A Farewel to Popery: IN A LETTER TO Dr. NICHOLAS, VICE-CHANCELLOR of OXFORD, and WARDEN of NEW-COLLEGE, from W.H. M.D. lately Fellow of the same College.
SHEWING, The true Motives that with-drew him to the Romish Religion, and the reasons of his Re∣turn to the Church of England: Concluding with some short Reflections concerning the Great Duty of Charity.
Licensed, Jan. the 15th. 1679.
LONDON, Printed for Walter Kettilby, at the Bishops-Head in St. Pauls Church-yeard, 1679.
A FAREWEL to POPERY, IN A Letter to Dr. Nicholas, Vice Chancellor of Oxford, and Warden of New-College, from W.H. M.D. lately Fellow of the same Colledge, &c.
THOUGH I was not so happy to live under your Government, and thereby take so near a prospect of your Merit as my Fellow Col∣legiates have often told me they do; yet some of your worthy acts tending to the good of our Ʋniversity, and best establishment of Learning and Virtue together, have raised you Admirers, even where you may least imagine: And if I should here take occasion, or presume to speak of the Piety of your Life, the Solidness, of your Page 2Judgment, the Gravity of your Person, or your Pru∣dent Conduct in all particulars of your Government, I must quite lay aside my intended design, and write a Volum on purpose.
Therefore only Congratulating the discreet choice of your Ʋniversity and College, in a Person so fitted for the government of both, and desiring your favourable construction of what I write, shall endeavour to make them both some amends for the scandal I may perhaps have occasioned by my in∣discreet conduct in matters of Religion: Such as give a publick Scandal should do a publick Penance; and I'm contented to undergo it, as I am sure I must, in the Malicious censures of Roman-Catholicks; for 'tis very well worth the while to endure that, and much more for the discharge of a good Conscience, which is all I chiefly aim at in this matter, though indeed 'twill be a confortable addition too, that I shall be fully restored to the good Opinion of those, among whom I was first and best Prin∣cipled.
Nor can I at all doubt this last good effect, if I either consider the real Innocence of my actions, re∣lating to Religion, or the goodness and well-wishes that I have been often told my Fellow-Collegiates have all along exprest towards me.
My own Innocence will, I hope, sufficiently ap∣pear by giving the world a clear and true account of the first motives of my favouring the Popish way, my behaviour since I espoused their Cause, and what reasons have induced my judgment to fix again upon the old foundation: This I shall do with much sin∣cerityPage 3and candor, and shall speak the utmost truth according to the best of my memory, and the faith∣fulest information my own Conscience can give me.
'Twill seem very strange that too much Charity & Submission should happen to drive a man head-long into the most Ʋncharitable and Proudest Church in the World; and yet so it was with me. You know, Sir, that our College has had the fortune to retain greater and more lively Memorials of Popery in Statues and Pictures on the Gates, and in the Chap∣pel, than any other throughout the Ʋniversity. Those sights did often put me in mind of that Re∣ligion, and finding the best Divines of the Church of England unanimously agree that those Super∣stitions with many others, had prevailed over the World at least a thousand years before the Refor∣mation, it struck my heart with a great deal of Com∣passion, and made me often wish that Roman-Catho∣licks were in the right, and we in the wrong, that the more People might thereby be saved. This Charitable consideration did by degrees work further and further; but before ever I saw any one of that Perswasion, or read any one of their Books, I did long to be Convinced that they were in the right way, for the sake and general good of Man∣kind: So that by mere chance lighting upon a Popish Book in one of our Chambers, I opened it with all the hast and greediness in the world, and read it with as much joy as if I had found a Treasure beyond value. I was impatient to be drawn from the Book, either by Prayers, Meals, Visits, or any Page 4other accident: It over-joy'd me to find that they had some Arguments on their side; and by that time I had got half way in the Book, I turn'd a Zealous Champion for them, took their part vigo∣rously wheresoever I chanced on, or could make an occasion; and from that time was perfectly deaf to any thing that could be said against them, by the best wit of judgment that either College or Ʋniversity could oppose me with in private Con∣versation. Now that which amazes me some∣times, is, that I could possibly have such a ten∣dency of spirit, so strong an impulse on my affections, notwithstanding that I had not one Relation in the World, not one Friend or Acquaintance of that Per∣swasion I so strangely affected. And considering how innocently I was deluded, upon no worse Mo∣tive than too much Charity, I can promise my self the easier Reconcilement to all such as have been scandalized at me upon the account of Religion.
And as Charity had this influence upon me, so I hope I can in some sincerity say that a little Hu∣mility incident to my natural temper, made me think it Duty and Conscience to follow the guidance of those God had placed over us in matters of Re∣ligion: And for that reason was ever very Zealous for the Authority of the Church of England, so far that I thought any little breach of the Canons and Constitutions to be a kind of Sacrilege. This tem∣per made me the fitter to be workt upon by a Ro∣mish Book, called the The Guide in Controversies, especially the 5th, part being a Vindication of the Council of Trent. About this time I hapned to Page 5receive much encouragement to proceed in leaving my College, for sake of the Religion I was so wholly bent on, from the Discourses and Example of Mr. R. of Magdalen College, a most ingenious and honest Man, whom I can never but have a particular respect for, because I know he liad no manner of temporal motive to quit his All, besides the preserva∣tion of a good Conscience. He meant well, I really think, both to me, and in what else he gave of∣fence; therefore I shall never tax him unkindly for what he meant honestly, but wish him heartily well, though I imagine him to be gone beyond all reach of hopes of any return to the Church he was born in.
Whatever was the matter, 'tis very true that I was wound up to so high a Zeal in those days, that if I can now guess at, or remember the Con∣stitution then of my mind, I could have chosen to have beg'd my Bread, or undergone any manner of Afflictions in that Perswasion, rather than to have enjoyed the greatest plenty imaginable (the Empire of the World, I did not forbear frequently to say) continuing a Protestant.
And this Zeal made me extraordinary desirous of Travelling abroad, that I might the betten see the Church in its Glory, as well as in its truer colours. France was the place I soon fixt in, and I am very glad I did so, because I conceive the Gallican Church; to be the best Trincipled in Government, &c the most moderate of any that are Roman-Catholick. Jansenius an exemplary good Man, has there a great many followers, who stoutly maintain the cause of Vir∣tuePage 6and good Life, against the powerful contrivances of the Jesuits and their Faction. As for the spe∣culative points in difference between those that are called Jansenists and the Jesuits, I never concerned my self about them; only I observed the Jansenists to be Men heartily disposed to reform peoples lives to the antient discipline of the Church, and who thought nothing too much to work a real Conver∣sion of the soul to God in a virtuous good life; whereas I ever conceived the Jesuits to be the most subtle, slie, undermining Generation that ever I saw. I don't know what's the matter, but when∣ever I saw of Jesuite, me-thought I perceived ano∣ther sort of Man-kind different from the rest; they had a more Intriguing Countenance than others; whether it were their Habit that conduced to work in me this opinion, or what it was, I can't imagine; but so it was, that I often exprest my self to that purpose, even among R. Catholicks.
In those years I spent at Paris, I must confess I had no scruples in Religion, but went on and did as my Neighbours did, in those matters, wholly bend∣ing my mind to Improvement in Physick, with all the industry and application I was capable.
The Roman Religion has the greatest Charm, of any thing in Nature; 'twill soon cause a more than Stoical insensibility upon the Conscience; and though it were never so squeamish, troublesome, or scru∣pulous before, 'twill now turn proof against all fu∣ture doubts, and never suspect it self in the least, let things be in themselves never so Ridiculous or Ʋnreasonable. This I have nearly observed, both Page 7in my self and others, and there's very good rea∣son for it: For when men have wholly shut the eyes of their understanding, and leave themselves to be conducted by others they repose an absolute Confidence in, they go on boldly and blindly, and consider no further whether they are in the r•ght or wrong way to Heaven. And again, if we con∣sider the propensity of Mans Nature to impose up∣on others, when they have an absolute indisputable Power, we may fairly presume that these Ʋncon∣troulable Guides will be apt to lead where their own Interest draws them. And indeed the Roman Church has always had so constant diligent an Eye upon their own beloved secular Interest, that they have made the whole Christian Religion, in every parti∣cular almost, as subservient as the Wit of Man can invent, to this great End, their Diana above all o∣thers. Now we should certainly suspect the judg∣ment and advice of any private Person in the ma∣nagement of an affair, if we perceived this tem∣per to prevail; and why may we not with the same reason suspect it in so great, though publick a concern? May not a knot of People of the same Gang, the same Interest and Measures, met in in a Ge∣neral Council, have the same Consideration for their own advantage, as we always observe in lesser Communities or Societies? If every Member of these larger Assemblies were of this or that Opinion before they met, that is to say, of such as dear Interest guided them, we can expect no more from their conferring Notes together, but a Confirmation of what they held, were resolved to hold before.Page 8
Now de facto that the Church of Rome has noto∣riously steered their determinations in Councils ac∣cording to this Principle, may be seen with half an eye by any Intelligent person, who shall either weigh the Controversies in debate between them and Protestants, or consider the History and Passages of former times. Man's Infallibility was very ingeni∣ously contrived to supersede all such disquisitions, but God be thanked, no Barbarous Inquisition does here hinder us from a free exercise of our Reason, nor stupid voluntary blindness disenable us from discerning Light from Darkness.
If it may be good Logick to make an Induction of a general Temper from that of Particulars; our English Priests will serve to give us a very good instance of their worldly Inclinations. I have heard one of themselves (one of the best Priests, and best Men, I had the fortune to meet among them, and no less than Dr. of Divinity) seriously tell me he had frequent∣ly observ'd, that he never in all his life knew a Religious Man, who was once become a Missioner hither, and had here exchang'd his Religious into a Secular Life, but he fell so much in love with it, that he thought it Death and Misery to return a∣gain to his Monastery. 'Twas my fortune to Dine with one good Father Jesuite, the day before he was bound for St. Omers, by Command of his Supe∣riors; and poor Man, it pitied me to see him look so ghastly, as if he wanted a Physician both for Soul and Body; the World, the Flesh, &c. it seems, had got too great a dominion over his Spiritual Intentions that he had, when he made his Rash Vows.Page 9I have known some of them as Critical in their Crevat-string and Perimigg, and examine themselves by the Glass with as much care, as a Fop that's late∣ly arriv'd from France, who's grown so vain by his Travels, as to think all the Ladies in love with him. Particularly one Man I can't but take notice of; he is no less than an English Dr. of the Sorbon; he was a very hopeful ingenious Man while he liv'd in his Monastery at Paris, but being lately sent to breath fresh secular air, I met him several times in the Streets, and other places, and he was so great an Admirer of his Sword and Periwigg, and turn'd so true a Sr. Fopling, that I could hardly know him again; a stranger Metamorphosis is seldom found in Ovid. Now when such people as these (so Spiritu∣ally disposed!) are summon'd to meet in a general Council, there's mighty hopes of an Accommodation and Christian management in Doctrins which relate to temporal interest.
And now I am speaking concerning 'em, I shall venture to give you my opinion as to their Learning and Capacity: I did expect indeed to have met with Men as Ʋniversally Learned as they would fan∣cy themselves Catholick; but really they seem to me to be generally a very illiterate and weak people. Illiterate, I mean, as to any true solid Learning, the knowledge of History, Mathematicks, or Nature. So ignorant they are in those substantical knowledges, that I seldom met with any one of 'em who so much as pretended to things of that nature. But we must except the Jesuits, whose general Learning, and most politick Arts have renderd them more conside∣rable Page 10to the See of Rome, and formidable to Princes and great Families, than all other Orders put toge∣ther. They know how to be usesful in other things besides hearing Confessions; nor do they value them∣selves mainly for skill in chopping of Logick, as o∣ther little Priests will do. But one thing I can never forgive any of them, and that is their fond Opinion of their own way of Education, in so much that they cannot be perswaded that a truly learned Man can come out of our Ʋniversities, though at this day there's not a Man among 'em but one, that has writ sense in defence of their Religion, besides such as they have had from us. The Author of the Guide in Cantroversies is no doubt an Oxonian, and so was good Mr. Cressy, whom though dead, I shall ever honour; Dr. Godden and Mr. Serjeant were of Cambridge: And who else have they now to brag of, besides Canes the Jesuite, who is able to talk and write Coherently and Sophistically of any side.
But 'tis time to take my leave of them, and go on with my first intention. The first Book that Alarum'd me out of the Lethargy I liv'd in, was put forth by Dr. Stillingfleet, called The Jesuites Loialty, which pull'd off the Vizard they generally wore. The R. Catholick Gentlemen did always profess as much as I could hear, good Principles of Loyalty, and would often venture to maintain full as much as is contained in the Oath of Allegiance. And this made several Heads of the Jesuitical Society fall to work with their Pen, to hinder the effects, as much as they were able, of such prevailing Princi∣plesPage 11For you may be assur'd the good Fathers, who writ those discourses, as well as the rest of their Tribe, make little or no distinction between those that are called Hereticks, and those that are not truly Jesuitical: They think, or would perswade us, that the Temporal Interest of Rome, and their Party is of as much concern to mens Salvation, as the Do∣ctrinal part of Christianity. For my part, my na∣ture ever abhor'd the dismal Consequences that must ensue from the Pope, or Church-mens invasion of Temporal Power. Give unto Caesar the things that are Caesars, and unto God the things that are Gods, is very good Scripture, and plain sense, let the Jesuits comment as they please. The Priest does well in the Church, and executes an Office that deserves Reverence from all who pretend to honour God; but in the politick Capacity, or at the temporal Tribunal, Gods grace is apt to leave him, and he becomes the most unmerciful Man that can be approached. This is too too evident in the Conduct of the Bishop of Rome, his Legates, or other Court Officers, who have certainly done the Life of Christianity more harm by their Tyranny, than can be made amends by all the benefits of Ʋnity, or other pretended considera∣tion why they ought to execute such Power.
Is it possible to imagine that Christianity, which was taught with such plainess and simplicity at first, by plain, harmless, illiterate, innocent Men, should now necessarily want all the art & intrigue, all the cunning devices and politick impostures that the most subtle Learning and working brains of Men is able to invent! Was Learning and Policy in the ApostlesPage 12time so insignificant and useless to the propagation of Religion; and must they now be the only prop for its Continuance? Certainly we may suspect the Pri∣mitive spirit of Religion to be much changed, when such contrary methods are now practised. And this reflection has made me much undervalue all the pains of the School-men, and sometimes think that Seneca and Cicero will be found to deserve better in the other world than they, when the works of all Men shall come to be tried. Virtue and good Life will have a different lustre from that of Amusements and Speculations, and the practical Commandments of God will far out-dazle all the false lights of little Questions and Disputations. Much Knowledge will then serve only to enhance the guilt of our neglects to God, and we shall wish much rather to have been Doers than Inquirers of his Will. Alas what general Defections from Virtue must the world expect, and how great ones must it needs feel, when the great∣est part of Church men, who teach us Christ, are much more concerned to advance their own Grandeur and Luxury, than the real good of souls, when they altogether study this world instead of the other.
But here I would not be understood to condemn humane Learning; if we will but joyn the seeming foolishness, the simplicity of the Gospel to our Book-acquisitions, we shall do no harm to either: Learn∣ing will then serve to convince us the better of our own Ignorance in most things, and not puff us up with empty swelling conceits, and we shall not despise our Fellow-creatures, because better acquain∣ted with Notions and Languages.Page 13
This Digression I hope may be excusable, if right∣ly understood even by Scholars as well as others, and I shall now return to my former subject, the exorbitant power that Popes have gotten into their hands by their subtle Policies, and the assistence of sawning Parasites; whether it is consistant with our Blessed Saviours Declaration, that his King∣dom is not of this World, may easily be judged. But I have often admired how Emperors and Monarchs came first to part with their Birth-right, and bow their Scepters down before an Ambitious Prelate. I conceive they might have been wrought upon, some through Zeal and Weakness, and others through Fear and Terror. The Pope had every where his cunning spies in the Courts of Princes, his Wolves in Sheeps Cloathing, to acquaint him with his best advantages, and direct him where he might make the most prosperous Invasions, and easiest Accesses to Princely Power.
The Doctrine of Deposing Kings, and Absolving Subjects from their Allegiance, for Heresie, or any thing else, it matters not much; for they will call Heresie what they please, as they do call Hereticks whom they please; this Doctrine I say, is equally senseless as prodigious. 'Twill appear sufficiently Senseless and Irrational, if Men will but consider that they are Christians as well as Papists, and are obliged to follow Christ as well as the Pope. Our Saviour gave us the most perfect example that Chri∣stians can pretend to imitate. How did he earnest∣ly avoid all Temporal Power, that his Disciples would even then by their good will have been nib∣ling Page 14at? What pains did he take to Spiritualize their Conceptions? The Jews did expect indeed the Messias's Kingdom to be of this World, and that he would govern in pomp and greatness; but how we should come to think so of him or his followers, I can't possibly understand; we who own to believe that he was born in a Stable, a poor Carpenters Son, that had seldom stock enough by him to provide for the morrow. When God was pleased to humble himself in this manner, and after suffering all the Indignities this world was able to bestow, did choose to conclude his most Innocent Life with the Ignominious Death upon the Cross; can we think he designed that any under pretence of being his Vicar, should presently hoise above all that is call∣ed God, and enlarge their Scepter from Rome to the uttermost parts of the world?
How Prodigious this Doctrine must have been too in its effects? How it hath made Christian Princes and the World to tremble, our Nation is now grown sufficiently sensible from the frequent Tra∣gedies that have been acted, or designed to be acted upon our own Theater without enumerating the many Forreign instances which might be pro∣duced.
That the Pope and Church of Rome have proudly arrogated such intolerable Power over all Princes that come within their reach, all such as desire, or are capable of being satisfied concerning it, may have recourse to a Letter writ lately on the discovery of this Plot, wherein this subject is most solidly and fully, as well as briefly handled by a most excellent Page 15Pen; they may also consider those three Treatises formerly mentioned, called The Jesuites Loyalty. And yet notwithstanding that this charge is as evident as the Sun, 'tis pleasant, shall I say, or wonderful to consider, that many good well-meaning Popish Women, as well as deaf and blind Gentlemen, will not yet be perswaded that the Church is guilty of any such Doctrine; no, seeing it, they will not see, and knowing it, they will not understand. The Infallible Guide must not, cannot be suspected of doing any harm; and the Director of the Conscience shall presently settle any such scruple with a little of his Art, either by flatly denying it, or softning it, or turning the charge into Ridicule.
And from this Consideration I shall take occa∣sion to urge one most invincible Argument, or De∣monstration rather, against the Pretended Infallibility of the Romish Church. 'Tis this:
That Church which teaches Doctrines that destroy Morality, may be fairly suspected, (nay, necessarily concluded) to teach Errors in matters of Faith.
But the Church of Rome has taught Doctrines that destroy Morality.
Therefore it may be concluded to teach Errors in matters of Faith.
The Major has as much evidence as Reason can possibly desire. For supposing any Man, or Men, guilty of notorious Vices, and exhorting us to the same Vices, can the reason of a Christian think such a Man, or Men infallible in their Councils in a small affair, so as to repose absolute Confidence in him, or Page 16them, much less in the greatest concern of this life, the eternal concern of Heaven? especially if we consider that Christian Religion all along the Gospel, and the rest of the holy Scriptures, does ad∣vance Morality, and put the greatest esteem upon it, of any Religion in the World. Besides the Do∣ctrines of Self-denial therein urged further than any Philosophers ever thought fit; it teaches us to love our Neighbours as our selves, to live Peaceably with all men, to forgive and do good to our very Enemies, and recom∣mends Love and Charity so often, and so earnestly, as if the rest of Religion, Faith in Christ, &c. were things that needed not being exhorted to, they would so necessarily follow by the secret workings of Gods grace, where so Loving and Good a Disposition takes place in the heart.
Now the Minor Proposition, that the Church of Rome has taught Doctrines which destroy Morality, will easily enough appear, if the arrogant allow∣ance of a Proud Prelate to dispose of Kingdoms that don't belong to him, to Prosecute with Fire and Sword all such poor innocent Souls as refuse to sub∣mit their necks to his heavy yoke, to Murder and Assassinate such Kings or Persons as resist his dread∣ful Invasions, which he calls Spiritual, though dia∣metrically opposite to the spirit of the Gospel, the spirit of Meekness and Charity, the spirit of Long-suffering and Peace: In a word, if the allowance of doing Evil that Good may come of it, doing any thing cruel or barbarous for the promotion of Religion, be Doctrines that destroy Morality, as most certainly they are; nay, and if those Co•neils which did im∣mediately, Page 17and that often, soon follow the perpe∣tration of such Villanies, were so far from de∣testing the facts, that they rather confirmed and en∣couraged the Pope in them, at least never mutter'd (good Men!) at what his Holiness had done; then the Assumption of this Argument holds good.
Now as for the Promises in Scripture, which the Church of Rome proudly applies to it self for its Infallibility, as concerning God's being with his Church to the end of the world, &c. I can see no reason why that Church should think it belongs to them more than others. It is because that Church has escaped those De∣vastations and Judgments which the others have so severly felt? They have the greater reason to suspect themselves for that; for God's People, the Israelites, did always fall from the true Worship of the Lord, and bow'd down to the false Gods of the Gentiles, when they flourished most in Prosperity, and God was pleased to think that nothing would reclaim 'em but fearful Jugdments, such as Plagues, War, Famine, and somtimes Captivities for many years: And still upon their return to him, he de∣liver'd them out of all their Afflictions. But there and sufficient natural reasons why Italy has less felt the Sword and Power of Foreign Enemies than the other Churches. Its Situation defends them from Enemies aboard; they have the Ocean on one side, the Alps on another, and Friends to sustain the brunt on all parts, by Land: And besides, the same reason will plead better for Mahomets Suc∣cessors, as every Age growing more and more Victo∣rious, whereas the Empire of the Prelate of Rome has considerably decreased.Page 18
Again, That Promise before-mentioned was not made to St. Peter alone, but to all the Apostles, so that the other Bishops of Apostolical Sees should have de∣riv'd the same Infallible spirit to their Successors, as the Bishop of Rome insolently claims to him and his Church.
But that other Promise, Thou art Peter, and upon this Rock I will build my Church, makes the Romanists scorn the rest of the World, and look upon them∣selves as the only Chosen of God. St. Peter certainly was a great Apostle, Converted many Countries, and had the honour to be named first in the Cata∣logue of the Apostles, and so had Priority of Order, though in another place he is not numbred for the first, Gal. 2.9. But surely if this great Apostle had had a Superior jurisdiction over the rest, St. Paul would have been more modest than to have so se∣verely Rebuked him to his Face, as he did, Gal. 2.11. for a shrewd miscarriage in his charge, making the Christian Gentiles to Judaize. And St. Paul was so far from encroaching on the Power of St. Peter, that he thought himself unworthy of the great Name of an Apostle, 1 Cor. 15.9. was so Good, that he could have been contented to have been an Anatheina, or Accursed for ever, for the sake and happiness of his Brethren the Jews, Rom. 9.3. Besides, St. Peter was more likely to have chosen Antioch for the Seat of his Successors, as being the place where he liv'd most part of his Life, and ex∣ercised his Episcopal Charge with honour, benefit, and safety, rather than Rome, where it is certain he could be but a little while, and many with good Page 19reason doubt whether ever he was there or no; where likewise he was so far from being welcome, that it is said he was there very unkindly received, and after much opposition, Crucified most cruelly.
He that will needs have a Church to be Infallible, I would desire him to consider the condition of the Israelites, the Chosen People of God, who were brought out of Aegypt with such a mighty Hand, so great an attendanee of Miracles and Favours. One would think certainly, if it were in the Na∣ture of Man not to go astray, if any were capable of Worshipping the True God as they should do, these should have been the Men above all others. And yet, though they had a Cloud by day, and a Pillar of Fire by night to guide them all along; though the Glory of God did often fill the Tabernacle in the sight of them all; nay, though they were fed with Mi∣racles, Manna and Quails, and Fountains ran out of dry Rocks, yet these same People would be conti∣nually falling from their Duty, they would be long∣ing after Aegypt, nay and making Gods to go before them; they were not only guilty of the highest Immoralities, and Murmurings at their good God up∣on every trivial account, but were contented ab∣solutely to forsake him, and fall into gross Idolatry. If after all this, so sad a manifestation of the proneness of poor Man-kind to Sin and Error, In∣fallibility can still glibly go down to a considering Man, I shall more wonder at him, than have any thing to say to him.
Nay, if Men can be supposed to have so clear and undoubted understanding in Spiritual Truths,Page 20how comes it to pass that all Natural things lie so his and intricate to the conceptions of the wisest Men. A little Knowledge indeed will puff up, and be apt to perswade People that they know a great deal, but a significant Progress will have a con∣trary effect, and make them humbly acknowledge they know very little, if any thing at all. The na∣ture of light and colours, the plainest things of any, remain so obscure and unintelligible, that they still occasion new Hypotheses, and perhaps will do so to the end of the World.
To speak one word with Submission to my own Faculty; What certain infallible Methods has Physick yet attain'd to? 'tis much to be doubted whether Beasts by the Instinct of Nature (so much underva∣lued by our Opiniative Reason) do not Cure them∣selves of most distempers much sooner and safer than fanciful Men can yet do with all their Art and so much glorifi'd Reason. Besides the Cure of Agues, brought now to a kind of absolute certainty by some rightly Educated real Physicians, to my certain know∣ledge, as well, if not better than by the much Cele∣brated, though Illegitimate Son of this Art, what truly specifical Cures can Physicians yet boast of? The cause of this slow advancement, I take to be, that Men will impute the failures of their Remedies and Methods, rather to Nature than their own Con∣duct. Let never so many men dye unhappily of such or such a distemper, long-practising Physicians will never suspect themselves, but think all was done by them as well as it might have been done. whereas, if they took their Indications from what Page 21does sensible good or ill, and from judicious observa∣tions did all their might to correct the failures of their Practice, and would but once impute these failures to their own ignorance, and want of sufficient skill, there seems to me to be hopes God would then bless their endeavours for the Body, as he does hum∣ble Divines on behalf of the Soul. The gift of Healing was once the gift of God, as all good things most certainly are still; and if Men would some∣times look up to the Fountain of all Goodness, as as well as into Books, we might then expect to find Learned Ingenious Physicians do as much, if not more than mean ignorant People, and weak Women are often found to do.
But there are, God be thanked, some Physicians among us, who have pleased to be of this Christian Opinion, and do work no few real Cures in the most dangerous Distempers by mild and innocent ways, such as will at last be acknowledged most agreeable to Nature, when truth and moderation shall have gainst the Victory over Envy and Passion.
One word more, and I pass from this subject. The Fathers of the 4th. General Council had no such deference then for the Bishop of Rome, as he now claims for his inherent right. They did give the Bishop of Rome, Can. 28. Aequalia Privilegia, equal, or the very same privileges as they did to the Bishop of Constantinople. Their reason they said was, Quod •rbs illa imperare•, because that was the Imperial Seat; the Empire was then divided, and Old Rome was the Seat of the Western Empire, as New Rome, or Constantinople was the Imperial Seat of the East. It Page 22was not for any derivation from St. Peter, but in honour of the Emperour, that they were pleased to allow him equal privileges. And this they did not lightly, irregularly, or Uncanonically, but jure, they said they did it justly, what they ought to do, and no more. Then again, the Legates of the Ro∣man Bishop had no Authority allowed them to speak any thing in the Council, no more than the rest, without leave first granted them from the Emperors Officers, who sate there in his place and stead. The Legates of Pope Leo spake to him thus, Si Imperat Magnificentia vestra, habemus quoedam referre vobis. Gloriosissimi judices dixerunt, Quod vultis edicite. If your Highness will give us leave, commands us to speak, we have somthing to say to you. The most noble Judges, answered, Speak what you please. Now whether the World is not strangely changed since those Primi∣tive days, whether the Popes Supremacy over Empe∣rors, Kings, and that very Bishop of Constantinople be right and just, and whether his calling all Schisma∣ticks, If not Hereticks, that will not own his Uni∣versal-spreading Supremacy, ought to frighten and scare people, I leave you and all Men calmly to judge.
And now to return again to the more immediate design of this Letter, which is not intended to be an angry Child of Controversie, but mildly and truly to give an Historical account for my self, and some of my own thoughts, which shook and chill'd my Roman Zeal a good considerable time before the late Hellish devices made every innocent soul to tremble.Page 23
The first was a strange and proposterous influ∣ence that Religion has on all its Proselytes, wholly to neglect, if not slight the holy Scriptures. Let a Man have used himself never so much to the reading that Holy Book, and let him have received never so much sensible edification from it, yet as soon as ever he embraces that Religion, he presently throws the Book out of his hands, easily parts with it as a thing altogether useless to any body that will but receive it, and entirely delivers himself up to the conduct of humane Traditions. No future Curiosity shall draw him to read in it, nor Arguments taken from it, make the least significant impression. Now 'tis a most wonderful consideration to me, how those who profess the Doctrine of the Gospel, and think the Scriptures Pen'd by the Spirit of God, should presently lose all deference to Gods Word, and mind it as little as some idle tale.
The Fathers of the Church were of a very different temper. St. Chrysostom Homil. 9. in Epist. ad Coloss. speaks thus, Audite omnes saeculares, comparate vobis Biblia, si nihil aliud vultis, vel Novum Testamentum acquirite, Apostolorum Acta, Evangelia, &c. Hearken to me all you of the Laity, provide your selves Bibles every one of you, and if you can't reach to procure the whole Bible, get the New Testament at least, the Acts of the Apostles, the Evangelists, &c. for we must remember that such large Manuscripts as were the whole Bible, were too dear to be purchased by every body, before Printing was found out. There are abundance of Exhortations in St. Chry∣sostom to the same purpose, which Bellarmine, as Page 24great a wit as he was, gives but a very poor Childish answer to.
Another thing made me seriously reflect, and that was the fruitless Devotions that are generally practised in that Church. Men shall instead of Pray∣ing, spend their time in tossing a string of Beads, and mumbling they consider not what, a Devotion fitter for Children to sport with, than Men to Pray with. 'Twas a most excellent contrivance to make People think they were saying their Prayers, when as they were doing nothing; for the Beads are of such singular use, that you may gape and stare about as much as you please, while you say 'em; you may talk between whiles, walk about the Streets, think on what you will, and mind what you will, and still go on with your tale of Prayers: And yet notwithstanding the impertinency of these Knick-knacks, they are celebrated by the Church, as a most extraordinary Devotion. When the Rosary is to be said, that is, these Beads told over in the Church, you must kneel down, or else be accounted a Heretick: For you must understand the Services of our Lady, as this, our Ladies Litany, and the Salve Regina, require much more Reverence, and more necessary Obeysance than any Services of our Lord God. At Prayers to our Lord, you may ei∣ther sit, stand, or be as careless as you please, but at Prayers to our Lady, you must learn better man∣ners, and fall on your Knees, though 'tis never so painful to you to kneel. Blessed Soul! she does not require these things at our hands; she was humble and meek when she was upon Earth, and is Page 25not to be doubted of the same temper now in Hea∣ven. God was then her Saviour as well as ours, but now she must be Immaculate and free from Origi∣nal sin, and be supposed to have had no need at all of the Saviour her good spirit did then rejoyce in. But 'tis natural to Men to flatter Ladies, and some must be excused if they do Romance on their account. Hence it was she came to be Queen of Heaven, Queen of Angels and all Saints, the hope and refuge of Sin∣ners, &c. and is represented with Crowns and Glory, whereas her Son must never be suffered to grow big∣ger than a Baby in her arms, to shew his filial sub∣jection to her, though the Scripture mentions not any thing that our Saviour said to her, or of her in his whole life-time, without something as it were on purpose to restrain Men from that Super∣stition which does now so prevail in the Roman Church.
Again, to enervate quite the very design of true Devotion, they have found another way to amuse people with, by instructing them to say their Prayers in Latin, which they don't understand. Women forsooth shall venture to say our Ladys Office in Latin; one would think it were on purpose that their Prayers might not be a whit beneficial to their Souls, but they say 'tis in Reverence to the Church, which does all in Latin, which Baptizes, nay Mar∣ries in Latin, and plights those Sacred Tyes between ignorant people with a Volo, promising they know not what or how. And is it not a wise business, that because the Priest sings his Part in Latin, every ignorant Sot must needs be chirping the same tune, Page 26in the same (unknown) language? This puts me in mind of a story in my own knowledge: A cer∣tain Gentlewoman goes to Confession to Somerset-House, there eases her mind in a great many mat∣ters to the Fryer that understood English Confessions; when she had done her story, the good Father sets her for her Pennance to say our Ladies Office in Latin every day for a year together; a very severe task indeed, 'twould have been even for a Nun that had little else to do. A Priest of my acquaintance, from whose own mouth I had this Relation, gives this Lady a Visit the next day by chance, and finds her full of tears and trouble: He enquires into the Cause (for they love dearly to know the Secrets of Families, and to be a medling where they can) and after a few reluctancies were conquer'd, she dis∣cover'd to him her grief, that she had such a Pen∣nance set her as 'twas impossible for her to perform, for she was not Learned enough to understand a word of Latin. He presently Counselled her to make the same Confession to him, and she should have no such reason to be troubled (for if a Person dislike his Pennance, he may lawfully have a new one set him, if he will make the same Confession a∣gain to another Priest). She (good Lady) was very loth to do that, for it seems 'twas no small mat∣ter she had confest, and was therefore unwilling to uncover her sores again. Upon that, he takes his leave, and she blubber'd it out that night; but the next morning upon second thoughts grew wiser, and came to him with tears and courage together: She then fell upon her Knees, and out Page 27came the grievous things she had committed, and this Indulgent Priest was so favourable as to order her only to say the Penitential Psalms once over in English, and the Lady became as merry as a Cricket again.
Hence you see what a mighty stress lies upon Prayers in Latin, in the opinion of those senseless Men, who never saw any thing of the World out of a Monastery, and what wise States-men they're like to prove, when they meddle with publick af∣fairs. This other was a secular Priest, a Man of a good capacity and judgment, and I have seldom met with a more understanding Man of his Coat.
A few years agoe there was Printed an excellent Book of Devotion, called Devotion by way of Offices; a Book so full of the Divine Spirit, solid sense, and good English, that I can hardly remember to have seen the like, unless it be the 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 of our late Incomparable Soveraign. 'Twas a work so free from exception, that paring a way the Ave Mary, a Hymn to our Lady at the conclusion of the Office, and very little or nothing more, it might serve as well for the use of Protestants as Papists. 'Twas writ by a Lay-Gentleman, a man of a most exemplary life, and so ingenious, that all who knew him, or heard of him, or had any inward respect for true Learn∣ing or Virtue, coveted his acquaintance so far, that they made his House the Center of all their meetings. And yet the Jesuits will not bestow one kind word on this Man, or Book. The Gentle∣man they condemn for a Blackloist, that is as they Page 28will have it, a worse Heretick than a Protestant, though he declar'd himself with never so much submission to the Catholick Church. The Book they disswade all People from using, for no manner of reason, but because it is not stufft with those Lita∣nies, and Prayers to Saints the Manual abounds with, or that it will do their souls too much real good, or because it was written by a Lay-man no ways Jesuited.
There's one thing more I can't but observe. And that is, that all the Convents of Nuns, let them be never so Ignorant, must be forc'd to say and sing the Office of the Church in Latin, for Morning and E∣vening Prayers, and the other Canonical hours. So it seems they separate themselves from the World to a good purpose, and must needs make strange ad∣vancements in Devotion to God, when they thus spend their time at Church, and in numbring long Catalogues of Ave Maries. 'Tis much, if they don't repent their first Zeal, when they have liv'd long enough there to grow sober, and consider.
True Devotion consists in those means that raise the heart to the love of God above all things, and which conduce to make us live Honestly and Chari∣tably with all Men, and not in a toothless Lip service, where the heart is not, cannot be concern'd.
A third thing that must touch sensibly upon the Conscience of any one that was ever a Protestant, is the Prayers to Saints, and especially those continual Supplications that are made in the highest manner to the Ever-blessed Virgin. He may indeed comply a little, following the general rule of Believing as the Page 29Church Believes, and practising as the Church practises, but he can never force out of his mind his depen∣dence on God Almighty, and heartily quit his natural refuge to God to make Applications to this or that Saint.
The Worship of Images, so flat against the 2d. Com∣mandment, and the putting out the 2d. Command∣ment so plain against the Worship of Images; the A∣doration of Reliques, Agnus Dei's, and other Consecrated Bawbles will make the Conscience of a Protestant grum∣ble somtimes, let him do what he will, and declare himself never so much for that Church. Concern∣ing Reliques I observed, that when they were ex∣posed on great days to the view of all comers, there was a Priest to gard'em, who would take it very unkindly, if any body presumed to kiss the Case they were kept in, without depositing some Mite into the Dish just by. So that poor People must only look on, and devoutly admire the Re∣liques and the rich Case together, without pro∣faning it with an empty, too near an approach. And again, some Images and Altars have a much greater virtue in 'em than others. His Holiness has bestowed most liberal Indulgences to some above others, that is, he has favoured more particularly such or such a Monastery, and granted them a means to make Fools stocks thither more abundantly, and confer their Charity with a freer hand to the dispo∣sal of a pack of Covetous Insatiable Wretches.
Now 'tis most certain and plain that the Worship of God without an Image is lawful beyond dispute; with an Image 'tis dangerous at least, to say no worse. Page 30To Pray to the God that made us, is safe beyond scruple: Prayers to Saints may make God Jealous of his Honour. To say such Prayers as affect the heart, cannot but be very acceptable to him, but a dry insipid Lip-service ought much to be suspected. To Receive the Blessed-Sacrament as our Saviour did him∣self Institute it, cannot but he effectual to a soul du∣ly prepared: but the mincing this great Sacrament, the taking it by halfs is not what he intended, if we will follow his own example, or believe his own words. In a word, to believe the three Creeds, the foundation of Christianity, and imitate the Primi∣tive the best & purest times, is very rational for a good Christian; but to take in all the idle Superstructures that Politick, or Zealous, or Ignorant Men have since raised, either for self-ends, or through weakness, or the wilfulness of Opiniators, gives too great a Latitude to the Enemy of Man-kind, who watches all opportunities to withdraw us from our duty.
'Tis not the Title and Name of Catholick, which Roman Catholicks do so uncharitably appropriate to themselves, that should frighten us into a better opinion of them than they deserve. I know not why an English Catholick should not sound full as well as a Roman Catholick; but in their sense 'tis a meer Solecism, as much as a Particular-general. 'Tis not the Name, but the Thing that must do our business hereafter. And a most uncharitable exclusion of all Man-kind from Salvation, besides those that are Cross'd with that Title on their Fore-heads, will help but little to forward our future happiness, let Zealous fiery Priests urge it till their hearts ake. Page 31But that nobody may be scar'd from doing their duty in England, upon the consideration that no Salvation can be had out of the Roman Catholick Church, I shall here declare, that I have often talkt with some of the most judicious and knowing Priests among them concerning this point, and they have seriously agreed with me, that neither they nor the Church do think so Ʋncharitably. Paltry Priests will say so to frighten Women, and weak persons, but they do not, cannot in their Conscience think so, if they have but the least grain of wit.
I could add a great many other things to those already said, though for several years I have not so much as lookt into any Book of Controversie, having had somthing else to do, and being per∣suaded that Controversie is the Mother of far more Harm than Good, as turning Practical Religion out of doors, and spending the true spirit of Religion in talk and noise, which rather consists in Peace and Action. But I must remember I am writing a Letter, not a Treatise; Do to others as you would be done unto, is a greater and more substantial part of Christi∣anity than we are commonly aware. And he that would take a few words to guide his life by, let him remember now and then what S. Paul teaches him in the 5th. Chapt. to the Galatians, where he reckons up what are the fruits of the Flesh, and what the fruits of the Spirit. These latter he says are Love, Joy, Peace, Long-suffering, Gentleness, Good∣ness, Faith, Meekness, Temperance, against such there is no Law. What a chain of kind, soft, tender words does he here put together, as if Good-naturePage 32were all in all, and our Religion required no other qualification to make the best sort of Christian, And doubtless if this be true, that Opinion which ren∣ders men Morose, Harsh, Ʋnkind, Ʋncharitable, Con∣tentious, or Cruel, springs not from the Spirit of God, but some evil Spirit.
But above all things Charity is the Lesson that Christians are obliged to practise heartily; so ne∣cessary 'tis thought in the Holy Scriptures, that there are infinite repetitions exhorting us to it; and so useful the Meditation of it seems to me, that I shall venture to adjoyn some thoughts on this subject, though it be a little besides my main in∣tention.
Charity is almost the whole Duty of Man, and he that performs this duty as he should do, needs little to be remembred of his duty to God. Thou shalt love thy Neighbour as thy self, is so comprehen∣sive a Precept, and does so fully contain all that can be said, that nothing but the Spirit of God could have sum'd up the Law in so few words.
Charity does respect both our Opinions and our Actions. Our Opinions or Censures ought to be go∣vern'd always by it, or else they'l be found to de∣viate very widely from what the Apostles taught us. Judge not least you be judged, sounds very dread∣fully and severely, if we consider the narrow Principles and uncharitable Constructions of al∣most every party of Man-kind. How does every Man now think it Prudence to think the worst of one another? How does every little Hot-brain now peevishly confine Salvation to his own narrow Page 33Herd, though a number so inconsiderable as hard∣ly fit to be named in the large Arithmetick of Nature? I should be glad nevertheless if they did not wish ill to, as well as think ill of one another.
That there is no Salvation to be had out of the pale of Gods true Catholick Church, I believe as firmly as the great Athanasius did; but in what manner this mystery is to be understood, I as little per∣plex my thoughts, as how Three can be One, how God could be Incarnate of a Virgin, or how we shall Rise again with the same numerical Bodies, that have by long successions serv'd to nourish one another, or been corrupted into as many forms as there are different species of things. I could never conceive how this Article of our Belief should render us, uncharitable to all that are not of our own persuasion. We may as soon expect to have a clear Idea of the Joys of Heaven, the frame of Angels, or the Essence of our own Souls, as to know what company we shall meet with in the other World, or who alone shall enter into inconceive∣able Bliss. Let us but take care of our own par∣ticular, and by acts of Charity and Devotion pro∣vide suitable dispositions for a fit Reception there, and we shall be found at last to have spent our time to much better purpose than in such needless, and perhaps dangerous disquisitions. Men have all souls of the same immense value, and the Providence of God is over all in general, but what allot∣ments of Grace he has made 'em here; or shall Page 34hereafter of Rewards and Punishments, neither the Apostles seem to define, nor Apostolical Men since have presumed to determine. I should sin if I ventur'd to speak of this subject, either as largely as Origen once did, or as narrowly as some Divines do of a latter date; though I am apt to think that Errors sprung from too much Charity (if I may so say) will be found far more Innocent than those from too little.
Truly it makes my heart ake somtimes to con∣sider how easily and willingly people can hurl one another headlong into the Bottomless pit. Suppose but twenty Men were here Condemn'd to the Rack, and appointed to suffer the most exquisite tortures that cruel blood-thirsty Men can tell how to in∣vent, every day for a month together; would not the hearing on seeing such a master-piece of cruelty make every good Man shiver, knowing not how near his own turn might be, if God should suffer he furious barbarous disposition of some to take place. How much more inhumane and dreadful then is it, to precipitate one another into that place of torment, too intolerable to be express'd, if it consists in nothing else but confusion of face and heart, the gnawing remorses, and continual stings of a guilty self-confounded Conscience. Me-thinks it should rather trouble us that any are like to be so unhappy, than to keep out by our good∣will all that are not of our own Opinion. Christ certainly died for all men, and I hope we shall find his death applied to the eternal benefit of many Page 35harmless, virtuous, invincibly ignorant People, that common Uncharitableness will not let us have a kind thought of here. We may lawfully think and hope the best of all Men; for though we are forbidden to say too much for 'em, I'm sure we are not allow'd to judge them too severely.
Who could imagine that those who have often read St. Paul, 1 Cor. 13. should forget the absolute necessity of Charity, and not be touched with the greatest concern? 'Tis a Sermon that is second to nothing I know extant, unless that Preach'd upon the Mount; and I think it deserves to be read full as often, as some have well conceited that Pythagora's Golden Verses do deserve; not to take a leasure-minute now and then, but be the excel∣lent subject of our daily Meditations. The Cha∣rity there described, is of so absolute necessity, that though I had the knowledge and Angels, and Wisdom of Solomon, though I had Faith strong enough to remove Mountains, though I gave all my Goods and Possessions to the Poor, and my Body to be burned, upon any other never so good account, yet without this; all would signifie nothing. That Charity is such as thinks no evil of any Man, believeth and hopeth the best of all things, and peaceably submitteth to all that God pleases to inflict. In a word, we are advised to abide in Faith, Hope, and Charity, these three, but the greatest of all is said to be Charity.
I shall not offer to comment upon this Divine Chapter, and compare the practice of those that are called Christians with the extensiveness of St. Paul's Page 36Description, for fear I should either prove or become more uncharitable than I desire. To uncover such foul sores, without better hopes of healing 'em, would but cause a noisome smell, and but offend those who suffer them as well as my self; and therefore I shall pass to the next branch of this duty, and consider it as it concerns our actions.
Charity in the distributive sense, as it relates to our actions and practice, is so inculcated by the Law of Nature, and common Genius of Man-kind, that unless one puts off all Humanity to receive the Wolf and Tygar, 'twill be extream hard not to have some fellow-feeling of the deplorable wants and miseries of our Fellow-creatures. Those who are Stewards of large and ample Fortunes, will have long accounts to make at the great day. But Oh what a ravishing sight will it then be to see the Hungry we have Fed, and the Naked we have Cloathed! What a multitude of Sins will they stand between and cover! for then 'twill be enquired, not what Learning we had gain'd, what Cobwebs we had spun, or what nice speculations we had made; but what good we have perform'd, and how we employ'd our hands and hearts, not our wits and fancy.
If the Jewish Law was but a Type of Christian Dis∣cipline, and our Saviour came not to abrogate the Moral-Law, but to fulfil and raise it higher, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, how much then ought we to exceed the Jews in acts of Charity? and yet 'tis to be feared we come too short of what their duty prom∣pted Page 37them to. Besides their Annual Tithes to the Church, they gave another Tithing to the Poor every third year, by Gods own appointment, Deut. xxvi. 12, 13. and this comes to the same reckoning as an Annual 30th. which whether Chri∣stians Charity doth reach to, or exceed as far as it should, I leave to every Mans Conscience seriously to consider. For except our Righteousness,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the very same word that in many places of Scripture does necessarily signifie Legal Alms-giving, except, I say, our Righteousness does exceed the Righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, we can in no wise enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Now if we consider but the Peace and Serenity of Mind, the Heaven upon Earth, that is gained from a consciousness of having done some real good to others, it would be a thing eligible, if there were no further motive.
But again, If we will but examine our own In∣terest, I mean not only our Eternal Interest which would certainly move us, if we were but effectu∣ally persuaded of it, but also our dearly be∣loved Temporal Interest, the truest way of multi∣plying our riches, and best improvement of our Estates, we should readily comply with this Duty in all respects. What says the Prophet Malachi, ch. iii. v. 10. Bring ye all the tithes into the Store∣house, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me herewith, saith the Lord of Hasts, if I will not open you the windows of Heaven, and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it, and see Page 38again Prov. iii. 10. So shall thy barns be filled with plenty. And the Scriptures are full of passages to this purpose, inviting us all manner of ways to try the goodness of God which he pleases to offer us in this life, upon one only condition, if we will but believe his promises to us. And this puts me in mind of an excellent story I have read in a good Au∣thor concerning a Jew, who when he had perused several of those places which promise abundance of Temporal blessings to Charitable persons, resolved to try whether God would be as good as his word, and spared no occasion of profuse Charity, until he had reduced himself to one single piece, the whole remain of all his former riches. Now was he come to the Crisis of tryal, a Crisis able to shake even a Christian courage, and it did shake his indeed, though he had proceeded boldly hitherto without any fear or distrust. He began then to murmur and repine, and blamed his Credulity, for what he had so rashly, he thought, done; and in this pensive heart-breaking mood, he spied two men a quarel∣ling and fighting. Notwithstanding his own af∣flictions he presently interposed, and demanded the cause of their so great difference. They answer∣ed that going along there they had found a stone, which both laid claim to, but could not agree which was the first discoverer, so that if he would bestow somthing for it, they told him it should be his. He gave them all he had, his one remaining piece, and so they went well contented with it. He presently repairs to a Jeweller to know the Page 39value of his purchase, and was informed, that it was the best Jewel which belonged to the High-Priests, Breast-plate, and that if he would carry it to the right owner, he need not doubt of a sufficient recompence. He goes to the High-Priest, acquaints him with what he had found, and the accidental occasion that brought him to such a Treasure. The Man of God roundly gave him first a box of the Ear, for distrusting Providence, and then dis∣missed him with a reward answerable to the occasi∣on. From that fortunate day he thrived in such measure, and received the full satisfaction of all his former wishes, that notwithstanding the Cha∣ritable continuance of his former good intenti∣ons he soon grew to be one of the richest men in all Judea.
God never forsakes those that will trust in him. He will try them indeed whether they are in earnest, and how far they will venture to trust in him, but be assured he never leaves man in his ex∣tremities, unless he leaves his God first. And I have observed several instances of people that have been brought to the very brink of ruin and despair, who have been strangely and suddenly ad∣vanced, to the amazement of all their acquain∣tance, by the immediate hand of Almighty God. And if all good people in affliction do not find the same, 'tis their duty to resign themselves up to the wise, but unaccountable ways of Providence.
Now notwithstanding all that has been said, if any man will be so Ʋncharitable, as to think the Page 40Current of the Times of late, and not my own in∣clination and real judgment, induced me to write these things, I must be contented, to remain unhappy in his opinion; for no other Arguments can per∣suade him to alter. I am very well satisfied, that every man who thinks at all of Religion, has a na∣tural affection for some one Religion above others, as he has for some particular Person, but if upon sober thoughts and familiar Conversation he finds the Lady he dotes too much upon to be either a Strum∣pet, or wretchedly Painted, or Proud and Cruel, especially if all these together, he is not to be blamed if he recalls his extravagant passion, and settles it rationally upon a pure and unspotted, a mild and innocent, and deservedly amiable object. There's great variety of tempers in Men, and these diffe∣rent tempers make Men naturally incline to as great variety in Religions. Some take to the sowre and morose, others are led with an artificial shew, and with this most Men are apt to be insnar'd; till they find out the Cheat; some are taken with li∣centious encouragements, and others (the fewest of all) with an honest naked truth. Now if among these various attractions an innocent well-meaning Man happens to be a while deluded, there's no such real wonder; but God's Grace and Providence which over-looks Man-kind, and watches incessantly for the good of us all, is not like to pass by long those who are in no worse circumstance than that. How do we know but that these many different Reli∣gions are most agreeable to the great end of the Cre∣ation?Page 41When we cannot possibly see two faces a∣like, no nor any two things exactly so in all re∣spects, must we fondly desire that all Nations in the World should be of one and the same Opinion? God says Heresies shall come (and no doubt remain too) that the Faithful may the better be tried; and for that reason I should rather suspect Italy and Spain, where are no Dissenters to try their Faith, than think that blind forc'd Ʋnity makes so much for 'em. Christian Gospel-liberty cannot avoid Dissenters, the Enemy will sow his Tares; but the Inquisition gags the mouths of all who presume to examine any whys or wherefores.
One thing I shall adjoyn, and so conclude: When first I return'd to Church, God be thanked, I can truly say, I never did any thing with more peace and assurance of mind, or with more inward com∣fort to my soul, than that time at Church, which really to me is a most comfortable reflection as oft as it occurs.
Now may Virtue and Charity encrease among us all, and may the World grow more and more sen∣sible of the future and present benefit of a just, peace∣able, and well-disposed Life. Sir, I am,
Your most Humble, and most Obedient Servant, W. H.