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ble remains of heathenism very little disguised : their engaging such multitudes of people in vows of celibacy and useless retirement from the world : their obliging them to silly austerities and abstinences of no real value, as matters of great merit: their excessive veneration of relics, most of them fictitious and unfit to be thus honoured, were they ever so genuine: their inventions of romantic legends and lying miracles, which make weak and unlearned persons believe any thing, and too many of those, who see through them, believe nothing. And besides these and other errors in spiritual matters, there are many more of most weighty consideration in temporals, which they zealously maintain: their claim of punishing whom they please to call heretics with penalties, imprisonments, tortures, death ; their excommunicating and deposing kings; their forbidding divine worship through whole nations at once; their annulling the most sacred promises and engagements, when made to the prejudice of their Church : their drawing, by wicked artifices, the wealth of all countries to the support of their own tyranny. But many of these things I have set in a proper light to you on other occasions, and dwelling on all would be endless as well as unnecessary. Enough, I hope, hath been said to shew you which are in the right : and that this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand. For observe: as the whole claim of the Church of Rome depends upon her being in all points infallible: so, if in any single point she proves to be mistaken, her pretence of being believed in the rest falls intirely to the ground. But indeed, though for your fuller satisfaction I have confuted many of her doctrines, yet any person may have sufficient satisfaction of his own being in the right way, without so much as knowing or having heard what any one of her doctrines is. - For let him but keep close to the Creed and the commandments : believe those things which Scripture hath made necessary to be believed, and do those things which Scripture hath made necessary to be done; and he is under no manner of obligation to enquire, what any church on earth thinks fit to believe or do besides. Many opinions may be true and useful; many practices may be innocent and edifying ; but nothing can be matter of necessity, except what Christ and his Apostles have required as terms of salvation. Every person, that complies with these, is a true Christian : every Church that teaches these, is a true Church : and neither ignorance nor error about any other matters can forfeitour title to everlasting life. Search then the Scriptures and see: is there any one thing made necessary there which our Church forbids ? Is there any one thing declared sinful there which our Church requires ? If not, let other Churches prohibit or enjoin as they please at their own peril. We are no way bound to enquire what they do, or why. Letting alone their peculiarities, we are sure is safe. Whether making use of them be or not, is their business to consider, not ours. So that were transubstantiation, for instance, and purgatory true; were the worship of images and praying to saints lawful ; which, God knows, they are far from being ; yet as there is no pretence that they are necessary doctrines and practices; the mistake of rejecting them could have no harm in it; but the uncharitableness of condemning and accursing those who reject them may have great harm. For when once Christ hath said believe and do such and such things, and you shall be saved; who is it that shall dare to say, believe and do more, or you shall not be saved ? It is dreadful arrogance, therefore, which the Church of Rome shows in this respect; coining new articles of faith, some of which they own were not articles of faith from the beginning, and sentencing men to Hell for not believing what, before that sentence, themselves acknowledge nobody was bound to believe. This, you see, is changing the terms of the Christian covenant arbitrarily, and making a new Gospel at their own pleasure. But in opposition to their decisions and anathemas, hear one of St. Paul: Though an Angel from Heaven preach any other Gospel unto you than that which we the Apostles of Christ, have preached, let him be accursed. Trust then yourselves on this foot: for other foundation can no man lay, than that which they laid*. Nor indeed did the primitive Church, for several hundreds of years, attempt it, or make any doctrine necessary, which we do not: as the learned well know from their writings; and the unlearned may know from the most ancient of their Creeds, which we now use in our constant service. Afterwards indeed needless additions first crept in, then false ones: but, had they begun ever so much sooner, our cause had received no prejudice. To the law and to the testimony, as the Prophet directs, we appeal: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them t. 1 Cor. iii. 11.
I PET V. 12.
-Exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye
I COME now to conclude the subject on which I have been so long employed. A sufficient number of the doctrines of the Romanists have been considered, and what they plead for them, examined. But besides the pleas they make for each in particular, they have others for all in general. Should they, when they want to make a convert, fairly propose to him each of their notions separately, and give him proofs, first that it is true, and then that it obliges him to quit our Communion for theirs; this they are sensible would be a hopeless undertaking. And therefore very wisely they are for shorter work, and have general arguments, it seems, to prove that, let their doctrines or ours be what they will, we must be in the wrong, and they in the right.
One of these arguments is their infallibility, but this I hope was fully confuted in my first discourse, and indeed in every one since. For it is in vain for them to pretend they cannot be mistaken, if it appear but in any single instance that they are.
Another is, that Protestants, not being of the Roman Church, are not of the Catholic Church : for the Catholic Church is but one, and, out of it, there is no salvation. Now, we acknowledge it is but one body under one head, Christ Jesus; but then in this one body there are many members; and why are not the Churches of Greece, Asia, and Africa : why is not ours, as true a member of it as theirs ? On what authority, if names were worth disputing about, do they ingross that of Catholic to themselves ? Do not we profess the true Catholic faith, that faith which the universal Church received from the Apostles ? We profess it much purer than they. Are the Sacraments more duly administered by them than by us? Far from it: for of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, one half they have taken away from the laity: and concerning the other half, they have taught the most monstrous absurdities, and built on them the most shocking idolatry. Then, for that of Baptism, we administer it with water alone, just as Christ appointed, whereas they have added oil, salt, spittle, and I know not what, as if it were on purpose to make it as unlike his institution as they can. Is then the appointment or ordination of their clergy more valid, or more regular than ours ? On no account whatever. For if they brought down the succession uninterrupted to the reformation, we have certainly preserved it uninterrupted since; which now they may be ashamed to deny, since a learned man of their own Communion hath fully proved it. And consequently, for them, who are but a very unsound part of the Catholic Church, to call themselves the whole of it, is quite as absurd, as for a diseased limb (though perhaps the larger for being diseased) to be called the whole body. But they will say, we separated, , and so cut off ourselves from the Catholic Church, at the reformation. I answer, we did not.