Two short discourses against the Romanists by Henry Dodwell ...
Dodwell, Henry, 1641-1711.
Page  48

Q. 3. Where was the Church of England before Luthers time.

THE design of asking this Question is certainly to make our Confession of Novelty (in such Cases wherein our Ad∣versaries presume our Novelty so notorious as that we our Selves cannot deny it) an Argument a∣gainst Us; yet they themselves are concerned in some Cases to deny its cogency. For even they can∣not deny that the deprivation of the Laity of the use of the Cup (for Example) has been lately introduced into their Church by a publick Law. If therefore it may appear that our Church is An∣tientPage  49 as to all intents and purpo∣ses wherein Antiquity may be a∣vailable, but that the Church of Rome is not so; and that in the sense wherein the Church of Eng∣land has begun since Luther, there is no reason to expect that She should have been Antienter, and that the Justice of her Cause does not require it; and that the An∣tiquity upon these Suppositions confessedly allowed to the Church of Rome is no Argument for the Justice of her Cause: these things, I think, will contain a fully sa∣tisfactory Answer to the Gentle∣womans Question. I shall not at present engage on an accurate Discussion of these Heads: but shall only suggest such short Ob∣servations as may let her see how unreasonable our Adversaries Page  50 confidence is in this Argument, wherein they do so usually tri∣umph. Therefore

1. Antiquity is indeed necessa∣ry to be pleaded for Doctrines, such especially as are pretended to belong to the Catholick Faith, and which are urged as Conditions of Communion. This is the Case wherein it is urged by Tertullian and Vincentius Lirinensis in their very rational Discourses on this Argument. And for this, I think, we may challenge the Church of Rome her self to instance in one positive Doctrine imposed by us which She her self thinks not An∣cient. I am sure the Controver∣sie is so stated commonly, that we are blamed, not for Believing a∣ny thing antient or necessary which is not, but, for not believing some Page  51 things which She believes to be so. And if She her self believe all our Positives, and withal be∣lieves that nothing is so to be be∣lieved but what is Antient; it will clearly follow that She cannot, in consistency with her own inter∣ests, deny the Antiquity of our Positive Doctrines. But for the other Doctrines superadded by them, and denied by us, which are indeed the true occasion of the present Divisions of Communi∣on, we charge them with Innova∣tion, and are very confident that they will never be able to prove them, to the satisfaction of any Impartial Person, either from clear Scripture, or from genuine Antiquity of the first and purest Ages, which are the way wherein we are willing to undertake the Page  52 proof of our positive Doctrines, Nay, their greatest Champions decline the tryal, and complain of the defectiveness and obscuri∣ty of the Primitive Christian Writers, which they would not have reason to do if they thought them clear on their side.

These things therefore being thus supposed, That no Doctrines ought to be imposed but what are Ancient; That ours are so by our Adversaries own Confession, and that our Adversaries Doctrines are not so; and that in Judging this, the private Judgments of par∣ticular Persons are to be trusted, as the measures of their own pri∣vate Practice (as it is plain that those Discourses of Tertullian and Vincentius Lirinensis are princi∣pally designed for the satisfaction Page  53 of particular Persons, which had been impertinent if the Churches Judgment had been thought Cre∣dible in her own Case, as a Judge of Controversies; besides that e∣ven now this Argument from An∣tiquity is made use of for convin∣cing such as are supposed unsa∣tisfied with her Authority, and therefore to whom that Authority can be no Argument) which Li∣berty of private Judgment is then especially most fit to be indulged when the distance is so remote as it is now, when no Church has now those Advantages for conveying down Apostolical Tradition in a Hi∣storical way as She had then: These things, I say, being thus supposed, it will follow that we are wrongfully Excommunicated, and therefore that we have no Page  54 reason to fear that their Censures should be confirmed by God. And though I confess every Error in the Cause of the Churches Cen∣sures will not excuse the Censured Person for continuing out of her Communion, when the Commu∣nion may be recovered by any Submission, how inconvenient and harsh soever, if it be not sinful; yet that is the very Case here, that we are not only wrong∣fully Excommunicated, but the terms proposed for our restituti∣on to Communion would be di∣rectly sinful, as has been shewn before.* Whence it will follow that we are excu∣sable, not only in suffering our Selves to be cast out of their Com∣munion, but also in continuing out of it. But because this is not Page  55 our whole Case, who do not on∣ly abstein from their Communion, but set up a Communion of our own, and maintain an Ecclesiasti∣cal Body Politick distinct from theirs; our defence herein will depend on the Justice of the Ec∣clesiastical power of those Persons who govern our Ecclesiastical As∣semblies. And therefore

2. All our concernment for Antiquity here will be, that our Bishops derived their power from such as derived theirs with a power of communicating it in a continual Succession from the Apo∣stles. And this we do acknow∣ledge true concerning the Popish Bishops themselves, and do de∣rive the validity of our Orders from the Antiquity of theirs with∣out any more prejudice to our Page  56Cause than the Primitive Catho∣licks did suffer by acknowledg∣ing the validity of Baptism admi∣nistred by Hereticks. For the Succession of their Pastors is very reconcilable with a supposed In∣novation in their Doctrines (and certainly themselves cannot deny that it is so, whilst they charge the Orientals with Heresie, whom yet they cannot deny to have al∣waies maintained as uninterrupt∣ed a Succession of Bishops as them∣selves) especially considering that the Innovations we charge them with, of adding false and new Articles of Faith; not of denying the old ones, do not in the least interrupt or invalidate their Succession. This therefore being supposed, that the first Bishops of our English Reforma∣tionPage  57 received their power from such as had derived theirs by an uninterrupted succession from the Apostles; it will follow that they were valid Bishops, and if so, had the power of keeping Church-Assemblies, and exercising Juris∣diction in them, both for the Go∣vernment of their present Char∣ges, and communicating their power to succeeding Generations. For nothing of this is pretended to exceed the power of a valid Bishop. The charge of Heresy it self cannot hinder the validity of their Orders either received or communicated; though it may in∣deed, in the Judgment of them who believe them so, render them obnoxious to Canonical Incapaci∣ties of executing them, and to Legal Degradations, not from the Page  58Character, but from the actual Ju∣risdiction properly belonging to their Office. But to such Cano∣nical Incapacities and Degradati∣ons, they will not deny even va∣lidly-Ordeined Persons them∣selves to be obnoxious, and there∣fore cannot make that an Argu∣ment against the validity of our Orders. And yet when this Charge of Heresy against our Bishops is not here to be Judged by the pretences of our Adversaries, but by the merit of the Cause; and therefore is not to be taken fr granted till it be proved.

That therefore which is indeed new in the Church of England, is, That though her Positive Do∣ctrines and Orders be Ancient, yet the Profession of her Nega∣tives; and the open Assertion of Page  59 her Liberty from the Encroach∣ments of the Roman Court, and all her other Practices grounded on these Principles, were not a∣vowed by her Ecclesiastical Go∣vernors for several Centuries be∣fore the Reformation. And in An∣swer hereunto I shall insist on the heads already intimated. Therefore

  • 1. There was no reason to expect that her opposition to these Er∣rors should have been Ancienter, though we should suppose the Er∣rors themselves to have been so. For there was no reason to expect that Errors should have been dis∣covered for some Ages before the Reformation, when there was so great a want of that kind of Grammatical and Historical Learn∣ing which is only fit to qualifie a Person to Judge of Ecclesiastical Page  60 Tradition; at least, they were not likely to have been discovered by such a number as had been re∣quisite to maintain an open oppo∣sition. And if the Errors had been discovered, yet it was not easie to expect success in holding out against the Court of Rome, which was then so very powerful, and there was no reason to ex∣pect such attempts from Prudent Persons where there was no pro∣bability of success. And there was yet least reason of all to ex∣pect this opposition from Bishops then, when no Bishops were made without the Popes consent, which he was not likely to give to such as were likely to oppose him; when, after they were made, they were obliged to be true to Him by express Oaths, as well as by Page  61 their Interests of peaceable con∣tinuance, or hopes of future pre∣ferment; when, at least, it was impossible to resist their Fellow-Bishops, the generality of whom were, in all likelyhood, sway∣ed by these Prejudices; when they had seen mighty Princes themselves worsted in those Con∣tests, and the extreme Severity of that Court against Dissenters; when, lastly, differing from the Church of Rome in any thing was counted Heresy, and Heresy was prosecuted with the extremest Infamy (which must needs weak∣en the Authority of those Oppo∣sers with others) as well as other Penalties of the Canon-Law. Nor
  • 2. Does the Justice of our Cause require a greater Antiquity for our Negatives: For,
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    • 1. Our Negatives are not pre∣tended to be of perpetual obligation, but only for preventing the malignity of the contrary Affirmative Articles to which they are opposed. And therefore there is no reason to expect Formal Negatives opposed to Additional Articles from the beginning, before the Additional Articles them∣selves were thought of; nor to expect a Reformation of Abuses before there were A∣buses to be Reformed, see∣ing that in course of Nature these Negatives presuppose the contrary Affirmatives, as a pretence of Reforma∣tion must also presuppose Abuses. And therefore the Page  63 pretence of the greater An∣tiquity of our Adversaries Errors and Abuses is so far from prejudicing the repu∣tation of our Negatives and Reformation, as that it is indeed the best Argument of their Justice and Season∣ableness. For such Nega∣tives as these, and such a Reformation, must needs have been unwarrantable, if there had not been before Errors fit to be denyed, and Abuses fit to be reformed. Nor
    • 2. Is it any Prejudice to the Justice of our Cause, that these Errors were not op∣posed with formal Nega∣tives as soon as they ap∣peared. For such Errors Page  64 as these were usually first received as the Opinions of private Persons before they were countenanced by Au∣thority, and whilst they proceeded no further, there was not that mischief in them, nor consequently that obligation to oppose them, as when at length they came to be so countenan∣ced. For the Errors of Private Persons, whilst they are no more, are not con∣ceived so to oblige us to be of their mind, as that our silence should in any Pru∣dence be expounded as an Argument of our consent; and consequently cannot be such a provocation to us to op∣pose them openly in our own Defence. Nor
    • Page  653. Is it necessary to expect that there should have been an open opposition of them, even as soon as countenan∣ced by Authority. For if even in the reproof of the miscarriages of private Per∣sons, Christianity obliges us to proceed with all pos∣sible candor and modesty; we are certainly much rather obliged to proceed so in dealing with Persons of Au∣thority. We should give them time to reflect, and we should bear with any Personal inconveniences that are not directly sinful; rather than occasion those disturbances which are u∣sually to be expected from a publick opposition of Page  66 them. Nor is this forbear∣ance more agreable to rea∣son, than to the sentiments of those Ages who were generally possessed with an excessive veneration for Authority, especially Ec∣clesiastical; so that there is reason to believe that they would bear with such Er∣rors as long as the Abuses were tolerable, however o∣therwise inconvenient.
    • 4. Therefore that which makes these Errors intolerable to private Persons in dealing with Authority (for of such I speak) is the imposing and urging them as Conditions of Communion. And this might have been shewn to have been late, not before their ErrorsPage  67 were defined and imposed in their Councils. And there∣fore it was but lately that a∣ny publick opposition was to be expected, even from them who were in their Consciences perswaded that our Adversaries Doctrines were Erroneous. And
    • 5. When they were thus im∣posed, yet even then private Persons were concerned, in Conscience as well as Pru∣dence, to forbear an open opposition, when there were no hopes of doing good, nay too probable fears of prejudicing their Cause by it for the future: when up∣on their opposition, they must have expected to have been condemned; when be∣ing Page  68 condemned, they were to be cast out of Communi∣on; when being Excom∣municated for such a Cause, others would have been de∣terred by their Example, and their credit must have been impaired by the Infa∣my incurred by the Canon-Law then in force, and their very condemnation would for the future migh∣tily prejudice Mens minds against the like attempts, when none could revive the like true Doctrine without the dis-repute of being sup∣posed to revive an ancient∣ly-condemned Heresy; and when there were no hopes of being able to preserve themselves in opposite Assem∣bliesPage  69 without Bishops to Head them, without whom they could not maintain a Succes∣sion of Priests, nor conse∣quently of Sacraments, and the like employments and advantages of Ecclesiastical Assemblies; and when no Bishops were likely to coun∣tenance such a design, whilst they were held in such cap∣tivity to the Court of Rome by Oaths as well as their o∣ther Worldly Interests, and when no Persons of a free ingenuous temper were likely to attain the honour of Episcopacy.
    These Reasons, with a very easie Application, may suffice to shew that in an ordinary way there was no reason to expect the Re∣formation Page  70 sooner than it was. And that there was no necessity suffi∣cient to oblige God to interpose to raise Men up to it Extraordi∣narily, will appear if it be con∣sidered
    • 6. That it is not every neces∣sity of the Church that can oblige God to use such Ex∣traordinary means, but only such a necessity as must have destroyed a Church from the Earth, that is, such a Society of Men wherein Salvation might be attained by the ordinary Prescripti∣ons of the Gospel. Now the prevalency of these Er∣rors does not oblige us to acknowledge that such a Church as this must have failed even in those AgesPage  71 wherein these Errors are supposed to have prevailed for some Centuries before the Reformation: For
      • 1. Though the Occidental Church had failed, yet Christ might have had such a Church among the several Communions of the Ori∣entals. And I know no greater inconvenience, in this regard, in admitting the faileur of the Occiden∣tal church, than what our Adversaries themselves are obnoxious to, in admitting the like defection in the Oriental.
      • 2. The prevailing of these Errors does not oblige us to deny an ordinary possibi∣lity of Salvation according Page  72 to the Prescriptions of the Gospel, even in the Church of Rome it self in those Centuries before the Re∣formation: For
        • 1. We do not deny all Ne∣cessaries to Salvation, e∣ven according to the or∣dinary Prescriptions of the Gospel, to have been taught even then in the Church of Rome. The Errors we charge them with, are not of Defect, but Adding to the Origi∣nal Articles of Faith. And therefore
        • 2. If it may appear that the sin of Adding to the Faith was not (to such as were no farther accessary to it than by continuing in the Page  73 Communion of such as were really guilty of it) so imputable ordinarily as to hinder the Salvation of such as were not other∣wise wanting to them∣selves in their own En∣deavours; or at least not in such a degree as to ob∣lige God to interpose in an Extraordinary way for its Ordinary prevention: this will be sufficient to shew that (supposing those Errors so danger∣ous as we do indeed sup∣pose them, yet) God was not obliged to raise up, and maintain a Communi∣on in opposition to them for preventing the failing of such a Church as I have Page  74 spoken of, even in these Western Parts. And that this was so, may appear from these Considerati∣ons:
          • 1. That that skill in Eccle∣siastical Learning, by which our first Reform∣ers were enabled to dis∣cover these Errors, was generally wanting in the Ages before the Refor∣mation, which might make their mistakes then much more pardonable than now.
          • 2. That the great mischief of these Errors is, not so much the believing more for matters of Faith than really was so, as the mischievous Page  75 Consequence of doing so, the Divisions of the Church necessarily fol∣lowing hereupon, the condemning of good Ca∣tholicks for Hereticks and Schismaticks, and exclu∣ding them from Commu∣nion, and hereby making the peace of Christendome impossible on any just and tolerable terms, and Abuses impossible to be Reformed. Which was not so imputable in those Ages when there was no visible Communi∣on to be condemned by joyning with that of Rome; for as for the even unjust Excommu∣nication of particular Page  76 Persons, Providence is not so concerned as to interpose Extraordina∣rily for their preventi∣on. This I say on Sup∣position that the Wal∣denses and Albigenses, &c. were such as our Adversaries represent them. If they were o∣otherwise, then among them there was a Suc∣cession, for so long, of Churches holding our Doctrines before Lu∣ther.
          • 3. The Prudential Reasons now given might then generally excuse private Persons, and all such as were not accessary to the guilt of introducing Page  77 those Errors (who were much the greater Part, and it is only for the greater Part that Provi∣dence is necessarily con∣cerned) from the guilt of not publickly Reform∣ing them. Yet even they are not so Excusable now, when the power of the Pope is so much decryed, and there are so many Churches and Church-Governours, un∣der whose Protection they may put them∣selves, and with whose Communion they may joyn, in opposition to them.
  • 3. The Antiquity allowed to their Errors on this Supposition Page  78 is not sufficient to Justifie their Cause. For,
    • 1. This Antiquity is not Pri∣mitive, but only of some later Ignorant Ages. And the Unrea∣sonableness of presuming Do∣ctrines to have been Primitive only, because they were actually found embraced by the Church in later Ages, and of Prescribing on that account against a new Exa∣mination of them by immediate recourse to the Originals, might have been shewn from the Fathers as well as from the Protestants.
    • 2. The Antiquity of those Notions of theirs, whereby they confine the Catholick Church to that part of it in the Roman Com∣munion (which might have been proved Fundamental to all their other Doctrines, as they are made Page  79 Articles of Faith and Conditions of Communion) is contradicted by the Oriental Churches general∣ly, who are as ancient, and of as Unquestionable a Succession, as the Church of Rome her self, and as ancient in teaching the contrary.
    • 3. The utmost Antiquity which we allow for their unwar∣rantable Doctrines is not so great as must be acknowledged (by all that will Judge candidly) for se∣veral, which on all sides are ac∣knowledged to be Heretical, I do not only mean those of the Ari∣ans, but also of those great Bo∣dies of the Oriental Historians and Euychians, continuing to this day divided from the Roman Church; especially if they be really guil∣ty of those Heresies which are charged on them, and they must Page  80 by Romanists be held guilty of some, for Justifying their own Practice of condemning them.
    • 4. Some of their present Decrees (particularly those con∣cerning the admission of the Apo∣cryphal Books into the Canon, and receiving Unwritten Traditions with Equal Reverence with the Written Word of God) I doubt are not more anciently imposed, as Conditions of Catholick Communi∣on, than the Council of Trent it self, which was since Luther. And both of these are very considera∣ble, and especially the later is ve∣ry Fundamental to many of their other Decrees.