Written during the Great Rebellion, the Civil War, of 1643-1660.
Part of the Great Rebellion Portal
Whether It be better to turn
Presbyterian, Romane,
Or,  to continue what I am, Catholique In Matter of Religion?

By Thomas Swadlin, D. D.

London,  1657.

I. Whether Presbyterian?

IT is a Thriving way, and I am poor; the temptation therefore is strong, but better enjoy peace of conscience, than the spoiles of violence; I shall yet propose some cases of conscience, and upon their true Resolves, I shall either shake hands with him, or continue what I am.

1. Whether I do not believe, that Christ taught his Apostles to pray, and say, Our Father which art in heaven?

2. Whether I do not believe, That the Apostles did pray, and say, as Christ taught them, Our Father which art in heaven?

4. Whether I do not believe, That Christ sent his Apostles, as his father sent him? Joh.20.21.

5. Whether I do not believe, That the Father sent Christ to be the chief Bishop of our Souls? 1 Pet.2.25.

6. Whether I do not believe both these missions to be jure Divino?

7. Whether I do not therefore believe, Episcopacy to be Jure Divino?

8. Whether I do not believe επίσκοποι, to be a different word from πρεσβύτεροι?

9. Whether I do not believe Bishop to be the name of Office and dignity, Presbyter to be a name of order and duty?

10. Whether I do not believe Bishops are sometimes called Presbyters, because they were Presbyters before they were Bishops?

11. Whether I do not believe Presbyters qua Presbyters are never called Bishops?

12. Whether I do not believe, that St. Paul spake and did divinely, When he constituted Timothy Bishop of Ephesus and Titus Bishop of Creete, to over see and if need were to rebuke the Presbyters there?

13. Whether I do not believe St. Ierome spake piously, when he said, Nisi exors quaedam & ab omnibus eminens potestas Episcopo ducetur, tot essent Schismata, quot Sacerdotes, That unlesse an extraordinary and peerlesse preheminence were given to the Bishop, there would be as many Schisms as Priests?

14. Whether I do not believe King Iames spake politickly and prudently, when he said, no Bishop, no King?

16. Whether therefore I do not believe I have done very ill to shoulder out Episcopacy, that I might get into his Chair?

17. Whether I do not believe, That Thebulis and Aerius were therefore called Hereticks, because they would have had an ecclesiastical parity, Bishop and Presbyter all one?

18. Whether I do not believe, The Canons of the Apostles distinguished, the three degrees, of Bishops, Presbyters and Deacons, and gave the superiority to Bishops? Can. 4.6,7.

19. Whether I do not believe Thebulis and Aerius did therefore phancie an ecclesiastical parity; because they could not be made Bishops, which they earnestly affected? Epiphan. Haeres. 75.

20. Whether I do not believe the Church of Jerusalem was called a Virgin Church, and never corrupted, untill by Thebulis because he was not made a Bishop? Eus.l.4.c.22.

22. Whether I do not believe Aerius was the first that voted down all Fasts. Vigilantius the first, that voted down all Feasts appointed by the Church, both Hereticks; and therefore whether I may not fear, I am something Heretical in following their steps?

23. Whether I do not believe, that St. James set out a Lyturgie or book of Common Prayer, for the Church in his time? St. Basil the like in his time? St. Chrysostome the like in his time? and so downwards untill Mr. Iohn Calvins time?

24. Whether I do not believe, that Mr. Iohn Calvin himself thought well of Common Prayers, and particularly of our Common Prayer Book, when he said, Quod ad formam precum & Ritum ecclesiae; valde probo; ut certa illa extet, a qua pastoribus in sua functione discedere non licet; Concerning a Form of Prayer, and Ecclesiastical Rites; I very well like, that they be a certain and constant one, from which the Pastors of the Church may in no wise depart or vary?

25. Whether I do not believe, That every word in the Common Prayer book is in the Bible, either literally or rationally deduced thence. v.g. for the Confession. Almighty God. Gen.17.1. And most mercifull Father, Exod.34.6. We have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. Psal. 119.176. We have followed too much the devises and desires of our own hearts, Jer.18.12. We have offended against thy holy laws, Mat.7.8. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, 1 Sam. 15.24. And we have done those things which we ought not to have done, 1 Sam. 24.5. 2 Sam. 12.13. And there is no health in us, Psal.38.3. But thou O Lord have mercy upon us, miserable offenders, Luk.18.13. Spare thou them O God which confesse their faults, Prov. 28.13. Restore thou them that be penitent, Ezek.18.31. According to thy promise declared unto mankinde in Christ Iesus our Lord; Mat. 11.18. And grant O most mercifull father for his sake, Joh.16.23. That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, Titus 2.12. To the glory of thy holy Name, 1 Tim.6.16.

26. Whether I do not believe the Absolution, Almighty God the father of our Lord Iesus Christ, be grounded upon, Joh.20.23.

27. Whether I do not believe, the Lords Prayer with the Doxology, Thine is the Kingdom, Power, and Glory, is verbatim in Mat.6. and without that Doxology in Luk.11.

28. Whether I do not believe, those Versicles, O God make speed to save us, be not in Psal.102.13. Open thou my lips O Lord. And my mouth shall shew forth in thy praise, Psal.51.15.

I might be endless: to Answer therefore some of your grand Objections, I ask.

29. Whether I do not believe, Remember not Lord our Offences, nor the offences of our forefathers, is a sincere prayer for the living, and no sinfull prayer for the dead; viz. that God would not visit the offences of our forefathers upon us their children, and grounded upon Exod.20. and Ezek.18.

30. Whether I do not believe, From sudden death, good Lord deliver us, is a fervent ejaculation, no idle desire, that God would not take us away unpreparedly, untill we have made our accounts?

31. Whether I do not believe, for all them that travell by land or by water, all women labouring of childe, and is a charitable prayer, and answerable to the Apostles command Do good to all, Gal.6.10. Pray for all men, 1 Tim.2.3.

32. Whether I do not believe, By thy holy Nativity and Circumcision, by thy Agony and bloody sweat, &c. is obtestative, and the signe of our Faith, not affirmative and the signe of an Oath; desiring God by these effectuall means of the Actions and Passions of Iesus Christ, to deliver us from those punishments which are due unto us for our sins.

33. Whether I do not believe, the first prayer in the Office of Matrimony, That God would blesse this couple, as Isaac and Rebecca, proceeded rather from the holy Ghosts inspiration, than from humane invention; because if from man onely, he would have gone upon reason, and made the prayer thus, blesse them as Abraham and Sarah, or blesse them as Iacob and Rachel; for Abraham was Gods first friend; Iacob was Gods great friend; yet neither so, nor so, but as Isaac and Rebecca; because Abraham had his Hagar, one Concubine; Iacob had his Zilkah and his Bilkah two at least, Isaac never any but his Rebecca?

34. Whether I do not believe, That that prayer, Prevent us O Lord, in all our doings, &c. be not absolutely against those great points of popery, concerning work of preoperation and cooperation, grounded upon that of St. Paul, Eph.2.8. and so no kin to the Mass book?

35. Whether I do not believe the Creed of the Apostles is every word in the Scripture, viz. I believe, Mark 9.24. in God, john 14.1. the Father, 1 Cor.1.3. Almighty, Gen.17.1. maker of heaven and earth, Gen.1.1. and in Iesus Christ his onely Son our Lord, Rom.1.3. which was conceived by the holy Ghost, and born of the Virgin Mary, Luk.1.35. suffered under Pontius Pilate, John 19.1. was Crucified Joh.19.18. Dead Joh.19.30 and Buried, Joh.19.42. He descended into Hell, Act.2.27. the third day he rose again from the dead, 1 Cor.15.4. He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right-hand of God, Mar.16.19. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. Act.10.42. And in the holy Ghost, Mat.28.19. The holy Catholick Church, the Communion of Saints, Ephes. 5.27. the forgivenesse of sins, Col.1.14. The Resurrection of the Body, 1 Cor.15.35. and life everlasting, Joh.10.28.

36. Whether I do believe the Feasts of Christmass, Easter and Whitsuntide have been observed by the purest and Primitive Churches, and commanded upon us to observe the same? Clem. ep. decret, Telesph. p. 117. Cyprian de Nativ. Christi, Nazian. Orat. 38. Chrysost. hom. in Nativ. Christi, The Church of Helvetias confess. c. 24. The Church of Bohemia, c. 15. The Church of Bremen, Regist. 2. fine, The Church of Auspurge confess. act.4.

38. Whether I do not believe St. Paul spake Scripture, when he said, and bid us pray with the spirit and with the understanding, and whether I do not sometimes pray without the understanding, when I think I pray by the spirit?

II. Whether Romane?

I Am as far from Rome, as I am from Geneva; yet finding the Romane possest with more of the water, and the Presbyterian with more of the fire, I hope some moderation may in time cement England and Rome into the Catholick, so strongly, as never hereafter to be dissolved, or melted by the fury of zeal; You and you onely I confesse have the face of a Church, and I hope you will not deny us the Form, and Beeing of a Church: since I believe there is so much ingenuity and wisdome in you, as to distinguish betwixt a Church extinguished and eclipsed or persecuted, The Church of England I acknowledge is under a cloud and eclipsed; but the Candle is not quite out and extinguished? Wheresoever two or three (of the Catholick Church) are gathered together, there is Christ in the midst of them, so was his promise Mat.18.20. And wheresoever a lawfull Priest or Pastor of the English Church is with two or three of his Congregation, I will not, I dare not doubt of the performance. If you have lesse charity, either in the taking or mistaking of it, I shall propose some few Queries in my own name, as one of you, though I thank God I am none of you, nor ever intend to be in opinion, howsoever in affection, because you are my next neighbour; I therefore love you as my self.

1. Whether I do believe Romane and Catholick are Termini convertibiles?

2. Whether I do believe, I may be saved, if I pray as the Catholick Church doth, and was taught by Christ, Our father which art in heaven; though I do not pray, as the Romane Church doth, and teacheth, O thou mother of God, St. Peter St. Paul pray for me?

4. Whether if I endeavour to live after Gods Commandments, and obey him, though I do not endeavour to live after my superiors command, I may be saved?

5. Whether I receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist as Christ Instituted and Commanded me to receive it, in both Kindes, Bread and Wine, Flesh and Blood, though I do not receive it as the Church of Rome hath abrogated it, and Commanded to receive, in one Kinde onely, I may be saved?

7. Whether if I be born again, and made a Christian by true Baptisme, and afterward confirmed by a true Bishop, though I am not annointed with oyle, I may be saved?

8. Whether if I believe the Scripture, & frame my life accordingly, though I do not equally believe Tradition I may be saved?

9. Whether if I serve and worship God in Spirit and in Truth, though I worship no images, nor God by images, I may be saved?

These Queries with a very few more by moderate and, unbyassed men, might be brought to a Reconciliation, and that they may be, I pray you let us joyn in one Prayer, till we joyn in all points.

O Most mercifull God, who hast made all Mankinde of one; O most mercifull God, who hast contracted all the Elect of mankinde into one body, thy Church; and hast given thy whole Church but one Soul, thy Spirit; and that Soul but one Life, thy Faith; and that Faith but one prop, one Gospel, one Baptism, one Lords Supper; and this one Body and one Soul, but one Head, thy Self, who art but one Lord, and hast again dispersed this Body into several Assemblies and Societies, and hast made each Society and Assembly but one; thereby intimating to us, that we should all have but one Heart and one Mind; In mercy we beseech thee look upon thy Church, and make her as thy Son did leave her, One; one in Opinion and one in affection, that she may be no longer Crucified betwixt Hereticks and Sismaticks, Thieves of thy Truth, betwixt proflygates and Hypocrites, thieves of thy Grace; betwixt Zealots and Superstitions, thieves of thy Honour; but by vertue of thy Sons Golgotha, dry up Aceldema, and for the merit of Calvary, Deliver O deliver her from all her present misery; Relieve her from Force without, and Fury within, both against her; Rescue her from civill Enemies and crafty children, both which fall upon her; Suffer not Reeds any longer to be thy Scepters, nor Chaires thy Throne, nor Tricks thy Order, nor Rudenesse in one part, nor Superstition in another part, thy Service, nor miscreants thy worshippers, nor Confusion thy Religion, nor Wilde-fire thy Zeal, nor Lunaries thy Resolutions, nor Devillishnesse thy Spirit, but appear by her once more in thy own Spirit, of Peace and Purity, of Sanctity and Sincerity, of Wisdome and Sobriety, that all men may know thy Church by thy Livery, which thou didst bequeath her, Love, Peace and Patience; and that thereby all men may be guided by thy One Church, in the right way of Truth into Heaven, through Iesus Christ Amen. In whose blessed Name and Words, we farther call upon thee, as he hath taught us in his holy Gospel, saying;

Or 3d. continue what I am, Catholike?

I Desire so to continue, though I starve for it; For I have not took up this Religion upon Tradition or Education, but upon Judgment, and Deliberation; And instead of Quaeries, and Cases of conscience, I offer to my self these Irrefragable Demonstrations:

1. If I pray aright according to the Pattern of Devotion Summ’d up in the Lords Prayer, I shall be heard.

2. If I repent aright according to the Prophets and Apostles Direction, with the Contrition of my Heart, with the Confession of my Lips, and the Endeavour of my Life, I shall be forgiven. Joel 2. 2 Cor.7.

3. If I do right according to Gods will in his Word, summ’d up in his Decalogue, or Ten Commandments, though not absolutely and Exactly, yet Uprightly and Evangelically, I shall be accepted.

4. If I believe aright according to Gods Gospel, Summ’d up in the Apostles Creed, without doubting, without distrusting, without disparing, I shall be saved.

And my Religion being so good, I desire not to change, but to continue as I am; and for that I praise Gods mercy, and pray for Gods blessing.

My Religion is Good, for it is Gods; my Calling is Lawfull, for it is of God; my Service is honorable, for it is for God and my Saviour; my Message in which I am employed is Honourable, for it is of Peace, and to be an Instrument of Reconciliation betwixt God and his people, and my Proceeding in it, if it be as it ought to be, in Love, shall be acceptable; Joyfully I may do it, for God will reward it; Freely I may do it, for God will make it good; Boldly I may do it, for God will defend it; and incessantly I should do it, for first or last God will give a blessing to it.

But who, who is worthy to do this weighty business? not the best of men, how much more unworthy am I the worst of men, and chief of Sinners? Truely of my self I am as unworthy as unable, and unworthy to be enabled, if thou enter into Judgment with me, That thou maist not, I thus address my self to thy Throne of Grace.