The Preface to the Reader.
THOUGH the Character of Bishop Jewel, the Author of the following Piece, be so well known to the Learned World, as to make it altogether needless to give any account of Him here; it may not be improper to acquaint the English Reader with the Time when this Excellent Work was first publish’d, and the Circumstances which occasion’d the Writing of it.
Not many Years after our Separation from the Church of Rome, and before the Happy Reformation of Religion could be thoroughly Establish’d in These Nations, the Pope, finding his Authority every day more and more diminished, summoned the pretended Council of Trent, that under the specious Show of a General Council he might the better carry on his own Schemes, and put a stop to the growing Heresy, which was the Term He and his Adherents gave the Protestant Religion. Here it is hardly to be imagin’d what Arts were used to hinder the Endeavours of the Pious and Learned Reformers, what strange Misrepresentations were made both of the Doctrine and Manners of all who dissented from the Church of Rome; but the Chief of their Malice was aimed at the Church of England, which they saw likely to be constituted after such a Model, as if once established would give them the greatest Uneasiness, and be the strongest Bulwark against Their Encroachments. And therefore as the heaviest Load of Scandal fell upon the Church of England, They of That Communion thought it principally their Concern to vindicate themselves from those false and injurious Aspersions. For this Reason Bishop Jewel, in behalf of himself and the rest of his Persuasion, drew up the following Apology; in which, after the most plain and clear Manner, he sets forth the Whole Substance of the Doctrine taught by the Church of England, and proves by Undeniable Arguments each Branch of it to be exactly agreeable to the Word of God; and then he proceeds to justify our Separation, by showing the many absurd Errours and corrupt Practices in the Romish Church.
This Book met with Universal Esteem and Approbation among the Protestants of That and all succeeding Times; and so great was the Fame of it, that it was not only Read with Applause by all who understood the Original, but was thought worthy, for the Advantage of all sorts of People, to be immediately Translated into as many Languages as were then in use in the Christian World. And if all Protestant nations have been so fond of it, certainly it ought always to be in the Hands of the People of England, for whose sake it was at first written; it being designed not only for a Defence of the Protestant Religion in general, but of our Church in particular.
It may be further objected, that I have not chose a very proper time; for what Occasion have we at this time of day for a Defence of the Church of England wrote so many Years ago, only against the Roman Catholicks, when we are not under any the least Apprehension of Danger from Popery; but rather, if there be any, as many Good Men are apt to fear, from the several Sects of those who dissent from us; by some of whom our Church is openly attacked, and slyly undermined by others who endeavour to creep into her Bosom, that they may lie warm there, till they have a convenient Opportunity to sting Her.
First, Notwithstanding we are at present in no Danger from Popery, yet whosoever considers that the Antidote against Poison can never be unseasonable, will, I hope, be easily persuaded that at all Times Men’s Minds ought to be confirm’d still more and more in Soundness of Principles, that they may always be able to give an Account of their Religion against all Gainsayers, steadily embracing the Truth, nothing wavering, that the Enemy may not approach to hurt them.
Secondly, This Book (the Author of which was too True a Friend of the Church of England to be a Favourer of the English Dissenters; as appears by the Opposition he made to them in his Exile; and by his Conference held with some of them, and his Sermon preached at St. Paul’s Cross, in which he severely reprehended them, and bravely learnedly Defended the Rites and Ceremonies of the Church against them, but a little before his Death) may have its Use even in respect to our Enemies the Dissenters, by vindicating not onely the Purity of the Faith, but also of the Order and Discipline which were once deliver’d to the Saints, and thereby reconciling Peoples Minds to the Establish’d Church.
(a) 1 Cor. 14. 26, 40.
2dly, We may hence observe who have been the most formidable Enemies of the Church of Rome, who have given the greatest Blows to Popery, whether the Church of England, or Those who dissent from Her; in which Question it will be of Importance to consider what Judgment our Enemies the Papists have made of us Both. To oppose their Adversaries of the Church of England, they have always picked out the choicest Wits, the most noted Men for Learning and Eloquence; and if there were any Achilles among them, (as another Eminent Champion of the Church of England expresses it) Him they have selected for this Controversy, (as they did the famous Mr. Harding to oppose our Author) and furnished him with all the Materials they were Masters of, to enable him to stand the Contest with us. This, I think, is a plain Demonstration that they look upon Us to be Enemies in good earnest, and the Doctrines of our Church to be so well grounded, and so firmly established, as to require the utmost of their Ability to shake them. Whereas if we consider in what manner they have resented the Opposition given Them by the Dissenters, we shall find that they have wholly neglected it, and have rather seemed inclin’d to encourage their Stubbornness and Schism, than to enter into any Controversy with them. It was indeed the Opinion of our Author, that these Contentions were at first kindled and fomented by no other but Popish Priests, under the Disguise of Puritan Preachers: But be that as it will. This Neglect of the Roman Catholicks must arise from one of These two Reasons; Either that they took the Dissenters for their Friends, and saw that they were in reality carrying on Their Work; or else that they have looked upon their Attacks with such Contempt, as to judge them not worthy of their Notice: Which of These two Reasons is the right, I shall not presume to determine.
Further it is to be wish’d, that our just Abhorrence of Popery does not carry us into a greater Evil; and that designing Men do not make use of this Cry against Popery, not only to run down the Ceremonies of the Church of England, but even the Capital Articles of our Faith, and the Doctrine of the Blessed Trinity it self, because the Papists agree with us in it. This Book will be of use also to Establish and Confirm us in the great Doctrines of our Faith, which we with Grief daily see most audaciously insulted with Impunity; These are here inculcated in so plain Terms, and built upon such evident Proofs of Scripture, as must convince any Man that does not shut his Eyes against the Truth.
The Apology of the Church of England.
IT has been a Complaint through all Ages, from the Patriarchs and Prophets, down to us, and confirmed by the Histories of all Times and Places, (a) That Truth has been a Stranger upon Earth, and that she has met with many among the ignorant sort of Men who have Hated and Reviled her. And tho’ this may perhaps seem incredible to Men who have not been exact in observing these things, especially since all Mankind have, by the Dictates of Nature, without any Instruction, an appetite to Truth; and our Saviour Christ himself, when he conversed with Men, took upon him the Name of Truth, as fittest to express the whole Divine Nature: Yet We who have been conversant in the Holy Scriptures, and had read and seen what happened to all Good Men, in almost all Times, what befell the Prophets, the Apostles, the Holy Martyrs, and Christ himself, with what Disgraces, Reproaches, and Indignities they were persecuted in their Life-time, only for Truth’s sake; see, that it is not only no New or Incredible Thing, but that it is, and has been universally Received and Practiced. Nay, it might seem much more wonderful and incredible, if (b) the Father of Lies and Enemy of all Truth, the Devil, shou’d now on a sudden change his Nature, and hoping that Truth might be suppressed otherwise than by Lying, should now begin to secure his Dominion by other Arts than those which he has always used from the Beginning. For there is scarce any one Time that we read of, since the Creation, either in the Infancy, or during the Establishment, or at the Reformation of Religion, in which Truth and Innocence have not been unworthily treated and abused. For the Devil knows, that if Truth stands, he and his Kingdom must fall.
(a) Tertullian in Apologetico. (b) John 8. 44.
For to say nothing of the Patriarchs and Prophets, who, as I have told you, were never free from Contumelies and Reproaches; we know (a) there have been some that have said, and publickly preach’d, that the Ancient Jews, whom we doubt not to have been Worshippers of the Onely and True God, instead of God, worshipped a Hog or an Ass, and that their whole Religion was nothing else but Sacrilege, and a Contempt of all Gods. We know that the Son of God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ, when he taught the Truth, was esteemed as a Cheat, and an Evil-doer; (b) a Samaritan; the Prince of the Devils; a Seducer of the People; (c) a Drunkard, and a Glutton. And who knows not what Scandals were once thrown upon that diligent Preacher and vigorous Assertor of the Truth, St. Paul? One while, that he was a Seditious and Factious Person, and a Stirrer up of the People? one while an Heretick, another a Madman? and that, out of pure Haughtiness and love of Contention, he blasphemed the law of God, and despised the Rites of their Fathers? Who does not know, that (d) St. Stephen, as soon as he was thoroughly convinced of the Truth, and had begun to preach it, as it was his Duty, freely and boldly, was immediately arraigned and condemned for a wicked Blasphemer of the Law, of Moses, of the Temple, and of God? Or who can be ignorant, (e) that there was once a sort of Men that took Pains to make the Holy Scriptures appear ridiculous, by asserting that they contained in them direct Contradictions? and that the Apostles themselves differed each from the other, and Paul from all the rest? But not to be tedious in producing all that might be alledged in the present Case, (for that were an endless Work,) Who knows not what Calumnies were (f) formerly cast upon our Fathers, the first Professors of Christianity? viz. That they were Conspirators that held secret Cabals against the State, and for that reason used to assemble before it was Light? That they murdered Children, eat their Flesh, and, like Wild Beasts, drank their Blood? Lastly, That having put out the Candles, without any regard to Relation, without any sense of Modesty, without any Distinction, Brothers and Sisters, Mothers and Sons, promiscuously committed Adultery and Incest? That they were an Impious, Irreligious, Atheistical Sect, Enemies to Mankind, not fit to Live and Enjoy the Common Benefit of Light?
(a) Cornel. Tacitus. Tertul. in Apologet. c. 16. C. Plinius. (b) Joh. 8. 48. (c) Matt. 11. 19. (d) Act. 6. Epiphanius. (e) Marcian ex Tertulliano. Aelius e Lactant. (f) Eusebius, lib. 5. cap. 1. Tertul. Apolog. cap. 1, 2, 3, & 7, 8, 9.
These were the scandalous Reproaches that were at that Time thrown upon the People of God, upon our Saviour Jesus Christ, St. Paul, St. Stephen, and upon all who in the first Ages embraced the Truth of the Gospel, and were content to be known by the Then Universally hated and despised Name of Christians. And tho’ these Stories were false, yet the Devil gained his Ends, if he could at least cause them to be believed, and the Christians to be publickly hated, and generally persecuted. Hereupon, Kings and Princes, induced by Insinuations of this kind, put all the Prophets to Death; condemned Esaia to be saw’d in pieces, Jeremy to be stoned, Daniel to be devoured by Lions, Amos to be broken with an Iron Bar, Paul to die by the Sword, Christ to be crucified, all Christians in general to be imprisoned, tormented, hanged on Gibbets, thrown headlong from Rocks and Precipices, torn in pieces by Wild Beasts, and burned: They made great Heaps of their Bodies while living, and set them on fire for their Diversion, and to supply the want of Lamps by Night, and made no other account of them than as the Refuse and Off-scouring of the World. This has been the Reception which the Authors and Professors of the Truth have ever met with.
Whereupon we, as many as have taken upon us the profession of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, ought to bear it the more patiently, if we meet with the same Treatment for the same Cause; and if we now, as (a) our Fathers were before us, for no Demerit of our own, but only because we teach and profess the Truth, are persecuted with malicious, reproachful, and lying Accusations.
(a) 1. Tim. 4.
The Cry now-a-days is, that we are all Hereticks, that we have departed from the Faith, and with new Persuasions and wicked Tenets have destroyed the Union of the Church; that we have brought again from hell old Heresies, and such as have been long ago condemned, and that we do set up new Sects, and strange Enthusiasms, and are now divided into contrary Parties and Opinions, and could never any ways agree among ourselves; that we are an Impious Crew, and like the Giants of old, make War upon Heaven, and live altogether without any regard to the Worship of God. We, they say, despite all good Actions, wholly neglect virtuous Discipline, Laws, and Morality, and regard not what is Lawful, Just, Equitable, or Right; give a Loose to all manner of Wickedness, and encourage the People in all Licentiousness; that we make it our business totally to subvert all Rule and Government, and to bring all Things under the Management of the ignorant unthinking Multitude; that we have in a tumultuous manner deserted the Catholick Church, put the whole World in a Disorder by our abominable Schism, and disturbed the Common Peace and Quiet of the Church; and have now, without any just Reason, fallen off from the Bishop of Rome, as Dathan and Abiram did formerly from Moses and Aaron; that we have made light of the Authority of the Old Fathers and Ancient Councils, have rashly and presumptuously abrogated the Old Ceremonies approved of by our Fathers and Forefathers for many Ages, when both Men and Times were better; and by our own private Determination, without the Authority of any General Council, have introduced new Ceremonies into the Church: and Lastly, have done all these things, not for the sake of Religion, but out of the love of Contention: But that They, for Their parts, have made no Innovations, but for so many Ages, to this very Day, have held fast those Things which were delivered by the Apostles, and approved of by the most Ancient Fathers.
And that they might not seem wholly to rely upon private Slanders, whispered about in Corners to render us odious, the Bishops of Rome have suborned Men eloquent and not unlearned, to lend Assistance to the sinking Cause, and support it with Books and long Orations; that when it was elegantly and copiously set off, unskilful Men might be induced to think there was something in it. They saw their Cause every where decline, their Artifices now lay’d open, and less esteem’d, their Strong-holds grow daily weaker, and their Cause to stand in the utmost need of some to Patronize and Defend it. Now as for Those Things which they have alledg’d against us, part of them are manifestly false, and condemned as such in the Judgment of the very Authors of them; part of them, though they are false too, yet bear some show and colour of Truth, and an inconsiderate Reader (especially if they are backed with a fine artificial Speech) may unawares be overcome and led into an Error by them; but the rest of them are such as we ought not to be ashamed of as Crimes, but rather proud to acknowledge as well and wisely done. For, in short, the Truth is, they are so prejudiced to us and all that belongs to us, that they do not stick to find fault with even those things which They Themselves cannot deny to be well and orderly done; and, as if it were not possible for us to do any thing as we ought to do, not a Word or Action of ours escapes their Censure. They should have gone to work more openly and fairly, had they designed to have dealt sincerely. But now, without any Respect to Truth, Ingenuity, or Christianity, they, from their lurking Holes, craftily assault us with Falsehoods, and abuse the Blindness and Folly of the People, together with the Ignorance of Princes, the Persecution of us, and the Oppression of Truth. This is the Power of Darkness, and of Men who rely rather upon the Stupidity of an unskilful Multitude, and Darkness, than upon Truth and Light; and who, as St. Jerome says, shut their Eyes against the clearest Truth.
But we, God be thanked, have such a Cause, as, be our Enemies never so Inveterate, they can say nothing against, which may not be wrested against the Holy Fathers, Prophets, Apostles, St. Peter, St. Paul, and even Christ himself.
Now therefore, if they may be allowed to summon up all their Wit and Eloquence to abuse us, sure we need not be ashamed to answer truly in so good a Cause as ours. For they that can calmly hear Themselves and their Cause falsly and basely slandered, (especially when the Majesty of God, and Religion are concerned) are no better than Heathens, and Encouragers of Atheism and Blasphemy. For tho’ a Modest Man and a Christian may put up other Injuries, and great ones too; yet he that, unmoved, can bear the Brand of Heresy, is one of those whom Rufinus would not allow to be Christians. We therefore will now do what all Laws, what even the Voice of Nature call upon us to do, and what Christ himself in the like Case did, that is, Retort their Accusations, and modestly and faithfully Defend our Cause and our Innocence. For Christ, when he was accused by the Pharisees of Sorcery, as one that dealt with the Devil, and did many things by his Assistance, (a) I (says he) have not a Devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me. And St. Paul‘s Answer, when he was contemned by Festus the Pro-Consul as a Madman, was, (b) I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. And the Primitive Christians, when they were represented to the People as Murderers, Adulterers, Incestuous Persons, and Disturbers of the Common-wealth, and saw that such kind of Accusations were like to endanger the Religion they professed, (but especially if they seemed to be silent, and in a manner to confess the Crime,) lest that should hinder the Propagation of the Gospel, (c) they made Speeches, put up Petitions, spoke before Emperors and Princes, that they might publickly defend themselves and their Followers.
(a) John. 8. 49. (b) Acts. 26. 25. (c) Quadratus Justinus Melito aliique.
But We, since for these Twenty Years last past, so many Thousands of our Brethren have testified the Truth, even in the midst of the most exquisite Torments, and Princes that have endeavoured to put up a stop to the Gospel, have used all means to no Purpose, and that now almost all the World begin to open their Eyes and behold the Truth, think that our Cause has been sufficiently manifested and defended; and that since the Thing itself plainly enough speaks, there is less occasion for Words. For if the Popes either would or could but once reflect on the whole Matter, the Beginning and Progress of our Religion, how all their Undertakings, without any human Assistance, have failed; and, on the contrary, how ours, having been opposed from the very Beginning by Emperors, by so many Kings, Popes, and almost all sorts of People, have increased, and been by degrees dispersed over the whole Earth, and now at last brought even into the Courts and Palaces of Kings: These things might sufficiently prove to them, that God himself fights for us, looks down with Derision on them and their Endeavours; and that the Strength of Truth is such, that neither the Power of Man, nor the Gates of Hell, shall ever be able to prevail against it. For so many Free Cities as there are at this Day, so many Princes, so many Kings, that have separated themselves from the Church of Rome, and rather joined themselves to the Gospel of Christ, are certainly not Mad.
And tho’ the Popes have never yet had Leisure seriously and diligently to consider of these Matters; or if they are now taken up with other Business, or think that these Studies are light and trifling, and such as the Papal Dignity ought not to be concern’d in; should our Cause seem the worse on this account? Or if they do see, but will not, and rather Oppose the Truth which they cannot but Acknowledge, must we therefore be immediately taken for Hereticks, who cannot be brought to comply with them? But if Pope Pius (a) had really been the Man, we don’t say, that he wou’d appear to be, but if he had been one that had esteemed us either as his Brethren, or indeed as Men, he would have weighed our Reasons, and diligently consider’d what might be said for us, as well as against us; and not so rashly, out of a blind Prejudice, have condemned great part of the World, so many Learned and Pious Men, so many States, Kings, and Prices, in that Bull of his whereby he lately pretended a Council, without being heard, or having liberty to plead their Cause.
(a) Pius IV.
But, lest having been after this manner publickly stigmatized by him, we should, by saying nothing, seem to confess the Crime, especially since we can by no means be heard in a General Council, in which he will allow no Man a Right to give his Vote, or speak his Opinion, but who is sworn and engaged to maintain his Authority, (for that we were too well experienc’d of in the last Council of Trent, where the Ambassadors of the German Princes and Free Cities, and the Divines, were utterly excluded every Meeting. Nor can we yet forget the Julius the Third, ten Years ago, took strict Care, in his Ordinance, that none of our Men should be heard in Council, unless there should chance to be one who would make a Recantation, and change his Opinion.) For that reason, chiefly, we have thought fit to give an Account of our Faith in Writing, and truly and publickly to answer to those Things which are publickly objected against us; that all the World may see the Root and Branches of that Doctrine, for which so many good Men have laid down their Lives; and that every Body may at length understand what sort of Men they are, and what are their Sentiments of God and Religion, whom the Bishop of Rome, before ever they were call’d to plead their Cause, inconsiderately enough, without President, without Right, condemned for Hereticks, only because he had heard they differ’d from him and his in some Points of Religion.
And tho’ St. Jerome would have no Man patient under the Suspicion of Heresy; yet we will plead our Cause neither bitterly nor scoffingly; nor will we be carried away with Passion, tho’ he ought not to be accounted a Railer or a Scoffer who tells the Truth. That sort of Eloquence we freely leave to our Adversaries, who think, whatever they say against us, tho’ it be with never so much Bitterness and Reproach, modestly and properly enough spoken: whether it be true or false, is not their Concern. These Artifices are of no Use to us who defend the Truth.
But if we make it appear that the Holy Gospel, the Ancient Bishops, and the Primitive Church agree with us, and that we have not, without just Cause, departed from these Men, and returned to the Apostles and Ancient Catholick Fathers; and that we do it not obscurely or craftily, but with a good Conscience before God, truly, ingeniously, clearly, and plainly: if those very Men who shun our Doctrine, and would be called Catholicks, shall plainly see themselves divested of all those Titles of Antiquity they so much gloried in, and that there is more Force in our Cause than they were aware of: We hope there will be none of them that have so little Concern for their Salvation, as not to begin at length to consider which Side they had best betake themselves to. Certainly no Man, that is not downright obstinate and will not hear, will repent his having given heed to our Defence, and attended to what may seasonably and properly be said by us for the whole Christian Religion.
For as they call us Hereticks, that is a Crime so grievous, as unless it be plainly (a) seen with the Eyes, and handled with the Hands, ought not to be easily believed of a Christian; for Heresy is, forsaking Salvation, renouncing the Grace of God, departing from the Body and Spirit of Christ. But it has been usual and customary with them and their Forefathers, if there were any that complained of their Errors, and were for restoring Religion, to look upon them immediately as Innovators, and to condemn them for Hereticks and Factious Persons. For Christ was for no other reason called a Samaritan, but because he was thought to fall off to some New Religion, and to Heresy. And Paul the Apostle of Christ, being brought to the Barr to plead to an Accusation of Heresy, (b) I indeed (says he) after the way which they call Heresy, worship the God of my Fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and the Prophets.
(a) 1 John 1. 1. (b) Acts 24. 14.
In short, All that Religion which Christians at this day profess, was (a) in the first Ages, by the Gentiles, called a Sect and Heresy. With such Words as these they always filled the Ears of Princes; that when they, out of Prejudice, hated us, and took whatever was said by us for Faction and Heresy, they might be led aside from the Thing itself, and the Knowledge of the Cause. But the more grievous and heinous the Crime is, by so much the more strong and clear Arguments ought it to be proved; especially at this time, when Men have begun to have less Faith in their Oracles, and to enquire more strictly into their Doctrine than they are wont to do. For the People of God are otherwise instructed now, than they were formerly, when all the Popes Dictates went for Gospel, and all Religion depended only on their Authority. The (b) Holy Scriptures, the Writings of the Apostles and Prophets are now extant, from which, both all Truth and the Catholick Doctrine may be proved, and all Heresy confuted.
(a) Tertul. in Apologet. (b) 2 Tim. 3. 15.
When they produce none of these, that we should nevertheless be called Hereticks, who have fallen off neither from Christ, the Apostles, nor Prophets, is wrong, and very hard. With this Sword did Christ drive away the Devil, when he was tempted by him; with these Weapons (a) is every high thing to be cast down that exalteth itself against God. All Scripture (saith (b) St. Paul) is given by Inspiration of God, and is profitable for Doctrine, for Reproof, for Correction, for Instruction in Righteousness; that the Man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all Good Works. Thus the Holy Fathers never used any Weapons against the Hereticks, but those of the Scripture. (c) St. Augustine, when he disputed with Petilian the Donatist, cries, “Let not these Words be heard between us, Thus I say, or, Thus you say; but let us rather say, Thus saith the Lord: There let us seek the Church; by that let us examine our Cause.” And St. Jerome says, “All those Things, which, without the Testimony of the Scriptures, are asserted as delivered by the Apostles, are vanquish’d by the Sword of God.” And (d) St. Ambrose‘s Advice to Gratianus the Emperor, was, Search the Scriptures; let the Apostles, Prophets, and Christ be your Guides. For the Catholick Fathers and Bishops of that Time did not doubt but our Religion might be sufficiently proved out of the Holy Scriptures: nor did they ever dare to account any Man an Heretick, whose Error they oculd not plainly and clearly prove out of those very Scriptures. We indeed, that we may Answer in the Words of St. Paul, (e) After the way that they call Heresy, worship the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Believing all things which are written in the Law, the Prophets or Apostles.
(a) 2 Cor. 10. 5. (b) 2 Tim. 3. 16, 17. (c) De Unitate Eccles. c. 3. Eadem Sententia habetur contra Maximinum, Arianorum Episcopum, l. 3. (d) C. 14. in primum cap. Aggei. (e) Act. 24. 14.
Wherefore, if We are Hereticks, and They are (as they would be called) Catholicks, Why do not they do that which they see the Fathers and Catholick Men have always done? Why do not they convince us out of the Holy Scriptures? Why do they not try us by them? Why do not they make it appear that we have departed from Christ, the Prophets, Apostles, and Holy Fathers? What do they stick at? What are they afraid of? It is the Cause of God. Why do they scruple to trust it to the Word of God? But if We are Hereticks, who refer all our Controversies to the Holy Scriptures, and who appeal to Those very Words which we know to have the Seal of God, and prefer them to all things whatsoever that can be invented by Men; what sort of Men are They, or what can we at length call them, who are afraid to be tried by the Holy Scriptures, that is, by God himself, and have more Regard to their own Dreams and Nonsensical Comments than to Them; and for the sake of their own Traditions, have for some Ages broke through the Institutions of Christ and his Apostles? There goes a Story of Sophocles the Tragick Poet, that, when in his Old Age, he was begg’d by his own Sons for a Fool and a Madman, as one that unadvisedly squandered away the Estate of his Family, and seemed to want somebody to take Care of Him; to clear himself of that Imputation, he came into the Court, and having repeated Oedipus Coloneus, a Tragedy which he had just at the time that he was accused, very elaborately and elegantly writ, he asked the Judges boldly, whether they thought that Poem was the Product of a Distracted Brain?
We Believe, therefore, that there is some one Nature and Divine Essence, which we call God, and that this is divided into Three equal Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, of the same Power, Majesty, Eternity, Divinity, and Substance; and although these Three Persons are so Distinct, that neither the Father is Son, nor the Son Holy Ghost or Father; that These, nevertheless, are One God, and that He Alone created the Heaven and the Earth, and all that therein is.
We believe that Jesus Christ, the Onely Son of the Eternal Father, did, as it was decreed before all Beginnings, when the Fulness of Time came, take upon him Flesh, and all the Humane Nature of that Blessed and Pure Virgin, that he might Reveal to Men the secret and hidden Will of his Father, which had lain conceal’d from Ages and Generations; and that he might in a Humane Body perform the Mystery of our Redemption, and Nail to his Cross our Sins, and the Handwriting that was against us.
We Believe, that He being, for our sakes, Dead and Buried, Descended into Hell; the Third Day, by Divine Power, Rose again from the Dead, after Forty Days, whilst his Disciples looked on, Ascended into Heaven, that he might fill all things; and that he (a) placed that very Body in which he was Born, Lived, was despitefully Used, and underwent the most Exquisite Torments, and Bitter kind of Death, in which he Arose, and Ascended to the Right Hand of his Father, in Majesty and Glory, (b) Above all Principality, Power, Might and Dominion, and every Name that is named, not only in this World, but in That which is to come. That he now sits there, and will do (c) until the Times of Restitution of all things. And although the Majesty and Divinity of Christ is every where diffused; yet, that his Body (as (d) St. Augustine says) can be but in One Place: That Christ Glorified his Body, but took not from it the Nature of a Body: and that Christ is not so to be affirmed to be God, as that we may deny him to be Man: and that (as (e) Vigilius Martyr says) Christ has left us in his Humane Nature, but not in his Divine; and that (f) when he is Absent from us, under the Form of a Servant, yet he is always Present with us, under that of a God.
(a) August. Tract. 50. in Joan. (b) Eph. 1. 21. (c) Acts. 3. 21. (d) August. Tract. 30. in Joan. (e) Ad Dardan. (f) Fulgentius ad Regem Thrasymundum.
From thence, we Believe that Christ will Return to execute publick Judgment on those he shall then find Alive, and on the Dead.
We Believe the Holy Ghost, who is the Third Person in the Sacred Trinity, to be very God; not Made, nor Created, nor Begotten, but Proceeding from the Father and the Son, by some Means unknown to Men, and Inexpressible, that it is His Work to soften the Hardness of Men’s Hearts, when by the wholesome preaching of the Gospel, or some other Means, he is receiv’d into their Breasts: to Enlighten their Minds, and bring them to the Knowledge of God, into every Way of Truth, to Newness of Life, and Hope of Everlasting Salvation.
We Believe that there is One Church of God, and That not as formerly amongst the Jews, limited to some one Corner or Kingdom; but that it is Catholick and Universal, and spread over the Face of the Whole Earth; that there is now no Nation which can justly complain that it is excluded, and cannot belong to the Church and People of God: That That Church is the Kingdom, the Body, the Spouse of Christ: That Christ is the only Prince of that Kingdom, the onely Head of that Body, the only Bridegroom of that Spouse. That there are several Orders of Ministers in the Church; some Deacons, some Priests, some Bishops; to Whom the Instruction of the People, and the Care and the Administration of Religious Affairs is committed; nevertheless that no one Man is, nor can be, the Supreme Head of All: For Christ himself is always present with his Church, and has no need of any Substitute to whom his full Authority should be Delegated: and that there can be no Man that can even comprehend the Universal Church, (that is, all the Parts of the Whole Earth;) much less can put it in Order, and rightly and conveniently Govern it. That the Apostles (as (a) Saint Cyprian says) were all Equal in Power, and that the rest had the very same Commission that St. Peter had: That it was equally said to them All, Feed my Flock; to All, Go ye into all the World; to All, Preach the Gospel. And (as (b) St. Jerome says) All Bishops, wheresover they be, whether at Rome, Eugubium, Constantinople, or Reggio, have Equal Authority, have the same Priesthood. And (says St. Cyprian) the Office of a Bishop is one, the whole of which is performed by every particular Bishop. And, according to the Opinion of the Nicene Council, the Bishop of Rome has no more Authority over the Church of God, than the other Patriarchs, of Alexandria, and Antioch. But the Bishop of Rome, who now takes all upon himself, unless he Performs his Duty, unless he Administers the Sacraments, unless he Instructs the People, Admonishes and Teaches, ought not only to be reckon’d no Bishop, but even no Priest. For the Title of Bishop (as St. Augustine says) implies Business to be done, and not only Honour to be received: So that he must own himself to be no Bishop, that would only have the Command, (c) and not the Duty; but that neither He, nor any Man living, can be Head of the Church, or the Universal Bishop, any more than he can be the Bridegroom, the Light, the Salvation, the Life of the Church. For these Privileges and Titles belong properly to, and are consistent with Christ alone. Nor did ever any Bishop of Rome dare to presume to take so stately a Title upon him, before Phocas the Emperor’s time, (who, we know, impiously made his way to the Empire by the Murder of his Sovereign Mauritius the Emperor,) which was about the Six hundred and thirteenth Year after Christ’s coming. And the Council of Carthage very wisely (d) provided, that no Bishop should be styled the Supreme Bishop, or Chief Priest. Since therefore the Bishop of Rome will now be called nothing less, and assumes more Authority than belongs to him; since he acts contrary to the Ancient Fathers, and their Councils, (if he will believe his own Friend (e) Gregory,) and takes upon him an Arrogant, Prophane, Sacrilegious, and Antichristian Title; he is the King of Pride, he is Lucifer, who is not content to be Equal with his Brethren; has renounc’d the Faith, and is the Fore-runner of Antichrist.
(a) De Simplicitate Praelatorum. (b) Ad Evagrium. (c) 1. Tim. 3. 1, &c. (d) Cap. 47. (e) Gregorius, lib. 4. epist. 76, 78, 80.
We farther hold, that a Minister ought to be Lawfully Called, and Duly and Orderly Preferred to his Office in the Church of God; and that no Man has Power to take upon him the Office of the Holy Ministry at his own Pleasure. Wherefore they wrong us the more, who are ever laying to our Charge, that with us nothing is done Decently and in Order, but all in a confused and tumultuous manner; and that with us, all are Priests, all Teach, and all Interpret.
We affirm, that Christ has given to his Ministers the Power of Binding and Loosing, Opening and Shutting. And, that the Office of Absolution consists in This, that the Minister should, either by the Preaching of the Gospel, Offer, to truly Humble and Penitent Sinners, the Merits of Christ, the sure Pardon of their Sins, and hopes of Eternal Salvation; or that, upon their sincere Repentance, he should Reconcile and Restore to the Congregation and Communion of the Faithful, such as have, by any notorious and scandalous Crime, given Offence to their Brethren, and in some sort Alienated themselves from the Society of the Church, and the Body of Christ. But we say, that he exercises the Power of Binding and Shutting, as often as he shuts the Gate of the Kingdom of Heaven against the Faithless and Stubborn, and threatens them with the Vengeance of God, and Eternal Punishment; or by Publick Excommunication, drives them out of the Bosom of the Church. And God doth so well Approve of whatsoever his Ministers Determine after this Manner, that whatsoever is by their Means Loosed or Bound on Earth, the same will he Loose and Bind, and Confirm in Heaven. But the Keys that can Open and Shut the Kingdom of Heaven, We, with St. Chrysostom, call the Knowledge of the Scriptures; with Turtullian, the Interpretation of the Law; with Eusebius, the Word of God. And we say, that the Disciples of Christ received this Authority, not that they might hear the Private Confessions of the People, or listen to their Whispers, as all the Common Priests Now-a-days do, and do it after such a Manner, as if the whole Power and Use of the Keys consisted in That; but that they might Go, that they might Teach, that they might Preach the Gospel, that they might be a sweet savour of Life unto Life, to Them that Believe; unto Unbelievers and Infidels, a savour of Death unto Death; that the Minds of Pious Persons being struck with a sense of their past Life, and of their Errors, after they began to Regard the Light of the Gospel, and to Believe in Christ, might be opened by the Word of God, as a Door with a Key: But that the Impious and Stubborn, and such as would not Believe and Return to the Right Way, might, as it were, be kept Locked and Shut up, and go on, as (a) St. Paul says, waxing worse and worse. This we think is the meaning of the Keys; and that it is after This Manner that Mens Consciences are opened and shut. We say that the Priest is indeed a Judge in This Case, but that he has no right to claim any Authority, as (b) St. Ambrose says: And therefore Christ Rebuked the Scribes and Pharisees for their Carelessness in Teaching, in these Words, (c) Woe unto ye, says he, Scribes and Pharisees; for ye have taken away the Key of Knowledge, and (d) shut the Kingdom of Heaven against Men. And since the Key, by which the Way to the Kingdom of God is opened to us, be the Word of the Gospel, and the Interpretation of the Law and the Scriptures; where the Word is not, there we Deny the Key to be: and since one Word is given to us All, and we All have one Key, we affirm that the Power of all Ministers, as to Opening or Shutting, is but one. We Deny even the Pope himself, notwithstanding his Flatterers Please him with These Words, (e) I will give unto Thee the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, as if they were His alone, and no Man else had any Right to them, to Open and Shut, or to have the Keys at all, unless he make it his care, that Mens Consciences may become flexible, and yield to the Word of God. And though he do Teach and Instruct the People, as would to God he would once to do as he ought, and persuade himself that it is some Part at least of his Duty so to do, yet we deny his Key to be either better in any respect, or of some more force than other Men’s. For who Chose him out from among the rest? Who Taught him to be more expert at Opening, or to Absolve better than his Brethren?
(a) 2 Tim. 3. 13. (b) De Poeniten. Dist. 1, 6. Verbum Dei. (c) Luke 11. 52. (d) Matth 23. 13. (e) Matth 16. 19.
We hold Matrimony, in all States and Conditions of Men, in the Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Holy Martyrs, and in the Ministers and Bishops of the Church, to be both Sacred and Honourable; and that, as (a) St. Chrysostom says, It is, both in Law and Equity, consistent with the Episcopal Dignity; and that, as St. (b) Sozomen says of Spiridion, and Nazianzene of his own Father, Marriage does not render a Devout and Diligent Bishop the Less, but rather the More capable of doing Good in the Service of the Ministry. And that That Law which deprives Men, by force of their Liberty in This Case, and obliges them, against their Will, to a Single Life, is, as St. Paul says, (c) The Doctrine of Devils; and that from thence, as the Bishop of Augusta, Faber, Abbas Panormitanus, Latomus, the Tripartite Work which is annexed to the Second Volume of the Councils, and others of the Pope’s own Champions; the very thing itself, and all Histories, acknowledge, an incredible Licentiousness of Life and Corruption of Manners in the Ministers of God, and the most detestable Enormities have followed. And it was rightly said by Pius (d) the Second Bishop of Rome, that he saw many Reasons why Priests should be Forbid Marriage, but Many More, and much more Weighty ones, why they should be Allowed it.
(a) in Titum primo, hom. 11. (b) Theoph. ad Titum. 10. cap. 5. In monodia sua super Basilium. (c) 1. Tim. 4. 1, 3. (d) Platina. in Pii 2di. Vita.
We Receive and Embrace all the Canonical Scriptures both of the Old and New Testament. And we Thank God that he has raised us up a Light, which we might ever have before our Eyes, lest, by the Subtilty of Man, or the Snares of the Devil, we should be led into Errors and Falshoods. We declare them to be the Voice from Heaven, by which God makes known his Will to us; that in them alone Men can find Rest unto their Souls; that in them, as Origen, St. Augustine, St. Chrysostom, and Cyril have taught us, are fully comprehended all things necessary to Salvation; that they are the (a) Power of God unto Salvation; the Foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, on which the Church of God is built; that They are the most sure Rule by which we may Try whether it Wavers or Errs, and to which all Ecclesiastical Doctrine ought to be accountable; that against them no Law, Ordinance, or Custom whatsoever ought to be heard; nay, tho’ St. Paul himself, or an (b) Angel from Heaven, should come and preach any other Gospel.
(a) Rom. 1. 16. (b) Gal. 1. 8.
We Receive the Sacraments of the Church, that is to say, certain sacred Signs and Ceremonies, which Christ has commanded us to use, that by Them, he might set forth unto us the Mysteries of our Salvation, more strongly confirmed the Faith which we have in his Blood, and seal his Grace in our Hearts. And these, we, with Tertullian, Origen, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. Jerome, St. Chrysostom, St. Basil, Dionysius, and the rest of the Catholick Fathers, call Figures, Signs, Badges, Types, Antitypes, Forms, Seals, Signets, Similitudes, Patterns, Representations, Remembrances, and Memoirs.
Nor do we scruple to say also with them that these are certain visible Words, Seals of Justice, Tokens of Grace. And we do expressly declare that the Body and Blood of our Lord are verily and indeed given to the Faithful, in the Lord’s Supper; the Flesh of the Son of God Quickning our Souls, Meat from Heaven, the Food of Immortality, Grace, Truth, and Life; and that it is the Communion of the Body and Blood of Christ, by Partaking of which, we are Quickned, Strengthned, and Fed unto Immortality, and by which we are Joined, United, and Incorporated with Christ, so that we may Abide in Him, and He in us.
We further Acknowledge, that there are Two Sacraments properly so called; Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord. For so many we see delivered to us, and hallowed by Christ, and approv’d of by the Ancient Fathers, St. Ambrose, and St. Augustine.
And that Baptism is the Sacrament of the Remission of Sins, of that Washing which we have in Christ’s Blood; and that it is not to be denied to any Body that will profess the Name of Christ; not even to the Infants of Christians, forasmuch as they are Born in Sin, and do belong to the People of God.
We declare the Lord’s Supper to be a Sacrament, that is to say, an Outward and Visible Sign of the Body and Blood of Christ, wherein the Death of Christ, and his Resurrection, and whatsoever he did in the Flesh, is, in a manner, set before our Eyes; that we may give Thanks for his Death, and our Salvation; and, by the Frequent Receiving of the Sacraments, may continue a Lively sense of it in our Minds; that we may be Nourished with the Body and Blood of Christ, unto the Hope of a Resurrection and Eternal Life; and may most assuredly Believe that our Souls are Fed with the Body and Blood of Christ, as our Bodies are with the Bread and Wine. That to this Feast the People should be Invited, that they may Communicate amongst themselves, and publickly declare and testify both the Society that is among them, and the Hope which they have in Christ Jesus: Therefore such as would only Look on, and refuse to Partake of the Holy Communion, (a) the Ancient Fathers, and Romish Bishops in the Primitive Church, before there was any such Thing as Private Mass, Excommunicated as Heathens, and Reprobates. Nor was there any Christian at that Time who Communicated alone, whilst others looked on. And so (b) Calixtus formerly Decreed, that after the Consecration, all should Communicate, unless they had rather keep without the Church-Doors; For this, says he, (c) was the Command of the Apostles, and the holy Church of Rome keeps it: And that the Sacrament should be given in Both Kinds to all that came to the Communion; for so Christ commanded, the Apostles every where ordained, (d) and all the Ancient Fathers, and Catholick Bishops have followed their Example. And if any one does otherwise, he, says Gelasius, is guilty of Sacrilege. And therefore do we now accuse our Adversaries of Impiety and Sacrilege, who having quite cast off, and forbid the Communion, without the Word of God, without the Authority of any Ancient Council, without any Catholick Father, without the Example of the Primitive Church, and without any Reason, defend their Private Masses, and the maiming of the Sacraments; and do all this not only contrary to the express Command of Christ, but also in Opposition to all Antiquity.
(a) Chrysost. ad. Ephes. Ser. 3. de Cons. Dist. 1. Cap. omnes. (b) Dist. 2. Cap. Seculares. (c) De Cons. Dist. 2. Cap. per Acta. (d) De Cons. dist. 1. Cap. Comperimus.
The Bread and Wine, we affirm to be Holy and Heavenly Mysteries of the Body and Blood of Christ; and that in Them, Christ himself, the True Bread of Eternal Life, is so present with us, that, by Faith we do Verily and Indeed Take and Receive his Body and Blood: Not that we Believe the Nature of the Bread and Wine to be changed and to vanish quite away, as many in these latter Days have Dreamed, and could never yet agree amongst themselves about it; for Christ never designed that the Wheaten Bread should lay aside its own Nature, and invest itself with a kind of New Divinity; but rather that it might change us, and, as (a) Theophylact words it, might Transform us into his Body. What can be more plain than that Saying of St. Ambrose, (b) The bread and Wine are what they were, and yet are changed into something else? Or that of (c) Gelasius, Neither the Substance of the Bread, nor the Nature of the Wine cease to be: Or of (d) Theodoret, After the Consecration the Mystical Signs do not cast off their own Nature; for they remain in their former Substance, Form, and Kind. Or of St. Augustine (e), That which you see is Bread and Wine, and is manifest to the sight; but as your Faith would understand it, the Bread is the Body of Christ, the Wine his Blood: Or of Origen (f), That Bread which is sanctified by the Word of God, as to the Material Substance of it, goeth into the Belly, and is cast out into the Draught. Or what Christ said, not only after the Consecration, but after the Administration too, of the Cup, (g) I will not drink any more of the Fruit of the Vine? For it is manifest that Wine, not Blood, is the Fruit of the Vine. Nor yet do say these things with an intent to make light of the Lord’s Supper, as if there were nothing in it but a dull Ceremony, which many of our Enemies falsly alledge against us. For we affirm Christ to be really and truly present in the Sacraments; in Baptism, that we may put him on; in his Supper, that we may by Faith and Spirit eat him, and from his Blood and Cross may have everlasting Life: And this we affirm to be done, not slightly and ineffectually, but in Truth and Reality. For though we have not Christ actually between our Teeth, yet we have him and eat him by Faith, by Understanding, and Spirit. And that is no empty Faith which comprehends Christ; nor that Devotion cool, that receives him with Understanding, Faith, and Spirit. For Christ is so wholly and satisfactorily offered and given to us in those holy Mysteries, that we thoroughly know our selves to be Flesh of his Flesh, Bone of his Bone, and that Christ dwelleth in us, and we in him.
(a) In Joan. cap. 6. (b) De sacra: lib. 4. cap. 4. (c) In Dialog. 1. & 2. (d) In Sermo: ad Infantes. (e) De Cons. dist. 2. cap. manducant. (f) In Mat. 19. (g) Luke 22. 18.
Therefore in performing these Holy Mysteries, the People are, with good Reason (a), exhorted, before they come to the Holy Communion, to lift up their Hearts, and to direct their Minds to Heaven; because he is there from whom we must receive Lift and Nourishment. And St. Cyril tells us, that when we are about to receive these Holy Mysteries, we must banish all gross Imaginations. And the Council of Nice, as some produce it in Greek, plainly warns us, that we do not meanly set our Affections on the Objects of Bread and Wine. And we, according to St. Jerome, liken the Body of Christ to a dead Carcase, and our selves to Eagles, thereby meaning, that we must soar aloft if we would approach the Body of Christ. For this is a Feast for Eagles, not for Jays. This Bread, says (b) St. Cyprian, is Food for the Soul, not for the Body. And says (c) St. Augustine, How shall I hold him who is absent? How can I reach my Hand up to Heaven, and lay hold on him that sitteth there? Reach thither thy Faith, says he, and thou hast hold on him.
(a) De Consect. Dist. 1. cap. Quando. (b) De Coena Domini. (c) In Joan. Tract. 52.
But our Church cannot bear with this Buying and Selling of Masses, the Procession, and Adoration of the Bread, and several other such Follies which are both Idolatrous and Blasphemous, and which cannot be proved to have been delivered to us by Christ and his Apostles: And we justly censure the Popes of Rome, who after a new Fashion, without the Authority of the Word of God, or of the Holy Fathers, without any Precedent, except the Persians Fire, or the Relicks of Isis, do not only bring forth the Sacramental Bread to be Worshiped and Adored, (a) but cause it to be carried before them upon a pacing Nag, whenever they have a mind to take a Journey of Pleasure; so exposing the Sacraments of Christ as a Show and solemn Sight, and rendering that, whereby the Death of Christ ought to be inculcated into our Hearts, and the Mysteries of our Redemption celebrated with all Holiness and Reverence, nothing but a mad Spectacle and an idle Pastime for the People. And besides tell, which sometimes silly credulous People are seduced to believe, that They are able, by their Masses, to bestow upon and apply to any Man (oftentimes to such as neither think, nor apprehend any thing of the Matter) all the Merits of Christ’s Death, which is no less Heathenish than silly and Ridiculous. For it is our Faith alone that applies to us the Death and Cross of Christ, and not the Act of the Priest: It is Faith in the Sacraments, says (b) St. Augustine, not the Sacraments, that justifies. And, says Origen, Christ is the Priest, the Propitiation, and the Sacrifice; which Propitiation comes to every one through Faith. (c) And by this means we affirm that, without Faith, the Sacraments of Christ are of no Benefit to the Living; much less to the Dead. (d) As for their Purgatory, they so much brag on, though we know it is no new Invention; yet it is but a silly Notion, and no other than an old Woman’s Fable. (e) St. Augustine, indeed, once says there is such a Place; one while he does not deny but that it may be; another while he makes a Doubt of it; another, he positively declares against it, in imputes the Errour to a natural Kindness Men have for their Friends deceased. But yet the Priests have reaped so plentiful a Harvest from this one Errour, that Masses being exposed to publick Sale in all Places, the Temples of God are again become the Seats of the Money-Changers, and poor deluded Wretches were made to think it the most gainful Merchandise that a Man can trade in; as, indeed it was to the Priests.
(a) Libro de Ceremoniis Ecclesiae Romanae. (b) Ad Roman. lib. 3. cap. 3. (c) August. in. Psal. 85. in Enchiridio. cap. 6, 7. (d) De Civitate Dei, lib. 11. cap. 26. (e) Contra Pelagianos, lib. hipognosticon, 5.
Of the multitude of vain and empty Ceremonies, we are sensible how grievously (a) St. Augustine complain’d in his Time. And therefore we have left off a great many of them, which we knew then to be burdensome to the Consciences of Men, and to the Church of God.
(a) Ad Joan. Epist. 119.
Nevertheless we keep and esteem not onely Those which we know to have been delivered down to us from the Apostles; but also some others, which we thought might be allowed of without any Offence to the Church: Because we had a mind that in a Holy Congregation All things might, according to (a) St. Paul‘s Command, be done decently and in order. But all such as we found to be very superstitious, or needless, ridiculous or unseemly, contradictory to the Holy Scriptures, or offensive to sober and discreet Persons, of which there is an infinite Number now in use amongst those of the Church of Rome, we have without any Exception utterly rejected: We would not have the Worship of God any longer defiled with such kind of Fooleries.
(a) 1. Cor. 14. 40.
We make our Prayers, as is fitting, in a Language understood by the whole Congregation; that the People may, as (a) St. Paul advises, receive Common Benefit from the Common-Prayer: As all the Holy Fathers and Catholick Bishops both in the Old and New Testament, prayed themselves, and taught the People, lest, as St. Augustine says, we seem, like Jays and Parrots, to speak what we our selves do not understand.
(a) 1 Cor. 14.
We have no other Mediator to make Intercession for us to God the Father, but Jesus Christ, in whose Name alone we have all our Petitions granted of the Father. And it is a shameful and down-right Heathenish Practice, which we see every where in the Churches of our Churches of our Adversaries, not only to have a great many Mediators, and that without the least Authority from the Word of God (so that, as (a) Jeremiah says, the Number of Saints equals, if not exceeds, that of Cities, and poor Wretches do not know which they had best to apply themselves to: And though they are innumerable, yet These People assign every one his peculiar Office and Duty, what they are to ask, what to give, and what to bring to pass:) But also (b) impudently as well as impiously to call upon the Virgin-Mother to remember she is a Mother, to lay her Commands upon her Son, and to use her Authority over him.
(a) Jer. 2. 28. and 11. 13. (b) Bernardus.
We say that Man is born, and lives, in Sin; that no one can truly say his Heart is clean; but that the most righteous Man amongst us is an unprofitable Servant; that the Law of God is perfect, and requires of us a full perfect Obedience; that it is impossible for us to fulfil it in this Life; and that no Man upon the Face of the Earth can be justified in the Sight of God by his own Merits; and therefore that the Mercy of our Father, through Jesus Christ, is our only Refuge, and to be firmly persuaded that He is the Propitiation for our Sins; that by his Blood all our Spots are washed away; that he has set all things right by the Blood of his Cross, that he by That one Sacrifice which he once offered upon the Cross fulfilled all things, and upon that account, when he gave up the Ghost, said, (a) It is finished: As if he would signify, that the Ransom was fully paid for the Sins of Mankind.
(a) John 19. 30.
If there be any that think This Sacrifice not sufficient, let them go, in God’s Name, and seek a better. We knowing this to be the only one, are content with it, and expect no other: We know that it was to be but once offered, and therefore do not command it to be renewed; that it was complete in all Points, and therefore do not ordain a continual Succession of Offerings.
But though we forbid any the least Dependance on our own Works and Merits, and lay the whole Grounds of our Salvation upon Christ alone, yet we do not thereby encourage a loose and dissolute Life; as if to be Baptized only, and to Believe, were enough for any Christian, and there were nothing else required of him: True Faith is Lively, and cannot be idle.
Thus therefore we instruct the People, that God hath not called us to Luxury and Wantonness; but, as (a) St. Paul says, unto Good Works, that we should walk in them: that he hath delivered us from the Power of Darkness; that we should serve the Living God, should clear our selves of the Dregs of Sin, and Work out our own Salvation with Fear and Trembling, that it may appear that the Spirit of Sanctification is in our Bodies, and that Christ himself, by Faith, dwelleth in our Hearts.
(a) Ephes. 2. 10.
These are those dreadful Heresies, for which the Pope, at this Day, condemns great part of the World unheard. His Suit should rather have been commenced against Christ, the Apostles, and the Holy Fathers; for these Things did not only proceed from them, but it was by them also that they were ordained; unless these Men will tell us (as perhaps they will) that Christ never instituted the Holy Communion to be distributed amongst the Faithful; or that the Apostles of Christ, and the Holy Father, said Private Mass in every Corner of the Temples ten or twenty times a Day; or that Christ and his Apostles forbid all the Laity the Sacrament of his Blood; or that what they do at this Day every-where practice (and so that they condemn every one for an Heretick that does otherwise) is not called Sacrilege, by Gelasius one of their own Doctors; or that these be not the very Words of St. Ambrose St. Augustine, Gelasius, Theodoret, St. Chrysostom, and Origen; The Bread and Wine in the Sacraments remain the same they were. That which you see upon the Holy Table is Bread; The Substance of the Bread, and the nature of the Wine, do not cease to be; the Bread does not change its Nature and Substance: The same Bread, as to the Material Substance of it goes into the Belly, and is cast out into the Draught. Or that Christ, his Apostles, and the Holy Fathers did not Pray in a Tongue that was understood of the People; or that Christ did not, by that Sacrifice of himself once made, fulfil all Things; or that That Sacrifice was imperfect, and that we have now need of another. All these Things they must of Necessity say, unless they will rather choose to say, that all Law and Right is locked up in the Treasury of the Pope’s breast; and that, as (a) one of his Creatures did not stick to say formerly, he can dispense against the Apostles, a Council, and the Canons of the Apostles; and that he is not subject to the Examples, Institutions, and Laws of Christ.
(a) Dist. 36. lector in Glossa dist. 81. Presbyter.
These Things we learned from Christ, the Apostles, and the Holy Fathers, and do sincerely and conscientiously teach the same to the People; for which Reason we are now styled Hereticks, by the Head of the Church, forsooth.
Good God! Have then Christ himself, the Apostles, and so many Fathers, altogether erred? Have Origen, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. Chrysostom, Gelasius, and Theodoret, all been Deserters of the Catholick Faith? Was so great a Consent of so many ancient Bishops and learned Men, nothing else but a Conspiracy of Hereticks? Or is that which was laudable in them, now condemned in us? And is that which was in them accounted Catholick, the Affections of Men only being changed, suddenly become Schismatical? Or shall that which was formerly an undoubted Truth, now all on a sudden, because it don’t please them, become false? Let them produce another Gospel then, or show some Reason why those Rites and Ceremonies, which have so long been publickly observed and approved of in the Church of God, should now at last be recall’d. We are very sensible that That same Word which was Revealed by Christ, and Propagated by his Apostles, is sufficient for our Salvation, and for the Defence of all Truth, and the confounding of all heresy. By that alone we condemn all kind of ancient Heresies, which they say we have fetch’d again from Hell. We pronounce damnation against the Arians, Eutychians, Marcionites, Ebionites, Valentinians, Carpocratians, Tatians, Novatians, and in one word, all that have any wicked Notion either of God the Father, Christ, the Holy Ghost, or any other Point of the Christian Religion; because we can confute them from the Gospel of Christ, and do defy them to the Gates of Hell: And not only so, but if they happen to break out any-where, and betray themselves, we do strictly and severely restrain them by lawful and Civil Punishments. We confess indeed that there have been, even from the very beginning of the Gospel, some new and strange Sects stirring, such as the Anabaptists, Libertines, Mennonians, Zwenkfeldians. But thank God, the World may plainly see, that these Monsters are not of our Breeding, Educating, or Nourishing. Be so kind, whoever thou art that suspects it, as to read our Books; they are to be bought any-where. What was there ever in any of our Writings, that could be made to appear to favour their Madness? I say, there is no Nation at this Day so free from such kind of Pestilences as these, where the Gospel is freely and publickly Preached. So that if they seriously consider the Matter, this is a strong Argument that it is the Truth of the Gospel which we preach: For Tares are seldom known to spring up where there is no Wheat, nor is Chaff found where there is no Grain. Who is ignorant of what an infinite Number of Heresies sprang up all together at the first Propagation of the Gospel, even in the Apostles Times? And before that, who ever heard of Simon, Menander, Saturninus, Basilides, Carpocrates, Cerinthus, Ebion, Valentinus, Secundus, Marcosius, Colorbasius, Heracleo, Lucianus, Severus? But to what Purpose do I mention those? Epiphanius reckons up Fourscore several Heresies, St. Augustine more, that sprang up all at once, at the same time with the Gospel. What then? Was the Gospel e’er the less Gospel, because some Heresies sprang up at the same Time with it? Or was Christ for That Reason not Christ?
Nevertheless We have not, as I said, so great a Crop of them amongst us, who openly and freely teach the Gospel. It is amongst our Adversaries, in Darkness and Obscurity, that these Plagues arise and get ground, where Truth is Cruelly and Tyrannically oppressed, and not suffered to appear but in Corners, and in private Meetings. Let them put it to the trial; let them but give a Free Course to the Gospel, let the Truth of Jesus Christ shine out and disperse its Rays over the whole Earth; they will presently see those Clouds immediately vanish before the Light of the Gospel, as the Darkness of the Night at the Rising of the Sun. For we, it is plain, daily suppress and expel those Heresies, which they falsly accuse us of favouring and supporting, whilst they lie still, and give themselves up to their Ease.
But since they are so ready to tell us of being divided into several Sects, and how some of us will be called Lutherans, some Zuinglians, &c. and that we could never yet agree amongst our selves about the Sum of our Doctrine? What would they have said, if they had lived in the First Ages of the Apostles, and Holy Fathers? When one cried I am of Paul; another, I of Cephas; another, I of Apollos; when Paul rebuked Peter; when Barnabas fell out with Paul, and left him; when, as Origen says, there were so many different Sects amongst Christians, that they had nothing but the Name of Christians common amongst them, nor any thing else whereby they might be distinguished to be Christians: And, as Socrates says, their Factions and Divisions were become the Subject of the Theatres: And when, as the Emperor Constantine mentions, there were so many Parties and Quarrels in the Church, that That was by far the greatest Calamity he ever knew: When Theophilus, Epiphanius, St. Chrysostom, St. Augustine, Ruffinus, St. Jerome, being all Christians, all Fathers, and all Catholicks, were inveterate and implacable Enemies: When, as Nazianzene says, the Members of the same Body destroyed one another: When the Eastern and Western Churches were at Variance about the Leavened Bread, and the observing of Easter, Matters of no very great Consequence: When, in every Council, New Creeds and New Orders were invented? What would these Men have said then? Which Party would they chiefly have sided with? Whom would they have forsaken? What Gospel would they have given Credit to? Whom would they have esteemed Hereticks, and whom Catholicks? What a Disturbance is there now about the two Names only of Luther and Zuinglius? Because These Two Men yet differ about some one Point of Religion, must We therefore judge them both to be in the wrong, neither of them to have the Gospel, or to preach true Doctrine?
But, O good God, what sort of Men are These that thus severely censure our Differences? Do they all agree so well among themselves? Are every one of Them agreed in what they shall follow? Have there never been any Animosities, nor any Cavils amongst Them? Why then do the Scotists and Thomists agree no better about their Meritum congrui and Meritum condigni, about Original Sin in the Blessed Virgin, and a solemn and single Vow? Why do the Canonists and Schoolmen differ about Auricular Confession, whether it be of Humane or Divine Institution? Why does Albertus Pighius differ from Cajetanus, Thomas from Lombard, Scotus from Thomas, Ochamus from Scotus, their Nominals from their Reals? To say nothing of the (a) many Differences amongst the Monks and Friars (how some of them place all their Religion in living upon Fish, others upon Herbs; some in wearing of Shoes, some of Sandals; some in going in Linnen, others in Woollen; how some of them are called White, some Black; some shaved broader, some narrower; some wear Pattens, some go barefoot; some Girt, and some not:) They ought to consider, how some of them hold that the Body of Christ is present in the Lord’s Supper naturally; and some of them deny it; how some of them affirm that the Body of Christ is actually broken between the Teeth in the Holy Communion; others again say no; some declare the Body of Christ to be perfect, as to its Quantity in the Sacrament; others again contradict it; some say that Christ consecrated with a certain Divine Power, others by Blessing; some (b) by Pronouncing Five solemn Words, others by Repeating the same Five Words; some by the Demonstrative [Hoc] in those Five Words understand the Wheaten Bread, others will have it a certain Individuum Vagum, as they call it (c); some say that Dogs and Mice may really eat the very Body of Christ, others positively deny it; some will have it that the Accidents of the Bread and Wine may nourish (d), others are of opinion that the Substance of them returns. What need there any more Instances? It would be needless and tedious to recite them all. So uncertain and liable to Disputes is the whole Scheme of These Mens Religion and Doctrine, even amongst Themselves, the First Founders and Propagators of it. They scarce ever have any Agreement amongst themselves, unless it be, like the Pharisees and Saducees, or Herod and Pilate, in Former Times, to conspire against Christ.
(a) Ste. Gardinerus in sophistica Diaboli. Richard. Faber. Recantatio Berengarii, Schola & Glossa Gnimundus. De Consec. dist. 2. Ego Beren. (b) Thomas. (c) Gardiner. (d) De Consec. dist. 2. Species Gloss.
Let them therefore go about their own Business, and settle Peace at home among Themselves. Unity and Concord is certainly most agreeable to Religion. Though That is not always an infallible Sign of the Church of God. For there was the most firm Agreement amongst those that worshipped the Golden Calf, and amongst them who with one Voice cried out against our Saviour Jesus Christ, Crucify him, Crucify him. Nor can it be said, that, because the Corinthians had some Differences amongst themselves, or because Paul and Peter, Barnabas and Paul, and other Christians, disagreed a little about some Points in the very Infancy of the Gospel, they therefore had not the Church of God amongst them. They whom these Men out of Malice call Zuinglians and Lutherans (but are indeed Good Christians, Friends, and Brethren,) do not disagree about the Principles or Fundamentals of our Religion, about God, about Christ, the Holy Ghost, the Means of Justification, or Eternal Life; but only about one Question, which is of no great moment neither. Nor do we despair, or in the least doubt, but that we shall see it agreed on in a very short Time: And that, if there be any that entertain other Notions than are Right, God will so Reveal the Truth unto them, that, all Affections and Distinctions being laid aside, examining and weighing the whole Matter with more Judgment, as it was formerly in the Council of Chalcedon, all the Causes and Seeds of Dissention will be utterly Rooted out and Buried for ever
αμνησίαι, in Oblivion. Which God Almighty grant.
But it is very hard we should be represented as Reprobates, that have cast off all Thoughts of Religion; though we ought not to be much moved at it, since the very Authors of the Scandal themselves know it to be a false Reproach. For we call Justin Martyr to witness, that at the First Preaching of the Gospel, and Professing of the Name of Christ, the Christians were call’d
άθεοι, Atheists. And when Polycarp was brought to Judgment, the People urged the Proconsul to cut off All who professed the Gospel, in These Words, (a)
αιρε τως αθηως, Rid us of these wicked People, that have no God. Not that the Christians in Reality had no God, but because they would not worship Sticks and Stones, the then fashionable Deities. It is now manifest enough to all the World, how We, and those that belong to us, have suffered by them for God onely and our Religion. They have cast us into Prisons, into Water, and into Fire, and they have wallowed in our Blood; not because we were Adulterers, Robbers, or Murderers; but only because we acknowledg’d the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and trusted in the Living God; and because we too justly (God knows) complained that the Laws of God were violated for their own vain Traditions; and that our Adversaries wilfully and obstinately condemned the Commandments of God, opposed the Gospel, and were Enemies to the Cross of Christ.
(a) Euseb. Lib. 4. cap. 15.
Wherefore, when they found that they could not with Justice alledge any thing against our Doctrine, they were resolv’d to pick a Quarrel with our Morals: They accused us of condemning all good Actions, of letting in all Licentiousness and Sensuality, and of seducing the People from all Virtuous Inclinations. And the Truth is, such is, and ever has been, the Life of all, even of Religious Men and Good Christians, that one might always find something wanting even in the very Best and Purest Conversation: And we are all so prone to Evil, so inclinable to Suspicion, that not only Those things which were never done, but even such as never once enter’d into he Thoughts of Men, are hearkened to and Believed to be True. And, as a small Stain is easily discern’d in the Whitest Garment, so is the least Failure soon taken notice of in a Man of the Purest Life and Conversation. Nor do we take all those, that do at this Time embrace the Doctrine of the Gospel, for Angels, Lambs without Blemish and without Spot: Or our Adversaries to be so Blind, but that if there be any Fault to be found in us, they will spy it with half an Eye; or so favourable, as to make the best of any thing; or so ingenuous, as to look at home, and weigh our Behaviour by their own. If we would search into the Matter, we know that even in the Apostle’s Time there were Christians upon whose account the Name of the Lord was Blasphemed and Reviled among the Gentiles.
Constantius the Emperour complains, as we read in Sozomen (a), that there were many, who, after they had embraced the Christian Religion, grew worse and worse. And St. Cyprian, in a melancholy Oration, sets forth the Corruption of that Age. The Discipline, says he, which the Apostles left us, was corrupted with Idleness and a long Rest. Every one’s care was to increase his Estate, and quite forgetting either what the Believers had done in the Apostles Days, or what it was always their Duty to do, they gave themselve sup to an insatiable Covetousness, and laboured for nothing but to get Wealth. There was no Devotion in their Priests, no sound Faith in their Ministers, no Charity show’d in Good Works, nor so much as the Form of Godliness in their Behaviour. Effeminacy in the Men, counterfeit Beauty in the Women. And before him, Tertullian; What Wretches, says he, are we who are now called Christians! we practice Heathenism under the Name of Christianity.
(a) De Lapsis.
But amidst their spiteful and malicious Reflections upon us, do they never think of looking at home? Can we who find leisure to pry into the Affairs of Germany and England, at such a distance, either forget, or be ignorant how matters go at Rome? Are we accused by Those, whose own Lives a man cannot mention without a Blush?
It is not our Intention at Present, to Revive the Memory of those Crimes which ought rather to be buried and forgotten with their Authors; that is not consistent either with our Religion, with our Modesty, or with the Regard we have to Decency. But surely, (a) He who will be call’d the Vicar of Christ and the Head of the Church, who hears, who sees, and (for we will say no more) who suffers These Things at Rome, may easily Reflect on the Nature of them. Let him Recollect himself; let him Remember that They are his own Canonists who taught the People that simple Fornication is no Sin; as if they had taken Terence for Gospel, where Mitio speaks to this effect, Non est peccatum mihi crede, adolescentulum scortari, It is no fault, Believe me, for a young Man to follow Mistresses. Let him consider, They were Men of his Religion, who Decreed that a Priest should not be suspended for Fornication. Let him Remember that Cardinal Compegius, Albertus Pighius, and many others of his own sort, taught that the Priest that keeps a Miss, leads a much more holy and chaste Life, than he that marries a Wife. It is to be hoped he has not forgot that there are many thousand Courtesans in Rome, and that he receives from them the yearly Tribute of Three Thousand Ducats. He cannot forget the lewd Houses which he himself Publickly maintains in Rome, and the filthy Gain, with which he most shamefully serves his own Pleasures. Were Religion and Piety then entirely safe at Rome, when (b) Joan, a Woman more advanced in Years than Virtue, was Pope, and took upon her to be Head of the Church? And when for having, two Years together, in possession of the Holy Chair, prostituted herself, she was at last, going in Procession round the City, in the Presence of her Cardinals and Bishops, Publickly delivered of a Child, in the open Streets?
(a) Johannes de Magistris, de Temperantia 3. Quaest. 7. lata extra de Bigamis. Quia circa. (b) Statua ejusdem foeminae parturientis adhuc Roma est.
But to what purpose did we mention Courtesans and Procurers? that is now a Common and Publick, and Gainful Sin in Rome. The Ladies of Pleasure are not kept at that distance now as they were formerly, when they were forced to lie perdue (a) in the Suburbs hooded and muffled up; (b) but they dwell in Palaces, appear in all Publick Places Barefaced, as if they were not only a Lawful, but a Commendable Way of Living. In short, the whole World is by This Time well acquainted with their Licentiousness. (c) St. Bernard, with equal Freedom and Truth, speaks thus of the Pope and his Family: Thy Court, says he, Receives Good Men, but makes none such. There Vice thrives and flourishes, and Virtue starves. And the Author of the Tripartite Work annexed to the Council of Lateran, whoever he was, writes thus; To such a height is the Luxury of the Clergy in general, not only of the Priests, but even of the Prelates and Bishops at This Day arrived, as it would astonish one to hear of.
(a) Gen. 38. 14, 15. (b) In concilio delectorum Cardinalium, tom. 3. (c) De consideratione in Eugenium.
But These Things are not only grown into Use, and so by long Practice and Custom approved of (as all the rest of their Actions in a manner are) but they are now also old and stale. For who has not heard of the wicked Design (a) of Peter Aloisius, Son to Paul the Third, against Cosmus Cherius Bishop of Fanum? What John Casa Archbishop of Beneventum, the Pope’s Legate at Venice, has writ of a most abominable Wickedness, and set forth with the most filthy and lewd Eloquence, that which ought not to be once named amongst us? Who has not heard how (b) Alphonsus Diazius, a Spaniard, being sent from Rome into Germany for that purpose, impiously and villanously murdered his own Brother John Diazius, a Man of a most holy and exemplary Life, only because he had embraced the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and would not Return to the Church of Rome? But such Crimes as these, they say, may sometimes happen in the very Best Governed Commonwealth, even against the Will of the Magistrates; and are avenged by wholesome Laws.
(a) Johan. Sleidan, lib. 19. (b) Johan. Sleidan, lib. 17. A. 1546.
We grant it; but what good Laws have been put in Execution against These Villanies? Peter Aloisius having been guilty of that detestable Fact beforementioned, was ever after after the Darling Favourite of his Father Paul the Third. Diazius having Murdered his own Brother, was by the Pope himself screened from the Severity of good Laws. John Casa, Archbishop of Beneventum, is yet living, nay, and at Rome too, in the Presence of the most Holy Father. Infinite Numbers of our Brethren have fallen Sacrifices to their Fury, only because they have truly and sincerely Believed in Christ Jesus. But of that Prodigious Multitude of Lewd Women, Whoremongers, and Adulterers, what one have they, I do not say, put to death, but either excommunicated, or so much as offered to make an Example of? Are Rioting, Adultery, Procuring, Whoredom, Parricide, Incest, and other more abominable Practices, no Crimes at Rome? or if they are, can they be so easily, so calmly born, as if there were no Crime in them at all, by the Vicar of Christ, by the Successor of St. Peter, by the most Holy Father, and that too in the City of Rome, in the Tower of Holiness?
O Holy Scribes and Pharisees, who never were arrived to such a Pitch of Holiness! O what a Holiness, what a Catholick Faith is This! St. Peter did not teach These Things at Rome; St. Paul did not live at Rome after This manner; They did not publickly exercise themselves in Debauchery; They received not a yearly Tribute of the Lewd Women; they did not publickly, and without Punishment, Tolerate Parricides and Adulterers; They did not admit such into their Favour, nor indeed into the Society of Christians: These Men ought not therefore so highly to aggravate Our Faults. It would have been much wiser in Them, either first to have led such Lives as would have Recommended them to the World, or else to have taken some better care to conceal them.
As for our Parts, the good old laws are still in force amongst us. And, as far as the general Remissness and Licentiousness of This Age will permit, Ecclesiastical Discipline is strictly kept up; we have no such thing as Publick Societies of lewd debauched Persons; we do not give Adultery the Preference of Marriage; we do not practice Lewdness, nor do we make a penny of them that do: Incest, Parricide, and the vilest Beastliness find no Countenance with us, nor do such Men as Aloisius, Casa, and Diazius, escape without Punishment. Had we been fond of these Crimes, we need not have separated our selves from the Society of Those Men, to whose Favour and Esteem they would have Recommended us, and by that means to have exposed our selves to their Hatred, and to inevitable Danger. Paul the Fourth, not many Months since, imprisoned several Augustin-Friars, a great many Bishops, and Numbers of other Pious and Devout Men, on account of Religion. They were Tormented, put to the Rack, and nothing was left unattempted, to bring them to Confession. And after all, how many of all those were found to be Fornicators, Whoremongers, Adulterers, or Incestuous Persons? God be praised, though we are not altogether so good as we ought, and as we profess to be, yet, as bad as we are, when compared with Them, the Innocency and Integrity of our Lives, will be sufficient to disprove the Crimes we are charged with. The People are not more persuaded to the Practice of Virtue and Religion by our Books and Sermons, than by our Lives and Conversations. We teach, that the Design of the Gospel was not to make Men proud of their Learning, but to be a Rule of Life; and, as (a) Tertullian observes, that it does not become a Christian to Talk of great Things, but to Live up to them; and that not the Hearers only, but the Doers of the Word are justified before God. To all these malicious Scandals they so plentifully bestow upon us, they add this also, and aggravate it with the utmost Virulency, that we are a seditious sort of Men, that wrest the Power from Princes, and put the Sword into the People’s Hands; (b) that we subvert Justice, break through Laws, destroy Property, introduce Anarchy and Confusion; and that, if we had our Wills, not one Part of the Constitution would be secure. How often have they, by such Suggestions as these, inflamed the Hearts of Princes, that they might damp the very First Appearance of the Light of the Gospel, and make it be hated before it was understood; and that every Magistrate might think, that whenever he saw one of Us, he saw his Enemy.
(a) In Apolog. 45. (b) Tertullian in Apolog. 1, 2, & 3.
And indeed it would be a very great trouble to us to lie under the Charge and Imputation of so odious a Crime as rebellion, did we not know that Christ himself, the Apostles, and many other good Christians, formerly met with the same Treatment, and were Reviled on the same Account. For although Christ taught that they should (a) Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar‘s, yet he was accused for a seditious Person, an Innovator, and a Pretender to the Government; and therefore when he was brought to Judgment, the common Cry was, (b) If thou let this Man go, thou art not Caesar‘s Friend. And the Apostles, though they always taught Obedience to the Magistrates, and that every Soul should be subject unto the higher Powers, and that not only for Wrath but Conscience sake; yet they were charged with stirring up the People to Rebellion. This was the chief Method Haman (c) took to render the Jews odious to King Assuerus; he accused them for a Rebellious, Stubborn sort of People, that would not keep the King’s Laws. (d) Art Thou He that troubleth Israel? Says wicked King Ahab to Elijah the Prophet of God. Amasia the Priest of Bethel accused the Prophet Amos of being in a Conspiracy against King Jeroboam; Amos, (e) says he, hath conspired against Thee, in the midst of the House of Israel. In short (f) Tertullian tells us, that it was the common Accusation brought against Christians in His Time, that they were Traitors, Rebels, and Enemies of Mankind. Wherefore, since Truth is still the same, it is nothing strange and wonderful, though it be sad and grievous, that it meets with the same Bad Treatment, and be, as formerly, Despitefully used and Persecuted.
(a) Mat. 12. 17. (b) John 19. 12. (c) Esther 3. 8, &c. (d) 1 King. 18. 17. (e) Amos 7. 10. (f) In Apolog. c. 37.
It was an easy matter, above Forty Years ago, to fix These and much heavier Imputations upon us, when Truth then unknown and unheard of began to Dawn, and to cast a Ray on the Thick Darkness of those Times. When Martin Luther and Zuinglius, most excellent Men, and sent by God to give a Light to lighten the World, First came to the Knowledge of the Gospel. Whilst as yet the Doctrine was New, the Success uncertain, Mens Minds doubtful and timorous, their Ears open to Calumny, and when People were ready to believe all that Malice could invent against us, because the thing was New, and strange to them. Just so did the old Enemies of the Gospel, Symmachus, Celsus, Julian, and Porphyry, formerly take upon them to accuse all Professors of Christianity of Sedition and Rebellion, before either Prince or People could possibly know what sort of Men those Christians were, what was their Profession, their Faith, or their Intention. But now since our enforcing the Duty of Obedience to Princes, and Magistrates, though they be wicked, both in our Words and in our Writings, is so evident, that even our very Enemies cannot be ignorant of it, nor deny it; and since daily Experience sufficiently demonstrates this Truth, and the World needs no other Witnesses of it than our own Eyes and Ears; it was scandalous to urge these Objections, and for want of new Crimes to vilify us with old Tread-bare Stories.
Thanks be to God, for whose Cause we suffer, in all the Kingdoms, States, and Constitutions that have embraced the Gospel, there has never yet been one Example of this kind; We never subverted any Government, nor lessened any Man’s Rights or Privileges; We never made a Disturbance in any Common-wealth. Our Kings of England, the Kings of Denmark and Sweden, the Dukes of Saxony, the Counts Palatine, the Marquess of Brandenburgh, the Landgraves of Hesse, retain their Ancient Dignity and Authority. The Republicks of Helvetia, and Rhetia, the Free Cities of Argentine, Basil, Frankfort, Ulme, Augusta, and Norenburgh, are in the same State and Authority they ever were; or rather in a much Better; because, by the Influence of the Gospel, they find a greater Obedience in their Subjects. Let them go see Those Places wherein by God’s Goodness the Gospel is received. Where does Majesty flourish more, or Pride and Tyranny less? Where is the Prince more revered, or the People less seditious? Where did ever Church or State enjoy a greater Calm?
But it may be objected, there was a General Insurrection of the Boors in Germany, at the First Preaching of this Doctrine There. But Martin Luther the Preacher and Propagator of it, reproved them most severely in his Writings, and Reduced them to Peace and to Obedience. And as for That which has been sometimes objected by ignorant People about the Revolution of Helvetia, the Killing of Leopald Duke of Austria, and their Regaining their Freedom by Force: These Things were transacted (as all Histories witness) above Two Hundred and Sixty Years ago, under Boniface VIII. when the Papal Authority was at the Height: Two Hundred Years before Zuinglius preach’d the Gospel, or indeed was born. Ever since, they have enjoyed the greatest Peace and Tranquility, without Interruption either from Foreign or Domestick Enemies. But supposing them guilty, for endeavoring to shake off a Foreign Power, especially when it was accompanied with the Odious Circumstances of Insolence and Tyranny. Yet for Them to charge Us with other Mens Crimes, or even Those Men Themselves with the Faults of their Forefathers, is Unjust and Unreasonable. With what face, in the Name of Goodness, can the Bishop of Rome pretend to accuse us of Rebellion? Will He teach People Subjection and Obedience to Magistrates? Or has he any Respect for Majesty at all? Why then should He (which never any of the Ancient Bishops of Rome did) as (a) if he thought all the Kings and Princes in the World were his Vassals, suffer himself to be called by his Flatterers Lord of Lords? Why does he assume the Title of King of Kings, and a supreme Authority over all Subjects? Why does he oblige all Emperors and Princes to swear Fealty to him? Why (b) does he boast that the Imperial Majesty is seventy seven Degrees inferior to him? And that for This Reason principally, because God made two Great Lights in the Heaven; and that Heaven and Earth had not two, but one Beginning? Why (c) have He and his Followers, like the Anabaptists and Libertines, that they might have a Freer Course for their Licentiousness, slipt their Necks out of the Collar, and entirely shaken off the Yoke of Civil Obedience? Why does he send his Legates, those cunning Spies, to lie in Ambuscade as it were in the Courts, Councils, and even Bedchambers of Princes? Why does he, when he sees fitting, stir up Christian Princes against one another, and at his Pleasure set the whole World together by the ears? Why must any Christian Prince, who disowns and rejects his Authority, stand Excommunicate, and be taken for a Heathen and a Pagan? Why is he so free of his Indulgences to those that will by any Methods destroy his Enemies? Does he preserve Empires and Kingdoms? Or does he take any care of the Publick Ease and Quiet?
(a) August. Steuchus Anton. de Rosellis. (b) De Major. & Obed. Solit. (c) De Major. & Obed. unam Sanctam.
The Good Reader, I hope, will pardon us, if we seem to debate on this matter with more Sharpness and Severity, than might become Divines; for the thing is so very scandalous, and the Pope’s Desire of Bearing Sway so Eager and Impatient, that we could not possibly have mentioned it in other, or milder Terms; for in open Council He (a) had the Assurance to say, that all Regal Jurisdiction depended on Him. To his Ambition and Usurpation do we owe the Destruction of the Roman Empire, the Commotions and Disturbance of all Christendom. He falsely and traitorously absolved the Italians, the Romans, and Himself too, from their Oath of Allegiance to the Emperor of Greece; stirred up his Subjects to Rebellion: and calling Charles the Great out of France into Italy, made him Emperor, a thing unknown in former Ages. He (b) dethroned Chilperick King of France, a Worthy Prince, purely because he did not like him, and set up Pipin in his room. He would have dispossessed King Philip the Fair, and have given the Kingdom of France to Albert King of the Romans, if the Success had answered his Endeavour. He (c) impoverished and ruined the Flourishing City and Republick of Florence, his own Native Country, and from a Free State (d) reduced it to the absolute Authority of a single Person. It was through His Management that all Savoy was laid desolate, on one side by the Emperor Charles the Fifth, on the other, by Francis King of France, and the poor Duke had scarce one City left to betake himself to.
(a) Clement 5. in Council. Vienensi. Leo Papa 3. (b) Zacharias Papa. (c) Clemens Papa 7. (d) Idem Clemens.
Innumerable are the Examples of This kind, and it would be a tedious piece of Work to Recite all the Notorious Practices of the Popes of Rome. Of what sort were They, I pray, that poisoned the Emperor Henry the Seventh with the Sacrament of Christ’s Blood? that gave poison to Pope Victor in the Holy Chalice? that gave it to our King John of England in a drinking Cup? Whatever they were, of whatever Sect they pretended to be, they were certainly neither Lutherans nor Zuinglians. What is he who at This very Day permits the Greatest Kings and Princes to Kiss his Holy Toe? That commands the Emperor to lead his Horse, and the King of France to hold his Stirrup? Who (a) laid Francis Dandalus, Duke of Venice, the King of Crete and Cyprus, bound in Chains, under his Table to gnaw Bones with the Dogs? Who (b) put the Imperial Crown upon the Emperor Henry the Sixth’s Head, not with his Hand, but with his Foot: and with the same Foot kicked it off again, adding that it was in his Power to make and unmake an Emperor? Who (c) was it that armed Prince Henry against the Emperor his Father Henry the Fourth: so that the Father was taken Prisoner by his own Son, and being shaved and scandalously treated, was clapped up in a Monastery, where he with Hunger and Grief pined to Death? (d) That basely trod upon the Neck of the Emperor Frederick. And, as if that were not Affront sufficient, added this Verse out of the Psalms of David, Thou shalt go upon the Lion and Adder; the young Lion and the Dragon shalt thou tread under feet: Such an Example of abused Majesty as was never before known in the Memory of Man: unless by Tamerlane King of Scythia, a Man of singular Fierceness and Barbarity; or by Sapor King of Persia? All these were Popes; all the Successors of Peter; all most Holy Fathers; all whose Words we must be obliged to take for Gospel.
(a) Sabellicus. (b) Coelestinus Papa. (c) Hildebrandus Papa. (d) Alexander 3.
If then We are reckoned Traitors that pay our Princes all the Honour and Obedience that God commands us, and offer up our Prayers for them; what must we think of Them, who have not only been Guilty of all the Crimes beforementioned, but approve of them as Glorious Actions? Do they either Teach the People to honour their Magistrates as we do? Or can they justly accuse us of being seditious Persons, Disturbers of the common Peace, and Condemners of Majesty? For we do not shake off the Yoke of Obedience, nor Raise Disturbances in Kingdoms, nor Set up or Depose Kings; we neither Translate Governments, nor Poison our Kings; we neither Give them our Feet to kiss, nor Trample upon their Necks. Our Profession, our Doctrine is, rather that every Man, (a) whatsoever he be, whether Monk, Evangelist, Prophet, or Apostle, ought to be subject to Kings and Magistrates, and that (b) the Bishop of Rome Himself) unless he would be thought greater than Evangelists, Prophets or Apostles) ought to acknowledge and call the Emperor his Lord and Master, as the Ancient Bishops of Rome in Better Days ever did. This is our Doctrine: and This is manifest in our Books, in our Sermons, and in the Manners and Modest Behaviour of our People.
(a) Chrysostom in 3 Roman. (b) Grego. saepe in Epist.
But that They say we have separated our selves from the Unity of the Catholick Church, is not only malicious, but it has, though it be false, some show, and appearance of Truth. And with the ignorant and unthinking Populace, not only Those things gain credit which are certainly True, but Those also which have any Probability or Show of Truth in them. Wherefore we see our Enemies, having no Truth on their side, were so cunning as always to choose for the Subject of their Arguments such things as at least bore the Face of Truth; that such as could not dive into the Bottom and Grounds of them, might be taken with some fair show at least of Probability: (a) as when the Ancient Christians our Forefathers, were wont to turn their Faces to the East when they offered up their Prayers to God, there were those that said they worshipped and adored the Sun. And when they said, concerning Everlasting and Immortal Life, that they lived by no other means, but by the Flesh and Blood of That Lamb without Spot, viz. our Saviour Jesus Christ; the malicious, and Enemies of the Cross of Christ (b) (whose onely care it was by any means to bring a Scandal upon the Christian Religion) persuaded the People that they were Wicked Persons, and sacrificed the Flesh, and drank the Blood of Men. Again, when they said, that before God there is neither Male nor Female, and that there is no occasion for any Distinction of Persons towards the attaining of true Righteousness; and because they all saluted one another with the Title of Sisters and Brothers, (c) there were not wanting some who slandered them on that account, and affirmed that the Christians made no Distinction of Age or Kindred, but, like Beasts, promiscuously lay one with another. And again, whereas they often met in secret and by Places to join in Prayer, and to hear the Gospel Preached; because Traitors and Rebels used to do so, it was spread abroad that they Conspired together and Plotted either to kill the Magistrates, or to subvert the Commonwealth. (d) And whereas in celebrating the Holy Mysteries after Christ’s Institution, they took Bread and Wine, they were thought by many not to worship Christ, but Bacchus and Ceres: because those Deities were worshipped by the Prophane and Superstitious Heathens, after the same manner with Bread and Wine. These things were believed by a great many, not because they were True, (for what could be less so?) but because there was some Probability in them, and they might by a show of Truth the more easily Deceive.
(a) Tertull. in Apolog. cap. 16. (b) Idem cap. 7, 8, 9. (c) Tertull. in Apolog. cap. 39. (d) Augustin.
At this very rate the Church of Rome accuses us of Heresy, of Separation from the Church and Communion of Christ; not that they think These Accusations True (for that is none of their Concern) but that ignorant injudicious Persons might be betrayed by a specious Appearance into a real Belief of the Truth of them. It is true we separated, but not as Hereticks do from the Church of Christ, but as all Good Men ought to do, from the corrupt Society of Wicked and Hypocritical Persons. But here they Triumph wonderfully, that Theirs is the True Church, the Spouse of Christ, the Pillar of Truth, and Noah‘s Ark, out of which no Salvation is to be hoped for; but that we have made a Separation, have Rent Christ’s Vesture, are severed from the Body of Christ, and have fallen off form the Catholick Faith. And when they have left nothing unsaid, though never so false and malicious, that may be disadvantageous to us, yet This one thing we defy them to say, viz. That we have departed either from the Word of the Apostles, of Christ, or the Primitive Church. And we have always been of opinion that the Primitive Church of Christ and the Apostles, and of the Holy Fathers, is the True Catholick Church; and That we dare call Noah‘s Ark, the Spouse of Christ, the Ground and Pillar of Truth, and place all our Hopes of Salvation in it. To depart from any Society of Men one has always freely conversed with, has in truth an odious Appearance, especially of such Persons who (though they are nothing less) appear to be Christians, and live under that Denomination. As for Their Church, whatsoever it now be, we do by no means despise it, because it bears the Name of a Church, and because the Gospel of Christ was some time truly and sincerely Taught in it. Neither should we have separated at all from it, but upon the utmost Necessity, and even Then it was with all the Unwillingness imaginable. But suppose there should be an Idol set up in Church of God, and (a) the Abomination of Desolation Prophesied of by Christ, should stand openly in the Holy Place? Suppose a Pirate or a Robber should possess himself of Noah‘s Ark? These Men undoubtedly as often as they mention the Church, mean themselves only, and to themselves apply all these Titles, and then Triumph like the Men of old that cried the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord; or, like he Scribes and Pharisees, when they boasted that (b) Abraham was their Father.
(a) Mat. 24. 15. (b) Johan. 8. 39.
So They with a Fair, though False Appearance, impose upon the Vulgar, and think to confound us with the bare Name of the Church. As if a Villain having gotten possession of another Man’s House, and either thrust out or murdered the Owner, should then call it his, and dispossess the right Heir. Or as if Antichrist should possess himself of the Temple of God, and then say that it belonged to him, and that Christ had nothing to do with it. For these Men, though they have scarcely left any thing in the Church of God that has the Appearance of a Church, yet they set up for the Patrons and Defenders of it. As Gracchus formerly stood in the Defence of the Roman Treasury, when he spent every penny of their Money by Prodigious Donatives, and other Extravagant Expences. And there never was any thing yet so unreasonable or wicked, which Men may not easily conceal and countenance with the Name of the Church. Wasps have their Combs like Bees, and Wicked Men have their Assemblies in Imitation of the Church of God.
But they are not all the People of God that are called so, nor are they all Israelites that are of Israel. (a) The Arian Hereticks bragged that they were the onely Catholicks, and called other Christians, Ambrosians, Athanasians, and Johannists. Nestorius the Heretick, as Theodoret affirms, concealed himself
της ορθοδοξιας ποσχήμαις, under the Pretext of being sound and orthodox. Ebion, though a direct Samaritan in opinion, yet, according to Epiphanius, would needs be called a Christian. The Mahometans at this very Day, who, as all Histories affirm, and They Themselves cannot deny, are the Descendants of the Bond-woman Hagar, yet as if they were the Progeny of Sarah the Free-woman and Abraham‘s Wife, are fond of being called Saracens.
(a) Augustin. Epist. 48. ad Vincen.
So the False Prophets of all Ages that opposed the Prophets of God, Isaiah, Jeremiah, our Saviour Christ, and his Apostles, boasted of nothing so much as the Name of the Church, and so severely persecuted them, and called them Renegades and Apostates, for no other Reason than for their Separation from their Society, and the Neglect of the Ordinances of their Fathers. Now if we must submit entirely to the Judgment of Those Persons which at That Time had the Government of the Church, without Regard to any thing else, even to God, or his Word; it cannot be denied but that the Apostles, because they had separated from the chief Priests and Scribes, that is, the Catholick Church, and had against their Wills and their Endeavours too introduced several New Things into their Religion, were Rightly and Lawfully condemned. Therefore as it was said formerly of Hercules, that he was forced to lift Anteus from his Mother the Earth before he could conquer him; so must we deal with our Adversaries; take them from their Mother, that is, the specious, though empty Name of Church, under which they shelter and protect themselves: Or else they cannot be made to yield even to the Word of God. To this Purpose the (a) Prophet Jeremiah speaks, Do not boast, says he, of your having the temple of the Lord among you, it is a vain Confidence, and they are Lying Words. And the Angel in the (b) Revelation; They say, says he, they are Jews, but they are the Synagogue of Satan. And Christ, when the (c) Pharisees boasted of the Stock and Blood of Abraham; Ye are, says he, of your Father the Devil, and have nothing of Abraham in you. As if he had said: Ye are not what ye are so fond of being thought; ye impose upon the People with empty Titles, and abuse the Name of the Church to its Destruction. Wherefore These Men ought First to have proved plainly and evidently that the Church of Rome is the True and Orthodox Church of God; and as it is now by themselves Constituted and Governed, is agreeable to the Primitive Church of Christ, the Apostles, and the Fathers, which we do not at all doubt was the True Catholick Church. If we could have thought that Ignorance, Error, Superstition, Idolatry, the Inventions of Men, and Those very often contradictory to the Holy Scriptures, were sufficient towards the obtaining of Everlasting Salvation; if we could be assured that the Word of God was Written for by some Years only, and that afterwards it ought to be laid aside; or that the Word and Command of God ought entirely to be subjected to the Will of Man, insomuch that whatsoeve God says or commands, unless the Bishop of Rome say and command the same, is Null and of no Effect, as if it has never been Written; If we could have been induced to Believe These Things, we own there was no reason for our Separation. Now what we have done in departing from a Church manifestly and apparently Erroneous, which had plainly departed from the Word of God, leaving its Errors, rather than It; and that not Turbulently and Violently, but with all Quietness and Modesty, is not at all contrary to the Christ or his Apostles. For it is no Qualification of the Church of God, that it should never have any Blemish, or never stand in need of Reparation; else where is the Necessity of so many Assemblies and Councils, without which as (d) Aegidius says, the Christian Faith cannot stand. For as often, says he, as Councils are discontinued, so often is the Church destitute of Christ. Or if there is no danger of the Church’s receiving any Damage, where is the Necessity of Retaining the Names of Bishops to no Purpose? which they still retain: or why are they called Shepherds, if there be no Flocks that can go astray? why are they called Watchmen, if there be no City to be betrayed? why are they called Pillars, and Supporters, if there is nothing that can fall down? Presently after the Creation the Church of God began to spread, and was instructed with the Heavenly Word which God himself Pronounced with his own Mouth. It was furnished with Holy Ceremonies, taught by the Spirit of God, by the Patriarchs and the Prophets; and continued down to the very Time that Christ appeared in the Flesh.
(a) Jer. 7. 4. (b) Apoc. 2. 9. (c) John 8. 44. (d) In Lateran. Concil. sub Julio 2.
But O Good God! how often in the mean time was it darkened and obscured, and almost reduced to Nothing! Where was it Then, when (a) All Flesh had corrupted its way upon the Earth? Where was it when out of the Whole Race of Mankind, Eight Persons onely, and they not all Godly and Religious neither, by the Will of God were saved from the common and universal Ruin? (b) When Elias the Prophet so Mournfully and Bitterly complained, that of all the World, He was the onely Person that Worshipped and Served God Rightly and Truly? And when (c) Esaias said, the Silver of the People of God, that is, of the Church, is become Dross. And the once Faithful City become an Harlot; and that from the Sole of the Foot even unto the Head there was no Soundness in it? or when Christ said, that the (d) House of God was by the Chief Priests and Pharisees made a Den of Thieves? It is with the Church as with a Corn-Field, unless it be ploughed and harrowed, manured and weeded, instead of Wheat, it will produce Thistles, Darnel, and Nettles. For This Reason God sent Prophets and Apostles, and last of all his Own Son Christ Jesus, to bring the People into the Right Way, and to repair and support the feeble Church. And lest any one should say, these things were done under the Law, in the Times of Darkness and Obscurity, in the Infancy of the Church; when the Truth lay hid under a Veil of Types and Ceremonies; when nothing was yet brought to Perfection, and the Law was not Written in Mens Hearts, but in the Tables of Stone. (Though this is a very Ridiculous Distinction; for there was Then the self same God, the same Spirit, the same Christ, the same Faith, the same Doctrine, the same Hope, the same Inheritance, the same Covenant, the same Power and Efficacy of God’s Word. And accordingly (e) Eusebius says, All the Faithful, even from Adam to Christ, were Really and Indeed Christians, tho they were not termed so.) But lest Men, I say, should make use of the aforesaid Objection. St. Paul the Apostle, even Then in the Prime of the Gospel, in the Times of Perfection and clear Light, found the like Errors and Failings. Insomuch that he was forced to write Thus to the Galatians, whom he had before taught and instructed in the Faith: (f) I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you Labour in vain, and ye have heard me preach the Gospel to no Purpose. (g) My little Children, of whom I travail in Birth again, until Christ be formed in you. And as for the Church of Corinth, it was so Manifestly depraved, that it is needless to mention it. And how can there any Reason be given, why the Churches of Galatia and Corinth might Err, and fall from their Purity, and the Church of Rome onely be Exempt from These Imperfections, and be incapable of Erring or Falling? It is certain Christ Prophesied of his Church long before, that the Time should come when (h) Desolation should stand in the Holy Place. And St. Paul (i) said, that Antichrist should place his Tabernacle in the Temple of God. And (j) the Times should come when Men should not endure sound Doctrine. But in the very Church Men should be turned unto Fables. And St. Peter (k) said, that there should be False Teachers in the Church of Christ. And the Prophet Daniel, speaking of the Latter Times of Antichrist, says, at That Time (l) Truth shall be cast to the ground, and trodden under foot. And our Saviour Christ represents the Confusion and Calamity of Those Times to be so Great, that it were enough (m) to deceive (if it were possible) even the very Elect. And all these things are to happen, not amongst Pagans and Turks, but in the Holy Place, in the Temple of God, in the Church, in the Assembly and Society of those that shall Profess the Name of Christ.
(a) Gen. 6. 12. (b) 2 Kings 19. 14. (c) Isaiah 1. 21, 22. (d) Mat. 21. 13. (e) Eccl. Hist. lib. 1. cap. 4. (f) Gal. 4. 11. (g) Ver. 19. (h) Mat. 24. 15. (i) 2 Thess. 2. 3. (j) 2 Tim. 4. 3. (k) 2 Pet. 2. 1. (l) Dan. 8. 12. (m) Mat. 24. 24.
And though These Considerations alone may be sufficient to make any wise Man cautious that he does not suffer himself unawares to be imposed upon by the Name of the Church, and by That means be hindered from making any farther Enquiry into it by the Word of God. Yet besides this, many of the Fathers, Learned and Pious Men, have made loud Complaints, that all these things happened in Their Time. For God in the Midst of That Mist of Darkness, was pleased to Raise up some Men, who though they did not give so full and clear a Light, yet sparkled, as it were, so as to be taken Notice of by Men in the Dark.
Hilary, when the Church was in a Manner sound and uncorrupt, speaks to This Effect; (a) Ye are deceived, says he, with the Love of the Building; ye are mistaken in the Object of your Veneration, if you Regard Material Edifices as the Church of God. Ye are deceived in the Peace and Safety you ascribe to them. For in Those Places, it is not to be questioned but Antichrist will erect his Throne; Mountains and Woods, Fens, Prisons, and Quagmires, are in my Judgment Places of more Safety, where the Prophets, either by Choice, or Force, took up their Residence, and Prophesied by the Spirit of God.
(a) Contra Auxentium.
Gregory, as if he had certainly foreseen the Ruin that followed, wrote after This Manner to John Bishop of Constantinople, who First assumed that New and Unheard of Title, of Universal Bishop of the Whole Church of Christ: (a) If the Whole Church depend upon one single Man, the Whole Church will undoubtedly fall. And who has not seen this Saying long since Verified? The Bishop of Rome long ago would needs have the Whole Church depend solely upon Himself; it is no wonder therefore that it is long since come to utter Ruin. Bernard the Abbot, above four Hundred Years ago, said, The whole Body of the Clergy are now corrupt and unsincere; there is nothing wanting but that the Man of Sin may be revealed. The same in his Treatise of St. Paul‘s Conversion, says, Persecution may perhaps seem to be at an end, but it is now Beginning, and that by Those Men too, who fill the Chiefest Places in the Church. Thy Friends and thy Neighbours have drawn near, and stood up against thee. From the Sole of the Foot even unto the Head, there is no Soundness. Iniquity has proceeded from the Elders, the Judges, and Deputies, who pretend to Rule and Govern thy People. We cannot now say, As the People, so is the Priest; for the People are not so bad as the Priests: O Lord God! They that seem to desire the Chiefest Places, and bear the Greatest Sway in thy Church, act the Greatest Part in the Persecution of it. The same Person upon the Canticles (b) writeth Thus; They are All thy Friends, yet are they All thy Enemies; they are All Allied to thee, yet are they All thine Adversaries; the Servants of Christ serve Antichrist. Behold in my Peace there is the greatest Bitterness. Roger Bacon (c) a Great and Noted Man, when he had sharply touched on the Miserable State of Affairs in his Time, says, So many Errors surely must be attended by Antichrist.
(a) In regist. Epist. Ad Mauricium, lib. 4. Epist. 32. (b) Serm. 33. (c) In Libello de Idiomate linguarum.
Gerson complains, that in His Time Divinity had lost all its Force, and was dwindled into mere Sophistry, nothing but a Subject for the Ambitious to dispute and show their Wit on.
The Poor Men, commonly styled Pauperes a Lugduno, Men really of good Lives, used confidently to affirm, That the Church of Rome, even Then when it was the Oracle of the World, was that Whore of Babylon, and Company of Devils, concerning whom so many clear Prophesies are extant in the Revelations. I know very well the Authority of These Men will signify nothing with them. But what if I bring Men that have been admired and adored by them for Witnesses against them? (a) What if I tell them that Adrian Bishop of Rome ingenuously acknowledged, that all those Mischiefs owed their Rise to the Papal Throne?
Pighius acknowledges the Crime of introducing several Abuses into the Mass, which he otherwise looks upon and respects as Holy. Gerson says, That all the Virtue of the Holy Ghost, which should be exerted in us, and all True Piety, was utterly suppressed and extinguished by the Multitude of Trifling Insignificant Ceremonies. All Greece and Asia complain, that the Popes of Rome have laid a Restraint upon Mens Consciences, as well as Picked their Pockets, by the Trade they derive with Purgatories and Indulgences.
As for the Tyranny and Persian Pride of the Bishop of Rome, to pass by others (whom, for their free Reprehensions of their Vices, it is probably they would call Enemies.) Those Men that have led all their Life at Rome, in the Holy City, in the Presence of the most Holy Father, and were capable of knowing all his Secrets, and never departed from the Catholick Faith; such as Laurentius Valla, Marsilius Patavinus, Francis Petrarch, Jerome Savanarola, Abbot Joachim, Baptist of Mantua, and before all these, Abbot Bernard: All These, I say, made great and frequent Complaints; and did sometimes hint, how truly or falsely we do not pretend to determine, but very plainly, that the Pope himself was Antichrist.
Neither can it be objected against them, that they were either Lutherans or Zuinglians, since they lived not only Years, but some Ages before Their Names were ever heard of. And they saw that there were Errours at That Time of Day crept into the Church, and desired a Reformation of them. And what wonder was it that the Church should be carried away and misled by Errors, at That Time especially when neither the Bishop of Rome, who had the sole Management of all Affairs, nor scarcely any body else, either Did their Duty, or so much as Understood what it was to do their Duty. It is hardly to be thought, that when They gave themselves up to Idleness and Rest, the Devil would all that while sleep and be idle too. And how industrious they were, and with what Diligence and Faithfulness they looked after the House of God, (to say nothing our selves) let their Own Friend St. Bernard (a) show them. The Bishops, says he, to whose Care the Church of God is now committed, are not Teachers, but Seducers; not Pastors, but Impostors; not Prelates, but Pilates. This Character does St. Bernard give of the Pope, who affected to be called the Supreme Bishop, and of the other Bishops, who at That Time sat at the Helm. And he was no Lutheran, no Heretick, nor ever had forsaken the Catholick Church; and yet he made no Scruple of calling the Bishops of Those Times, Deceives, Impostors, nay, and Pilates too. Now when the People were thus evidently seduced, and Christians were kept in the Dark, when Pilate had once more got into the Judgment-Seat, and condemned Christ and his Members to Fire and Sword; in what Condition then, in the Name of God, was the Church of Christ? Now of so many and gross Errors as they have been guilty of, which of them have they ever Corrected and Reformed, or so much as Acknowledged?
(a) Ad Eugenium.
But since These Men pretend to assume to themselves, the Name of the Catholick Church, and call us Hereticks for disagreeing with them; let us see what Mark or Character the Church of Rome has, whereby it may be known to be the Church of God: and if a Man will Diligently and in good Earnest seek for it, it is no very difficult Matter to find where the Church of God is; for it is (a) Established in the Top of Mountains; and exalted above the Hills: and is (b) built upon the Foundation of the Apostles and Prophets. There, says St. Augustine (c), let us seek the Church, there let us try our Cause. And, as he says in another (d) place; The Church must be shown out of the Holy and Canonical Scriptures; and that Church which cannot prove her Title from Them, has no Right to that Name.
(a) Isa. 2.2. (b) Eph. 2. 20. (c) De Unitate Eccles. cap. 3. (d) Cap. 4.
I cannot tell the Reason, whether it be for Fear, or for Conscience sake, or Despair of Victory; but These Men always dread and shun the Word of God, as a Thief does the Gallows. Nor indeed is it any Wonder, for as they say, Cantharides are presently stifled and suffocated in Balm of Gilead, though it be a most fragrant and odoriferous Ointment; for These Men cannot but observe their Cause to expire in the Word of God, as if it were Poison to it. And therefore the Holy Scriptures, which our Saviour Jesus Christ quoted in all his Discourse, and at the last sealed with his own Blood, did they Term, the more easily to deter People from them, as from something dangerous and hurtful, a Bare Letter, Uncertain, Unprofitable, Dumb, Killing, and Dead. Which in our Opinion is as much as to say, the Scriptures are neither valuable nor useful at all. To which they also add a very homely Similitude, calling them a (a) Nose of Wax, which may be turned and worked into any Shape, and made to serve what Purposes you please. Is the Pope to be informed that These are the Words of his Creatures? Or is he ignorant what sort of Champions he has got?
(a) Pighius in Hierarchia.
Let him hear then with what a Spirit of Piety and Holiness, Hosius, a Polonian Bishop (as he says of himself) writes in this Case; an Eloquent and no unlearned Man, a very sharp and stout Champion of that Cause. But surely you will wonder, how any Man that makes the least pretence to Piety, could either Think so Wickedly, or Write so Contemptibly of Those Words, which he knew proceeded out of the Mouth of God; and especially in such a manner as that he would not have it appear as his own Private Opinion onely, but as the Common Opinion of all his Church.
Since, says (a) he, there are so many, and so different, nay, and contrary Interpretations of the Scriptures, we will throw them aside, and bid them farewell; and will rather hear God speak, than apply our selves to those Bare Letters, and fix our Hopes of Salvation in Them. There is no need of being versed in the Law and the Scriptures, but of being Taught of God. It is but Lost Labour that a Man bestows on the Scriptures; for the Scripture is a Creature, a Bare Letter. Thus Hosius, exactly with the Temper and Spirit of Montanus, or Marcion, who when they rejected the Scriptures with Scorn and Contempt, used to say, they knew More and Better Things than either Christ or his Apostles ever knew. What shall I say now? Are not These Excellent Supporters of Religion? Are not These admirable Overseers of Christ’s Church? Is This That Reverence ye pay to the Word of God? Is This your Treatment of those Scriptures, which, St. Paul (b) says, are given by Inspiration of God, which God has adorned with so many Miracles, in which are the Lively Impressions of the very Steps of Christ, which all the Holy Fathers, the Apostles, and Angels, which Christ himself, the Son of God, upon occasion, cited and quoted for Proof of what they said? These Scriptures will ye throw by, as useless, and not worth hearing? That is, will ye impose Silence upon God Himself, who so clearly speaks to you in the Scriptures? That Word, by which alone, St. Paul (c) saith, God hath reconciled us to himself; and which the Prophet David (d) saith, is Pure and clean, and endureth for ever; That Word will ye call a Bare Dead Letter onely? Or That Time which Christ has commanded us to spend in the diligent (e) Searching and continual Reading of the Scriptures, will ye call mis-spent and mis-imployed? Or do ye think that Christ and his Apostles, when they exhorted Men to study the Scriptures, that they might abound in all Wisdom and Knowledge, meant to deceive them, and put a Trick upon them? It is no Wonder that We, and all that belong to us, meet with Nothing from these Men but Contempt, when God and his Word are so slighted by them. Yet surely it was very absurd in them to offer so great an Injury to the Word of God, that they might abuse us.
(a) Haec Hosius in lib. de expresso Verbo Dei, sed astute, & sub alterius Persona: quamvis & ipse alias eadem, in eodem etiam libro, diser. Verb. Affirmat. (b) 2 Tim. 3, 16. (c) 2 Cor. 5. 18. (d) Psal. 19. 8. (e) John 5. 39.
And as if This were not sufficient, they make no scruple of Burning the Holy Scriptures, like wicked King Aza of old, as Antiochus, or Maximinus, formerly did, and frequently call them Heretical Books; and seem to have set on foot the same Project that Herod formerly made use of to obtain the Government of Judea (a). For he being an Idumean, a Stranger to the Stock and Kindred of the Jews, would yet be taken for a Jew, that He might make sure of the Government of Judea, which he had gotten of Augustus Caesar, for him and his Posterity. And to This end he commanded all the Registers of their Pedigrees, that from Abraham had been preserved and kept with the greatest Care in their Treasury, and by which any Man’s Tribe and Lineage might with the least Difficulty, and the greatest Certainty, be known, to be burnt and made away with, that nothing might remain to Posterity, whereby he might be known to be an Alien. Just so These Men, when they would have all their Tenets pass for the Traditions of Christ and his Apostles, and valued as such, either burn the Holy Scriptures, or convey them from the People’s Sight, that there may be no way left of disproving their Lies and Idle Dreams.
(a) Africanus apud Euseb. Eccl. Hist. lib. 1. cap. 7.
Against such Men (a) St. Chrysostom writes very well, and very properly. Hereticks, says he, shut the Door against the Truth; very well knowing, that if the Gate stood open, the Church would be none of Theirs. And Theophelact says, The Word of God is a Light by which ill Men are discovered. And Tertullian, the Holy Scripture detects the Fraud and Roguery of Hereticks. Now why do they hide and suppress the Gospel, which Christ would have preached upon the Housetop? Why do they thrust that Light under a Bushel, which ought to be set up in a Candlestick? Why do they trust more to the Blindness and Ignorance of the Vulgar, than to the Goodness of their Cause? Do they think their Artifices are not discovered? Or do they now hope to walk unseen or unobserved, as if they were Masters of Gyges‘s Ring? No, all Men are now very well satisfied what is in the Cabinet of the Bishop of Rome‘s Breast: This alone is a sufficient Argument that they do not act Justly and Honestly. That Cause may be fairly suspected that shuns Examination and the Light. For he whose Deeds are Evil, as Christ says, Loves Darkness rather than Light; a clear Conscience willingly appears in publick, that the Works which are of God may be seen. But they are not altogether so blind, as not to be sensible, that if the Scriptures obtain their Authority, they must shake hands with Theirs, and their Government must fall: And as Formerly the Idols of the Devil, whose Oracles were then resorted to, are said to be struck dumb at the Appearance of Christ upon Earth; so will These Mens Artifices be confounded at the Sight of the Gospel. (b) For Antichrist is not to be destroyed, but with the Brightness of the Coming of Christ.
(a) In Opere imperfecto. (b) 2 Thess. 2. 8.
(a) Rom. 1. 16. (b) Gal. 1. 8.
But though they have not the Holy Scriptures, yet they have, it may be, the old Doctors and Holy Fathers on their side. For this has always been their greatest Boast and Triumph, that all Antiquity, and the perpetual uninterrupted Consent of all Times, appears for them; whereas all Our Opinions are but Newly started, and, till of Late Years, unheard of.
Doubtless there cannot be a Heavier Imputation laid on Religion, than That of Novelty. For as there can be no Change in God, so ought there to be none in the Worship of Him. Yet nevertheless, though by what means we are ignorant, it has always happened from the Beginning of the World, that whenever God did as it were Enlighten or Reveal any such Truth to Mankind, its Wicked Enemies reproached it with Novelty, though it were not only of the greatest Antiquity, but even from all Eternity. Wicked and Bloody Haman, when he would traduce the Jews, and make them odious to King Assuerus, brought This Accusation against them; There is a certain People (a) dispersed in all the Provinces of thy Kingdom, and their Laws are diverse from all People, neither keep they the King’s Laws. St. Paul, when he Began to Preach the Gospel in Athens, was called (b) a Setter forth of strange Gods, that is, a Preacher of a new Religion; and may not we know, say they, what this new Doctrine is? And Celsus, the professed Enemy of Christ, that he might bring the Gospel into Contempt by the Name of Novelty, says, What has God after so many Ages, now at Last bethought himself? (c) Eusebius reports, That the Christian Religion was from the Beginning, by way of Contempt and Reproach, called
Νέα και ξένη, New and Strange. So They condemn all our Tenets for New and Strange, and recommend all their own, whatsoever they be, for their Great Antiquity. And as Magicians and Sorcerers, now-a-days, who deal with the Devil, pretend to have their Books and Dark Mysteries from Athanasius, Cyprian, Moses, Abel, Adam, and from the Archangel Raphael, to create a higher Reverence, and more profound Respect for that Art, which has such Patrons and Founders; So These Men, the more easily and successfully to recommend That Religion of theirs, which They Themselves, not long since, invented, to the Ignorant and Unthinking, say, that it came down to them from Augustine, Jerome, Chrysostom, Ambrose, from the Apostles, and from Christ Himself. For they know full well, that nothing weighs more with the People, nothing is more Grateful to the Vulgar, than These Names. But now, what if these things, which they would fain have to be thought New, should appear to be of the Greatest Antiquity? And on the contrary, what if almost all those things, which they value, and cry up so mightily, for their Antiquity, should upon a strict and impartial Examination, at Last be found to be new and of late date?
(a) Esth. 3. 8, &c. (b) Acts 17. 18, 19. (c) Eccl. Hist. lib. 1. cap. 4.
Certainly no Man that rightly considers, could believe the Laws and Ceremonies of the Jews to be New, notwithstanding Haman objected that against them; because they were Engraven upon Tables many Ages before That Time. And Christ, though he was thought by many to have dissented from Abraham, and their Forefathers, and to have set up some New Religion in his own Name, very justly answered, (a) Had ye Believed Moses, ye would have Believed me. My Doctrine is not so very New as you imagine; for Moses, an Author of the greatest Antiquity, in whom ye trust, He wrote of me. And St. Paul says, that the Gospel of Christ, though by many it be judged to be New, is yet confirmed by the most Ancient Testimony of the Law and the Prophets. Now our Doctrine, which we may more justly style the Catholick Doctrine of Christ, is so far from being New, that it is Recommended to us by the Ancient of Days, God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the Gospel, in the Books of the Prophets and Apostles, Monuments of the Greatest Antiquity. Can it now appear New to any one, that does not think the Faith of the Prophets, the Gospel, and Christ himself, to be New too? Now if their Religion be of such Antiquity as they would have us believe it is, how comes it to pass that they bring no Proof of it, from the Examples of the Primitive Church, from the Ancient Fathers and Old Councils? Why should that Cause which pleads so great Antiquity, lie so long destitute of any Patron to defend it? Fire and Sword they have been always dexterous at, but not a word of old Councils and Fathers. It was Madness in Them to begin with such Bloody and Cruel Methods, if they could have found out more easy and gentle ways of Persuasion. But if they do really so much confide in the Antiquity they boast of, as they pretend to do, and do not Prevaricate, why did (b) John Clement, an English-man, not many Years since, before several Worthy and Creditable Persons, tear in pieces and throw into the Fire, several Leaves of the very Ancient Father, and Greek Bishop, Theodoret, in which he plainly and manifestly taught that the Nature of the Bread in the Eucharist was not changed; only because he was in hopes there was never another Copy to be found? Why does Albertus Pighius deny the Ancient Father St. Augustine‘s Opinion, concerning Original Sin, to be right? Why does he say that he was mistaken, and that he Lied, and used false Logick, in the Case of (c) Marriage after a Vow made; which Marriage St. Augustine affirms to be valid, and not to be disannulled? Why in a Late Edition of the Father Origen upon St. John‘s Gospel, did they leave out the Whole Sixth Chapter entirely, wherein it is credible, or rather certain, that he contradicted them in many things concerning the Eucharist; and would rather put out the Book (d) maimed and imperfect, than venture the Reproof it might have given to their Errors, had it been Perfect? Is this trusting to Antiquity, to Tear, Suppress, Mangle, and Burn the Writings of the Ancient Fathers? It is worth one’s while to observe, how well These Men, and These Fathers, they so much boast of, agree in Points of Religion. The Ancient Council of (e) Eliberis decreed, That nothing that moved the People to Adoration should be painted in Churches. The Ancient Father Epiphanius says, It is a horrible and intolerable Crime to set up any Pictures, nay even of Christ himself, in Churches. They, as if the Life and Soul of Religion consisted in them, have filled every Corner of their Churches with Images and Statues. The old (f) Fathers, Origen and Chrysostom, exhorted the People to read the Holy Scriptures, and to buy Books, that Husbands and Wives, Parents and Children, might Reason upon points of Religion at home among themselves. These Men condemn the Scriptures for Dead letters, and, as much as possible, keep the people from reading of them. The Ancient (g) Fathers, Cyprian, Epiphanius, and Jerome, were of opinion, that if a Man have by chance entered into a Vow of Caelibacy, and afterwards lives unchastly, and cannot contain, it is better for him to Marry, and to live honestly. And the old Father St. Augustine judges such a Marriage to be firm and valid, and not to be dissolved. They, when a Man has once obliged himself by a Vow, though he afterwards Burn, though he commit Fornication, and live never so wickedly and lewdly, yet do not allow him to Marry; or if he does, his Marriage, they say, is null and void; and that he who keeps a Mistress, leads a much better and more holy Life, than he that lives in such Matrimony. The old Father St. Augustine complained of the Multitude of vain Ceremonies, with which he then saw Mens Consciences burdened and oppressed. They, as if God cared for nothing else, have increased their Ceremonies to so great a Number, that they have now scarce any thing else left in their Churches and Holy Offices. Again, the Old Father St. Augustine (h) says, It is unlawful for a Monk to spend his time in Sloth and Idleness, and under a Show and Pretence of Holiness to live upon others; and the Old Father Apollonius says, He that does so is no better than a Thief. They have Droves, or Herds shall I say, of Monks, who though they do not so much as Pretend either to Holiness or Industry, yet do not only Live, but Luxuriously too, upon other Mens Labours. An old (i) Council of Rome Decreed, that no one should be present at the Service, said by a Priest, Who was known to keep a Mistress. They hire Courtesans a purpose for their Priests, and yet force Men to hear their impious Service. The Ancient Apostolick (j) Canons command that Bishop to be removed from his Office, who would perform the Office both of a Civil and Ecclesiastical Magistrate at the same Time. They, for all that, do and will take upon them both Offices; or rather, never trouble themselves at all with That which chiefly concerns them; and yet nobody commands them to be displaced. The Old Council of Gangra commands that no such Distinction be made between Married and Unmarried Priests, as if one were more holy than the other, on the account of Caelibacy; They make so wide a Difference, that they think all their Service prophaned when performed by a Married Person, though a Religious and Good Man. The (k) Ancient Emperor Justinian commanded, that in Divine Service all things should be pronounced with a clear, loud, distinct Voice, for the Advantage and Improvement of the People; They, to keep the People in Ignorance, whisper their Offices, not only in a low and obscure Tone, but also in a Foreign and Unknown Tongue.
(a) John 5. 45, 46. (b) Dist. 27. Quidam August. de Bono Viduitat, cap. 10. (c) Caus. 27. c. 4. Nuptiarum bonum. In Controversiis. (d) The Book is now extant, and is handed about imperfect. (e) Heldan. Christ. 305. c. 3. (f) Origines in Levitic. c. 16. Chrysos. in Mat. hom. 2. Idem in Joan. hom. 31. (g) Cyprian. Epist. 11. lib. 1. Epiphan. contra Apostolicos, Haere. 61. Hieron. ad Demetriaden. (h) De opere Monastorum. (i) Can. 3. (j) Can. 8. (k) In Novellis Const. 123.
The Old (a) Council of Carthage forbids any thing to be read in Religious Assemblies, but the Canonical Scripture; These Men Read such stuff in their Churches, as they themselves know to be mere Lies, and idle Tales. Now if any one think These Things insignificant, and of no force, because decreed by Emperors, and some inferior Bishops, and not in Full and General Councils; and would be better satisfied with the Name and Authority of a Pope; Let him know that Pope Julius (b) expressly forbids the Priests in the Administration of the Sacrament to dip the Bread in the Cup. They, contrary to the Decree of Pope Julius, divide the Bread, and dip it in the Wine. Pope Clement says it is unlawful for a Bishop to handle both Swords; If you will have them Both, says he, you will deceive both your self, and Them that Obey you. Now-a-days the Pope Challenges both, and Exercises both; and therefore it is no wonder if Clement‘s Saying be verified, and he have deceived both Himself, and Them that hear him. Pope Leo says, that there out to be but one Mass said in one Church, in one and the same Day; They every day, in the same Church, say sometimes Ten Masses, sometimes Twenty, often Thirty, often more: So that the poor Spectator knows not which way he had best turn himself. Pope Gelasius says, if any Man divides the Communion, Receives it in one kind, and not in another, he does Wickedly, and is guilty of Sacrilege. They, contrary to the Word of God, and to Pope Gelasius, command the Eucharist to be Administered to the People in one kind onely, and consequently make their Priests guilty of Sacrilege.
(a) Tertium Carth. cap. 47. (b) De Cous. dist. 2. cum enim nemo.
Now if they should pretend that These Things are out of date, and in a manner dead and forgotten, and have no Relation to These Times; that all Men may know how they are to be trusted, and with what Designs they call their General Councils, let us Examine a little, how diligently they observe those things which, of late Years, within our Memory, in a General Council Lawfully convened, They Themselves decreed to be Religiously observed. In the Last Council of Trent, scarce Fourteen Years ago, it was unanimously, by Men of all Orders and Degrees, Decreed, that no one Priest should have two Benefices at the same Time. What is become of That Decree? Is that so soon worn out and thrown aside? For they bestow not only Two Benefices, but often many Abbies too, and sometimes Two or Three, sometimes Four Bishopricks, on one and the same Person, and that not only on a Man of no Learning, but oftentimes on a Man of the Sword. In the same Council it was Decreed, that all Bishops should Preach the Gospel; They never Preach, nor so much as ever get into the Pulpit, or think it any Part of their Duty so to do. Where then is all this mighty Show of Antiquity? Why do they Glory in the Names of the Old Fathers, the Ancient and Modern Councils? Why do they (a) Pretend to rely upon the Authority of them, that they do at Pleasure slight and despise.
(a) De Major. & Obed. unam San- ctam. In Extrav. Bonifacii facii 8. Durandus. Concil. Lat. sub Julio. 2. Dis. 9. Innocen. De Major. & Obed. Soli. In extravag. Joan. 22. c. Cum inter Nonnullos. In glossa finali. In Edit. impressa Parisiis. c. 503.
But I have a mind rather to apply my self to the Pope himself, and to ask him these Questions face to face. Tell us, I pray, Good Holy Father, you who boast so much of all Antiquity, that all Mankind have their Dependance on You Alone; which of all the Fathers ever gave You the Title of Chief Priest, Universal Bishop, or Head of the Church? Which of them told you, that both Swords were committed to you? Which, that you have Right and Authority to call Councils? In the Writings of which of them do you find that the Whole World is but your Diocese? Or, that all Bishops receive of your Fulness? Which of them ever said, that all Power is given to you, as well in Heaven, as in Earth? Which, that you are not subject to the Judgment of Kings, nor of the Whole Clergy, nor of the Whole World? Which, that Kings and Emperors receive their Power from You, by the Command and Will of Christ? Which of them so nicely and Mathematically ascribed just seventy seven Degrees of Power and Authority to you, more than to the Greatest Prince upon Earth? Which of them makes you Greater than the rest of the Patriarchs? Which of the Ancient Fathers ever called you Lord and God, or defined you to be not Mere Man, but a certain Substance made up of God and Man? Which affirms you to be the onely (a) Fountain of all Right? Which of them says you have the Command over Purgatory? Which, that you have the Angels of God at your beck? Which of them ever called you King of Kings, and Lord of Lords? And there is more to be said of this Kind. Which of all the Ancient Bishops and Fathers ever taught you to say Private Mass while the People looked on, or to hold the Sacrament over your Head, wherein the Whole of your Religion at present consists; or to mangle Christ’s Sacraments, and, contrary to his Institution, and Express Words, to defraud the people of one Part of them? But to conclude, tell us any one of all these Fathers, that ever taught you to make a Trade of Exposing to Sale the Blood of Christ, the Merits of his Holy Martyrs, your Pardons, and the whole Territories of Purgatory?
(a) Antonius de Rosellis.
These Men are used to brag much of their great Reading and deep Learning, which no body could ever yet see: Let them Now, if they can, give us a Specimen of it, that it may Appear they have at least read, or do know something.
They have taken all Opportunities, wherever they have been, of making a great Noise about the Antiquity of every Point of their Religion, and how it has ever been approved of, not only by the Commonalty, but by the Consent and Practice of all Times and Places. Let them now once in their Lives give some Proof of their Antiquity; let them make it appear that Those Tenets they talk so much of have been so universally Received. Let them declare that all Christendom has unanimously consented to This their Religion. But they fly back, as I said before, from their own Words; and have in so short a Time utterly renounced and abolished Those very Things which They Themselves, but a few Years ago, established to continue for Ever. How then should one give any Credit to them, as to the Fathers, the Ancient Councils, and the Word of God? They are Strangers to all those things they boast of; they have none of that Antiquity, Universality, or Agreement of Times and Places. Nor are they so ignorant of it as they would seem to be. Nay, and sometimes they do not stick to make a fair Confession of it too. And therefore they tell us that the Decrees of the Ancient Councils, and of the Fathers, are, upon some Occasions, not unalterable; for that such and such Ordinances are agreeable to such and such Ages of the Church. And thus they use the Name of the Church for a Cloak, and delude poor silly Creatures with their false Glosses. But what a Wonder is it, that Men can either be so Blind as not to see into them; or if they do, that they are so Patient, and so tamely suffer themselves to be abused!
But as they have ordered those Decrees to be laid aside, as now out of Fashion and out of Use; perhaps they have supplied their Places with some others that are better and of more Use: For they are wont to say, that neither Christ himself, nor any of his Apostles, were They to live again in These Days, could Govern the Church of God with more Prudence or Piety, than it is at Present Governed by them. They have indeed provided others in their stead; but as Jeremy (a) says, it is Chaff for Wheat: And as Isaiah (b) says, such as God hath not required at their hands. They have stopped all the Fountains of clear Springing Water, and digged for the People deceitful, filthy Pools, full of Mire and Dirt, which neither have, nor can contain Pure Water. They have deprived the People of the Holy Communion; of the Word of God, the Fountain of all Comfort and Consolation; of the True Worship of God; and of the Right Use of the Sacraments and Prayers: instead of which they have given us of Theirs, to divert our selves with in the mean while, Salt, Water, Boxes, Spitle, Palms, Bulls, Jubilees, Pardons, Crosses, Sensings, with an endless Train of Ceremonies, Toys, and Playthings. On These they lay the whole Stress of their Religion; with These they tell us an Atonement may be made to God for our Sins; that with These the Devil is made to flee from them: And by These Mens Consciences are set to Rest. These, forsooth, are the Flowers of the Christian Religion; these God looks upon favourably and graciously; these must come in Vogue, and the Institutions of Christ and his Apostles be quite laid aside. And as in Former Times that wicked King Jeroboam, when he had seduced the People from the Right Worship of God, to that of the Golden Calves, lest they should chance to change their Minds, fall off from them, and Return to the House of the Lord at Jerusalem, in a long Oration exhorted them to Constancy; saying, (c) Behold thy Gods, O Israel! after This Manner has God commanded you to Worship Him; for it is a long and tedious Journey for you to undertake, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem yearly to serve the Lord. Just so these Men, when they had once run down the Law of God, to make way for their own Traditions, lest the People should afterwards open their Eyes, fall away, and seek for surer Means of Salvation elsewhere; how often have they cried out, This is that Worship with which God is well Pleased, which he strictly Requires of us, and with which alone his Anger is to be Appeased; it is by These Means that the Church is preserved in Unity and Concord; These must expiate all our Sins, and quiet our Consciences; and whosoever departeth from These hath put himself into an absolute Incapacity of being saved. For it is tedious and troublesome, say they, to look back to Christ, his Apostles, and the Ancient Fathers, at every turn, and to be perpetually inquiring what their Will and Command is. This, you see, is to draw the People of God from the Weak Elements of the World, from the Leaven of the Scribes and Pharisees, and from the Traditions of Men. And it was but Reason that the Commands of Christ and his Apostles should be utterly abolished to make room for These. Good Reason indeed that an Ancient Doctrine, confirmed by the Approbation of many Ages, should be laid aside, and a New Form of Religion introduced into the Church of God. Nevertheless, whatever it be, their Cry still is that nothing ought to be altered; that Men are well satisfied with These Things; that the Church of Rome has decreed Them; and she cannot Err. For Sylvester Prierias says, that the Church of Rome is the Guide and Rule of Truth; and that the Holy Scriptures receive their Credit and Authority from Her: The Doctrine, says he, of the Romish Church is the infallible Rule of Faith, from whence the Holy Scripture receives its Force. And the Doctrine of Indulgences we have not from the Authority of the Scripture, but from the greater Authority of the Church and Bishops of Rome. And Pighius does not stick to say, that we are not to give Credit even to the Plainest Texts of Scripture without Licence from the Church of Rome. Just as if one that could not speak pure Terse Latin, but was ready at the Law Gibberish used in Pleading, should tell every body else, that they ought to use the same Dialect that Mammetrectus or Catholicon did many Years ago, and that they now use in their Courts; for so Men might understand one another well enough, and be well contented: And that it is Ridiculous now to trouble the World with a new Form of speaking, and to recall the Elegancy and Eloquence of Cicero and Caesar.
(a) Jer. 23. 38. (b) Isa. 1. (c) 1 Kings 12. 28.
So much are these Men beholding to the Blindness and Ignorance of their Fore-fathers. We often set a great Value, says (a) one, upon many things, only because they have been sometime dedicated to the Temples of the Gods: So we see many things now-a-days approved of, and applauded by These Men, not that they think them so much worth, but only because they have grown into a Custom, and in some sort been dedicated to the Temple of God.
But our Church, say they, cannot Err; which seems to be said, as the Lacedaemonians used to say, there was no Adulterer in their Commonwealth, when indeed they were rather all so, and had no Certainty in their Marriages, but kept their Wives in common: Or as the (a) Canonists for their Bellies sake now say of the Pope, that He is Lord of all Benefices, and calls all his own, he cannot be guilty of Simony if he would, though he should sell Bishopricks, Monasteries, Benefices, and would part with nothing gratis (b). But where the Strength and Reason of this Argument lies we cannot see, unless perhaps they have plucked the Wings of Truth, as the Romans did formerly of Victory, when she came to them, that she might not fly away from them again. But what if the Prophet Jeremy tell them, as we said before, that all these things are Lies? What if the same Prophet say in another (c) place, that those very Men that ought to be the Keepers of the Vineyard, have spoiled and made desolate the Vineyard of the Lord? What if Christ say They who ought to have the greatest Care of the House of God, (d) have made it a Den of Thieves? But if the Church of Rome cannot Err, it must be more owing to its Happiness, than to the Prudence of its Governours; for their Life, their Doctrine, their Care is such, that for all them the Church might not only Err, but be utterly Ruined and laid waste. And if that Church can Err, which has renounced the Word of God, the Commands of Christ, the Institutions of the Apostles, the Examples of the Primitive Church, the Ordinances of the Ancient Fathers and Councils, and its own Decrees, and which will be subject to no Laws, neither New nor Old, neither its own nor other Folks, neither Humane nor Divine; it is certain that the Church of Rome not only can Err, but also has Erred, after a most shameful and abominable manner.
(a) Summa Angelica, in dictione Papae. (b) Theodorius de Schismate. (c) Jer. 12. (d) Mat. 21.
But you have been, say they, of our Opinion, but are now become Apostates, and have departed from us: We acknowledge it, and earnestly thank God for it, and heartily rejoice for our own sakes. But we have not fallen away from the Primitive Church, from the Apostles, and Christ. We were indeed trained up amongst These Men in Darkness and Ignorance of God, as Moses was in the Learning as well as in the Bosom of the Aegyptians: We have been of your Sect, says Tertullian, we confess, nor is it any Wonder; for, says he, Men are made, not born, Christians. But why, pray, do the Citizens of Rome come down from those seven Hills on which their City formerly stood, and choose rather to dwell below in the Field of Mars? because they will say perhaps, that the Conduits of Water, without which they could not well live, began to fail on the Tops of the Mountains. Then it is but reasonable that they should give us the same liberty, as to the Waters of Eternal Life, that they take in seeking after the Waters of the Well. That Water does now fail amongst them: Their Nobles, says (a) Jeremiah, have sent their little ones to the Waters, they came to the Pits, and found no Water, they returned with their Vessels empty, they were ashamed and confounded : The Poor and Needy, saith (b) Isaiah, seek Water, and there is none, and their Tongue faileth for Thirst. So These Men have broken up the Pipes and Conduits; they have choked up all the Springs, and dammed up the Fountain of living Water with Mire and Dirt: And as Caligula formerly engrossed all the Corn, and made a Famine in the Land; so These Men, having stopped all the Fountains of God’s Word, have brought a miserable Thirst on the People. They have, as the Prophet Amos (c) says, brought a Famine and a Thirst into the Land, not a Famine of Bread, or a Thirst of Water, but of hearing the Words of God. In vain did poor Wretches wander about to find any the least spark of Divine Light to clear their Consciences; it was all clean put out; nor was there any to be found: This was the Condition, This was the deplorable State of the Church of God: They led a miserable Life, void of light, destitute of all Comfort.
(a) Jer. 14. (b) Isa. 41. (c) Amos 8.
Wherefore, though they are uneasy at our Departure, they ought however to consider how good Reason we have for it: For if they will deny it to be Lawful for any one to separate himself from the Society he was bred up in, they may with Ease bring the Prophets, Apostles, and Christ himself, under the same Accusation with us. For why do not they complain too, that Lot went out of Sodom, Abraham out of Chaldee, the Israelites out of Aegypt; that Christ departed from the Jews, and Paul from the Pharisees? For unless they will allow of a just Cause of Separation, I cannot see why they may not accuse Them of Faction and Sedition as well as Us.
And if they must condemn us for Hereticks because we are not obedient to their Commands; What will become of Them, or what shall we take Them for who make light of the Commands of Christ and his Apostles? If we are Schismaticks for dissenting from Them, what Name shall we give Them, who have, like ungrateful Children, fallen away from the Greeks, from whom they first received their Faith, the Primitive Church, Christ himself, and his Apostles? For the Greeks, who at This Day profess the Religion and Name of Christ, though they are not without many Corruptions, yet do retain a great Part of those Institutions which they received from the Apostles. And therefore they have no private Masses, no mangled Sacraments, Purgatories, nor Indulgences. But High-Priests and other Titles of Honour they have so great a Respect for, that whoever pretends to take upon him the Title of Universal Bishop or Head of the whole Church, they will not scruple to call him a Proud Man, one that uses all the other Bishops his Brethren ill, and an Heretick.
Now then, since it is evident beyond all dispute, that these Men have deserted Them from whom They at First received the Gospel, the Faith, the True Religion, and their Church itself; what Reason can they give why they refuse to return to Them, as to the Fountains whence they sprung? Why do they shun the Example of those Times, as if all the Apostles and Holy Fathers knew nothing of the Matter? Do they know more of the Church of God, or set a greater Value upon it, than those from whom we received these Traditions? We indeed have separated ourselves from that Church, wherein neither the Pure Word of God was Preached, the Sacraments duly Administered, nor the Name of God called on as it ought to be; which They Themselves confess, has a great many Corruptions; and which has nothing to induce a Man that has any Thought, or Care for his Salvation, to continue himself a Member of it: To conclude, We have left the Church as it now is, not as it was in Former Days; and so left it as Daniel did the Lion’s Den, or the Three Children the Fiery Furnace: Nor can we indeed be so properly said to have left it, as to have been forced out of it by their Curses.
And we have betaken ourselves to that Church in which, even They themselves, if they will speak Truly and Impartially, cannot deny but all things are done Decently and in Order, and as near as we can, according to the Institutions of Former Times. Let them but once compare our Church with Theirs, and they cannot but see that they have most shamefully fallen away from the Apostles, and We from Them with all the Justice in the World. For We, according to the Examples of Christ, his Apostles, and the Holy Fathers, give the Holy Communion entire to the People: They, in contradiction to all the Fathers, Apostles, and even to Christ himself, and as Gelatius says, most sacrilegiously divide the Sacrament, and cheat the People of one Part of it.
We have brought again the Lord’s Supper to its Primitive Institution, and by Administering it to all alike, make it a Communion indeed. They, contrary to Christ’s Ordinance, have made a thorough Innovation, and instead of the Holy Communion, introduced a Private Mass. So that We really Administer to the People the Lord’s Supper; They only set before them a Vain show. We, with the most Ancient Fathers, hold, that the Body of Christ is eaten by the Good and Faithful onely, and such as are endued with the Spirit of Christ: They teach that the Very Body of Christ may effectually, and as they word it, Really and Substantially be eaten, not only by Sinners and Unbelievers, but, which is Monstrous, by Dogs and Mice.
We offer up our Prayers in our Churches (as (a) St. Paul admonishes us) in words easy to be understood by the whole Congregation, that they may all jointly answer, Amen. They like sounding Brass, utter words which no Man understandeth, without either Meaning, Sense, or Devotion; and that on purpose that the People might be kept in Ignorance.
(a) 1. Cor. 14. 16.
But, say They, it would be Treason to attempt such a thing without a General Council; for There lies the whole strength of the Church, There Christ has promised to be always Present. But they make no scruple of breaking the Commands of God himself, and his Apostles, and as I said before, of throwing aside not only almost all the Institutions, but even the Doctrines of the Primitive Church, without staying for a General Council.
But whereas they say, that no Change must be made without a Council; Who was it gave us these Laws? Or from whence had they this Injunction?
It was simply enough done of King Agesilaus to lay his whole Cause before Apollo, to know whether he was of the same Opinion with his Father, when he had before had a positive Answer from Jupiter. But it would be much more so in us, if when we have God himself manifesting to us his Will and Commands in the Holy Scriptures, we should, as if that had signified nothing, refer our Cause to a Council; which were nothing else but to examine whether God and Men were of the same Opinion; and whether Men would confirm the Commands of God by Their Authority. What, shall not Truth be Truth, or God be God, but at the Will and Pleasure of a Council? If Christ had determined from the Beginning, that nothing should be Taught or Preached without a License from the Bishops, and had referred all his Doctrine to Annas and Caiphas; What had been become of the Christian Faith by this Time? Or who had ever heard any thing of the Gospel? Peter (whom the Pope speaks of oftner and with more Respect than he does of Christ himself) Vigorously opposed the Holy Council; and (a) declared it right in the sight of God to hearken more unto God than unto Man. And Paul, (b) when he had once Received the Gospel, and that not of Men, neither was he taught it, but by the Revelation of Jesus Christ; conferred not with Flesh and Blood, neither consulted his Kinsmen and Brethren, but went straightway into Arabia, to Preach the Divine Mysteries by God’s Authority.
(a) Acts 4. 19. (b) Gal. 1. 12, 16, 17.
But however, we do not undervalue Councils, nor Assemblies, and Conferences of Bishops and Learned Men; nor have we done what we have, altogether without Bishops or a Council. The Matter has been debated in open Parliament, with a long Consultation, and before a full House. But as to This Council which Pope Pius has now called, wherein Men are, without any more a-do condemned unheard, unseen; it is not very difficult to foretel what we are like to expect from it.
(a) Nazianzene when he saw how blind and obstinate Men were in such Assemblies in his Days, and how they were led aside by Parties, and endeavoured more for the Victory than for the Truth; Publickly declared, ‘That he never saw a good end of any Council. What would he say then, if he were to live in These Days, and to see how These Men go on? For Then, though both Parties were very earnest, yet all Controversies were heard, and the manifest Errors of both sides were removed by General Consent. But These Men will neither suffer the Cause to be fairly tried, nor any Errors whatsoever to be amended.
(a) Nazian. ad Procopium.
For they often have the Impudence to boast of the Infallibility of their Church, that it neither is, nor can be guilty of any Fault, nor ought to yield to us in any thing. Or if there be any Fault, it ought to be examined into by the Bishops and Abbots, that They are the Governors and Guides in all Affairs, that They are the Church of God. Aristotle says, that a City cannot consist of Bastards; then let These Men consider whether they can make a Church of God; for without a doubt neither their Abbots, nor Bishops are True and Lawful. But suppose them a True Church, to have the Power of Speaking in Councils, and to be the onely People that ought to be permitted to give their Opinions; yet in former Days, when the Church of God, if That may be compared to their Church, was very well governed, St. Cyprian (a) tells us, that Priests and Deacons, and sometimes some of the Commonalty were called in, and made acquainted with the Ecclesiastical Affairs.
(a) Lib. 3. Epist. 10.
But suppose these Abbots and Bishops know nothing of the Matter? What if They are wholly ignorant of God and Religion? What if the Priests have lost the Law, and the Elders are to seek in good Counsel? And if, as the Prophet Micah (a) says, The Night be unto them, that they have not a Vision, and that it be dark unto them, that they cannot Divine? Or if, as (b) Isaiah says, The Watchmen are blind? What if (c) the Salt have lost its Savour, and, as Christ says, be good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of Men?
(a) Micah 3. 6. (b) Isa. 56. 10. (c) Mat. 5. 13.
Why Then they will Refer all things to the Pope, who cannot Err. In the First Place, it is very absurd to suppose the Holy Ghost must take a Flight from a General Council to Rome, to be instructed by some more subtle Spirit, when he happens on any knotty Point, which he cannot resolve of himself. For if so, what occasion were there for so many Bishops to take so long and chargeable Journeys to Assemble their Convocation now at Trent? It would have been much the wisest way, and doubtless the most cheap and easy, to have referred all to the Pope, and without any more ado to have gone and consulted the Oracle of his Divine Breast. In the Next Place, it is by no means Reasonable that we should from so many Bishops and Abbots, at last refer our Cause to the Judgment of one Man; especially of such a Man as we have accused of very hainous Crimes, and who has not answered for himself, and who has already condemned us beforehand, without ever being suffered to appear in our own behalf. Can ye say that These are Stories of our own inventing? Is not this the Daily Practice of the Councils? Are not all things referred from the Holy Council to the Pope alone; that, as if the Opinion and Consent of so many Men signified nothing, He alone might Add, Alter, Diminish, Disannul, Allow, Remit, and Admit of whatever he pleased? Whose Words are These then? And why did the Bishops and Abbots, so lately as the Last Council of Trent, conclude Thus, The Authority of the Apostolick See always, in All Things, excepted? Or why does Pope Paschal write so insolently of himself? As if, says he (a), any General Council were capable of giving Laws to the Church of Rome, when all Councils have been convened by the Authority of the See of Rome, and received their Force from Thence, and in all their Decrees the Pope’s Authority is plainly excepted. If they allow of These Things, why do they call Councils? If they would have them of no effect, why do they let them stand upon Record, as if they did approve of them?
(a) De Electione & Electi potestate ea. Significati.
But suppose the Bishop of Rome to be superior to all Councils, which is to say, suppose a Part greater than the Whole; suppose him to have more Wit and Power than all that belong to him; and in spite of Jerome‘s (a) Teeth, one City to have more Authority than all the World: Yet what if the Pope be ignorant of all these things, and a Stranger not only to the Holy Scriptures and Ancient Fathers, but even to his own Councils? What if he do, as Pope Liberius (b) formerly did, incline to Arianism? What if he entertain wrong and bad Notions of a Future Life, and the Immortality of the Soul, as Pope John did not many Years ago? Or what if he corrupt other Councils, as Pope Zozimus did the Council of Nice, to increase his Power, and declare Those Things to have been constituted and decreed by the Holy Fathers, which they never thought of; and, which Camotensis says is very usual with the Popes, wrest the Sense of the Scriptures, that they may have the full Sway of Authority? What if he Renounce the Christian Faith, and turn Apostate, which Lyranus affirms many of the Popes have done? Shall the Holy Ghost, notwithstanding all this, demand Entrance at his Breast, and in spite of his teeth kindle the Light of Truth in him, that he may become Infallible? Or shall He be the Foundation of all Right, and have all Wisdom and Understanding found treasured up in Him as in a Store-house? And if he have not, how should he be capable of being a fit Judge in so weighty a Concern? And if he be not capable, what Reason is there that he should expect to have such things brought before Him onely? What if the Pope’s Advocates, Abbots and Bishops, throw off the Mass, and profess themselves Enemies of the Gospel; shut their Eyes against what they plainly see, Wrest the Scriptures, and wilfully corrupt and adulterate the Word of God; and (c) impiously and Prophanely apply to the Pope such things as are plainly and properly spoken of Christ, and cannot possibly be meant of any other Man? What if they tell us that the Pope is All, and over All, and that he is of Equal Power with Christ, and that Christ and the Pope have but one Judgment-Seat, and one Council-Room between them? Or that He is That (d) Light which came into the World, (which Christ spake of himself) and which the Evil Doers hate and fly from; or that all other Bishops have received of his Fulness (e)? In short, what if they boldly and barefaced make Decrees expresly contrary to the Word of God? Must whatever they say immediately pass for Gospel? Shall this be the Army of God? Shall Christ himself be present with them? And shall they have the Holy Ghost at their Tongues end? Or is it fitting for such Men to cry at every turn, We and the Holy Ghost approve of it? Peter Asotus and his Friend (f) Hosius make no scruple of declaring, that That very Council, in which our Saviour Jesus Christ was condemned to Death, was guided by the Holy Ghost, and had the undoubted Spirit of Prophecy and Truth; and that That Saying of the Bishops; (g) We have a Law, and by our Law he ought to die, was very Just and Reasonable; that they hit upon the very Truth of Judgment, as his own Words are; and that there could not be a more Just Decree than That wherein they declared Christ to be worthy of Death. It is something strange methinks that they cannot speak for themselves, and defend their own Cause, but they must justify Annas and Caiphas too. For what Council will They ever find fault with, who pronounce That a Just and Lawful one, in which the Son of God was most shamefully condemned to the Death of the Cross? Yet such is the Nature of almost all their Councils, that there was a Necessity for their saying thus much for Annas and Caiaphas. But are these the Men that are to Reform our Church for us, that are themselves both Judges and Criminals? Will they lay aside their Pride and Ambition? Will they desert their own Cause, and give Sentence against Themselves, That their Bishops shall not be ignorant, slow Bellies, Engrossers of Benefices, and shall no more take upon them to be Princes or Warriors? Will the Pope’s Darling Abbots acknowledge that Monk a Thief that does not Labour for his Living? Or that it is not Lawful for him to live in Cities, or in Daily Converse with the Multitude, or at other Mens Cost? Or that it is the Duty of a Monk to lie upon the Ground, to live upon Herbs and Pease, to Study, to Dispute, to Pray, to Work, and to Fit himself for the Ministry of the Church? The Scribes and Pharisees will as soon Repair the House of God, and instead of a Den of Thieves, Restore us a House of Prayer.
(a) Ad Evagrium. (b) Vide Sozomen. Eccles. Hist. lib. 4. cap. 15. (c) Hosi. ca. Quanto Abbas Panor. De Elect. ca. Venerabilis. Cornelius Episc. in Concilio Tridentino. (d) John 8. 12. (e) Durandus. (f) Hosius contra Brentium, lib. 2. (g) John 19. 7.
There have been some of them that have found fault with a great many Errours in the Church; as Pope Adrian, Aeneas Sylvius, Cardinal Pool, Pighius, and others before-mentioned. They afterwards held the Council of Trent in the same Place where it is now held: There met together a great many Bishops and Abbots, and others that had Business there. They were alone; there was no Body to contradict whatever they did: For our Party they had utterly excluded all their Assemblies. And there they say for six Years, feeding the People with mighty Expectations. The First six Months, as a Matter of great Importance, they made Decrees concerning the Holy Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; very good things, but not absolutely necessary at that Time. But in all that Time, what one Errour out of so many Plain Manifest ones, and which they had so often confess’d to be so, have they amended? From what Piece of Idolatry have they reclaimed the People? What Superstition have they taken away? What Part of their Pomp and Tyranny have they abated? As if it were not now manifest to all the World, that this Council is no better than a Conspiracy; and that those Bishops the Pope has now convened, are absolutely his Creatures; and will do nothing but what they are sure will Please him, and will tend to the advancing of his Power; or that they stand more upon the number than the weight of their Voices; or that the better Part is often overcome by the stronger. And therefore we know that a great many good Men and Catholick Bishops have refused to be present at such Councils, in which Men so plainly took pains to uphold Factions and Parties; When they knew how obstinate their Enemies were, and that they should but lose their Labour. Athanasius (a) would not appear at the Council which the Emperor called at Caesarea, knowing it was but thrusting himself amongst his deadly Enemies. And the same Athanasius when he came afterwards to the Council at Smyrna, and foresaw by the Rage and Malice of his Enemies what would be the end of it, immediately returned Home with all that belonged to him. John (b) Chrysostom, though he was Four several Times Summoned by the Emperour Arcadius to the Council of the Arians, would not stir from Home, when Maximus Bishop of Jerusalem sate in the Council of Palaestine, Father Paphnutius took him by the Hand and led him out of Doors, saying, it is by no means fitting that we should hold any Conference about These Things with Wicked Men. The Bishops of the East refused to be present at the Syrmian Council, when they knew Athanasius had withdrew himself. Cyril recalled by Letters, a great many from the Council of the Patropassians, as they called themselves. Paulinus (c) Bishop of Trier, and many others, refused to be at the Council of Milan, when they understood how Auxentius bestirred himself there. For they saw it was to no Purpose for them to go where Faction, not Reason, bore the Sway, and where Favour, not Justice, was contended for. And yet had These Fathers appeared, they would at least have had a free Audience in spite of all the Malice of their Enemies.
(a) Theodorit. Eccl. Hist. lib. 1. cap. 28. (b) Tripar. lib. 10. c. 13. (c) Tripar. lib. 5. c. 15.
Now therefore when none of us are suffered to speak our Minds, or so much as to appear in any of their Councils; when the Pope’s Legates, Patriarchs, Archbishops, Bishops, and Abbots, are all conspired together, all in the same Fault, all under one Oath, sit by themselves, and have the sole Power of giving their Opinions; and at Last as if they had done nothing, lay all before the Pope, to be determined according to his Will and Pleasure alone; that He may give Sentence upon himself, who ought rather to answer for himself. And since That Ancient Christian Liberty, that ought chiefly to take place in Christian Councils, is now entirely taken away from the Council. It ought not to be a matter of Wonder to sober and considerate Persons, that we now do the same that so many Fathers and Catholick Bishops thought fit to do in the like case in Times of old; namely, that since we must not be allowed to speak in Council, the Ambassadors of Princes are made a Jest of, and we are all of us condemned before Trial, as a thing dispatched and agreed on beforehand, we rather choose to stay at home, and commit our Cause to God, than go thither where there is no room for us, nor any good to be done by us.
However we can Calmly and Patiently bear our own Private Injuries, but why are Christian kings and Princes kept out of their Councils? Why do they so Uncivilly, or I may say, Maliciously Exclude them, and as if they were either Enemies to, or Ignorant of the Christian Religion, keep them unaquainted with the Affairs of it, and even with the Estate of their own Churches? Or if they interpose their Authority, and do what is in their Power, That which they are commanded to do, which it is their Duty to do, and which to our Knowledge both David and Solomon, and other good Princes have done; that is to say, if they, whilst the Pope and his Prelates sleep, or villanously oppose them, Lay a Restraint upon the Licentiousness of the Priests, Force them to their Duty, and keep them to it; if they Abolish Idolatry, Abate Superstition, and Restore the True Worship of God; why do These Men immediately give it out that such Princes make a General Disturbance, force themselves into other Peoples Business, and that they are very wicked and saucy for so doing? What Part of Scripture enjoins a Christian Prince to be hindered from taking Cognizance of These Matters? By whom were ever any such Laws Made, but by themselves only?
To this they answer; It is the Business of Civil Princes to Govern a Commonwealth, and to be skilled in Military Affairs: Mysteries of Religion are out of their way; if so, what is the Pope at This Day but a Monarch or a Prince? What do they make of the Cardinals that must be none else but Princes and Kings Sons? What are the Patriarchs, great part of the Archbishops, Bishops, and Abbots in the Pope’s Kingdom now-a-days, but Civil Princes, Dukes, and Earls, Magnificently attended to wherever they go; and often adorned with Chains and Collars? They have too sometimes their Peculiar Ornaments, as Crosses, Pillars, Hats, Miters, and Palls; which Pomp the Bishops in old Time, St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, and St. Chrysostom, never took upon them. But besides all this, what Doctrine do they teach, what do they do or say, or what Life do they lead, that is either becoming a Bishop, or indeed a Christian? Is it so honourable to have an Empty Title, or to be called Bishop only because of the Change of the Garment?
To have the Whole Stress of all Affairs laid upon these Men alone, that neither do nor will know any thing of the Matter, nor have the least Concern for any Part of Religion, any farther than what relates to their Belly; to have such onely made Judges, and to have those Blind Watchmen set up in the Watch Towers; and a Christian Prince of good Understanding and sound Judgment, to be made no more of than a Block, not suffered to give his Vote, or speak his Mind, onely to stand like one void of all Sense, and wait for their Pleasure; to allow of whatever they impose upon him without any Exception, and to pay a Blind Obedience to all Their Commands, be they never so Blasphemous and Wicked, nay, though they oblige him to Extirpate all Religion, even to crucify the Son of God afresh. This, I say, is not only Imperious, Malicious, and Unreasonable, but what is not to be Born by any Christian and considerate Prince. For why is it not Reasonable to suppose that David and Ezechias should see so far into these Matters as Annas and Caiaphas? And why is it not as Lawful for an Emperor or a Christian King to sit in Council, as for a Cardinal, a Military or Blood-thirsty Man?
We give our Magistrates no further Liberty than what we find is their due by the Word of God, and what the Practice and Example of the best Governed Commonwealths have confirmed. For besides that the Care of both Tables is committed to a Christian Prince by God, that he may understand that all Affairs, as well Ecclesiastical as Civil, come under his Cognizance; besides, that God doth often and strictly command the King to cut down the Groves, to beat the graven Images to Powder, and to break down the Altars, and to write him a Copy of the Law in a Book; and besides that, Isaiah (a) tells us, that Kings should be Nursing Fathers of the Church: I say, besides all these things, it is Evident from the Histories and Examples of the Best Times, that Pious Princes ever thought the Administration of Ecclesiastical Affairs a Part of their Duty.
(a) Isa. 49. 23.
Moses (a), who was a Civil Magistrate, and a Leader of the People, both Received from God, and Delivered to the People all Orders concerning their Religion and Rites; and chid Aaron the Bishop very severely about the Golden Calf, and the Corruption of Religion. And Joshua (b) too, though but a Civil Magistrate, as soon as he was chosen and set over the People, received Express Commands concerning Religion and the Worship of God.
(a) Exod. 12. (b) Jos. 1.
King David (a), when the very Steps of Religion were rased out by the Wicked King Saul, brought again the Ark of God, that is to say, Restored Religion; and not only proposed and furthered the Work, but He himself composed and appointed Psalms and Hymns, ordered their Ranks, was the sole Manager of the Solemnity, and in a manner Presided over the Priests. King Solomon (b) Built a Temple for the Lord, which his Father David had but designed; which done, He made an Elegant Oration to the People in Commendation of Religion and the Worship of God; and then removed (c) Abiathar the Priest, and set up Zadok in his stead. And afterwards when the Temple of God was shamefully Polluted by the Carelesness and Sensuality of the Priests, King Hezechias (d) commanded it to be Purged of its Rubbish and Uncleanness, that Candles should be lighted, Incense burned, and Divine Service performed as it used to be: And he also commanded the Brazen Serpent, to which the People then impiously paid Adoration, To be taken down (e) and beaten to Powder. King Jahosaphat (f) laid waste the Hill-Altars and Groves, which he saw were an Hindrance to the Worship of God, and that the People were seduced by their Private Superstition from the Temple which was at Jerusalem, to which they ought once a Year to resort from every Part of the Kingdom. King Josias (g) was careful of Reminding the Bishops and Priests of their Duty. King Joas put a stop to the Luxury and Insolency of the Priests. Jehu (h) put the False Prophets to Death. But to have done with Scripture Examples, let us consider the Administration of the Church in The Time of the Gospel, since the Birth of Christ. The Christian Emperors formerly appointed the Councils of Bishops: Constantine called That which was held at Nice: Theodosius the First, That at Constantinople: Theodosius the Second, That at Ephesus: Martin That at Chalcedon. When Ruffinus alledged for his own Authority a Council, which he thought would make for him, his Adversary St. Jerome, to confute him, bid him tell by what Emperor’s Command that Council was called. And the same St. Jerome, in his Epitaph on Paula, mentions Letters of the Emperors that commanded the Latin and Greek Bishops to be called to Rome. And so for Five Hundred Years together the Emperor was the only Person that ordered the Ecclesiastical Assemblies, and called the Councils of the Bishops.
(a) 1 Chron. 13. (b) 2 Chron. 6. (c) 1 Kings 2. 35. (d) 2 Chron. 29. (e) 2 Kings 18. (f) 2 Chron. 17. (g) 2 Kings 23. (h) 2 Kings 10.
Wherefore We are the more apt to Wonder at the Unreasonableness of the Bishop of Rome, who, when he knows what Authority the Emperor had in the most Flourishing Age of the Church, and that, since there are Kings possessed of several Parts of the Empire, it is the common Right of all Princes; does so inconsiderately Assume the Whole Authority, and thinks he does Enough, if, upon calling a Council, he makes (a) the greatest Prince upon Earth as much acquainted with his Design, as he does one of his own Servants. And though the Emperor Fardinand, being perhaps not well acquainted with the Pope’s Artifices, hath Modesty and good Nature enough to put up such an Affront; yet one would think it should not consist with the Pope’s Holiness to do him so much wrong, and to lay Claim to another Man’s Right.
(a) Ut Pius 4. In Bulla sua ad Imper. Ferdinandum.
To this some one perhaps will answer, the Emperor did indeed call Councils, as you say, but then it was before the Pope was arrived to that Grandeur He now is; and even Then the Emperor never sat in Council with the Bishops, nor ever offered in the least to interpose his Authority in any of their Consultations. But this is not True, for Theodoret tells us (a), that the Emperor Constantine did not only sit with the Bishops in the Council of Nice, but also gave them his Advice, how they should try their Cause by the Writings of the Apostles and Prophets. Where there is any Dispute, says he, concerning Points of Divinity, we have the Doctrine of the Holy Ghost set before us, which we are to follow: For the Evangelists and Apostles, and the Sayings of the Prophets, are sufficient to manifest to us what Notion we ought to have of the Will of God. Theodosius the Emperor, says Socrates (b), not only sat amongst the Bishops, but also was the sole Manager of the Dispute, Rent in pieces the Works of the Hereticks, and approved of, and confirmed the Opinions of the Catholicks.
(a) Hist. Eccl. lib. 1. cap. 7. Vide Euseb. De Vita Cons. lib. 3. cap. 10, 12, 13. Edit. Vales. (b) Socrates, lib. 5. cap. 10.
In the Council (a) at Chalcedon a Civil Magistrate condemned with his own Mouth the Bishops Dioscorus, Juvenal, and Thalassius, for Hereticks, and judged them worthy to be deprived of their Dignities in the Church.
(a) Vide Evagr. Eccles. Hist. lib. 2. cap. 4. Actione 1.
In the third Council at Constantinople, Constantine, a Civil Magistrate, not only sat with the Bishops, but also subscribed with them; for, says He, we have both Read and Subscribed. In the Second Council, called Arausicanum, the Ambassadors of Princes, being Noblemen, did not only give their Opinions in Matters of Religion, but subscribed too with the Bishops: For thus it is written at the Latter End of that Council; Petrus Marcellinus, Felix, Liberius, being most Noblemen, Lieutenants, and Captains of France, and also Peers of the Realm, have given their Consent, and set their Hands to it. Syagrius, Opilio, Pantagathus, Deodatus, Cariatho, Marcellus, very Famous Men, have subscribed. And if it be so that Lieutenants, Chief Captains, and Peers, have had Authority to subscribe in Council, have not Emperors and Kings the same. But there had indeed been no occasion to have been so Tedious, and to have made so many words about a Matter so plain and obvious, had not we been to deal with such sort of Men as will merely for the sake of Contention and in hopes of getting the better, deny all things be they never so plain, even such as even They Themselves see with their own Eyes. The Emperor Justinian instituted a Law for correcting the Manners and restraining the Insolency of the Clergy. And though he was a Christian Catholick Prince, yet deposed two Popes, Successors of Peter, and Christ’s Vicars, Sylvius and Vigilius.
And shall we say that such Men have nothing to do to trouble themselves about Religion, who have Authority over the Bishops; who Receive Commands from God, concerning Religion; who Restore the Ark of God, compose holy Hymns, preside over the Priests, Build Temples, and make Orations to the People concerning the Worship of God; who Clear the Temples, break down the Hill-Altars, and set on fire the Groves of the Idols; who Remind the Priests of their Duty, and Write them Rules for their manner of Living; who put the wicked Prophets to Death; who Remove High-Priests; who call Councils of Bishops; who not only sit with Bishops, but also Instruct them in their Duty; who condemn Heretical Bishops to Punishment; who take cognizance of matters of Religion, Subscribe, and give Sentence; and do all this not by the command of any other, but in their own Name, and that Justly and Piously? Or shall we call any Civil Magistrate that intermeddles with These Affairs, Irreligious, Impudent, or Prophane? The most Ancient and Christian Kings and Emperors, exercised themselves in Affairs of this kind, and yet were never therefore branded with Impiety or Presumption. And where shall we find either more Catholick princes, or more Famous Examples?
Wherefore, if This were Lawful for Those Men to do, who were but Civil Magistrates, and had the Management of Publick Affairs; What have our Princes now-a-days done, who are in the same Station, that they are denied the same Authority? Or what extraordinary Gift of Learning, Judgment, and Sanctity have These Men got, that contrary to the Custom of all Ancient and Catholick Bishops, who are wont to consult with Princes concerning Religion, they now keep Christian Princes not only from their Councils, but from the knowledge of the Business of them? But they are in the Right of it to take such care of themselves and their Kingdom, which they see well enough would otherwise come to Ruine; for if once Those whom God has been pleased to place in the Highest Dignity should come to understand and look into their Practices; how the Commands of Christ are slighted, the Light of the Gospel not only Darkened, but quite Put out by them; how They Themselves are made their Sport, and unawares deluded and debarred the Kingdom of God: They would certainly never with so much Patience, suffer themselves to be so disdainfully treated and abused by them. But now, through their own Blindness and Ignorance, they are kept fast in their Snare.
We for our Parts, as we said before, have not made any alteration in Religion, either Rashly or Insolently, but Leisurely and Considerately: Nor had it ever entered into our Thoughts to do any such thing, had not the manifest and unquestionable Will of God, Revealed to us in Holy Writ, and the concern of our Salvation put us upon it. For though we have dissented from that which these Men call the Catholick Church, and thereby created ourselves Enemies amongst such as have no Judgment: Yet it is Satisfaction enough to us (and it ought to be so to every Prudent and Pious Man, that has any thoughts of Immortality) that we have left that Church which hath Power to Err, which Christ, who cannot Err, told us so long before should Err, and which we our selves with our own Eyes have seen desert the Holy Fathers, the Apostles, Christ himself, and the primitive and Catholick Church. And We have joined our selves as near as we could, to the Church of the Apostles, and of the Ancient and Catholick Bishops and Fathers; which to our Knowledge hath hitherto been Sound and Perfect, and, as Tertullian words it, a Pure Virgin, not polluted with any Idolatry or Gross and Infamous Errour: And have directed not only our Doctrine, but Sacraments and Form of Common-Prayer, according to their Rights and Institutions. And as we know Christ himself and all good Men have done, we have recovered that Religion which has been so shamefully neglected and corrupted by them, and brought it back to its Original and First Foundation. For we thought we could find no better ground for a Reformation, than that on which the Foundation of Religion was laid. For this Argument says That most Ancient Father Tertullian, holds good against all Heresies: Whatsoever was First, that is True; whatsoever comes After, that is Corrupt. Irenaeus often appealed to the most Ancient Churches, those that were the nearest to Christ’s Time, and which could scarce be thought to have ever Erred. And why is not the same Argument good now? Why do not we return to the Example of the Ancient Churches? What is the Reason that we never Now-a-days hear that Sentence that was formerly pronounced without any Contradiction in the Council of Nice, by so many Bishops and Catholick Fathers,
εθη αρχαια κρατειτω, Keep to the old Customs? When Esdras went about to Repair the Ruins of the Temple of God, he did not send to Ephesus for a Pattern, though there was the most Glorious and Beautiful Temple of Diana: And when he thought of Restoring the Sacrifices and Ceremonies of God, he sent not to Rome, though it is probable he had heard that there were Sacrifices called Hecatombs, Solituarilia, Lectisternia, Supplications: and Numa Pompilius’s Books of Rituals. He thought it would be sufficient for him if he followed the Model of the old Temple, which Solomon had built at First according to God’s own Appointment, and kept up those Ancient Rites and Ceremonies which God himself had expressly Written and delivered to Moses.
The Prophet Haggai, when the Temple was Repaired again by Esdras, and the People might think they had just cause to Rejoice for so great a Benefit received from God Almighty, yet made them all burst out into Tears, when Those which were yet alive, and had seen the Ancient Building of the Former Temple, before it was Demolished by the Babylonians, Remembered that it yet came much short of the Beauty it had before. For then they would have thought the Temple Gloriously Repaired, if it had answered the First Pattern, and the Genuine Majesty of the Building.
St. Paul when he had Mind to clear the Lord’s Supper of those Corruptions which the (a) Corinthians had then begun to introduce, Proposed to them Christ’s Institution for an Example: I have, says He, Received of the Lord that which I also delivered unto you. And Christ, to confute the Errours of the Pharisees, tells them, Ye must return to the Beginning, from the Beginning it was not so. And when he Reproved the Priests for their Covetousness and Evil Doings, and turned them out of the Temple, This, was at the Beginning said he a House of Prayer, wherein all People might devoutly and sincerely offer their Prayers to God; and That is the use we ought now to make of it; for it was not Built to be a Den of Thieves. And what was most Praise-worthy in all the Pious and Famous Princes we read of in Holy Scripture, was, that they Walked in the way of their Father David, that is to say, that they had Returned to the First Beginning and Foundation of Religion, and restored it to its Original Perfection.
(a) 1 Cor. 11. 23.
Therefore when we saw all Things thus trodden under foot by these Men, and nothing but most deplorable Ruins remaining of the Temple of God: We took it to be the most Prudent way, to set before us those Churches which we were well assured had never Erred, nor admitted of any Private Masses, Unintelligible Prayers, This corruption of the Sacraments, or any other Follies. And when we proposed to Restore the Temple of God to its Primitive Beauty, we desired no other Foundation than that which we knew the Apostles had laid of old; that is, our Saviour Jesus Christ. And therefore hearing God himself speak to us in his Word, and seeing the Famous Examples of the Old Primitive Church; and considering too how uncertain the Expectation of a General Council would be, and that the Event would be much more so; and being well assured which was of the Greatest Weight with us, that it was the Will of God, and consequently that we ought not to be too Sollicitous about the Opinions of Men; we could no longer have the Patience to consult Flesh and Blood, but rather chose to do what might very Justly be done, and had been done by a great many Pious Men and Catholick Bishops; that is, to call our own Churches to account by a Provincial Synod. For so we know the old Fathers used to try Matters before they came to the Publick Universal Council. And we have Canons extant to this Day Written in Councils of Free Cities, as of Carthage under Cyprian, Ancyra, Neocaesarea, and Gangra and Paphlagonia, as it is thought, long before the General Council of Nice was ever heard of. And thus did they formerly provide against the Pelagians and Donatists by Private Disputations in their own Houses without any General Council. So when the Emperor Constantius publickly espoused the Cause of Auxentius Bishop of the Arian Faction, Ambrose the Christian Bishop, did not appeal to a General Council (where by Reason of the Emperor’s Authority, and his earnest endeavours for the Party, he foresaw no good could be done) but to his own Clergy and People; That is, to a Provincial Synod. Thus it was decreed in the Council of Nice, that the Bishops should meet Twice every Year: And Again in the Council of Carthage, that they should meet once a Year at least in their respective Provinces: Which was done, as we are told, at the Council of Calcedon, that if any Errours or Abuses sprang up, they might immediately be taken in the Bud, and cut off where they First appeared. So when Secundus and Paladius found fault with the Council at Aquileia, because it was not a General Council, St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, answered, that it ought not to be looked upon as a Strange and Uncommon thing, if the Bishops of the West called Synods, and made Private Assemblies in their Provinces: For that had been often done before by the Western Bishops, and by those of Greece. So the Emperor Charles the Great held a Provincial Council in Germany, in Opposition to the Second Council of Nice, for the putting down of Images. Nor is it an Unheard of or Uncommon Thing amongst us. For we have had Provincial Synods in England before now, and have made Laws amongst our selves for the Government of our Churches. But in short, what will all those Large and populous Councils, which they so much boast of, appear to be, but Private Councils and Provincial Synods, if compared with all the Churches in the World that believed in God, and Profess the Name of Christ? For we will suppose Italy, France, Spain, England, Germany, Denmark, and Scotland to be met together; yet if Asia, Greece, Armenia, Persia, Media, Mesopotamia, Aegypt, Aethiopia, India, and Mauritania, in all which Places there are a great many Christians and Bishops, are absent; how can any Man in his right Senses call That a General Council? Or how can they say they have the Consent of the whole World, when so many Parts of it know nothing of the Matter? Or what sort of Council was the Last that was held at Trent? Or how could that be called a General Council, where there were but Forty Bishops present out of all the Christian Kingdoms and Nations, and some of Them so Wise, that they seem’d fit to be sent to School again to learn their Grammar, others so Learned, that they knew nothing at all of Divinity? However, the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ does not in the least depend on Councils, or as St. Paul says, upon (a) the Judgment of Man. And if They, whose Business it is to take care of the Church of God, will resolve to be Imprudent, to Neglect their Duty, and to harden their Hearts against God and his Son Jesus Christ, and go on to Pervert the Way of the Lord; God will raise up the very Stones, and ordain Strength out of the mouth of Babes and Sucklings, but that there shall never be wanting some to confute their Untruths. For God is able, not only without any Council, but also in spite of All the General Councils on Earth, to Defend and Advance his own Kingdom. Many, says Solomon (b), are the Devices of a Man’s Heart: nevertheless the Counsel of the Lord, that shall stand. There is no Wisdom, no Knowledge, no Counsel against the Lord. There is no Duration in the Work of Mens Hands, says Hilary (c); the Church must be Built by other Means, by other Means Preserved. For That is (d) Built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief Corner Stone. But very Remarkable, and Applicable to These Times, is the Saying of St. Jerome: Those, says he (e), whom the Devil hath deluded, and as it were with a Syren‘s Song, lulled asleep, does the Word of God awaken and alarm; saying, (f) Awake Thou that sleepest, and arise from the Dead, and Christ shall give thee Light. At the coming therefore of Christ, of the Word of God, and of the Doctrine of the Church, and of the Final Desolation of Ninive, that most Beautiful Harlot, then shall all Those that have heretofore been cast asleep by their Masters, Arise and flee unto the Mountains of the Scriptures; there shall they find the Mountains, viz. Moses, and Joshua the Son of Nun; the Mountains, the Prophets; the Mountains of the New Testament, the Apostles and Evangelists. And when they shall Flee unto such Mountains, and exercise themselves in the Study of Them, if they find none to instruct them (for the Harvest shall be plenteous, and the Labourers few;) nevertheless their Endeavours shall be approved of, in that they fled unto those Mountains, and their Masters shall be reproved for their Negligence. These are the Words of St. Jerome, and they are so plain as to need no Interpreter; for they touch so home the things that we see now come to pass, that one would think He had designed to Prophesy to us, and to set before us the Universal State of this our Age, of the Downfall of that most glorious Harlot Babylon, the Reparation of the Church of God, and the Blindness and Sloth of the Bishops, and the Good-will and Forwardness of the People. For who can be so blind as not to see that Those are the very Masters, who, as St. Jerome says, have deluded the People into an Errour, and charmed them to sleep; or that Rome, their Ninive, so set off with counterfeit Beauties, the Mask being pulled off, is now plainer seen and less valued; or that Good Men, being at length awakened as it were from a dead Sleep by the Light of the Gospel, and the Voice of God, do no longer wait for the Councils of their Masters, but Flee unto the Mountains of the Scriptures?
(a) 1 Cor. 4. 3. (b) Prov. 19. 21. (c) Hilar. in Psal. 126. (d) Eph. 2. 20. (e) In Prophetam Naum. (f) Eph. 5. 14.
But some one perhaps will say, Things of This Kind ought not to have been attempted without Order of the Bishop of Rome; for He alone is the Knot and Band of Christian Society; He alone is that Priest of the Tribe of Levi, that God mentions in Deuteronomy, to whom all Men ought to resort for True Judgment and Counsel in Matters of Moment; and if any one deviate from his Judgment, he ought to be put to Death for an Example in the midst of his Brethren; that Christ reigneth in Heaven, He on Earth; that He alone hath as much Power as Christ, or even God himself, for that Christ and He have but one Consistory; that without Him there is no Faith, no Nope, no Church; and that whosoever Renounceth him, putteth himself out of all hopes of Salvation. This is the Doctrine of the Canonists, the Pope’s Parasites, which is certainly no great Token of Discretion and Modesty; for it is hardly possible for them to say More, nay, they cannot say Greater Things of Christ himself.
We, in good truth, have not left the Pope for any Satisfaction or Benefit we gain by it. And we heartily wish he had so behaved himself that there had been no Occasion for any Division amongst us. But it was come to That Issue, that we must either leave Him or Christ. And He would agree with us upon no other Terms, than Those which Nahash King of the Ammonites formerly made with (a) the Men of Jabesh, viz. that He might thrust out all their right Eyes: for He would deprive us of the Holy Scriptures, the Gospel of our Salvation, and all the Hope we have in Christ Jesus. And upon no other Conditions will he agree with us.
(a) 1 Sam. 11. 2.
As to their Brags of the Pope’s being the onely Successour of Peter, and therefore having the Holy Ghost within him, and being unable to Err, it is all a Jest. God hath promised His Grace to a Pious Mind, and to one that Fears Him, not to Sees and Successions. Riches, says St. Jerome, may make one Bishop more Powerful than the rest, but all Bishops, whatsoever they be, are the Successours of the Apostles. If the Place and Consecration onely be sufficient, then Manasses succeeded David, and Caiaphas Aaron, and an Idol hath often stood in the Temple of God. There was one Archidamus in former Days, a Lacedaemonian, that used to boast much of his Lineage, being descended from Hercules; whom Nicostratus thus reprimanded for his Insolence: One would not, says He, that you to be a Descendant of Hercules, for He used to destroy all Ill Men, and You make Good Men Bad. And so when the Pharisees (a) boasted of Their Lineage, that they were the Stock and Seed of Abraham; Ye, says Christ, seek to kill me, a Man that hath told you the Truth, which I have heard of God: This did not Abraham: Ye are of your Father the Devil, and the Lusts of your Father ye will do.
(a) John 8. 40, 44.
Thus you see, Christian Reader, that it is no new Thing, if at present the Christian Religion, which is but as it were of a Day’s Growth, but Beginning to spring up again, should be treated with Calumny and Reproach; since it is but the same Reception which Christ himself and his Apostles met with. But however, lest you should suffer your self to be imposed upon and seduced by the Clamours of our Adversaries, we have here plainly laid before you the whole Substance of our Religion; what our Sentiments are of God the Father, of His onely Son Jesus Christ, of the Holy Ghost, of the Church, of the Sacraments, of the Ministry, of the Holy Scriptures, of the Ceremonies, and of every Particular Point of the Christian Faith. We have declared, that we do utterly detest and abhor all Those Old Heresies, which have been condemned either by the Holy Scriptures, or by the Councils, as Plagues and Calamities; We use our utmost Endeavour to Restore again the Discipline of the Church, which our Adversaries have brought very low; We punish all Debauchery and Licentiousness, according to the ancient and approved of Laws of the Country, with all convenient Severity; We preserve the State of Affairs just as we found them, without any Change or Diminution; and do all that in us lies to keep up the Grandeur and Majesty of our Princes; We have withdrawn our selves from That Church, which they had made a Den of Thieves, which was in no respect Perfect, not at all like to the Church of God, and which They themselves confessed to have Erred in many things; as Lot did from Sodom, and Abraham from Chaldee; not for the sake of Contention, but by the Admonition and Command of God: We have chosen out of the Holy Scriptures, which we know to be infallible, a set Form of Religion, and have Returned to the Primitive Church of the Ancient Fathers and Apostles, that is to say, to the very Foundation and Original of Christ’s Church.
And indeed we did not wait for the Authority or Consent of the Council of Trent, (where we saw nothing was to be done with Justice or Order, where all were bound by an Oath to side with one Man, where the Ambassadors of our Princes were slighted, none of our Divines suffered to speak, and where Faction and Ambition were openly professed;) but we Restored and Settled our Churches by a Provincial Convocation, as the Holy Fathers did formerly, and our Predecessors have since often done; and threw off, as it was our Duty, the Yoke and Tyranny of the Bishop of Rome, to whom we had no Obligation, and in whom we could perceive no Likeness either of Christ, St. Peter, the Apostles, or of any Bishop whatsoever. To conclude, we agree amongst our selves in all things relating to the whole Sum and Substance of the Christian Religion, and with one Voice and one Spirit Worship God, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Wherefore, Good Christian Reader, since you see the Grounds and Causes of our having Reformed Religion, and departed from These Men, you ought not to wonder that we chose rather to obey our Saviour Christ than Men. St. Paul advised us not to suffer our selves to be carried about with divers and strange Doctrines, but especially to avoid them which cause Divisions and Offences, contrary to the Doctrine which they have received from Christ and his Apostles.
Their Tricks and Artifices have long since (as the Bird of Night at the Rising of the Sun) vanished at the Appearance and Light of the Gospel; and though they were reared up even to the Skies, they on a sudden, and of themselves, sunk to nothing: For it is not to be supposed that all these things happened merely by chance. No, it was the Will and Pleasure of Almighty God, that in spite of all its Enemies, the Gospel of Jesus Christ should at This Time be spread abroad over the Face of the whole Earth; and therefore Men, obeying the Commands of God, have of their own accord betaken themselves to the Doctrine of Jesus Christ.
We, in Good Truth, expected neither Glory, Riches, Pleasure, nor Ease, from this Separation; for all Those our Enemies abound with; and we enjoyed a much Greater Share of them when we agreed with them.
(a) Mat. 10. 34.
Our Chief Enemies at present are the Pardon-mongers, the Pope’s Collectors, Bauds, and all such as suppose Gain is Godliness, and serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own Bellies. In former Ages These Sort of People got a great deal; but now-a-days they count Those Things Loss to Them, which are Gain to Christ. And the Pope himself complains at present, that Charity grows cold; That is, that his Revenue is not so considerable as it used to be. And for This Reason does he endeavour to throw all the odium he can upon us, loads us with Reproaches, and condemns us for Hereticks; that Those that are ignorant of the Matter may take us for the vilest Wretches upon Earth. However in the mean time we are not in the least out of Countenance at it, nor ought we sure to be ashamed of the Gospel; for we set a greater Value upon the Glory of God, than the Opinion of Men. We know all our Doctrine to be True, and cannot do Violence to our Consciences, nor bear Witness against God. For (a) if we deny any Part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ before Men, He will also deny us before his Father. And if there be any yet that resolve to be offended, and will not bear the Doctrine of Christ, They are Blind Leaders of the Blind: And we must nevertheless Preach the Truth, and prefer it before all things, and wait with Patience for the Judgment of God.
(a) Mat. 10. 33.
In the mean time, let our Enemies look about them, consider what they are doing, and take some Thought about their Salvation, and leave off to Hate and Persecute the Gospel of the Son of God, lest they one Time find him a Redresser and Avenger of his own Cause. God will not suffer himself to be mocked. The World has been long ago sensible of what is in Agitation. This Flame, the more it is stifled, the fiercer will it Blaze and Spread. Their Infidelity will be no hindrance to the Faithful Promise of God. But if they will still retain their Obstinacy, and Renounce the Gospel of Christ, Publicans and Sinners shall sooner gain Admittance into the Kingdom of God than They.
God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, open their Eyes, that they may see the Blessed Hope whereunto they are called; that We may all with one Accord Glorify Him, the Onely True God, and the same Jesus Christ whom he sent down to us from Heaven: To whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be Ascribed all Honour and Glory Now and for Evermore. Amen.