But this happy state of things [following
Erasmus] so favourable to the progress of truth and free inquiry, did
not long continue. Among those who separated from the church of Rome,
the Bible soon became a book sealed up and hidden from the laity and the
unlearned, from all who chose to submit to those who took upon them to
be their guides : not indeed by forbidding the reading of the
scriptures, as in former times under the papacy, but by trowing a veil over
diverting men from searching into them fairly to see what they truly
did teach (etc).
For from that period to the present day , in all protestant
communities, in the churches of Scotland and England, and among Lutherans
and Calvinists upon the continent, their first care and principal
labour has been bestowed in securing and guarding the Athanasian doctrine of
three persons making one God, by composing public Confessions, Articles
of faith and Catechisms, for this purpose ; to which all ministers of
religion were bound to subscribe, and conform their public teachings and
preaching, at their peril.
According to these prescribed formularies, youth were to be taught
the elements of christianity ; and instead of laying the greatest
weight, where Christ laid it, on piety to God, love and kindness to men, and
integrity and sincerity in their whole conduct : certain mysterious
doctrines, particularly concerning Christ being the most high God, were
recommended and insisted on as the very foundation of the gospel, without
which the whole fabric must fall to the ground.
And they were instructed to look upon those who held the contrary
sentiments with horror, as persons whose conversation was to be shunned and
avoided ; and for a long time no State would tolerate such men, or
allow them to worship God in their own way, and sometimes would not permit
them to stay in their country.
Public lectures have been established and stipends annexed to the
preachers of them, not to encourage men in the study of the Scriptures,
and in interpreting them in the sense that approved itself to their own
judgments, but in agreement with that which was dictated by others.