Изображения страниц

gracious acceptance: and here I am therefore to be confident, because your mercy is, as your Majesty, this day in her exaltation, felt by all your subjects; and therefore humbly to be hoped for by,

Great Sir,

Your Majesty's

Most dutiful and most obedient Subject,




THE reformation of religion in the western churches hath been so violently, so laboriously, so universally, opposed by evil spirits and evil men, by wilfulness and ignorance, by prejudice and interest, by error and partiality; and itself also hath been done so imperfectly in some places, and so unskilfully in some others, because the thick and long-incumbent darkness had made it impossible to behold the whole light in all its splendour; that it was found to be work enough for the ministers of religion to convince the gainsayers, to oppose their witty arts by the advantageous representment of wise truths, so to keep the people from their temptations. But since there were not found many able to do this but such which had other cures to attend, the conduct of souls in their public and private charges, and the consequent necessity of preaching and catechising, visiting the sick, and their public daily offices; it was the less wonder that in the reformed churches there hath been so great a scarcity of books of conscience: though it was not to be denied but the careless and needless neglect of receiving private confessions hath been too great a cause of our not providing materials apt for so pious and useful a ministration. But besides this it is certain that there was a necessity of labouring to other purposes than formerly: and this necessity was present and urgent; and the hearts and heads of men ran to quench that fire, and left the government of the house more loosely, till they could discern whether the house would be burnt or no by the flames of contention which then brake out only this duty was supplied by excellent preachings, by private conferences, by admonitions and answers given when some more pious and religious persons came to confessions, and as they were upon particular occasions required and invited. But for any public provisions of books of casuistical theology,

we were almost wholly unprovided; and, like the children of Israel in the days of Saul and Jonathan, we were forced to go down to the forges of the Philistines to sharpen every man his share and his coulter, his axe and his mattock. We had swords and spears of our own, enough for defence, and more than enough for disputation: but in this more necessary part of the conduct of consciences, we did receive our answers from abroad, till we found that our old needs were sometimes very ill supplied, and new necessities did every day arise.

Some of the Lutherans have indeed done something in this kind which is well; Balduinus, Bidenbachius, Dedekanus, Konig, and the abbreviator of Gerard : some essays also have been made by others; Alstedius, Amesius, Perkins, and the late eloquent and reverend Bishop of Norwich. But yet our needs remain; and we cannot be well supplied out of the Roman storehouses: for though there the staple is, and very many excellent things exposed to view; yet we have found the merchants to be deceivers, and the wares too often falsified.

For, 1. If we consider what heaps of prodigious propositions and rules of conscience their doctors have given us, we shall soon perceive that there are so many boxes of poison in their repositories under the same paintings and specious titles, that as it will be impossible for every man to distinguish their ministries of health from the methods of death; so it will be unsafe for any man to venture indiscriminately. For who can safely trust that guide that teaches him, that "it is no deadly sin to steal, or privately against his will and without his knowledge to take a thing from him who is ready to give it if he were asked, but will not endure to have it taken without asking":"-that "it is no theft privately to také a thing that is not great, from our father":"-" that he who sees an innocent punished for what himself hath done, he in the meantime who did it, holding his peace, is not bound to restitution:"that" he who falls into fornication if he goes to confession, may, the same day in which he did fornicate, receive the communion; that communion is mânducation, and therefore requires not attention":"—" that he,

Eman. Sa Aphor. 5. Furtum. c Idem 5. Restitutio.

b Prov. xxviii. 24.

4 Diana de Euchar, in compend. n. 30—32.

who, being in deadly sin, receives the holy communion, commits but one sin, viz. that against the dignity of the sacra ment; and that the omission of confession is no distinct sin, meaning, amongst them who believe confession to be of divine institution ?"-As bad or worse are those affirmatives and doctrines of repentance: "A dying man is not tied to be contrite for his sins; but confession and attrition are sufficient" and that we may know what is meant by attrition, we are told "it is a sorrow for temporal evil, disgrace, or loss of health, sent by God as a punishment, or feared to be sent:" this alone is enough for salvation, if the dying man do but confess to the priest, though he have lived wickedly all his lifetime. And that we need not think the matter of confession to be too great a burden, we are told," He that examines his conscience before confession, sins if he be too diligent and careful." But as for the precept of having a contrite and a broken heart, "it binds not but in the article or danger of death: nor then, but when we cannot have the sacrament of penance f." To these may be added those contradictions of severity for the securing of a holy life; that "if a man purpose at the present to sin no more, though at the same time he believes he shall sin again (that is, he will break his purpose), yet that purpose is good enough: that it is not very certain whether he that hath attrition, does receive grace, though he does not formally resolve to sin no more" meaning, that it is probable, that it is not necessary to make any such resolution of leaving their sin; they are not certain it is so, nor certain that it is otherwise; that is, they find no commandment for these things: it may be they are counselled and advised in Scripture, but that is no great matterh; for "it is no sin not to correspond with the divine inspirations exhorting us to counsels."-Add to these, that "to detract from our neighbour's fame before a conscientious, silent, and a good man, is no deadly sin: to dispense with our vows in a year of jubilee is valid, though the condition of obtaining that jubilee be not performed."-Thus men amongst them have leave to sin, and they may live in it, as long as their life lasts, without repentance : and that repent

d Idem de Poenit. n. 3. 7.

f Num. 18.

Id. Verb. Detractio. num. 5.

e Num. 11. 17, 18.

Num. 19.

Dispensatio, num. 11.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »