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SINCE first that great apostScy took place in the hearts and heads of those who began, even in the apostles days, to depart from the simplicity and purity of the gospel, as it was then delivered in its primitive splendour and integrity, innumerable have been the manifold inventions and traditions, the different and various notions and opinions, wherewith man, by giving way to the vain and airy imaginations of his own unstable mind, hath burthened the Christian faith: so that indeed, first by adding these things, and afterwards by equalling them, if not exalting them above the Truth, they have at last come to be substitute in the stead of it; so that in process of time Truth came to be shut out of doors, and another thing placed in the room thereof, having a shew and name, but wanting the substance and thing itself. NevertheA less, less, it pleased God to raise up witnesses for himself almost in every age and generation, who, according to the discoveries they received, bore some testimony, less or more, against the superstition and apostacyof the time. And in a special manner, through the appearing of that light which first broke forth in Germany, about one hundred and fifty years ago, and afterwards reached divers other nations, the beast received a deadly wound; and a very great number did at one time protest against, and rescind from, the church, of Rome, in divers of her most gross and sensual doctrines, and superstitious traditions. But alas! it is for matter of lamentation, that the successors of these Protestants are establishing, and building up in themselves, that which their fathers were pulling down; instead of prosecuting and going on with so good and honourable a work: which will thus easily appear.
The generality of all Protestants, though in many other things miserably rent and shattered among themselves, do agree in dividing from the church of Rome in these two particulars:
First, That every principle and doctrine of the Christian saith is, and ought to be, founded upon the scripture; and that whatsoever principles or doctrines are not only not contrary, but even not accord
ing thereto, ought to be denied as antichristian.
Secondly, That the scriptures themselves are plain and easy to be understood; and that every private Christian and member of the church ought to read and peruse them, that they may know their saith and belief founded upon them; and receive them for that cause alone, and no: because any church or assembly has compounded and recommended them; the choicest and most pure of which they are .obliged to look upon as sallible.
Now, contrary to this their known and acknowledged principle, they do most vigorously prosecute and persecute others, with the like severity the papists did their fathers, for believing things that are plainly set down in the scriptures; and for not believing divers principles, for which themselves are forced to recur to tradition, and can by no means prove from scripture: to stiew which I shall not here insist, having allotted a chapter for it in the book itself; because to put it here, would swell it beyond the bounds of a preface. •
Oh! how like do they shew themselves, I mention it with regret, to the scribes and pharisees of old, who, of all men, most cried up and exalted Moses and the prophets, boasting greatly of their being A 2 Abraham's Abraham's children? And yet those were they that were the greatest opposcrs and vilifiers of Christ, to whom Moses and all the prophets gave witness; yea, their chief accusations and exceptions against Christ, were, as being a breaker of the law, and a blasphemer.
Can there any comparison run more parallel; seeing there is now found a people, who are greatly persecuted, and bitterly reviled, and accused as heretics, by a generation that cry up and exalt the scriptures? And yet this people's principles are found in scripture, word by word; though the most grievous, and indeed the greatest calumny cast upon them is, that they vilify and deny the scriptures, and set up their own imaginations instead of them.
To disprove which, this catechism and confession of saith is compiled, and presented to thy serious and impartial view. If thou lovest the scripture indeed, and desirest to hold the plain doctrines there delivered, and not those strained and sar-fetched consequences, which men have invented, .thou shalt easily observe the whole principles of the people called Quakers, plainly couched in scripture words, without addition or commentary; especially in those things their adversaries oppose them in, where the scripture plainly decideth the controversy