Jeremy Taylor.

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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 priests' 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 in-
stance 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 ship-
wreck 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 confrater-
nities, 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 dis-
putable, 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 con-
sumptive oblations to the Virgin Mary, or make vows to per-
sons, of whose state, or place, or capacities, or condition, we
have no certain revelation. We are sure we do well, when


in the holy communion we worship God and Jesus Christ our
Saviour ; but they who also worship whatseerns 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 holy religion :
unless you mean to lose the benefit of your prayers by pray-
ing 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 rnan 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 commu-
nion 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 objec-
tions are such things which are the open and avowed doc-
trines 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 mean-
time 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, ft was there where it was after, even in the Scrip-
tures of the Old and New Testament ; and I know no war-
rant 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 super-
induced 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


invaded the liberty of the Church, and multiplied the dangers
of damnation, and pretend new necessities, and have intro-
duced new articles, and affright the simple upon new pre-
tensions, 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 command-
ments 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 af-
fair. 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
of 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 V

I could instance in many particulars, but I shall name
VOL. xi. o


one to you, which, because the thing of itself is of no great
consequence, it will appear the more unreasonable and into-
lerable 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 notori-
ously false, and the contrary is marked out with the black-
lead of every man almost that reads their works ; and yet
your council says, this is ' sine controversial 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 touch-
ing the pope's power was so new, so decried, that as Gerson a
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 deter-
mined 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

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 Con-
stance, 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 ques-
tion 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 Ger-
many 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 concern-
ing you ; but of us there is great question, for none but our-
selves 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
burgher 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 war-
ranty, if you remember hovr 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 out-
face 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 possi-
bilities, 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, remem-
ber 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 Scrip-
ture, 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


his eternal displeasure. But in giving the final sentence, as
we have no more to do than your men have, yet so we refuse
to follow your evil example ; and we follow the glorious pre-
cedent of our blessed Lord ; who decreed and declared against
the crime, but not against the criminal before the day. He
that does this, or that, is in danger of the council, or in danger
of judgment, or liable and obnoxious to the danger of hell-
fire: so we say of your greatest errors, they put you in the
danger of perishing ; but that you shall or shall not perish,
we leave it to your Judge : and if you call this charity, it is
well, I am sure it is piety and the fear of God.

7. Whether you may be saved, or whether you shall be
damned for your errors, does neither depend upon our affirm-
ative nor your negative, but according to the rate and value
which God sets upon things. Whatever we talk, things are
as they are, not as we dispute, or grant, or hope ; and there-
fore it were well if your men would leave abusing you and
themselves with these little arts of indirect support. For
many men that are warranted, yet do eternally perish; and
you in your church damn millions, who, I doubt not, shall
reign with Jesus eternally in the heavens.

8. I wish you would consider, that if any of our men say,
salvation may be had in your church, it is not for the good-
ness of your new propositions, but only because you do keep
so much of that which is our religion, that upon the confi-
dence of that, we hope well concerning you. And we do not
hope any thing at all that is good of you or your religion
as it distinguishes from us and ours. We hope that the good
which you have common with us, may obtain pardon directly
or indirectly, or maybe an antidote of the venom, and an
amulet against the danger of your very great errors : so that
if you can derive any confidence from our concession, you
must remember where it takes root ; not upon any thing of
yours, but wholly upon the excellence of ours : you are not at
all safe or warranted for being a papist ; but we hope well of
some of you, for having so much of the protestant : and if
that will do you any good, proceed in it, and follow it
whithersoever it leads you.

9. The safety that you dream of, which we say to be on
your side, is nothing of allowance or warranty, but a hope
that is collateral, indirect, and relative.


We do not say any thing, whereby you can conclude
yours to be safer than ours ; for it is not safe at all, but
extremely dangerous: we affirm those errors in themselves to
be damnable, some to contain in them impiety, some to have
sacrilege, some idolatry, some superstition, some practices
to be conjuring, and charming, and very like to witchcraft, as
in your hallowing of water, and baptizing bells, and exor-
cising demoniacs ; and what safety there can be in these,
or what you can fancy we should allow to you, I suppose
you need not boast of. Now because we hope some are
saved amongst you, you must not conclude yours to be safe ;
for our hope relies upon this : there are many of your pro-
positions in which we differ from you, that thousands amongst
you understand and know nothing of; it is to them as if they
were not ; it is to them now as it was before the council,
they hear not of it. And though your priests have taken
a course that the most ignorant do practise some of your
abominations most grossly, yet we hope this will not be laid
upon them who, as St. Austin's expression is, " cauta solli-
citudine quaerunt veritatem, corrigi parati cum invenerint ;
do, according as they are able, warily and diligently seek
for truth, and are ready to follow it when they find it ; " men
who live good lives, and repent of all their evils known and
unknown. Now, if we are not deceived in our hopes, these
men shall rejoice in the eternal goodness of God, which pre-
vails over the malice of them that misguide you : but if we
be deceived in our hopes of you, your guides have abused
you, and the blind leaders of the blind will fall together.

10. If you will have the secret of this whole affair, this
it is. The hopes we have of any of you, as it is known,
principally rely upon the hopes of your repentance. Now

Online LibraryJeremy TaylorThe whole works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor (Volume 11) → online text (page 20 of 50)