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vaded the liberty of the church, and multiplied the dangers of damnation, and pretend new necessities, and have introduced new articles, and affright the simple upon new pretensions, and slight the very institution and the commands of Christ and of the apostles, and invent new sacramentals, constituting ceremonies of their own head, and promise grace along with the use of them, as if they were not ministers but lords of the Spirit, and teach for doctrines the commandments of men, and make void the commandment of God by their tradition, and have made a strange body of divinity; therefore it is necessary that we should immure our faith by the refusal of such vain and superstitious dreams but our faith was completed at first, it is no other than that which was delivered to the saints, and can be no more for ever.
So that it is a foolish demand to require, that we should shew before Luther a system of articles declaring our sense in these questions: it was long before they were questions at all; and when they were made questions, they remained so, a long time; and when by their several pieces they were determined, this part of the church was oppressed with a violent power; and when God gave opportunity, then the yoke was broken; and this is the whole progress of this affair. But if you will still insist upon it, then let the matter be put into equal balances, and let them shew any church, whose confession of faith was such as was obtruded upon you at Trent: and if your religion be Pius the Fourth's creed at Trent, then we also have a question to ask, and that is, 'Where was your religion before Trent?'
The council of Trent determined, That the souls departed before the day of judgment enjoy the beatifical vision. It is certain this article could not be shewn in the confession any of the ancient churches; for most of the fathers were of another opinion. But that which is the greatest offence of Christendom, is not only that these doctrines which we say are false were yet affirmed, but that those things which the church of God did always reject, or held as uncertain, should be made articles of faith, and so become parts of your religion; and of these it is that I again ask the question which none of your side shall ever be able to answer for you: 'Where was your religion before Trent?' 1
I could instance in many particulars, but I shall name
one to you, which because the thing of itself is of no great consequence, it will appear the more unreasonable and intolerable that your church should adopt it into the things of necessary belief, especially since it was only a matter of fact, and they took the false part too. For in the 21st sess. chap. 4. it is affirmed, that "although the holy fathers did give the sacrament of the eucharist to infants, yet they did it without any necessity of salvation," that is, they did not believe it necessary to their salvation: which is notoriously false, and the contrary is marked out with the blacklead of every man almost that reads their works; and yet your council says, this is 'sine controversiâ credendum,' 'to be believed without all controversy;' and all Christians forbidden to believe or teach otherwise. So that here it is made an article of faith amongst you, that a man shall neither believe his reason nor his eyes: and who can shew any confession of faith in which all the Trent doctrine was professed and enjoined under pain of damnation?
And before the council of Constance, the doctrine touching the Pope's power was so new, so decried, that as Gersona says, he hardly should have escaped the note of heresy that would have said so much as was there defined: so that in that article, which now makes a great part of your belief, where was your religion before the council of Constance? And it is notorious that your council of Constance determined the doctrine of the half-communion with a 'non obstante' to Christ's institution, that is, with a defiance to it, or a noted, observed neglect of it, and with a profession it was otherwise in the primitive church. Where then was your religion before John Huss and Jerome of Prague's time, against whom that council was convened? But by this instance it appears most certainly that your church cannot shew her confessions immediately after Christ, and therefore if we could not shew ours immediately before Luther, it were not half so much; for since you receded from Christ's doctrine, we might well recede from yours; and it matters not who, or how many, or how long, they professed your doctrine, if neither Christ nor his apostles did teach it: so that if these articles constitute your church, your church was invisible at the first; and if ours was invisible afterward, it
a De Potest. Eccles. cons. 12.
matters not; for yours was invisible in the days of light, and ours was invisible in the days of darkness. For our church was always visible in the reflections of Scripture; and he that had his eyes of faith and reason, might easily have seen these truths all the way which constitute our church. But I add yet further, that our church, before Luther, was there where your church was, in the same place, and in the same persons for divers of the errors which have been amongst us reformed, were not the constituent articles of your church before Luther's time; for before the last councils of your church a man might have been of your communion upon easier terms; and indulgences were indeed a practice, but no article of faith, before your men made it so, and that very lately, and so were many other things besides. So that although your men cozen the credulous and the simple by calling yours the old religion,' yet the difference is vast between truth and their affirmative, even as much as between old errors and new articles. For although ignorance and superstition had prepared the ore, yet the councils of Constance and Basil, and Trent especially, were the forges and the mint.
Lastly, If your men had not, by all the vile and violent arts of the world, stopped the mouths of dissenters, the question would quickly have been answered, or our articles would have been so confessed, so owned, and so public, that the question could never have been asked: but in despite of all opposition, there were great numbers of professors who did protest and profess and practise our doctrines contrary to your articles; as it is demonstrated by the divines of Germany in Illyricus's 'Catalogus Testium Veritatis,' and in Bishop Morton's' Appeal.'
But with your next objection you are better pleased, and your men make most noise with it. For you pretend that by our confession salvation may be had in your church, but your men deny it to us; and therefore by the confession of both sides you may be safe, and there is no question concerning you; but of us there is great question, for none but ourselves say that we can be saved.
I answer, 1. That salvation may be had in your church, is it ever the truer because we say it? If it be not, it can add no confidence to you; for the proposition gets no strength
by our affirmative. But if it be, then our authority is good, or else our reason; and if either be, then we have more reason to be believed speaking of ourselves; because we are concerned to see that ourselves may be in a state of hope; and therefore we would not venture on this side if we had not greater reason to believe well of ourselves than of you. And therefore believe us when it is more likely that we have greater reason, because we have greater concernments, and therefore greater considerations.
2. As much charity as your men pretend us to speak of you, yet it is a clear case our hope of your salvation is so little, that we dare not venture ourselves on your side. The burger of Oldwater, being to pass a river in his journey to Daventry, bade his man try the ford; telling him he hoped he should not be drowned; for though he was afraid the river was too deep, yet he thought his horse would carry him out, or at least the boats would fetch him off. Such a confidence
we may have of you, but you will find that but little warranty, if you remember how great an interest it is that you
3. It would be remembered that though the best ground of your hope is not the goodness of your own faith, but the greatness of our charity; yet we that charitably hope well of you, have a fulness of assurance of the truth and certainty of our own way; and however you can please yourselves with images of things, as having no firm footing for your trifling confidence, yet you can never with your tricks outface us of just and firm adherences; and if you were not empty of supports, and greedy of bulrushes, snatching at any thing to support your sinking cause, you would with fear and trembling consider the direct dangers which we demonstrate to you to be in your religion, rather than flatter yourselves with collateral, weak, and deceitful hopes of accidental possibilities, that some of you may escape.
4. If we be more charitable to you than you are to us, acknowledge in us the beauty and essential form of Christian religion, be sure you love as well as make use of our charity: but if you make our charity an argument against us, remember that you render us evil in exchange for good; and let it be no brag to you that you have not that charity to us; for therefore the Donatists were condemned for heretics and
schismatics, because they damned all the world, and afforded no charity to any that was not of their communion.
5. But that our charity may be such indeed, that is, that it may do you a real benefit, and not turn into wormwood and coloquintida, I pray take notice in what sense it is that we allow salvation may possibly be had in your church. We warrant it not to any, we only hope it for some; we allow it to them as to the Sadducees in the Law, and to the Corinthians in the Gospel, who denied the resurrection; that is, till they were sufficiently instructed, and competently convinced, and had time and powers to outwear their prejudices, and the impresses of their education and long persuasion. But to them amongst you who can and do consider and yet determine for error and interest, we have a greater charity, even so much as to labour and pray for their conversion, but not so much fondness as to flatter them into boldness and pertinacious adherences to matters of so great danger.
6. But in all this affair, though your men are very bold with God, and leap into his judgment-seat before him, and give wild sentences concerning the salvation of your own party and the damnation of all that disagree; yet that which is our charity to you, is indeed the fear of God, and the reverence of his judgments. We do not say that all Papists are certainly damned, we wish and desire vehemently that none of you may perish. But then this charity of judgment relates not to you, nor is derived from any probability which we see in your doctrines that differ from ours: but because we know not what rate and value God puts upon the article ; it concerns neither you nor us to say, this or that man shall be damned for his opinion: for besides that this is a bold intrusion into that secret of God which shall not be opened till the day of judgment; and besides that we know not what allays and abatements are to be made by the good meaning and the ignorance of the man; all that can concern us is to tell you that you are in error, that you depart from Scripture, that you exercise tyranny over souls, that you leave the divine institution, and prevaricate God's commandment, that you divide the church without truth and without necessity, that you tie men to believe things under pain of damnation, which cannot be made very probable, much less certain; and therefore that you sin against God, and are in danger of