A DISCOURSE About the Charge of NOVELTY Upon the Reformed Church of England, MADE By the PAPISTS asking of us the Question, Where was our Religion before LUTHER?
LONDON, Printed for Robert Horn at the South Entrance of the Royal Exchange, and Fincham Gardiner at the White Horse in Ludgate-street. 1683.
A DISCOURSE About the Charge of NOVELTY Upon the Reformed Church of England made by the Papists, &c.
THe Christian Doctrin was once, by the way of trust, delivered by Christ and his Apostles unto the Saints, Men of Care and Honesty, and who should preserve it in its first purity and Spiritual intention, only to prescribe methods un∣to Men by Faith, and an Honest Conversation, how they might arrive at Heaven; that this Religion might make a deeper impression upon their minds and memories and be more faithfully kept, it was set down in plain and significant Terms,*and reduced into short summaries called a Form of sound Words, that good thing, that Form of Doctrin, a depositum, or trust, and by the Church af∣terwards a Creed. That it might be believed and valu∣ed, it was in its own Nature of the greatest impor∣tance, confirmed with variety of the best of arguments, Page 2miracles, prophecies, innocent carriage, and Death of its numerous Disciples, and severe Curses denounc't a∣gainst any that should add to or take from it,* till their great Master, and its Author, Jesus should come from Heaven again. Yet notwithstanding all this, by the Malice and Subtilty of the Devil, the Designs and Passions of Men, the Ignorance and Negligence of some, the Cunning and Industry of others, this plain and sim∣ple Religion began by degrees to be Corrupted by the mixtures of Philosophy, and niceness, by the Rules of State Craft and Policy, by idle Traditions, and Inventions, by the Melancholy of some, and the gayety of others; and the natural Face of it was so strangely changed that it seem'd another Gospel, and you might seek Christi∣anity in the Christian World and yet scarce find it. Many Kingdoms and People were to blame in this, be∣ing Treacherous to their Master, and false to their trust,* suffering so Pure and Chast a Religion to be Corrup∣ted or Stolen away, but the Church of Rome seems the most Guilty of them all, (especially upon her own grounds, her Bishop being the Infallible Vicar of Jesus,* to whom are committed the Oracles of God) once in∣deed renowned for her Faith and Pious Governours, but now as famous for their Degeneracy as well in Re∣ligion as in their lives. Whose Ambition or Interest prostituted the Faith to those Designs, and made it Earthly and Sensual, or their Negligence and Stupidity suffered the Enemy in the night of Ignorance to sow the tares, which so grew up, and choakt the Wheat, that Faith was turn'd into Fables and Lyes, Foppery and Superstition were nicknam'd Devotion, Ridiculous Gestures and Habits past for Repentance and Mortifica∣tion, the Bible was shut up and contemned, and the Legends open'd and praised, Honest and Good Men were butchered, and unknown Persons and Malefactors Page 3Canonized, Saints with their Pictures and Reliques were made Rivals to Christ in Mediation and Intercession, Good Works were spoil'd by Merit and Arrogance, or done by way of composition for vices, the fear of Hell was abated by the invention of Purgatory, Christ was fetcht from Glory by the Magick of a Priest and put into a Wafer, or into a more sordid place, riddles and quirks of their Schools were made Articles of Faith, in short, old truths were rooted up, or new errors grafted on them, Power and Profit were Stiled the Church, the Court of Rome was brought into the Temple and called the Holy of Holies. Such errours as these in the Christian Faith came from Rome, and infected our Ancient British Church (not at first planted by the Labours of the Romish Bishops of old, but Corrupted by their later Emissaries) and lasted a long time among us, being supported by Power, twisted with Interest, sutable to the pleasures and vices of Men, incorporated into the Government having put out Mens reason to try and discern between Truth and Error, and at length became Fashionable, Legal Terrible with Fires and Cen∣sures which made us Sick unto Death, absolute al∣most and beyond recovery. Such was our condition here of Slavery and Ignorance, but it pleased him that dwells between the Golden Candlesticks, to dispel our Dark∣ness and restore the Ancient light of Primitive Christi∣anity. His Wisdom and Goodness improving the pas∣sions and inclinations of the some in temporal changes and concerns to Spiritual purposes, encouraging the secret groans and desires of others, putting many more upon search and enquiry after Truth, and infusing courage for it, at length came to a resolution of Argu∣ing and Debating the Errors of the Romish Faith and manners, of reforming the abuses in Discipline and De∣votion and to call back True Christianity again, and Page 4being dispossest of the Spirit of Rome which oft tore them and rent them till they foamed again, are now cloth'd and in their Wits once more; upon this ac∣count the Friends of Rome call us Hereticks, Schisma∣ticks and Innovators, Discharge Censures and Excom∣munications and Eternal Damnation against us, are full of Wrath and Indignation, and to shew a little Wit in their Anger, And pretended reason, pertly ask the Questi∣on, where was our Religion before Luther?
This is the common and trite Objection against our Religion,* very frequent not only in the Mouths of their more Ordinary Disciples, but also of their more Learn∣ed Writers, who (whatever strength they really Fancy may be in the Argument it self) think it a very proper Weapon to attempt the vulgar and the Weak withal, to amuse and dazle the less discerning Eye, at least when backt and set off with the stately names of Infallibility, Succession, Antiquity, and the like; and they tell us roundly our Faith was but yesterday, our Religion is new and upstart, as only Henry the Eighths and Crom∣wells contrivance (they may truly say as much as their Treason was Cecils Plot.) That our Faith began only in the year 1517. in Saxony by one Martin Luther an Apostate Fryar, who for the Sake of a faire Nun and other designs renounc't the Ancient Faith, and set up his new Device of Protestantism at Spires; which did not quietly last much above seven years,* for in the year 1525. starts up Zuinglius, and after two years more the Anabaptists, who change and correct Luther's Religion, and draw great numbers of his Disciples from him; and himself for his reward dyed a strange Death, great Noises and Crackings were heard in his Tomb, which being opened, neither Body nor Bones were found, and the smell of Brimstone was ready to stifle the stan∣ders by. And therefore they say, we ought to look Page 5from whence we are faln, to repent of our Heresy, and return to our first Love, and not stick so close to our Religion, the new invention of so ill a Man. That we may therefore keep those firm that are members of our Religion, and bring those back that have revolted from us into the Romish Communion, we have endeavour'd to give a satisfactory Answer to this their Question, Where was your Religion before the times of Luther? Not to trouble our selves with such Legends as these, and Uncharita∣bleness along with them, the Answer is thus.
- 1. Telling them plainly where our Religion was be∣fore Luthers time.
- 2. By shewing what errors and mistakes are inclu∣ded in the Question.
- 3. To turn the Question upon themselves, and ask them some others of the like Nature.
1. The plain Answer to the Question is this: That our Religion was long before the times of Luther, and believed and setled in many Kingdoms and Nations of the World, and hath neither Novelty nor Singularity in it. 'Tis an old Religion, I am sure 'tis of Age and can speak for it self. It hath lasted now these 1600 years and more, founded at first by Christ and his Apostles, handed down to us through many Sufferings and Per∣secutions, and here it is preserved. It contracted in∣deed in the coming down a great deal of rust by the Falseness and Carelesness of its keepers, particularly by the Church of Rome, we scowr'd off the rust, and kept the mettal; that's the Romish Religion, this is the Eng∣lish. They added False Doctrins to the Christian Faith, we left the one and kept to the other; this is Ancient, those are New. Our Religion is the same with that of the Early Christians, Martyrs, and Confessors, believed Page 6in the first 300 years, and defended by all Councils truly General: Our Religion in those first Ages was in Pa∣lestine and Greece,* in Agypt, in Antioch where the Disciples were first called Christians and in Rome it self, and wherever the great labours of her first Apostles carry'd her to the different and remote Countries of the World: Then and there our Religion liv'd, where Peter, Linus, and Cletus, and all the first and Pious Bishops of Rome did. It suffered indeed great variety of changes and con∣ditions, by the interest and Wickedness of men, sometimes more Adulterated, and sometimes more Pure, it flitted from Country to Country, sometimes Greater and some∣times Smaller in its number, sometimes in a Dejected, and sometimes in a more Flourishing State, but somewhere or other it was intire and without mixture, as it was at first given unto the World, and such an old Religi∣on as this we are of, holding fast neither more nor less, neither adding to nor diminishing what Christ and his Apostles taught; and it Antiquity must evidence the Truth of our Religion, we are safe and secure that we have right on our side. And this will appear if we con∣sider these following things.
1. What Conformity our Religion carries to that of Christ and his Apostles. Let any impartial eye com∣pare them both together, and he will find the features and complexion, the whole body of Religion the same in both. Whatever they deliver'd out at first, as Fun∣damental to Salvation, whatever they Instituted as parts of Devotion, Discipline, and Order, we still faithfully retain in our Church, and if any Truth of moment hitherto by fraud or negligence be con∣cealed from her, she is ready to receive it, whenever it is made plain, not having stopt up the way of Truth by a pretence of Infallibility or want of Modesty to confess an error. She hath the same sense of the Na∣ture, Page 7Offices, the Design and whole Undertakings of Christ, that the truly Ancient Church had; She re∣ceives the Creed and Bible and any Traditions that can be made out to be truly Divine, in the same meaning and understanding that Christ and his Apostles gave to the first Christians, and they to us. What their thoughts of Saints and Holy Souls departed were, ours are, thoughts of respect, remembrance and imitation, not Divine Wor∣ship. Christ Instituted proper Figures, and Symbols of Bread and Wine, to represent and confirm, to conveigh and commemorate his Bloody Passion and Benefits to Man∣kind, in this sense She preserves the Institution Sacred, and doth not really Sacrifice or Crucify the Lord of Life again. Christ Commanded good Works under the Penalty of Eternal Damnation, She doth the same, and in our Masters Language bids the doers of them call themselves unprofitable Servants, beating down Pride and Merit. Christ and his Apostles told the World what departing Souls must expect, her sense is the same, that there are no second ventures and tryals to be made, neither can a kind Friend with a good estate left for Masses or Monks compound for a life ill spent. Run through the whole Constitution of our Church in Articles of Faith, and Rules of manners, you may trace them to Christ and his Apostles time, and all other parts of Her Government and Order are truly primi∣tive. And it must needs be so, if She sincerely follows her Rule of Faith, the Holy Scriptures, so Ancient, so Divine, and whatever is declared there Essential to Sal∣vation She Brings into Creed, and resolves to keep it, like a mighty treasure, Faithfully unto Death. And indeed the Church of Rome confesses that what we do retain is Ancient and Apostolical, but pretends, that we are defective in many things, and want some necessaries which they have, to make an intire Faith. But we challenge them Page 8to prove, that those opinions wherein we differ from them were delivered by Christ or any Men Divinely inspired in those times. And they seem to acknowledge we do not, and therefore to make up the matter, pretend a Di∣vine Authority in the Church, to cast new Articles, and Truths ferè de fide, almost fit for a Creed, and some others of them confess that some of their Opi∣nions as Image-Worship and others were not main∣tain'd in the first Ages of Christianity for fear of com∣ing too near the Heathens Worship and out of other Prudential considerations, so that whosoever doth com∣pare the Doctrine of our Church, with that of Christ and his Apostles, must needs conclude that our Religi∣on is Ancient Christianity, and that the charge of No∣velty is groundless.
2. The Nature of Reformation, which was not to found a New Church but correct an old one. Christi∣anity that Pearl of great price,* was hid with trash and filth, that the Romish Church had heapt upon it, our reformers remov'd only what loaded and obscur'd it, and restor'd it to its first Beauty and Lustre. Such a Reformation indeed is later then their errors, and it must needs be so, it naturally supposing them before, other∣wise 'tis not Reformation but a Destructive change; but Primitive Christianity which is our Religion was long before the Disease of Popery, though the cure of this Dis∣ease was after, or later then the Disease it self, but the sound Body of Christianity for which we are concern'd, was be∣fore them both, for 'tis not Reformation barely that we are pleased withal, no more then with a Pill or Potion, but on∣ly as necessary to drive away an inveterate Disease, and re∣cover an old Religion to its former Health. When Christ reformed the Jewish Religion from the false senses and glosses that the Scribes and Pharisees had put upon it, and grafted Christianity upon the old stock, will the Ro∣manistsPage 9call this a New Religion or rather an old one well amended and improved by Divine Authority. Bellar∣min doth allow this for Truth, and saith that Christi∣anity was rather a New State and Condition than a new Church, and he that can call our Religion New, be∣cause tis mended, and made now, what it was about 1600 years ago, may affirm that Christ built a New Temple when he Whipt the buyers and sellers out of the old. And that Hezekiah built a New Sanctuary,* and Instituted a New Passover, because he cleans'd the one and restor'd the other to its first Institution; our reformati∣on did no more, it only scal'd off the Leprosy that stuck to the Body of the Romish Church, it only par'd off those Additions that Interest or Superstition, Nice∣ness or Foppery, and glew'd to it; what after remain'd, was our Religion, the same that Christ and his Apostles taught the World at first. And if they can shew that any thing hath been added since, pernicious to the Na∣ture of the True and Old Religion, our Church is rea∣dy to remove it, or that any thing is wanting that is necessary to its complement and perfection, she is ready to entertain it with the same spirit of meekness and Wisdom, and Regard to the Gospel, that she used in the Reformation; but hitherto upon good grounds and strict inquiry She is fully satisfied that Her Religion is absolute and compleat Christianity.
3. We have many and impartial Judges on our side, that our Religion is Pure and Old Christianity. The particular Church of Rome indeed, that supports her self by a pretended Infallibility, to be true to her principle, refuses to be tryed by any other Church but will be only Judge of her self, and others too; yet we that are certain and sure of the Truth of our Religion, though not Infallible, dare Appeal to the Judgment of other Christian Churches. The Greek Church condemns their Page 10half Communion, the Doctrines of Purgatory, Merit and Supererogation. The Adoration of Images, their lock∣ing up the Scriptures in an unknown Tongue, their extream Unction, and sale of Masses, and laughs at their Infallibility, the thing that makes their errors in Faith incorrigible; the Armenian Christians reject the Supremacy of the Pope,* Transubstantiation, Purgato∣ry, and Excommunicate those that Worship Images. The Jacobites, the Indians of St. Thomas, the Egyptian and Abassine Christians, dissent from most or all of the Romish errors which we condemn. We have all the truly Ancient Christian Churches on our side, and most of the Modern whom the busy Emissaries of Rome have not terrified or seduc't into their party; our Wri∣ters have Appeal'd with great success to the Ancient Councils, the Holy Fathers, and to the Learned and Pious Bishops and Priests of old, and from thence dis∣cover'd the Novelty of the Romish Faith and the good old way of the English Church. And they dare not stand the trial, when we desire to be determin'd by the best and Infallible Judge, the Holy Scriptures, except they must give the meaning of them, otherwise they load them with Ignominious Names, of a Lesbian rule, mere Ink and Paper, and a nose of Wax. Who will they be try'd by? By a Council truly General? No, except it be cal∣led, manag'd and confirm'd by the Pope. Will they be Judg'd by any that differ from them, yet are Men of Good, Honest, and unprejudic't Judgments? No; they are out of the Pale of the Church and Stubborn Hereticks: And the best reason they have for their as∣surance that they are in the right is, that they are sure they are so, and keep themselves safe in their inchant∣ed Castle of Infallibility. The Arabian Philosopher was offended at and abhorr'd their barbarous Doctrine of Transubstantiation, and Eating of their God, and re∣solv'd Page 11to stick to his Philosophical rather than be of such a Christian Religion. The Roman Images and the Wor∣ship of them have laid a Stumbling Block before the Jews who therefore approved our Sentence and Con∣demnation of them; having therefore such a number of good Testimonies and Judgments on our side we rise up and reverence the grey Hairs of our Religion, which Rome once Cloth'd in a Wanton and Phantastick dress, and made it ridiculous, which because we have pull'd off, and put on its Ancient habit and made it look Manly with the Image of God and Christ upon it, they call us Innovators. Many of their own Writers have spoke in favour of the English Church, and many of their distinctions in a fair sense have concluded for her Doctrine and shewn their dislike of many opinions of their own Church.
4. That our Religion was long before Luther will appear from the oppositions that were made to the Pa∣pal corruptions, which did not enjoy so quiet a life, but were frequently disturb'd and cry'd out against, not only by other Churches, but by many honest and con∣sidering Men in their own Communion. Men they were, not of Interest or Discontent, Peevishness, and given to change, of little Learning and less Conscience, and note in the World, but Men Eminent in their Ge∣neration, Men of Probity and Studies, of Temper and Consideration, Men; that stood not alone, but had great numbers of Disciples, a Visible Society of Christians who follow'd their Judgments. Some of these sadly bewail'd the degenerate State of the Roman Church, o∣thers petition'd for, and advised not only the correcti∣on of the abuses of good Doctrines and Innocent Insti∣tutions, but the reformation of Gross Errors and Scan∣dalous Additions to the Christian Faith, and others in Page 12great Authority promised an amendment, and to reduce the whole frame of Christianity to its Primitive Sense and Model. And the famous Council of Trent was promist and begun to rectify Errors and Abuses crept into the Romish Faith and government, yet after a long Sitting it fatally concluded, confirming those corruptions which was hop'd after so many complaints and addresses with strong reasons for them, should have been thorough∣ly redrest and reform'd. The Original of their Barba∣rous Inquisition will be a standing record of the frequent, and stout oppositions, that were made against the Ro∣mish Innovation in the Christian Faith. And so long as the Blood of the numerous Albigenses and Walden∣ses crys to Heaven for Vengance against the Papal cruelty, we have a cloud of Witnesses for this Truth, who resisted unto Death the new Doctrines of Romes. The carriage of old Wicliff and his Followers, tells us plainly in story, that the corruptions of Rome had no such quiet possession, but ever and anon some or other in considerable numbers did endeavour to eject them out of their hold, though they paid dear for it. And so long as the Treachery of their Council of Constance about the safe conduct granted to poor Huss. And his Disci∣ples in number above forty thousand, remains upon record never to be forgotten or forgiven, so long we have clear evidences of strong resistance made to the Romish Religion before the times of Luther. And in most Countries and times, where and when the Romish corruptions began from small and obscure beginnings to be gross and plain, some or other in greater or lesser numbers began to Renounce and Protest against them. What though some of these early Reformers might hold some erroneous Opinions which we our selves condemn, yet however they opposed the Romish Church in her corruptions and these tended to a Reformation, which Page 13was compleated only by degrees, and 'tis no wonder some Stumbled in such a night of Ignorance. And have not the Agents of Rome destroy'd the Papers and Re∣cords, disguiz'd their Adversaries, and falsify'd their Opinions to serve the Power and Interest of their great Mistriss? They therefore branded the Waldenses with the name of Manichaism and that they affirm'd two Principles or Originals of all things, because they assert∣ed that the Emperour was Independent of the Pope, and that they deny'd Christ to be the Son of God, be∣cause they could not believe a crust of Bread to be Christ. And they have fram'd as lewd stories against many ex∣cellent Men of the later Ages who withstood the ap∣proches of their Doctrine and Government, which we certainly know, and the more Ingenuous among them confess, to be Notoriously false. Though we have reason to believe (because of the severity and industry of the Romish Factors ever warm against those who oppos'd her practises) a great number of Honest and Learned Men (as those Ages would afford) are buried in obscurity and their names unknown, there being an Expurgatorian Index for the merits of such Men as well as Books and Editions, yet we have a sufficient Catalogue of them who kept up the Title and claim of old Christianity and would not suffer their new Errors to plead pre∣scription.
2. By shewing what Errors and Mistakes are inclu∣ded in the Question.
1. That these new Errors of Rome are absolutely necessary to the being of a Christian Church: For though we believe all that Christ and his Apostles taught all things that are contain'd in the Holy Scriptures, all things that undoubted Tradition, or good Reason proves to derive themselves from both or either, yet because we Page 14do not Assent and Subscribe to the new Articles of Faith that Rome hath invented for us, we cease to be a Christian Church, are markt for Hereticks, which are worse than Pagans with them, and must be certainly Damn'd. Nay should we embrace all the other Do∣ctrines of Rome, and deny only the Popes Authority and Supremacy, (that Epitome of their Christianity) it would avail us little, we are Heathens still. Should we reject but one Article of Pope Pius's Creed, suppose the Doctrine of Purgatory or Merit, yet because this Questi∣ons Infallibility, the centre of all their Religion, we are in the State of Damnation still: Should we receive their Doctrines as probable and in a larger and more favou∣rable meaning, yet because we do not entertain them as Articles of Faith, in the fense of the Church, our case is not mended, we shall meet with Fires here and hereafter for our reward. Should we wink and swal∣low them all down with a good Catholick Stomach, yet if the Bishop of Rome should give out a new Edition of Faith, enlarg'd with many more Monstrous Doctrines and Opinions, yet if we bogle and keck at them, all our former righteousness shall not be remembred, we are Apostates worse than Turks and Infidels; and who can tell what this Infallible and Powerful Guide of Christendom will do? For when things, obscure, or of an Indifferent Nature, when things wherein they dif∣fer among themselves, and only serve a Temporal Interest, when Opinions which they can dispense with∣al upon occasion, when only the modes and manner of Truth, when contradictories, and Doctrines directly leading unto Impiety, and things Barbarous and Blas∣phemous have been Christen'd Articles of Faith and Fundamentals of Religion, have we not just reason to suspect as ill or worse may be done again? And the intrigues of Trent be acted once more, and as Page 15many new Articles of Faith as Titular Bishops, by the same Spirit moving in the same manner; were not the first and early Christians sound Members of Christs bo∣dy though they never thought of such wild Opinions as these, and publisht Truths directly contrary to them? And could I suppose them to have known these Inno∣vations, out of Zeal and Fidelity to their trust, would have detested amd abhor'd them. Was Christ negligent in the discharge of his mighty office, and his Apostles defective in their duties and Ministry, not to accquaint the first Christians with these great Truths, and were they reveal'd in the Tridentine Council only to us upon whom the ends of the World are come. These Primitive Disciples of Christ thought themselves secure of Heaven by this short Creed, that Jesus was the Christ the son of God. And the contrary was the Character of the Man of Sin, that deny'd that Jesus was come in the Flesh, that he was the God incarnate and the true Messiah, and were Scandaliz'd at his meanness and obscurity. St. Paul told the Jaylor that certainly he would be sav'd if he believ∣ed that Jesus was the Christ all other Fundamentals of Christianity one way or other being necessarily included in that belief: And thought that he made sincere and sound Disciples, if they believ'd what he Preacht, only Jesus and the Resurrection, in their full compass and lati∣tude. Though we believe all this in a more express and explicit sense, all that is contain'd in Scripture, in the Apostles Creed, or the two other Creeds drawn up by the Church to explain the Christian Religion in some Articles, and to oppose the Doctrines of Hereticks yet the first Christians shall be Sav'd and we shall be Dam∣n'd, they shall be the elect and the Church of God, we must be Reprobates and the Synagogue of Satan. Or let Rome shew her wonted Charity, and say She doubts also of their Salvation. Or did Christ connive at that Page 16time of Ignorance, or had he as a Lawgiver forgot to declare some part of the will and pleasure of God, and upon better remembrance after so many hundred years suggested it to his careful Vicar? Or did Christ know∣ing their Nature and Circumstances of it, that they could not bear them at that time, therefore delay the discovery so long? Or did these new Articles lye hid so long conceal'd by his Apostles, or buried by some lewd Hereticks in the rubbish of those Churches they pull'd down, but afterwards found, (as they say the Cross was) and now restored to light? Or are these new Articles some way or other contain'd in the Ancient Creeds which we believe, and by easy and natural con∣sequences deduc't from them. Some such fine reasons as these must be pretended, otherwise we can safely conclude that our Church is truly Ancient and Aposto∣lical, though She disowns the late inventions of the Ro∣mish Bishop and is known to be the Spouse of Christ by her first Features and Complexion, though She hath cast off the new Italian dress. For, was the Christian Church, the House of God, Irregular in its building, wanting of Beams and Pillars, the Essentials of Religi∣on, till Romes curious and careful builder cast it into a new model and compleated it?
2. This Question supposeth that the Christian Church ought always to be Visible, which is not so strictly true. For Visible or Invisible make not two Churches but dif∣ferent States, Conditions or Respects of one and the same. 'Twas designed by Christ, that all that are Baptiz'd in∣to the Communion of his Faith, and Church, should make an Outward and Visible Profession of it, by their Religious Assemblies and Worship, by their Sacraments, Discipline, and Government, whereby being United among themselves, and to Christ their Head, they should Constitute one Body call'd the Catholick-Church, Page 17in whose Communion they must Live and Dye. But so it came to pass, that the number of Christian People so professing and owning the Faith of Jesus, was lesser or greater, more conspicuous or obscure, as Persecuti∣ons or Heresies grew and prevail'd among them, which like raging Plagues wasted whole Countries, destroy∣ing some, perverting others and making many Fly into remoter Kingdoms, and only some Scattered and Soli∣tary Christians living in Caves and Wildernesses re∣main'd behind, or only the Face of a distressed Christi∣an Church, as it hapned to the seven Asian and the Afri∣can Churches, which now labour under a Mahometan Pride and Superstition: But as it lost in one Country it gain'd in another, the Jewish Presecution and others driving several Colonies of Christians into remoter Coun∣tries, where they spread and enlarged their Religion, and many times the distress or triumph of the Church follow'd the changes and revolutions in the Civil State, suffering or flourishing with it. And often the abuse of Religion, Prostituting of it to Hypocrisy and secular ends, the Wicked lives of its Disciples, or want of courage or resolution in its defence, hath tempted Pro∣vidence to permit pestilent Heresies (worse then that in these Northen parts) to prevail, and Paganism to return again. But still the promise of Christ to his Church was firm, and the Gates of Hell did not prevail against her. And though she was forc't sometimes to Travail from Country to Country, and lookt small and obscure in the number of her followers, yet still some or other parts and corners of the World, and True and Zealous Christians in them made up the little flock, and shall never fail while the World endures. Po∣pery like the Egyptian darkness had overspread this and other Nations yet here and there was an Israelite that had light in his dwellings, and a countercharm against Page 18the enchantments of Egypt, the Gospel, that at length did prevail against corruptions and made its followers Visible and Numerous. They ask us where was our Religion before Luther? As though it was not, because it did not Visibly appear, or no where in the World, because not here in England, or in other parts where Popery did domineer and the Romish Faction was all and whole Christianity in the World, the Catholick-Church, which implies contradiction and absurdity. Christiani∣ty here indeed was obscur'd, and like the Sun under the cloud, but still the Sun was the same, and at length con∣quer'd the mists; 'tis a fine Question to ask, Where was the Sun before Noon day? We will suppose her fol∣lowers to be few, yet Christ is True, though others are Lyars, for he never promist that the Members of the True Catholick-Church should be always famous for their numbers, or that multitudes should always follow Truth, nor ever directed Men to follow the multitude in search of Truth, which is found otherways, not by Votes and Polling for her. Did not our Saviour ask the Question, when he should come again, whether at the Destruction of Jerusalem or at the Judgment day, where∣of the other was a Type and Prefiguration,*whether he should find Faith on Earth or no; did not the Prophet sadly complain in the Reigns of Jotham,* Ahaz and He∣zekiah, Kings of Judah, that the good Man is perished out of the Land and there is none Righteous among Men; they could not then reckon up of the Tribe of Judah twelve thou∣sand, and yet there was True Faith, and a Church of God;* though little and obscure. Doth not King David cry out, Help Lord for the Godly Man ceaseth, for the Faith∣ful fail from among the Children of Men, corruption in Faith and manners usually going together.* And Elijah tells a sad Story of the Children of Israel, that they had broken their Covenant and destroy'd the Altars and the Page 19Prophets and he only was left alive, that they sought his life also,*God tells him that yet for all that he had seven thou∣sand Knees that had not bowed to Baal; still there was a small Church not infected with Idolatry, though obscure and unknown to Elijah. Have not some of the Romish Writers told us, that at Christ Passion the Church was only left in the Virgin Mary, all them forsaking Christ but the Holy Mother. The Shepherd was Smitten and the Sheep disperst. And they further confess that in the times of Antichrist there shall be neither Pope, Monk, nor Mass (if this be all, that Monster is not so Terrible as he is Painted) and their Annalists complain of such sad things as these in the tenth Century.*And certainly they have read of the Woman in the Wilderness,*and the Witnesses Slain, and of Hay and Stubble covering the Foundation, which describe the deplorable condition of the Christian Church, and Fopperies, Niceties, and In∣ventions of Men obscuring the Essentials of the Christi∣an Faith. Should a revolt happen (which God divert) from the reformed Church of England to Romanism a∣gain, might not others ask them the same Question where was your Religion before eighty three, or eighty four, before such a time. Would they not Answer at Rome, and in England also, only kept under and obscur'd by Hereticks and Tyrannical Princes. Ours was also here, lockt up in Bibles, own'd by some numbers, de∣sire'd by more, only frighted from a Visible profession of it, by the torments that did attend it. And Chri∣stianity though not so Visible, yet was purer when it, and its professors dwelt in Rocks and Mountains and Dens, places of privacy and obscurity, in the Reigns of Nero and Dioclesian, then when some Kings were its Nursing Fathers and Queens its Nursing Mothers, and took possession of the seven Hills. And there was a True Church of God though overlay'd and groan∣ing Page 20under Arrianism as before Persecution, and in Cyprians time,* as ours once under the Popish Yoke. And the Truth of Christianity like the Truth and Essence of other things depends not upon splendid entertainment or Judgment of others, nor the Church upon the Vi∣sible number of its Members, but it may be a True Church whether Visible or hid, which this Question denys.
3. This Question supposeth that the Roman Church cannot err but that it remain'd pure and undefiled, as it came from the Hands of Christ, through the many Centuries of years, till it came to the times of Luther, and from thence shall so continue till the Worlds end, and therefore we made a false charge against them of corruptions in their Religion, to excuse our Innovation. But we have reason to conclude She hath foully err'd from the Faith, and that more fatally, and obstinately, because She pretends She cannot err. For upon what grounds doth the found her Infallibility. Upon the Scriptures? They are only so many dead letters, till the breath of the Church doth give them life, and they are then to do the Church a good turn, and give her Infallibility, which is such a cirle, as makes Mens brains so giddly turning round in it, that they scarce know what the Scriptures, and what the Church do mean; the places of Scripture to prove Infallibility are such, which have only reference to the Apostles them∣selves, their Doctrines or Confessions of Faith; as Divine and Infallible, but not to their pretended Successors. Or else they are restrain'd,* not simply unto all Truth, but only unto all Truth that is necessary to Salvation, in which the Pope or a Council cannot err, while they follow the Spirit of Truth in the Scriptures, and not compel the Spirit and Scriptures to follow them. For they do not irresistibly force the minds of Christians into Page 21Truth: Or else relate only to the Catholick-Church,* and not to the particular Roman, or else are applicable to private Assemblies and their Worship of God, which no body, but Quakers, and Enthusiasts, think to be Infallible. And all the first Ages of Christianity and undoubted tradition never in the least imagin'd such an Infallibility as now the Church of Rome dreams of. They are at War among themselves where this Infalli∣bility is lodg'd, either in the Pope alone, or in a General Council alone, or in both together, the Pope Sitting in person there or by his Legates, or it the Council con∣firm'd by the Pope; till they agree among themselves and prove it better, we say 'tis no where plac't but in the Scriptures, and they do not prove any other per∣son or persons upon Earth to be Infallible in their de∣terminations. To say such an Infallible Judge of con∣troversies to guide the Church, is absolutely necessary, and therefore. Divine Providence hath plac't him some where or other, and who but the Pope can be the Man? Is only to prescribe methods unto God, and teach him how to Govern his Church, and not be thankful for the good old ways of Salvation and Peace (Scriptures, an honest Judgment with Divine asistance and humane means) he hath chalkt out for us, but contrive some new ones of their own. Such Infallibility must be of no use to the Church of God, for upon the Romish prin∣ciples, it cannot be known, for the Pope before he be Infallible must be Bishop of Rome, but the Sa∣crament of Order, according to the Council of Trent, receives it validity from the intention of the Priest, that when he ordain'd him Bishop, he did what the Church intended, and who can tell upon these grounds, what this supposed Priest was, who gave this Or∣der, or dive into his thoughts and intentions, which Page 22their Casuists confess may sometimes be very perverse. But if there be this Infallibility at Rome,* why do not the Countries and Religious Orders in them still under their Dominion receive the Blessed fruits of it, and still all the brawls and squables among themselves, if his Holiness be at leisure, and it be worth his while: And why should not the Champions of Rome bend all their Power to prove this main point of Infallibility, when all other controversies would fall under and sub∣mit unto its Power, a compendious way to make the Christian World at Peace and Unity with its self. But why need we labour to disprove the Popes Infallibility when themselves put their shoulders to it, and do the work for us, in disputing among themselves, whether the Pope being an Heretick may be deposed, by which Question they confess that he may fall into Heresy, which is error of the highest Nature, carrying Wilful∣ness and Obstinacy with it. And accordingly these In∣fallible Men have been guilty of Heresies, as Pope Ho∣norius of Monothelitism, and Liberius of Arrianism, and the like, and many of them liv'd most debauched lives, and fatal to Christianity as Heresy, and Fallibility, and wherein providence is highly concern'd. This Do∣ctrine of Infallibility looks like a plain contrivance of the Romish Church, having some way or other slipt into these gross errors from small beginnings, and find∣ing them not defensible by all the sleights and arts of their cunning heads, are forc't to quit their hold and betake themselves to their common Sanctuary of Infal∣libility, that let these things be what they will in Dis∣pute between us and them, they are sure they are great Truths by Vertue of Infallibility, which is one of the Miracles of Rome, which can change the Nature of things,* which may be true in England and the quite contrary at Rome, as Father Cotton and other Jesuites Page 23affirm'd at Paris. For it's plain to all impartial Judg∣ments, that their Doctrine of Purgatory, Transubstan∣tiation and the like are not to be found in Scriptures are utterly unkown to the truly Acient Fathers and the eldest and purest times of Christianity and contrary to the reason of Mankind. They may as well tell us that the City of Rome was never sack't and spoyl'd be∣cause some Flaterers humour'd her Pride and Arrogance calling her the immortal City and impregnable Rock,* as that these gross errors never invaded and ruin'd the Christian Faith, because of the fine name of Infallibility, which they arrogate to themselves. And may as well put out our eyes and then bid us see if we can discover any errors in the Romish Church. And St. Peter's be∣ing at Rome proves no more that he left Infallibility be∣hind him, than Consecrated Clouts sent from Rome that the Infant that wears them shall ever after be a firm de∣fender of the Romish Faith.
4. This Question will serve any Heresies or Errors that have got some Antiquity on their side against a Reformation. If it be true in this case, 'tis so in all o∣thers, and then what a shelter have they provided for all Heresies, if they chance to live long, to be safe and secure in, and escape correction. And there are many er∣rors contemporary with Christianity it self in its first plantation in the World, at least followed it very close at the heels, such were the Ancient Gnosticks, the Carpocratians or Ebionites, the spawn of Magus and o∣thers, who can plead great Antiquity on their side, and as properly ask any Reformer of their Heresies, where was his Religion before such a time, as the inconstant World began to favour his new Faith and Innovation. And so errors once superinduc't upon the Truth, will become by Age Truth it self, and are never to be mended for fear of this pert Question, and charge of Innovati∣on Page 24on. And it's plain, that new and old are but uncer∣tain Characters to Judge of Truth and falshood by, there being sometimes a new Truth that is, lately dis∣cover'd to be so, but really old, and an old error kept up a long time by Force of Art, and Walking in the Garb of Truth, but truly new, having come in after the Truth it vies with: Time like a River many times bringing down straw and trash, and leaving weighter things behind, which when they come to be retriev'd are call'd new Fashions and Inventions. When Abraham restored the true Worship of God, and stript it of Ido∣latry and Superstition, the Chaldean Priests, whose Power and Interest was shaken by it,* were very brisk and ready to charge this Pious and Mighty Man from the East with Novelty and Singularity in his Religion, the false service of God in these Countries being then ancient and almost Universal, though the Patriarchs Religion did derive it self from a very ancient stock that of Adams in Paradise, kept up by an Enoch and a Noah in single Families when all Flesh had corrupted their ways, and now deliver'd unto Abrabam, and now all the stick∣lers for a false Religion began to upbraid the Sons and Followers of Abraham's Faith with Novelty, and ask them where was your Religion before the times of A∣braham; who set up his, but yesterday, and Scorns and Uncharitably Damns all his Forefathers, who of old liv'd beyond the River in our Religion. The same Objection might have been cast in the teeth of Moses, when he was setling a Religion deliver'd to him by God, in opposition to the Idolatries and false Devotions of the World, and to serve his further designs of providence, that he affected Novelty and Singularity, that all the World stood against him in this,* and one of his Dis∣ciples afterwards was Inhumane and Ʋncharitable in pray∣ing God to pour out his Indignation upon the Heathen Page 25who had not known his Laws. And his Successor Joshua might have met with the same fare, when he bids his People choose whom they will serve,* either the Gods beyond the Flood, and in Egypt, or the Gods of the Amorites, Old and great Nations, who might have had this Objection in its full strength on their side, or the God of Abraham, and stoutly tells them, let that plausible argument weigh with them what it will, as for himself and his Family they would serve the Lord. And as this Religion might degenerate in descending Ages, so any restorer of it might be set upon by the same frivolous Objection, and so it hap∣ned to our Messias (and his fore-runner who was to restore all things) who when he began to reform the false glosses, and corrupt senses, which the Scribes and Pharisees had put upon the Law of Moses, and cry down their Traditions which made the Commands of God of none effect, was lookt upon as an Enemy to Moses, a Blasphemer of the Law, a Prophaner of the Temple, and a Changer of all their Religion, whose design was only to fill up their Law, and restore it to its Natural Beauty and Perfection, and before Abraham was, I am, not only in his Divine Nature, and designation to his office, but in his Religion also,* which now he was going to teach the Few and Gentile too. And now the times of a general Reformation being come, and the Apostles were Preaching this excellent Religion unto all the World, Jew and Gentile comspire together in the same Language,*and call them setters forth of strange Gods and new Here∣sies,*Heads and Contrivers of new Sects, and ways, and are whipt for Vagrants and Impostors, who would cheat the World out of their old paternal Religions, that were entail'd upon them, teach them to speak ill of the Gods of their Fathers, and Predecessors, and to think they all dyed in a false Religion, and to embrace a new-fangled Page 26Faith of a few illiterate and rambling fellows who had turn'd the World upside down. And had this argument prevail'd then, as much as the Romanists do desire, if should now, we should have had no Christi∣anity among us, the Idol-Gods of our Ancestors in this Island, their Woodens and Twisters would have pre∣scribed against Christ himself.
3. To turn the Question upon them and ask them some others of the like Nature. Men that are insolent, and ever boasting of the Antiquity of their Family, and upbraiding others with their obscure Birth, and extraction, do many times meet with some cross Questi∣ons about the Head and Fountain of their Families, which many times proves only to be a Shepherd, or meaner Original, made Glorious with arrogant Titles and borow'd Names. Searching into the pedigree of Romes Religion, we do not find Christ or St. Peter or any of his Apostles to be the Authors of it, but Pride, In∣terest, and Design, old Vices indeed but new Fathers of a Christian Church, which brought in a late and new generation of opinions, and additions to Christs Religion, Clothing them with the venerable Names of Primitive and Apostolical. Where was the Romish Reli∣gion before the Council of Trent concluded only about the year 1563. of a later date then when Luther first began, which Legitimated all their Innovations, the Issue of Scholastick Wranglings, pretended Dreams, and Visions, Forc't, and Unnatural. Senses of Scrip∣ture, Ambition and Profit, the Exchequer of Rome, to be made Sons of the Church and Fundamentals of the Christian Faith. Many of their own Writers confess, that for 1400. or 1500. years, the Pope was not be∣liev'd to be Infallible, till of late some of their flaming Zealots have invested him with Infallibility, whereby the Roman Church is sick unto Death, and no cure is Page 27to be apply'd, because She is so certain and sure that She is well. Their lewd Doctrine of Transubstantiation, was not made an Article of Faith, till the Council of Lateran under Innocent the Third, above 1200 years after Christ, and many of their own Writers are still dissatisfied about it. The Title of Ʋniversal Bishop was obtain'd by Pope Boniface the Third, not till about 600 years after Christ, fearing a powerful Rival the Constantinopolitan Bishop, who affected the same, and therefore by the Popes themselves was declaim'd against, as Proud and Antichristian, but now by Hypocrisie and base complyance with the Wicked Phocas, who was Guilty of Treason, and Murder, against the Empe∣rour Mauritius, Rome gain'd the delicious point, and has made it a Fundamental Article of her new Religion: Though the Popes came not up to their Swaggering Temper and Power of Hectoring Christian Princes some hundreds of years afterwards. The Doctrine of Pur∣gatory, which some derive from the Platonick Fancies of Origen, the Montanism of Tertullian, pretended Visions, and Pagan Stories, Rhetorical Flourishes and doubtful expressions of the later Fathers, yet is was not positively affirm'd till about the year 1140. and not made an Article of Faith, till the Council of Trent, then indeed a good estate became a surer way to Hea∣ven, then then a good Life and Conversation. The use of Indulgences was the Moral to the Fable of Purgatory, and began to grow much what about the same time, though it came not to the height and perfection till Pope Leo the Tenths time, when Luther so stoutly op∣posed them, then Heaven was set to Sale, and the best Chap-Man was the greatest Saint, though they boast of the second Council of Nice for the Antiquity of their Image Worship. (And if it will do them any good so they may of Simon Magus, who was of an elder date, and a very fit Page 28Patron of such an Opinion) yet the Council of Frank∣furt condemn'd it, and the purest times did not so much as allow the making of Images. And it was not the Ca∣tholick Doctrine in France, for almost 900. years after Christ, nor in Germany till after the twelfth Century, then indeed such a Doctrin might be very proper, when true Religion was turn'd into Pageantry, and a form of God∣liness. The number of the seven Sacraments is now an Article of the Romish Faith, yet the Council of Flo∣rence ended in the year 1439. was the first Council, and Peter Lombard the first Man, that precisely fixt that number. That the Laity ought to receive the Sacra∣ment of the Lords Supper only in one kind was never made an Article of Faith till the Council of Constance concluded in the year 1418. then indeed that Council with the greatest insolence, and a direct Invasion of the Authority of Christ took the Cup from the Lay Mens mouths, notwithstanding (as 'twas then acknowledg'd) the Institution of Christ to the contrary, and they may as well Christen the Laicks Children only in the name of the Holy Ghost leaving out the Father and the Son by the way of concomitancy, it being as Lawful to Bap∣tize as to Communicate by the halfs. For what can∣not such a pretended Power do.
The prohibiting of Priests to Marry was not in per∣fection, as 'tis now, till Pope Gregory the Sevenths time. Let them tell us where 'tis said by Christ, or his Apostles, or any of the truly Ancient Writers of the Christian Church, that Pennance is a Sacrament, or that Auri∣cular Confession is necessary to Salvation, or that Prayers ought to be made in an unknown Tongue, or that good works are strictly meritorious, or where can they find they many Impieties and Absurdities of their Mass in those early times of Antiquity. And since they are fond of Page 29asking us this Question, we might ask them many more, about the many Fopperies and Innovations in their Faith and Devotion, and many they are, and large is the invn∣tory, almost as many as are the Christian Truths in direct opposition to them, or prevarication from them: But they seem to confess the newness of their Religion, when they arrogantly set up a Power in their Church, to frame new Articles of Faith, and many things, only Opinions and Notions at first, have grown up by de∣grees to Fundamental Truths, and having once slipt into error, they are bound to maintain it, for the Reputa∣tion and Authority of of Holy Church. And who knows how many of this Nature are upon the Romish forge, ready to be put into their Creed, and where must we end; not till it be believ'd, that consecrated Feathers and Holy Water, can conveigh Divine Grace to us, and drive away Wicked Spirits, and the Weathercocks of our Churches be thought Pillars of it. Would the Champions of Rome speak out, they would tell us, as their Eckius did the Duke of Bavaria, that the Doctrine of Luther might be overthrown by the Fathers, though not by the Scriptures; 'tis a plain confession that we have the truest Antiquity on our side, and in the beginning it was not so. But we add, that we have the Fathers also on our side, for otherwise what mean their Expurgatorian indices of the Fathers, and other Ancient Writers, but that they very well know, that these are old Enemies to Pope Pius's new Creed, and the Truth in them con∣founds their error. Such an account as this, about the Original and Progress of their new additions to the old Faith was convenient to be given, not because the Na∣ture of the thing did necessarily require it, for it had been sufficient only to have prov'd, that these Romish additions to the Christian Faith, are contrary to the Word of God, and no where to be found in any of the Page 30Divine Writings, the only Infallible Rule of Faith, and that they have no power of minting new Articles Fun∣damental to Salvation; but because the Disciples of Rome so frequently ask us the Question, and lay so much stress upon it,* if these are Innovations crept into their Church, who was the first Author of them, when did he begin, in whose Reign and in what place did he live, who did oppose him, what company believ'd on him, and what his new Opinions were, as they instance in Arianism and other Heresies, and because they Fan∣cy, we cannot make all these particulars so absolutely plain, therefore they say we have falsly charg'd the Romish Church with new errors, and that their Faith is truly Ancient and by an uninterrupted Succession of Infallible Bishops hath been conveigh'd down from Christ and his Apostles in its full purity to this present Age. To satisfy their curiosity, the defenders of the refor∣mation have done this, but suppose they could not have been so particular, about the birth of these new errors, or had made some mistakes in the compass of time, yet however the charge of Innovation against the Romish Church stands firm and good upon these accounts.
1. That Reformation carries not so much a respect to the error, when it began, as to the error it self. Not whether it be sooner, or later, but whether it be an error, contrary to the True Christian Faith. It may serve some honest purposes, to know, the who, and the when, the where, and the how, and other circum∣stances of its beginning, and proceeding, but the necessity of Reformation springs from the Nature of the error, which came from the Invention of Men, and not the Authority of Christ. And matters not much, whether Simon Magus, who was contemporary with the Apostles, was the first Author of it, or Pope Hildebrand at so Page 31great a distance. 'Tis enough, that we are certain, and sure, that the Popish Doctrins, which we condemn, by comparing them with the Scriptures, are not Christ and his Apostles, have none of their Images or Superscrip∣tions upon them, who only had full Authority to make them current, and True Articles of Faith. They have indeed Christianity among them, but like Josephs Coat, so dipt in Blood, so over-lac't with Fopperies, and un∣decent Ceremonies, and so many new pieces stitcht to the old Cloth, that the old Fathers, if alive, would scarce know it to be the True Joseph's, and would not trouble themselves so much, to ask the time, when this came to pass, as lament the sadness of the change. And the Apostles did not take so much care to tell the pun∣ctual time to the Disciples, when Antichrist should dis∣cover himself, as to make them stand vpon their guard to defend that Faith, which he would invade, where and whensoever he should come, or whosoever he was.
2. The difficulty of knowing the precise, and pun∣ctual times when errors first began. In many sorts of changes or Innovations, 'tis hard to know the nice time of their beginning, but some latitude of Judging is al∣low'd, and why not in things especially relating to Re∣ligion. Are there not wild Opinions left upon Record among the Pagan Writers, whose Authors are either unknown, or which are falsly Father'd upon others, and as hard to be known as the head of Nile. Can the nicest Romanist tell us, what Rabbi; and in what Place and Age, first superinduc't the several false glosses and senses to the Law of Moses, yet our Saviour (though he knew them well) thought it sufficient to tell them, that in the beginning it was not so, and by comparing the Mosaick Religion, it plainly appears they were new additions to the good old way. And how many errors Page 32sprung up in the times of Christianity, of whose original and other circumstances both the Romanists and our selves are yet uncertain. And how many things of this Nature more near our own times, are we puzled about, and the difficulty of knowing them ariseth principally from this twofold account.
1. From the subtilty of the contrivers of errors: Which many times are the cunning, and the Wise in their Gene∣ration, which the necessity of their cause requires; Truth being strong, and error naturally weak, and that Sly Deceiving Spirit lends it his utmost assistance to serve the design. Such Men know how to disguise new falshoods, in the old habits of Truth, to make them look Ancient, and Venerable, they feel, and know the temper of the Age, and fit their Opinions to the Interest and Pleasure of it. They prepare their errors to be received by degrees, and one part must draw on the other, and the whole must be insensibly swallow'd down. So it hapned in the Adoration and Invocation of Saints and Images, and the whole Structure of the Romish Religion, which by several steps and in many Ages advanc't to its mighty bulk. The cunning knew the consequences of their own positions, how far they would reach, which the Vulgar eye discern'd not; they well foresaw how their Hey and Stubble, variety of Phrases, and changes of Syllables, would at length fire the, Foundation of Religion, yet being invented at first by the Angelical Doctors, and leaders of an Age, for fame and reputation sake, they and their followers first defended them for bare Truths, afterwards for Sacred and Fundamental ones; and things at first only Piously believ'd, soon after have been adopted into a Creed. And Men of rashness and Superstition only great in Place and Office, have vented opinions whose fatal con∣clusions Page 33they at first, we hope, did not know, yet the Cunning many times have hatcht what they left, and improv'd in fatally to Religion; the greatness of the Man whether an Innocent or an Hildebrand gave the error its first reputation, and the cunning of others its Strength and Argument. Many of the great and know∣ing heads of the World being corrupted unto the Ro∣man side, to defend those errors, which had got foot∣ing in the Church. But how can we unlock the secret methods of Rome, or describe the ways and Policies by which the Mystery of Iniquity works? Yet we are sure it's carri'd on, by the windings and turnings of the Serpent, and Men that he imploys upon design to ruine truth, for when the Apostle describes the sad A∣postacies and Defections from the Faith,*they are said to be wrought by Men of Skill and Art who lye in wait to deceive.
2. From the Passions and Infirmities of other Men. These give the false and busy deceiver and easy Victory. When Opinions are so contriv'd as to serve the designs of Pride, and Covetousness, Ambition and Lust, and o∣ther Vices, they easily pass for mighty Truths, their Original is not enquir'd into, the Judgment is brid'd, and they bear the Title of Ancient and Primitive, or what the Deceiver pleaseth: For these Passions, have effeminated the mind, made it soft and sluggish, and any bold error shall slip down, rather than be at the charge of a further search and enquiry to know whether these things be so or no. The Roman Religion being so well cut out in its different Doctrines, to hit Mens Vices and Passions, Gayety or Melancholy, Enthusiasm or Fury, Power or Design, it's no wonder, it did pre∣vail in a sly and silent manner, interest having put out their Eyes, this Kingdom came not with observation, and the ap∣proaches of the Enemy in the Night of Ignorance, viz.Page 34the darkness that could be felt of the ninth, tenth, and eleventh, Century, when all good Learning and Man∣ners too were fast asleep, the time when many of the new Devices of Rome were hammering out, and the noise not heard, were not discover'd, till they had taken Possession, and then by virtue of Power and great Names defended their title. And their own Writers confess, that many of the great Guardians of Faith, the Popes of Rome, were very Vicious and Illiterate Per∣sons, whose Vice and Ignorance kept them nodding, while the little Thieves, the Notions, and Speculations of Men of Wit and Interest set open the Churches doors for the greater errors to come crowding in. Our Saviour confirms the Truth of this when he compares his Church to a Field,* which had been sown by him, and his Apostles, with very good seed, Wheat or some other Grain, but while Men slept, when Christians were grown Wicked and Careless, Ignorant or Factious comes the Enemy, and scatters the Tares, and a new Harvest of Weeds, Heretical Doctrines, Superstitious Practices, Foppish and Phantastick rites over-ran and choakt the purer Grain. And the Apostle tells his Dis∣ciples that Men of dangerous principles abusing the Grace of God,*speaking Evil of Dignities and despising Dominions, and denying Christ that bought them, had crept in una∣awares, being well disguiz'd with Fine Names and Pre∣tences, while good Men were careless and sleepy. And when most begin to broach new Errors, and spread their Inventions for mighty Truths, they do it with all the skill and artifice that so bad a design can possibly re∣quire. Error and Innovation necessarily calling for the utmost Cunning, and Slyness to its aid and assistance. Religion therefore may easily suffer a considerable change, yet good Men know not how, neither the time nor Authors of it.Page 35
It being therefore only absolutely necessary for us to know, that whensoever and howsoever, these errors in the Church first sprung up, that they were contra∣ry to the Primitive Faith of Christ and his Apostles, and therefore were to be amended and weeded up notwith∣standing the common question where was our Harvest of Wheat, before the Weeders, our Reformers came, for the Church of England finding old Christianity strange∣ly over-grown with the new Doctrines and Creeds of Rome, contrary to the Offices of Christ, the design of his undertaking for Mankind, and the True Spirit of his Religion, it became a Duty, as much as they lov'd their Souls, and would be True and Loyal unto Christ, to shake off these New and Sinful Impositions, and re∣store True and Primitive Christianity. Had our dif∣ferences with Rome consisted only in things, less fit, and proper, used by them in their Religious offices, or in Rituals or Gestures not so decent, they might have had some pretence to roar against us, for breaking off Communion with her, but when they Plow up the very Foundation, as one of her Pagan Captains did the Walls of Jerusalems Temple, and lay all waste be∣fore them, their new additions Eating out the very Heart of old Religion, to thunder out Damnation a∣gainst us, because we renounce her Communion in this, is to add Uncharitableness and other gross Vices to their former Sin, as though they could not preserve Christianity, but by defacing of it more. Our Prince being constituted by God a Nursing Father of the Church, and our Bishops in their Episcopal Power be∣ing coordinate with him of Rome, or any other in the Christian World, ought under the penalty of Dam∣nation, and did accordingly, Reform the Romish Cor∣ruptions, which had tainted the Vitals of Christiani∣ty an indispensable Duty it was to preserve the Primi∣tive Page 36Faith,*like a chast Virgin, and not suffer it to be longer prostituted to the Designs and Passions of Men by a Solemn Vow; and our Souls were at stake, we had engag'd to preserve it pure and undefil'd, and there∣fore with all just and proper ways and methods, we were bound earnestly to contend for it. In Duty therefore to our Lord and Masters Command, at such a time we began our reformation, but wish that it had been promoted and compleated many years before, though the same Question would have been as fitly asked then, or any other time, except they think that errors must be immortal, and the Gates of Heaven shall not pre∣vail against them. The Goodness and Wisdom of our Reformation, would be readily acknowledg'd and imitated, did not Fame and Ambition, Power and Secular Interest, infect the Eye, and change the Na∣tural shape and colour of things and 'tis a sign the cause of Rome wants strength, when such a trifling, only popular, Objection against our Reformation is made so powerful to preserve their Disciples in their Communion, and amuse our own. And we need say no more against it, but this, and 'tis no Roman Uncha∣ritableness and rigor. That if Rome notwithstanding all the clear evidence against her new and upstart opi∣nions, shall obstinately defend them, and contemn a Wise and Pious Reformation, let her suffer the just pu∣nishment of her wilful errors. He that will prefer an Old Disease, before a New Cure, let him be for ever Sick. For we have Healed Babylon and She was not Healed.