« הקודםהמשך »
Return from the Church of Rome to the
Church of England.
Have ever had much honour for your Person, and have found your Friendship fo largely ex
pressed to me in your care of my Welfare, that I can neither be so ungrateful, as to forget it, or so unjust as not to acknowledge it. Your Merits therefore, and my Obligations which are so great, move
' me to give you an account of the Change I have once more made in Religion ; in which, though"! fear I shall miss of your Approbation, yet your Charity, I hope, will judge me no unmannerly or malicious Offender, since in what I intend to write
I resolve to forbear all Invectives or Reflections that may justly provoke you, or any of your Cominunion; of which you must not any longer consider me as a Member.
Perhaps you'll impute my Change to the inconstańcy of my Sex ; but though I may be subject to that, as well as other Infirmities of Human Nature, and the weaker Sex, yet I can with a safe Conscience declare, that of all Weaknesses belonging to the one or the other, I think I am as little subject to any, as inconstancy; for which I have Contempt in the highest degree. I look upon fickleness as one of the most deplorable Infirmities, as well as dangerous, where it is habitual ; and therefore have always guarded against it. And I speak it to the praise of God, in whom alone is no shadow of Change, I have been ever true and constant to my King, and to my Friends, in all Fortunes and Changes : And therefore to be only fickle in the great Concern of Religion, and Things relating to my Soul, is as improbable, I hope, as I am sure it would be miserable. No, l'humbly thank my God, my love to that hath always been constant, though I have varyed in the Opinion of Things that I thought best secured my eternal Happiness. Heaven was always the Mark I ever aimed at; and though through mistake of the wrong for the right Way, I have for some time gone astray, yet my Heart was ever fixed there, and in the love and search of Truth.
When you bestowed your Pains in instructing me in your Principles, which I acknowledge with Gratitude, because I believe you
intended my good, you had two great advantages over me, the Eclipse of the Church of England, and my own Youth; which was too weak to discern her as she now is, and then really was in her felf, cleaned from those Mifts and Clouds of Error, with which like the Sun, she was surrounded and obfcured to
the greatest degree. In truth, Sir, when I look back upon those unhappy Times, and consider how the false new Lights dazled the Eyes of many, and indisposed them from discerning the pure light of Truth; and how the Enthusiasis of Pretenders to the Spirit passed for Divine Inspirations,
hope I may be excused for having wandred out of the way in those distracted Times: Especially considering the great advantages I was promised by you, if I would join my self to yours, which you called the Catholick Church. There you made me believe I should find Unity without Division, Light for Darkness; Truth, even the ancient Catholick and Apoftolick Truth, instead of Errors; Certainty and Satisfaction instead of Uncertainty and Doubts; and wholsome Food instead of Poison. And encouraged with these assurances, I entred in the simplicity of my Hearţ, into the field of your Church, in which you persuaded me to expect no. thing but pure Wheat withour Tares.
But alas, Sir, I have been greatly disappointed, for I haye found Plenty, great Plenty of Tares there, which grow so thick, that in truth they almost choak the good Seed of God's most holy Word, Your Church was represented to me as an Heaven, or Paradise upon Earth, as all Peace and Purity; but how little have I, to my greaç Misfortune, found of all, or either of these, which ypon your Authority I expected to find there.
For, First, as to the Unity of your Church, of which you boasted ; nog to mention the things in which you are united, I found it for the most part to be an Unity of Ignorance and Force; of Ignorance in the generality of your People ; and of Force and Terror upon your learned Priests : And yet notwithstanding these and your other Arts and Engines of Union, as your pretended Infallibility, you have more Parties, and Factions, and Dividipas in your Church, than are in the Church of
England. I say, than are in the Church of England : For as to the Divisions out of it, they do not affect her inward Unity, no more than they do that of yours. Tell me therefore in your Conscience, is the Unity of your Church in it self greater than the intrinsical Union of ours ? Are you more of one Mind, or have you fewer Controversies among your selves, than we have ? You know you have not. You know what different Opinions and Disputes you have about your pretended Infallibility, whether it is seated in the Pope, or in a Gene; ral Council, or in both ; or as some say in neither, but in the Church diffusive. You know, and I know, Sir, the implacable Feuds that are betwixt the Jesuits and Seculars; and that these are more inveterate against those, than the Calvinian Faction among us are against the Arminians ; nay, even as much as those Puritans, and other Sectaries, who have divided from it, are againft our Church it self. In truth, Sir, I have found more Argument and Union of Opinion than is among your Priests, betwixt knowing Church of England Protestants, and moderate Papists ; ivho though they will not forsake your Communion, yet detire what we have done, were done a little better, and more regularly in your Church by her own intrinsecal Authority, which they wil she would exert in reforming those things, which our Church hath reformed both in Doctrine, Worship, and Government; and that the Universal Church was reduced in all Points to the state it was in at the Council of Nice.
You told me you differ not among your felves in Fundamentals, but in Matters of mere Opinion, which may with safety be held either way ; but if that be an excuse for your intestine Divisions, pray let it be admitted as an Apology for ours; and then Reproach us no more with them, nor make them an Argument against our Church. But
deny, Sir, that you differ not among your felves about Fundamentals, unless you'll say that Episcocy and Loyalty are not Fundamentals: Whereof the one sure is Fundamental to the Constitution and Government of the Church, and the other a very comprehensive and fundamental Part of Christian Morality, enjoined by the first Commandment with Promise, and taught us by Christ and his Apostles, as exprefly as any thing that belongs to Christian Practice. Certainly, Sir, that Order of Ministers, which all Antiquity held to be Fundamental to the Church, as a Society founded by Jesus Christ, cannot be a Matter of mere Opinion; and what Christ and his Apostles taught by their Doctrine and Example, and Christians practised to a Man under Heathen, Heretical, and Apoftate Emperors and Kings with so much constancy and in so many bloody Perfecutions, must be a fundamental Duty, and as necessary to Salvation as any other practical Duty in the whole Moral System of the Christian Religion. And yet, Sir, do not your School-men, Canonists, and other Alavish Court-writers in a most fad manner limit, and mangle, and distinguish away these two Do&rines, in asserting Episcopacy not to be an Order but only a Dignity, and in making Bishops not the Ministers of Chrift, but of the Pope ; and that it is lawful to take up Arms against Sovereign Princes, to secure the Church. Sir, you know this to be true, and that the Adversaries of Epifcopacy and Loyalty, who have dishonoured the Church of England, make use of the Arguments They find in your Writers; and certainly will make ufe of them against the Church and King, to the end of the World. Then touching the Bible it felf, which I hope is a Fundamental too, did not * Pope SIXTUS V. damn all other Copies
See the Latin Book, Entituled, Bcllum Papale, &c. Auctore Thoma James. In 4°. Londini, 1600.