosecution of me." And again he says, "If the Civil Magistrate thinks it his Duty to chastise me for my Sin and Folly, I am to blame my self, and not the Clergy, till I can prove the Zeal of our Christian Government to be excited by the malign Influence of the Clergy." Mr. Atkinson is thus far certainly in the right on't, that, strictly speaking, the Clergy are not my Prosecutors, but the King, who, in all probability, knows no more of my Books than the Man in the Moon. But whether Mr. Atkinson could be so ignorant, as not to know the Clergy were the grand Instigators to Prosecution, let others judge. If he really was such a poor Ignoramus, I have no more to say: Otherwise, his Expressions above, will be look'd upon as the vilest Piece of Hypocrisy and Prevarication that can be, purposely utter'd to take off the Odium of the Prosecution from the Clergy, and to cast it upon the Civil Government; which, whether Mr. Atkinson believes it or not, had never, but for the Solicitations of the Bishops, given me any Trouble. Mr. Atkinson above, acts the Part of the Popish Clergy of France, upon the Revocation[Pg 12] of the Edict of Nantes. After that the King, upon the urgent Importunities of the Clergy, had resolv'd to revoke that Edict; the Clergy were for excusing themselves to the Protestants, and laying the Blame only on the King, saying, The King was bent and resolv'd on't, and they could not help it; which was such Jesuitical Prevarication in the Popish Clergy, that the Protestants could not forbear roguing them for it. Mr. Atkinson knows how to apply this Story; which I had not told, but for the Use of the Bishop of L. who, upon a certain Occasion could say, that it was not He, but the Government that prosecuted Mr. Woolston. If Mr. Atkinson was really so ignorant as he seems to be, I suppose he is now of another Mind, upon reading the Bishop of St. David's Dedication; and convinced that the Prosecution against me was began and carried on at the malign influence, as he calls it, of the Clergy.

I will here use no Arguments for Liberty of Debate, which Subject has already been copiously handled, and wants nothing, that I can add unto it. But before I enter into the Body of the Bishop's Book, and upon a profess'd Defence of my Discourses against him, let us consider the manifest Lies, Prevarications, and wicked[Pg 13] Insinuations in his Dedication, whereby he would move the Secular Powers to a severe Punishment of me. I will pass by the Motto of his Book, viz. But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of Man with a Kiss; Whereby he would signify and intimate, not to Scholars (for they have more Wit than to think the worse of me for his Abuse of Scripture) but to the ignorant Multitude, that I am another Judas, a Traitor and Rebel to Jesus. Commonly Mottos of Books are suited to their Authors, and the Design of them; whether the Bishop will be willing to take this Motto to himself or not, I will upon another Occasion give it a pleasant and pertinent Turn upon him. At present I shall only say, what the Learned will observe, that this is of a wicked and malicious Use and Intention, of no less, than to create in the Minds of the People an Hatred and Detestation of me; of no other, than by dressing me up, as it were, in a Bear's Skin, to excite the Ecclesiastical and merciless Mob to worry and destroy me. Such has been the roguish Artifice of priests of all Ages, to represent their Adversaries, whom they would destroy, under odious and borrow'd Names, that their Persecutions of them[Pg 14] might be thought the less cruel. But passing this by for the present, the

I. First wicked and wilful Misrepresentation that the Bishop, in his Dedication, has made of me, is that of being an Infidel, and an Apostate Clergyman. Wherefore else does he say thus to the Queen: "What is now presented to your Royal View, is an Apologetical Defence of our holy Religion, against one of the most virulent Libels on it, by an Apostate Clergyman, that has appear'd in any Christian Country; and in Comparison of which, other Infidels have acted a modest Part." And again he calls my Discourses, "A flagrant Sort of Profaneness, that tramples with Indignity on the Grounds of the Christian Faith." And again he signifies, "That I am warmly engaged in subverting the Christian Religion, and active in propagating Infidelity." This is all wilful and downright Calumny, to incense the Queen and the Government against me. The Bishop knows in his Heart that I am no Infidel, but a Believer of Christianity, notwithstanding my Discourses on Miracles, that have occasion'd such a Clamour against me. In my Discourses, I have repeatedly and most solemnly declared, that my Designs[Pg 15] are not to do Service to Infidelity, but to advance the Glory of God, the Truth of Christianity, and to demonstrate the Messiahship of the holy Jesus. If I have sometimes ridiculed the litteral Story of our Saviour's Miracles, I have profess'd as often that it was with Design to turn Men's Hearts to the mystical Interpretation of them, on which alone Jesus's Authority and Messiahship is founded. I could collect a great Number of Passages out of my Discourses to this Purpose, if it would not be wasting of Time and Paper. And do all these solemn Declarations of my Faith, and of the Integrity of my Heart, and of the Sincerity of my Intentions, stand for nothing? Why should not my Word here be taken? I can think of no other Reason, than because some other Folks are accustom'd to dissemble and prevaricate with God and Man in their Oaths and Subscriptions, therefore I may be suspected here of Hypocrisy, notwithstanding my Professions to the contrary.

Besides, the Bishop knows by my other Writings, that I am certainly a Christian, and a true Believer of the Religion of Christ, though I may have some different Conceptions from other Men about it. It has been my good Luck before, not only to publish more Treatises purposely and[Pg 16] professedly in Defence of Christianity, than any Bishop in England; but some of them are of such a Nature, as it's impossible for a Man to write without being a Christian, and impossible for him to depart from the Principles of them. This is my good Fortune and Happiness at this Juncture. The Bishop has perused, I see, some of my other Writings, and particularly, my Old Apology for the Truth of Christianity revived; and to his Praise, as well as my Comfort be it spoken, he apprehends and rightly relishes it. And as I was well pleased with his Representation of the Design of that Book, from the Principles and allegorical Scheme of which, he says (in Twenty-four Years since) I am not departed; so I would appeal to his Conscience, Whether a Man, who wrote, as I did then, of the Typical and Antitupal Deliverance of the Jewish and Christian Church, can possibly be an Infidel, or ever depart from the Christian Faith? If the Bishop has Ingenuity equal to his Penetration into that Book, he must own and confess to the World, that I was then, and am still a Christian, a Man of fix'd and unalterable Principles from that Day to this.

The Bishop would be thought in his Preface to enumerate all my Writings;[Pg 17] but there are three others, whether wilfully or negligently omitted by him, I know not, that are direct Defences of the Truth of Christianity; and there is not a learned Clergy-man in England (I humbly presume to say it) who can read them, and not applaud them. If the Bishop will be pleas'd to read one of them, viz. The Defence of the Miracle of the Thundering Legion, and say it from his Heart, that I might write that Book, and believe the Ecclesiastical Story of that Miracle, and yet be no Christian, then I will yield to his Accusation against me for Infidelity.

But why do I trouble my self thus to assert and vindicate my Belief of Christianity? The Bishop would readily come into the Acknowledgment of my being a sincere Christian, but for his Interests and Prejudices, and other political Considerations, which influence him and the Clergy so to decry and defame me, that, if possible, I must be destroy'd, or at least have my Mouth stopp'd.

In short then, it is not because I am an Infidel, that the Clergy so exclaim against me and my Discourses; but because, as a Christian, I have particular Designs in view, which, if I can compass, will tend to their Dishonour, and the Ruin of their Interests; and therefore, by Defamations[Pg 18] and Prosecutions, they will, if they can, in time put a stop to them. The Designs that, for the Truth of Religion, and Good of Mankind, I have in view, and which, maugre all Opposition, Terrors, and Sufferings, I will pursue to the utmost of my Power, are these three.

1. To restore the Allegorical Interpretation of the Old and New Testament, that is call'd, say the Fathers, the sublime Mountain of Vision, on which we shall contemplate the Wisdom and Beauty of the Providence of God; and behold the glorious Transfiguration of Jesus with Moses and Elias, that is, the Harmony between the Gospel and the Law and the Prophets, agreeably to Jesus's typical Transfiguration. And this is such a glorious and beatifick Vision, that it's enough to ravish our Hearts with the Hopes and Desires of attaining to it. The old Jews say, that the allegorical Interpretation of the Scriptures will lead us to the sight of God and convert even Atheists. The Fathers say, that the allegorical Interpretation will be the Conversion of the Jews in the Perfection of Time; and St. Augustin speaks of a great allegorical Genius,[Pg 19][342] that will be sent to that Purpose. I believe all this, and being convinced of the Truth of it, I am much addicted to Allegories. And it is plain enough, and wants no Proof, that the Revival of the allegorical Scheme, which I am fond of, portends Ruin to the Ministry of the Letter; and will be such an Argument of the Ignorance and Apostacy of our Clergy, that it's no wonder they defame, calumniate, and persecute me for my Attempts towards it.

Origen says,[343] that litteral Interpreters will run into Infidelity, which is a Saying I am well pleased with, and thereupon will try if I can't turn the Tables upon our Clergy; I'll try if I can't shift from my self the present Load of Reproaches for Infidelity, and lay it upon them. What would the Wife and the Learned then say? That the great Bishops of London and St. David's had caught a Tartar.

I have indeed ludicrously treated the Letter of the Scriptures (in my Discourses) which by the said Bishops is falsly called Blasphemy: But should they either ludicrously or sedately write against[Pg 20] the allegorical Sense of them, I could prove that to be real Blasphemy. However, I would not complain to the Civil Powers against them; no, it's God's peculiar Prerogative to punish that Sin, which ought not to be committed to the Care of the Civil Magistrate.

But what need I ludicrously to handle the Letter of our Saviour's Miracles? Because some Sort of Stories are the proper Subjects of Ridicule; and because, Ridiculum acri fortius & melius, Ridicule will cut the Pate of an Ecclesiastical Numbskull, which calm and sedate Reasoning will make no Impression on.

To speak then the Truth in few Words. As I am resolv'd at any Rate to run down the Letter, in order to make way for the Spirit of the Scriptures, so certainly will our Clergy, for their Interests and Honour, as Ministers of the Letter, vilify and reproach me, and pursue me with an implacable Hatred: But I should think it meet for them to use a little more Temper in their Revilings, for fear the Torrent of Reproaches should sometime or other turn on them. It is asserted and predicted by the Fathers that, after a certain Time of the Church's Apostacy to the Letter, the Spirit of Life, or the allegorical Sense will re-enter the Scriptures, to the Advancement[Pg 21] of divine Knowledge and true Religion; in the mean while the Clergy will do well to see to it. But,

2. The Second Design which, as a Christian, I have in View, and which occasionally I write for, is an universal and unbounded Toleration of Religion, without any Restrictions or Impositions on Men's Consciences; for which Design, the Clergy will hate and defame me, and, if possible, make an Infidel of me, as well as for the former. Upon an universal Toleration the World would be at quiet: That Hatred of one another, which is now so visible among different Sects, would then be terminated by a Unity of their Interests, when they are all upon the Level in the Eye of the Civil Magistrate, who would choose Men to Places of Trust, not for their Faith and Affection to Theological Doctrines, but for their Abilities to serve the Publick. In this Case, Ten thousand different Notions in Religion would no more obstruct the Welfare of the Community, than so many different Noses do the Happiness of this City. The Variety of their Theological Opinions, would be the Diversion and Amusement of each other; and so long as it was out of their Power to oppress, they could not hate one another for them. Such a Toleration,[Pg 22] the Clergy would persuade us, tends to Confusion and Distraction, as if Men would go to Loggerheads upon it. But this is one of their Mistakes; there would be a perfect Calm upon it, if such Incendiaries as they are did not disturb the publick Tranquillity. They'll tell us again, that such a Toleration makes Way for Dissoluteness of Morals, and would let in Sin like a Deluge upon us; but this is another of their Errors. Such a Toleration would promote Virtue, in as much as different Sects of Religion are a Check upon each other against Looseness of Morals, because every Sect would endeavour to approve itself above others, by the Goodness of their Lives, as well as by the Excellency of their Doctrine. But the Clergy will never hearken to such a Toleration, because it would be the Downfall of Ecclesiastical Power; for which Reason, among many others, I am

3. For the Abolition of an hired and establish'd Priesthood. And for this, if for nothing else, I am sure to be prosecuted with Hatred and Violence, and loaded with the Calumnies and Reproaches of Infidelity and Blasphemy: And the Clergy, if possible, will have my Mouth stopp'd, and my Hands tied, before I proceed too[Pg 23] far in my Labours and Endeavours to this End.

And why should not the Clergy of the Church of England be turn'd to Grass, and be made to seek their Fortune among the People, as well as Preachers of other Denominations? Where's the Sense and Reason of imposing Parochial Priests upon the People to take care of their Souls, more than Parochial Lawyers to look to their Estates, or Parochial Physicians to attend their Bodies, or Parochial Tinkers to mend their Kettles? In secular Affairs every Man chooses the Artist and Mechanick that he likes best; so much more ought he in Spirituals, in as much as the Welfare of the Soul is of greater Importance than that of the Body or Estate. The Church-Lands would go a good, if not a full Step, towards the Payment of the Nation's Debts.

I have promised the World, what, by the Assistance of God, and the Leave of the Government, shall be publish'd, a Discourse on the Mischiefs and Inconveniencies of an Hired and Establish'd Priesthood: In which it shall be shewn,

I. That the Preachers of Christianity in the first Ages of the Church (when the Gospel was far and near spread, and[Pg 24] triumph'd over all Opposition of Jews and Gentiles) neither received nor insisted on any Wages for their Pains, but were against preaching for Hire; and, as if they had been endew'd with the Spirit of Prophecy, before an Hireling Priesthood was establish'd, predicted their Abolition and Ejection out of Christ's Church.

II. That since the Establishment of an Hire for the Priesthood, the Progress of Christianity has not only been stopt, but lost Ground; the Avarice, Ambition, and Power of the Clergy having been of such unspeakable Mischief to the World, as is enough to make a Man's Heartake to think, read, or write of.

III. That upon an Abolition of our present establish'd Priesthood, and on God's Call of his own Ministers, the Profession of the Gospel will again spread; and Virtue, Religion, and Learning, will more than ever flourish and abound.

The Clergy are forewarn'd of my Design to publish such a Discourse; and this is the secret Reason, whatever openly they may pretend, of their Accusations against me for Blasphemy and Infidelity. Their Zeal and Industry will be never wanting to prevent the Publication of this Discourse; neither need I doubt of Persecution,[Pg 25] if they can excite the Government to it, to that End.

In my first Discourse on Miracles, I happen'd to treat on that of Jesus's driving the Buyers and Sellers out of the Temple; which, upon the Authority of the Fathers, I shew'd to be a Figure of his future Ejection of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons out of his Church, for making Merchandise of the Gospel. The Bishop has taken me and that Miracle to task; and if ever any Man smiled at another's Impertinence, I then heartily laugh'd when I read him. I begg'd of the Bishop before-hand[344] not to meddle with that Miracle, because it was a hot one, and would burn his Fingers. But for all my Caution; he has been so Fool-hardy, as to venture upon it; but has really touch'd and handled it, as if it was a burning Coal. He takes it up, and as soon drops it again to blow his Fingers; then endeavours to throw a little Water on this and that Part of it to cool it, but all would not do. The most fiery Part of it, viz. that of its being a Type of Jesus's future Ejection of mercenary Preachers out of the Church,[Pg 26] he has not, I may say it, at all touch'd, except by calling it[345] my allegorical Invective against the Maintenance of the Clergy; which is such a Piece of Corinthian Effrontery in the Bishop, that was he not resolv'd to lye and defame at all Rates, for the Support of their Interests, he could never have had the Face to have utter'd. If the Bishop had proved that that Miracle (which litterally was such a——, as I dare not now call it) neither was nor could be a Shadow and Resemblance of Jesus's Ejection of hired Priests out of the Church at his second Advent, and that the Fathers were not of this Opinion, he had knock'd me down at once. As he has done nothing of this, so he might have spared his Pains in Support of the Letter of this Story. But I shall have a great deal of Diversion with the Bishop, when I come, in a proper Place, to defend my Exposition of that Miracle. In the mean Time, as the Bishop has publish'd one of the Articles of my Christian Faith, thinking to render me odious for it; so here I will insert another, viz.[346] "I believe upon the Authority of the Fathers, that the[Pg 27] Spirit and Power of Jesus will soon enter the Church, and expel Hireling Priests, who make Merchandise of the Gospel, out of her, after the manner he is supposed to have driven the Buyers and Sellers out of the Temple."

Now upon all this, whether the Bishop, modestly speaking, has not been unjust, uncharitable, and insincere, to represent me as an Infidel, I appeal to all learned and ingenuous Gentlemen. I am a Christian, though not upon the litteral Scheme, which I nauseate, yet upon the allegorical one. And by the following easy and short Argument it may be proved that I am most certainly a Christian. I heartily and zealously contend for the allegorical Interpretation of the Scriptures, which the Bishop allows to be true of me; consequently I must, and do believe the Scriptures to be of divine Inspiration, or I could not think there were such Mysteries and Prophecy latent under the Letter of them. Whether then a Believer of the divine Inspiration of the Scriptures can be an Infidel (O most monstrous Paradox!) or any other than a Christian, judge Readers. Nay, if Origen's and St. Augustin's Testimony on my Behalf may be admitted, I am more truly a Christian and Disciple of the Holy Jesus, than any litteral Schemist[Pg 28] can be. Origen says,[347] That the Perfection of Christianity consists in a mystical Interpretation of the Old and New Testament, of the Historical, as well as other Parts of it. And St. Augustin says,[348] That they who attain to the Understanding of the spiritual Signification of Jesus's Miracles, are the best Doctors in his School. The Bishop understands this Argument as well as any Man, and therefore I charge it home upon him, as a wilful and malicious Slander, to call and account me an Infidel in his Dedication, on purpose to incense the Government against me at this Juncture.

But the Bishop moreover calls me, as above, an Apostate Clergyman; And why so? Because I have deserted the Ministry of the Letter, and betaken my self to the Ministry of the Spirit of the Scriptures. That's like the Wit and Reasoning of his Pate! The Bishop is old enough, and has read enough to know that Apostacy, in the Sense of the Fathers, is a Desertion of[Pg 29] the Ministry of the Spirit, and a Falling into the Ministry of the Letter of the Scriptures; whereupon I make bold to retort upon the Bishop, and say of him, and his Episcopal Brethren, that they are Apostate Bishops.

But to humour the Bishop in his fond Dedication, I will suppose my self to be, what I am the farthest of any Man living from being, an Infidel and Apostate; yet

II. The Bishop is a wilful Calumniator, or, at best, an unhappy Misrepresenter of me, and of other Infidels, saying in his Dedication, that our Design is To sap the Foundation of all Government, and——That we were pursuing such Methods, as have a natural Tendency to introduce Confusion. If this was true of us Infidels (for now I speak of my self as one of them) it behoves Civil Governors to look about them, and to punish and suppress us with all speed; and we should be the most unreasonable Men alive, if we complain'd of Persecution, or call'd it hard Usage. And the Bishop of London, and other Divines (like this Bishop) do commonly declaim on the Danger of Infidelity to Civil Society, but this is all Ecclesiastical Cant and Jargon. I thought I had given[349] the[Pg 30] Bishop of London so much on this Head of Complaint against Infidelity, as I could not suppose the Bishop of St. David's would ever have repeated it. It is true, what the Bishop says, that Religion is the firmest Support of Government, and Christianity especially lays the greatest Obligations, on Men's Consciences, of Obedience to the Civil Powers. I believe all this, and that the better Christians Men are, the more quiet, peaceable, and useful Subjects, and the greater Friends would they be to the Civil Authority. But does it follow from hence, that we Infidels, because we have rejected the Belief of some systematical Divinity, as the Clergy are fond of, should consequently be Enemies to the Civil Government, and Foes to the Peace, Order, and Welfare of Society? O fie upon the Drawers of such Consequences! We are, I believe, a numerous and growing Sect in these Nations, though I am acquainted with none, no, not so much as with the Great Mr. Grounds: But I could never perceive that any of us, in Principle, were against Civil Government, and the Welfare of the Community; or were for Confusion, for setting the People together by the Ears, to the Disturbance of the publick Peace and Tranquillity. No, no, our Interests in the World, as well as[Pg 31] other Men's, oblige us to consult the publick Welfare; and our Consciences, from the Religion of Nature, bind us to Obedience to Government; and, was it not agreeable to our Inclination, the Necessity of Affairs would force us to be as quiet and obedient as are any Christians: And I thank God, we have hitherto behaved our selves very peaceably, clear of all Suspicion of Treason and Rebellion to any Prince or State. The Bishop hints at Experience to the contrary, but it will puzzle him to give an Instance. One would think, by this common Harangue, of Ecclesiasticks against us Infidels, that Christians, especially the Priesthood, being, as the Bishop says, both under the Penalties of human Laws, and the stronger Impressions of a future State, were of a Lamb-like Nature, and never given to disturb the Civil Authority: And I will own the Christian Laity might be acquitted here, but for the Clergy, who have been repeatedly the Pest and Bane of human Society, the Trumpeters of Sedition and Rebellion, and mere Make-bates in Cities and Families. And I dare say, that if the Civil Powers don't curb, and keep our Priesthood in awe, they will upon this present Occasion be the Disturbers of the publick Peace. So little Sense and Truth[Pg 32] is there in the Bishop's present Invective against us Infidels! If he had not been infatuated to a Forgetfulness of the Rogueries of Priests, in all Ages, against the Civil Powers, he could never have insinuated such a groundless and senseless Charge against us, to the Provocation of the Civil Magistrate to fall on us. But

III. The Bishop calumniates us Infidels (for against his Conscience, whether I will or not, he will have me to be one of them) not only for being Enemies to Government in general, which he will have us to advance Principles destructive of; but insinuates and asserts that we are disaffected to the particular and present Government of these Kingdoms, saying, that as "we are active in propagating Infidelity, we do in the last Resort, not only insult the Title of Defender of the Faith, but undermine the undoubted Right of his Majesty and his Royal Family to the Crown of these Realms, as it is founded on the Profession of Christianity, reform'd, and now legally settled among us; and therefore Persons of that Character may well be consider'd, as equally false to the Author of our Faith, and to the present Government.——Therefore in a just Sense of that Allegiance which is due to the[Pg 33] King, and for the Security of your Majesties, and the Royal Family, and thereby of the Publick it self, as well as out of a deep Concern for the Honour and Preservation of our most holy Faith, the ensuing Treatise is now offer'd, under your Majesty's Protection, to the View of the Publick." This is all such foolish and manifest Slander, that I can't but think the Bishop mad with Rage and Indignation at me, when he writ it. I dare say the Queen, who is firmly attach'd to the Interests of the Christian and Protestant Religion, did, when she read all this, almost grieve for the Bishop, and pity him for his Weakness and Ignorance. It is a Maxim among all Parties, that Infidels are heartily affected to the present Establishment of the State; yea, so far a Maxim, that Jacobites and High-Church-men are apt to accuse all the well-affected to the Government, of Infidelity. From none of the Writings or Practice of Infidels, much less of my self, could the Bishop gather any of these his childish Surmises. The Government, since the Succession of the Illustrious House of Hanover, has been twice attempted to be disturb'd, and both times by profess'd Christians. The Rebellion at Preston consisted of Papists and High-Church-men, and tho'[Pg 34] there were but few Clergy-men in Arms, yet they were join'd with the Prayers and Wishes of many Thousands of the Clergy, and even, as it was suspected, of some Oxonian Bishops. Bishop Atterbury's Plot too consisted of Rebellious Christians, without the least intermixture of us Infidels, who are the more zealously affected to the Government, because of the Danger it is sometimes in from the High-Church Clergy. Away then with the Bishop's Slander, which, for all we may be Unbelievers of Christianity, our Civil Magistrates will laugh at and deride him for. But,

IV. Another Misrepresentation, more foolish and absurd than the former, that the Bishop has made of us Infidels, is, that we are making Way for Popery and Slavery: For thus he says of us, "Nothing is more demonstrable, than that those Adversaries (meaning us Infidels) of the Christian Religion, who are now so busily employ'd in infusing Doubts into some weak Minds, in giving an Indifference and Coldness to other well-meaning Persons, and in making others, that are viciously inclin'd, actual Proselites to Infidelity, are pursuing such Methods as have a natural Tendency to introduce Confusion, and thereby betray us into Popery." And again he says of[Pg 35] Infidels, "That in Consequence of their own Infidelity, and their wicked Diligence in spreading that Infection, are bringing in upon us the real Persecutions of the Church of Rome; who likewise, whilst they rail so plentifully at the most rational Religion in the World as Superstition, give great Advantages towards restoring the insupportable Superstitions of that Communion. These are the Persons indeed that appear in favour of an unbounded Liberty, but God grant it may not terminate in an absolute Slavery." Risum quis tenerat? Who in his Wits could write such Stuff? And who without Impatience can read it? I was going about a particular Dissection of these two Paragraphs, and to lay open the Wit, Sense, and Oratory of the Bishop, to the Contemplation of his Admirers; but I find it unnecessary, as well as tedious to do it: The very transcribing of them, and exposing them to View, is enough to render him ridiculous. If there be no more danger of Popery, Slavery, Superstition, Tyranny, and real Persecution from our Clergy, than from us Infidels, the Nation is safe. Infidels find too much Inconvenience in the Power, Craft, and Follies of a Protestant Clergy, to make Way for Popery; which, as the Bishop[Pg 36] rightly says, is a Complication of Errors. There are, what the Bishop should have thought of, many Protestant Priests for an Accommodation with the Church of Rome; and, if I mistake not, upon such easy Terms as this, viz. If she'll but part with some of her Superstitions that are of no Use to her; our Clergy will admit of others as will be of Advantage to them. But Infidels are irreconcilable Enemies to the Church of Rome, and so far from Wishes and Endeavours to restore Popery, that it is mere Nonsense to charge them with either direct or consequential Designs so to enslave Mankind. But

V. The Bishop says, that we Infidels (for I am one it seems) labour industriously to root out all Sense of Virtue and Religion among us. This is sad indeed, if true; and very bad Men should we be, and deserving of the worst Punishment. But this wants Proof. How does he know that we are for rooting out all Sense of Virtue and Religion amongst Men? Does it appear so by our Writings or our Practices? Does he find in our Books any Exhortations to Looseness and Immorality? Nothing of this I am sure. Is he then so well acquainted with Infidels, as to know them to be of more depraved and debauch'd Lives than profess'd Christians?[Pg 37] Nor this neither. I have not as yet heard that any of my Disciples have been hang'd, lamenting his Misfortune of reading my Discourses, as what encouraged him to Sin, and brought him to the Gallows. No, those unhappy People, hitherto, die in the Faith and Communion of the Church, either of England or of Rome, and hope to be saved through the Merits of their Saviour, Neither do, I hear of any Gentleman, old or young, who has given a greater Loose to his Lusts and Passions, since he read my Books. Such News would trouble me.

But because of this Out-cry of the Bishop, and of other Preachers against us, that we labour industriously to root out all Sense of Virtue and Religion amongst Men, I wish (for Proof) that Infidels were distinguishable from Christians, that a Comparison might be made, and the Difference discern'd between them, as to true Religion and Virtue. Tho' I am one of little Acquaintance with Infidels, yet it is my Opinion that, on this Score, they may vie with, and, all things consider'd, do surpass Christians. One would think, by the Bishop's Insinuation above, that none but good People were of his Christian Faith; and that all Infidels were profligate Sinners; but he knows better,[Pg 38] and what's more, he should have been more ingenuous than to charge Infidels with Labours to root out all Sense of Virtue and Religion amongst Men, if it was but in Regard to that learned Gentleman who is supposed to be at the Head of Infidelity, and who, they say, is as exemplary for all social Virtues, as any Bishop; and dislikes Vice and Immorality as much as any Saint can do.

Whatever be the Virtue and Religion of Infidels, it is all genuine, natural, and sincere; and consequently more Praise-worthy than that of hired Priests, who may be suspected of Hypocrisy, because of their Interests. I heard a wild Spark say, that he could be as grave as the Bishop of London, if he was but as well paid for it. Whether he believ'd the Bishop would have been as loose as himself, but for his Hire, I can't tell. But this is certain that, what can't be said of Infidels, there are Priests who put on the Face and Form of Godliness, and want the Life and Power of it; who lift up their Hands and Eyes unto God, when their Hearts are far from him; and were not their Interests more than their Faith, a Restraint to their Lusts, it is commonly believ'd they would be a Company of loose Blades.

[Pg 39]

What a Pother is here of the Danger and Mischief of Infidelity to Church and State? Do but take away the Cause of Infidelity, and the Effect ceases. And what is the Cause of Infidelity? Why, what Origen predicted, I experience to be true, that the Ministry of the Letter is the Cause of it; and I appeal to Mr. Grounds, Whether litteral Expositions on the Scripture, and the absurd Doctrines which the Clergy have built upon the Letter, have not been one Cause of his calling into Question, the Truth of Christianity, and the divine Inspiration of the holy Scriptures? But this is not the only Cause of Infidelity; there are other grand ones, which Dr. Moore writes of, saying thus:[350] "That Men are exceedingly tempted to think the whole Business of Religion is at best but a Plot to enrich the Priests, and keep the People in awe, from observing that they, who make the greatest Noise about Religion, and are the most zealous therein, do neglect the Laws of Honesty and common Humanity; that they easily invade other Men's Rights; that they juggle, dissemble, and lye for Advantage; that they[Pg 40] are proud, conceited, love the Applause of the People, are envious, fierce, and implacable, unclean and sensual, merciless and cruel; care not to have Kingdoms flow in Blood, for maintaining their Tyranny over the Consciences of poor deluded Souls." If then there is any Danger of any kind in Infidelity, let the Clergy take the Blame and Shame of it to themselves, and not lay that Fault, which is their own, upon other Men.

But observing that Dr. Moore above speaks of Priests, their neglecting the Laws of Honesty and common Humanity, as a Cause of Infidelity, I must here do a piece of Justice to Infidels, who place the very Essence of all Religion (as I believe the Essence of Christianity consists) in common Honesty. If they keep to their Principles, and act agreeably, they will work such a Reformation in the World for the better, as the Priests of all Ages have not been able to do. The Clergy have made such a Noise in the World about Faith and Doctrine, that the People hardly think they need be Honest to be good Christians and even many Clergy-men are conceited of their being orthodox and sound Divines, though by their Dishonesty, Profuseness, and Neglect of a Provision for their Families,[Pg 41] they have, in the Judgment of[351] St. Paul, deny'd the Faith, and are worse than Infidels.

And thus have I consider'd the Slanders and Misrepresentations of my self and Infidels, contain'd in the Bishop's Dedication to the Queen, which entirely is such a Piece of Fury, Railing, and Impertinence, as a Man shall hardly meet with. Surely he was not awake when he wrote his Dedication, it is so like the Dream of a disorder'd Brain which consists of confused Notions, and scatter'd Ideas, that are never to be so compacted together, as to make tolerable Sense, Reason, and Truth. If I had not met with much such flaming Stuff in the Body of his Book, I should have suspected that some-body, more a Foe than a Friend to him, had palm'd it upon him, and over-persuaded him to print it, as what would recommend him to her Majesty's Favour.

Whether he'll merit a Translation to an Arch-Bishoprick, for this Dedication, with me is no Question. For all he may take me for his Enemy, I wish him translated, as certainly as the Government has transported some other Folks, who are no[Pg 42] more the Bane of Society. Buggs in a House, and Caterpillars in a Garden, are not a greater Grievance, than some sort of Ecclesiastical Vermin in Christ's Church and Vineyard.

That the Bishop himself admires his Dedication, and is pleas'd with it, I don't doubt. Like as Bears are fond of their ill-favour'd Cubbs, so the Brats of some Men's Brains, as well as those of their Bodies, are pleasing to than; and however deform'd and irrational in themselves, are hugg'd by them as so many Wits and Beauties. But whether many, beside the Bishop himself, will like his Dedication, is a great Question. I don't doubt, but there may be some for Persecution as well as the Bishop, and so far may approve of the Dedication: But whether there is any one that can think, he has not greatly injured Infidels, and made a false Representation of them, for being Enemies to our Civil Government, and to our present Establishment, can't surely be question'd. If he be not look'd upon here, by all Mankind, as a wilful and malicious Misrepresenter of them, I shall much wonder at it.

But what's the Dedication to the Book it self, will some here say? Tho' the Bishop may have made some Slips in his Dedication which betray Weakness and Ignorance;[Pg 43] yet his following Performance may be Strenuous and Nervous, and a compleat Confutation of my Discourses. I answer, that such a Dedication bodes ill to the Book; and a Man may as well expect to find the inside of a House beautiful and richly adorn'd, when the Porch and Entrance into it is mean and nasty; as that an admirable Treatise for Wit, Reason, and Learning, should follow upon such a poor, simple, and insipid Dedication. Commonly Authors take more care in their Dedications, than in their following Treatise; that is, they see better to the Accuracy of their Expressions, the Exactness of their Stile, and Beauty of their Thoughts; and if they err at all in them, it is only in Flattery, and excess of Compliments on their Patrons. Such Care too, after the best manner he was able, has the Bishop taken in his Dedication above; and whatever his Readers and Admirers may think, the Dedication is the best Part of the Book. The Exceptions I have taken at the Dedication are but small, in Comparison of the Faults I shall find and expose in the Book it self; which is such a Complication of Impertinence and Errors, of Rage and Confidence, and of Calumnies and Reproaches, as is not to be equall'd; and is so far[Pg 44] from deserving the Character of a Confutation of my Discourses, that it has done them Service; and will be, after the Animadversions I shall make on it, a Confirmation of the Goodness, Usefulness, and Excellency of my Design in them.

I have not here room to make a compleat Dissection of the Bishop's Work, and to display its Insufficiency, in answer to my Discourses; neither was it my Design in this first Part of my Defence to do it. But however, I will spare a Place here for a short Character and Representation of his Performance, which take as follows.

"The Bishop's sole Aim and Design is to vindicate the litteral Story of our Saviour's Miracles, against my rational and authoritative Objections to it. And to this Purpose he wrangles with me, where he can, about the Sense of this and that Citation out of the Fathers; and after he has forc'd another Sense on it, than the Words do naturally bear, then he insults me for a Misrepresentation. And where he meets with a plain Testimony out of the Fathers, which he can't mangle nor strain to his Purpose, he fluently passes by it; tho' he would have his Readers to believe, he has vindicated the litteral Story against[Pg 45] my Authorities, and shewn that the Fathers were all on his Side.

"He complains of my Mutilations of the Fathers, and of making too curt Citations out of them; which is true, but more to my own Disadvantage than to his. But, what is Matter of grand Triumph to the Bishop, is, that I have quoted spurious Works of the Fathers for genuine ones. And here he takes great Pains, and wastes Time and Paper, to prove that this and that Book does not belong to the Author under whose Name I cite it; and then has a Fling at me for want of Skill in Criticism. But can the Bishop be so weak, as to think, I did not know when I quoted a spurious Work? Supposing the Book I quoted do not belong to the reputed Author, but to some other Writer, what's that to the Question between us? The Citation is no less the Testimony of Antiquity, and it's no matter whose Name it bears. If the Bishop had thought a little on this, he might have spared some Sheets of Paper, which he has in vain wasted, to the Loss of his Readers Time and Money.

"Again, where my rational Arguments against the Letter seem to the Bishop to[Pg 46] be weak and inconclusive; there, to do him Justice, he handsomly turns upon me with his Reasoning, and admonishes me of my Spitefulness against the Letter, or I would never use such a slight Argument. But where I pinch and bear hard upon the Letter, and the Jest is not to be digested, there, instead of Reasoning against me, he makes a hideous Out-cry of Buffoonery, Blasphemy, and Infidelity; and calls upon the Civil Magistrate for his Help, or their Religion, and their All is in Danger, through the impious Writings of untoward Infidels.

"The Bishop in some Cases gives up the Cause, and seems himself to be almost ashamed of the Letter; and for the Maintenance of the Honour of Jesus, and the Dignity of his miraculous Operation, flies to Allegory; allowing that this and that Miracle might be typical and figurative of somewhat else, as his Thoughts did suggest to him. But here he discovers his poor Talent at Allegories, making no more Resemblance between the Type and Antitype, than between an Apple and an Oyster.

"I am repeatedly charg'd by the Bishop with Infidelity, for writing against the Letter, tho' I am as grave as a Judge[Pg 47] at the allegorical Interpretation; and he can't but know that Infidelity and Allegorism are incompatible in the same Person. To prove me an Infidel, he should have shewn that I meant to pour Contempt upon the allegorical, as well as litteral Sense of Jesus's Miracles; but he has not once hinted at this. A certain great Writer, call'd Mr. Grounds, plays a double Game upon the Clergy, he laughs at the allegorical as well as litteral Scheme, and distresses the Clergy with his Objections against both. But I have not done so; I really am, or seem to be, a sincere Contender for the allegorical Sense. And to make an Infidel of an Allegorist, is more difficult and impossible than to make a Monkey of a Bishop.

"The Bishop, as a Minister of the Letter, has spoken too favourably of the allegorical Scheme; he has treated it with too much Respect, both as to the Origin and Use of it, and done enough to sap the Foundation of his Church; for which, I am afraid, he'll meet with a Reprimand from his Episcopal Brethren. The Bishop of Lichfield is the Man for my Money, to write against the allegorical Scheme; he tells us, that[Pg 48][352] St. Paul suffer'd in the Esteem of the Jewish Christians for his Neglect of Allegories; and seems to be brought into the Use of them against his own good liking. And again,[353] It seems to have been in compliance with Jewish Christians, who were affected with allegorick Interpretations, that St. Paul used that way. Which is as much as to say, St. Paul was more a Minister of the Spirit, than of Inclination he was disposed to be, or, in truth, ought to have been; and that, if he took upon him the Ministry of the Spirit for the present, it was only craftily and politically done of him, to catch the Jews in their own Snare of Allegories. He was consenting that the Preachers of the Gospel, in future Times, should desert the Ministry of the Spirit, and betake themselves to the Letter of the Scriptures, as what is more agreeable to Truth, and conducive to the Defence and Propagation of Christianity. Such a Craftsman was the inspir'd St. Paul, in the Opinion of the Bishop of Lichfield![Pg 49] However, the Bishop of St. David's ought to be of the same Mind; he should assert, that the Ministry of the Spirit was all apostolical Craft and antient Error; and that the present Generation of Priests, being wiser, more learned, and more sincere than the Primitive and Apostolical ones, do adhere to the Ministry of the Letter. Because the Bishop has not gone thus far by much, he leaves more room, than he should, for the Revival of the Ministry of the Spirit; that is, of the spiritual and allegorical Interpretation of the Scriptures.

"The Bishop often reproves me for my primitive Interpretation of this and that Text of Scripture, and then palms his own forc'd Sense on us, for natural and genuine, contrary to the Judgment of all Antiquity.

"He is so grave, serious, and sedate at some simple Doctrines and Arguments, that his Readers must of necessity laugh, if not scoff at him. Was I ludicrously to handle the said Doctrines, my Readers would hardly smile. Such a wide Difference is there between the Levity of a Buffoon (as he is pleased to call me) and the Gravity of an Ass, to the exposing of Religion to the Ridicule and Contempt of Mankind.

[Pg 50]

"Lastly, He entirely mistakes the Design of my Discourses; he knows not what I aim and drive at. There's one Paradox runs through his whole Book, viz. That the litteral Story of our Saviour's Miracles must of necessity be true, or I should have no Foundation to build Allegories upon; which is a gross Mistake of other Writers against me, as well as of himself. Who knows not that the profest Parables of Jesus have nothing of Letter in them, yet are a good Foundation for Allegory? And let me tell him here again, that whatever was true, more or less, in the litteral Story of Jesus's Miracles, there is absolute Necessity, for the Honour and Credit of them, to have Recourse to the Mystery; or litterally they are, and shall be farther proved such——Stories, as I dare not at present call them."

Thus have I given a brief Account of the Bishop's mighty and pompous Performance; like to which he has promis'd us another Volume, that I shall long for the publication of, next Winter. This my brief Account is but introductory to future and larger Defences of my Discourses on Miracles; which, by the Help of God,[Pg 51] and Permission of the Civil Authority, shall be likewise publish'd.

I have not, I say, room here so much as to defend my self on any one Miracle; and if I had, I would not do it. For as I can't do it without writing in the same Stile and Strain for which I am prosecuted, so I will do nothing that may be interpreted as an Act in Defiance and Contempt of the Power of the Civil Magistrate. I did indeed publish two Discourses after the Commencement of the Prosecution, because I imagined that our Bishops were more in Jest than in Earnest; or if their Passions were raised for the present, I thought, that after a little Consideration of the unreasonableness of Persecution in general, they would cool upon it, and drop the Prosecution. But since they are in Earnest, and I must answer to the Civil Powers for some supposed Crimes in my Discourses, I'll not repeat here the like Acts, but be quiescent in respect to the said Powers, to whom Reverence and Obedience is justly due. For, tho' I look upon the Ecclesiastical Power as an Usurpation on the Consciences of Mankind, yet the Civil is Sacred, is God's Ordinance, and ought to be regarded as such. But if I survive the Prosecution, and escape with my Life and Liberty, which I don't[Pg 52] despair of, under so wise, just, and good a Magistracy as this Nation is bless'd with, the Bishop may expect a strenuous Defence of my self against his weak Assaults on me.

If our Bishops were any thing Heroical, they would stop the Prosecution, and let the Controversy take its free Course. If they had any Sense of Honour and Reputation, any Regard for their Learning, they would set any Adversary of their Church at Defiance, and disdain the Assistance of the Civil Magistrate to punish him, whom they could not confute. It is the Office of the Bishops and Priests of the Church, or I know not what is, to convert Infidels, to refute Hereticks, and by Reason and Argument to put to Silence all Gain-sayers. Wherefore have they a liberal and academical Education, but to qualify them for this Work? Wherefore do they receive large Revenues of the Church, but to oblige and encourage them to it? Nothing more unreasonable, than that Men should receive Wages, when they don't their Work. What will the People say hereupon less, than that an Army of at least Twenty thousand Blackguards of the Church are hired to little or no Purpose? The meanest of the People may as well be taken to Church Preferments,[Pg 53] as our reputed learned Divines. They can discharge other Ecclesiastical Offices; and when they are distress'd with an Objection to their Religion, can do no worse than call upon the Civil Magistrate for his Aid and Assistance. But after all, I am inclin'd to think our Bishops, in Honour, would forbear Persecution, but for their Interests, call'd their All, which depend on the Issue of this Controversy.

However, not to urge the Argument for Liberty of Debate any farther, which has been already by others treated on to Perfection, and will be again returned, I doubt not, by some body else, on occasion of this Bishop's Dedication, I can't but take Notice here how unpolitick, as well as unchristian, some Dissenters are in this Controversy, being, such as Dr. Harris, and Mr. Atkinson, no less for Persecution than the Clergy. If they had a Regard to their own Interests and Liberties, they would be silent. Infidels (of whom I am none) should be consider'd as Dissenting Brethren, whom they should not be forward to oppress, for fear in time, and by degrees, it should come to their own Turn. Our Dissenters indeed, collectively, are vastly numerous, and a potent Party, but may trust too much to their own Strength and Numbers. Taking[Pg 54] them separately, they may possibly be Extinguish'd by Ecclesiastical Art and Craft. If Blasphemy is a just Pretence for the Prosecution of me, the Clergy, upon Occasion, can urge the same Crime against them. I'll tell them a Story. The Calvinists and Socinians were once equally tolerated in Poland, and if they had been fast Friends to each other, the Papists could never have suppress'd them: But the Calvinists joining with the Papists, and urging them to complain against the Socinians for Blasphemy, in denying the Divinity of the Son of God, moved the Civil Authority to a Banishment of them; and the Socinians had not been long suppress'd, before the Papists accus'd the Calvinists of no less Blasphemy, in denying Adoration to the Virgin Mary; and so they were sent packing too; otherwise they might both have enjoy'd their Liberty to this Day. The Application of the Story is easy. So if all we Dissenters from the Church, whether we like one another's Principles or not, don't hold together for the Preservation of our Liberties, it's easy for Ecclesiasticks to feign an Accusation of Blasphemy against any of us. We have no Security, but in the Wisdom and Goodness of an excellent Government, which, if the Clergy[Pg 55] should ever get on the Back of, its hardly a Question, whether they would not drive, Jehu like, most furiously.

But to return to my Bishop. I once thought he would never have been drawn into this Controversy. Sometime after the Publication of my Third Discourse, which, for a visible Reason, I dedicated to him, and invited him to Battle, I ask'd a dignify'd Clergy-man, Whether the Bishop would write against me? He answer'd, No: Whereupon I concluded, that he had a Scent of somewhat, not here to be mention'd. But my repeated Provocations of him afterwards, have forc'd him, against Inclination, to engage me. His Passion got the better of his Reason, or he had been certainly quiescent: And the Violence of his Passion is so visible thro' his whole Book, that it's God's great Mercy it did not throw him into a Fever and Convulsions, to the Danger of his Life and Health.

I own here again, what I have done before, that I did lay a Trap for our Clergy; but little imagined that two such great Bishops, as of London and St. David's, would, to my Pleasure and Satisfaction, have been caught in it. If I had not baited my Trap well with Ridicule, I dare say,[Pg 56] they would have kept themselves clear of it.

But when I experienc'd the hard Usage the Bishops had given me upon my Discourses, and the Fury with which they attack'd me, it surprised me, and brought to my Mind Origen's Prediction[354] of this very War and Controversy of the Spirit against the Letter of the Scriptures, and of the Violence it would be carried on with. For all my Veneration for the Authority of the Fathers, I did here suspect the Truth of Origen's Prediction, believing him to be mistaken, and that the Controversy would be manag'd in a calm, decent, and sedate Manner; and so it had been, but for the Interests of the Clergy that are at Stake in it, which I was not aware of. Finding then the Truth of Origen's Prediction contrary to my Expectations, I had the Curiosity further to consult the Fathers about the Issue of this Controversy; and they presently, with their mystical Fingers, pointed to a Prophecy of it in the Revelations of St. John; but, to say no more at present, assur'd[Pg 57] me, that the Spirit would get the Better of the Letter in the Conclusion of it. Tho' I am accounted an Infidel, I am so easy and credulous a Christian as to believe all this; and I thank God have so much Courage in me, as to try the Truth of it.

But I must observe here, that besides my two Bishops, of London and St. David's, (and some other inconsiderable Triflers) there are two anonymous Authors against me, whose Works have acquir'd some Fame. The One is intitled, The Miracles of Jesus vindicated, in Three Parts. If I could have gotten to the certain Knowledge of the Author, I should have been tempted to have had a Bout with him; and to have expostulated with him, both with Regard to his Arguments and good Manners. I would have taught him a better Use, and a more proper Application of the Words Dishonesty, and want of Honesty, than to reproach me with them. Common Fame says, Dr. Pearse, of St. Martin's, is the Author; but I am apt to think, the King's Parish Priest, and other City Divines, have more Wit and Craft than to upbraid me as above, for fear a just Charge of Dishonesty, for their Extortions and Exactions on the People,[Pg 58] should be retorted on them. Upon the Publication of the First Part of the foresaid Treatise, my Jewish Rabbi comes to me in all haste, saying to me, "Look you here, do you see how this Author has new vampt the old mumpsimus Argument of Jesus's Resurrection? Do you observe how imperfectly, here and there, he answers my Objections to it; and silently slips by some knotty Pieces of them, that were too hard for him to untie?" Yes, Rabbi, said I, I do observe all this; (and what I have observ'd since, he argues, awkwardly and backwardly, for the Certainty of Jesus's other Miracles, from his Resurrection.) My Rabbi presently re-inforc'd his Resurrection-Objection against this Author, and would have had me to print it. No, no, Rabbi, said I; you may print it your self, if you dare. I must wait to hear how Causes will go in Westminster-Hall, next Term, before I involve my self in another Law-Suit. Besides, Rabbi, they say, I don't really thus correspond with a Jew, but do only personate one; and the Bishop of St. David's hints, that I am answerable to publick Justice for so doing. Here my Rabbi stampt with Indignation; saying, What if you did personate a Jew? Is it not lawful, and in Use with your[Pg 59] Divines, to write Conferences between a Christian and a Jew? And do you any more in this Case? Yes, Rabbi, said I, it is lawful to write such like Conferences, and to make Jewish Objections to Christianity, when they are no stronger than may be easily dissipated: But when Men write from the Heart, as you do, and raise a D——l that our Clergy can't easily lay, it is, they say, intolerable, and punishable; and either you or I, in the Opinion of the Bishop, ought to suffer for it.

The other considerable Treatise against me, is that of The Trial of the Witnesses of the Resurrection of Jesus; which is an ingenious Piece, and I was well pleased with it. Some time after the Publication of this Treatise, I made my Jewish Rabbi a Visit, when, drinking a Dish of Tea together, we talk'd it over; and my Rabbi was pleas'd to deliver his Sentiments of it in this fashion: "Whoever was the Author of this Treatise, God knows, but he's certainly a Friend to my Objections against Jesus's Resurrection, which he has fairly stated; but is so far from fully confuting all of them, that he discovers a Consciousness, here and there, that they are unanswerable. It is commonly reported that Bishop Sherlock is the Author of this Treatise,[Pg 60] but this Report I look upon as an Artifice of the Booksellers, to make it sell well; or rather the Author's contrived Banter upon the Clergy, and their weak Christian Brethren, to try how far they may be imposed on, and drawn into the Approbation and Admiration of a Treatise, that really makes against them. There is but very little in this Treatise, to make it reputed a sufficient Answer to my Objections, excepting the Verdict of the Jury, who brought in the Witnesses of the Resurrection, Not Guilty, of either Fraud or Mistake in it. Bishop Sherlock can't be the Author of this Treatise, if for no other Reason than this, that that Author is visibly against that Ecclesiastical Wealth and Power, which the Bishop is possess'd of, and does think not disagreeable to the Mind of Christ and his poor Apostles. If any Bishop is the concealed Author of this Treatise, he must secretly be of the Opinion of the atheistical Pope, who said, quantum nobis profuit hæc de Christo Fabula, what vast Advantage has the Story of Christ been to us Popes and Bishops." I readily gave into the Opinion of my Rabbi, and wonder'd, Bishop Sherlock did not so much as by a publick Advertisement clear himself of[Pg 61] being the Author of this Treatise, and so put a Stop to the Report. It may be the Bishop is above the Scandal of it; but I was so concern'd for his Reputation, that I drew up a Vindication of him from the Slander of it; which I had publish'd, but for my Rabbi's farther Thoughts about the Resurrection of Jesus inserted in it, that our Bishops might have possibly taken Offence at. So I dropp'd that Design at present, but hope still for an Opportunity to publish the said Vindication of the Bishop, by which, I don't doubt, but to merit his Friendship and Favour.

But whoever was the real Author of the foresaid Treatise, I humbly and heartily beg of him to publish, what in the Conclusion of it, he has given us some Hopes of, The Trial of the Witnesses of the Resurrection of Lazarus, because my Rabbi's Objections to it are a Novelty and Curiosity, which, by way of such a Reply to them, I should be glad to see handled.

But having here by Chance mention'd my Rabbi's Letter concerning Lazarus's Resurrection, it brings to my Mind a Challenge I made to the Bishop of London upon it, viz.[355] "If he would publish an[Pg 62] Answer to that Letter, and vouchsafe me the Pleasure of a Reply to it; then (to save the Civil Magistrates Trouble) I would suffer such Punishment that he in his Clemency should think fit to inflict on me, for what's past." An ingenuous Clergy-man, upon reading this, said, that the Bishop was bound, in Honour, to accept of my Challenge, or, what was in his Power, in Generosity, to put a Stop to the Prosecution. But the Bishop is not of his Mind. And for what Reason he does not accept of my Challenge, is best known to himself, and others will conjecture. If he had not condescended to write against me in his Pastoral Letter, I should have imagined, that he thought it beneath the Dignity of One of his exalted Station in the Church, to set his Wit (for dignified Priests, for the most part, think their Wit and Learning proportion'd to their Wealth and Power) against such a poor Author as I am. But this is not the Reason. It may be, he thinks his Reputation and Honour secure in the Height of his Grandeur, and that his Dependents will admire his Learning nothing the less for his Neglect of my Challenge. However it be, this I will say, that were we upon the Level in the World as to Fortune, as well as we are to Age[Pg 63] and Education, the Learned would despise him for declining the reasonable Challenge of one, whom he has injuriously treated and persecuted. It's to no Purpose to challenge him here afresh; he, being purpos'd to carry the Matter with an high Hand, has taken other Measures, and is resolv'd to make use of his Power and Interest to suppress him, whom with Reason and Argument he can't convince.

However, I will here make another Proposal to the Bishop of St. David's. Because he thirsts after a very severe Punishment of me, or he would not be so warm in his Exhortations of the Government to that Purpose, I'll tell him how he may glut his Revenge, and inflict a greater Punishment on me, than, in all probability, the Civil Magistrate will humour him in. If he'll but put a Stop to the Prosecution at present (which is not out of the Power of our Bishops, whatever they may pretend) and let the Controversy go on, till I have finish'd my Reply to his two Volumes, which shall be done with all Expedition; then, if his Passion is not allay'd, I will submit to any Punishment, he in his Wisdom and Justice, without Mercy, shall think fit to have laid on me, whether it be to Death or Imprisonment. And what would he, or any implacable[Pg 64] Priest, desire more? This Proposal makes him my Judge as well as my Accuser, and if he be not the most unreasonable Man alive, he must accept of it. All my Hopes here are, that his Reason may recover its Dominion over his Passion, against the Conclusion of my Defence, or it will go hard with me. If the Bishop will not comply with this Proposal, I shall conclude, he's possess'd with the only certain and allegorical Satan, mention'd in my Discourses; and I shall be confirm'd in the Opinion of St. Hilary (whose Testimonies about Devils, the Bishop has silently pass'd by, without any Charge upon me for Misrepresentation) that there are no worse Devils in the World, than the calumniating, furious, and persecuting Tempers of Mankind. The Bishop, by the by, has taken Pains to prove there are other Devils, of an infernal, frightful, and independent Nature, and of a more certain Existence than Hobgoblins; and he gravely asserts, that three of those Devils enter'd into each Hog, that ran violently down-hill; thereby making the little Pigs to carry as great a Burden as the old Boars and Sows, which should have been better thought of by him. The Bishop, perhaps, for these my Descants, will say I am an Infidel; but I assure him, it is one[Pg 65] of the Articles of my Primitive and Christian Faith, that the old Dragon, Satan, the Serpent, or the Devil, mention'd in the Revelations, is no other than the furious, violent, and persecuting Spirit in Man; which, upon the World's getting Liberty of Religion, will be bound and chain'd. And it is the Opinion of Thousands, as well as of my self, that Mankind will never be Happy, nor at Rest, till this Devil is exorcised out of the Priesthood, and so of consequence chain'd up. According to the primitive Way of interpreting the Revelations of St. John, the Time is near at Hand for the binding this Apocalyptical old Dragon or Satan, that has pester'd the World through all Ages past. All the Honour that I desire, is, by my Studies and Endeavours to be contributing to so great a Work, for the Good and Happiness of Mankind.

To conclude. I have been the more expeditious in printing of this Discourse, not only for fear the Bishop's Vindication (as it is call'd) should have a malign Influence upon some People, I don't mean our Civil Magistrates, who are wiser and more learned than to be guided by such outragious Stuff; but because he should not long triumph in a Conceit of the Potency[Pg 66] and Excellency of his Performance, as if no Reply could or would be made to it. If I had at this Time enjoy'd free Liberty of Debate, I should not have thought it worth my while to meddle with his Dedication, which with a Scorn I should have pass'd by, and left to the Animadversions and Chastisement of other Enemies to Persecution; but would immediately have enter'd upon a Defence of my Discourses against him. If I do retrieve my Liberty, and the free Use of my Pen, and should not publish Defences of my self, I should deserve (what one said the Bishop of London, for his declining my Challenge, deserv'd) to be piss'd upon for a vain Pretender to Argument and Authority.

In the mean time, I have nothing to request of our Clergy, but that Liberty of Debate may be indulg'd us; that Liberty of theological Disputation, which would be granted, if they did not industriously labour to obstruct it. When will they cease to disgrace Truth, to dishonour their Religion, and to disparage their own Education and Learning; and no longer envy Mankind the blessed Enjoyment of such a Liberty!

[Pg 67]

But their Religion, they say, would be in Danger upon such a Liberty. How can that be? How can Christianity be in Danger, that has not only the Omnipotence of God on his Side, but a numerous standing Army of Priests, hired for the Defence of it? It is not then their Concern for Religion, that prompts them to so much Zeal here; but their Fears for their Interests, that depend on the Issue of this Controversy.

Was I to write against any other honest Trade, that is practised in this City, the Artificers of it, being sensible of the Usefulness of their Craft, would let me go on unmolested; and only pity and despise me for the Vanity of my Attempt to subvert them: But the Clergy, being prick'd with a Consciousness of the Mischiefs and Inconveniencies of their Establishment, do therefore thus winch and kick.

And who, besides the Clergy, are at this time Enemies to Liberty? None hardly, but their immediate Dependents, whom they can easily infuse their fiery and furious Notions into. Was it to be voted this Day among the learned Laity, I dare say, the Friends of Persecution would be found vastly short of the Numbers of their Adversaries. And I hope to God, the Legislative[Pg 68] Authority of these Nations will soon take the Matter into their Consideration; and either limit or enlarge the Bounds of Liberty, that honest and well-meaning Men may be no longer harrass'd and molested, for their sincere Endeavours to serve the Publick.

No Body, I trust, can complain of any disrespectful Usage, I have here given the Bishop of St. David's, that considers, how he has treated me in his Sermon before the Societies for Reformation; and in his Charge to the Clergy of his Diocese; as well as in his Vindication. It would be sufficient, if I had no other Excuse for my self than this, That Controversy is like a Game at Foot ball, in which, if a Lord will engage with a Plowman, and should meet with a Kick on the Shins, he ought not to complain of the ill Manners of it: So if a Bishop will dispute with one of lower Degree, he must look for a Rub on his Intellects, a Rap on his Pate, and if his Adversary cuts him on a soft Place, he should know how to bear it with Patience. But the Bishop, contrary to this Game-Rule in Controversy, complains[356] of my unmannerly Treatment[Pg 69] of him, and cries out of the Sufferings and Reproaches he undergoes, as if he was already more than half a Martyr for Religion. I can't pretend to equal him in Reproaches and Sufferings, having not so quick a Sense of them; and therefore I am willing, that good Christian People should pity my poor Bishop, rather than me, in a persecuted and sorrowful Condition.

How long it will be, before I publish another, and second Part of my Defence, is uncertain, for a Reason, that I need not again mention. But if it please God, that I enjoy Life, Health, and Liberty, I'll go on with my Designs. I am resolv'd to give the Letter of the Scriptures no Rest, so long as I am able by Reason and Authority to disturb it. If our Ministers of the Letter will not ascend with me, the sublime and allegorical Mountain of divine Contemplation, they than have no Comfort nor Enjoyment of themselves in the low Valley of the Letter, if I can disquiet them. Notwithstanding what the Bishop has written in Vindication of Jesus's Miracles, the litteral Story of them, by the Leave of God, and of the Civil Magistrate, shall be afresh attack'd, and perhaps with more Ridicule, than I used before.[Pg 70] What should I flinch for? The litteral Story of Jesus's Miracles is not, in the Opinion of the Fathers, as well as of my self, agreeable to Sense and Reason; neither can Jesus's Authority and Messiahship be founded on the Letter of them. I am not for the Messiahship of a carnal Jesus, who cured the bodily Diseases of Blindness and Lameness; but for Messiahship of the spiritual Jesus, who will cure the Blindness and Lameness of our Understandings. I am for the Messiahship of the spiritual Jesus, who will expel the mercenary Preachers out of his Church, after the manner that Jesus in the Flesh is supposed to have driven the Sellers out of the Temple, which litterally is but a sorry Story. I am for the Messiahship of the spiritual Jesus, who exorcised the furious and persecuting Devils out of the Mad-men of Jews and Gentiles; and tho' he permitted them to enter into a Herd of Ecclesiastical Swine, yet will precipitate them into the Sea of Divine Knowledge. I am for the spiritual Jesus, who will cure the Woman of the Church, of her Issue of Blood, that is shed in Persecution and War; which her Ecclesiastical Physicians, and Quack-Doctors of the Clergy, have not been able to do, tho' they have[Pg 71] received large Fees and Revenues to that End. I am for a spiritual Messiah, who will cure the Woman of the Church of her Infirmity, at the Spirit of Prophecy, of whose Infirmity this Age is her eighteenth Year. So could I write of all Jesus's Miracles; for the whole Evangelical History is Figure and Shadow of the spiritual Jesus, whom we should know to be in us of a Truth, unless we be Reprobates. The Clergy, if they are not wilfully blind, may hence see my Christian Faith and Principles; and be assured, that what I do in this Controversy, is with a View to the Honour of God, the Advancement of Truth, the Edification of the Church, and Demonstration of the Messiahship of the Holy Jesus, to whom be Glory for ever. Amen.



[338] His Sermon before the Societies for Reformation; and his Charge to the Clergy.

[339] In his Dedication.

[340] Page 35.

[341] Vindication of three Miracles, p. 76, 77.

[342] Cum venerit ergo Elias exponendo Legem Spiritaliter, convertit Corda Patrum ad filios. De Civit. Dei. Lib. XX. c. 29.

[343] Litteram Legis sequentes in Infidelitatem & vanas Superstitiones incurrunt. In Matt. Tract. 26.

[344] In Dedication of Third Discourse.

[345] Page 177.

[346] Discourse the Fifth, p. 69.

[347] Inveniatur enim in Christianismo non minor (nequid dicam arrogantius) fide Ratio & Enarratio Propheticorum ænigmatum, parabolarumque evangelicarum, aliarumque innumerarum figurarum, quæ vel in Gestis continentur vel Legibus. Cont. Celsum. Lib. I.

[348] Quidam corporalia ejus Miracula stupentes, majora intueri non norunt. Quidam vero ea, quæ gesta audiunt in Corporibus, nunc amplius in animis admirantur,——Tales nos esse debemus in Schola Christi. In Serm. xcviii.

[349] In Discourse the Sixth.

[350] Mystery of Godliness, B. x. c. 2.

[351] 1 Tim. v. 8.

[352] Defence of Christianity, p. 347.

[353] Ibid. p. 353.

[354] Est adhuc alia Pugna his omnibus violentior; quod ii, quod Legem secundum Carnem intelligunt, adversantur his, qui secundum spiritum sentiunt, & persequuntur eos. In Genesiæ Hom. vii.

[355] In Fifth Discourse, p. 67.

[356] In his Preface, p. 17, 18.

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