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near, that many of the most quicksighted and sagacious persons have not been able to discover any other difference between us, as to the main principle of all doctrine, government, worship and discipline, but this one, viz. That you cannot err in any thing you determine, and we never do: That is, in other words, that you are infallible, and we always in the right We cannot but esteem the advantage to be exceedingly on our side in this case, because we have all the benefits of infallibility, without the absurdity of pretending to it; and without the uneasy task of maintaining a point so shocking to the understanding of mankind. And you must pardon us if we cannot help thinking it to be as great and as glorious a privilege in us, to be always in the right, without the pretence to infallibility, as it can be in you, to be always in the wrong, with it.
Thus, the Synod of Dort, (for whose unerring decisions public thanks to Almighty God are, every three years, offered up with the greatest solemnity, by the magistrates in that country;) the Council of the Reformed in France; the Assembly of the Kirk of Scotland; and (if I may presume to name it) the Convocation of England, have been all found to have the very same unquestionable authority, which your Church claims solely upon the infallibility which resides in it; and the people, to be under the very same strict obligation of obedience to their determinations, which with you is the consequence only of an absolute infallibility. The reason therefore, why we do not opealy set up an infallibility, is because we can do without. it. Authority results as well from power as from right; and a majority of votes is as strong a foundation for it as infallibility itself. Councils that may err, never do: And besides, being composed of men whose peculiar business is to be in the right, it is very immodest for any private person to think them not so; because this is to set up a private corrupted understanding, above a public uncorrupted judgment.
Thus it is in the North, as well as the South; abroad, as well as at home. All maintain the exercise of the same authority in themselves; which yet they know not how so much as to speak of, without ridicule, in others.
In England it stands thus. The Synod of Dort is of no weight: it determined many doctrines wrong. The Assembly of Scotland hath nothing of a true authority: and is very much out, in its scheme of doctrines, worship and government. But the Church of England is vested with all authority; and justly challengeth all obedience.
If one crosses a river in the North, there it stands thus.
The Church of England is not enough reformed; its doctrines, worship and government have too much of Antichristian Rome in them. But the Kirk of Scotland hath a divine right, from its only head, Jesus Christ, to meet, and to enact what to it. shall seem fit, for the good of his Church.
Thus, we left you for your enormous, unjustifiable claim to an unerring spirit; and have found out a way, unknown to your Holiness and your predecessors, of claiming all the rights that belong to infallibility, even whilst we disclaim and abjure the thing itself.
As for us of the Church of England, if we will believe many of its greatest advocates, we have Bishops in a succession as certainly uninterrupted from the Apostles, as your Church could communicate it to us. And upon this bottom, which makes us a true Church, we have a right to separate from you; but no persons living have any right to differ, or separate from us. And they again who differ from us, value themselves upon something or other, in which we are supposed defective; or upon being free from some superfluities which we enjoy ; and think it hard that any will be still going further, and refine upon their scheme of worship and discipline.
Thus we have indeed left you; but we have fixed ourselves in your seat, and make no scruple to resemble you, in our de fences of ourselves, and censures of others, whenever we think it proper.
We have all sufficiently felt the load of the two topicks of Heresy and Schism. We have been persecuted, hanged, burnt, massacred, (as your Holiness well knows) for Hereticks and Schismaticks. But all this hath not made us sick of these two words. We can still throw them about us, and play them off upon others, as plentifully and as fie cely as they are dispensed to us from your quarter. It often puts me in mind; (your Holiness must allow me to be a little ludicrous if you admit me to your conversation) it often, I say, puts me in mind of a play which I have seen amongst some merry people: A man strikes his next neighbour with all his force; and he, instead of returning it to the man who gave it, communicates it with equal zeal and strength to another; and this to another and so it circulates, till it returns perhaps to him who set the sport a-going Thus your Holiness begins the attack. You call us hereticks and schismaticks; and burn and destroy us as such though God knows there is no more right any where to use hereticks or schismaticks barbarously, than those who think and speak as their superiors bid them. But so it is, You thunder out
the sentence against us. We think it ill manners to give it you back again; but we throw it out upon the next brethren that come in our way; and they upon others: and so it goes round, till some perhaps have sense and courage enough, to throw it back upon those who first began the disturbance, by pretending to authority where there can be none.
We have not indeed now the power of burning hereticks, as our forefathers of the reformation had. The civil power hath taken away the act, which continued that glorious privilege to them, upon the remonstrance of several persons, that they could not sleep, whilst that act was awake. But then, every thing on this side death, still remains untouched, to us: We can mo lest, harrass, imprison, and ruin, any man who pretends to be wiser than his betters. And the more unspotted the man's character is, the more necessary we think it to take such crush ing methods. Since the toleration hath been authorized in these nations, the legal zeal of men hath fallen the heavier upon hereticks; (for it must always, it seems, be exercised upen some sort of persons, or other ;) and amongst these, chiefly upon such as differ from us in points, in which, above all others, a difference of opinion is most allowable: Such as are acknowledged to be very abstruse and unintelligible; and to have been in all ages thought of, and judged of, with the same difference and variety.
Sometimes we of the established church can manage a prosecution, (for I must not call it a persecution) ourselves, without calling any other help. But I must do the dissenting protestants the justice to say, that they have shewn themselves, upon occasion, very ready to assist us in so pious and christian a work, as bringing hereticks to their right mind: Being themselves but very lately come from experiencing the convincing and enlightening faculty, of a dungeon, or a fine. The difference between these two sorts of persons is this. The one differ from us about ceremonies of worship and government; but they boggle not at all at the doctrine settled for us by our first reformers: It is all with them right and good, just as Christ left it at first; and Calvin found it, above fifteen hundred years afterwards. The others, unhappy men, book upon this. to be straining at a gnat, and swallowing a Camel. However, the former sort having a toleration for their own way, upon subscribing all our doctrines, can the more easily come to persuade themselves, that the christian world is unhinged, if the latter should be tolerated in their opposition to doctrines which have been called fundamentals, even by protestants, for so many years.
This hath been experienced particularly in Ireland; by one who could not see exactly what they saw, about the nature of Christ before his appearance in this world. For, as with you, a man had better blaspheme Almighty God, than not magnify the blessed Virgin; so, with many of us, it is more innocent and less hazardous, to take from the glory of the Father, than of his Son. Nay, to bring down the father to a level with his own son, is a commendable work; and the applauded labour of many learned men of leisure: but to place the son below his own Father, in any degree of real perfection, this is an unpardonable error; so unpardonable, that all hands were united against that unhappy man. And he found at length, that he had much better have violated all God's commandments, than have interpreted some passages of Scripture differently from his brethren. The nonconformists accused him; the conformists condemned him; the secular power was called in; and the cause ended in an imprisonment, and a very great fine. Two methods of conviction, about which the gospel is silent!
In Scotland, let a man depart an inch from the confession of faith, and rule of worship, established by the assembly: and he will quickly find, that, as cold a country as it is, it will be too hot for him to live in. The Reformation boasts itself, there, to be Evangelical, without alloy; and is guarded by a very sensible severity of discipline. To suppose therefore, any point of doctrine to be erroneous, or so much as a subject for a new examination, in so unspotted a church, is a token of malignity and infidelity; and the man who doth it must be content to escape out of their hands as well as he can.
In England, it is not all the excellences in the world, united in one man, that can guard him against the fatal consequences of heresy, or differing, in some opinions, from the current notions of our world; especially if those opinions are such as are allowed to be mysterious and inexplicable. We have now an instance of one or two learned, and otherwise good men, who have thought it their duty, (as they themselves say) to step aside out of the common path. And what their fate will be, time must shew. At present, the zeal (as it is called) of their adversaries prevails. The fire is kindled, and how far it will consume, or where it will stop, God only knows. But the case of one of them (which will give your Holiness sone notion how we stand affected) is very remarkable. For, not to mention his good life, (which is looked upon as a trifle, common to almost all modern hereticks ;) tho' his religion is mix'd up with a good deal of kalendar and rubrical piety; though he hath his
stated fasts and feasts, which he observes with the greatest devotion; though he is zealous for building of churches in the apostolical form of a ship, with all accommodations for order and decency; though he is for the use of oil, and the trine immersion in baptism, and for water mixed with wine, in the other sacrament; though he is very warm for believing in Christ towards the east, and renouncing the devil towards the west; though he hath laid them a foundation for independent church-power, in the decrees of the Apostles themselves; nay, though he joins with them in beating down human reason, when it would pretend to judge in matters of religion; and resigns to them all the preferments in the land, from Dover, to Berwick upon Tweed, yet all will not do: He holds the son to be inferior to the father, and created by him, though a being of most glorious perfections: and upon this account, he must not enjoy, even the poverty which he hath chose, in quiet. And if this be his case, what hath another to expect, who hath not these advantages on his side: though he should be found armed with unspotted integrity, and unequalled learning, and judgment.
Your Holiness will judge from hence, how the matter of heresy stands amongst us: and how it must stand, unless my Lords the Bishops, who have with an unexampled courage preserved our liberties in civil matters, with equal resolution step in; and oppose that spirit, which from such beginnings at first among you, proceeded farther and farther, till it broke out into fire and massacre, for God's glory, and the good of his church.
And, as I observed before, that there was no need for your pretending to infallibility; that it is better taken in the world, and as easy, to establish the same authority without it; so, here it will be obvious to those of your church to observe, that there was no manner of necessity upon them, to discard the Scriptures, as a rule of faith open to all Christians, and to set up the church in distinction to them; because they may see plainly now, that the same feats are to be performed, and with more decency, (though not with more consistency, of which few are judges) without carrying things to such an extremity. For, at the same time that we are warmly contending against your disputants, for the right of the people to search and consider the Gospel themselves, it is but taking care, in some other of our controversies, to fix it upon them that they must not abuse this right; that they must not pretend to be wiser than their superiors; that they must take care to understand