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Silence Dogood essay 14
"Sir, It often happens, that the most zealous Advocates for any Cause find themselves disappointed the first Appearance of Success ..."

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Earum causarum quantu quaeque valeat, videamus. Cicero

To the Author of the New-England Courant.

["[No XIV" appears along right side of column. This number signifies this is the fourteenth Silence Dogood letter.]

SIR,

IT often happens, that
the most zealous Advo-
cates for any Cause find
themselves disappoint-
ed in the first Appear-
ance of Success in the
Propagation of their
Opinion; and the Dis-
appointment appears
unavoidable, when their
easy Proselytes too sud-
denly start into Ex-
treams, and are immedi-
ately fill'd with Arguments to invalidate their for-
mer Practice. This creates a Suspicion in the more
considerate Part of Mankind, that those who are thus
given to Change, neither fear God, nor honour the King.
In Matters of Religion, he that alters his Opinion
on a religious Account, must certainly go thro' much
Reading, hear many Arguments on both Sides, and
undergo many Struggles in his Conscience, before he
can come to a full Resolution: Secular Interest will
indeed make quick Work with an immoral Man,
especially if, notwithstanding the Alteration of his
Opinion, he can with any Appearance of Credit re-
tain his Immorality. But, by this Turn of Thought
I would not be suspected of Uncharitableness to those
Clergymen at Connecticut, who have lately embrac'd
the Establish'd Religion of our Nation, some of
whom I hear made their Professions with a Serious-
ness becoming their Order: However, since they have
deny'd the Validity of Ordination by the Hands of
Presbyters, and consequently their Power of Admini-
string the Sacraments, &c. we may justly expect a sui-
table Manifestation of their Repentance for invading
the Priests Office, and living so long in a Corah-like
Rebellion. All I would endeavour to shew is, That
an indiscreet Zeal for spreading an Opinion, hurts
the Cause of the Zealot. There are too many blind
Zealots among every Denomination of Christians;
and he that propagates the Gospel among Rakes and
Beaus without reforming them in their Morals, is
every whit as ridiculous and impolitick as a States-
man who makes Tools of Ideots and Tale-Bearers.

Much to my present Purpose are the Words of
two Ingenious Authors of the Church of England,
tho' in all Probability they were tainted with Whig-
gish
Principles; and with these I shall conclude this
Letter.

" I would (says one) have every zealous Man ex
" amine his Heart thoroughly, and, I believe, he will
" often find that what he calls a Zeal for his Religi-
" on, is either Pride, Interest or Ill-nature. A Man
" who differs from another in Opinion sets himself a-
" bove him in his own Judgment, and in several Par-
" ticulars pretends to be the wiser Person. This is
" a great Provocation to the Proud Man, and gives
" a keen Edge to what he calls his Zeal. And that
" this is the Case very often, we may observe from
" the Behaviour of some of the most Zealous for
" Orthodoxy, who have often great Friendships and
" Intimacies with vicious immoral Men, provided
" they do but agree with them in the same Scheme

" of Belief. The Reason is, because the vicious Be-
" liever gives the Precedency to the virtuous Man, and
" allows the good Christian to be the worthier Per-
" son, at the same Time that he cannot come up to
" his Perfections. This we find exemplified in that
" trite Passage which we see quoted in almost every
" System of Ethicks, tho' upon another Occasion;

-- Video meliore proboque
Deteriora sequor
--

" On the contrary, it is certain if our Zeal were true
" and genuine, we should be much more angry with a
" Sinner than a Heretick, since there are several Cases
" which may excuse the latter before his great Judge,
" but none which can excuse the former.

" I have (says another) found by Experience, that
" it is impossible to talk distinctly without defining
" the Words of which we make use. There is not a
" Term in our Language which wants Explanation
" so much as the Word Church. One would think
" when People utter it, they should have in their
" Minds Ideas of Virtue and Religion; but that im-
" portant Monosyllable drags all the other Words in
" the Language after it, and it is made use of to ex-
" press both Praise and Blame, according to the Cha-
" racter of him who speaks it. By this means it hap-
" pens, that no one knows what his Neighbour
" means when he says such a one is for or against the
" Church. It has happen'd that he who is seen every
" Day at Church, has not been counted in the Eye of
" the World a Churchman; and he who is very zea-
" lous to oblige every one to frequent it but himself,
" has been a very good Son of the Church. This Præ-
" possession is the best Handle imaginable for Poli-
" ticians to make use of, for managing the Loves and
" Hatreds of Mankind to the Purposes to which they
" would lead them. But this is not a Thing for Fools
" to meddle with, for they only bring Disesteem upon
" those whom they attempt to serve, when they un-
" skilfully pronounce Terms of Art. I have obser-
" ved great Evils arise from this Practice, and not on-
" ly the Cause of Piety, but also the secular Interest
" of Clergymen, has extreamly suffered by the general
" unexplained Signification of the Word Church.

I am, SIR,
Your Humble Servant
,
SILENCE DOGOOD.

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