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THE RIGHT HONOURABLE AND RIGHT REVEREND
LORD BISHOP OF DERRY.
AMONG the few of your Lordship's ecclesiastical dignity, who have nobly dared to assert the rights of civil and religious liberty, and thought no action foreign or unsuitable. to their holy profession which could advance the interests of mankind,-the Bishops of the see of Derry have been the most distinguished; and your Lordship, though last, not least, among that sacred band.
If I had, therefore, no private favours to acknowledge-no personal esteem or regard to testify, which no one knows to value. more highly, or can hold more dear than myself I should still look up to you as the ablest advocate for that liberty I have claimed,
and solicit the sanction of your name to patronize these Discourses.
The purpose for which they were written will justify this choice.
To dispel from Christianity that dark cloud of mystery which has been so long hanging over it, and to exhibit it in its native dress, in which we see it in the Scriptures, and thus to recommend it to its votaries, and attach them to its service, was the design of this publication.
To effect this, I have exercised the right of private judgment in my interpretations of the Scriptures, neither presuming to be infallible myself, nor acknowledging that claim in others. I have thus endeavoured to place our religion upon its only firm and immoveable basis, the word of God explained by every individual for himself.
Could we once be brought to think that the worst heresy is a bad life-that no church can be in danger which has no corruptions in it-that the only atonement for our sins is repentance and amendment-that the faith we ought to contend for is "that which was once delivered to the saints;" could we but agree about these fundamental parts of our religion,
it would matter little how much we disagreed about the rest. Were those barriers beaten down, which have been kept up to create distinctions and kindle animosities, and a unity of practice sought for, which may be hadinstead of a unity of opinion, which cannot be obtained-we might be held together by the only bond that can be lasting, and known by the only mark of distinction that is worth preserving, it being the true Christian oneour love and good-will towards each other.
The happy effects of this Christian temper have been widely spread throughout your Lordship's diocese. That liberality of mind and equal regard which you have always shewn to good men of all denominations, has helped to unite the most discordant sectsto soften the rancour which prejudice and bigotry had fostered-and, as far as it was necessary for every good purpose of society, melted down into a general union those jarring and dissonant opinions, and made all conspire to promote the happiness of each other; the distinguishing appellations of Catholic, Presbyterian, and Churchman, have all been sunk into the common name of Christian. And the only struggle that
now subsists between them is, which should give the greatest proofs of their zeal, and their affection to their common friend and patron.
And is it to be wondered at that such peace and unanimity should now prevail in a city, once the seat of party rage and religious hatred? The citizens alike perceiving that your differing from any individual in opinion, produced in you no diminution of personal regard for him, caught the same liberality of spirit, and were actuated by the same sentiments towards each other. Thus, when your Lordship nobly proposed to erect a Chapel for the Roman Catholics of Derry, there was not a churchman or sectary who did not eagerly adopt your truly Catholic principle, and contend for the honour of laying the first stone of that edifice.* The
* What satisfaction it must have afforded to a liberal mind, to have seen the bishop of the diocese, with the titular bishop, joined by the mayor of the corporation, the dean of the cathedral, and the two Dissenting ministers, all going in procession to lay the first stone of the Popish Chapel! which is now completed, and affords an example that does honour to the prelate, and to the citizens that followed it. Blush, ye zealots and bigots, and learn for once a lesson of good-will and Christian charity, from those ye have been taught to hate and to despise! We have had our procession
Establishment, in particular, saw no danger to themselves from performing the offices of friendship and humanity towards the members of a different communion; nor did they pollute the name of their Church, to sanctify oppression, violence, and wrong.
pudet hæc opprobria nobis
Your own liberal example, my Lord, has conspired with the wisdom of the Legisla ture, which has had no occasion to regret the concession of a full enjoyment of religious rights to the Dissenters of Ireland; as it has found that the obligation to the discharge of civil duties has not been lessened, but increased, by such a grant. And let us hope that the time is coming when this wise
too in this country (or rather our auto da Fe); but it has been of a far different kind from that above-mentioned. It was not indeed PERSONALLY ATTENDED by bishops and magistrates, nor was it set on foot with the design of laying the first stone of any place of worship; but with the opposite intention of not leaving one stone upon another in any religious structure whose form was not exactly according to the plan laid down by the State. Such is the difference between building and burning !—the one proceeding from the true Christian spirit of benevolence and good-will to all; the other, from the blind and furious rage of persecuting zeal and intolerant bigotry.