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WRITTEN TO A
GENTLEMAN THAT WAS TEMPTED TO THE COMMUNION
You needed not to make the preface of an excuse for writing so friendly and so necessary a letter of inquiry. It was your kindness to my person which directed your addresses hither; and your duty which engaged you to inquire somewhere.
I do not doubt but you, and very many other ingenious and conscientious persons, do every day meet with the tempters of the Roman church, who, like the Pharisees, compass sea and land to get a proselyte; at this I wonder not; for as Demetrius said, ' by this craft they get their living :' but I wonder that any ingenious person, and such as I perceive you to be, can be shaken by their weak assaults for their batteries are made up with impossible propositions, and weak and violent prejudices respectively; and when they talk of their own infallibility, they prove it with false mediums, say we, with fallible mediums,-as themselves confess; and when they argue us of an uncertain faith, because we pretend to no infallibility, they are themselves much more uncertain, because they build their pretence of infallibility upon that which not only can, but will deceiye them: and since they can pretend no higher for their infallibility than prudential motives, they break in pieces the staff upon which they lean, and with which they strike us.
But, Sir, you are pleased to ask two questions. 1. Whether the apostles of our blessed Lord did not orally deliver many things necessary to salvation which were not committed to writing? To which you add this assumentum,' in
which because you desire to be answered, I suppose you meant it for another question: viz. whether in those things which the church of Rome retains, and we take no notice of, she be an innovator, or a conserver of tradition; and whether any thing which she so retains, was or was not esteemed necessary?
The answer to the first part, will conclude the second. I therefore answer, that whatsoever the apostles did deliver as necessary to salvation, all that was written in the Scriptures: and that to them who believe the Scriptures to be the word of God, there needs no other magazine of divine truths but the Scripture. And this the fathers of the first and divers succeeding ages do unanimously affirm. I will set down two or three so plain that either you must conclude them to be deceivers, or that you will need no more but their testimony.
The words of St. Basil are these ; Δεῖ πᾶν ῥῆμα ἢ πρᾶγμα πιστοῦσθαι τῇ μαρτυρίᾳ τῆς θεοπνεύστου γραφῆς, &c. “ Every word and every thing ought to be made credible, or believed by the testimony of the divinely-inspired Scripture: both for the confirmation of good things, and also for the reproof of the evil."
St. Cyril of Jerusalem, " catech. 12. Illuminat." saith, "Attend not to my inventions, for you may possibly be deceived but trust no word unless thou dost learn it from the divine Scriptures: and in " catech. 4. Illum." Aɛĩ yàp wepì τῶν θείων καὶ ἁγίων τῆς πίστεως μυστηρίων, &c. For it behoves us not to deliver so much as the least thing μῆδε τὸ τύχον, of the divine and holy mysteries of faith without the divine Scriptures, nor to be moved with probable discourses: neither give credit to me speaking, unless what is spoken, be demonstrated by the Holy Scriptures. For that is the security of our faith, σωτηρία τῆς πίστεως ἡμῶν, which is derived not from witty inventions, but from the demonstration of divine Scriptures."
"Omne quod loquimur, debemus affirmare de Scripturis Sanctis" so St. Jerome in Psalm lxxxix. And again:"Hoc quia de Scripturis auctoritatem non habet, eâdem facilitate contemnitur quâ probatur;" in Matt. xxiii.
b Ethic. Definit. 26.
"Si quid dicitur absque Scripturâ, auditorum cogitatio claudicat." So St. Chrysostom in Psal. xcv. Homil.
Theodoret (dial. 1. cap. 6.) brings in the orthodox Christian saying to Eranistes, "Bring not to me your logisms, Ἐγὼ γὰρ μόνῃ πείθομαι τῇ θεία γραφῇ, I rely only upon Scriptures."-I could reckon very, very many more, both elder and later: and if there be a universal tradition consigned to us by the universal testimony of antiquity, it is this, that the Scriptures are a perfect repository of all the will of God, of all the faith of Christ: and this I will engage myself to make very apparent to you, and certain against any opposer.
Upon the supposition of which it follows, that whatever the church of Rome obtrudes as necessary to salvation, and an article of faith that is not in Scripture, is an innovation in matter of faith, and a tyranny over consciences: which whosoever submits to, prevaricates the rule of the Apostle, commanding us, that we' stand fast in the liberty, with which Christ hath set us free.'
To the other question; whether an ecclesiastical tradition be of equal authority with divine, I answer negatively and I believe I shall have no adversary in it, except peradventure some of the Jesuited bigots. An ecclesiastical tradition, viz. a positive constitution of the church delivered from hand to hand, is in the power of the church to alter, but a divine is not. Ecclesiastical traditions in matters of faith there are none, but what are also divine; as for rituals ecclesiastical descending by tradition, they are confessedly alterable: but till they be altered by abrogation, or desuetude, or contrary custom, or a contrary reason, or the like, they do oblige by virtue of that authority whatsoever it is that hath power over you. I know not what Mr. G. did say, but I am confident they who reported it of him, were mistaken: he could not say or mean what is charged upon him.
I have but two things more to speak to. One is, you desire me to recite what else might impede your compliance with the Roman church. I answer, truth and piety hinder you. For you must profess the belief of many false propositions, and certainly believe many uncertain things, and be uncharitable to all the world but your own party, and make
Christianity a faction, and you must yield your reason a servant to man, and you must plainly prevaricate an institution of Christ, and you must make an apparent departure from the church in which you received your baptism and the Spirit of God, if you go over to Rome. But, Sir, I refer you to the two letters I have lately published at the end of my 'Discourse of Friendship;' and I desire you to read my treatise of the Real Presence:' and if you can believe the doctrine of transubstantiation, you can put off your reason and your sense, and your religion, and all the instruments of credibility, when you please: and these are not little things; in these you may perish: an error in these things is practical; but our way is safe, as being upon the defence, and entirely resting upon Scripture, and the apostolical churches.
The other thing I am to speak to is, the report you have heard of my inclinations to go over to Rome. Sir, that party which needs such lying stories for the support of their cause, proclaim their cause to be very weak, or themselves to be very evil advocates. Sir, be confident, they dare not tempt me to do so, and it is not the first time they have endeavoured to serve their ends by saying such things of me. But I bless God for it; it is perfectly a slander, and it shall, I hope, for ever prove so. Sir, if I may speak with you, I shall say very many things more for your confirmation. Pray to God to guide you; and make no change suddenly: for if their way be true to-day, it will be so to-morrow; and you need not make haste to undo yourself. Sir, I wish you a settled mind and a holy conscience; and that I could serve you in the capacity of
Your very loving Friend and Servant
Monday, Jan. 11, 1657.
In our blessed Lord,
I PERCEIVE that you are very much troubled; and I see also that you are in great danger; but that also troubles me, because I see they are little things, and very weak and falla
cious, that move you. You propound many things in your letter in the same disorder, as they are in your conscience : to all which I can best give answers when I speak with you; to which because you desire, I invite you, and promise you a hearty endeavour to give you satisfaction in all your material inquiries. Sir, I desire you to make no haste to change, in case you be so miserable as to have it in your thoughts: for to go over to the church of Rome is like death, there is no recovery from thence without a miracle; because unwary souls (such are they who change from us to them) are, with all the arts of wit and violence, strangely entangled and ensured, when they once get the prey. Sir, I thank you for the paper you enclosed. The men are at a loss, they would fain say something against that book, but know not what. Sir, I will endeavour if you come to me, to restore you to peace and quiet; and if I cannot effect it, yet I will pray for it; and I am sure, God can. To his mercy I commend you: and rest
Feb. 1, 1657-8.
Your very affectionate Friend
In our blessed Lord,
THE first letter which you mention in this latter, of the 10th of March, I received not; I had not else failed to give you an answer; I was so wholly unknowing of it, that I did not understand your servant's meaning when he came to require But to your question which you now propound,
Quest. Whether, without all danger of superstition or idolatry, we may not render divine worship to our blessed Saviour, as present in the blessed sacrament, or host, according to his human nature in that host?
Answ. We may not render divine worship to him (as present in the blessed sacrament according to his human nature) without danger of idolatry: because he is not there according to his human nature, and therefore, you give divine worship to a 'non ens,' which must needs be idolatry. For "Idolum ni