The subjects of the following treatise, being of the utmost importance, have been considered with the most serious attention, and are laid before the reader on the highest authority, that is to say, on the authority of the holy scriptures.
Nothing less than this ought, or can , determine on the points herein treated, because they concern, not only the present, but future welfare of mankind: these, as then in connection together, must depend, first, on knowing, and then on doing the will of God. What His will is, can only be known from the several revelations, or discoveries which it hath graciously pleased Him to make of it, by men, who spake not of themselves, bet as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. (2 Peter 1:21)
To imagine that, without such revelation, mortals can understand, or know the mind and will of God , is an absurdity, even greater that to suppose we can know the thoughts of each other, without any declaration of them either by words or actions. But to admit the necessity of a divine revelation, and not make them the only infallible rule and guide, in all matters which relate to the mind and will of God therein revealed, is, so far to lay aside the revelation of God, to make it void and of none effect, and to place ourselves in not better situation, than if no such discovery of the mind and will of God had ever been revealed.
Thus we rob God of His honor, by slighting His word, and thus are people led to setup the determinations of human wisdom against it, and expose themselves to be carried about with every wind of doctrine, which the folly and superstition of weak men, and the wickedness and craft of designing men, may happen to invent.
By such means it has been, that so many errors of various kinds have found their way, in all ages, into the church, and have maintained their empire over the minds of men. Long usage has made them venerable the prescriptive power of custom has given them establishment and both these have prevailed on human legislatures, to afford them awful obligation of their most solemn sanctions.
It cannot want many arguments to prove, that sundry practice, as well as opinions, which are found among the heathen nations, are abhorrent from all our conceptions of propriety, decency, and even humanity itself. All these have but one source. They do err, not knowing the scriptures.
Where revelation is received, yet if it be not adhered to as the only rule of faith and manners, and this unreservedly, the opinions and practices of men will be as wide from the mind and will of God, as those of the Heathen are. I might here instance in the opinions and practices of the Pharisees of old, as well as of many nations called Christians, in more modern days, and who are members of that society of professing Christians which insolently and exclusively styles itself, “The HOLY APOSTOLICAL and CATHOLIC CHURCH”, amongst whom the most devout are worshipping a wooden god, which they call a crucifix, and breaden god, which they call the host: and, besides these, they worship saints and angels, and many such like things they do. The foundation of all which is still one and the same, They do err, not knowing the scriptures; for though the Papists have the scriptures; yet they do not adopt them as the only rule of faith and worship. Their fear towards God is taught them by the doctrines and commandments of men, If 29:13 which take place in the mind of God, as revealed in His holy word.
Happy would it be, could we, reformed Protestants, clear ourselves of this charge in all respects!
To prove that we cannot, in some points of the utmost consequence, is the purpose of the following pages; which, while the reader peruse, I could with him to weigh in the balance of the sanctuary, to lay his Bible before him, and to call every argument, observation, and doctrine, to the strictest and tribunal. If he shall find anything that is wrong, or detect anything that is false, let him freely set down the Author’s account. But whatever he shall find agreeable to, or clearly proved by, the word of God, let him not listen to the lying testimony of prejudice or vulgar error against it, but treasure it up in his mind, for the direction of his own judgement and conscience, in all situations and conditions of life.
If the judgement be misled or misinformed, the more conscientious a man is , the father will he be led into error, and the more firmly will he be attached to it : therefore it is well for us to listen to the counsel of the wise man (Proverbs 4:7) “ Wisdom is the principal thing, therefore get wisdom; and with all thy getting get understanding.”
As to differences, or even errors, (if mistakes about indifferent matters can be so called) where mere outward forms are concerned, and those of human invention, the Author desires to think, and to let think, and where forever the scriptures are silent, to be so too. He does not esteem it worth his while to expend a single drop of ink in such controversies. He does not suppose, that , had he lived in the second century, when the Roman and Asiatic Christians quarrelled about the keeping of Easter, and ran to such indecent lengths of animosity and discord. As might make the very heathen blush, he would have ventured a single scratch of his finger, to have had it decided whether it was to be held “on the fourteenth day after the first moon in the new year,” or “on the same stated day in every year,” or “on the first Sunday after the first full moon.” All this rout was made to very little purpose: and had the Author been weak enough to have entered into the dispute, had he sided with the Asiatics, and been excommunicated by Pope Victor for his pains, it would not , according to his present notion, have given him a moment’s uneasiniess.
But where the peace and well being (I had almost said the very being) of society are concerned, where disorders, of the most malignant kind, have infected the general mass, to the destruction of millions down to this moment, and threaten the destruction of millions yet unborn, and those chiefly from among the most defenceless part of the human species; when the lust, treachery, cruelty, and villainy of men, are let loose to ravage, as they can, on the weakness and credulity of helpless women; and when all this is apparently the effect of abolishing those parts of the divine law, which were evidently made to prevent it, and the introduction of a systen of human invention is the means of its daily increase; too much cannot be said to point out the cause of the disease, and to lead to the remedy. The former is from the substitution of the wisdom of man, in the place of the wisdom of God; the latter can only be discovered and rendered effectual, by restoring the wisdom of God to its due place in our esteem, and by making it, as it is found revealed to us in the scriptures, the basis of our municipal laws, the line of our conduct, the rule of our obedience.
Perhaps some may think, that there are points handled and discussed in this book, which had better been left under the clouds of obscurity which have long overwhelmed them, and hidden them from vulgar observation, lest disputes should be raised, and abuses committed by the perversions of the evil and licentious. It is written concerning the scriptures themselves, that , to some they are the savour of the life unto life, and unto others the savour of death unto death. (2Cor 2:16) And again, that the unlearned and unstable wrested the epistles of Paul, as also the other scriptures, to their own destruction. (2 Peter 3:16) As therefore there is nothing in this book, which is not to be found in those scriptures, as to the points above hinted at, the Author ventures it forth, confiding in Him who hath said, As the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thitherm byt wastereth tge eartgm abd najetg ut brubg firtg abd byd, that it may five seed to the sower, and bread to the eater; so shall My word be, that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereunto I sent it. ( Isaiah 55:10-11)
He cannot be of the mind of Synesius the Platonist, who was raised to be a Bishop in the Christian church, but continued to be a determined Platonist; and had so far imbibed the spirit and doctrine of that school, as to declare his sentiments thus, “As darkness is most proper and commodious for those who have weak eyes, so I hold that lies and fictions are useful to the people, and that truth would be hurtful to those who are not able to bear its light and splendor.” And he added, “ If the laws of the church would dispense with it, that he would philosophize at home, and talk abroad in the common strain, preaching up the general and received fables.” (See note z, Leland, vol 2 p. 344)
The ancient philosophers had an exoteric doctrine, (greek) which they openly taught the people; and an esoteric doctrine (greek) which they taught privately to their select disciples, whom they let into the secrets of their scheme. It was a maxim among them, that “it was lawful to deceive the people for the public good.” (Ib 342-3) So the sect of Foe in China, have an exterior and interior doctrine with regard to a future state, they publicly preach it up to the people, but their interior doctrine rejects it. (See Ib. 344, not z)
Such is human prudence and wisdom! But the divine wisdom faith, He that hath My word, let him speak My word faithfully. (Jeremiah 23:28) There is nothing covered that shall not be revealed; and hid , that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in the light; and what ye hear in the ear, that preach (greek, proclaim, publish) upon the housetops. (Matthew 10:26-27 Compare to Mark 4:21-22) Truth is like him that doeth the truth, it cometh to the light, that its deeds may be manifest, that they are wrought in God. Error, like every one that doth evil, hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, left its deed should be reproved (John 3:20-21)
God never revealed anything but that it should be known. When men want to conceal any part of divine revelation from the knowledge of others, it is too frequently with a purpose of preventing the detection of some errors in human systems, which, from some sinister vies or other, they dread the discovery of. Thus the church of Rome, jealous of the light of scripture, knowing that the whole dominion of popes and priests over the understandings and consciences of the laity is founded in ignorance, keep as far as they can, the scriptures out of their hands.
Others there are, who, from well-meant, but mistaken, zeal, for principles which they have been taught to venerate, dread that these should be attacked; as thinking the cause of religion itself, is involved with the supposed truth of what they are accustomed to believe. There can be no doubt , that when our reformers first attacked the Pope’s supremacy,the worship of the virgin Mary, the celibacy of priests, and other pious lies and forgeries of the church of Rome, many devout and zealous people thought, , that religion itself was, like the ark of old, (1 Samuel 4:10-11) about to be delivered into the hands of the Philistines; and cried out, like Micah, when the Danites took away his Levite and his Teraphim -Ye have taken away my gods which I made, and the priest – and what have I more? (See Judges 18:24)
IF there be anything in the Bible which ought to be concealed, it would be no very hard matter to prove, that it ought never to have been revealed. But as it often happens with private individuals, that they are afraid of looking too narrowly into the scripture, for fear of meeting with something to shake their preconceived opinions and prejudices; so is it with all public and national systems. As these have been fashioned by human contrivance, they are not, for very obvious reasons, over-fond of too narrow a scrutiny on as they formed like the feet of the image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, which were part of iron, and part of clay; so these being composed of the heterogeneous mixture of the divine wisdom and human contrivance, a too curious investigator should, like the stone there mentioned – fall upon them, and break them to pieces.
The Author of the following sheets professes himself a Freethinker; not in the usual sense of that word, as what he has written must abundantly testify, but as an assertor of that right, which every reasonable creature is invested with, to search, think, and judge for himself. He therefore has endeavoured to lay some points, which he cannot but esteem of the utmost consequence, before the world, that others may exercise their privilege as the Author has done his.
As for the abuse which any subject herein treated may be liable to- What is not abused? What in nature, providence,or revelation, has not been abused and perverted to some vile purpose or other? The very Gospel of Peace has been abused, to sanctify fraud, violence, oppression, and persecution, to justify massacres, tortures, murders, even to men’s roasting alive their fellow creatures, and thinking they did God service! Insomuch that, wear we to judge of the great Head of our body religion, by the abuse which has been made of His authority, we should invert what He says, (Luke 9:56) and imagine, that He came ot to save men’s lives, but to destroy them. Even the grace of our God has been, and is by many, turned into lasciviousness. (See Jude 4) But what does all this prove? Nothing but the ignorance, perverseness, cruelty, and wickedness of human nature; and that corruption optimi fit pessima: but it does not prove, that God of heaven, who foresaw and foreknew such abuses, should not have revealed His mind and will to mortals; nor that any part of that revelation should be concealed, suppressed, or hidden from the eyes of men, gor fear of its being abused. For this may be taken as a certain rult, that no abuse of the scriptures ever yet happened from a real understanding and knowledge of their contents, but from an ignorance, either in ourselves, or imposed on us by the design and artifice of others.
The grand question to be tried is, “whether a system, filled with obligation and resposibility, of men to women, and of women to men, even unto death itself, and this established by infinite wisdom, is not better calculated to prevent the ruin of the female sex, with all its horrid consequences, both to the public and individuals, than a system of human contrivance, where neither obligation nor responsibility are to be found, either of men to women, or of women to men, in instances of the most important concern to both, but more especially to the weaker sex?”
The whole of the evidence on both sides is faithfully collected, and laid open, without any reserve or disgise, in this book, let every reader look upon himself as impaneled on the jury, let him impartially hearken to the cause, and a true verdict give according to the evidence.
 Originally: vouchsafed
 I cannot forbear mentioning here that valuable, learned, and excellent work of John Leland, D.D. on the Advantage and Necessity of the Christian Revelation, wherein that author hath with a strength of judgement, and depth of learning and erudition peculiar to himself, so proved his point, as to deserve the thanks of all who know how to set a just value on the scriptures, as well as of those who would with to do it. This valuable author says, “It is the mighty advantage of a written revelation, that by an impartial consulting it, the deviations from it may be detected, and things may again be reduced to the original standard.” Vol. I p.453
 This invention of the crucifix, or image of Christ on the cross, is but old heathenism new vamped. Maximus Tyrius, a Platonic philosopher, who was master to M. Antoninus, says, “The divine nature stands not in need of images or statues, but the nature and condition of man being very weak, and as far distant from the Divinity as heaven is from earth, framed these signs for itself, and attributed to them the names nad titles of the gods,”, and he thinks that the legislature acted wisely in contriving images for the people. See Leland, vol. 1 p. 338 The wife men and philosophers pleaded for images as necessary helps to human infirmity Ib. 424
 Two of the articles in the famous creed of Pope Pius IV are as follows:
XIII. I most firmly admit and embrace apostolic and ecclesiastical traditions, and all other observations and constitutions of the one catholic and apostolic church.
XIV. I do admit the holy scriptures in the same sense that holy Mother Church doth, whose business it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of them, and I will interpret them according to the unanimous consent of the fathers.
The Popish canon law frequently affirms that the church is above the scriptures.
Omnis que nune apud nos est scripture authoritas ab ecclesia authoritate necessarie dependent.“All the authority which we attribute to the scriptures, necessarily depends on the authority of the church.” Pighius de Hierar, Eccl. Lib. i. C. 2. Eccius, in his Enchiridian de antiquiorem, & scripturam non effe authenticam, nift ecclefte authoritate.- “The church is more antient than the scriptures, and the scriptures are not authentic, save by the authority of the church.”
Hermannus goes farther, and affirms – Scriptures are no more to be valued than Aesop’s Fables, unless it were for the testimony of the church.” See Hist. of Popery, vol i. p.214
 Haurit lethiferum bufo de flore venenum,
Quo mel nectareum fedula promit apes.
At the same flow’r the toad and bee may meet,
That suck the poison, this exhaust the sweet.
 In 1547 , Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, said, “that he thought the removing images, was on design to subvert religion and the state of the world.” -Burnet, Preface to History, Ref, vol 2 p2