Jeremy Taylor.

The whole works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor (Volume 11) online

. (page 21 of 50)
Online LibraryJeremy TaylorThe whole works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor (Volume 11) → online text (page 21 of 50)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

we say that a man may repent of an error which he knows
not of; as he, that prays heartily for pardon of all sins and
errors known and unknown, by his general repentance may
obtain many degrees and instances of mercy. Now thus much
also your men allow to us ; these who live well, and die in
a true, though but general, repentance of their sins and errors
even amongst us, your best and wisest men pronounce to be
in a savable condition. Here then we are equal, and we are
as safe by your confession as you are by ours. But because


there are some bigots of your faction, fierce and fiery, who
say that a general repentance will not serve our turns, but it
must be a particular renunciation of protestancy ; these men
deny not only to us but to themselves too, all that comfort
which they derive from our concession, and indeed which
they can hope for from the mercies of God. For be you sure
we think as ill of your errors as you can suppose of our
articles ; and, therefore, if for errors, be they on which side it
chances, a general repentance will not serve the turn without
an actual dereliction, then flatter not yourselves by any thing
of our kindness to your party; for you must have a particular,
if a general be not sufficient. But if it be sufficient for you,
it is so for us, in case we be in error, as your men suppose
us; but if it will not suffice us for remedy to those errors you
charge us with, neither will it suffice you ; for the case must
needs be equal as to the value of repentance and malignity
of the error : and, therefore, these men condemn themselves
and will not allow us to hope well of them : but if they will
allow us to hope, it must be by affirming the value of a gene-
ral repentance ; and if they allow that, they must hope as
well of ours as we of theirs : but if they deny it to us, they
deny it to themselves ; and then they can no more brag of any
thing of our concession. This only I add to this considera-
tion ; that your men do not, cannot charge upon us any doc-
trine that is in its matter and effect impious ; there is nothing
positive in our doctrine, but is either true or innocent ; but
we are accused for denying your superstructures : ours there-
fore, if we be deceived, is but like a sin of omission ; yours
are sins of commission, in case you are in the wrong (as we
believe you to be), and, therefore, you must needs be in the
greater danger than we can be supposed, by how much sins
of omission are less than sins of commission.

1.1. Your very way of arguing from our charity is a very
fallacy, and a trick that must needs deceive you if you rely
upon it. For whereas your men argue thus ; ' The protestants,
say we papists, may be saved ; and so say we too ; but we
papists say that you protestants cannot, therefore it is safest
to be a papist :' consider that of this argument, if it shall be
accepted, any bold heretic can make use against any modest
Christian of a true persuasion. For, if he can but outface
the modesty of the good man, and tell him he shall be


damned ; unless that modest man say as much of him, you
see impudence shall get the better of the day. But it is thus
in every error. Fifteen bishops of Jerusalem, in immediate
succession, were circumcised, believing it to be necessary so
to be ; with these other Christian churches, who were of the
uncircumcision, did communicate : suppose, now, that these
bishops had not only thought it necessary for themselves, but
for others too ; this argument, you see, was ready : You of the
uncircumcision, who do communicate with us, think that we
may be saved though we are circumcised ; but we do not
think that you who are not circumcised can be saved, there-
fore it is the safest way to be circumcised : I suppose you
would not have thought their argument good, neither would
you have had your children circumcised. But this argument
may serve the presbyterians as well as the papists. We are,
indeed, very kind to them in our sentences concerning their
salvation ; and they are, many of them, as unkind to us. If
they should argue so as you do, and say, ' You episcopal men
think we presbyterians, though in errors, can be saved, and
we say so too : but we think you episcopal men are enemies
of the kingdom of Jesus Christ; and, therefore, we think you
in a damnable condition ; therefore it is safer to be a presby-
terian : ' I know not what your men would think of the argu-
ment in their hands, I am sure we had reason to complain
that we are used very ill on both hands, for no other cause
but because we are charitable. But it is not our case alone ;
but the old catholics were used just so by the Donatists in
this very argument, as we are used by your men. The
Donatists were so fierce against the catholics, that they would
rebaptize all them who came to their churches from the other :
but the catholics, as knowing the Donatists did give right
baptism, admitted their converts to repentance, but did not
rebaptize them. Upon this score, the Donatists triumphed,
saying, ' You catholics confess our baptism to be good, and
so say we : but we Donatists deny your baptism to be good ;
therefore it is safer to be of our side than yours.' Now what
should the catholics say or do ? should they lie for God and
for religion, and, to serve the ends of truth, say the Donatists'
baptism was not good ? That they ought not. Should they
damn all the Donatists, and make the rent wider ? it was too
great already. What then ? They were quiet, and knew that


the Donatists sought advantages by their own fierceness,
and trampled upon the others' charity ; but so they hardened
themselves in error, and became evil, because the others
were good.

I shall trouble you no further now, but desire you to
consider of these things with as much caution, as they were
written with charity.

Till I hear from you, I shall pray to God to open your
heart and your understanding, that you may return from
whence you are fallen, and repent, and do your first works.
Which that you may do, is the hearty desire of

Your very affectionate
Friend and Servant,



To a Person newly converted to the Church of England.


I BLESS God I am safely arrived, where I desired to be after
my unwilling departure from the place of your abode and
danger : and now because I can have no other expression of
my tenderness, I account that I have a treble obligation to
signify it by my care of your biggest and eternal interest.
And because it hath pleased God to make me an instrument
of making you to understand in some fair measure the ex-
cellences of a true and holy religion, and that I have pointed
out such follies and errors in the Roman Church, at which
your understanding, being forward and pregnant, did of
itself start as at imperfect ill-looking propositions, give me
leave to do that now which is the purpose of my charity,
that is, teach you to turn this to the advantage of a holy
life, that you may not only be changed but converted. For
the Church of England, whither you are now come, is not in
condition to boast herself in the reputation of changing the
opinion of a single person, though never so excellent; she
hath no temporal ends to serve, which must stand upon fame
and noises; all that she can design, is to serve God, to
advance the honour of the Lord, and the good of souls, and
to rejoice in the cross of Christ.

First; therefore I desire you to remember, that as now
you are taught to pray both publicly and privately, in a lan-
guage understood, so it is intended your affections should
be forward, in proportion to the advantages which your
prayer hath in the understanding part. For though you
have been often told and have heard, that ignorance is the
mother of devotion ; you will find that the proposition is
unnatural, and against common sense and experience ;
because it is impossible to desire that of which we know
nothing, unless the desire itself be fantastical and illusive: it
is necessary that in the same proportion in which we under-
stand any good thing, in the same we shall also desire it ;
and the more particular and minute your notices are, the


more passionate and material also your affections will be
towards it : and if they be good things for [which we are
taught to pray, the more you know them, the more reason
you have to love them. It is monstrous to think that devo-
tion, that is, passionate desires of religious things, and the
earnest prosecutions of them, should be produced by any
thing of ignorance or less perfect notices in any sense. Since,
therefore, you are taught to pray, so that your understand-
ing is the precentor or the master of the choir, and you
know what you say, your desires are made human, reli-
gious, express, material (for these are the advantages of
prayers and liturgies well understood) : be pleased also to
remember, that now if you be not also passionate and devout
for the things you mention, you will want the spirit of prayer,
and be more inexcusable than before. In many of your
prayers before (especially the public), you heard a voice, but
saw and perceived nothing of the sense ; and what you
understood of it was like the man in the Gospel that was half
blind, he saw men walking like trees, and so you possibly
might perceive the meaning of it in general ; you knew
when they came to the epistle, when to the gospel, when
the ' Introit,' when the ' Pax,' when any of the other more
general periods were ; but you could have nothing of the
spirit of prayer, that is, nothing of the devotion and the holy
affections to the particular excellences, which could or ought
there to have been represented : but now you are taught how
you may be really devout, it is made facile and easy, and
there can want nothing but your consent and observation.

2. Whereas now you are taken off from all human con-
fidences, from relying wholly and almost ultimately upon
the priest's power and external act, from reckoning prayers
by numbers, from forms and outsides ; you are not to think
that the priest's power is less, that the sacraments are not
effective, that your prayers may not be repeated frequently :
but you are to remember, that all outward things and cere-
monies, all sacraments and institutions, work their effect in
the virtue of Christ, by some moral instrument : the priests
in the Church of England can absolve you as much as the
Roman priests could fairly pretend ; but then we teach that
you must first be a penitent and a returning person, and our
absolution does but manifest the work of God, and comfort


and instruct your conscience, direct and manage it : you
shall be absolved here, but not unless you live a holy life ;
so that in this you will find no change but to the advantage
of a strict life ; we will not flatter you and cozen your dear
soul by pretended ministries, but we so order our discourses
and directions, that all our ministrations may be really
effective. And when you receive the holy sacrament of the
eucharist or the Lord's supper, it does more good here than
they do there ; because, if they consecrate rightly, yet they
do not communicate you fully ; and if they offer the whole
representative sacrifice, yet they do not give you the whole
sacrament ; only we enjoin that you come with so much
holiness, that the grace of God in your heart may be the princi-
pal, and the sacrament in our hands may be the ministering
and assisting part. We do not promise great effects to easy,
trifling dispositions, because we would not deceive, but really
procure to you great effects ; and therefore you are now to
come to our offices with the same expectations as before, of
pardon, of grace, of sanctification ; but you must do something
more of the work yourself, that we may not do less in effect
than you have in your expectation ; we will not, to advance
the reputation of our power, deceive you into a less blessing.
3. Be careful that you do not flatter yourself, that in our
communion you may have more ease and liberty of life ; for
though I know your pious soul desires passionately to please
God and to live religiously, yet I ought to be careful to
prevent a temptation, lest it at any time should discompose
your severity : therefore, as to confession to a priest (which
how it is usually practised among the Roman party, your-
self can very well account, and you have complained sadly,
that it is made an ordinary act, easy and transient, sometime
matter of temptation, oftentimes impertinent, but), suppose
it free from such scandal to which some men's folly did
betray it, yet the same seventy you will find among us : for
though we will not tell a lie to help a sinner, and say that is
necessary which is only appointed to make men do them-
selves good ; yet we advise and commend it, and do all the
work of souls to all those people that will be saved by all
means, to devout persons, that make religion the business of
their lives ; and they that do not so in the churches of the
Roman communion, as they find but little advantage by


periodical confessions, so they feel but little awfulness and
severity by the injunction. You must confess to God all
your secret actions, you must advise with a holy man in all
the affairs of your soul, you will be but an ill friend to your-
self if you conceal from him the state of your spiritual affairs.
We desire not to hear the circumstance of every sin, but
when matter of justice is concerned, or the nature of the sin
is changed, that is, when it ought to be made a question ;
and you will find that though the Church of England gives
you much liberty from the bondage of innumerable ceremo-
nies and human devices, yet in the matter of holiness you
will be tied to a very great service, but such a service as is
perfect freedom, that is, the service of God, and the love of
the holy Jesus, and a very strict religious life : for we do
not promise heaven, but upon the same terms it is promised
us, that is, * repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord
Jesus :' and as in faith we make no more to be necessary
than what is made so in Holy Scripture, so in the matter of
repentance we give you no easy devices, and suffer no lessen-
ing definitions of it, but oblige you to that strictness which
is the condition of being saved, and so expressed to be by
the infallible word of God ; but such as in the Church of
Rome they do not so much stand upon.

Madam, I am weary of my journey, and, although I did
purpose to have spoken many things more, yet I desire that
my not doing it may be laid upon the account of my weari-
ness ; all that I shall add to the main business is this :

4. Read the Scripture diligently, and with an humble
spirit, and in it observe what is plain, and believe and live
accordingly. Trouble not yourself with what is difficult,
for in that your duty is not described.

5. Pray frequently and effectually; I had rather your
prayers should be often than long. It was well said of
Petrarch, " Magno verborum fraeno uti decet, cum superiore
colloquentem ; When you speak to your superior, you
ought to have a bridle upon your tongue ;" much more when
you speak to God. I speak of what is decent in respect of
ourselves and our infinite distances from God ; but if love
makes you speak, speak on, so shall your prayers be full of
charity and devotion : " Nullus est amore superior; ille te
coget ad veniam, qui me ad multlloquium ; " love makes


God to be our friend, and our approaches more united and
acceptable ; and, therefore, you may say to God, " The same
love which made me speak, will also move thee to hear and
pardon : " love and devotion may enlarge your litanies, but
nothing else can, unless authority does interpose.

6. Be curious not to communicate but with the true sons
of the Church of England, lest if you follow them that were
amongst us, but are gone out from us (because they were
not of us), you be offended, and tempted to impute their
follies to the Church of England.

7. Trouble yourself with no controversies willingly, but
how you may best please God by a strict and severe conver-

8. If any protestant live loosely, remember that he dis-
honours an excellent religion, and that it may be no more
laid upon the charge of our church, than the ill lives of most
Christians may upon the whole religion.

9. Let no man or woman affright you with declamations
and scaring words of ' heretic,' and .' damnation,' and
' changeable ; ' for these words may be spoken against them
that return to light, as well as to those that go to darkness ;
and that which men of all sides can say, it can be of effect
to no side upon its own strength or pretension.








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 tempt-
ers 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 medi-
ums, 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 deceive 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. Whe-
ther the apostles of our beloved Lord did not orally deliver
many things necessary to salvation which were not commit-
ted 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 testi-

The words of St. Basil are these; AeT^ax p^aa ?? -ygay^a

rriifTOut&ai ry ftagrvgicf, rqs' Seoavtvorov yfa>5j, &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 de-
ceived : but trust no word unless thou dost learn it from the
Divine Scriptures :" and in " catech. 4. Ilium." At? yd,g vtgi
ruv Sstuv xai ayiuv r5j; visriag {JMffrqgiuv, &C. "For it be-
hoves us not to deliver so much as the least thing ^di rb ri^ov,
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 demon-
strated by the Holy Scriptures. For that is the security of
our faith, aiaryo'ia, rrjs viffTtus rj^Siv, which is derived not from
witty inventions, but from the demonstration of Divine Scrip-

" Omne quod loquimur, debemus affirmare de Scripturis
Sanctis :" so St. Jerome in Psalm Ixxxix. And again : " Hoc
quia de Scripturis auctoritatem non habet, eadem facilitate
contemnitur qua probatur ;" in Matt, xxiii.

> Etbic. Definit. 26.


" Si quid dicitur absque Scriptura, auditorum cogitatio
claudicat." So St. Chrysostom in Psal. xcv. Homil.

Theodoret (dial. i. cap. 6.) brings in the orthodox
Christian saying to Eranistes, " Bring not to me your lo-
gisms, 'Eyu yug [Lovy vei6ofji,ai rr\ Ssia ygucpf), I rely only upon
Scriptures." I could reckon very, very many more, both
elder and later : and if there be a universal tradition con-
signed 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 de-
sire 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 propo-
sitions, 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 institu-
tion 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 prac-
tical ; 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 :

Online LibraryJeremy TaylorThe whole works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor (Volume 11) → online text (page 21 of 50)