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THE HIND AND THE PANTHER.
IN THREE PARTS.
Antiquam exquirite matrem.'
VIRG. (Æn. iii. 96.)
.Et vera incessu patuit Dea'
[Ibid. i. 405.)
TO THE READER.
THE nation is in too high a ferment for me to expect either fair war or even so much as fair quarter from a reader of the opposite party. All men are engaged either on this side or that; and though conscience is the common word 5 which is given by both, yet if a writer fall among enemies and cannot give the marks of their conscience, he is knocked down before the reasons of his own are heard. A Preface, therefore, which is but a bespeaking of favour, is altogether useless. What I desire the reader should know concerning 10 me he will find in the body of the poem, if he have but the patience to peruse it. Only this advertisement let him take beforehand, which relates to the merits of the cause. No general characters of parties (call 'em either Sects or Churches) can be so fully and exactly drawn as to comprehend all the 15 several members of 'em ; at least all such as are received under that denomination. For example: there are some of the Church by law established who envy not liberty of conscience to Dissenters, as being well satisfied that, according to their own principles, they ought not to persecute them. 20 Yet these by reason of their fewness I could not distinguish from the numbers of the rest, with whom they are embodied in one common name. On the other side, there are many of our sects, and more indeed than I could reasonably have hoped, who have withdrawn themselves from the communion 25 of the Panther and embraced this gracious Indulgence of his Majesty in point of toleration. But neither to the one nor the other of these is this Satire any way intended : 'tis aimed only at the refractory and disobedient on either side. For those who have come over to the royal party are consequently 30 supposed to be out of gun-shot. Our physicians have observed, that in process of time some diseases have abated of their virulence and have in a manner worn out their malignity,
so as to be no longer mortal: and why may not I suppose 5 the same concerning some of those who have formerly been
enemies to kingly government as well as Catholic religion? I hope they have now another notion of both, as having found by comfortable experience that the doctrine of persecution is
far from being an article of our faith. 10 'Tis not for any private man to censure the proceedings of
a foreign Prince; but without suspicion of flattery I may praise our own, who has taken contrary measures, and those more suitable to the spirit of Christianity. Some of the
Dissenters, in their addresses to his Majesty, have said that 15 he has restored God to his empire over conscience. I confess
I dare not stretch the figure to so great a boldness; but I may safely say, that conscience is the royalty and prerogative of every private man. He is absolute in his own breast, and
accountable to no earthly power for that which passes only 20 betwixt God and him. Those who are driven into the fold are, generally speaking, rather made hypocrites than converts.
This indulgence being granted to all the sects, it ought in reason to be expected that they should both receive it and
receive it thankfully. For at this time of day to refuse the 25 benefit and adhere to those whom they have esteemed their
persecutors, what is it else but publicly to own that they suffered not before for conscience sake, but only out of pride and obstinacy to separate from a Church for those impositions
which they now judge may be lawfully obeyed ? After they 30 have so long contended for their classical ordination (not to
speak of rites and ceremonies), will they at length submit to an episcopal? If they can go so far out of complaisance to their old enemies, methinks a little reason should persuade 'em
to take another step, and see whither that would lead 'em. 35 Of the receiving this toleration thankfully I shall say no
more than that they ought, and I doubt not they will, consider from what hands they received it. 'Tis not from a Cyrus, a heathen prince and a foreigner, but from a Christian