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to pass upon me, makes me desirous of telling so good a friend my whole thoughts of this matter ; and of fetting before you in a clear light the true state of it.
I have ever believ'd the best piece of fervice one cou'd do to our religion, was openly to exprefs our deteftation and scorn of all thole mean artifices and pia fraudes, which it stands so little in need of, and which have laid it under so great a fcandal among its chemies.
Nothing has been so much a scarecrow to them, as that too peremptory and uncharitable affertion of an utter impoflibility of salvation to all bụt our selves : invincible ignorance excepted, which in. deed some people define under so great limitations, and with such exclusions, that it seems as if that word were rather invented as a falvo, or expedient, not to be thought too bold with the thunder-bolts of God (which are hurled about fo freely on almost all mankind by the hands of ecclefiafticks) than as a real exception to almost universal damnation. For besides the small number of the truly faithful in our Church, we must again subdivide ; the Jansenist is damn'd by the Jesuit, the Jesuit by the Jansenist, the Scotist by the Thomist, and so forth.
There may be Errors I grant, but I can't think 'em of such consequence as to destroy utterly the Charity of mankind; the very greatest bond in which we are ingag'd by God to one another ; Therefore I own to you, I was glad of any opportunity to express my dilike of so shocking a fentiment as those of the religion I profess are commonly charg'd with; and I hop'd, a slight infinuation, introduc'd fo easily by a casual fimilitude only, cou'd never have given offence; but on the contrary must needs have done good ; in a
na tion nation and time, wherein we are the smaller party, and consequently most misrepresented, and moft in need of vindication.
For the same reason, I took occasion to mention the superstition of some ages after the fubversion of the Roman Empire, which is too manifest a truth to be deny'd, and does in no fort reflect upon the present professors of our faith who are free from it. Our llence in these points may, with some reason, make, our adversaries think we allow and perfift in those biggotries ; which yet in reality all good and senfible men despise, tho' they are persuaded not to speak against 'em, I can't tell why, since now 'tis no way the intereft even of the worst of our prieft. hood (as it might have been then) to have them smother'd in silence: For as the opposite sects are now prevailing, 'tis too late to hinder our church from being flander'd; 'tis our business now to vindicate our selves from being thought abettors of what they charge us with. This can't so well be brought about with serious faces; we must laugh with them at what deserves it, or be content to be laugh'd at, with such as deserve it.
As to particulars: you cannot but have observ'd, that at first the whole objection against the Simile of wit and faith lay to the word They : when that was beyond contradiction removed (the very grammar serving to confute 'em) then the objection was against the fimile itself; or if that fimile will not be objected to (sense and common reason being indeed a little stubborn, and not apt to give way to every body) next the mention of Superstition must become a crimes as if religion and she were fifters, or that it were scan. dal upon the family of Christ, to say a word against the devil's bastard. Afterwards,more mischief is discover'd
in a place that seem'd innocent at first, the two lines about Schismatics. An ordinary man wou'd imagine the author plainly declar'd against those schismatics, for quitting the true faith out of a contempt of the understanding of some few of its believers : but these believers are callid dull, and because I say that those schismatics think some believers dull, therefore these charitable interpreters of my meaning will have it, that I think all believers dull. I was lately telling Mr. * * these objections: who assured me I had said nothing which a catholick need to disown, and I have cause to know that gentleman's fault (if he has any) is not want of zeal: He put a notion into my head which I confess I can't but acquiesce in ; that when a sett of people are piqu'd at any truth which they think to their own disadvan. tage, their method of revenge on the truth-speaker is to attack his reputation a by-way, and not openly to object to the place they are really gallid by: what these therefore (in his opinion) are in earnest angry at, is, that Erasmus, whom their tribe oppress'd and persecuted, should be vindicated after an age of obloquy by one of their own people, willing to utter an ho• nelt truth in behalf of the dead, whom no man sure will flatter and to whom few will do justice. Others, you know were as angry that I mentioned Mr.Wallh with honour; who as he never refus'd to any one of merit of any party the praise due to him, so honestly deserv’å it from all others, tho' of ever so different interests or sentiments. May I be ever guilty of this sort of liberty, and latitude of principle! which gives us the hardiness of speaking well of those whom envy oppresses ev'n after death. : As I wou'd always speak well of my living friends when they are absent, nay because they are absent, fo would I much more
. . . . of
· of the dead, in that eternal absence; and the rather because I expect no thanks for it.
Thus, Sir, you see I do in my conscience persist in what I have written; yet in my friendship I will recant and alter whatever you please, in case of a fecond edition (which I think the book will not so soon arrive at, for Tonson’s printer told me he drew off a thousand copies in this first impression, and I fancy a treatise of this nature, which not one gentleman in threescore even of a liberal education can understand, can hardly exceed the vent of that number.) You fhall find me a true Trojan in my faith and friend. thip, in both which I will persevere to the end.
* LETTER IV.
To my Lord Lansdown.
Binfield, Jan. 10, 1712. TTHANK you for having given my poem of I Windsor Forest its greatest ornament, that of bearing your name in the front of it. "Tis one thing when a person of true merit permits us to have the honour of drawing him as like as we can; and another, when we make a fine thing at random, and persuade the next vain creature we can find that 'tis his own likeness ; which is the case every day of my fellow scribblers. Yet my Lord, this honour has given me no more pride than your honours have given you; but it affords me a great deal of pleasure, which is N 4
much much better than a great deal of pride; and it indeed would give me some pain if I was not sure of one advantage; that whereas others are offended if they have not more than justice done 'em, you would be displeas'd if you had so much : therefore I may fafely do you as much injury in my words, as you do your self in your own thoughts. I am fo vain as to think I have thewn you a favour, in sparing your modefty, and you cannot but make me some return for prejudicing the truth to gratify you : This I beg may be the free correction of these verses, which will have few beauties, but what may be made by your blots, I am in the circumstance of an ordinary painter drawing Sir Godfrey Kneller, who by a few touches of his own could make the piece very valuable. I might then hope, that many years hence the world might read, in conjunction with your name, that of,
Your Lordship’s, &c.
May 23, 1712. TAM very glad for the fake of the widow, and for 1 the credit of the deceas'd, that+ Betterton's re
+ A Translation of some part of Chaucer's Canter, bury Tales, the Prologues, &c. printed in a Mifcellany mith some works of Mr. Pope, in 2 Vol. 120 by B. Lintot.