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Of his dominion may no end be known,
To lard with wit thy hungry Epsom prose:†
* Characters in Sir George Etherege's 'Man of Mode,' a comedy. Cully and Cockwood appear in Love in a Tub,' another of his plays.
Sir Charles Sedley assisted Shadwell in his successful comedy of 'Epsom Wells.'
Sir Formal Trifle is a conceited character in Shadwell's comedy of The Virtuoso.'
Sir Formal, though unsought, attends thy quill,
Let father Flecnoe fire thy mind with praise,
Thou art my blood, where Jonson has no part;
* Shadwell affected to be the dramatic disciple of Ben Jonson. + This polished phrase is the cant idiom of Sir Samuel Hearty, in the same play.
With whate'er gall thou sett'st thyself to write,
Leave writing Plays, and choose for thy command
He said; but his last words were scarcely heard;
*In the works of Herbert, Wither, Jordan, and other obsolete minor poets, some of these fantastical vagaries may be seen.
These are fine gentlemen in Shadewell's Virtuoso,' who play a trick on Sir Formal Trifle by means of a trap-door.
A LAYMAN'S FAITH.
A POEM with so bold a title, and a name prefixed, from which the handling of so serious a subject would not be expected, may reasonably oblige the Author to say somewhat in defence both of himself and of his undertaking. In the first place, if it be objected to me, that, being a layman, I ought not to have concerned myself with speculations which belong to the profession of divinity; I could answer, that, perhaps, laymen, with equal advantages of parts and knowledge, are not the most incompetent judges of sacred things. But in the due sense of my own weakness and want of learning, I plead not this; I pretend not to make myself a judge of faith in others, but only to make a confession of my own. I lay no unhallowed hand upon the ark; but wait on it, with the reverence that becomes me, at a distance. In the next place, I will ingenuously confess, that the helps I have used in this small treatise were many of them taken from the works of our own reverend divines of the church of England; so that the weapons with which I combat irreligion are already consecrated :
though, I suppose, they may be taken down as lawfully as the sword of Goliath was by David, when they are to be employed for the common cause against the enemies of piety. I intend not by this, to entitle them to any of my errors; which yet, I hope, are only those of charity to mankind; and such as my own charity has caused me to commit, that of others may more easily excuse.
Being naturally inclined to scepticism in philosophy, I have no reason to impose my opinions in a subject which is above it: but, whatever they are, I submit them with all reverence to my Mother-church, accounting them no farther mine than as they are authorized, or at least uncondemned, by her. And, indeed, to secure myself on this side, I have used the necessary precaution of showing this paper, before it was published, to a judicious and learned friend, a man indefatigably zealous in the service of the Church and State, and whose writings have highly deserved of both. He was pleased to approve the body of the discourse, and I hope he is more my friend than to do it out of complaisance. 'Tis true, he had too good a taste to like it all; and, amongst some other faults, recommended to my second view what I have written, perhaps too boldly, on St. Athanasius, which he advised me wholly to omit. I am sensible enough that I had done more pruIdently to have followed his opinion; but then I could not have satisfied myself that I had done honestly, not to have written what was my own. It has always been my thought that Heathens, who never did, nor without miracle could, hear of the name of Christ, were yet in a possibility of salva