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"which, through a succession of about three thousand years, ends where the earliest of the heathens (Hero"dotus) only begins. Thus I can easily discover that ❝ wisdom (commonly called Philosophy), which, for so many ages, was so little heard of among the unenlight❝ened nations, breaking out into a kind of dawn about
the time that Nebuchadnezzar's conquests had made "the world acquainted with the Hebrew sages. Till "then, paganism had heard of an Orpheus, of a Homer, of a Hesiod, and such like, who perhaps were philosophers, and perhaps were little more than com"mon ballad singers. But now, about the time of the "Jewish captivity, appeared Pythagoras, Thales, Solon, "Zoroaster, these heroes of heathen philosophy; whose
successors were Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, &c. Does "not this plainly shew, that their superior knowledge came, somehow or other, from or by the Jews, as "theirs came from Moses, and his from God? If so, "where is the light of nature, that idol of the present age? Where the ground for boasting so much of "heathen morality?"
Such were his reflections on the ancient state of the heathen nations, as exhibited in the only records which have been thought worthy of credit, and which, it must be acknowledged, bear ample testimony, not only to the truth, but also to the value and importance of the Mosaic History, and of the other inspired writings of the Old Testament. But while Mr Skinner was thus filling up the few vacant hours, which could be afforded from the duties of a laborious charge, in surveying the economy of divine grace, and the various circumstances of the
ny well-meaning, though misinformed people. Those pleas are founded on general principles, quite foreign "to the secret but attested circumstances of the sect in "particular, in favour of whom they have been urged; "and, hence, through unavoidable ignorance of facts, "have hitherto met with too great a share of attention, "in proportion to the too hastily approved merit and "justice of their application; of the fallaciousness of "which application every one could not form a true judgment, by reason that the heterodox notions and ir"regular practices, in respect both of politics and religion, peculiar to this party, and invalidating all their "claims, have not been so generally known and advert"ed to as they ought to have been. This too general "and obvious a danger has induced me to set, in as just
a light as I could, those great lines of truth, political "and religious, to which the foundation-principles or "ground-work supporting the above mentioned pleas, "urged by the misinformed advocates for the anti-revo"lutional party, run palpably contrary; as the most "effectual method I know to silence all clamours and "disputes upon this subject."
From such an introduction as is contained in these three curiously constructed sentences, the reader might easily infer what a labyrinth of confusion he would have to encounter, if he should summon up resolution enough to wade through three hundred pages of the same jumble of silly impertinent accusation, thrown into all the wild ridiculous shapes which a perverted fancy, aided by a malevolent disposition, was able to invent. When this farrago of absurdity and arrogance was announced as a work
work to be sold at the printers' shops in London and Edinburgh, though some were of opinion that it was unworthy of any thing like public notice, and ought to be allowed to sink privately into contempt, others argued from the common observation, that when a book of controversy is not answered, its friends and favourers are apt to indulge the flattering idea of its being unanswerable. Lest any such opinion should be formed of this strange production of the "Minister to the authorised Episcopal congregation in Brechin," there was published, soon after, a Letter to Norman Sievewright, M. A. in vindi"cation of the Episcopal Clergy of Scotland, from his "charge of Innovations in Politics and Religion." Of this letter, Mr. Skinner was known to be the Author, although, for obvious reasons, he did not think it prudent to give his name to a man, who had issued a general. information against all the Nonjuring Episcopal Clergy in Scotland, as a warning to the public prosecutor to do his duty, and put a stop to what this zealous informer calls "the career of those pretended ministers, from "whose unwearied industry in keeping up a succession "in open defiance of law ecclesiastical as well as civil, "great hurt may possibly ensue some time or other to the "interests of the public, as well as of private misinformed individuals."
It is now full forty years since this alarming prediction was published, and we may venture to assert that it would puzzle the prophet, were he yet alive, to point out any hurt, much more, any great hurt that has ensued to the interests either of the public, or of private individuals, from the continuance of that Episcopal succession which
he, good man! was so anxious to see extinguished. Yet this same sagacious Seer was enabled, as he says himself, "to clear up another difficulty," which, towards the conclusion of his work, he thus describes, with a penetration and precision, respecting the ways of Divine Providence, peculiar to himself;-" It was once thought a great
hardship," says this ingenious casuist," that candi"dates for holy orders in Scotland should be obliged, "before they can have a title to the privileges of law, to procure ordination at the hands of either an English or Irish Bishop. But the necessity of this measure (prescribed in the 1746 and 1748 by the wisdom "of our Legislature, to prevent the most distant occa❝sion of keeping up a spirit of rebellion in the nation), "though at that time not generally known to men, yet
lay naked and open to the all-seeing eye of God, who "will not suffer imposture to pass undiscovered, and "who well knew that they, who at that time called "themselves Bishops in Scotland, and acted authorita
tively as such, had corrupted the truth, both by their "unconstitutional politics, and their unscriptural inno"vations in point of doctrine and worship, and had, "through their flagrant irregularities, forfeited all cano"nical title to an episcopal character. For which rea"sons the Divine Providence permitted a just and legal "prohibition to pass upon their irregular and uncanoni"cal orders." Did ever the folly of man hazard a more presumptuous interpretation of the ways of God? Can human arrogance be more daringly displayed than in thus pretending, with such positive assurance, to assign the reasons on which are founded the proceedings and permis
sions of Divine Providence? What " lay naked and open
to the all-seeing eye of God," at the time when this bold appeal was made to his omniscience, must be equally open and obvious to it now, and yet the measure, which was then to prevent " imposture from passing undiscovered," has been since completely set aside "by the wisdom of our
Legislature," and those same "irregular and uncano"nical orders," upon which, according to Mr. Sievewright, "Divine Providence permitted a just and legal "prohibition to pass in the years 1746 and 1748," received, by the same permission, in the year 1792, “a "just and legal" toleration, and have now authority, equal at least to that which, in the year 1767, constituted "the authorized Episcopal Congregation in Brechin." This would seem to indicate, that Providence had permitted our Legislature to see the needless severity and bad policy of the former prohibition, and therefore to exercise its wisdom in removing such an odious and unnecessary mark of distinction among British subjects.
From these few specimens of the matter and manner of Mr Sievewright's Preservative," it may well be supposed that Mr Skinner would have little difficulty in framing his answer, and vindicating the Episcopal Clergy of Scotland from such a silly charge of " innovations in politics and religion;" a charge which carries its own refutation in the absurdity of its title, especially in the article of politics. For, as Mr Skinner justly observes, "The charge against us on that head used to be, that "we foolishly adhered to an old exploded system of po"litical principles. Old notions, Sir, may be errors, may be heresies, if you please, but they cannot, one "should