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INHABITANTS OF ELEUTHERO POLIS;
A SERIOUS ADDRESS
THE DISSENTERS OF BIRMINGHAM.
DISSENTERS OF BIRMINGHAM.
Multa in homine, Demea,
Signa insunt, ex quibu' conjectura facile fit,
PERMIT me to address you in a spirit of candour and respect, and under the sacred and endearing names of fellow-citizens and fellow-christians. With intentions not less pure, and, probably, after researches not less diligent than your own, I cannot profess to think with you upon many speculative subjects, both of politics and of religion. But freedom of enquiry is equally open to you, and to myself: it is equally laudable in us, when conducted with impartiality and decorum; and it must equally tend to the enlargement of knowledge, and the improvement of virtue, while our sincerity does not betray us into precipitation, and while our zeal does not stifle within us the amiable and salutary
sentiments of mutual forbearance. Upon the points in which we dissent from each other, arguments will always secure the attention of the wise and good; whereas invective must disgrace the cause which we may respectively wish to support. But the principles upon which we are agreed are, surely, of a more exalted rank, and of more extensive importance, than those about which we differ; and while that importance is felt, as well as acknowledged, we shall welcome every argument, and resist every invective, from whatever quarter they may proceed.
We are convinced, I trust, as to the truth and authority of the Scriptures. But in the interpretation of them we must be sensible that the imperious and delusive infallibility which we refuse to others cannot be claimed by ourselves. We are satisfied, I presume, about the wisdom and utility of those fundamental principles that distinguish the mixed government under which an indulgent Providence has permitted our forefathers and ourselves to live. Yet, if one class of men are disposed to uphold the power of the crown, and another to enlarge the freedom of the people, we have no right to conclude that the former wish to be fettered with the chains of slavery, or that the latter are preparing to let loose the ravages of anarchy. The advocate for monarchy is not necessarily the foe of liberty, nor is the love of liberty incompatible with reverence for monarchy. Experience, indeed, soon puts to flight those chimerical accusations which issue from the narrow spirit of system, or the frantic vehe