A LETTER OF ENQUIRY TO The Reverend Fathers OF THE Society of Iesus.
Written in the Person of a Dissatisfied Roman Catholick.
Hen. Wharton, Rmo in Christo P.ac D.D. Wil∣helmo Archiep. Cant. a Sacris Domest.Octob. 26. 1688.
LONDON: Printed for William Rogers at the Sun in Fleet-street; and Samuel Smith at the Princes Arms in St. Paul's Church-Yard. MDCLXXXIX.
COuld I believe it fit to Lye for GOD, or that Truth needed the service of Falshood, I might have been tempted to imitate the Tricks and Deceiving Arts of the Romish Factors (for in Charity, we must suppose some of them at least, to believe what they say to be Truth, and that their Cause is that of GOD) and boldly have sent this Let∣ter abroad, as really writ by a Romanist: But as I am a Member of a Church, whose Superstructures, as well as her Foundation is the pure Truth, (and one that is resolv'd to fol∣low Truth and Charity wherever they lead me) so I should think that I deserv'd the severe punishment of being depriv'd of the happiness of her Communion, if I endeavour'd to serve her Interests by any means so contrary to her Nature and Manner of dealing with Mankind. But as 'tis no improba∣ble supposition, that there should be some Dissatisfied, or Doubting, or Inquisitive Person in the Romish Communion; so neither can it. I hope, be injurious or offensive to any, openly to declare. That I who make these Enquiries, am a Layman of the Church of England: and that I make them in the Person of a Roman Catholick, is for no other reason, but only to preserve a better Decorum, and the more to affect the Per∣sons for whose sake I chiefly Publish this Letter. And with all the Charity and Good-will, that one Christian owes to ano∣ther, I do humbly beseech every Roman Catholick, that be∣lieves he has a Soul to be sav'd, and values its Salvation a∣bove being of this or that Party, or serving a Cause, or the greatest worldly Interest, seriously for once, to suppose himself Page [unnumbered]this Dissatisfied, or Doubting, or Inquiring Person, and let him in the Name of GOD lay his Hand upon his Heart, and consider whether these Enquiries are not pertinent and ra∣tional, and if they be, I beg him impartially, and as he will answer it at the Great Day, to weigh the Answers that may by his Party be return'd to them, whether he be really and fully satisfied that they are just and rational. I confess, Dis∣satisfied, Doubting, and Inquisitive Persons, cannot be so frequent in a Church, where they are taught solely and blindly to rely upon their Pastors and Spiritual Guides, and generally speaking do so, as in a Church which gives a modest liberty of trying the Spirits, and of examining and enquiring into the reason and truth of things. But yet for all that, my Con∣versation with Persons of that Communion, is not so little, as to suffer me to believe, but that there are a great many whose Ʋnderstandings are not so muffled, nor so far enslav'd, but that sometimes they entertain serious Thoughts, and take a free View of Religion, and the nature of it, and reflect with what artifice and fraud it is manag'd in the Church of Rome, and that they do believe, when they think soberly, that the Refor∣mation is not an effect of Pride, or Folly, or Worldly Inte∣rest, as their crafty designing Priests would perswade them. This granted me, such Persons then may reasonably be presum'd (that if either they would give themselves the trouble, or durst) to think it necessary thus to Address themselves to the Jesuits, who have assum'd to themselves the Reputation of the best Spiritual Guides.Page 1
SINCE 'tis thought by a great many, that you are the only Oracles of Learning and Knowledge of any Or∣der in our Church, it will not be wondred at, that I particularly Address this Letter of Enquiry to you. Faith no more then Love can be forc'd, they are both free Agents. I am dissatisfied, doubt, and am at a stand, about ma∣ny Points in our Religion. I have a just reverence for the Anti∣quity of our Church, but yet I know Error is older than she, and Truth than either of them. I have no worldly Interest to serve by being of this or that Party or Church. But if I had, I hope I should prefer the Happiness of a Life that is Eternal, before that of a short and uncertain stay here. For this reason, 'tis possible, I may want one great and moving Argument, which at this Juncture especially, many have; for 'tis not this World's Riches or Honours that I look after: so that if I were even at Rome itself, the great and splendid Allurements there, would not operate upon me. No, Reverend Fathers, 'tis pure Truth and Holiness which I am in search of; for I am strongly perswaded, that without the possession of these, it is a most unreasonable confidence for any Man to hope to see GOD, who is Truth and Holiness itself; and therefore their Contraries must needs be odious to his Divine Majesty. In a word, Reverend Fathers, my whole Design here in this World is, first to know God's Will, and then to obey and please him, that through the Merits of my dear Saviour, I may be admitted into some degree of his Glories hereafter. Now if you can remove my Doubts, and sa∣tisfie me by a just Answer to every Enquiry, in this my Letter, I shall rejoyce to remain where I have been born and bred. But if you cannot, I hope I shall despise the hard and unjust Thoughts and Censures of Men, and so far overcome the Power and Prejudices of Education and Custom, as to search for, and em∣brace Truth, in what Communion soever I find her, in spight of all temptations and hinderances. Our Representer says, That every Page 2Man must work out his own Salvation with fear and trembling: if so, Reverend Fathers, you must pardon me, if hereafter I take a more particular care of mine, even to the forsaking of your Com∣munion, in case I cannot meet with satisfaction in it, and by following the clear Commands of Holy Scripture, the Dictates of right Reason, and the assistances of the honest and knowing Guides of another Church.
But before I come to the main business of my Letter, give me leave Reverend Fathers, to acquaint you with the ground and occasion of it; and that was my reading the English Translation of the Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, lately by some of our Church set out here. For indeed till then, and as I had not the perfect use of the Latin Tongue, and always living in a blind and stupid obedience and reliance upon the honesty and learning of my Guides, I was ignorant of many necessary things, and thought our Church never had, nor never could have any thing in her Doctrines Worship and Service, either Idolatrous or Superstitious, or that any of her Children ever was, or ever could possibly be guilty of either; or that any Errors or Abuses could creep into our Church; and much less, that any of her Pastors and Teachers, would betray their poor ignorant Sheep into those dangers. But now, God be prais'd, I am otherwise con∣vinc'd, and that chiefly by reading and considering those very Decrees of Trent, together with the Catechism of the Council of Trent, now lately also publish'd in English. For in many places of those Decrees, the Council shews a great fear (and so far cer∣tainly 'tis highly to be commended) least the People should run into Superstition and Idolatry. Now, I consider, that if there was no danger from the Nature, or from the Use and Practice of our Worship and Service, such a concern as the Council shew'd, had been much below the Wisdom of so great an Assembly. So that a thinking Man cannot forbear concluding, that there was very great danger of the Peoples committing Idolatry and Superstition, at least from the very use and performing of the then Worship and Service. However, I would fain hope, that tho' there are some things in this Council, that look too like Superstition and Idolatry; yet, because we magnifie it for so Wise and Holy, that it has in Truth Defin'd and Decreed nothing that so much as ministers or tempts to those grievous Sins. For since it was in the Coun∣cil's Power, not only to have actually redress'd all Abuses and Page 3Corruptions, but also to have prevented all future danger of that kind; and yet if it can be made appear, that it has done nei∣ther, but rather has still more expos'd Mankind to these Sins, I cannot for my life see how it can be acquitted of Hypocrisie and Deceit, towards the poor ignorant People, which make up, I doubt, the far greatest part of our Church: And that, provided the Council might advance the Riches and Grandure of the Church and Clergy, it car'd not what became of Mens Souls, whom the wise and good GOD thought worth redeeming, by the pre∣cious Blood of his dear Son. Suffer me, Reverend Fathers, to give you an instance or two, of this Council's seeming Care to keep Men from Superstition and Idolatry; and which also first let in some light to my dark and ignorant mind.
Now, Reverend Fathers, finding this wonderful General Council to speak so plainly against these Crimes of Superstition and Idolatry, and also against Ignorance, and observing it so much concern'd for the People, and to give such great caution and charge to the Bishops about them, and our Adversaries continually taxing us with these Sins, you cannot surely blame me, or be the least offended, that I take the best way I can devise, not only to preserve my self from them, but also others in our Church, who I doubt, may as much want information and help in these mat∣ters. And this indeed is one reason, why I chuse rather to en∣quire of you in this publick manner, than in a private way: for Page 4I consider, that that Love is not Christian, which is confin'd to one's self, its Nature being communicative. And since Charily to our Neighbour is an indispensible Duty, How can it be better exercis'd than about the Soul?
Pardon, Reverend Fathers, this necessary Account of that which gave birth to my Letter. And because it will consist of things different in their nature, permit me, for the more clear and orderly proceeding and greater satisfaction, to divide it in∣to several Sections, as well as Queries. And take it not ill, that I propose to ye the Difficulties I labour under, with that free∣dom and openness, which only becomes a pure lover and searcher of Truth, and one that considers nothing but GOD and his own Soul concern'd in the Enquiry. And I humbly beg you to give a direct, full, and clear Answer to every Enquiry, in each Section; or a good reason why you cannot, or will not.
Quere I. WHat might be the reason, Reverend Fathers, why the Council of Trent did not define and describe Idolatry and Superstition, especially when it so often mentions these Crimes, and cautions People against them; does not this pro∣ceeding make a thinking Man apt to believe, that they were conscious, that the then Practice, and Worship, and Doctrines, were faulty in that kind, and so were afraid of having them discover'd by such an honest dealing; but yet were willing to appear to condemn them in general terms; for even at that time, was it not too gross to have declar'd for down-right Idolatry, or Super∣stition?
Quere II. What might those things be, which the Council in the 22 Session orders Bishops to take care to prohibit and remove, and which it observ'd, were introduc'd by Superstition and Cove∣tousness? But had it not lookt more honest, and more becoming Christian Bishops, to have told what these things were?
Quere III. What was that Servitude or Worship of Idols it speaks against in the same Session, in the Decree concerning the Things to be observ'd and eschew'd in the Celebration of the Mass? Did the Priest or the People Worship Idols when Mass was said? Pray Reverend Fathers, declare the truth to me in this matter, Page 5my mind is much perplex'd about it. For I find our present Disputers stifly maintain, that our Doctrine and Worship is now the very same that it was at the time of the Council of Trent, and at that time the same it was from the beginning: I profess I tremble as often as I go to Mass, and shall do so till I am bet∣ter satisfied herein?
Quere IV. What was that certain Number of Masses and Can∣dles, which in the same Decree the Council says was rather in∣vented by a Superstitious Worship, than by true Religion? Are they according to the Council's Command taken away? And when, and where were they so taken away?
Quere V. What does the Council mean in her Decree concerning Purgatory, by commanding the Bishops not to suffer any thing, but to prohibit every thing which tends to Superstition. Pray Reverend Fathers what was it, which at that time did tend to Superstition in the Peoples Practice and Worship, in Praying for the Dead, or the Souls in Purgatory? and is it taken away? and have we no∣thing yet remaining and in use among us, and in our present Practice, that is either Superstitious or tends to it?
Quere VI. What was that Superstition in the Invocation of Saints, Worshipping of Relicks, and in the Holy Use of Images, which the Council in Session 25, so earnestly desir'd might be taken away? And is that Superstition taken away? Can none of our Commu∣nion be guilty of this Sin now? Is there now no danger for us in these matters? What assurance can you, Reverend Fathers, give us?
Quere VII. But Reverend Fathers, If there was no danger from the very Nature of the Service and Worship then in use in our Churches, why did that wise Council, shew such a needless con∣cern and fear. But if there was danger, and the Council says there was, why did it not declare plainly and openly, wherein particularly the danger lay? Doubtless the Council knew it, and since it has not told us particularly wherein, and in what manner the danger of Superstition lay, How is it possible for any Man to acquit the Council from Hypocrisie and Deceit towards poor ignorant Souls, which it pretended, and was certainly bound to take care of? How does this Council's care of Souls appear, since the People are now as much in the dark about the nature of Superstition and Idolatry, and wherein the danger lies in the Invo∣cation of Saints, and Worshipping Relicks and Images, and Prayers Page 6for the Dead, as before the Council met; because it only cau∣tions them in general against such Sins, but never particularly tells them how they should know, or avoid them, which yet methinks had been the honester course?
Quere VIII. Again, Reverend Fathers, the Council of Trent seems very sensible that the People in the then current Worship and Service of the Church, were guilty of Idolatry and Superstition, and reprov'd them for it, and commanded a Reformation. Now Reverend Fathers, I humbly enquire, Is our Worship and Ser∣vice the same now, as it was at the time of the Council of Trent; if it is, then pray, where is our obedience to that Council, and our care of Souls? Are not we now as Idolatrous and Superstitious as the People were then? Why then is not our Worship and Ser∣vice reform'd? Why are we let alone in an Idolatrous and Su∣perstitious Worship? But if our Service and Worship be altered and purg'd from those gross Crimes which were in it at the time of the Council of Trent, then I desire to know of you, Re∣verend Fathers, Whether the Protestants may not fairly conclude these following things against us: 1. That our Service and Wor∣ship, even by the confession of the Council of Trent, was then Idolatrous and Superstitious. 2. That this confession justifies, at least, the first Reformers, and also the present Professors of the Reform'd Churches, (unless we can make appear that our Service and Worship is now free from Superstition and Idolatry) in their Charge against our Church, and their leaving our Communion. 3. That our Church is not now the same in her Service, and Worship, and Doctrines, as she was at the time of the Council of Trent; and then pray Reverend Fathers, where are all our Boasts of the Inerrability of our Church, and the Infallibility of Tradition, and ever continuing the same in her Doctrines and Worship from Father to Son, since our Saviour's and his Apo∣stles time? Is not this a terrible instance to our Adversaries of our Innovations and Corruptions? And beyond all Reply, does it not justifie all their Complaints and Outcries against us for these things?
Quere IX. In the same Decree concerning the Celebration of the Mass, the Council of Trent complains to this effect, That there were several Innovations, Errors, and Corruptions crept in by the Vice of Times, or carelesness and dishonesty of Men about the Sacrifice of the Mass. Now I humbly desire to know of you, Reverend Page 7Fathers, the precise Time when, and the very Persons by whom these Abuses and Corruptions crept into the Mass? The famous Patrons of Oral Tradition, and the Maintainers of a perpetual, and no ways erring Church, assert, That it is absolutely impossible for any Errors and Corruptions ever to creep into our Doctrine and Worship. But I am rather inclin'd to believe the Council of Trent, who owns that the very Sacrifice of the Mass, which I think we look upon as the greatest Mystery, and of the greatest con∣cern in all our Religion, was then horribly corrupted. But Re∣verend Fathers, if you cannot inform me of the precise Times when, and the Persons by whom the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was so abus'd, as I have some reason to fear you cannot, in that case, I desire to know, Why we should require that of the Pro∣testants for the Errors and Corruptions, which they say are crept into our Doctrines and Practice, which yet we out selves can∣not shew for those Errors and Abuses which nevertheless we ac∣knowledge to have come in? And why the Vice of Times, or the carelesness and dishonesty of Men, may not be allow'd of, for a good general account, how Abuses and Corruptions might creep into Religion, from the Protestants, as well as from the Fathers of the Council of Trent, I humbly desire to know of you?
Quere X. Whether the generality of Mankind is not naturally inclin'd to Superstition and Idolatry? And whether from these passages of the Council of Trent which I have quoted, it does not appear, that the bent and inclination of the People of our Communion, was at that time extreamly towards Superstition and Idolatry? And whether the Fathers of that Council have well and honestly taken care to secure the People from falling into these Sins by their Decrees and Canons, about Worshipping the Host, Angels, and Saints, with their Images and Relicks? And whether in human probability the not enjoyning these things, but direct prohibiting of them, had not been a more likely and a more honest way, not only to draw the People off from their then present Superstitious and Idolatrous Inclinations and Practice, but also to preserve them from all future danger and guilt of Superstition and Idolatry? And whether there could have been in∣vented by the subtilty of the Devil, any thing (except returning to down-right Paganism) more effectually to draw and betray Mankind into these Sins of Superstition and Idolatry; and if there could, I desire you, Reverend Fathers, for mine and others sa∣tisfaction to name it?Page 8
Quere XI. Has the Church of England any thing in her Doctrines or Practice, in her Liturgy or Worship, which is either Superstitious or Idolatrous, or any way really sinful, or that does but tend to lead her Members into them. And if she has not, as I am apt to believe she has not, because I have never heard that any of our Priests or Writers of Controversie ever charg'd that upon her, then pray Reverend Fathers, tell me freely, Whether upon this very account (which ought to be well consider'd by every Per∣son that believes he has a Soul to be saved) she has not a vast advantage of our Church; since 'tis so manifest, that even the Fa∣thers of the Council of Trent were sensible and confest, that there were then Superstitious and Idolatrous Practices in our Church, and that the Members of it might very easily, and without ex∣traordinary care of the Bishops and Pastors, fall into Superstition and Idolatry?
Quere XII. Pray, Reverend Fathers, What Original Treatise, Book of Directions, or Sermon, is there set out by our Church to preserve our People from Idolatry and Superstition? Some such thing seems to me to be extream necessary after what the Fathers of the Council of Trent have said of the danger of the Peoples falling into these Sins, by their use of our Service and Wor∣ship? Unless you can give some good reason, why the People of our Communion in this Age, are wiser then in the Age of the Council of Trent.
Quere XIII. But to conclude this Section, I humbly enquire of you, Reverend Fathers, What is the true Definition of Idolatry and Superstition? Pray give me such an one of each distinctly and severally, as you'll abide by, and answer to our Learned Ad∣versaries, and be content that all our Doctrines and Worship and Practice shall be try'd by. Also such an one as is exactly agree∣able to the Holy Scriptures and Definitions of the Fathers and Doctors of the Ancient Church. For I consider, that the nature of Idolatry and Superstition is the same now as it was then. Be pleas'd likewise, to let your Definition be so full, clear, and cer∣tain, as may infallibly (which sure I may request from the Priests of an Infallible Church) guide and direct me, in my Thoughts, Worship, and Adoration of the Holy Sacrament, or Host, and of the Angels and Saints, and of the Cross and Relicks, that so I may be safe from all danger of committing or falling into these grievous Sins, or any degree of them. For I infinitely desire to Page 9have a right Notion of GOD and his Worship, and would not offend and affront him, while I think I am pleasing and doing him honour.
Quere I. THE Catechism of the Council of Trent, now late∣ly Publish'd in English, p. 344, says, That there is an Honour which is due to GOD alone, and is not to be given to an Angel: and p. 464, there is a great Charge given, That what is proper to GOD, be not given to any besides him. Now to me it seems not a little strange, that in so weighty a matter, and wherein both GOD and Mankind is so much concern'd, that neither the Council of Trent, nor this Catechism, when they had so fair occasions, should not I say, freely and plainly tell what that Honour and Worship is, which is proper and due to GOD a∣lone, and wherein it consists, and by what it is signified and ex∣press'd. This omission is apt to create no very honourable thoughts either of the Catechism, or Council: but since neither the Fathers of the Council, nor the Composers of the Catechism, thought convenient to do so just and honest a piece of Service to the Christian World, suffer me here, Reverend Fathers, hum∣bly to enquire of you, What is that Honour and Worship which is proper and due to God only? Wherein does it consist? And by what Words and Acts is it signified and express'd?
Quere II. How, and in what, does that Religious Worship which by our Church we are commanded, and which we do give to the Angels and Saints, and particularly to the B. Virgin, differ from that Worship which is proper to GOD alone?
Quere III. How, and in what, does that Honour, Worship, or Veneration, which we give to Angels and Saints, and particularly to the B. Virgin, differ from that Honour, Respect, or Reverence we pay to Kings and Princes, and good Men upon Earth? By what Words, Acts, or Signs do you distinguish this from that?
Quere IV. Whether the ground and reason of our Worship of GOD, he not his Divine, his Infinite, and Incommunicable Attributes and Perfections, such as his Omnipotence, his Om∣niscience, and Omnipresence, &c.
Quere V. Whether Prayer, or Religious Invocation, has not been Page 10always lookt on as, and is not, an essential part of that Worship which is due to GOD alone? Insomuch, that Prayer is usually put for the whole; and the publick Place of GOD's Worship from hence, is by GOD himself in Scripture, call'd, The House of Prayer?
Quere VI. If Religious Worship is due only to GOD, and that upon the account 〈◊〉 his Infinite and Incommunicable Perfections, are not all Kinds and Degrees also of Religious Worship, for the same reason, peculiar and due to GOD alone; unless there be some other Being besides GOD, who has those Infinite Attributes and Perfections? But if all Kinds and Degrees of Religious Worship be not due to GOD alone, I consider that our Saviour's Answer to the Devil, in the 4 Chapter, and 10 Verse of St. Matthew, had been very imperfect. For when the Devil would have been a∣dored by him, to what purpose was that Answer of the Holy Jesus, It is written, the Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve: unless our B. Saviour had intended by it, and by using of those two words, adore and serve, (which I am told in the Original Greek, signifie and comprehend the meanest and lowest, as well as the highest kind and degree of Honour and Service) to include and appropriate all manner, parts, and degrees of Religious Worship to GOD? For who can imagine but that the Devil would have been content and very glad if our Saviour would but have worshipp'd him in any kind, and with the most inferiour degree of Worship?
Quere VII. But besides, Reverend Fathers, I farther enquire of you, that if our Blessed Saviour had not by this Answer of his to the Devil, also intended to exclude all the Worship of good as well as bad Spirits, whether 'tis not rational to think he would have answer'd the Devil thus, The Lord thy God, and good Spirits shalt thou adore, and them only shalt thou serve? And whether our Saviour's not mentioning of good Spirits, either Angels or Saints, or the B. Virgin, but on the contrary confining Religious Worship and Service to GOD Only, is not an unanswerable Objection and Argument against our Worshipping of Saints and Angels toge∣ther with GOD, and so makes us guilty of Idolatry? For till you oblige me with a perfect Definition of Idolatry, and convince me of an Error, at present, I humbly conceive Idolatry does not con∣sist meerly in forsaking the Worship of the Supreme GOD, but also in Worshipping any Being or thing else, together with the Page 11Supreme GOD, or while we continue to Worship the Supreme GOD. But if what I have now discours'd from this Answer of our Saviour, be not the true meaning, I beg you then, to give me the true sence of it, and prove your Interpretation by Vincentius Lirinensis's Rule.
Quere VIII. If you say, as I hope for the Honour of GOD, and the Love of Truth you will, that all kinds, parts, and de∣grees of Religious Worship are due only to GOD, and that Prayer or Religious Invocation is a part of that Worship; then Reverend Fa∣thers, I enquire of you, Whether 'tis not too plain that we Ca∣tholicks in our Religious Invocation of, and Praying to the Saints and Angels, are highly guilty of Idolatry, since the most excel∣lent Saint or Angel, or even the B. Virgin herself, is but a Crea∣ture, and we give part of that Honour to it, which is due to GOD who created that Angel or Saint? And do not we like∣wise in Inovocating and Praying to the Saints and Angels, attribute to them at least, Omniscience or Omnipresence, or else what superla∣tive Nonsence is it to pray to them at all? What shall we an∣swer to GOD, for thus robbing him of those Perfections peculiar to his infinite Essence? And what will it avail us at the Great Day, to say, Lord we gave but an inferior degree of Religious Worship to some of thy Creatures which we believ'd more excellent than others, and thy dear Friends: when at the same time the Angry and Jealous GOD shall tell us, That he had plainly reveal'd to us, that every part and degree of Religious Worship was due only to him, and that Prayer was a principal part of that Worship that was peculiar to him? I say, Reverend Fathers, what will become of us, when we shall be charg'd with giving part of that Honour and Worship, tho' never so inferiour, and for GOD's sake too, to the Creatures, which was only due to GOD the Creator? This is a matter of vast consequence, and therefore I humbly and earnestly beg you to give me a full Answer, for my Mind and Conscience is ex∣treamly perplex'd about it. I have a great respect for the Au∣thority of our Church, but I must needs tell you Reverend Fathers, that I begin to have a far greater regard to the Authority of GOD.
Quere IX. But Reverend Fathers, I must trouble you with more Enquiries into this Affair, for I look upon't to be of far greater concern than the generality of our People do. To deal freely with you, till I am much better satisfied about the law∣fulness Page 12of it, I shall forbear offering up any Prayers either Vocal or Mental, to the greatest and most glorious Saint or Angel in Heaven, or even to the B. Virgin herself: for doubtless, as slight as we make of the matter, yet a right Object of Worship is of infi∣nite concern, and I am now fully convinc'd, not only, that this Article of Invocation, &c. is one of the most essential in Re∣ligion, but also that no less then our Eternal Salvation or Damna∣tion depends on't; and therefore let no man think strange that I should cease Invocating Saints, till I meet with ample satisfaction to my Doubts and Scruples. For I have learnt of St. Paul, That all that is not of faith is sin. And of another Spiritual Guide, That when a man's mind is in doubt, the safer part is to be chosen: and in Religious Doubts, that which is most for the Honour of GOD; which at present, I am perswaded, praying to, and depending upon him alone is. But I enquire, Reverend Fathers, Whether any Creature tho' never so excellent, whether it be Angel or Saint, or even the B. Virgin herself, has any natural and inhe∣rent Right, to any kind or degree of Religious Worship? If it has, I desire you to make it out; if it has not, then I enquire, Whe∣ther to justifie a Practice of such vast moment, we are not bound to shew an express positive Law of GOD? And if there be such an express Divine Command, I beseech you Reverend Fathers, for mine, and the quiet of other mens Consciences in this weighty matter, to produce it. But if you can neither shew that the most excellent Creature imaginable, has a natural Right, nor an express Command from GOD, for any kind or part of Re∣ligious Worship, then I further ask, How can our Church in commanding, and we in giving Religious Worship to Saints and Angels, be acquitted from gross Idolatry? And how can the Protestants be guilty of the least Sin, for refusing, and not doing an Action for which there is neither a Law of GOD or Na∣ture? But I further enquire Reverend Fathers, and supposing the Protestants are mistaken, and are over nice and curious in refu∣sing to give any Divine Worship to Angels and excellent Saints, &c. Whether they are not in a much more innocent and pardonable condition, than we of the Church of Rome, since they do not give that Religious Worship to the Angels and Saints, which inno∣cently they might have done, but were not bound to it by any Law of GOD, and refus'd to do it, not out of any contempt or disrespect to those excellent Spirits, but purely through a Page 13mighty reverence to GOD, and fear of giving his incommunica∣ble Glory to a Creature? But Reverend Fathers, I have a mighty dread upon me, that at the Great Day we shall have nothing to plead for our selves, in case we be mistaken, in giving any de∣gree of Religious Worship, tho' never so small, to Creatures, which is all due only to the Supreme GOD? For tell me sincerely, what can we offer in our excuse? No positive Law of GOD, for that, I doubt, forbids all Creature-Worship; nor the Principles of Na∣tural Reason, for a very small measure of Natural Light, tells us, we cannot, and we ought not, Religiously to Worship any other Being, than that which guides us, and preserves our Being?
Quere X. Though I have already, Reverend Fathers, in this Se∣ction, made some Enquiries concerning the Nature of that Wor∣ship which is due to GOD only, and that which is due to his Ex∣cellent Creatures; yet I cannot forbear enquiring further, upon my meeting since with what the Catechism of the Council of Trent says, in p. 344, concerning the Worship and Invocation of Saints, viz.
Quere XI. But Reverend Fathers, Does not that place of the Prophet David, Psal. 65. ver. 2. O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come: and that other Text in the 10 Chapter of Rom. v. 14. How then shall they invocate, in whom they have not believ'd: very plainly prove these things: 1. That none but Page 15GOD can hear our Prayers. And, 2. For that very reason all Mankind is directed to offer up their Prayers to him alone. 3. That we cannot, nor ought not to invocate, or pray to any Being, but what we Believe in? And do we use to say, that we Believe in any but in GOD? In the Creed, we say, I believe in GOD, &c. But who says, that knows what he says, I Believe in the Arch Angel St. Michael, or I Believe in St. Peter, or I Believe in the Virgin Mary? If then we do not Believe in, i. e. put our hope, trust, and confidence in the Virgin Mary, or any other Saints which are but Creatures, as we do Believe in GOD the Crea∣tor, why should we invocate and pray unto them? What Sacri∣ledge as well as Folly is this? But Reverend Fathers, if this be not the true meaning of these two Texts, I humbly enquire of you, what is the Infallible Sence of them, and how I may be in∣fallibly certain that what you say is the Sence, is indeed so?
Quere XII. But Reverend Fathers, I am not ignorant that some of our Church argue that we ought to pray to Saints and Angels, because they pray for us. Now not to dispute with you about this consequence, let me only humbly ask you, Whether the Jews under the Law, either in their publick or private Worship pray'd to the Angels? Surely the Angels were in Heaven before as well as since the coming of our Saviour, and pray'd for Mankind too, and yet if you cannot prove that the Jews pray'd to, and invo∣cated them, as we now do them, and the Blessed Saints; I be∣seech you, how does it follow, that because Angels and Saints pray for us men, that therefore we are to pray to them? But in good earnest, Reverend Fathers, Is not the true question in this matter, not whether those Blessed Spirits pray for us, but whe∣ther we are to pray to them? Now we say, that they are to be pray'd unto, but can we prove it, either from any Principles of Natural Reason, or any positive Divine Law of GOD? The Protestants say, they are not to be pray'd unto, and think they sufficiently prove what they say, when they produce not only an express Law of GOD deliver'd by Moses to the Jews, which forbids any other Being to be Worshipp'd but the Supreme GOD; but also our Saviour's Answer to the Devil, That GOD only is to be adored, or worshipp'd, and serv'd: as also from other places of Holy Scripture, that Prayer is an essential part of that Worship which is peculiar to GOD. So that, Reverend Fathers, if we can∣not prove some of these things following, have not the Prote∣stantsPage 16infinitly the better of us in this weighty matter? either, 1. That GOD gave no such Law to the Jews: or, 2. That he has Repeal'd it: or, 3. That our Saviour when he told the De∣vil, that GOD only was to be Worshipp'd; yet he meant that Good Spirits, but not Evil, were likewise to be Worshipp'd toge∣ther with GOD? So that I humbly ask, What signifies to any rational Man, that Argument of the Council of Trent, viz. That it is good and profitable humbly to pray to the Saints, unless we can shew plainly that GOD has commanded it? Is the Authority of a Council, tho' never so General, sufficient to repeal an express Law of GOD, which says, GOD only is to be Worshipp'd.
Quere XIII. Besides, Reverend. Fathers, I observe, that when the Authors of the Catechism of the Council of Trent, p. 464. go about to prove who is to be pray'd to, and that GOD is to be pray'd to, they do it not only by Scripture, viz. Psal. 49.15. Call upon me in the day of tribulation, but affirm, That the very Light of Nature implanted in the Souls of Men, teaches it. But in the ve∣ry next Section, when they come to treat of Praying to Saints, they only say, We fly to the Assistance of the Saints that are in Hea∣ven, to whom also that Prayers are to be made, has been held so cer∣tain in the Church of GOD, that to pious Men there can arise no doubt. Now Reverend Fathers, I humbly enquire of you, that if either in this place, or in the 344 p. where they also treated of this matter, they could have produced any direct proofs, either from Scripture or the Light of Nature, is it imaginable that they would have omitted them here, and have contented themselves with only saying, That Prayers to Saints has been held so certain in the Church of GOD, that to pious Men there can be no doubt? And whether this ample proof of theirs for Prayer to GOD, and their no proof for Prayer to Saints, is not a loud confession of our Church, that we cannot prove Invocation of Saints lawful: especially too, when a Man considers, that the very best proof and argument the great Council of Trent was able to produce was only this, That it is good and profitable: but not a word that it is either command∣ed by GOD, or dictated to us by the Light of Nature. Will not any man that believes it to be of vast moment, to have a right Object of Worship, consider these things?
Quere XIV. When our B. Lord set us a pattern how to Pray, he directs us only to say, Our Father, &c. and to present our Pe∣titions to GOD alone. Now if Christ would have had us pray Page 17to Saints and Angels also, I humbly enquire of you, Reverend Fa∣thers, Whether so mean a thought can enter into any sober Man's Head, as to think, that our B. Saviour would have conceal'd, or omitted That, or any thing else, in so important a matter as Prayer, which either had been our Duty, or had been but good and profitable to us in our way to Heaven? And whether our Lord's not having done this, i. e. not advis'd us to pray to Saints and Angels, as well as to GOD, is not a good negative Ar∣gument against our Practice?
Quere XV. Farther I enquire of you, Reverend Fathers, Whe∣ther GOD intended by the coming of Christ to root Idolatry out of the World? If he did, as I hope you'll say he did, Whether 'tis possible for a rational Man to think, that as one effectual means to that end, our Saviour ever design'd to set up the Religi∣ous Worship of Saints and Angels, and praying before Images and Pi∣ctures? Can, I say, a rational man be of so extravagant Faith, as to believe that the Blessed Jesus, who came to destroy all Crea∣ture-Worship, then so much practis'd in the Heathen World, inten∣ded to set up a new kind of Creature and Image-Worship, only re∣ctifying Mens Notions and Opinions about it, and changing their Country Gods into Heavenly Saints and Angels, and the B. Vir∣gin, and giving new Names to their Statues and Images? If a man, I say, can once bring himself to believe that our Saviour intended by this means to cure mens inclinations towards Idolatry, I desire to know of you, Reverend Fathers, what can come amiss to such a Man's Faith?
Quere XVI. Again, Reverend Fathers, I read in the 344. p. of our Trent Catechism, that the Holy Spirit says, Honour and Glory be to GOD only. But pray then, How comes it to pass, that many of our Authors of Devotion (and particularly a late one, that has set forth the Contemplations on the Life and Glory of Holy Ma∣ry, &c.) say, Glory be to Jesus and Mary? Methinks, Reverend Fathers, this joyning the Blessed Virgin with the Holy Jesus and Saviour of the World, and giving her equal Praise, Honour, and Glory, with GOD, at best, looks a little disobedient to the Ho∣ly Spirit, and is very undecent. But if Glory, &c. be due to GOD only, as you own the Holy Spirit itself says, What bold blasphemous Wretches are we then to give it to a Creature? And this Author, I observe, makes no difference between Jesus and Mary, in his giving Honour and Glory, must not any one conclude then, that Page 18the same Honour and Glory is given to Mary as to Jesus? The horrour of which makes me tremble.
Quere XVII. But further I enquire of you, Reverend Fathers, Whether Religious Praise, as well as Prayer, is not an essential part of the Worship of GOD? And whether by it we poor Creatures, do not pay that Homage which is proper and due to the Divine Majesty only? And whether this Hymn of Glory be, &c. has not from the very first Ages, always been us'd as a peculiar Form of giving Praise, Honour, and Glory to GOD, and the Holy Trinity? And if so, Whether by our saying, Glory be to Jesus and Mary, we do not equally Worship Her with Jesus? Give equal Glory, and Honour, and Praise to a Creature, as to GOD the Almighty Creator, and one of the Persons of the B. Trinity? And whether this is not both downright Sacriledge and Idolatry?
Quere XVIII. But Reverend Fathers, upon a Friend of mine, (with whom I often confer about these matters, and who is as much dissatisfied as myself) I say, upon his Englishing to me this Versicle, in the Office for the Festival of St. Mar. ad Nives, viz. Make me worthy to praise thee, O Holy Virgin; and also out of the same Office, this Prayer or Lesson, which is said upon the Second Day of the Octave of the Nativity of the B. Virgin, viz.
But besides, Reverend Fathers, Pray, How comes it to pass that in this Prayer we attribute to the Virgin Mary, the finding out the Recovery of lost Mankind? I profess, I always thought that we Christians at least, made the Holy Trinity the sole Contri∣ver of the Redemption and Salvation of Mankind. Is not so mighty a Work a little too big for a Creature to devise?
Quere I. REverend Fathers, as I am excessively dissatisfy'd in my Conscience about this Invocation of the Virgin Mary, and other Saints; so I cannot leave off making larger En∣quiries into the matter; my next therefore shall be, Whether we Catholicks do not exceed the Bounds and Rules which the Ca∣techism of the Council of Trent and other Books set out, or al∣low'd by our Church, does prescribe us about Praying to Saints, &c. Now I humbly conceive the Truth in this matter will be best discover'd, First by seeing how far Authority says we may go: and Secondly, how far we do actually go in this Practice. The Cate∣chism, p. 464. says, We do not pray to GOD, and to the Saints af∣ter the same manner. To God we pray, either to give us the good things we want, or to deliver us from evil: But to the Saints we pray, (because they are in favour with GOD) to undertake our Pa∣tronage, and to beg of GOD those things we want. Hence we have two ways of Praying differing in the manner; for we properly say to GOD, Have mercy upon us, hear us; but to the Saints, Pray for us: and it adds, That we must take heed, that what is proper to GOD, we give not to any besides him. And the Bishop of Meaux, who by some of us is thought to have given the true sence of our Church, in the Advertisement of his Exposition, p. 11. says, That we pray to them with the same mind we pray to our Brethren, who are upon Earth with us, that is, to pray with us, and for us, to our Common Master, in the Name of our Common Mediator, who is Jesus Christ. And in his Exposition, Sect. 4. he says, That the Church teaches us to pray to the Saints in the same Spirit of Charity, and ac∣cording to the same Order of Fraternal Society, which moves us to de∣mand assistance of our Brethren living upon Earth. And our Re∣presenter, p. 4, 5. says, That as almost every sick Man desires the Congregation to be his Mediators, i. e. to be remembred in their Prayers, so he desires the Blessed in Heaven to be his Mediators, that is, that they would pray to GOD for him.Page 20
And is not this, Reverend Fathers, and the utmost, that by our Church we are allow'd to do? Shall we now see whether, neither many of our Pastors and Guides Teach, nor our People and Church itself Practice, a great deal more in their Devotions to the Saints, and principally to the B. Virgin? And will not this be best known by our Publick Offices, and other allow'd Books of Devotion?
I begin then with the Offices of our Church, which I hope will be allow'd of as an Authentick Proof: for if they may not be admitted to prove our Worship and Practice, I know not how it can be done, but by being present with every individual Man when he is at his Prayers and Devotion, which I humbly con∣ceive is next to impossible.
In the Office then, of St. Mar. ad Nives, in the Second Day of the Octave of her Nativity, my aforesaid Friend English'd to me this Expression, out of the Lesson or Prayer to the B. Virgin, O, admit our Prayers within the Sanctuary of thy Audience.
And out of the Offic. Parv. B. Mariae, this Prayer of our Church to her, We fly unto thy Protection and Safe-guard, O Holy Mother of GOD, despise not our Prayers in our Necessities, but always deliver us from all dangers, O Glorious and B. Virgin.
Likewise out of the Office B. M. in Sabbato, &c. and the Hymn which begins Ave Maris Stella, this Prayer; Hail Star of the World, &c.—Loose the Bonds of guilty Sinners, enlighten the eyes of the Blind, drive away all Sins from us, make us humble and chast, and free from the Bonds of our Sins; give us purity of Life, and grant us a safe passage into the next World.
And in the aforesaid Office, Parv. B. M. this Prayer, Protect us from the Enemy, and receive us at the hour of Death.
Likewise out of the Brev. Rom. he English'd to me this Lesson or Prayer to the B. Virgin, Accept that we offer, give that we ask, and pardon that we fear, because thou art the Only hope of Sinners. We hope for the pardon of our Sins by thee, and in thee is the most blessed expectation of our Reward.
And in the proper Mass of her Seven Sorrows, and the Solemn Hymn, which begins, Stabat Mater dolorosa, this other strange Prayer, Make our Hearts to burn with the Love of Christ,—Defend us in the Day of Judgment—And grant that when our Souls depart from our Bodies, they may go into the Glory of Paradice. By my Friend's help, I could have produced several other Pray∣ers Page 21and Expressions to the B. V. and other Saints, in as high strains as these, but I suppose these may suffice for my purpose. Let me now, Reverend Fathers, see what some of our eminent and allow'd of Writers and Guides teach our People.
I begin with Cardinal Bonaventure, and who is also a Cano∣niz'd Saint. Out of the Office he has compos'd, call'd Coroná B. V. the Grown of the B. Virgin, which is found in his Sixth Tome, and the Edition of Rome, 1588, my Friend English'd to me this Orizon; O Empress, and our most kind Lady, by the Autho∣rity of a Mother, Command thy most beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, that he would vouchsafe to lift up our minds, &c. And in his 35 Psalm of his Lady's Psalter, he hath these Words; Incline the Countenance of GOD upon us, Compel him to have Mercy upon us Sinners.
The next I shall produce, is a Little Book, which I have by me, and which till of late, that my Understanding is a little better inform'd, I constantly us'd, it is call'd, The Psalter of the B. Virgin; it was Compos'd first in French, by a Father of your Society, and after, in the Year 1624, Translated into English, and Printed with Allowance, the Translator assures the Lady to whom he Dedicated it, that it was well approv'd of by the better sort of Catholicks, and was presented to one of the greatest Queens in Europe, in the French Tongue. In the First Petition there are these Expressi∣ons,
My Friend also English'd to me, the other-day, out of Cardi∣nal Bona's Horolog. Ascet. or Monastick Clock, some Expressions of the same nature. This Cardinal, I am told, either is now alive, or but lately dead, and is an approv'd Writer, as well as of e∣minent Place and Dignity in our Church. In this Piece of his, he thus addresses himself to the Virgin Mary: And who can doubt that he would have all others do so too?
The last Book I shall make use of in this matter, is one I have already in my Sixteenth Enquiry of the Second Section mention'd, viz. Contemplations on the Life and Glory of Holy Ma∣ry, &c. By J. C. D. D. Licens'd by your Society, and Printed in our own Tongue, in the Year 1685.
In the Epistle Dedicatory, the Author teaches, That the B. Vir∣gin is not only Empress of Seraphims, &c.—The most exact O∣riginal of Practical Perfection, which the Omnipotence of GOD ever drew; but that by innumerable Titles, she claims the Utmost Duty of every Christian, as a proper Homage to her Greatness. And in the Book, p. 7. he says, That whatever Gifts are bestow'd upon us by Jesus, we receive them by the Mediation of Mary.—That 'tis one great Mark of the Predestination of the Elect, to be singularly Devoted to Mary.—Nor hath any one Petition'd Mary, who was refus'd by Jesus, or trusted in Mary, and was abandon'd by Je∣sus. And p. 12, 13, 14. That we must chuse her to be our Adoptive Mother, Patroness, and Advocate, and intrust her with whatever Page 23we are, have, do, or hope, in Life, Death, and through all Eternity. That we are in the Presence of Holy Mary, and that she ever surveys the present state of our Souls, all our Thoughts and Projects, and every tract of our Conversation, and therefore that we must put our selves wholly under her Protection. And p. 22. in the Resolution, he tea∣ches us to resolve thus: I will observe thee as my Soveraign Lady, Adoptive Mother, and most powerfull Patroness, relying on thy Bowels of Mercy, in all my Wants, Petitions, and Tribulations of Body and Mind. And then immediately follows The Praise, as he calls it, in this manner, Hail Mary, &c.
- Vers. Open my Lips, O Mother of Jesus;
- Resp. And my Soul shall speak forth thy Praise.
- Vers. Divine Lady, be intent to my aid;
- Resp. Graciously make hast to help me.
- Vers. Glory be to Jesus and Mary.
- Resp. As it was, is, and ever shall be.
I could, Reverend Fathers, have been a great deal larger in my Quotations, not only from these Offices and Books of Devotion, I have now mention'd, but also from divers others, as Bernar∣dine de Busti in Mariali, Cardinal Bonaventure's Works, to wit, St. Athanasius's Creed, the Litany, the Benedicite, the Benedictus, and the other Hymns of Holy Scripture, and also the Te Deum, all turn'd and apply'd (as I am told) by this Cardinal, to the mag∣nifying of the Power and Goodness of the Virgin Mary; to which I could also have added, a present French Author of your Society, one Father Crasset, his Veritable Devotion envers la Sainte Vierge, &c. with several others; but I fear'd this would not only swell my Letter, beyond its intended bounds, but prove tedious to my Readers: let this then, if you please, suffice. And now, Reve∣rend Fathers, will you suffer me to review this Query from the beginning, and upon the whole matter to ask you some serious and important Questions, which naturally, and necessarily offer themselves?
And first, Whether the good Things we want, and the Evil we would be deliver'd from, be not the very Matter of our Prayers? And if they be, Whether it was fairly done of the Authors of the Trent-Cate∣chism, to call them only the Manner? since even common Sence tells a Man, that Good and Evil are the very Matter, the things Page 24of our Prayers, and not the manner of asking them. 2. Whe∣ther the Caveat which they gave, To take heed that what is proper to GOD, we give not to any besides him, is not enough to con∣vince any considering Man, not only that our Practice of Invo∣cating the Saints is extream full of Danger for the ignorant People, but also that they very well knew it too? And, 3. Since 'tis apparent, that they were sensible, that very easily the ignorant People might give that to the Saints, which was proper to GOD, Whether they had not acted more like Christian Fathers of the Church, and Lovers of Souls, if either they had told men plainly, so that it had been next to impossible to mistake, what was due to GOD, and what to the Saints? or else absolutely to have forbidden Praying at all to Saints, (unless they could have made it appear, either by the Law of Nature, or by some positive Law of GOD, that it is a Duty commanded, which in my Thir∣teenth Quere of the Second Section, I have shew'd they never pretended to) and honestly have declar'd to Men, That it was both wisest and safest for them, and most for the Honour of GOD, to put up their Prayers to him only, through the alone Merits, Mediation, and Intercession of Jesus Christ our dear and only Saviour and Redeemer? 4. Whether in your Conscience you do believe, and by sound Arguments can prove, that the People who are naturally prone to Superstition and Idolatry, had not been, I will not say only abundantly more, but absolutely safe from all danger of falling into those grievous Sins, if only they had been taught, and enjoin'd, to offer up their Prayers and Praises to GOD alone, through Jesus Christ? And whether through the contrary Doctrine and Practice of Praying to the Vir∣gin Mary, and other Saints, as well as to GOD and our Saviour, you do not believe many thousands in our Communion, either through gross Ignorance, some fond Opinions, or an excessive and extravagant Devotion, are not hugely guilty of Superstition and Idolatry? And whether in plain English, this is not laying Snares, and digging Pits for human Souls?
5. Whether these Passages and Expressions which I have cited out of our Offices, Breviaries, and other allow'd Books of Devoti∣on, do not abundantly prove that we Catholicks do horribly ex∣ceed the Bounds and Rules which the Catechism, the Bishop of Meaux, and our Representer, set us about Praying to Saints, &c. And in good earnest, Reverend Fathers, Is it not manifest that Page 25we address our selves to the B. Virgin in the same manner and words, as unto GOD, and directly ask of her, those Gifts and Graces, Good Things, and Spiritual Blessings, which none but GOD can give? Do not we express as much trust, hope, and confidence in her, as 'tis possible for Men by Words to express to GOD, and our B. Saviour? Would not the very same words, which are here us'd to her, serve to signifie the greatest sence, awe, and reverence, and to offer up the greatest and most passionate De∣sires of our Souls to GOD, and our dear Saviour, only changing Lady into Lord, Mother into Father, and sweetest, blessed glorious Virgin, into sweetest, blessed, and glorious GOD, and Saviour? And is this in good truth no more than a manner of Praying? Do men upon Earth thus pray for one another, or desire others to pray for them? And is it no more than to fay, Pray for us? What Wit of Man, and without doing open violence to the plain and natu∣ral sense of Words, is able to reconcile our Church to herself, or these Prayers to this Form, Pray for us? And is there not here downright saying, Have mercy upon us, hear us? And is not this giving to the Saints what is proper to GOD? What man in his Senses ever pray'd in this manner to his absent, or present Friends, or Brethren upon Earth? What sick Mon, that was not also absolutely Distracted ever thus desir'd, either his Friend, or the Congregation to pray for him? Or whoever yet pray'd to his Friend, or his Brethren, or to any Congregation upon Earth, thus,
Now Reverend Fathers, deal plainly with me, Does not this sort of Prayer, thus offer'd to a Creature, make even You trem∣ble with horror? And yet it is every word taken out of these Pray∣ers, and Books I have but just now quoted? Tell me then sin∣cerely, I beseech you, Was ever such a Prayer made by any Person well or sick, that was in his Senses, either to his Friend, his Brethren, or any Congregation upon Earth? Or is such a Prayer fit to be made to any of them? Nay, I ask, Is such a Prayer fit to be made to any Saint or Angel, or to the B. Virgin herself? Nay farther, Ought we, or is it possible, for us to Address our selves to GOD, and our B. Saviour, in any Man∣ner or Words, more suitable to that Soveraign Being, and our dependance on him? And lastly, What greater things can be said to the Eternal and ever Blessed Trinity? With what face then do we maintain against the Protestants, that we do not Pray to the Saints as unto GOD, nor ask those things of them, which ought only to be ask'd of GOD, and our Saviour, because they only can give them? And that we only pray to them, as one Friend desires another upon Earth. And with what Justice do we of late complain of them, for charging us with these Practices, and would make the World believe that they Misrepre∣sent us? When it is plain, that we are highly guilty of them, and are our selves indeed the very Misrepresenters? For the Love of GOD, our own and our Neighbours Souls, Why should Page 27we any longer palliate and disguise the matter, or by any means defend a Worship, for which we can shew no Law of GOD, or Nature, and which by our own confession is very apt to betray Men into these heinous Sins of Superstition and Idolatry? Why should we, Reverend Fathers, any longer wrong our own Con∣sciences, and deceive the World, in so important a matter, meerly to support the vile Worldly Interest and Honour of a Church, that's afraid to confess herself in an Error. Because for base ends, she once assum'd the Title of Infallible? Without dis∣sembling, Reverend Fathers, would it not be more for the Ho∣nour of our Church, and the good and security of Souls, not only to condemn and lay aside these, but all Prayers whatever to Saints and Angels, and ingenuously confess, that in this parti∣cular however, we have been in an Error, and the Reformed in the right? And that it is abundantly sufficient for Salvation to pray to GOD alone, through the Merits, Mediation, and Inter∣cession only of Jesus Christ our Blessed Redeemer, because GOD has commanded no more? And if neither our Church, nor you for her, will acknowledge an Error in so plain a mat∣ter, and of such vast concern, must not we needs be thought People of a monstrous Courage, to trust our own Souls, and the Souls of our Children in such a Church, and in the hands of such Guides? Again, Reverend Fathers, What signifies it with the Bishop of Meaux, in the Fourth Section of his Exposition, to say, That in what Terms soever those Prayers which we Address to Saints, are couch'd, it is the Intention of the Church, and of her Faithful, to reduce them always to this form, Pray for us? Can the Intention of the Church, and of her Faithful, alter the nature of things, and the universal meaning of plain words? or is any such declarati∣on of Intention to be admitted against the plain, literal, and gram∣matical Sence of the Prayers? But if the Sence and Intention of the Church, be no more, than to Pray for us, then why are not the Prayers and Hymns in our Publik Offices, Breviaries, &c. at least, alter'd to the Sence and Intention of our Church? And why are any other Books of Devotion suffer'd to come out, con∣trary to the Sence and Intention of the Church? What a ridicu∣lous proceeding, to say no worse of it, is this of our Church, both to compose and set out Prayers to the Saints herself, and also permit others to do so too, couch'd and express'd in such Words, Titles, and Phrases, as all sensible Mankind make use of Page 28to express their Thoughts and Desires in their Prayers to GOD, and the Holy Trinity and then cry out, That in what terms soe∣v••, those Prayers which we make to the Saints, are couch'd, it is the Intention of the Church, &c. Is the Latin Tongue, or any Vul∣gar Language, so barren of Words, that when our Church would Invocate the Saints and Angels, &c. she can do it in no other manner, words, or terms, than such in which she con∣stantly and properly addresses herself to GOD, and the Holy Trinity? Are there not in every Language, and particularly in ours, apt and proper words and terms in which to express our Souls to GOD and the Holy Trinity? And likewise when we would desire the Saints and Angels to Pray for us? What folly as well as wickedness is it then to confound these Objects so infi∣nitly different, in the same terms and words, and to use those to the Saints and Angels, which are proper to GOD only? Again, Reverend Fathers, Do not Men generally understand words as they sound and usually signifie? And does not the very natural sence of words, raise proper and suitable Ideas in Mens minds? Now I would fain know of you, Reverend Fa∣thers, What Thoughts or Idea's a Man can be suppos'd to have, who after this manner, and for these things, thus addresses him∣self to the Virgin Mary?
Quere II. But, Reverend Fathers, I am not ignorant that our Disputers think they sufficiently clear their hands of such Writers, as the Author of the Contemplation, &c. Father Cras∣set, Cardinals Bona and Bonaventure, Bernardin de Busts, &c. by saying that such things as they teach, and such Prayers and Expressions, as they compose and publish, are not the Do∣ctrines and Practices of our Church, but the extravagant Say∣ings and Flights of Devotion of some particular Men. Now that this Plea has no place, and is of no force against such Prayers as are found in the Offices, Breviaries, Missals, &c. of our Church, I humbly conceive you'll easily grant, and there∣fore all such Prayers, and that strange Language and Expressi∣ons found in them, must unavoidably be charg'd upon our Church. But then concerning these others, I humbly enquire, Why the Church (if your Order, Reverend Fathers, be a part of the Church) allows and permits such, in particular, the Contemplations, &c. and Father Crasset's Book? and the same I might ask concerning the other Authors I have but now nam'd, for I am told they are all publish'd by the Authority of the Church, or by the permission of those appointed by the Church. And does not such permission amount to the Chur∣ches approbation? And does the Church use to approve of a∣ny thing, that is not the Doctrine of the Church? And if it be the Doctrine of our Church, Why do ye not speak out, and declare so, and prove it to be the Doctrine of Christ and his Page 30Apostles? But if you still deny it to be the Doctrine of our Church, then pray. Why are not the Books call'd in, cen∣sur'd, and forbid to be read, and the Men who writ them punisht for False Teachers, and Deceivers? Again, Reverend Fathers, if such be not the Doctrine of our Church, as I would now fain hope, for a very material reason, it is not, then pray, Reverend Fathers, let me humbly ask you again. Why are these Books let alone to deceive our poor ignorant People into such gross Errors? And here also it will be perti∣nent to enquire of you, Reverend Fathers, Why such Books as corrupt the Doctrines of Repentance, and destroy the necessi∣ty of a Holy Life, speaking Truth, and doing Justice, and in a word, all the Moral Duties and Practice of a Christian, are permitted to walk freely and boldly abroad in the World, and debauch Mens Principles and Practices? Why are they not, I say, call'd in, or forbid, or the Doctrines by the highest Authority condemn'd, and the Authors, who are alive, severe∣ly punisht? A Collection of these Doctrines. I am told, is made by one, or more, of the Doctors of Sorbonne, (who are esteem'd by most wise and good Men, as Orthodon Catholicks as any) and is Entituled, The Morals of your Society. Now, Reverend Fathers, to a Man that is never so little touch'd with the true spirit of a Christian, must it not needs be a sad consi∣deration, to think how many poor ignorant People in our Communion, fall into the misery of such Guides? And ought not this to make all us Catholicks, very careful and cautious about the choice of our Spiritual Guides and Ghostly Fathers, since it seems there are so many in our Church, that if we fol∣low'd them, would lead us into such pernitious and damna∣ble Errors? And here upon this consideration, I cannot omit, in this place, enquiring of you, and I humbly beg you to give me a particular answer to it. What signifies it to us ignorant Lay People, whether the Pope or a General Council, or both together be Infallible, if the Parish-Priest, Fryar, or Jesuit, who has the management of our Souls, be not Infalli∣ble also? For since he is our immediate Teacher, and not the General Council, nor the Pope, is it not plain, that if he should be either a Fool or a Knave, he may either through ignorance, or to serve some carnal and worldly Interest, lead us into damnable Errors? I could be much larger in my Thoughts Page 31on this Enquiry; but I consider that I may have a fitter oc∣casion for it, and therefore shall make no further digressi∣on.
Quere III. But, Reverend Fathers, I must needs yet be plain∣er with you, and tell you, That whether such things as Car∣dinal Bonaventare, and others have taught about the Virgin Mary, be, or be not the Doctrine of our Church, I am ne∣vertheless infinitely disturb'd in my mind. If what Bonaven∣ture has writ be not the Doctrine of our Church, then I am in∣finitely scandaliz'd that our Church should Canonize for a Saint, a Person guilty of such horrid and blasphemous Do∣ctrine. And then again, suppose you could satisfie me (which I fear you cannot) that our Church has actually condemn'd these Books and Writings of his, and others, yet certainly, is it not a most dangerous thing to be in our Communion, where such Spiritual Guides are so frequent? Lord! say I to myself, what a deal of mischief may they do, and how many Souls may they poyson and ruin eternally, before their damnable Errors and pernicious Doctrines are discover'd and condemn'd? Whatever you may think on't, Reverend Fathers, I do profess that I am deeply sensible, that we Catholicks run a desperate hazard in the choice and use of our Spiritual Guides. And does not this frequency of False Teachers among us, make it highly reasonable and necessary, that we People should have the liberty to examine their Doctrines, whether true or false? And if we must examine them, as I do not see but we are bound, unless you can prove, that we must blindly follow our Guides, then I desire to know of you, By what Rule, and by what Means and Faculties? Surely, there is not only some certain Rule, but some certain means to use that Rule by in our Church, for us Lay People, or else to what purpose is the liberty you give us of examining and trying your Doctrines? But I fancy I may have room to make a particular Enquiry concerning this matter, and therefore shall step no farther from my present subject.
Quere IV. But, Reverend Fathers, the two words Command, and Compel, which our Cardinal, and Saint Bonaventure us'd in his Orizon to the Virgin Mary, and quoted in the First Query of this Section, are so excessive harsh and horrid, that Page 32I could not forbear enquiring of you, Whether these Words do not with a witness, elevate the Virgin Mary above the condition of a Creature,* which yet the Bi∣shop of Meanx is so modest to say our Church does not? And does it not only make her equal, but also, set her infinitly above GOD her Creator? Unless that Person who Commands, and Compels, be inferior to the Person Commanded, and Compelld?
Quere V. If I mistake not, Reverend Fathers, we account the Rosary a special Piece of Devotion, and great things are said of its effects, by many of our Eminent Writers, and Guides in Devotion. Now I will not at present enquire into these things, nor into the great Mysteries said to be in it, but will only humbly ask you, 1. What Antiquity, or what Reason can you shew for turning the Angel's Salutation of the Virgin Mary, into a direct Prayer to her? Did the Angel Gabriel say, Holy Mother of GOD, pray for us Sinners, now, and in the Hour of Death; if the Angel did not, How comes it to be per∣tinent for us to do it? But, 2. What is the true reason, that in the Rosary we are to say Ten Ave Maries, to One Pater No∣ster? I have often askt this Question of some of our Priests, but could never get a satisfactory Answer. Now if in this matter I had Courage enough to follow my Reason, I profess, I think, I should say Ten Pater Nosters, to One Ave Marie. For seriously, Reverend Fathers, has not GOD given us in∣comparably far greater Evidence both of his Love and Power, than ever the Virgin Mary did? 3. Why do our Preachers immediately before their Sermons, say an Ave Marie? Why do they address themselves to the Virgin Mary upon that oc∣casion? Is she the Fountain and Giver of all good and perfect Gifts? Does Wisdom and Eloquence come from her? Would it not, think ye, be far more decent and reasonable to ad∣dress to GOD, or to the Holy Ghost, at such a time? But after all, What Reason or Antiquity can you produce for this strange Practice?
Quere VI. Can you, Reverend Fathers, prove by Vincentius Lirinensis's Rule, that departed Souls do enjoy Beatifical Vision before the Day of Judgment? If you can, I humbly beg you would do it. As also, that the Saints departed do cer∣tainly hear our Prayers. You perceive well enough, I doubt Page 33not, why I make this Enquiry. For if the departed Saints neither enjoy Beatifical Vision, nor hear our Prayers, Is it not yet more absurd for us to pray to them?
Quere VII. I think that we assert, that all Certainty in Mat∣ters of Religion must be Infallible, or else it is nothing worth, because we can never rely upon it. Now, pray, Reverend Fathers, What Infallible Assurance have we Catholicks, that all those who are Canoniz'd Saints by his Holiness, are indeed Saints, and in Heaven? If we have not Infallible Assurance, what reason have we Religiously to Invocate them?
Quere VIII. Our Representer, p. 4. distinguishes between Mediators of Redemption, and Mediators of Intercession; of this last, he says, He does not at all doubt, but 'tis acceptable with GOD we should have many. Now here I humbly enquire of you, Reverend Fathers, From whom he learnt this Distinction? From GOD, or from Man? if from GOD, Should he not prove it from Scripture? And how can he do it, since it is there so plainly reveal'd, that GOD hath appointed the Me∣diator of Redemption, to be also our Mediator of Intercession, and that his Intercession is grounded upon his Redemption: thus He∣brews, chap. 7. ver. 25. Whereby he is able to save also for ever, them that go by himself to God, always living to make intercession for us: and 1 Tim. chap. 2. ver. 5, 6. For there is one God, one also mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus: who gave himself a redemption for all. Now, Reverend Fathers, Can you shew me such another Text for the Saints being our Me∣diators of Intercession? But if you say this Distinction is from Man, then I desire to know, How any Man, or all the Men upon Earth, came by such an Authority, as to appoint any Mediators with GOD, besides himself? And lastly, Reverend Fathers, Can you shew from Universal Antiquity, that the Saints departed, are by GOD, appointed Mediators of Inter∣cession, as well as the Man Christ Jesus? If you can, I desire you to do it.
Quere IX. Pray, Reverend Fathers, upon what Ground or Authority does our Church distribute the Patronage of parti∣cular Countries, the Cure of several Diseases, and the Protection of all distinct Professions of Men, and all kinds of Creatures to particular Saints?
Quere X. Why, Reverend Fathers, are there in CatholickPage 34Countries, as Italy, Spain, and France, more Churches built, more Altars erected, more Presents made, and more Cost be∣stow'd, more Prayers pour'd out, and Vows made, and Offices perform'd to the Virgin Mary, who is but a Creature after all, than to our Dear Saviour, who is GOD the Creator?
Quere XI. I am told, Reverend Fathers, That towards the latter end of the Fourth Century, a certain Sect of Women did appear, which met together, to offer certain Cakes, and otherwise to Worship the Virgin Mary, which Cakes were call'd Collyrides, and the Women from them Collyridians: and that the good Bishop, St. Epiphanius, did write zealously a∣gainst them, and treated them as Hereticks, and said, Let Mary be honour'd, but the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost Worship∣ped. Now, Reverend Fathers, I desire to know of you, Whe∣ther this is true? and, Whether we do not offer Candles and Incense to the Virgin Mary? And if those Women were He∣reticks for offering Cakes to her, Pray what are we for offering up to her Candles? Pray where's the difference between Cakes and Candles, as to their being made an Offering? Does not this Example abundantly Confute those Men, who say, It is impossible that any now should be so sottish to make a GOD of her, and Worship her with that Worship which is due to GOD only? For if there were People so grosly silly to commit Idolatry about her, Pray why not much rather now? Are not the present allow'd Doctrines and Prayers, ca∣pable enough to draw People into the like Crime? And are there not both Women and Men too, in this Age, of as weak Understandings, and of as Superstitious and Idolatrous Inclina∣tions as then?
Quere XII. I am told, Reverend Fathers, that the aforemen∣tion'd Cardinal Bona, in his said Book, Entituled, Horolog. Ascet. tells us, That the Rosary is so call'd, because 'tis Com∣pos'd of One Hundred and Fifty Ave Maries, as of so many sweet-smelling Roses: Now I humbly beg of you to know the true reason, Why the Ave Maries are Roses rather, and smell sweeter, than the Pater Nosters? When a Man reflects, that the Pater Nosters are of our dear Lord's own composing, he is apt to think, that they might deserve the name of Roses as well, and smell, at least as sweet as the Ave Maries, the one being a solemn Prayer contriv'd and dictated by the Eternal Wisdom, for Page 35the needs and benefit of his poor Creatures, and the other only a common Form of one Creature's Saluting another, and which by I know not what authority, nor with what pertinency, is since converted into a Form of Religious Prayer. And do not you re∣ally think, Reverend Fathers, that this magnifying the Excellency, and the Odour of the Ave Maries, above the Pater Nosters, is not, to speak softly, a little contrary to the Laws of Good Manners?
Quere XIII. Whether the Honour that is due to a glorified Soul, ought to be any more than that of Love or Charity, Respect and Imitation? And whether in our allow'd Prayers, &c. we do not give to the Virgin Mary, and other Saints, that of Service as to our Lords and Masters? And whether that Honour or Respect that is to be given to a Saint, or an Angel, or an Image, must not be such as is proper to a Saint, or an Angel, or an Image, and not Worship or Adoration?
Quere XIV. Whether the Common People understand the nice Scholastical Distinctions, and Degrees of Divine Honour and Wor∣ship, which 'tis said our cunning Doctors, and subtil School-men have devis'd to excuse our Doctrines and Practices from Idolatry, such as Latria, Dulia, and Hyperdulia? As you hope to be saved, Reverend Fathers, Do you believe that the more ignorant Men and Women, nay, the more knowing Persons, when they are in the Act of Prayer and Adoration, do, or can make use of these nice and learned Distinctions, and make this just separation in their minds? And yet if they do not, is not their falling into Idolatry unavoida∣ble? To what fatal Dangers are we poor Catholicks expos'd!
Quere XV. But to conclude this matter of Invocation, &c. I far∣ther enquire of you, Reverend Fathers, Whether you can shew any footesteps of Prayers to Saints, for the first 300 years (I have heard that some Learned Protestants dare give you 350 years) af∣ter Christ, in any genuine Father, or publick Office or Liturgy? If it had been the Doctrine and Practice of that time as 'tis now among us, can it enter into any but a mad Mans head, to be∣lieve that it would not be found either in some publick Office or Liturgy, or in some of the Fathers, in that compass of time? And if we cannot make it appear to have been the Doctrine and Pra∣ctice in all that time, for God's sake, Reverend Fathers, What reason have we to make such a considerable addition to the Re∣ligion of those Ages? Why may not we be saved now without it, as well as the Christians then? But, Reverend Fathers, I am Page 36farther told, which in my mind is an invincible argument against us in this affair, viz. That the Protestants have made it plainly appear from the Writings of the Ancient Fathers, both Eastern and Western, by the Greek Canon, the Liturgies, father'd upon St. James and the other Apostles, and the Liturgies of St. Basil, and those of Egypt attributed to St. Basil, Gregory Nazianzen, and St. Cyril, and that of St. Chysostom, and by the Mozarabical Office us'd in Spain, that whereas we now Pray To, the Christians then Pray'd For the Souls of the Patriarchs, Prophets, Martyrs, Confessors, Preachers, Evangelists, and Apostles, and all the Souls of the Just which died in the Faith, but chiefly for the Holy, Glorious, and Perpetual Virgin Mary, the Mother of GOD. Now I desire to know of you, Whether any Protestant Writer has done this? or whether it is true or false? But if these things are true, and can be made appear, as I am pretty sure they can, then I desire to know, Whether the Protestants cannot with great Truth and Justice make these Conclusions upon us, 1. That our Church and People now prays, and makes their Confession To those very depar∣ted Souls, For which the ancient Christians pray'd. 2. That the Prayers which were then in use, were for such Persons as by the confession, even of our selves, never were in Purgatory: for who among us dare say, that the Soul of the B. Virgin ever was in Purgatory? 3. That the Ancients Practice of praying for the Dead, does not at all prove their belief of a Purgatory, and that there may be Prayers for the Dead, and yet no Purgatory. 4. That the Christians of those Times did not believe the Saints departed enjoy'd Beatifical Vision, and so to be sure did not pray to them. For is it not a little too gross to think of them, that if they had believ'd the Saints enjoy'd Beatifical Vision, they would still pray for them? And if they had believ'd that the Saints did not en∣joy Beatifical Vision, is it not to treat them like Mad-folks, to think they would pray to them. And, 5. and lastly, May not all this be allow'd to make up a Demonstration, that at least, in these Articles of Invocation of Saints, and the belief of Purgatory, &c. our Faith, Doctrines and Practice, are quite contrary to the First Christians?
Quere I. PRay, Reverend Fathers, What is that lawful Use of, and due Honour and Veneration, which the Council of Trent, Session 25, says, Ought, and is to be given, to the Images and Relicks of Christ and the Saints? Wherein does it consist? And by what acts, words, and signs, is it to be signify'd and express'd? Is it the same that is due to Christ and the Saints, or is it some other different from that? Whether these words of the Council (Lawful and Due) does not necessarily imply, that the People may be guilty of giving an unlawful, and an undue Honour and Veneration? and if so, Where∣in does that consist? And how may I know it to avoid it? Why was not the Council so kind and so honest to tell us, poor ignorant People, what was lawful and due, and what was not? Whether in your Conscience you do not think, that in those Countries where Catholicks have their full swing, and have a full liberty of Worship, and no body to oppose and disturb them with questions, as in Spain, Italy, &c. a great many ignorant People do not exceed in their Ʋse, Ho∣nour, and Veneration of Images and Relicks, and really give them what is unlawful and undue? And if so, may not a Man reasonably doubt (especially too, when he considers that the Fathers of this Council own'd, that great Abuses were then crept into these Matters, and gave such strict Charge to the Bishops to Instruct the People, least they should fall into dangerous Errors) that this Doctrine, and this Piece of Devotion of our Church, does very greatly tempt ignorant Men and Women to Idolatry and Superstition? Besides, I think, Reverend Fa∣thers, you grant, that it is not a Duty commanded by GOD, Why then, since there is apparent danger in it for, and great Abuses and Cheats practis'd by, those of our Communion, and that it is a very great Block of Offence to the Reformed Churches, and hindrance to their being re-united to us, were it not infinitely better and wiser of our Church, if she entirely abolish'd it?
Quere II. Whether more Respect, &c. is not due to the Person of the meanest Beggar, than to all the Images, &c. of Christ and his Apostles, or ten thousand Saints, because 'tis thought that the Poor are indeed the true Image of Jesus Christ?
Quere III. Whether it can be deny'd, that there have been Images and Pictures made to counterfeit Tears, Words, and Gestures? Is it not highly suspitious that the Churches connivance at them, at least, was to induce filly People to believe there was something of Divine in them, and to procure secular Honour and Advantage to the Pa∣stors, &c. If this was not the reason, I desire to know, Why so long Page 38they were conniv'd at, and suffer'd in many Places and Countries? And whether the multitude of fictitious and false Relicks, the sup∣positious Saints, the Images of a false stamp, and the pretended New Miracles, make it not highly reasonable for us Catholicks carefully to enquire into the truth of these things, before we admit and believe them? And since the Council of Trent in the same Session speaks of these kind of Abuses, and gives charge about them, I desire of you, Reverend Fathers, to know by what Infallible Rule we People must examine these matters, so as that we cannot possibly be deceiv'd with Counterfeits? And I humbly intreat you sincerely to tell me, Whether these Tricks, Abuses, and Cheats, were not at first brought in, and practised upon the Credulity of the poor ignorant and super∣stitious People, and afterwards kept and nourisht by the Clergy, for dishonest and base gain, as the aforesaid Decree speaks? And whether in these days we have not as much reason to question the truth of Relicks, Images, Miracles, &c. and dishonest Practises and Designs, as they had in former times? And if we have not, I desire you to assign me good substantial Reasons for it.
Quere IV. I am told, Reverend Fathers, that since the Council of Trent, there's a new Pontifical, and in that a Form for a Solemn Con∣secration of Images, &c. Now I humbly enquire for the true reason, Why you Consecrate, and make Prayers in the Consecration of Images, and the Crucifix? Is not this a very fair way to induce silly and su∣perstitious People, to believe there's after that, some sort of Divinity in them, or some more than ordinary Presence or Operation in, or by them? Else, pray tell me, Why many of us have a greater opinion of one Image, than of another of the same Person? and in one Place rather than in another? For instance, the Image of the Virgin Ma∣ry, Why is it not as effectual and meritorious to Worship her before her Image at Montserat, as at Mont-Aigu? and near at Home, as at Lorretto? Why do we go long and painful Pilgrimages to certain I∣mages at certain Places, if it is not, at least, in hopes of being better heard, and finding more sure relief for praying to, and worship∣ping of her there? Would not a wise Man be apt to think here's something of Trick and Artifice in this Doctrine and Practice? But I humbly enquire of you, What is the true and honest account and reason of this whole Matter? What proof from Scripture, or what authority from prime Antiquity, for this Practice?
Quere V. Pray, Reverend Fathers, What's the meaning of that Prayer which the Bishop uses in Blessing, and Consecrating a New Cross, found in the Pontifical; viz.
Quere VI. I enquire, Reverend Fathers, Whether our distinguish∣ing, and saying we do not give Divine Worship terminatively, but relatively, and transiently, to a Crucifix or to Images, &c. will save us from Idolatry, any more than it did the Heathens in their Wor∣ship of the Sun, and wooden Images? And whether the same Plea, if it will excuse us from gross Idolatry, might not as well excuse them? viz. That we do not Worship that Crucifix, or that Image, &c. which we see and pray before, but him who suffer'd on't, or him whom it represents; so they, We do not Worship the Sun or this Image or Statue, but him who Created the Sun, and the Great GOD, by this Image, and this Statue?
Quere I. PRay, Reverend Fathers, What is the reason, why anciently the People of our Church us'd to pray thus, Grant unto us, O Lord, that this Oblation may profit the Soul of thy Servant Leo? And that afterwards this contrary Form was us'd, Grant unto us, O Lord, that by the Interest of thy Servant Leo, this Oblation may profit us? Was Leo one of our Popes, and a Saint in Purgatory when the first Form was us'd? And was he out of Purgatory, and in Heaven, when the Second Form was us'd? What Infallible Assurance have we, that any Soul is releas'd out of Purgatory, and in particular, that he is now out of Purgatory? And if we have not, How come we to use this last Form of Prayer? But pray, Reverend Fathers, deal ingenuously with me, Do Glorious Saints, Canoniz'd and Reigning in Heaven, use to pass through Purgatory fire? Was St. Monica, St. Austin's Mo∣ther, in Purgatory? Can ye prove she was there? Or do ye think, and can ye prove, that St. Austin believ'd her there when he pray'd for her? And if she was not in Purgatory, Does it not prove that the Ancients us'd to pray for the Dead, which yet they did not believe in Purgatory? Why then do we pray for none, but those we be∣lieve in Purgatory? Where is our Conformity to the Belief and Practice of the Ancients in this matter?
Quere II. Does our Church, Reverend Fathers, teach, That all Souls, none excepted, who are so happy to be saved, must, and do pass through the Fire of Purgatory? If she does, and likewise that our Prayers, &c. do help them, How can we in Charity justifie our constant Custom of not praying for the Departed Souls of Prote∣stants? Do we believe that the Protestants living and dying such, are not finally saved, but damn'd? Does not this sound harsh to Chri∣stian Charity? And does not this our neglect of offering up Pray∣ers, and saying Masses for their Souls, openly declare to the World our uncharitableness? And that we believe the Soul of every Per∣son living and dying in the Reform'd Religion is damn'd? since we never fail of offering up Prayers and Masses for those Souls of whom we have the least hope of Salvation?
Quere III. Do not you, Reverend Fathers, reckon the Reformed Religion to be Christian? Why then do ye teach us to think and call it a New Religion? Are the Three Creeds, the Ten Commandments, the Lords Prayer, and the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, New? And yet I am pretty well assur'd these are the Foundation, and contain the whole of their Religion. Why then do ye ask them, and teach us to do so, Where was your Religion before Luther? Where's the Justice and the Truth of this? Is it not plain, that Page 41GOD and our B. Saviour are the Authors of this Religion? But, Reverend Fathers, What if they should ask us, as sometime I have been askt, without being able to answer a word, Where was your Religion before the Council of Trent? what should I say? For my part, I have lookt till my eyes are weary, and cannot find a word, either in the Three Creeds, the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, or the Holy Scriptures, that our Saviour has forbid us to Receive the Communion in Both Kinds; that the Bread and Wine, by Virtue of the Priest's saying, Hoc est, &c. is transubstantiated into the very natural Flesh, Blood, Bones, and Sinews, and the Soul and Divinity of our Dear Saviour; that we must Pray to GOD in a Language we understand not; that Saints and Angels are to be Worshipp'd with Religious Worship; that Mens Souls go to Purgatory, before they go to Heaven; that the Pope of Rome is Christ's Vicar; and that the Church of Rome is as Infallible as GOD; with many other Points, and Doctrines, too long here to be named at this time.
Quere IV. Pray, Reverend Fathers, Had the English Bishops and Pastors in Henry the Eighth's Reign, and at the time of the Reformation, by Virtue of their Ordination, &c. receiv'd from Rome, Power and Authority to Preach and Teach the Truth of the Gospel, and Reform all Errors and Corruptions in Faith, Doctrines, Worship, and Manners, within their own Jurisdictions, Diocesses, &c.? If they had not, How were they God's Ambassadors, Mini∣sters, and Dispensers of the Gospel, which is nothing else but Truth and Holi∣ness? If they had, and that the Reformed Faith, Doctrine, and Worship is the Truth of the Gospel, were not all our Forefathers in Conscience bound to hearken to, and obey them; and not only for that reason, but also because they were their Lawful Bishops and Pastors? And for the same reason are not we now bound to hearken to, and obey the present Bishops, and Pastors of the Church of England, who are their lawful and undoubted Successors?
Quere V. Pray, Reverend Fathers, What Council or Pope has declar'd and decreed against Rebellion, let one's Natural Prince be of what Religion he will, and never so contrary to the worldly Policy and Interest of Rome? I would fain hope, that you can satisfie me in this Enquiry, because I have often heard our Church tax'd for a Disloyal Church. But further I enquire, Whether no Council or Pope has ever declar'd and decreed, nor Cardinal, or Jesuit, writ and maintain'd, That in many cases, but especially when Princes are not of the Religion and Interests of the Church of Rome, it is lawful to cut them off? And has there been no Treasons committed, nor Rebellions acted, not only by the Laity, but also by the Clergy, and even by the Pope himself, in conformity and obedience to such Decrees and Doctrines?
Quere VI. What is the meaning I beseech you, Reverend Fathers, of that Book which is Intituled in English, The Tax of the Apostolick Chamber for seve∣ral Sins? The Protestants often upbraid us with it, and really I know not what to answer, because I have enquir'd and find there is such a Book, and more, that 'tis authoriz'd and allow'd by our Church. But I am much puzled to find out a good meaning of it. Methinks it sounds a little harsh to Christian ears, that for any sums of money at all, there should be, either Indulgence given to commit sins, or a pardon procur'd after they are committed, and this Publi∣sh'd to all the World! Does not this look like tempting and inviting men to be wicked?Page 42
Quere VII. If it be true, Reverend Fathers, what the Protestants charge you, and the rest of the Guides of our Church with, as that you deny men the use of their Sensos and Reason about Religion, and so would debase them into the condition of mere Brutes, is it not just to esteem you the common Ene∣mies of Mankind? For to what end and purpose did God give us these Facul∣ties! was it only think ye to govern our selves in worldly affairs? And did not the wise and good God likewise endue us with Sense and Reason, that we might preserve our selves from being imposed upon and cheated by a false and absurd Religion? Now what Design can that Man or Company of Men be rationally thought to have, who would rob Mankind of the only means which GOD has given them to preserve themselves from being deceiv'd in so mighty a Concernment as Religion? And from being made wretched Slaves, to wicked and designing Men? And on the contrary, Are not the Divines of the Church of England, and other Protestant Churches to be highly valued and lov'd, because they earnestly invite Men to the Exercise of their Senses and Reason about Religion, and propound no Doctrines but what tends to the im∣provement and perfecting of Human, as well as Divine Knowledge, and en∣nobling the Nature of Man, which certainly is the Great Design of the Chri∣stian Religion?
Quere VIII. Whether your way of conducting Religion, and managing Coneroversies by Tricks and Arts, and exposing the whole Christian Religion, for the sake of some unreasonable Doctrines and Propofitions; by making Parallels between the Doctrine of the Trinity and Transubstantiation, and ma∣king the First to depend only upon the Authority of the Church, because the Second has no better Foundation. Is it not, I say, enough to set the Hearts of thinking Men against you?
Quere IX. In the 22 Session, Chap. 8. Of the Doctrine of the Sacrifice of the Mass, the Council of Trent says, That although the Mass contains a large Instruction of a Faithful People, yet it is not convenient to be exercis'd publickly in the Vulgar Tongue. How, Reverend Fathers! A large Instruction for the People, and yet not convenient to let the People understand it! Were not the Good Fathers of the Council a little merry here, as well as mysterious? But pray be you pleas'd to be serious, and tell me, What do you think might be the true reason why these Wise and Holy Men thought it inconvenient to have Mass said in the Vulgar Tongue? Does it look kind and Christian-Father-like, that altho' they confess the Mass was a large Instruction for the People, yet that they should at the same time Command to keep the People ignorant of it, except only some parcels of it, now and then to be dealt out to them? This manner of acting from Christian Fathers to their Children, appears to me extraordina∣ry, and therefore pray satisfie me about it, and tell me, what were they a∣fraid of? And what inconvenience would have follow'd, suppose Mass had been publickly said, for example, in English? Why so much Policy and Cun∣ning in our managing of Religion? I must needs tell you that I am scanda∣liz'd at it. For when a Man considers the Christian Religion, he finds that certainly never was there a more plain, simple, and inartificial Religion than it. And since the wife GOD thought fit so to propound it to Mankind, how dare you and the rest of the Pastors, &c. manage it like the Juggles and Page 43Intrigues of a State. Will not a serious Reflection on this, make thinking men apt to suspect our Church-Governours and Spiritual Guides, and so by conse∣quence the Doctrine and practices of our Church too? And do ye think that wise men observing our Religion to be mixt with so much Craft and Worldly Policy, and that many of our Doctrines, such as Purgatory and Indulgences, &c. plainly tend to serve Worldly Ends, do not furnish them with mighty Preju∣dices against our Church-men?
Query X. Whether, with wise and honest men, it is not, Reverend Fathers, a vast and just prejudice against our Church and Cause, that our Writers of Con∣troversie are so perpetually by the Protestant Divines charg'd with using Sup∣positious and Spurious Authors, and such as the Honest and Learned men of our own Church disallow of? And whether on the contrary, it is not both a good sign, as well as a mighty credit and advantage for the Reformation, that its Defenders are never charg'd by us with alledging and quoting false and coun∣terfeit Authors, but can maintain their Cause against us by true and genuine Authors and Writings? Is not this a plain Confession, that either our Writers of Controversie are grosly ignorant, and know not which are genuine, and which are counterfeit Authors, or very dishonest, if they do know them, and yet use them, and impose them upon the World, and that the points in difference can∣not otherwise, on our side, be defended?
Query XI. Whether the Pope's pretensions to Infallibility and Supremacy, in∣stead of being a means to obtain and preserve Ʋnity, is not one of the greatest Impediments and Obstacles, that ever stood in the way of the Peace and Ʋnity of the Catholick Church? And also are not these pretensions of the Pope, the true Root and Cause of all the Schrisms, Wars, Bloudy Massacres, acted by our people upon the poor Protestants, and the Miseries and Confusions that have been in the Church and State, in this and other Countries for these many hun∣dred years? And whether, according to all humane and rational Probability, we might not far sooner hope, to see Ʋnity and Concord, Peace and Love in the Church Ʋniversal, and between one National Church, and one Christian man and another, if this great Block of Offence were remov'd? And in a word, Whether there can be any rational hopes of Ʋnity or Peace, either in Church or State, till the Court of Rome is destroy'd, and the Pope reduced both to the Name and Condition of a Primitive Bishop of Rome?
But, Reverend Fathers, I am come to the intended limits, and a conclusion of my Letter, before I have near finish'd my Enquiries. For a multitude of other troublesome Thoughts, Doubts, and Scruples, in very important matters, crowd in upon me, and press for room here. But I must bear with their com∣pany, till a fairer occasion. It may be they shall be the subject of a Second Letter of Enquiry. But I humbly beg you to give me a speedy Answer to this. For pray consider, how uneasie 'tis to dwell with a dissatisfied Conscience! Be∣sides, I must needs tell you, that since your great Prudence has thought it for the advantage of our Church and Cause (which nevertheless some wise men wonder how you could) to publish in the Vulgar Tongue our Canons, &c. and the Catechism of the Council of Trent, and that I am now convinc'd Ignorance is not such a rare and commendable Virtue, nor so great a Friend to Devotion,Page 44as some of you have endeavour'd to make me and others believe; I say, I am now resolv'd, not only diligently to r••d over these Canons, &c. but also our Representer's Pieces and the Answers to them, and also as many as I can, of o∣ther of the best esteem'd Books of Controversie, writ by both Churches. For I now think it both a most unjust and foolish method and course to read only the Books of the side. If Judges should do so, what mad Justice should we have? And is our Eternal Happiness of less concern than worldly matters? But to conclude: I hape, Reverend Fathers, nothing has dropt from my Pen, for which I need beg your Pardon; but if there should, I doubt not but your great Charity will give it the most favourable construction, and excuse it. Much less need I apologize that I have not writ this Letter, and made my En∣quiries in an exact method and order, and like a Scholar and an Artist, since you know I pretend to be none. If I have deliver'd my Thoughts so plain and clear, as to be well understood by my unlearned Brethren, and that they are edify'd by them, I have gain'd my ends, and what I passionately desire. But indeed I must needs confess, that if I had had all the Qualifications of a perfect Scholar, I believe I should have proceeded in the same manner. For I look upon a plain and inartificial Dress, the most agreeable to Truth and Honesty. And as far as these permit me, I am,
Your most Obedient Servant, A. B.
September the 21th, and St. Matthew's day, 1688.