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they usually picture God the Father, and the holy Trinity, to the great dishonour of that sacred mystery, against the doctrine and practice of the primitive church, against the express doctrine of Scripture, against the honour of a divine attribute, I mean the immensity and spirituality of the divine nature; you are gone to a church that pretends to be infallible, and yet is infinitely deceived in many particulars, and yet endures no contradiction, and is impatient her children should inquire into any thing her priests obtrude. You are gone from receiving the whole sacrament to receive it but half; from Christ's institution to a human invention, from Scripture to uncertain traditions, and from ancient traditions to new pretences, from prayers which ye understood to prayers which ye understand not, from confidence in God to rely upon creatures, from entire dependance upon inward acts to a dangerous temptation of resting too much in outward ministries, in the external work of sacraments and of sacramentals. You are gone from a church whose worshipping is simple, Christian, and apostolical, to a church where men's consciences are laden with a burden of ceremonies greater than that in the days of the Jewish religion (for the Ceremonial of the church of Rome is a great book in folio), greater I say than all the ceremonies of the Jews contained in Leviticus, &c. You are gone from a church where you were exhorted to read the word of God, the Holy Scriptures, from whence you found instruction, institution, comfort, reproof, a treasure of all excellencies, to a church that seals up that fountain from you, and gives you drink by drops out of such cisterns as they first make, and then stain and then reach out. And if it be told you that some men abuse Scripture, it is true; for if your priests had not abused Scripture, they could not thus have abused you: but there is no necessity they should, and you need not, unless you list; any more than you need to abuse the sacraments or decrees of the church, or the messages of your friend, or the letters you receive, or the laws of the land; all which are liable to be abused by evil persons, but not by good people and modest understandings. It is now become a part of your religion to be ignorant, to walk in blindness, to believe the man that hears your confessions, to hear none but him, not to hear God speaking but by him, and so
you are liable to be abused by him, as he please, without remedy. You are gone from us, where you were only taught to worship God through Jesus Christ, and now you are taught to worship saints and angels with a worship at least dangerous, and in some things proper to God; for your church worships the Virgin Mary with burning incense and candles to her, and you give her presents, which by the consent of all nations used to be esteemed a worship peculiar to God, and it is the same thing which was condemned for heresy in the Collyridians, who offered a cake to the Virgin Mary; a candle and a cake make no difference in the worship; and your joining God and the saints in your worship and devotions, is like the device of them that fought for king and parliament, the latter destroys the former. I will trouble you with no more particulars, because if these move you not to consider better, nothing can.
But yet I have two things more to add of another nature, one of which at least may prevail upon you, whom I suppose to have a tender and a religious conscience.
The first is, That all the points of difference between us and your church are such as do evidently serve the ends of covetousness and ambition, of power and riches; and so stand vehemently suspected of design and art, rather than truth of the article, and designs upon heaven. I instance in the Pope's power over princes and all the world; his power of dispensation, the exemption of the clergy from jurisdiction of princes, the doctrine of purgatory and indulgences, which was once made means to raise a portion for a lady, the niece of Pope Leo the Tenth; the priest's power advanced beyond authority of any warrant from Scripture, a doctrine apt to bring absolute obedience to the Papacy; but because this is possibly too nice for you to suspect or consider, that which I am sure ought to move you, is this:
That you are gone to a religion in which (though through God's grace prevailing over the follies of men, there are, I hope and charitably suppose, many pious men that love God and live good lives, yet) there are very many doctrines taught by your men, which are very ill friends to a good life. I instance in your indulgences and pardons, in which vicious men put a great confidence, and rely greatly upon them. The doctrine of purgatory, which gives countenance to a sort of
Christians who live half to God and half to the world, and for them this doctrine hath found out a way that they may go to hell and to heaven too. The doctrine that the priests' absolution can turn a trifling repentance into a perfect and a good, and that suddenly too, and at any time, even on our death-bed, or the minute before our death, is a dangerous heap of falsehoods, and gives license to wicked people, and teaches men to reconcile a wicked debauched life, with the hopes of heaven. And then for penances and temporal sa tisfaction, which might seem to be as a plank after the shipwreck of the duty of repentance, to keep men in awe and to preserve them from sinking in an ocean of impiety, it comes to just nothing by your doctrine; for there are so many easy ways of indulgences and getting pardons, so many confraternities, stations, privileged altars, little offices, Agnus Dei-s, amulets, hallowed devices, swords, roses, hats, churchyards, and the fountain of these annexed indulgences the Pope himself, and his power of granting what, and when, and to whom, he list; that he is a very unfortunate man that needs to smart with penances; and after all, he may choose to suffer any at all, for he may pay them in purgatory if he please, and he may come out of purgatory upon reasonable terms, in case he should think it fit to go thither: so that all the whole duty of repentance seems to be destroyed with devices of men that seek power and gain, and find error and folly; insomuch that if I had a mind to live an evil life, and yet hope for heaven at last, I would be of your religion above any in the world.
But I forget I am writing a letter: I shall therefore desire you to consider upon the premises, which is the safer way. For surely it is lawful for a man to serve God without images; but that to worship images is lawful, is not so sure. It is lawful to pray to God alone, to confess him to be true, and every man a liar, to call no man master upon earth, but to rely upon God teaching us; but it is at least hugely disputable, and not at all certain, that any man, or society of men, can be infallible, that we may put our trust in saints, in certain extraordinary images, or burn incense and offer consumptive oblations to the Virgin Mary, or make vows to persons, of whose state, or place, or capacities, or condition, we have no certain revelation. We are sure to do well, when
in the holy communion we worship God and Jesus Christ our Saviour; but they who also worship what seems to be bread, are put to strange shifts to make themselves believe it to be lawful. It is certainly lawful to believe what we see and feel; but it is an unnatural thing, upon pretence of faith, to disbe lieve our eyes, when our sense and our faith can better be reconciled, as it is in the question of the real presence, as it is taught by the church of England.
So that unless you mean to prefer a danger before safety, temptation to unholiness before a severe and a holy religion: unless you mean to lose the benefit of your prayers by praying what you perceive not, and the benefit of the sacrament. in great degrees by falling from Christ's institution, and taking half instead of all: unless you desire to provoke God to jealousy by images, and man to jealousy in professing a religion in which you may in many cases have leave to for feit your faith and lawful trust: unless you will still continue to give scandal to those good people with whom you have lived in a common religion, and weaken the hearts of God's afflicted ones: unless you will choose a catechism without the second commandment, and a faith that grows bigger or less as men please, and a hope that in many degrees relies on men and vain confidences, and a charity that damns all the world but yourselves: unless you will do all this, that is, suffer an abuse in your prayers, in the sacrament, in the commandments, in faith, in hope, in charity, in the communion of saints, and your duty to your supreme, you must return to the bosom of your mother, the church of England, from whence you have fallen, rather weakly than maliciously; and I doubt not but you will find the comfort of it all your life, and in the day of your death, and in the day of judgment. If you will not, yet I have freed mine own soul, and done an act of duty and charity, which at least you are bound to take kindly, if you will not entertain it obediently.
Now let me add this, That although most of these objections are such things which are the open and avowed doctrines or practices of your church, and need not to be proved, as being either notorious or confessed; yet if any of your guides shall seem to question any thing of it, I will bind myself to verify it to a tittle, and in that too which I intend them, that is, so as to be an objection obliging you to return,
under the pain of folly or heresy, or disobedience, according to the subject matter. And though I have propounded these things now to your consideration, yet, if it be desired, I shall represent them to your eye, so that even yourself shall be able to give sentence in the behalf of truth. In the meantime give me leave to tell you of how much folly you are guilty, in being moved by such mock-arguments as your men use, when they meet with women and tender consciences and weaker understandings.
The first is; Where was your church before Luther?' Now if you had called upon them to speak something against your religion from Scripture, or right reason, or universal tradition, you had been secure as a tortoise in her shell; a cart pressed with sheaves could not have oppressed your cause or person; though you had confessed you understood nothing of the mysteries of succession doctrinal or personal. For if we can make it appear, that our religion was that which Christ and his apostles taught, let the truth suffer what ́eclipses or prejudices can be supposed, let it be hid like the holy fire in the captivity; yet what Christ and his apostles taught us, is eternally true, and shall, by some means or other, be conveyed to us; even the enemies of truth have been conservators of that truth by which we can confute their errors. But if you still ask where it was before Luther, I answer, it was there where it was after, even in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament; and I know no warrant for any other religion: and if you will expect I should shew any society of men who professed all the doctrines which are now expressed in the confession of the church of England; I shall tell you it is unreasonable; because some of our truths are now brought into our public confessions that they might be opposed against your errors; before the occasion of which there was no need of any such confessions, till you made many things necessary to be professed, which are not lawful to be believed. For if we believe your superinduced follies, we shall do unreasonably, unconscionably, and wickedly; but the questions themselves are so useless, abstracting from the accidental necessity which your follies have brought upon us, that it had been happy if we had never heard of them more than the saints and martyrs did in the first ages of the church. But because your clergy have in