Liber cui Titulus, [The Protestant Re∣solved, &c.
Mar. 12. 1687.
Guil. Needham RR. in Christo P. ac D. D. Wilhelmo Ar∣chiep. Cant. a Sacr. Dom.
THE Protestant Resolved: OR A DISCOURSE Shewing the UNREASONABLENESS Of his Turning Roman Catholick FOR SALVATION.
The Second Edition.
LONDON: Printed for William Rogers, at the Sun over-against St. Dunstan's Church in Fleetstreet. MDCLXXXVIII.
No Necessity for a Protestant to turn Roman Catholick for Salvation.
WE are all I hope thus far argeed, That sincere Chri∣stianity is the sure Way to Salvation. That to be saved, we must have the Hearts, and not content our selves with the bare Name and naked Profession of Chri∣stians. That the Authority of God and Divine Truth, and no worldly or carnal Concern must sway and govern our whole Conversation. If we be not religious in good earnest, resolv∣ing and endeavouring to honour God in Heart and Life, ac∣cording to the Holy Gospel of our Blessed Iesus, it's no matter to us what Religion we profess, or to what Church we join our selves. Wickedness and Hypocrisy, through what Church soever our Way lieth, lead assuredly to Hell. A wicked Pro∣testant and a wicked Papist will in Hell be of the same Com∣munion.
True Christianity is none other but that which was taught at first by Christ and his Apostles, and all they who believe and live according to their Doctrine shall be saved. Herein again we are all I suppose agreed. And if so, I think it very reaso∣nable we should agree as well in that which I now add. It is not material to enquire whether a Man be of the Church of Rome, or of the Church of England, to find whether or no he may be saved; but he that would satisfy himself of the possibility of Salvation in the Way wherein he now is, ought to enquire whether he believe and live according to the Do∣ctrine taught by Christ and his Apostles; seeing they who do this are good Christians, what other Names soever Men may bestow upon them, and all that are such shall be saved. If Page 2 therefore I may be able to satisfy my self that I believe, and live according to the Doctrine deliver'd by Christ and his Apo∣stles, I have no reason to doubt of the Possibility of my Salva∣tion in the Way wherein I now am, tho it were so, that I had never heard to this day of any such Thing as a Church headed by a Pope or Bishop of Rome. And I am yet somewhat confi∣dent that a Man may believe and live according to the Doctrine of Christ and his Apostles, and never hear of a Bishop of Rome; because once Men certainly did so, and yet were saved.
The next thing therefore that I have to do, is to enquire by what Means I may certainly know, what was the Doctrine of Christ and his Apostles; for by the same Means whereby this may be known, I may also know the certain Way to Salvation. If there be no such Means left us, we are all Fools in profes∣sing a Religion, the certain Doctrine whereof can by no means be known. If such Means there be, there must be some cer∣tain Records safely convey'd down from their Time to ours; for by what other Means we at this distance of so many hun∣dred years should be certainly inform'd what they taught, is by me unconceivable. These Records then are to be diligent∣ly searched into, and impartially examined, and whosoever is found to believe and practise according to the Doctrine in those Records contained, may be concluded to be in the Way to Salvation.
Such certain Records we have, even the Books of the holy Evangelists and Apostles, which (together with the Books of the Old Testament) we call the Holy Scripture. In this we are all again unamimous, both Papists, and Protestants a∣gree, that the Doctrine in these Books contained is the Do∣ctrine of Christ and his Apostles, and Divine Truth. Whence it certainly follows, that whatsoever Doctrine is contra∣ry to the Doctrine contained in these Books, whether it it be taught by Papists or Protestants, is to be rejected as none of the Doctrine of Christ and his Apostles. It ought not therefore to satisfy me, that this or that Doctrine is taught Page 3 by the Church of Rome, or by the Church of England; for by which of them soever it be taught, if it be found contrary to the Doctrine of the holy Scripture, it is by the Consent of both Churches to be rejected. Now seeing we Protestants take this holy Scripture, and it only, for the Rule of Faith and Life; it is certain, that holding to this Rule, we do not err either in Belief or Practice: while on the other side we can∣not be sure, thot they do not err in both, who receive ano∣ther Rule; till it appear that the other Rule which they re∣ceive, is as true and certain as ours is acknowledged to be. Our part of the Rule, and that which indeed we take to be the whole, being granted us; all the Question is about their part of it. Ours is on all hands granted to be most sure and certain, theirs alone remains disputable; and therefore I cannot yet see any reason, why I should think their Way safer than our own, except it can be safer to follow an uncer∣tain than a certain Rule, which I think no body will be so hardy as to affirm.
The Rule which they of the Roman Communion advance against ours, is that of Tradition. I am therefore next to to consider, First, what they understand by it: And, Se∣condly, what greater reason I can find to perswade me, that it is safer to trust to it, whether singly, or in Conjunction with our own, than to our own alone, which is the holy Scripture.
This Tradition consists of such Doctines of Faith and Pra∣ctice as are supposed to have been taught either by Christ him∣self, or being dictated by the Holy Ghost to his Apostles, were delivered by them to the Church, not in Writing, but in Word only, and so have successively been handed down from Father to Son, unto the present Age. And these are all ac∣cording to the Council of Trent to be received with equal affection of Piety and Reverence, as the holy Scripture.
Now I confess, if it may appear as evidently to me that Christ or his Apostles left such Doctrines to the Custody of the Church, of equal necessity to the Salvation of Christians, with Page 4 those that are written in the Scpipture, as it doth that they left us these which are written in the Scripture; and if I may be well assured, that these very Doctrines which the Church of Rome now holds, and pretends to an Authority of imposing upon all Christendome, are indeed the very same which were at first (as abovesaid) deliver'd to the Church, I can see no reason why I should not be bound to believe the one as firmly as the other. For seeing it is the Authority of the first Preach∣ers of it, and not barely the Writings of it, that bind me to believe the Doctrine; if I can be equally assured, that as well what is unwritten as what is written, was preach'd by them, as necessary to the Salvation of Mankind, I must needs also own an equal Obligation upon me to believe them all alike.
But neither of these could I ever see clear'd, nor can I con∣ceive any hope that I shall hereafter. And seeing the proof of both lies wholly upon them, who affirm both; I cannot be obliged to believe them, till by such proof they have con∣vinced me. In the mean time, it seems enough to me, that God himself was pleas'd to signifie to the World his Will in writing, which I cannot imagine why He should do, had he not intended we should learn his Will from what is written, and not from any unwritten Tradition. And I am the more confirm'd in this Opinion by this, that he did not use this way of revealing his Mind unto Men at the first, nor till af∣ter the World had had a very long time to discern by expe∣rience the Unfaithfulness of unwritten Tradition. So that this and some other Considerations whereupon the Papists use to ground their Arguments against both the Necessity and Per∣fection of the Scripture, seem to me very fully to evince both the one and the other; and so to leave no room at all for their unwritten Traditions as any part of the Rule of Faith and Life.
Yet, seeing they, who are always preaching this Doctrine to us, That there is no Salvation for them that are not of their Communion, preach it not as a private Opinion of their own, Page 5 or of some few others in that Communion; but as the gene∣rally received Doctrine of that Church, which pretends to be no less than Infallible; it concerns me so much the more to use all possible diligence, to find out what Truth there may be in this Assertion. And that, not only because I shall there∣by discern the necessity of changing my Religion to make sure of my own future Happiness; but also, because the Determi∣nation of this one Point will at once put an end (as it seems to me) to all the Disputes that are now between the Papists and Us. If I can find it true, that no Man can be saved out of that Communion, I shall be a Fool to trouble my self with the Study of the Scriptures, and seeking out for my self in them a Way to Heaven; when I may be sure, by stepping over the Threshold out of the one Church into the other, to meet with an Infallible Iudg, whom if I do but follow, I cannot go a∣miss. And to dispute any longer with my self, whether I should do so or not, would but shew me fitter for Bedlam than for any Church; seeing none but the maddest Man alive would dispute for Damnation. On the other side, if I shall find it false, that a Man cannot be saved out of that Communion, I must needs be convinced that the Roman Church, which hath determined it for a certain Truth, hath already err'd both in Faith and Charity, and that having erred, she is not Infallible: and being not Infallible, by her own Confession cannot be that One, Holy, Catholick and Apostolick Church, out of which there is no Salvation. So that as this Assertion of that Church shall be found to be, true or false; even so will the Popish Religion appear also to be.
But here I meet with a very great Difficulty in my way, as I am going to seek out the Truth or Falshood of this Asser∣tion; that however I may be able to satisfy my self, yet I shall never (for ought I can see) be able to satisfy them who are the Authors of it, any other way, than by a total Submis∣sion of my own Iudgment and Conscience too to their Deter∣mination, and a blind Obedience to their Will. The DisputePage 6 (as is evident) is between two Churches, the one whereof challengeth to it self the big-swoln Prerogative of being the Lady and Mother of all Churches; a Sovereign Authority of prescribing to the Faith of all Christians; the Right and in∣communicable Priviledg of being the Sole and Infallible Iudg of all Controversies in Religion; finally, an unquestionable Power of defining and declaring to all the World the true and only Terms of Salvation. Now, that this Roman-Mother and Mistress-Church, sole Commandress and Infallible Iudg, ha∣ving already in the fulness of Power determin'd it, and by her Supreme Authority imposed an Oath upon her Subjects to main∣tain it, That none out of her Communion can be saved, should after all this, in pure Condescension to Men declared Hereticks, divest her self of her Authority, lay aside her Infallible Defi∣nitions, come down from the Tribunal and the Throne of Iu∣dicature and Majesty, and stand at the Bar submitting her self and the whole Cause to an indifferent and equal Trial, is a thing as little to be hoped for, as it is yet unagreed upon by what Law, Iury or Iudg the Controversy should be decided. And truly on the other side, it seems to me altogether as un∣reasonable in her to accept, That we Protestants of the Church of England, tho we pretend to nothing of this Exorbitant Power over Her or other Churches, or of determining Dis∣putes for all the World, should yet, upon a naked Summons from Her, whose Authority we question, and see no reason to acknowledg, forthwith subscribe to the Sentence of our own Condemnation, without any fair and legal Process, or indeed so much as yield to a Trial, where our professed Adversaries must be at once the Law-makers, Accusers, Witnesses; and yet this is most notoriously our Case.
What course now in this Case can be taken by us? The Church of Rome tells us expresly and peremptorily, We can∣not be saved out of her Communion. Must we believe her without any more ado? That's indeed the way to make a short end of all our Differences, for then we must yield to be Page 7Her's, or else run headlong to Damnation: But if we believe her not (as for my part I know not how we can do, till we see some reason why we should do so) the Dispute (for ought I can see) is like to be endless. For no such reasons can, or ought she to give us, if she will be constant to her self, and stand to her own Principles, (as will plainly appear anon) and if she desert her own Principles, she must yield her self to be fallible, and not the true Church; and then in vain is all talk of Reasons, why they that are not of her Communion should be damned.
However, suppose it be pretended (as indeed it is) that we have had sufficient Reasons given us, why we ought to believe her in this Point. This then is the present Question between us, Whether she hath given us sufficient reason for this, or no. She confidently affirms it, We as confidently de∣ny it. She calls us obstinate Hereticks for denying it, and lays many a heavy Curse upon us: We for this think her a very unreasonable and imperious Mistress, usurping an Authority o∣ver us, which God never gave her. Who I wonder shall now be thought fit to decide this Dispute? She will be tried and judg'd by no other but her self; for She is resolv'd to be Sole and Infallible Iudg in all Controversies of Religion: That is in plain terms, She will accuse us, and she will leave us no room for our own Defence; She will condemn us, and she will not permit us to question the Iustice of her Sentence. She tells us, we are bound to believe her, and obey her, or else we must die eternally for it. We desire some reason may be brought to convince us of this Duty: and she tells us again, she is our Supreme and Infallible Mistress, and Mother, and Iudg; and so the Conclusion is, We must believe she hath this Supreme Authority and Infallibility, because she is Supreme and Infallible; which we can yet see no reason to believe, and therefore cannot believe; and because we cannot believe it, we are declared to be Hereticks, and in a State of Dam∣nation.
Page 8 Seeing then, that the Church of Rome will by no means recede from her Claim to this Supremacy and Infallibility; it seems plain to me, that there is no possibility of satisfying her any way whatsoever but by yielding my self up intirely to her without any farther dispute. But because I cannot do this, without violence to my Conscience, and incurring that very Damnation, which she would persuade me thereby to prevent; I must of necessity leave her a while to satisfy her self about the Truth and Charity of this Doctrine as she can; whilst I for my own private Satisfaction take into a very se∣rious Consideration these two things.
- I. Whether I can discern any solid ground to hope, that I may be saved, as I am now a Protestant of the Church of England.
- II. What more hopeful way to Salvation the Church of Rome can me put into, should I enter into her Com∣munion.
If the result of this double Enquiry shall be, that I really think my self in a fair way to Salvation where I am already, and cannot discern any more hopeful way to it in the Church of Rome; I must needs accout my self bound in Conscience, and under the Penalty of Damnation, to steer my course ac∣cording to the best Light I shall be able, by such a diligent and impartial Inquiry, to attain unto, and content my self with that Religion, which seems best and safest to me, till some better and safer can be found.
The first thing I am to inquire into, is, What good ground of hope I can discern that I may be saved as I am a Protestant. And here the first thing I am to consider is, what I mean by the Name of Protestant, as it is own'd by the Members of the Church of England, and as I can heartily answer to it.
Page 9 By a Protestant I understand no other but a Christian, ad∣hering firmly both in Faith and Practice to the written Word of God, and protesting against both the Faith and Practice of the Papists, and all others whatsoever, so far only, as they are either repugnant to the Holy Scripture in any thing, or ungrounded on the same in things pretended by them necessa∣ry to Salvation. Such Protestants do we of the Church of Eng∣land profess our selves to be, as is apparent unto all, from the 6th of our XXXIX Articles, affirming, That the Scrip∣tures contain all things necessary to Salvation; so that whatso∣ever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any Man, that it should be believed as an Article of Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to Salvation.
This is our very first Principle, as we are called Protestants, and such an one I do heartily profess my self; neither see I yet the least cause to doubt of my Salvation, whilst by the Grace of God I live answerably to this Profession. For that the Protestant Religion built upon this Principle is a safe Reli∣gion, is I think altogether as plain, as that Christianity it self, pure and unmix'd, is the Way to Salvation; because 'tis plain, that this Religion we profess, holding to this Princi∣ple, can be nothing else but pure and unmix'd Christianity, being that, and no other, which is contained in the Holy Scripture.
Is then the holy Scripture the Word of God or not? Was it given unto us of God to be the Rule of our Religion, that is, of our Faith, Worship, and holy Conversation, or was it not? If *Bellarmine may be credited, this is the Declarati∣on of the Catholick Church, both in the third Council of Car∣thage, and also in that of Trent. The Books of the Prophets and Apostles are the true Word of God, and the sure and stable Rule of Life. And as he shortly after adds, The most sure and safest Rule. Now, whether it be the compleat, perfect and adequate Rule, as we constantly affirm; or only a partial Rule, or but some part of it, as the Papists contend; it self,Page 10 when diligently consulted, will be best able to inform us. For it is on all hands granted to be the Word of God, which can∣not lie; and therefore unquestionably true in all things what soever it teacheth us; and of those many excellent things which it very plainly teacheth, its one Perfection and Suffici∣ency is one, and for my present Satisfaction very considerable.
I find in the first place, that God himself writ the Ten Com∣mandments, the compleat Rule of Piety and Iustice, with his own Finger, Exod. 31. 1, 18. Deut. 9. 10. & 10. 2, 4. That he commanded them to be written on the Posts and Gates, Deut. 6. 9. & 11. 20. That Moses wrote all the Words of the Lord, Exod. 24. 4. and deliver'd the Writing to the Priests to be read unto the People, Deut. 31. 9. And that the King was to have by him a Copy of it for his Direction, Deut. 17. 18. I find many Curses denounced against the Breakers of it, Deut. 28. 58. and Blessings promised to them that keep it, Deut. 30. 10. I find it was expresly forbidden to add unto it, or to aiminish from it, Deut. 4. 2, 12, 32. To turn from it to the right-hand or to the left, Josh. 1. 7. And that the good Kings were careful to order all things according to it, and to reform what had been amiss by it, 1 Chron. 16. 40. 2 Kings 22. 13. And therefore I do not wonder to hear the Psalmist, saying, The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the Soul, Psal. 19. 7. nor to find Isaiah sending Men to the Law, and to the Testi∣mony, saying, If any speak not according to this Word, it is be∣cause there is no Light in them, Isa. 8. 20.
Again, I find our Blessed Saviour himself, and his Apostles after him, very frequently appealing and referring their Hear∣ers to that which had been written in the Books of Moses, in the Psalms, and in the Prophets. They have Moses and the Pro∣phets, let them hear them, saith Abraham in the Parable, Luk. 16. 29. Search the Scriptures (saith Christ, Joh. 5. 39.) for in them ye think ye have Eternal Life, and they are they which testify of me. I find that St. Luke, writing his Gospel, gives his Theophilus this good reason for it; That thou mightst know Page 11 the certainty of those things wherein thou hast been instructed, Luk. 1. 4. The things which are most surely believed among us, v. 1. all things of which himself had perfect understanding from the very first, v. 3. I find St. Iohn, who wrote last of all the Apostles, affirming, that tho Iesus did many other Signs, which are not written in that Book of his, yet these are written, that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, and that believing we might have Life through his Name, Joh. 20. 30, 31. And finally I find St. Paul asserting the Perfection of the Holy Scripture as fully and plainly as any Man can speak, 2 Tim. 3. 15, 16, 17. saying, That the Holy Scripture is able to make a Man wise unto Salvation through Faith which is in Christ Iesus. That all Scripture is given by Inspiration of God, and is profitable for Doctrine, for Reproof, for Correcti∣on, for Instruction in Righteousness, that the Man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good Works. Now what more can we desire, than to be made wise unto Salvation? And we are here plainly told, that the holy Scripture is able to make us so. What more can be needful to direct us in the Way to Salvation, than what we may learn from the Scriptare? It is profitable for our Information and Establish∣ment in the Truth, for the Confutation of Error and Heresy, for the Correction of Vice and Wickedness, for our Instruction in Righteousness. It is so profitable for all these purposes, that thereby the Man of God, the Pastor and Teacher may be made compleat, and well furnish'd for all the branches of his Office, all the works of his holy Calling. In short, it is able to bring us to Faith in Christ Iesus; And whosoever believeth in him, shall not perish, but have everlasting Life; Joh. 3. 16.
Furthermore; from the same Scripture I also learn, that Unwritten or Oral Tradition hath ever been found too deceit∣ful a thing to be relied on for so great a matter as Salvation. I find that before the Flood, notwithstanding the long Lives of Men, the few Principles of Natural Religion, and the ea∣siness of learning and remembring things so agreeable to humanePage 12 Nature, yet all Flesh had soon corrupted his Way upon the Earth, Gen. 6. 12. and every Imagination of the Thoughts of Man's Heart was only evil continually, v. 5. And after the Flood, the whole World was quickly over-run with Idolatry: So ill was the Doctrine which had been preach'd by Noah and his Sons, preserved by Oral Tradition. Nay, I find, that af∣ter God was pleas'd to give the Iews his Will in Writing, their Teachers had so corrupted the Doctrine of God with their Traditions, that it was a great part of our blessed Savi∣our's business, to rescue it from those Traditional Corruptions. He reproves the Scribes and Pharisees for transgressing the Com∣mandments of God by their Traditions, Mat. 15. 3. shew∣ing them how they had made it of none effect by the same, v. 6. And that in vain they worshipp'd God, teachiag for Doctrines the Commandments of Men, v. 9. And St. Paul warns the Colossians to beware of being deceived through Philosophy and vain Deceit, after the Tradition of Men, after the Rudiments of the World, and not after Christ, Col. 2. 6. And the spe∣cial occasion of writing most of the Epistles, yea and the Go∣spels too, seems to be the Danger that Christians were in of being seduced by false Teachers, from the Doctrine of Christ and his Apostles, under the pretence of Tradition. Such were the Wolves in Sheeps cloathing, Mat. 7. 15 False Apostles, de∣ceitful Workers, transforming themselves into the Apostles of Christ, 2 Cor. 11. 13. Pretending to another Gospel, Gal. 3. 6. Men of Sleight and cunning Craftiness, lying in wait to de∣ceive, Eph. 4. 14.
From what I find in the Scripture, I must needs conclude, till I be better inform'd, that it is a sufficient Rule for us to go by; and that, so long as we hold us to it alone, in our Faith and Practice, there can be no necessity of resorting to the Church of Rome, for that unto which our Bibles at home can direct us. The Scripture is the Word of God, and sure Rule of Faith, saith the Infallible Church of Rome, if Bel∣larmine may be believ'd: This holy Scripture is able to make Page 13 us wise unto Salvation, saith the this Infallible Scripture; and we take no other but this Holy and Infallible Scripture for the Rule of our Faith and Religious Practice, say we Protestants. What now should hinder me to infer from hence, that if the Scripture be the Word of God, we Protestants are very well as we are; for we have the Word of the Infallible God, and if it may stand us in any stead, the Word of the Infallible Church (as she will needs be accounted) to assure us, that adhering to the holy Scripture, we are in the ready and sure way to Salvation.
Farther yet, as I am a Protestant of the Church of England, I do declare in the words of our VIIIth Article, That the three Creeds, Nice Creed, Athanasius Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles Creed, ought throughly to be received and believ'd; for they may be proved by most certain Warrants of Holy Scripture. Seeing then, we receive and throughly be∣lieve the same Creeds, and no other, which the Church of Rome her self professeth to believe; and which were thought by the Catholick Church of Christ, for above 400 Years after the first planting of Christianity, to contain all Points of Faith necessary for the Salvation of Christians; I think I have hence gather'd this farther Confirmation of my Assurance, that we Protestants are in the direct Way to Salvation; that we are of the very same Religion, and no other, in all the necessary Points of Christian Faith, whereof the Catholick Church evi∣dently was in the first and purest Ages of it. In the four first General Councils no other Articles of Faith were held needful to be believed by Christians, but those of these Creeds, which we entirely own and believe. Either then it is true, That these three Creeds contain all necessary Points of Christian Faith, or it is not. If it be true, we are safe enough, and can with no colour of Reason be said to err in Faith, or to deserve the Name of Hereticks. If it be not true, then were all those Primitive Christians as much Hereticks as we are, and knew no more, than we do, what belong'd to the Salvation of Page 14 Christians. And strangely partial is the Church of Rome in approving the Faith of those Councils, which one of their most famous Popes and Saints is said to have reverenced as the four Gospels, and yet to condemn ours, tho in all Points the very same. Especially when the Third of those Councils, held at Ephesus in the Time of Pope Celestine, did expresly decree, That it should not be lawful to utter, write, or compose any other Faith, besides that which had been defined by the Holy Fathers congregated in the Holy Ghost in the City of Nice. Ordering, that all they should be punish'd, who tender'd any other to such as had a desire to be converted to the Knowledg of the Truth, whe∣ther they were Gentiles, Jews, or of any other Heresy. Where∣by 'tis plain, that the Fathers in this third Council did conclude that Creed to comprehend the entire Faith of a Christian, And indeed a Man would think that the Council of Trent had in the Beginning of it been altogether of the same mind, when of the same Creed it thus declared it self; That it is that Principle wherein all that profess the Faith of Christ do necessari∣ly agree, and the Firm and Onely Foundation against which the Gates of Hell shall not prevail.
I may, I think, upon these Considerations, without more ado, be very well satisfied of the Safety of the Protestant Religion. The Papists themselves must grant, That what∣soever we believe or practise, as of necessity to Salvation, re∣ally is so; and therefore, that we do not err either in our Faith or Practice, whilst we live according to our own Prin∣ciples. For if we err in either, so far do they err also; and not they only, but all the Christian World. And here we may press them with their own way of Arguing, and to much more purpose, than they are wont to use it against us. When they would convince us that their Religion is the safer, they are wont thus to argue; That Religion is the safer, wherein, by the Confession of both Sides, a Man may be saved: but both Sides confess, that a Man may be saved in the Popish Religion, and both Sides do not confess that a Man may be saved in the Page 15 Protestant Religion: therefore the Popish Religion is the safer. Supposing now this way of arguing for the Safety of their Religion from the Confession of both Parties be of any strength, as they must suppose it to be, who so often and confidently use it; then must the like Argument from the same Medium, be altogether as strong for us. I would only beg of them to grant me this, (and I hope they will not say my Request is unreasonable) That that Religion is the safest, all the Doctrines whereof are the truest. If they will not grant me this, they must grant it safer to hold some false Doctrines than all true. But if they think this absurd, then must they give me leave thus to argue; That Religion is the safest, wherein all Do∣ctrines held or taught, as necessary to Salvation, are, by the Con∣fession of both Sides, certainly true. Now both Sides confess, that all Doctrines, held or taught in the Protestant Religion, are cer∣tainly true; and both Sides do not confess, that all Doctrines held and taught in the Popish Religion are certainly true: there∣fore the Protestant Religion is the safer. The same Articles of Faith, the same Rules and Precepts of Life, the same Acts of religious Worship, the same holy Sacraments, the same holy Orders of Ministers, which we have; the very same have they also. But they have many things of all these sorts, which we have not; no nor any other Christians, but those of their own Communion. And therefore to strengthen my Argument, yet more I say, If that Doctrine and Practice be the safest, wherein all good Christians agree; we are sure that ours is the safest, because all good Christians do agree in them; and that theirs is not safe, because all good Christians do not agree in them. Nay let me add this more: Our Re∣ligion is either safe and true, in all things pretended by us necessary to Salvation; or there is no such thing as a safe and true Christian Religion in the World visibly professed; and if so, it will follow, that Christ hath no true visible Church upon Earth, which I am confident no Papist will say. The Consequence is plain, because all Christians all the World Page 16 over, that make any Figure of a Church, hold the same both Faith and Practice with us, in what we account necessary to Salvation, the Church of Rome it self not excluded.
Tho it be very certain, that we positively and affirmatively hold nothing in Faith or Practice, as necessary to Salvation, but what is held by the Church of Rome her self, and all o∣ther Christian Churches; yet will not the Men of that Church allow us any possibility of being saved, whilst we are Protestants. And he, who of late hath been at some Pains to represent the Papist to us in his fairest Dress, hath labour'd as hard in this Point, as in any other, to shew that his Church is not uncharitable in the Doctrine She delivers concerning our desperate Estate. Now although I am not enquiring, whether this Doctrine be charitable or uncharitable, but only whether it be true or false; yet, for my better Satisfaction, I will examine all that he saith to this purpose.
He tells us, His Church doth nothing herein but what she hath learn'd of Christ and his Apostles. And if he can shew me this, I must needs be fully satisfied, being verily per∣swaded they never taught any thing uncharitable or untrue. To shew this, he tells us, how Christ, Mark. 16. 16. hath said, He that believeth and is baptised, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned. And this is all his Church delivers in this Point. If this be all She delivers, we cannot call her uncharitable for it, for we our selves willingly sub∣scribe to this Sentence of our Blessed Saviour. Only we think, he did not here teach and authorise the Church of Rome to say, That all who are not of her Faith and Communion, shall be damn'd; tho she knows they believe all that Christ sent his Apostles to teach them. I do not find in the Roman Ritual, that the Church of Rome in the Baptising either of Infants or adult Persons, uses or requires any other Confession of Faith, but that only of the Apostles Creed, which is the same we use; and if to beleive and be baptised in this Faith, be enough for the Salvation of Papists, why is it not enough Page 17 also for Protestants? And if the Additional Articles of the Trentine Faith, and P. Pius his Creed be necessary to Salva∣tion, why is there no mention made of them in the Roman Order of Baptism?
He adds that of St. Paul, (1 Tim. 4. 1, 2, 3.) where fore∣telling of some who in later times would come and preach a Doc∣trine, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from Meats, which God hath created to be received; he brands them with the infamous Title, of Men that depart from the Faith; giving heed to seducing Spirits, and Doctrines of Devils. And several other Places of Scripture he then produceth, to shew that Hereticks, such as they that affirmed the Resurrection to be past already, or denied that Jesus is the Christ, &c. are in a State of Condemnation. Other Texts of Scripture he brings, wherein Christians are charged to be unanimous, and con∣demned for causing Strife and Divisions, warn'd to maintain Unity, and not to hearken to false Teachers and Seducers, &c. But I find not by all this, that St. Paul or any of the Apostles, taught the Church of Rome, which both forbids to marry, and commands to abstain from Meats allow'd of God; which teacheth divers Doctrines, whereof we find not any thing in the Scripture, to condemn those for Hereticks, that adhere wholly to the Doctrine of the Scripture; or for Schis∣maticks, who hold Communion with all Christians, so far as they keep to the Doctrine of Christ and his Apostles; and di∣vide from the Church of Rome, no farther, than in those Points only wherein they cannot hold her Communion and the Do∣ctrine of Christ too. I do not see, but after the same rate, as he here defends the Charity of his Church, he might also de∣fend her Iustice, if She should pretend, that because Christ commanded his Disciples to fetch him another Man's Ass and her Colt; She did but what he taught, in taking away other Mens Goods, and giving no other reason for it but this, that she hath need of them.
Page 18 What the Papists say more, to shew that we can have no Saving Faith, is one of these two things. Either, first, That it is not an entire Faith, there being (as they say) many ne∣cessary Articles which we believe not: Or, Secondly, That it is no right-grounded Faith, seeing it is not built upon suffi∣cient Authority, that is to say, on the Authority of the Catho∣lick Church.
Their first Objection to the Protestant Faith is this, That it is no entire Faith. And here I am told by the Representer, There is no more hopes for one that denies obstinately any one Point of Catholick Faith, tho he believes all the rest; than there is for one that keeps Nine of the Commandments, with the Breach of the Tenth. Now this seems to me no great Encou∣ragement to change the Communion of the Church of England for that of Rome, if an entire Faith and an entire Obedience be but equally necessary. I wish with all my Heart I could be as sure, that the Church of Rome doth not break the first Commandment, by her Invocation of Saints, and Adoration of the Host; and the second Commandment, in her Adoration of Images and the Cross; as I am sure, that the Church of Eng∣land neither obstinately denies any Article of the Catholick Faith; nor countenanceth the Breach of any one of the ten Com∣mandments, as that Church seems too much to do, whilst she takes no little Care, that the People may not know them all.
We stedfastly believe the whole Scripture, so far as we are able to understand it explicitly; and when we do not im∣plicitly, we receive the three Creeds, which have ever been thought to contain the entire Faith of a Christian: wherein then is our Faith partial or defective? I must consider that anon: at present, seeing Obstinacy, according to our Adver∣saries, is a necessary ingredient of an Heretick; I can easily assure my self, tho I do not see how 'tis possible for me to sa∣tisfy them, that I am no Heretick; for I certainly know, that I am very desirous to be throughly inform'd, and to be brought to a right understanding of all necessary Truths; and am still Page 19 in a readiness, and full preparation of Mind, to believe any one or all of their Articles, whensoever they shall please to prove the Truth of them, either by Scripture, or by unque∣stionable Apostolical Tradition. I am sure therefore, I deny not obstinately any one Point of Catholick Faith. But till they vouchsafe me the proof I desire, I must content my self with the Scripture, which is able to make wise unto Salvation through Faith which is in Christ Iesus, and not in the Pope of Rome, nor in the Roman Church.
And yet I find, that it is for this especially, that we are call'd Hereticks, that we adhere only to the Scripture; and that they often explain their meaning, in bestowing that Title on us, by calling us Scripturists and Gospellers; and ridicule us for talking of only Scripture. But when I consider, that this is the Fundamental Heresy wherewith we are charged, I can∣not but a little wonder at it; and find less cause than ever, to think we can be Hereticks indeed, or that they can call us so any otherwise than in jest. Can they grant the Scrip∣ture to be the Word of God, and the Gospel to be the Power of God unto Salvation; and yet in earnest call us Hereticks for being Scripturists and Gospellers? If, submitting our Faith in all things to the Scripture, we can be Hereticks; then must the Scripture teach Heresy, and cannot be the Word of God. What a Contradiction is this in Papists, to call us Scripturists and Hereticks; which is in effect to say, That we adhere on∣ly to the Infallible Truth of God, and yet are guilty of obsti∣nate Error in the Faith?
What is it then wherein our Faith is defective? It is in this, that we do not believe all that the Church of Rome pro∣pounds to be believed. This indeed would make us Papists, but whether it would make us better Christians than we are already, is not so certain. A Papist (saith the Representer) is one that lives and believes what is prescribed in the Council of Trent. But this Rule of the Papists Faith came into the World (as we think) too late, almost by fifteen hundredPage 20 Years, to be the Rule of the Christian Faith; and therefore he could not have represented his Religion to us with greater disadvantage than here he doth. We cannot conceive how so small a handful of Prelats, most of them Italians, sworn Vassals to the Bishop of Rome, assembled together at Trent fifteen hundred Years after Christ's preaching, and wholly li∣mited and directed in all their proceedings by the Will and Command of Him, whose Authority was the principal thing in question, and submitting all at last to Him alone, should come by that immense Authority, to command the Faith of the Christian World, or what Commission they could shew from Christ, the Supream Lawgiver, to prescribe Laws of Faith and Life to all Christendom. And we can as little con∣ceive, how this pretended Council, could at once confirm all the General Councils, and among the rest, that of Ephesus be∣fore mention'd; yea, and declare the Nicene Creed to be the firm and only Foundation, and yet contrary to the Decree of that Ephesine Council, and not very consistently to it's own Declaration, decree so many more Points, than that Creed contains, as necessary to be believed. Moreover, if this be the great Oracle we must consult, as our surest Guide to Hea∣ven; where must we meet with him, that can give us the certain Sense of its General and Ambiguous Responses? The learnedst of the Romish Church are not yet well agreed about it; and if the English Representer, or French Expounder have had the luck to hit it, I am sure, that many heretofore, who thought themselves as wise as either of them, have strangely miss'd it: Or else that Council, and the Religion call'd Pope∣ry, hath several Faces for several Times and Countries, and in one place and time, shall look like it self, and in another shall be made to look as like the Protestant Religion, as the Artifi∣cial Painter dares make it. But that which here put us to a stand in this, That as the Pope at first taught that Council to speak; so hath he reserved the Interpretation of its Decrees to the See Apostolick, or himself only; and He is not always Page 21 pleas'd in plain terms to let us know his Mind; and if he should, for once, speak out plainly, it will be a little hard for him to assure us, that none of his Successors shall hereafter contradict him; unless he can satisfy us, that he has as well the Gift of Prophesying, as that of defining and interpreting.
However, it is for not believing the new Articles of Trent, that we are accounted Hereticks, and out of the way to Hea∣ven. And the reason is, because these Articles are supposed to be as firmly grounded on the Word of God, as any of those old ones which we believe: For the Word of God (saith the Council of Trent) is partly contain'd in the Books of Scripture, and partly in Traditions unwritten; these are to be received with the same affection of Piety and Reverence; and therefore he that disbelieves any Article grounded upon unwritten Tradi∣tion, is no less a Heretick, than he that disbelieves what is written in the Books of Scripture. If I knew how to be sa∣tisfied concerning the Authority of this Council, I could ea∣sily tell what Credit I should give to this, which it so con∣fidently affirms. But so long as I cannot discern the reason of it's pretended Authority, I am a little apt to suspect, that it was not the clearness of this Principle that moved it to make so many either unscriptural or antiscriptural Decrees; but rather the desire it had of vindicating its unscriptural Doctrines and Practices, that made it necessary to espouse such a Principle. And indeed when I well consider it, I am not a little comforted by it; that this equalling unwritten Tradition with Scripture, which is the very Basis of the Ro∣mish Religion, is one of the most incredible things in the World of it self, and as destitute of any tolerable Evidence, whence it may gain any Credit to it self. It must needs seem very strange to any considering Man, That the wise God should leave us a Rule in writing, on purpose to direct us how to honour Him, and attain to Salvation; and give it this Commendation, that it is able to make wise unto Salvation; and yet omit a great many things altogether as necessary to Page 22 those ends, as those that are written; and without the Belief and Practice whereof, those that are written can no whit avail us; and yet never so much as once tell us in all that Writing, whither we should go to seek and learn them: Nay, that he should omit therein the principal Point of all, and with∣out which all that is either written or unwritten can signify nothing, that is, to tell us, That the Roman Church is the only true Church, the only sure and Infallible Interpreter of all that is written; and the only faithful Keeper of all that is un∣written; from the Mouth whereof we must receive all saving Truth. This I think is a thing that must needs be very hard for any one to believe, that believes the Infinite Wisdom, Goodness and Veracity of God. And how it can ever be made evident, that there are such necessary unwritten Traditions, or that these, which the Church of Rome holds, are they; I think no Man living can imagine. I am sure if the Papists way of reasoning be good, it's safer not to believe this. For all Sides consent, that the Scripture which we have is the certain Word of God; but all Sides are not agreed, that unwritten Traditi∣ons are the Word of God; therefore it is safer to believe the Scripture only to be the Word of God, and not Traditions. We hold us to Scripture, and the Papists grant that to be the safest Rule; their greatest strength lies in unwritten, or (as they are wont to speak) Oral and Practical Traditions; which in plain English, is no more but Report and Custom; and whether there can reasonably be thought any certainty in these, equal to that of the written Word of God given by Di∣vine Inspiration, can be no hard matter for a very weak Un∣derstanding to determine.
That which makes these unwritten Traditions of the less Credit with me, is the assurance I have, that a pretence to them, and a vain confidence in them, hath produced much Error and Division in the Church. 'Tis well known, how far, and how long the Errors of the Millenaries, and of admi∣nistring the Eucharist to Infants (to mention no more) pre∣vail'd Page 23 on this account. And the early Schisms betwixt the Roman and Asian Churches, about the keeping of Easter; and the hot Contests between the Roman and African Churches about rebaptizing Hereticks, were occasion'd, and upheld by Pretences on all hands to Tradition. This was the only Re∣fuge of old for Hereticks, when they were confounded by the Scripture, to take shelter under Tradition: whence Tertullian call'd them Lucifugas Scripturarum, Men who shunn'd the Light*of the Scriptures. Again, saith he, They confess indeed that the Apostles were ignorant of nothing, and differed not among themselves in their preaching; but they will not have it, that they revealed all things to all; for some things they deliver'd openly to all, some things secretly and to a few; and that because St. Paul useth this saying to Timothy, O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust. And again, that good thing which is committed to thee, keep. Irenaeus also makes mention of Hereticks who affirm'd, That out of the Scriptures the*Truth could not be found out by them who understood not Tradi∣tion, because it was not deliver'd by Writing, but by living Voice; for which cause also St. Paul said, we speak Wisdom among them that are perfect. St. Augustine in his 97th Tract upon Iohn, saith, that all the most foolish Hereticks, who desire to be accounted Christians, used to colour their audacious Fictions with a pretence from that Sentence of the Gospel, Joh. 16. 10. I have many things to say unto you, but you cannot bear them now. Thus did the Hereticks of old both plead Tradition, and sought to strengthen their Plea by such places of Scripture as these; which are the very same, that the Papists produce to the same purpose, as may be seen in Bellarmine, and others.
But I find that the Orthodox Fathers of the Church were of another Mind. The things which we find not in the Scrip∣tures (saith St. Ambrose) how can we use them? Ambr. Offic. l. 1. c. 23. Let those of Hermogenes his Shop (saith Tertul∣lian)*shew that it is written. If it be not written, let them fear that Woe design'd for those that add or take away. IrenaeusPage 24 saith, that what the Apostles had preach'd, the same afterwards*by the Will of God they deliver'd unto us in the Scriptures, to be the foundation and pillar of our Faith. St. Hierome against Helvidius, calls the Holy Scriptures the only Fountain of Truth. Let us bring (saith St. Austin) for trial, not the deceitful Bal∣lances,*where we may hang on what we will, and how we will, at our own pleasure; saying, this is heavy, and this is light; but let us bring the Divine Ballance of the Holy Scriptures, and in that let us weigh what is heavier; nay, let us not weigh, but let us own the things already weighed by the Lord. And elsewhere, The Holy Scripture (saith he) fixeth the Rule of our Doctrine. And indeed the excellent sayings of the Antients to this purpose are so well known, that I should be very vain to cite any more here.
If now, after all this, I should suppose, what I can by no means yet grant, that God having order'd the Scriptures to be written, and said so much in the Commendation thereof; they do not yet contain all things necessary to Salvation, but that some part of those necessary things (as both some Here∣ticks of old, and Papists now would have it believed) was only whisper'd privately into the Ears of the Apostles, as My∣steries unfit at that time to be communicated to vulgar Chri∣stians; and that the Apostles (tho they were commanded by Christ to preach upon the House-tops that which he had told them privately in the Ear, Mar. 10. 27.) did not yet think them∣selves obliged to obey this Command in writing all that was necessary; but rather to conceal for a time, a considerable part of that mysterious Doctrine. Yea, suppose that this was one principal use of St. Peter's Keys, to lock up all these My∣steries in the Cabinet of the Churches Breast (let the Church signify what it can) to be communicated to the World, in after-Ages by piece-meal, so as she should find Men prepar'd by a blind credulity to receive them. Yet after all, I must needs think, that we are too hardly dealt with to be called Hereticks for not believing these things, till something be produced, whereby we may be assur'd, either that these things which Page 25 they commend to us come indeed from Christ & his Apostles, or that we are obliged to take the Church of Rome's word for a good Assurance. It seems to me a very unreasonable thing, that we should be condemn'd as obstinate, for not be∣lieving things never sufficiently proved, whilst we know and declare our selves prepared in Mind to yield upon the first rational Conviction. Why should not that Church have the charity to forbear her Censures, till she have tried the strength of her Arguments? Why was the Council of Trent, contra∣ry to the Custom of other Councils, so liberal of her Curses, and so sparing of her Reasons? One good Reason would do more to make us of her Communion than a thousand Ana∣thema's. Would not a Man suspect that they have no good Reasons to shew, who keep them so close? The plain Truth is, there have been such vain Pretences to Tradition in all A∣ges, one contradicting another, that it seems impossible in this Age to discern between true and false. Did not Clemens Alexandrinus call it an Apostolical Tradition, that Christ preach'd but one Year? And did not Irenaeus pretend a Tra∣dition, descending from St. Iohn, that Christ was about fif∣ty Years old when he was crucified? And do the Papists ac∣cout either of these to be true? Many things might be na∣med, which for some time have been received as Apostolical Traditions, which the Church of Rome will not now own to be so. And those which she owns, she can no more prove to be so, than those she hath rejected. It were easy to shew this, even from abundance of their own Writers, who as∣sert the Perfection of the Scripture, and complain of the Mis∣chief this pretence to Tradition hath done; and who confess, they cannot be proved to come from the Apostles. But I shall now content my self with the ingenuous Confession of the Bishops assembled at Bononia, in their Counsel given to P. Iu∣lius the 3d. We plainly confess (say they) among our selves, that we cannot prove that which we hold and teach concerning Tra∣ditions, but we have some conjectures only. And again; In Page 26 truth whosoever shall diligently consider the Scripture, and then all the things that are usually done in our Churches, will find there is great difference betwixt them; and that this Doctrine of ours is very unlike, and in many things quite repugnant to it. What said Erasmus long since on the 2d Psalm: They call the People off (saith he) from the Scriptures unto little humane Traditions, which they have honestly invented for their own Profit. And Peter Suter, a bitter Adversary of his, hath these words; Since many things are delivered to be observed, which are not expresly found in Holy Scripture, will not unlear∣ned Persons, taking notice of these things, easily murmur; com∣plaining that so great Burdens should be laid upon them, whereby the Liberty of the Gospel is so greatly impaired? Will they not also easily be drawn away from the observance of Ecclesiastical Or∣dinances, when they shall find that they are not contained in the Law of Christ? And must we be Hereticks for not believing these so uncertain Traditions? Must our Faith be accounted defective and not entire, meerly because we do not believe what no Man can make us understand to co come from God? This seems very hard.
It is now time for me to consider the second Objection made against our Faith, which is, That it is not rightly grounded, it is not built on the Authority of the Church, that is, the Church of Rome. And indeed so much weight I find laid upon this one Point, that I have some reason to think, that they, who have been very forward at all times to give such liberal allowances of implicit Faith to their Friends at home, would be contented with a very small measure of explicit Be∣lief in us, if we would once be taught to ground our Faith aright, on the sole Authority of that Church. It seems to me, that for the talk about it, they are no such rigid Exact∣ors of an entire explicit Faith in order to Salvation, but that if we will explicitly believe this one fundamental Point, the Supreme Authority of the Roman Church over all Christians, they will deal very favourably with us in most others; and Page 27 excuse our Ignorance easilier, than they can perswade us to be content to be ignorant. I think I have very good reason to believe this, because I know they can have no reason to reject them that believe but this one Point; for when once this great Gobbet is swallow'd down, the Passage will be so well open'd, that all other Points of Faith either go down with it, or will slip after it without the least straining or grutching. The Authority of God himself, speaking in Scrip∣ture, will be of no farther consideration to us; for that we must suppose to be included in the Authority of our Mother the Church. And whatsoever we shall thence-forward perceive to be the Will of our Mother, we must without all scruple, conclude it to be also the Will of our Father. The Representer hath lately told us, that tho the Scripture (which is the Word of our Heavenly Father) may be the Law; yet the Mother, the Roman Church, is the Iudg. Having learn'd from her the sense of the Scripture, we are obliged to submit to this, and never presume on our own private Sentiments, however seemingly grounded on Rea∣son and Scripture, to believe or preach any new Doctrine opposite to the Belief of the Church. And there's reason for this, if it be true which he elsewhere tells us, That a Man may very*easily frame as many Creeds as he pleases, and make Christ and his Apostles speak what shall be most agreeable to his humour, and suit best with his Interest, and find plain proofs for all (he means * in Scripture); the truth whereof (as of all other Points of Do∣ctrine) stands (as he saith) upon the same Foundation of the Churches Tradition, which if it fail in one, leaves no security in any. This is indeed to advance the Church to the very top∣branch of all Authority, and to make the holy Scripture as ve∣ry a Nose of Wax, and as Leaden a Rule, as any of that Church ever thought it: seeing a Man may form and work it into Creeds of all fashions, and find plain proofs in it for any odd Humour, or carnal and Worldly Interest. This then (as far as I can learn by him) is the only way for me to be a thorow Papist, and a good Catholick, I must lay aside my Page 28Reason, and the Scripture, and heed no more what either of these tell me; only I must have my Ear open to the Voice of the Church, and be wholly at her teaching and command, and I shall be safe enough.
Upon the most serious consideration of the Character which the Papist is pleas'd to give us of himself, I cannot find what it is, for which they of that Church are so severely bent a∣gainst us Protestants; save only, that we will not, like tame Animals, without any understanding of our own, learn to come and go at a whistle; or trot on the Road as we are driven, and stoop to take on our Backs whatever Load it shall please the Roman Church to lay upon us, confessing her to have absolute and uncontroulable Authority over our Faith. The standing out against the Catholick Church makes Men Hereticks, and without erring against this, no Man is guilty of Heresy, said the Iesuit Fisher, in his Answer to certain Questions propounded to him by King Iames I. This then is the only Heresy to disown the Authority of the Roman (for that he calls the Catholick.) Church. Again, saith he, One fundamental Error of the Pro∣testants, is their denying the Primacy of St. Peter and his Suc∣cessors, the Foundation which Christ laid of his Church, neces∣sary for the perpetual Government thereof. And again, He that forsakes the Church, puts himself into a dead and damna∣ble State, and may have all things besides Salvation and Eternal Life. Bellarmine speaks out, and tells us very plainly, No Man can, tho he would, be subject to Christ, and communicate*with the Celestial Church, that is not subject to the Pope. If then we believe this Authority of the Roman Church, we be∣lieve all; and if we believe not this, we believe nothing at all, in the Papists account; or to any better purpose, than to our own Damnation. So that without this Belief our Faith shall never pass for an entire Faith; and when we once be∣lieve this, it shall never be any more question'd, whether it be entire or no.
Page 29 Now it seems a very hard matter to believe this great Point of Faith, till very good Reasons be given us for it; and yet (it should seem) the want of such Reasons will not excuse us from being Hereticks, and in a State of Damnation, no not tho we be never so ready to believe it, when we shall have Rea∣sons given us for it. For he is an Heretick (we are told) who thinks any thing against the Definition of the Church; yet*stands so affected, that he will think the contrary, if he be convin∣ced by Arguments, or if the matter be propounded to him by a Learned Man. And on the contrary, if we do believe this, we can hardly be Hereticks, whatever Errors we believe, or this Belief draws us into. For if a Rustick (saith Cardinal Tolet) believe his Bishop about the Articles of Faith, teaching*him some Heretical Doctrine, he merits by believing; altho it be an Error. So weighty a Point is this, of believing the Authority of the Roman Church, and grounding our entire Faith upon it; that I perceive I am concern'd above all things to examine it throughly: and this I shall have fitter oppor∣tunity to do now I am come to the second thing propounded.
Hitherto I have been considering, what ground I have to hope for Salvation, as I am a Protestant, and of the Church of England. I am now in the next place to enquire, Whether I can find any Reason to believe, that the Church of Rome can put me into a more hopeful Way to it, should I turn Papist, and be of her Communion. Now, seeing I have already found, that the great Reason, why we are held uncapable of Salva∣tion as now we are, is this; That we have no entire Faith; and the Defect in our Faith is this, That we believe not all the Articles of the Roman Faith; and that which makes it necessary for us to believe all those Articles, is the Authority of the Catholick, that is, as they interpret, the Roman Church, to declare and define what things are necessary to the Salvation of Christians; I perceive I have no more to do for my full Sa∣tisfaction Page 30 in the present Inquiry, but to consider, what Reason I can have for the owning and submitting to this Authority. And to discern this, I think this Method fittest to be taken: I will inquire into three things;
- I. What things are implied in that Submission to this Autho∣rity which is required of me.
- II. What the Grounds and Reasons are whereon this Authori∣ty is founded, and which should perswade me to submit.
- III. Where this Authority may be found, and to whom I must submit.
And this is all, I think, that I need to do; for I can never think fit to submit my Faith and Conscience, and to trust my Salvation to an Authority, which either requires of me such things as are unreasonable, or can produce no Reason for it self, or is so lodged in Obscurity as it cannot be found.
I. I cannot leave the Communion of the Church of England, and enter into that of Rome, in obedience to an Authority which commands me to do things unreasonable, agreeing neither with the Nature of Mankind, nor with the undoubted Prin∣ciples of Religion. If therefore the Church of Rome require such things of me, I must be a Protestant still, and protest a∣gainst that Authority, which She pretends to. And for ought I can yet see, I cannot submit to her Authority, but upon the hardest and most unreasonable Terms in the World. I must renounce my Reason and my Iudgment, I must no longer trust my Senses, I must either lay aside, or learn to speak dishonour∣ably of God's Word; I must not believe a Word that God hath spoken, without that Church's Leave; I must embrace a Re∣ligion, for which, according to that Church's Principles, no Reason can be given to convince me; and when I have thus learn'd to do all things without Reason, I must do, what with Reason I can never do, believe all Men whatsoever, and how piously soever they otherwise live, if they be not of the Ro∣manPage 31 Communion, to be in a State of Damnation. If I be deceiv'd in any thing of all this, I shall be very glad to know it; and I have only this to say for my self, that they were Roman Catholicks, who should know their own Religion best, that have deceived me; and if I may be deceiv'd by hearken∣ing to them, whom that Church sends abroad to make us Con∣verts, I shall be the less encouraged hereafter, to embrace her Communion upon their Perswasions. Whether all, who are already of her Communion, either own or know all this, it con∣cerns not me to enquire; but I think it a Debt of Charity, that I owe them, to think, (till they tell me the contrary) that they do not; and that, if they did, they would not long continue where they are. However, till they, who taught me these things, shall either confess their own Error, or shew me my Mistake, I must needs think them all true; and there∣fore also account it much safer for me to continue a Protestant, than to turn Papist, whatever it may seem, or be to others.
First, I think nothing can be plainer, than that it is more safe to act like understanding, and discreet, considering Men, than otherwise; or, that the Religion, which alloweth Men so to do, is safer than that which doth not allow it. Now the Protestant Religion alloweth Men to make use of their Reason and Iudgment, to discern between Truth and Falshood, Good and Evil; which the Roman Religion (as it seems to me) will not allow; and therefore it must needs be the safer Re∣ligion.
Christ certainly came not into the World to save Sinners by destroying, but rather by restoring and perfecting Human Nature. His business was not to deprive us of the use of the most noble Faculty which God had given us; but to rectify that, and all the rest, after they had been depraved by Sin. His Gospel was not preached to close up the Eye of the Soul, the Understanding, and so to lead Men blindfold to Heaven; but to open Mens Eyes, and to furn them from Darkness to Light, Act. 26. 18. The Apostles preach'd, to teach us how Page 32 to offer unto God a Reasonable Service: Rom. 12. 1. And Christ expects, that his Sheep should be able to discern the voice of him their Shepherd, from the voice of Strangers; and, a∣voiding them, to follow him only; Iohn 10. 4, 5. St. Peter exhorts Men, to be always ready to give a Reason of the Hope that is in them; 1 Pet. 3. 15. And St. Paul bids Men prove all things, and hold fast that which is good; 1 Thess. 5. 21. And St. Iohn exhorts, not to believe every Spirit, but to try the Spirits whether they be of God; 1 Joh. 4. 1. How any Man shall be able to do all this, and much more, which as a Christian he is obliged to do, and not be allow'd the free use of his Reason and judging Faculty, I am sure, no Man can tell me; neither indeed how he can be of any Religion at all; for before he can really be of any Religion, he must choose it; and choose it he cannot, till he have rationally consider'd and judg'd of it, and of the Reasons which must move him to the choice of it. And in Truth, to deny a Man the free use of his Reason and Iudgment in Religion, is to turn him into a Beast, where he should be most a Man; and either to make it impossible for him to be of any Religion at all, and to serve God like a Man; or else to say in effect, That Christian Religion is altogether a most unreasonable thing, and proper only to unreasonable Creatures.
Now the Writing Men of the Roman Church tell us no∣thing more frequently, than that no private Man ought to be allow'd to judg for himself in matters of Faith; that to allow this, is to set the Gate wide open to all Heresies; that every Man is bound to sumbit and captivate his Understanding and Iudgment to the Iudgment of the Church, that is, to all the Definitions of (as they call it) the Roman-Catholick Church. Whatsoever this Church affirms, we must believe to be true; and whatsoever She commands, we must chearfully obey, seem the thing to our own private Reason never so false, or never so wicked. We must not dare to examine the Truth or Lawfulness of her Decrees or Determinations, tho ReasonPage 33 and Scripture too, seem to us to be against them, as we have been lately taught by the Representer; for as we receive from Her the Books, so from Her only we are to receive the Sense of Scripture. Hence it is, that they define a Heretick, to be one that obstinately opposeth the Sentence of the Church. The Doctrines of Fathers (Bellarmine some-where tells us) may be examined by Reason, because they teach but as private Doctors; but the Church teaches as a Iudg, with all Autho∣rity, and therefore no Man may dispute the soundness of her Doctrine. This then is the first step I must take, if I will go over to the Church of Rome; I must resolve to see no longer for my self with my own Eyes, but give my self up to be led by the Church, never questioning the Way I am to go in, so long as she leads me. And truly so far as I am yet able to discern with my Protestant Eyes, it is but needful to close the Eye of Reason before-hand, when I am about to go, where I must otherwise see such things as no Reason can in∣dure. It was therefore very ingenuously spoken (as I have heard) of Mr. Cressy, when he said, that the Wit and Judg∣ment of Catholicks, is to renounce their own Judgment, and depose their own Wit. Yet if this be true, I must beg his Pardon, if I dare not yet imitate his Example, or follow him thither, where (according to him) I can have nothing to do, but to run headlong upon any thing without Wit or Fear. Reason he is pleased to call a hoodwink'd Guide; and following it, all we can hope for, is, that we may possibly stumble in∣to the Truth or Church. Possibly (it should seem) a Man may stumble upon it with his Eyes in his Head; and truly, I dare not pull them out, lest I should stumble on a blind Lea∣der, and we should both fall into the Ditch.
Secondly; Whensoever I resolve to enter into the Roman Communion, I fear I must also bid farewell to my Senses; or resolve never any more to trust them, no, not about those things, which are the proper Objects of Sense; to discern which, God gave me my Senses; and of which it will be Page 34 impossible for me to have any distinct knowledg without them.
How unreasonable and dangerous a thing this is, I must needs be very sensible, if I be not resolved already to hearken no more to my Reason. If I must no longer credit my Eyes about Shape and Colour, nor my Ears about Sounds and Words, nor my Nose about Smells, nor my Palate concerning Tasts, nor my Hands and Feeling about Hot and Cold, Hard and Soft; I shall not know how to believe, that God gave me all these Instruments of Sense to any purpose at all; I am sure, I cannot think my self in a comfortable and safe Con∣dition. I know not to what end our Blessed Saviour should bid St. Thomas, Handle and see him; or how his Faith could be thereby confirmed, if such Senses are not to be trusted: nor why the Apostle should hope to have the more Credit given to their Narratives, by telling us they were Eye-witnesses of the things they relate; 2 Pet. 1. 16. Luke 1. 2. Nor why St. Iohn (1 Ioh. 1. 1.) should talk so much of hearing, seeing and handling, as things qualifying them for bearing witness. What a Christian am I like to be, if I can have no Assurance of what I see or hear; if I may not trust my Eyes when I read the Scripture, nor my Ears when I hear the Instructions of my Teachers? How could the first Christians be sure them∣selves, or assure us, that Iesus is the Christ, if in hearing his Words, and seeing his Miracles, and reading the Prophets, they might not safely trust their Senses? If Sense be not to be trusted, all Teaching must be by immediate Inspiration; and Faith comes not by hearing, as St. Paul affirms it doth; and the Infallible Church can teach no more than we, except she can teach without Speaking or Writing, or any thing that is to be understood by Hearing or Seeing; and so Oral and Practical Tradition can be of no more use to us, than to the Blind and Deaf. On this Supposition, I may easily mistake a Harlot for my Mother, and stumble into Babylon instead of Hierusalem, hearken to the Voice of the Wolf instead of the Page 35Shepherd, eat and drink Poison instead of wholsome Food, and feel no Pain nor Loss when my Eyes are pluck'd out.
Now if the Church of Rome do not command us to re∣nounce all Credit to our Senses, she cannot command us to give any Credit to her Doctrine of Transubstantiation. And I fear, without our believing this Point, she will not admit us to her Communion. We believe already a Real Presence of that which we see not, yet will not this serve, unless we be∣lieve also a Real Absence of that which we both see, handle, taste and smell. In the holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, I am commanded to believe that there is not any Bread, but Flesh; nor Wine, but Blood; and yet there I see, smell, taste and feel both Bread and Wine, and nothing else. I hear it read, that our Blessed Saviour took, blessed, brake and gave Bread and Wine; and of the same he said, Take, eat and drink. I hear St. Paul again and again (1 Cor. 11. 26, 27, 28.) speak of eating and drinking the Bread and the Cup. And yet I must not trust any of these five Senses, but against the clearest Evidence and Testimony of them all, I must believe (if I can) that there is neither Bread nor Wine, but that, which neither my Senses can discern, nor my Reason conceive, nor doth the Scrip∣ture any where say, the very Natural Flesh and Blood of Christ, under the Colour and Form, the Taste and Smell, and all other proper Qualities of Bread and Wine; and yet nei∣ther that Colour, nor Form, nor Taste, nor Smell, nor any o∣ther Accident, which my Senses there perceive, are in the Flesh and Blood, tho there is nothing else there for them to be in. That tho I break and chew with my Teeth what I take and eat; yet I break not, nor chew with my Teeth the Body of Christ; and yet I take and eat nothing else. If I cannot believe this, I am told that I have not Faith enough, and on∣ly because I have yet Reason and Sense too much, to be of that Communion. This is another step that I must take in going over to the Church of Rome. And when I am got thus far, I may think it seasonable enough to lay aside the Page 36Scripture too: For what good Use I can make of it, without the free use of my Reason, and trusting my Senses, I do not understand.
Thirdly, If I be a Lay-man, and not of so good credit with the Curate or Bishop, as to obtain a License; that is, if I will not promise to adhere only to the Doctrine of the Roman Church, and take all that I read in that sense only, which she is pleas'd to give it; I must not be suffer'd to read the Scrip∣ture at all, but must give away my Bible, upon pain of being denied the Remission of my Sins. And truly if I may be al∣low'd to read it upon no other terms, than of being thus tied up, to learn nothing by it, but what I am before-hand taught without it; I shall think a License too dear, even at a very low rate; if yet it may be obtain'd, as I find it question'd, whether it may or no, any where else, but in such places as a License to read some of their own, may prevent their itch of looking into our Translations. However, whether I be of the Lay or Clergy, if I will learn of them who are most bu∣sy in endeavouring my Conversion; I am sure I must be taught to speak very dishonourably of the Word of God; and this seems to be no more than the Religion commended to me requireth.
I must needs here say, That nothing in the World doth (and I think I may say, ought) more to prejudice me against any Religion, than to find it constrain'd in its own Defence, to say undecent things of that which it grants to be the Word of God. And if I might be thought worthy to advise the Missionaries, they should not harp too much on this ungrate∣ful String, if they would draw any after them that have the least Zeal for God's Honour. I am verily oerswaded, that the good Language they bestow upon the Scripture, hath kept more out of their Church, than ever their Arguments yet won. I will not now take notice of those too well known Encomiums bestow'd upon it, by some of their Communion, calling it a Nose of Wax, a Leaden Rule, a dead Letter, un∣sens'd Page 37 Characters, and I am ashamed to say what more. I shall only observe what is ordinarily taught us and endea∣vour'd with much Art to be prov'd by their best, most modest, and generally approved Authors: as, That the Scripture is not Necessary; that it hath no Authority as to us, but from the Church; that it is an imperfect, an insufficient Rule; that it is an obscure Book, and finally, a very dangerous one to be read by the People.
I know very well, That the Representer, and others of them tell us, That the Papist believes it damnable in any one, to think, speak, or to do any thing irreverently towards the Scripture, and that he holds it in the highest Veneration of all Men living. I know also, that most of them, even whilst they are industri∣ously proving all that I but now said, do yet labour to mollify and sweeten their own harsh Expressions, which they know must needs grate the Ears of all pious Persons. I am also ve∣rily perswaded, that many Papists have a very venerable esteem for the Scripture, and are not a little troubled to hear it re∣proachfully used. And yet I cannot see that highest Veneration for it, or that they speak not very irreverently of it, who speak no worse of it, than the Representer himself hath taught them, viz. That it is not fit to be read generally of all without License; tho he gives this very good reason for it, Lest they should no longer acknowledg the Authority of the Roman Church; or in his own words, No Authority left by Christ, to which they are to submit. As tho Men might be taught by the Scripture to be disobedient to any Authority which Christ hath set up in his Church. I cannot see any great Veneration he hath to the Scripture, in saying, They allow a restraint upon the reading of the Scriptures, for the preventing of a blind ignorant Presump∣tion, or the casting of the Holy to Dogs, or Pearls to Swine, (such too is his respect for Christians) That he hath no other assurance that they are the Word of God, but by the Authority Page 38 and Canon of the Church. That almost every Text of the Bible and even those that concern the most essential and fundamental Points of the Christian Religion may be interpreted several ways, and made to signify things contrary to one another. That it is altogether silent, without discovering which of all those Senses is that intended by the Holy Ghost, and leading to Truth; and which are erroneous and Antichristian. That a Man may frame as many Creeds as he pleases, and make Christ and his Apostles speak what shall be most agreeable to his Humour, and suit best with his Interest, and find plain Proofs for all. That it alone can be no Rule of Faith to any private or particular Person. Cer∣tainly they who talk of the Scripture at this rate, have not the highest Veneration for it, of all Men living.
They that say, and labour to prove, that the Scripture is not necessary, may well be supposed to think, that the Church of God might do well enough without it. And, tho to les∣sen the Odiousness of this Assertion, they are forced to confess it is a Lie, without the help of some such mental Reservati∣on as this, So that God could not, if he pleas'd, preserve his Truth among Men, some other way than by writing it; yet doth not this speak in them the like Veneration for the Scripture, as Protestants have, who down-rightly affirm it to be necessary. And it must needs sound ill to say, That the All-wise God hath been very careful to leave and preserve in his Church an un∣necessary thing. Yea, 'tis altogether as absurd to say, the Scripture is not necessary, because God could, if it had seem'd good to him, have preserv'd his Church and Faith without it: As it would be to say, that Plowing and Sowing, or Eating and Drinking are not necessary, because God could, if he pleas'd, make the Ground bring forth without the one, and preserve Man's Life without the other. Nor can it be imagin'd that any Man upon this account only, would venture to say, and attempt to prove the Scripture not to be necessary in Page 39 a sense, wherein no Man ever affirm'd it; if he were not so zealously bent upon lessening the Esteem which we have for it, that he will chuse rather to say nothing to the purpose, and dispute against no Body, than to be silent, and say nothing that sounds ill of it; and that he thinks it needful for the ends of his Church so to do.
In like manner, when they contend that the Authority of the Scripture is from the Church, which is the thing whereof at every turn they are forward enough to mind us; they are forced again to make some Abatements to make it seem a Truth. 'Tis true, they say, that consider'd in it self alone, it hath its Authority from God; whereby they can mean no more, but that God is the Author of it; but in relation to us, it hath its Authority from the Church. Now I would fain know, what any Man can understand properly by the Au∣thority of the Scripture, but its relation to us, or the Power it hath to command our Faith in it, and Obedience to it, as the Word of God. And if it have all this Power from the Church, as is confidently affirm'd, then tho it self be of God, yet all its Authority is from the Church; and it must needs be true, which was said by one of them, That it is of no more Authority than Livy or Aesop's Fables without the Churches Declaration. Thus is the Authority of God's Word made to depend upon the Authority of Men, and all our Faith is no more but hu∣mane Faith resting upon humane Testimony. And if the Au∣thority which it hath to oblige us, be from the Church, I would know by what Authority it doth oblige the Church; it is not sure, by any Authority from Her, for then I see no reason why the Church may not chuse whether she will receive it or no; whilst yet I think, that it is only by the Authority of the Scripture that she can pretend to be a Church, and to have any Authority at all. However this I am sure of, that they who say the Scripture is to be receiv'd for the Churches Page 40Sake, have not so high a Veneration, either for it, or the Author of it, as they who say it is to be receiv'd for God's Sake.
And in the next place, whether we, who say the Scripture is a perfect and sufficient Rule of Faith and Manners, contain∣ing all things necessary to Salvation; or they, who say, 'tis but a partial and imperfect Rule: We, who say; 'tis plain and easy to be understood in all things necessary; or They, who say 'tis dark and obscure, unable to inform and resolve Lear∣ners, Doubters, and Inquirers, and that even in Essentials and Fundamentals of Religion: Finally, Whether We, who say, it ought to be read and studied of all Men; Or They, who say, it is not needful, yea, dangerous to be read of all, have the higher Veneration for the Holy Scripture, is no hard mat∣ter to determine; if to commend a thing, may be said to be more Honour to it, than to disparage it. And tho here again, they use some Art and Colour to set off such ill-favour'd Say∣ings, as well as they can; yet serves this to no other end in my Mind, but to make them more Ugly and Odious.
They deny not (for all this, they say) the Perfection, Sufficiency, or Plainness of the Scripture, nor that it may be read by the People. What then is it they say? They affirm, that it contains all necessary Truths, either Explicitly, or at least Virtually; for some Truths it declares expresly, and yet so, as the Church alone must give the Sense; and for all the rest, it plainly (if the same Church may here also give the Sense) sends us to the Church to learn them. Now I cannot (for my Heart) imagine what all this can signify, but only a desire to lessen the Scripture's Authority, as plausibly as they can. To me it seems very plain, that they make the Scripture just nothing, and the Church all in all.
Page 41 I think it here again, well deserves my Consideration, That the SCRIPTURE is very copious in declaring, and repeating too, over and over again, many necessary Points of Faith and Duty; and not only necessary things, but many other things also it largely teacheth, which are by all granted to be of less moment and necessity to the Salvation of Men; and all this it doth in as plain Words and Phrases, as can be used. And hence I find it very hard for me to believe, that the HOLY GHOST, by whose Inspiration it was Written, should do all this for our Instruction, and that in a Book written on pur∣pose to make us wise unto Salvation, and by himself decla∣red able so to do, and yet omit many things of greatest ne∣cessity to that end; never so much as once, no not in any obscure manner, pointing out to us that Church, to whose Authority we must resort and submit. This were to leave us a Treasure closely lock'd up, and not to tell us where we may find the Key, that can let us in to it, and so we are neither the Wiser, nor the Richer for it.
Whatsoever the PAPISTS are pleas'd to alledg for their speaking thus of the Word of the Blessed God, I confess I can∣not think any better of their Religion for it. Let us say what we will in Commendation of holy SCRIPTURE, they will be sure to find something to say against it; lest, I suppose, it should be thought, we can at any time speak Truth. And when we charge them for speaking dishonourably of the SCRIPTURE, they so interpret their Words, as they seem to say the same that we did, and which they blamed us for. What can be their meaning in this, but either to make the World believe that we are in an Error; tho, when they come to Apologize for themselves, they are forced to confess it a Truth; or that their Religion necessarily requires it of them in its Vindication, to vilify the SCRIPTURE; tho by saying such things of it, as they acknowledge cannot be true, unless interpreted so, as to speak our Sense? They must there∣fore in this, deal either very disingenuously with us, or very Page 42injuriously with the holy SCRIPTURE. For my part, I can∣not believe, that Men professing the Christian Faith, and owning the SCRIPTURE to be the Word of GOD, could ever be persuaded to speak so, as but seemingly to vilify or disparage it, if their Doctrines could be any other way de∣fended. Their Religion, I say, must need it, or they too little consult the Honour of their Religion, in needlesly utte∣ring such Speeches, as stand in need of a very great measure of Charity, to think them less than Blasphemy.
Fourthly, If any PROTESTANT dares venture thus far, towards the Church of ROME; the next thing he has to do, is to resolve, not to believe one Word that GOD speaks, without that Church's leave. I am confident, that there are not many of our Lay-PAPISTS, that think themselves to be under this Obligation; and that if they were sensible of it, they would make haste to break loose from it. But for my own part, I see not how I can enter into their Com∣munion, but I must draw it upon my self. And this I think, would be to advance the ROMAN Church to as great a height in my esteem, as they in her, who are most zealous for her Infallibility, can desire. What more would they have, than that GOD himself, where they confess he speaks, should stand to their Church's Courtesy, whether or no he should be believed? I know it will be said, They never dis∣allow'd any man to believe GOD. But because all men can∣not understand GOD speaking in the SCRIPTURE, the Church is appointed by Him to be his Interpreter. This I hear, and to me it sounds not well, That GOD should speak to Men things necessary for all to know, and which he com∣mands all to learn and believe upon pain of eternal Damna∣tion; and yet not speak so intelligibly, as they may under∣stand Him. Certainly, he that made the Tongue, and gave man Understanding, can speak (if he please) as Intelligibly as the Church, which cannot Speak or Understand at all, Page 43 without his Help and Teaching. And considering his Infi∣nite Goodness and Impartiality; till he shall tell me so him∣self, I know not how to believe that he hath so much more respect to the Honour of the ROMAN Church, than to the Salvation of Mankind, that he would so deliver things be∣longing to Salvation, that no Man can be able to understand, and be the better for them, but he that resorts to that Church as God's sole Interpreter. And if indeed she be so, it must follow, that we cannot believe one Word that God speaks without her leave. For, therefore is she made God's Inter∣preter, because otherwise we cannot understand his Word; and I am sure, what we cannot understand, we cannot be∣lieve. 'Tis the Sense, they say, and not the Letter, is God's Word; and this Sense is in the Church's Breast, and of Her alone we must learn it; and therefore, till She give us leave, we cannot believe it, no not so much as, that JESUS is the CHRIST; altho, till we believe this, we cannot believe that he hath a Church, and therefore cannot believe She is His Interpreter.
I will not now inquire into the Reasons, Why this Church, which is God's sole Interpreter, takes so excellent a Course to make her Children understand God's Word. Why first, She keeps it in the Latin Tongue only, whereof the far grea∣ter number of them understand not one Syllable. Why se∣condly, She doth not give them some Infallible Translation, Interpretation, or Comment of the Scripture; a thing very easie for an Infallible Interpreter to do; and therefore, in my Opinion, must argue a great defect in her Charity, and much unfaithfulness in the discharge of her Trust, if she do it not. I am loath to ask such Questions as these, because I find it goes so much against the Hair to answer them. Indeed I think she doth not the latter for a very good Reason, because she cannot; and 'tis only her vain pretence to such a Power, that makes her inexcusable if she do it not. And the for∣mer she is concern'd to do, that they, who have the Word Page 44 of God only in a Language which they cannot understand, may be constrain'd of necessity to depend upon her Instru∣ction, and never to question her Authority, nor discern her Errors. Whilst they have nothing of the Word of God, but from her mouth, they can have no more of it, than what she gives them leave to have; and therefore, can neither believe a Word of what GOD speaks, nor indeed that he hath spoken any thing but by her leave.
God speaks very plainly, and intelligibly enough in the second Commandment, forbidding the Adoration of Images, as plainly, as he forbids to commit Adultery, or to Steal. And Christ spake very plainly, and as intelligibly, saying, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve, Matt. 4. 10. And again, when he said of the Eucharisti∣cal Cup, Drink ye all of it, Matt. 26. 27. as when he said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy Neighbour as thy self. St. Paul very plainly ordereth, that the publick Worship of God be perform'd in a known Tongue, and sheweth the great absurdity of using an unknown Tongue in God's Worship, 1 Cor. 14. And he speaks intelligibly e∣nough, when he saith, Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that Bread, and drink of that Cup, 1 Cor. 11. 28. To say no more, we think it plainly enough said, of them that die in the Lord, that they rest from their labours, Rev. 14. 13. In all these things we hear God speak, and would fain believe him. But here the Church of ROME comes in with her Authority, and tells us, That, tho GOD have said, He only is to be worshipped, we must believe, that not he only, but also the Cross, Images, Saints and Angels, are to have a share in our Religious Worship. And say CHRIST and his Apostles what they please to the contrary, we must believe, that not all, but the sacrificing Priest ought to drink of the Cup; that God's publick Worship is well perform'd in an un∣known Tongue; that we neither eat Bread, nor drink Wine in the Eucharist; that all who died in the Lord, do not rest from Page 45 their labours; but that the most of them go into most dread∣ful torments. At this rate, for ought I can see, must I be∣lieve the Word of God, when I have once submitted to the Authority of the Church of ROME.
Fifthly, It seems very hard for me to conceive how I should be bound under penalty of Eternal Damnation, to es∣pouse a Religion, and submit to an Authority, for which no convincing Reason can be given me by them that invite me to it. What is it in any Religion, which can commend it before others to a man's Choice, but its Truth and Goodness? And how should the Truth and Goodness of any Religion com∣mend it to my Choice, till they be discover'd unto me, and I be rationally convinced that it hath them? Whatever Truth and Goodnoss there may really be in the Religion called PO∣PERY, I am sure they can be no motives to me to embrace it, till they be clearly laid open to my Understanding and Iudgment, that I may plainly discern them; and therefore, if any PAPIST will take an effectual course to Convert me to it, he must by rational means convince me first, that his is the true Church, and her Doctrines sound and good.
How he can do this upon his own Principles, I see not yet; but rather think it a very gross absurdity in him to at∣tempt it. He tells me often, that no private Person, such as I am, ought to judg for himself in Points of Faith, or therein to follow his own private Iudgment, tho to him grounded both on Reason and Scripture. He must not there∣fore in disputing with me, (according to his own Doctrine) bring either Reason or Scripture to convince me, for I must not trust my own private Iudgment, (and I know no other that I have) tho (as it seems to me) grounded both on Reason and Scripture. I must not judg for my self by either of them, whether what he commends to me by them, be true or no, and then I cannot imagine to what end he useth them in any dispute with me. He must resolve therefore, (for ought Page 46 I can see) whenever he would convert me, to judg for me too, as well as dispute with me; and then, if I cannot make a right Choice for my self, he may do it for me; tho after all, whe∣ther his private Iudgment be any more to be trusted in such a case, than my own, I may possibly doubt.
Either it is a matter of Faith, That the Church of ROME is the only true Church, and that She hath this Authority of determining for all Christians, which is the saving Faith of CHRIST, or it is not. If it be not, I may be safe enough, tho I believe it not; and 'tis ill done of PAPISTS to terrify me with these big Words, which are as false as terrible, That I cannot be saved without believing this. If it be a matter of Faith, then must I either be allow'd to judg for my self by my own private judgment in a matter of Faith, or all the PAPISTS endeavours to persuade me to believe it, are alto∣gether vain, unless it be reasonable for me to believe a thing against my Reason and Iudgment. When he useth Arguments, I should think he meant thereby to convince me in my private Iudgment; but it seems, 'tis only to drive me out of it; and that, if I may use it at all, it is only to this end, that I may conclude I have no use of it. All the Arguments in the World cannot convince me, till I judg of them; and therefore no PAPIST can offer me a Reason why I should embrace PO∣PERY, but he must contradict himself, and give me as strong a Reason, why I should not embrace it, because its Principles are false. It will be all one, as if he should say, I ought to be convinced by Reason, and yet I neither ought nor can be convin∣ced by it. In urging his Reasons upon me, he intends they should convince me; in denying me the Liberty of judging for my self by Reason, he denies that any Reasons can convince me; because 'tis plain, they cannot convince me before I have judged of them, and this I must do by my private Iudgment, or by nothing, for I have no other.
But here I am told, We are allow'd to make use of our Reason to find out the true Church, which may Infallibly guide Page 47 us into all saving Truth. All that is required of us, is this, that when we have once found this true Church, we presume no longer to judg for our selves, but captivate our Reason to the Infallible Iudgment of the Church. This is something, and yet it seems but extorted from them, to make a little more plausible, what to me seems one of the greatest pieces of Folly in the World; I mean, the attempt of convincing men by Reason, who must not be allow'd to judg of the Rea∣sons whereby they must be convinced. I find Reason, by a Traditionary Papist, compared to a dim-sighted Man, who used his Reason to find a trusty Friend to lead him in the Twi∣light, and then reli'd on his Guidance rationally, without using his own Reason at all about the way it self. Thus are we al∣low'd Reason to find out the Church of ROME, our sure Friend to guide us, and on whose Guidance we must ratio∣nally Rely, after we have captivated our Reason to her, and for her sake have resolved to use it no more. But now, if this Reason, which is to direct us to our Guide, be such a dimsighted thing, and as we heard before, Hoodwink'd too, so that whilst we follow it, we can have no more hope, than only that we may possibly stumble into the Catholick Church; who will secure us, that we shall not in this Twilight mistake a treacherous Enemy for a trusty Friend; and then, what shall we gain by our rational Reliance on him? A dimsighted Man in the Twilight, may easily mistake one thing for another, else should he not much need a trusty Guide; and why he may not mistake his Guide, as well as his Way, I do not yet know.
But that I may be satisfied, how much I gain by this li∣beral Concession, to use my Reason and private Iudgment in inquiring after the true Church; I will a little consider, how the PAPIST is wont to talk with me, when he would per∣suade me to take his Church for my only sure Guide. First, he tells me, There is but one true Faith; and then, that this Faith must be held entirely; next, that this entire Faith is no∣where Page 48 to be found, but in the true Church. After this he be∣gins again, and tells me, Christ hath a Church upon Earth; That there is but one true Church; That out of it there is no Salvation; and lastly, That the ROMAN Church, and no o∣ther, is that one true Church out of which there is no Salvation. And till we have found that it is so, he will give us leave to judg for our selves. And I would thank him for this kindness, if he would allow me to enjoy the benefit of it, and to make any use of it; otherwise it will look but like a Mockery. I desire therefore some clear convincing Evidence, That the ROMAN Church is the only true Church. He can∣not to this purpose, produce the Consent of all Christians, for two parts in three deny it. Therefore he gives me a great many Marks or Signs, sometimes more, sometimes fewer, whereby the only true Church must be known from others, and spends a great many words in shewing me how they agree to the ROMAN Church, and no other. That wherein I would next have same Satisfaction, is, supposing that all his Marks agree to the ROMAN Church, and no other; how I may know, that these are indeed the certain and incommu∣nicable Marks and Proprieties of the only true Church? To prove this, he betakes himself to the HOLY SCRIPTURE, and brings me thence some Texts, whereby he says, they are clearly proved to be so. I now, with a very hearty and sin∣cere desire to learn the Truth, and with all diligent use of such helps, as I can come by, read and consider all these Texts, and cannot discern in them any Evidenee at all of the thing which they are brought to prove; and therefore think it reasonable yet to call for some clearer proof. But now, when 'tis come to this, I presently find, that his liberal Concession to make use of my Reason and private Iudgment to find out the true Church, amounts to no more than I at first suspected, that is just nothing: For here he retires to his Principle of PORERY, That I being a private Person, ought not to judg for my self, what is the Sense of those Texts of Scripture,Page 49 but must submit my Reason and Iudgment, to the Iudgment of the Church (yea, even before I have found the Church) and without any dispute, receive the Sense of Scripture from her alone Thus he recals at once all that he had allow'd; and undoes again, whatsoever he had been adoing, to persuade me to his Communion. He was giving me Reasons, which might convince me in my Iudgment; and these at length re∣solve all into the Authority of the Scripture; and yet, of this Testimony of the Scripture I must not Iudg; and therefore by it I cannot be convinced of any thing, but this, that the Church of ROME is resolved to be Mistress of all Christians; and thinks it enough to convince us that she is so, if whilst she sets some of her Sons to hold us up in empty talk of Scripture and Reason to no purpose, she step out from behind the Cur∣tain, saying, Believe it, I am she.
Now I cannot possibly see, whatever others may do, (for I keep yet to my Protestant Principles of Judging for no man but my self) how I can embrace POPERY upon any convi∣ction from PAPISTS; and I fear I must either take it without any Reason for it, or not at all. If I cannot know the RO∣MAN Church to be the only true Church, but by the Testimo∣ny of the SCRIPTURE; and if I cannot understand the Te∣stimony of the SCRIPTURE, till I receive the true Sense of it from the ROMAN Church; and if I cannot take that for the true Sense of it, upon Her Declaration of it so to be, unless moved by her Authority, I must be persuaded to do the most unreasonable thing in the World, to my thinking; to believe a Church to be the only true Church, for her own Authority, which I yet know no more, than I do her to be the true Church; which, it is all along supposed, I do not know at all; This I think not only unreasonable, but impossible.
I must needs confess my self very hard to be persuaded of the tender goodness of that Mother, who, lest her Children should get hurt by the dimness of their sight, will needs pull out their Eyes, and keep them in her Pocket, till she has Page 50 taught them to use them better. I am very loath to part with my Reason, how dimsighted soever, because I know not how to serve God without it. Yet if I should dare to ven∣ture thus far, may I now have leave to take my rest here? If my dimsighted Reason help me to stumble into my Mother's lap, may I yet think my self safe there? Not till I have learn'd her Charity too as well as her Faith, which the REPRESEN∣TER tells us, She learn'd of Christ and his Apostles.
Therefore, Lastly, I must believe, that all other Christians but PAPISTS, are in a state of Damnation. The Decree of P. BONIFACE the VIIIth, as now it stands in the common Extravagants, is well known to be this, We declare, say, de∣fine, and pronounce, That it is altogether of necessity to SALVA∣TION, that every Creature be subject to the POPE of ROME. P. PIUS the II. in his Bull of Retractation, (tho he was not altogether of the same mind (as it seems) before, whilst he was Aeneas Sylvius) saith, He cannot be saved that doth not hold the Unity of the ROMAN Church. If so lusly a Decree, and so preremptory a Declaration of two POPES be too little, there is abundance more to this purpose to be met with, by him that has a mind to search for it: I only take notice at this time, that P. LEO the Xth, in his Lateran Council, and his Bull therein read and pass'd, saith, We do re∣new and approve that same Constitution (viz. of P. BONI∣FACE, but now mentioned), the present Sacred Council also approving it. And Lastly, P. PIUS the IVth, in his Bull, wherein he confirms the Council of TRENT, imposeth an Oath upon Ecclesiastical Persons, wherein they swear, That the HOLY CATHOLICK and APOSTOLICK ROMAN Church, is the MOTHER and MISTRESS of all Churches; and that this is the true CATHOLICK FAITH, without which no man can be SAVED. Here's enough in all Consci∣ence for us PROTESTANTS to hear, and too much a great deal (as I think) for any man to believe.
Page 51 I think my self bound in Charity, to have the best Opinion I can of all men; and therefore I dare not think, that all they who are called ROMAN CATHOLICKS, have throughly learn'd this Doctrine. There seems to me to be so much of Ill-nature in it, that I should think my self the worst natur'd man in the World, if I could believe that any considerable numbers of them, besides the Priests, are guilty of it. Many piously disposed Souls, are not so happy, as to have always the clearest Understandings, or the sincerest Teachers, but have better Hearts than either Heads or Guides. Their Zeal is too great for both their opportunities of Learning, and Patience to consider; their earnestness of SALVATION, a thing very laudable in them, puts them into too much haste to deliberate long, and gives an advantage to some, who watch for it, to abuse them. Either a cunning JESUIT, or a canting FANA∣TICK, will hope to make an easy Prey of such Persons; for it matters not greatly of which sort the Tempter be, whilst the Temptation is the same: The Fish minds not the Fisher, but the Bait: Every Argument from either, is edged with a mighty Zeal and Importunity, and sharpned with the sinest and most penetrating Expressions of a most tender Compassion for perishing Souls. SALVATION is as confidently promised, as earnestly desired; and whether it be to be had in the ROMANISTS Infallible Church, or in the SEPARATISTS purg'd and unmix'd Congregation, all's a case, when once the man is made to think it cannot be had in the Church of ENGLAND. If they who are so easily Proselyted either way, would take time to look before they leap, and could but see into the consequents of those very Arguments which most prevail with them, and are made the Traps to catch them in, they would stand off a little, and ask a few Questions more, for their better Satisfaction; before they could endure to think of entring into a Communion, which would oblige them, as ever they hope to be saved them∣selves, to believe that CHRIST hath no faithful Fol∣lowersPage 52 upon Earth, but a few Subjects of the POPE of Rome.
I can easily perceive, by divers Books written by them who call themselves Converts, that the main Motive of their go∣ing over to the ROMAN Church, was this, That they could not hope to be saved in any other: And I find that most Arguments of late used, to persuade us to that Religion, look the very same way; And it is this Doctrine alone, that hath put me upon this Enquiry for my own Satisfaction: For I must needs confess, that this Doctrine, which some acount so pow∣erful a Persuasive to Popery, has always with me had the quite contrary effect to what I find it hath in them; and has been, and is at this present to me, as strong a Dissuasive from it. If I can never be a PAPIST, till I can believe it, I am very confident, I shall never be one. I would leave the Church of ENGLAND the next Minute, should she require of me to believe, that all out of her Communion were in a state of Damnation; and truly I think that most PROTE∣STANTS are of my mind.
When therefore I found the REPRESENTER in good earnest to vindicate his Church in this one Point, I presently concluded, that he had writ his whole Book to no purpose; for let him spend all his Oyl and Colours in painting POPE∣RY to the best advantage, so long as this one Spot appears in her Face, she may possibly seem in her new Dress less ter∣rible, but not one jot more lovely. Having told us, That no one can arrive to the true knowledg of the Catholick Faith, but by receiving it as proposed and believed by the Church of CHRIST; and that the ROMAN CATHOLICK is the only true Church; that whosoever denies any Article of her Faith, denies so much of CHRIST's Doctrine; That whosoever hears Her, hears CHRIST; and whosoever obstinately and wilfully is separated from Her, is in the same distance separated from CHRIST himself; and finally, That God addeth to this Church daily, such as shall be saved: He hath told us enough to Page 53 persuade us, that no PROTESTANT in the World could have done that Church a greater diskindness, than he hath done; nor by any Misrepresentation of her, have worse Re∣presented her.
When the PAPISTS are pleas'd to ask us that unanswera∣ble Question, as they account it, Where was your Religion be∣fore LUTHER? They wish us withal, to take into our Serious Consideration, the state of our Forefathers, who lived and died in the Religion of the Church of ROME; asking us, if we dare think, that they were all damn'd: We need not trouble our heads with shaping an Answer to so frivolous a Question, because we durst never yet be so hardy as to affirm, that all are damn'd, who live and die in the Communion of the Church of ROME; but do openly declare to the World, that tho we think our own Religion the safest, yet many of that Communion have been heretofore, and many also are at this day, under such Circumstances, as encourage us to hope very well of them as to their future state. However if it so well deserve our Consideration, what's become of our Forefathers? doth it not as well deserve the Consideration of the ROMANISTS, what is become of many of theirs? Yea, What will become of the greatest part of the Christian World, who live and die out of their Communion? And if they would have us think the worse of the Reformation, left by thinking well of it, we should be wanting in Charity to our Fathers, which yet we are by it no way obliged to be; should it not move them to think the worse of their Religion, that it con∣strains them to think so uncharitably, not only of their Fa∣thers, but of all the World but themselves only?
How many most Eminent and Worthy Persons, How ma∣ny great and famous Churches, must I be obliged, by embra∣cing the ROMAN Faith, to believe excluded from SALVA∣TION? Upon these terms, I cannot see how 'tis possible for me to be Reconciled to the Church of ROME, without profes∣sing my self an irreconcileable Enemy to all the Christian Page 54 World besides. I must turn Hector, and call all other Christians, damn'd Hereticks. I must needs say, this appears not to me, like that Meek and Lamb like Spirit of the Blessed JESUS, which is given by him to his Dove-like Spouse, that thus Rants it in his pretended Vicars, and their Adherents. It seems not to be much a kin to that Christian Charity, which hopeth and believeth all things, and thinketh no evil, 1 Cor. 13. 7.
I must make nothing of condemning all PROTESTANTS and PROTESTANT Churches, of what other Denomination soever; and these alone are no inconsiderable part of Chri∣stians: These Hereticks (saith Bellarmin) possess many and ample Provinces, ENGLAND, SCOTLAND, (and why not IRELAND?) DENMARK, SWEEDLAND, NORWAY; no small part of GERMANY, POLAND, BOHEMIA, and HUNGARY; he might have said also, of FRANCE, and HELVETIA. It was anciently the Custom, (saith Tolet)* that the POPE did three days every year, tho now but once a year, viz. upon the Holy Thursday (he means the Thursday immediately before Easter, call'd Coena Domini) with great Solemnity, before all the People, thunder out his Sentence of Excommunication against all Hereticks, of what Name or Sect soever; but against the Queen of ENGLAND (which was then Q. Elizabeth) by name; with all their Believers, Receivers, Favourers, and Defenders; against all that read their Books publickly or privately, with what intention soever, or under whatever pretence, tho there be no Error in them, or with a design to consute the Error, if there be any without his Holiness's License; against the Keepers, Printers, and Defenders, in any manner, of the same; against all Schisma∣ticks, and such as pertinaciously withdraw themselves, and de∣part from their Obedience to the POPE; against any one that shall so much as say, that Calvin was a good man; against all that appeal from the Orders, Decrees, or Mandates of the POPE, to a future COUNCIL. And 'tis very well known, that they are not all PROTESTANTS who have done so.
Page 55 Neither will this suffice, I must also condemn the whole GREEK Church, which how Ancient, and of how large Ex∣tent it is, is very well known: And some reason there seems to be for it; For (saith Bellarmin) the Greeks in the year* 451, in the Council of CHALCEDON, consisting of 600 Bi∣shops, endeavoured to make the Patriarch of CONSTANTINO∣PLE equal to the Bishop of ROME. And again, In the year 1054, they pronounc'd the Bishop of ROME to have fallen from his degree of Dignity, and the Bishop of CONSTANTI∣NOPLE to be the first Bishop. And tho he pretends that these Greeks were once reconciled to ROME in the Council of FLORENCE, yet he adds, that they always returned to their Vomit. No wonder therefore, if this GREEK Church can∣not escape Damnation: And yet this poor Reprobated Church yields not to that of ROME in any of her own principal Marks of a true Church. I read that the Christians of her Communion, in NATOLIA, CIRCASSIA, MENGRELLIA, RUSSIA, GREECE, MACEDONIA, EPIRUS, THRACIA, BULGARIA, &c. do very near, if not quite, equal the number of those who are of the ROMAN Communion.
And yet will not this be enough, unless we include in this Sentence of Condemnation, all the Assyrian Christians living amongst the Mahometans in BABYLON, ASSYRIA, ME∣SOPOTAMIA, PARTHIA and MEDIA, with the Iaco∣bites, Armenians, Egyptians, Aethiopians, and the vast Em∣pire of the HABASSINES: All these I must look upon as cut off from CHRIST, merely for their disowning the POPE's Authority, tho they should be found Orthodox in all other points. And truly I know not how to get up to that height of Boldness, not to be afraid of condemning so many Christians, most of which have given, and do yet give to the World the most notable Testimony of Fidelity to CHRIST, that can be expected, in their constant sufferings for the sake of his holy Name and Gospel.
Page 56 After this Consideration of whole Churches, it seems need∣less for me to come down to that of single Persons, tho con∣fessedly of greatest Note and Eminence in the Church of CHRIST, both for Learning and Piety. How St. Polycarp Bishop of SMTRNA, and a famous Martyr, who would not obey P. Anicetus, but still keep his Easter contrary to the custom of the ROMAN Church, and therein seem'd either as ignorant of his Duty, or as stubborn as any PROTE∣STANT: or how his Successor in that See, Polycrates, who desended himself and his Church so arrogantly against the Au∣thority of the ROMAM Church, more than sufficiently de∣clared by P. Victor, still pleading the Example of Polycarp, and Authority of St. Iohn, as tho he had never heard St. Pe∣ter was made Prince of the Apostles, or that the Bishops of ROME were his Successors in that Authority over all Churches. How Irenaeus and all his Fellow-Bishops of the Gallican Church, who so presumptuously took upon them to expostu∣late the matter with the same Victor, and in very homely terms to chide him for excommunicating those Asian Christi∣ans for not changing their Ancient Customs at his Command. How St. Cyprian the holy Bishop of Carthage, and Martyr, with his Bishops of Africa, Numidia and Mauritania, joining with him in so contumaciously resisting P. Stephen: The Sixty Bishops in the Milevitan Council; or those Two hun∣dred and Seventeen, whereof the famous St. Austin was one, who not only stubbornly rejected the Claim, but also manifestly demonstrated the Fraudulence and Forgery of three POPES, Zosimus, Boniface and Caelestine, about appeals to ROME. How all these shall be exempted from this Cen∣sure, I know not. Did not the later of these African Coun∣cils decree, That the Bishop of the first See (meaning ROME) should not be call'd the Prince of Priests, or chief Priest, or any such thing, but only the Bishop of the first See? Did it not Excommunicate every Priest that should Ap∣peal to ROME? It seems to me, that St. Athanasius could Page 57 have no great opinion of the Infallibility of P. Liberius, when, through fear, himself h•• forgot he had any such thing, and consented with the Arrians to the Condemnation of that holy Father. St. Hierom seems not to have had any thoughts of the POPES's Supremacy, when he said, That whereever there is a Bishop, whether at great ROME, or petty Eugu∣bium, he is of the same Merit and Priesthood. Neither did either he or St. Austin seem to have had a just esteem for the Church of ROME's Authority, when they preferred that of the Eastern Church before it, in receiving the Epistle to the He∣brews into the Canon of SCRIPTURE. Above all, what must I think of their Great Saint. P. Gregory the First, who called the Title of UNIVERSAL BISHOP, a new Title, which none of his Predecessors ever used, a name of Vanity, a Pro∣fane Name, wicked, and not to be uttered, yea a Blasphemous; saying, that whosoever desired it, shew'd himself to be the fore∣runner of Antichrist? If I must believe this great POPE and SAINT, I know well enough what to think of most of his Successors in the Infallible Chair; If I must not believe Him, why must I believe those who succeeded him? Had not He and They one and the same Authority as POPES of ROME? Believe both I cannot; and disbelieving either, as all PAPISTS, no less than I, must disbelieve the one, I am no better than a Heretick, and uncapable of Salvation.
Farther yet, I find that the African Council, but now men∣tion'd, did alledg for it self the Sixth Canon of the First Ge∣neral Council held at NICE, which is this, Let the old Custom be kept through Aegypt, Lybia and Pentapolis, so that the Bi∣shop of ALEXANDRIA have power over all these, because the Bishop of ROME hath also the like Custom. By this Canon these two Bishops seem to be made equal in Power. In the Fourth General Council held at Calcedon, and Ninth Canon, it is orde∣red, That if any Bishop or Clerk have a Controversie with the Metropolitan of that Province, they have recourse to the Pri∣mate of the Diocese, or certainly to the See of the Royal City Page 58 of Constantinople, that the business may be ended there. This Council seems hereby to make the Bishop of Constantinople e∣qual to the Bishop of Rome; and this it did, notwithstanding great opposition made against it by P. Leo the First. So that I must involve in the same Censure of Condemnation some of the most Famous General Councils that ever were. This I am apt to think a very daring matter, and not rashly to be at∣tempted. I have indeed been taught by our Blessed JESUS, that God will not forgive us, if we do not forgive our Bre∣thren; but I do not remember, where he hath taught me, that God will not SAVE us, except we believe that no man but a PAPIST can be SAVED.
II. I have now consider'd s•••e of the many Difficulties I am to struggle with, before I can get through to the Church of ROME. And truly they seem to me, whatever men of more strength and courage may think, little less than Insupe∣rable. And yet after all this, if I may be convinced that the Authority of the ROMAN Church hath sufficient grounds of Scripture and Reason to support it, I must confess no Diffi∣culty in my way ought to dishearten me from breaking through it. But then again, if I must believe that there is such an uncontrollable Power in the Church, in some One Church, in the ROMAN Church by name, yea, in the Bishop of that Church; and if I must so believe this, that I must not leave in my Soul any room at all for the least Charitable thought of any man's Salvation, who believes it not: I think it no less than needful, that I have the Clearest and most undeniable Evi∣dence in the World for what I believe, lest the Sentence of Condemnation should recoil upon my self for my Temerity and Uncharitableness.
Indeed if this Church may be allow'd to bear witness to its own Authority, and such a Testimony be sufficient, I cannot want it. The Council of TRENT hath more than once call'd her, the Mother and Mistriss of all Churches. So Infallible in her Iudgment and Directions, so Absolute in her DominionPage 59 and Command she must be, that Her sole Authority must be warrant enough, and nothing else any warrant without it, for all things that belong to Christian Religion. Whosoever (saith Becanus in his Compendium) in matters of Faith and Religion followeth the true Church of Christ (which he there proveth to be the Roman Church only) cannot err about Faith and Religion, seeing the true Church of Christ is Infallible. And this we are told continually, as this Iesuit doth say, that this is the shortest Compendium of all Controversies. This then being to support the whole Fabrick of POPERY, had need to stand on firm ground.
This ground I would now fain discover. Why then must we believe that the ROMAN Church hath this Sovereign Au∣thority in Religion? I must confess my self one of those stur∣dy Hereticks, that cannot believe without Reason. When I hear that Church telling me, she is Infallible, and hath all Power over all other Churches; I cannot believe it till I have some better reason for it than this, That She must be all that, which She is pleased to say of her self; and therefore must be Infallible and Omnipotent too, if She say it. And I am a little troubled to say, that this is all I can get out of her for my satisfaction, lest even PROTESTANTS should think I say incredible things of her, and that I have no other design, but to make all the Learned Men of her Communion seem ri∣diculous, in talking to us as to Children, always childishly. But it is not in my power, to make their Arguments better than they are; nor Civil in me to teach them what to say; and I am sure my Temporal Interest cannot at this time tempt me to oversee the strength of their Reasons. The very best Reasons I have yet met with, with how much Artifice and Sophistry soever they are dress'd up, amount to no more, nor better, in my opinion, than her own honest Word, that is, her own Au∣thority and Infallibility for proof of her Authority and Infal∣libility; and therefore I must either believe them both, before I can believe them, even whilst I am enquiring for a reasonPage 60 why I should believe them, or I must not believe them at all, nor with her consent be saved.
The Missionaries tell us, they are willing to undergo any Pains or Difficulty to rescue us from damning Error; and whilst they proceed in this Method, I have cause to believe them; for I am confident, to prove their Church hath this Au∣thority they contend for, is as great a Difficulty as they can meet with. If they should here offer us (what is so much talk'd of by them) the Testimony of the Universal Church, there is nothing more plain, than that they do but Mock us. For this can be nothing else but the Church of ROME's Testimony for her own Authority. It cannot, I say, be any thing else, be∣cause the thing they are proving is, That She alone is the One, Holy, Catholick and Apostolick Church: And were it any thing else, they would never discover it to us, because they would thereby give us an unanswerable Argument against what they would prove her to be; for if they will shew us any other Church or Churches by the Testimony whereof Her Au∣thority may be proved, we are thereby enabled to prove She is not the Only true Church out of which there is no Salvation. What then can this Testimony be? Is it that of the First and purest Ages of the Church before POPERY was brought forth? Not so to be sure, for POPERY was (they say) from the beginning, and glorieth of her Antiquity above all things. Is it the Testimony of all others in the World that pro∣fess Christianity? It cannot be, for all these, if not of her Communion, are Hereticks, and in a state of Damnation for denying her Authority; and were it possible for them to wit∣ness that to be which they deny to be, yet is their Testimony invalid, because they confess themselves Fallible, and this point of Faith cannot stand upon a fallible Testimony. By this 'tis very clear to me, that the Testimony of the Catholick Church of Christ, if it be produced for the Authority of the Church of ROME, can be nothing else but the Church of ROME's own Word; and I never doubted, but she hath a good word for Page 61 her self, any more than I doubt lest it should be thought a good proof of her Authority.
I have heard again much talk of Universal Tradition a∣mong ROMAM CATHOLICKS; but if they alledg this for their Church's Authority, they give us only the same thing again in other Words. Universal Tradition can be nothing else but the Testimony of the Universal Church, and that must be the Church of ROME; and so we are not advanced one step farther than we were before. The Credit we are to give unto Universal Tradition, depends on the Authority of the ROMAN Church, which we have not yet sound, but are en∣quiring after.
If Fathers and Councils be brought in to Witness this Au∣thority, all the noise they make will prove but the Voice of the ROMAN Church, crying her self up for the great Diana of the World, and thundring Anathema to all that will not fall down and worship her. Will she abide by the Testimony of either Father or Council, if they speak not what she has taught them, or against what she holds? Or shall they be allow'd to over rule the Oral and Practical Tradition of the present Church of ROME? Are Councils of any Credit more than the POPE's Confirmation gives them? And are single Fathers of more Credit than they? If not, we have yet no more but her own Word for her own Authority.
If they bring us SCRIPTURE to prove this Authority, I must say, that as we reverence Fathers and Councils, so we adore (with Tertullian) the fulness of the SCRIPTURE, nei∣ther can we desire any better Proof, than its Testimony. Yet when I consider how these men use the SCRIPTURE; I am at a stand to think, how they can in good earnest produce it as a Witness in this matter; for after they have said almost all the ill they can of it, calling it imperfect, insufficient, obscure, unsens'd; they seem to ridicule both it and us, when they bring it forth, thus disabled, for a Witness. Do not they tell us again and again, that both the Canon and the Sense of Page 62 SCRIPTURE, depend, as to us, on the Authority and Inter∣pretation of their Church? And can its Testimony then possibly amount to any more than that Church's bare Word? Do not they deny us a Iudgment of Discretion, whereby we should dis∣cern for ourselves, whether it speak fór or against their Church's Authority? And will they yet produce it to convince us of the Authority by which alone we are both to receive and under∣stand it? It cannot be produced to convince us in our Iudgment, for we are not allow'd any use of our Iudgment in the Case. It must be only to convince themselves that we are Hereticks; and I dare say, that may be done without the Scripture, as well as with it, whilst their Church must give the Sense of it.
But because they know we magnify it, they will produce it, tho I cannot see to what other end, than to persuade us to take heed of trusting too much to it, or thinking it worth any thing, after it hath shew'd us the true Church. It must be believ'd no longer than it is authorized to speak by that Au∣thority, which is to be proved by it; so that by shewing us that Authority, it loseth all its own Authority for ever. For this (saith Stapleton) that God hath commanded us to believe*the Church, we do not hang our Faith on the Authority of the Church, as upon the proper and sole cause of this Belief, but partly on manifest Scriptures, by which we are remitted to the teaching of the Church; partly on the Creed, &c. This then is the end of producing the Scripture, that we may be convinced by it, that we are no longer to learn of it, after we are once brought by it to the knowledg of the Church's Authority, but thenceforward are to depend wholly upon the teaching of the Church, unto which it remits us. All the use then that we have of the Scripture, is to be guided by it to the Church of ROME (tho it cannot do so much for us neither, but as that Church guides it); and having thank'd it for its kind∣ness, we are then to bid it good Night.
Now seeing manifest Scriptures are promised us, to guide us to the ROMAN Church, I think it reasonable to expect, Page 63 that they produce such Scriptures as are more manifest to us, than their Church's Authority, which is to be proved by them; seeing it is by their Evidence I am to be convinced of that, which as yet is unevident to me. Neither ought the Sense of these manifest Scriptures depend upon the Interpreta∣tion or Authority of that Church, the Authority whereof they are brought to prove, as a thing to me not yet evident; for so, I shall be still but where I was before; and instead of manifest Scriptures, be shuffled off with the Church's bare Word; I mean, with such Interpretations of Scripture, as I have no reason to receive, but by that Authority whereof I am yet, at least, in doubt.
Now, that there are indeed no such manifest Scriptures, I am reasonably well assured before-hand. I have read the Scripture over and over, and find not the least mention therein made of this Authority of the ROMAN Church. The POPE of ROME, or his Supremacy, is never once na∣med from the beginning of the Bible to the end; nor can I meet with one Syllable touching either the Infallibility or Iurisdiction of Him, or his Councils, or of any kind of Sub∣jection due to either, from all Christians. I cannot so much as find there, that ever there was any Bishop of ROME, or that there should be any there afterwards, much less that all Christians are to own that Bishop for their Head, and Christ's Vicar. And finding nothing of all this, I must needs won∣der, how manifest Scriptures should be produced, to prove this Supreme Authority over all Churches. And yet, if there be such an Authority, and if it be so necessary for all Chri∣stians to believe it, and submit unto it; I cannot but think that it ought to have been as manifestly declared in Scrip∣ture, as any other point whatsoever. St. Peter, in whom this Authority is said to have been first setled, saith not a word of it in his Epistles. St. Paul in his Epistle to the Ro∣mans; who should in all reason have been best acquainted with it, says nothing at all of it. To the Civil Magistrate,Page 64 which the Church of ROME makes to be much inferior to the Church in Authority, they both teach us our Duty; and strange it is, if they knew of any such thing, that they should not as plainly instruct us in our Duty to the POPE or Church of ROME wherein our Salvation, the main thing they were to take care for, is so deeply concern'd.
But what are these manifest Scriptures at length? I find our Blessed Saviour saying to St. Peter (Matt. 16. 18.) Thou art Peter, and upon this Rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, &c. but I find not that all this, whatever it may signify, was mani∣festly said to the Bishops of ROME. The plain and obvious Sense (saith Bellarmin) of these words is, that we may under∣stand*the Primary of the whole Church to be promised to Saint Peter, under two Metaphors. And yet, by all the Light that he is able to afford me, I cannot discern in these words, whatever was promised to St. Peter, the Supremacy, much less the Monarchy of the Bishop of ROME over all Churches. And it is no wonder if a Protestant Heretick be so blind, when such eminent Persons as Origen, St. Austin, St. Hilary, Ambrose, Chrysostome and Cyril, could no more see it than I, as the learned Cardinal himself there confesseth. Nay, here's not a word to assure us, that this Rock must needs be a Monarch invested with a Supremacy of Power over the whole Church, or that this Monarch must needs be the Bi∣shop of ROME, or that the Gates of Hell shall never pre∣vail against the ROMAN Church; for all this, we must be beholden to that Church's own Word, or we shall never find it in this place.
I find again, that Christ commanded St. Peter (Joh. 21. 16.) to feed his Sheep, and his Lambs; as indeed it is the Duty of all Pastors of the Church to do; and both St. Peter (1 Pet 5. 2.) and St. Paul (Acts 20. 28.) tell us as much; and so much the apter am I to doubt, whether the POPE be so Page 65 much as a good Pastor of Christ's Sheep or no, seeing he takes so little care to Feed, and so much to Fleece them. I am sure I read of no more but one chief Shepherd, and Bishop of Souls, which St. Peter tells us, is Christ JESUS himself, 1 Pet. 2. 25. The Apostles were all Shepherds under Him; but where is this manifest Scripture to shew that St. Peter was made Head-Shepherd, with Commission to Feed and Rule too, not only the Sheep, but the Shepherds also? But especially, where is the Commission given to the Bishops of ROME successively for ever, to govern the whole Flock of Christ, with Soveraign Authority? Feed the whole, I am sure he neither doth, nor can.
Many great and wonderful things (as Bellarmin tells us) are said of St. Peter in the Holy Scripture, and very deserved∣ly, for he was a very great and eminent Apostle. But the Scrip∣ture never saith, That he was a great Monarch, nor that he was Bishop of ROME, nor that he had a Throne, or but a Chair there; and least of all, that this Imaginary Monarchy was to descend unto the next Bishop of ROME, and to his Successors for ever; and that St. Iohn, who long out-lived St. Peter, became thereby subject to some of those Bishops, which did not well suit with the Dignity of an Apostle.
I read those words of St. Paul, 1 Cor. 12. 21. The head can∣not say to the feet, I have no need of you. But that the POPE is the Head, and all Christians, Kings, as well as others, the Feet; I may possibly read in some such Iesuit as Bellarmin, but I am sure I shall never read it in the Scripture.
Many more such parcels of Scripture as these, they give us; but after the most serious perusal of them all, I profess I cannot find any thing like manifest Scripture for the Au∣thority of the ROMAN Church. And therefore it seems yet as plain to me, as that Two and Three make Five, that the bare Word of that Church, without any kind of solid Proof, is all that she hath to shew for her Authority. She says great things of her self, and talks sometimes of Scripture, but Page 66 much more of Fathers and Councils, and Universal Tradition, and indeed every thing that's Venerable; but when all is spell'd and put together, 'tis but the Oral and Practical Tra∣dition of the present Church, that is, her own very confident Asseveration.
If we have a little Scripture for Fashion's sake, we must take it as she hath taught it to speak in her own Vulgar La∣tin, which the Council of TRENT was even then pleas'd to make the only Authentick Translation, when it was confes∣sedly very faulty, and hath been since that divers times cor∣rected. And then we must take it in her own Sense too, tho we know not well where we may be sure to find it. Her pri∣vate Doctors she will not allow us to trust for it, nor indeed do we find them any better agreed about it, than others are, only they have for the most part either the Modesty or Cun∣ning to refer all to the Iudgment of Mother Church, could they but tell us where to find it; for she is loath, once for all, in some publick Comment, or Exposition of the Scripture, to tell us what it is. If we may be allow'd to hear the Testimony of the Fathers, she must stand at their Elbows, and prompt them what to say; we must have them in her own approved Editions; and if they have been at School long enough in the Vatican, or some Religious House, 'tis probable they were reasonably well instructed in her own Language, before they were allow'd to go abroad again. However, ere they pass the Press, an Expurgatory Index can teach them either to Speak, or to be Silent, as she thinks most seasonable. Councils may be heard, but only such as have his Holiness's stamp upon them; and how we can understand them any better than the Scripture, till he Interprets for us, is hard to say. So that all returns to this still, That we have her honest Word for her Authority; and this is the sole Founda∣tion, that I can discover of this prodigious Faith, which we must all have, or else perish eternally.
Page 67 III. And now, in the last place, seeing it is come to this, for ought I see, that I must rest upon her own Word, or no∣thing, for the Truth of her Sovereign Authority, and must upon peril of my own Damnation, take upon me this invidious Pro∣fession, to believe all men damn'd but PAPISTS, that I may enjoy the Blessing of my Mother; I should be glad to know, that She her-self (as Infallible as she is) could but probably assure me, where this Word of her's may certainly be found.
The REPRESENTER indeed (in his confident way) hath told me, That all the Members of his Religion (however spread through the World) agree like one man in every Article of their Faith. And if we would know for our learning, by what happy means this wonderful Agreement is effected, he tells us, It is by an equal Submission to the Determinations of their Church; that is, as I understand it, by taking her bare Word for every thing. No one of them (saith he) tho the most learned and wise, ever following any other Rule in their Faith besides this, of unanimously believing as the Church of God (or ROMAN Church) believes. And if this be so, I wonder to what purpose their Learning and Wisdom can serve them, any more than their Iudgment and Wit, which they have renoun∣ced and deposed. However, if this be true Representing, I shall not, I hope, find it difficult to find out the Church's Word and Authority, on which my Faith must stand. Every Member of it, tho he have no more than the old Collier's Faith, can help me to it in any part of the World, for all agree like one Man in every Article, and therefore sure in this most fundamental one. But what now shall I think af∣ter this, if it should so fall out, that hardly one in a hundred of these Members know either where this Church of theirs is to be found, or what those Determinations of hers are, unto which they so unanimously submit? Nay, what if their Church it self cannot tell them this? When She hath said all She can, to inform both them and us, suppose it be still two to one, that we shall be mistaken in it, whatever we take to be Page 68 the ROMAN Church, or her infallible Word? This is it, that I am now, for a Close, to inquire into.
It must needs seem more than a little absurd, and exceed∣ing hard, to tye a man under pain of Damnation, to believe he knows not what, and what no body can certainly shew him; I mean, a Power in the Church of ROME, which all men deny, but they of her Communion; and about which, even they who are of her Communion, are so divided among themselves, that I do not see how ever they can agree about it. Is there no Dispute in that Church about this Power? Have they not been even at Daggers drawing among them∣selves about it? Is the Controversie yet decided? Or can any one promise me that it ever shall? There is a great Diversity among the Schoolmen (saith our REPRESENTER) in their Divinity-Points, and Opinions of such matters as are no Articles of Faith, and have no relation to it, but as some Circumstance or Manner, which being never defined by the Church, may be main∣tain'd severally, either this way, or that way, without any breach of Faith, or injury to their Religion. I will not stay here to ask him, what greater diversity he can find amongst the Members of our Church, than he here grants to be amongst PAPISTS; nor why our Divisions being no greater than theirs, nor more nearly related to any Article of Faith, should be less consistent with the Unity of the Church (as is commonly objected against us) than theirs are: But I ask, whether the Supreme Authority of the ROMAN Church, be an Article of the ROMAN Faith, or no? And again, whe∣ther all the Members of that Church, be as one man unani∣mously agreed about it, or no? He will say, it may be, a∣bout the Article they are, as to the Substance of it, tho not as to all Circumstances: But now if it appear, that these Circumstances of the Power about which they differ, are such as the thing it self will be as good as nothing without them; or if they be not as certainly known and believ'd, as the Power it self, I think it will follow, that all their agreement about Page 69 the Thing, is as good as nothing too, till these Circumstances be also agreed upon.
Thus it is then; I must for my Salvation believe that, there is such a thing as a Supreme Power over all Churches, in the Church of ROME; and in this all PAPISTS as one man una∣nimously agree; but about the Circumstances of this Power, there is a great diversity of Opinions among them; yet is this no injury to their Religion. Tho without a better agreement about these Circumstances, no man (in my opinion) can be able to satisfie me, what their Religion is; for these Circum∣stances about which they differ, are no more but such inconsi∣derable things as these, Whence this Power is; whether it be of God, or of Men; of Divine or Human Right only; whe∣ther it extends over all the World, or over all Christians only; to Spiritual concerns only, or to Temporals also; where it re∣sides and is lodg'd; in the Church-Diffusive, or all Christians, especially the Pastors; or in the Church-Representative, or General Councils; or in the Church Virtual, or the POPE of ROME. These petty Circumstances they differ about, and the Church it self knows not how to agree them; but what's all this to the Article it self, most firmly believ'd by all, that is, a Supreme Power in the Church? All their Religion rests on the Determinations of their Church; all the force of these Determinations to oblige the Faith of men, depend on this Supreme Power; May not a man, however, well enough be assured of his Religion, tho no man can tell him, Whence this Power is, Over what it is, or Where it is? Indeed, what other men can do, I know not; but for my own part, I must needs think it a very hard matter to believe this Power, and to have any certainty of the Religion founded on this Power, without some better Information about these Circumstances of it; and therefore before I can yield to be of that Religion, I must beseech that Church, which will not allow us to be saved, without an absolute Submission and Resignation of our selves to her Authority, to tell us, if not Whence (which is Page 70 yet the most material Circumstance of all the rest) yet, at least, What and Where it is.
There is challeng'd by this Church, a Power of over-ruling our Faith by her Infallible Iudgment, and a Power of com∣manding our Obedience by her Soveraignty. It will therefore concern me to ask, How I may be rightly inform'd in both these great branches of her Power, unto which my subjection is required upon pain of Damnation.
1. She claims a Power of Interpreting or giving the certain Sense of Scripture, of Iudging and finally Deciding all Contro∣versies of Religion, of peremptorily Defining and Determining in all matters of Faith and Religious Practice; so that all are bound, without any further dispute or search, to submit to all her Determinations and Decrees. INFALLIBLE then, we must believe this Church to be, and that she cannot Err in her Definitions of Faith and Manners: And yet where this INFALLIBILITY is to be found, is a Question she is not to this day able to resolve: In short, I find that this Infallible Church, which tells us that she cannot Err, when she is de∣sired to make this apparent to the World, can tell us certain∣ly, both How, and in What she can Err; and in this I doubt not, but she is Infallible enough; but who they are in all her Communion, or in what things it is, that they cannot err, this she could never tell us certainly, and yet it is this alone that can make her Infallibility, (if she have it) to be of any use to us.
The REPRESENTER saith, That the PAPIST believes that the Pastors and Prelates of his Church, are Fallible; that there is none of them (and yet the POPE is one of them, and COUNCILS are made up of them) but may fall into Errors, Heresy and Schism, and consequently are subject to mi∣stakes. And further he tells us, That tho some allow the POPE the assistance of a Divine Infallibility, without being in a General Council; yet he is satisfied 'tis only their Opinion, and not their Faith, there being no obligation from the Church, of assenting to Page 71 any such Doctrine. And tho he maintain the Necessity and Right of General Councils lawfully Assembled, yet is it not so plain, whether he count them infallible or no, by what he says in that Chapter of Councils. This we are told, That if any thing contrary to what Christ taught, and his Apostles, should be defined and commanded to be believed, even by ten thousand Councils, he believes it damnable in any one to receive it. But in the following Chapter, he speaks out, and says, That by the Assistance of the Holy Ghost, they are specially protected from all Error, in all Definitions and Declarations in matters of Faith: And this is true, tho he grants it possible, that the Pastors and Prelates there assembled, may be proud, ignorant, covetous, enormous sinners, and infamous for other vices, and at other times may prevaricate, make Innovations in Faith, and teach erroneous Doctrines. Now a man would think, That if all the Guides and Pastors of the Flock (not one excepted) may err, then the Sheep, which are bound to follow their Shep∣herds, may err also; and if the Fallible lead the Fallible, 'tis not impossible for both to err; and who it is that is infallible, is hard to see. And again, seeing he tells us, That Christ com∣mitted the care of his Flock to St. Peter, and that the POPE or Bishop of Rome is in this charge, St. Peter's Successor, and that God assists those who have this charge, with a particular helping Grace, such as has a special respect to the Office and Fun∣ction, and that such as was given to the Prophets, and to Moses, when he was made a God to Pharoah. I cannot see, but it must be as consequent to all this, that the POPE should be Infalli∣ble, as that a General Council is so, especially when it is his Approbation that gives force to its Decrees. Moreover, it is not easy to believe that God hath made a promise of Infalli∣ble Assistance to any number of Pastors and Prelates, who are no better qualified, than he supposes they may most of them be, with Pride, Ignorance, and Vice, Turbulence and Covetous∣ness, and assembled, it may be, under an Heretical Pope, (for such, 'tis granted he may be) and as vicious too, and Page 72ignorant as any of them. However, there are two things which make it very hard to find out this Infalliblility, where he sends us to seek it, in a General Council: For first, they must be lawfully assembled; and next, they must determine nothing contrary to what Christ and his Apostles taught, otherwise 'tis damnable to receive their Determinations. Now it will be hard for me to find out how lawfully they were assembled, and therefore as hard to believe all their Decrees as Infallible; and, I fear, I must not be allow'd to examine their Definitions, whether they be according to the Doctrine of Christ and his Apostles, or no, lest I thereby seem to follow my own private Iudgment or Spirit, rather than the Infallible Iudgment of the Church Representative. This is all then that I can learn from his Discourse; I must take it for a Truth, that this Infallibi∣lity is lodg'd in a General Council, and that it can determine nothing contrary to the Doctrine of Christ and his Apostles; and then I need not inquire whether it have done so, or no; tho if it have done so, 'tis damnable for me to receive its Determinations. But I will hear what others tell me.
Bellarmin saith, That all Catholicks are thus far agreed, That the POPE, as he is POPE, in the midst of his Councellors, or together with a General COUNCIL, may Err, or Iudg amiss in matters of Fact. And if this be true, he may even so err in the whole Faith, as far as I can yet see; for he may thus err in determining that there were such Men as Christ and his Apostles; that any of them Preached, planted Churches, writ Books; that these are their Books, or that St. Peter was at ROME, and was Bishop there; left the Bishops of that See his Successors in all his Power; that there hath been an uninter∣rupted Succession of Bishops in that Church; that any unwritten Traditions concerning Faith and Manners were left to the Custody of the Church; and many more such things, which were matters of Fact, and on which the Faith of that Church depends. Again he saith, That the POPE, as a private Doctor, may Err, even through Ignorance, in matters both of Faith and Page 73 Manners. And thus the Church, whether Virtual or Represen∣tative, may err. But I would fain hear, wherein she cannot Err, and whether all Catholicks are agreed as well in that.
The famous Chancellor of Paris, Gerson, Almain, Alphonsus a Castro, the Parisian Doctors, yea, and no less man than P. ADRIAN the VIth (saith the same Author) have taught, That the POPE, as he is POPE, may be a Heretick, and teach Heresy, when he desineth any thing without a General COUN∣CIL. And truly, If as a Man he may be a Heretick, I see no reason why he may not be so as a POPE, for I take the Man and the POPE to be here both one. But further, these last named will have this Infallibility or Iudgment to be in the Council, and not in the POPE. And Bellarmin tells us, That this Opinion is not properly Heretical, and for this good Rea∣son (which if it should not hold, they would lose a great part of their Church) because they that hold it, are tollerated in the Church; yet it seems erroneous, and next a kin to Here∣sie. It should seem by this, that an Error tollerated by the Church of ROME, is no Heresie; but if not tollerated, it is. Indeed I know not well how ever she can Err Heretically at this rate, unless she will grow so unkind to her self, as not to tollerate her own Errors.
The same Iesuit tells us again, That it was the Opinion of Albertus Pighius, (and whether he was singular in it, or no, I shall not now ask) That the POPE can by no means be a He∣retick, or teach Heresie publickly, altho himself alone define any thing without a Council. And this Opinion he acknowledges to be probable, yet not certain. But I think 'tis very cer∣tain that POPES have been Hereticks, either as condemned by, or condemning one another for Heresie.
Lastly (he saith) the most common Opinion, and that for which he brings a multitute of Authors, is this, That whe∣ther the POPE can be a Heretick or no, yet he cannot any way define any Heretical thing to be believ'd by the whole Church. This he calls the most sure Opinion, tho they who are of it, Page 74 seem not very well agreed among themselves about it: For some of them say simply, The POPE cannot err: Others speak it with this limitation, Proceeding maturely with the advice of his Council. But now, suppose he should be too hasty, and define something rashly of his own head; Oh! That cannot be, (saith Bellarmin) for God will not suffer it. And yet I wish he could tell us, Why God may not as well suffer an Heretical POPE to define rashly, or indeed rather deliberately, according to his own Heretical Iudgment, as suffer him, to whom he hath committed the Charge of the whole Flock, to fall into Heresie.
However, considering this variety of Opinions in the Church of Rome, concerning this Infallible Iudg, to which all must be subject in Matters of Religion, I begin to think with my self, with what satisfaction of Conscience I shall be able to live in that Communion. I must obey the Infallible Iudg, or else be damn'd: And who is this Infallible Iudg whom I must obey? It is the Church of ROME; this all can tell me with one consent; but tho this were true, yet am I no wiser for it; that whole Church never yet met to Iudg or Determine of any thing. Who is it then in this Church, to whose Iudgment I must submit? It is the POPE alone, say some; and yet these some are not agreed, whether he may not define some things rashly, without due advice, at least, when he is a Heretick, as some Popes have been, if Popes themselves may be believed; and it seems not impossible, that an Heretick, obstinate in Er∣ror, may define something rashly and unadvisedly. It is not the POPE, but a General COUNCIL, say others; and why these deserve not as much credit as the former, I know not; for they are tolerated by the Church, and surely the Infallible Church will not for shame tolerate any dangerous Error. 'Tis neither the One nor the Other, saith a Third Party, but a POPE in COUNCIL, or a COUNCIL confirm'd by a POPE; and yet whether the Determinations of such a Church-Representative be of full virtue, till they have been universally receiv'd, is made a Question by a Fourth Party.
Page 75 Where are we now, after all this, to seek our Infallible Iudg? Suppose a COUNCIL should define it as a matter of Faith, that the POPE himself is subject to a COUNCIL; and again, that a POPE, yea a POPE in COUNCIL de∣fine the contrary, that the COUNCIL is subject to the POPE. This is no idle Supposition of an impossible or unlikely thing; for whosoever knows what was done in the Councils of CON∣STANCE and BASIL, consisting of as many Patriarchs, Archbishops and Bishops, as most of the Councils ever did; and again, what afterwards pass'd in the Councils of FLO∣RENCE, and the LATERAN, under P. LEO the Xth, must know that such a thing, at least, once came to pass. Suppose then this which once was, and if the POPE could endure to think of a Free Council, might be again; what should I have to ground any certain Faith upon? I must still under Pain of Damnation, submit my Faith to the Iudgment of the Church. It is not, neither I believe ever will or can be agreed upon, which is the Iudgment of the Church, that of the COUNCIL, or this of the POPE, or the other of POPE and COUNCIL. The Contest is between those that will admit of no Iudg, and therefore of no Decision. Their Determinations already extant, are directly contrary one to another, yet both pretended to be of Faith. That both cannot be so, is plain; and it may be neither is so. And whether the one or neither be so, if I would determine for my self, I make my self the Iudg of the Church's Definitions, even of those to which I must sub∣mit my Iudgment, or be damn'd.
The other Branch of Power claim'd by this Church, is that of giving Laws to all Christians, unto which all that will be saved, must yield Obedience. About this I find no better Agreement among them, than about the former. There is so great a dispute among the Doctors (saith one of them) *about the fulness of Ecclesiastical Power, and unto what things it extends it self, that in this matter few things are secure. Yet that such a Power there is, we must believe, or perish,Page 76 tho none can certainly tell us what kind of Power it is, whe∣ther purely Spiritual, or Temporal also. And an Universal Power it must be, tho we cannot learn how far it reacheth, whether to all, or but some, either things or persons.
It is held by many (saith Bell.) that the POPE hath by Divine Right, a most full Power over the whole World, in Matters both Ecclesiastical and Civil. And for this Opinion, he names Augu∣stinus Triumphus, Alvarus, Pelagius, Panormitan, and others; with whom their Angelical Doctor, Thomas of Aquine seems to consent; In the POPE (saith he) is the Top-height of both Powers.
Others say, That the POPE, as POPE, hath no Temporal Power at at all, neither can any way command Secular Princes, or deprive them of their Kingdoms and Principalities, tho other∣wise they deserve to be deprived of them. For this Opinion, he names not so much as one of their own Communion; why, I know not, unless it were, because he knew it to be an Opinion very unwelcome at ROME; or because he thought there were but a few inconsiderable PAPISTS that held it. And therefore he fathers it upon the Hereticks, whose Loy∣alty to their Princes will better bear it.
The REPRESENTER here tells us, He knows that the Deposing and King-killing Power has been maintained by some Canonists and Divines of his Church, and that it is in their Opinion lawful, and annex'd to the Papal Chair. And that some Popes have endeavour'd to act according to this Power. Yet is he not willing that Hereticks of any sort, should carry away the Honour, which Bellarmin bestow'd upon them, of a Loyal Religion; but saith, That there are of his Communion three times the number, that publickly disown all such Autho∣rity; that some Universities and Provincial Councils, have con∣demn'd it; and that Popish Princes sit as safe on their Thrones, as others. Yea, and he will engage, that all Catholick Nations in the World, shall subscribe to the Condemnation of all such Po∣pish Principles and Doctrines, and shall join with all good Prote∣stants for the extinguishing them, with all that profess and Page 77 practice them, and utter rooting them out of his Majesties three Kingdoms, and the whole Universe. I must do him right, not∣withstanding all this; for he hath not said, That the whole Church of ROME, or any General Council hath condemn'd this Doctrine; or that it is by publick Authority, for the of∣fence it gives, rased out of the Canon-Law, nor the LATE∣RAN Council; nor that Protestant Princes can sit as safely in Popish Countries, as Popish Princes may in Protestant Coun∣tries. And when he tells us, That the Sentence of the Supreme Pastor is to be obey'd, whether he be Infallible or no; altho I have a great Opinion of the Loyalty of many PAPISTS, I durst hardly engage for his, if there should chance to be such a POPE again, as himself confesseth some have been.
But what saith Bellarmin? A third sort there is, that takes a middle way; and he names not a few of them, himself be∣ing one of the number. These hold, that the POPE, as POPE, hath indeed no Temporal Power directly and immediately, but Spiritually only. And such as he makes it, there needs no more; for it will serve his Holiness as well, and the Here∣ticks as ill, to all intents and purposes, yea even to the depo∣sing of Princes, as the greatest Temporal Power in the World. For (saith he) by reason of this Spiritual, he hath also, at least indirectly, a Temporal Power, and that no less than the highest. And even as the Spirit or Soul hath Power over the Flesh, to Chastise, and even to deliver it up to Death, in order to the Spiritual ends of the Soul: So also may the POPE, tho not as an ordinary Iudg, yet as an extraordinary, in order to spi∣ritual Ends, change Kingdoms, taking them from one, and gi∣ving them to another, abrogate the Civil Laws of Princes, and determine of their Rights. This I am sure is more than ever St. Peter had by Virtue, either of the Rock, or Keys, or Pa∣storal Staff; and I am confident, he never thought of half this, when he charged all Men to submit to the King as SU∣PREME, 1 Pet. 2. 13. Nor when, v. 17. bidding us Honour all Men, love the Brotherhood, fear God, honour the King; he Page 78 omitted to mind us of the great Duty of all, the Subjection we must yield to his Successors, the Bishops of ROME; espe∣cially, when he might well suppose we should have been much apter to have learn'd it of himself, than of any of his Successors.
'Tis time for me now, I think, to consider, into what a Labyrinth I must run my self, by going over to the Church of ROME; and how I can behave my self, when I come there. I am going into a Church, out of which, I am told, there is no Salvation; yet I cannot foresee, that this Church her self can tell me surely, how I may be saved in it. Of this Church, I am told, I cannot be a Member to any pur∣pose, if I be not in all things Subject and Obedient to the Supreme Head of it, the POPE. And subject to him I can∣not be, if I actively obey not his Commands; for passive Obe∣dience is now become the despised Badg of a Heretick. But what the POPE's Power to command is, I can meet with no Body that can certainly inform me. It is an absolute Power over all the World, say some. No, (say others) but only over Christians, and in things Spiritual. Well, (says the third Party) tho it be directly and immediately only Spiritual, yet it is no less for that; but in order to Spirituals, it reacheth over all, both Temporal Persons, Laws and Iudgments. All this Power is in me only, saith the POPE. You are too hasty, Sir, say some Councils, and the Doctors of France; for the chief Power is by Christ himself given to the Council, and even to put down and set up POPES, as they would deal with Kings and Emperors. Which of these now must I believe and obey?
The Prince, under whose Government I live, may com∣mand me one thing; and the POPE, my Spiritual Father, may command the contrary. How must I now do to bear my self evenly betwixt two such Masters? I consult my Spi∣ritual Guides, and take the best Advice I can get; some say one thing, and some another; and which to believe, I stand Page 79 in need of another Guide to direct me; nay, the Church it self, knew I where to find her, (so visible is She) could not tell me which is in the right. If I believe those, who tell me the POPE has no Power in Temporal matters; then is my Prince in all such Matters to be obey'd, say the POPE what he will to the contrary. If I hearken to them, that tell me the POPE has a fulness of Power in all, both Temporal and Spiritual matters; I must obey my Prince in nothing with∣out the POPE's leave. If I listen to them, who say, The POPE's Power in Temporal matters, is indeed the highest Power; yet indirectly only, and in order to Spiritual ends, then am I so far to obey it, and no farther. And here I am at as great a loss as ever; for who shall judg for me, whe∣ther his Commands be needful for Spiritual ends or no? It is very unlikely, that my Prince and the Pope should agree in the Determination of this Point; and the difference being between them two, and their Commands, to whose award will they stand? I must here necessarily be left to the Dire∣ction of my own, or some other private Iudgment, and which side soever I take, it is an even Wager whether I can be saved.
I have been considering all this while for my self alone, and the satisfaction of my own Conscience. I presume not to judg for, nor of others. They who have more Light, and better Eyes, may go on more confidently; 'tis all my care, to go safely for my self; and as inoffensively as I can to all o∣thers. I see many Wise men among ROMAN-CATHO∣LICKS, and I dare not say the contrary, but that they are of another Religion than I, because they are Wiser, and better able to chuse than I. If I chuse as wisely as I can for my self, I cannot do any better for my self, and I doubt not of being saved whilst I do so well. And if it should prove so, that I chuse the worse, he hath no reason to be angry with me, to whom I leave, and do not grudg the better.
I cannot yet think it necessary to Salvation, to believe that Page 80Church Infallible, which not only in my opinion but in the Iudgment of all other Christians, (and they are 〈…〉 and more) hath often Erred, and doth very grosy 〈◊〉 many things; and which, if we ask her, can her s•lf only tell us, who they be in her Communion, that can Err, but not who they be, that cannot. Nor can I think it safe to be of that Church, where I may not be allow'd to judg or try whe∣ther Error be taught me or no. I cannot think I am bound to Judg either my self or others in a state of Damnation, for not denying our Senses, or captivating our Iudgments to the Iudgment of an Infallible Church, which could never deter∣mine where her Iudgment or Infallibility is certainly to be found: Or for not obeying the Head of that Church, which hath sometimes no Head, sometimes many Heads, and is al∣ways uncertain which is her Head, or where it stands. If I must thus believe, and thus obey, no body can tell me what, and declare I do all this, or in the Judgment of that Church which must be believ'd Infallible, be no better for turning PAPIST; then I verily think I am much safer, as I am a poor PRO∣TESTANT. I am sure I may as safely, as I can freely, cap∣tivate my Iudgment both in Faith and Practice, to the Do∣ctrine and Laws of the Blessed JESUS, whom all Christians unanimously acknowledg both the SUPREME and INFAL∣LIBLE HEAD of the Universal Church. I will no longer lose my labour, in seeking an Infallible Guide, which almost every body can tell me of, but no man can certainly shew me. In∣stead of an Ecclesiastical Monarch on E•••h, I will content my self with that Blessed and only Potentate, King of kings, and Lord of lords, whom his Father hath made Sole HEAD of the CHURCH, which is his Body; who long since told us, that his Kingdom is not of this World, as, I fear, the POPE's too much is.