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Some queries to Protestants answered and an explanation of the Roman Catholick's belief in four great points considered : I. concerning their church, II. their worship, III. justification, IV. civil government.
Altham, Michael, 1633-1705.
Wing A2934; ESTC R8650
Communion so sinful and dangerous that no man with safety to his Soul can continue in it it will be high time to come out of it Qu. Whether he or Protestants at present do pretend to such Demonstration for those Tenets they hold contrary to the Roman Church the then onely visible Church in the West that no understanding to which it is sufficiently proposed can in the least doubt of it Ans We have such evidence for the Doctrines which we hold and teach in opposition to the Church of Rome as being sufficiently proposed no man can reasonably doubt of And as for those who will scruple without reason notwithstanding the clearest evidence that the nature of the thing will bear we can only pity and pray for them Qu. Or whether they do not rather say that being fallible they may err even in what they think a Demonstration and if they may err perhaps they have erred even in their Reformation Ans We do not pretend to infallibility nor do we think that the claim which the Bishop of Rome makes to it is any more than a groundless pretence only But Ã posse ad esse non valet consequentia from a bare possibility of erring to argue a certainty that we have erred in every thing we have done is an argument fitter to be offered to Children than Men. Qu. Whether therefore denying these Doctrines thus delivered by the Church in all Ages as Doctrines delivered by Christ and his Apostles upon no better grounds than these perhaps they may be true and perhaps not be not a putting ones self into the danger of erring even in fundamentals Ans We deny no Doctrines delivered by the Church in all Ages as Doctrines delivered by Christ and his Apostles nor do we own any Doctrine upon such weak grounds as perhaps they may be true and perhaps not But we say that the present Church of Rome doth teach such Doctrines as the Doctrines of Christ and his Apostles which were never taught by the Church in all Ages nor delivered by Christ and his Apostles And in these things we oppose our selves against them and think we have great reason so to do having the holy Scriptures and the Primitive Church on our side And whilst we are thus supported we have no fear of erring in fundamentals Queries of Religion or Liberty WHo this Enquirer is as I am at present ignorant so am I not much concern'd to know but I take him to be one who hath conceived a mighty opinion of himself and his performances He thinks that by these Queries he hath struck at the root of Protestancy as he and those of his Perswasion call it i. e. Reformed Christianity that he hath given it a fatal blow a mortal wound and left it groveling in the dust without the least hopes of recovery Like that overgrown uncircumcised Philistine he defieth the Armies of the Living God and calls for a Man to fight with him For in the close of his Queries he maketh this proud and confident challenge If any give answer As if he should have said if any be so bold and daring so over confident and fool-hardy as to undertake an Answer to these Queries It is desired to be Categorical and short without any discourses of things not demanded Now whether this man do not triumph before the Victory or whether those Queries be so unanswerable as he believes them to be is the thing under consideration And because he hath not only given the Challenge but appointed the Weapon I shall neither decline the one nor the other but according to his own method shall undertake his Queries in the same order as he hath propounded them Qu. 1. Whether the Flock and Church of Christ to whom was promised grace and eternal happiness be that company and society of People christened in his Name who by order of Government Rules and Decrees from him and his Apostles were united in Faith Worship Discipline and manner of Life called Religion Ans The Church of Christ is either Militant or Triumphant the one on Earth the other in Heaven of the former of which we are now to speak The Church Militant is either Universal or Particular the former comprehending all and every Member of Christ's Mystical Body wheresoever dispersed upon the face of the whole Earth the latter comprizing only a certain Number of Christians formed into a select Body or Society under certain Laws and Rules not differing from those of the Universal Church Such are all Provincial and National Churches and though none of them may arrogate to themselves the Title of the One Holy Catholick and Apostolick Church yet none will deny but that they are true Members thereof This I have premised to prevent confusion and misunderstanding for the confounding of these two as it often happens in discourses of this kind hath been the occasion of great mistakes Those of the Romish Perswasion by the One Holy Catholick and Apostolick Church do usually understand the Church of Rome which though it be a manifest Contradiction being the same with a Particular Universal yet do they run away with it and by that specious and gorgeous Title think to bear down all before them aloud proclaiming that to be the Mother and Mistress of all other Churches This thus premised I shall now be as Categorical and short in my Answer to his Query as he can desire Viz. That the Flock and Church of Christ is a Company or Society of People Christned in his Name who by Order of Government rules and decrees from him and his Apostles are united in Faith Worship Discipline and Manner of Life called Religion Qu. 2. Whether by Separation or Excommunication from that Society and Unity are lost those promises Ans Separation and Excommunication are two things for though every one that is excommunicated be thereby separated from that body of which before he was a member yet a man may be in a state of Separation without being under the doom of Excommunication For Separation may be a voluntary Act whereas Excommunication is a formal and Judicial Sentence delivered by a lawful Judge authorized and appointed by the Church to pronounce the same by virtue whereof the sentenced person is divided from the Body separated from the Society and shut out of the Communion of God's Church The case thus stated my answer to this Query will be as followeth viz. 1. Whosoever upon any pretence whatsoever doth separate himself from the Society and Unity of the One Holy Catholick and Aposstolical Church doth in so doing cast himself out of the paternal care and protection of God For it is a certain and undoubted truth He that hath not the Church for his Mother cannot have God for his Father And consequently can have no pretence to the promises of grace here or eternal happiness hereafter 2. Whosoever without just cause doth separate himself from the Society and Unity of that particular Church of which he is a member is guilty of a sinful and dangerous Schism and whilst he continues therein can have no roason to expect the blessing of those promises 3. That there may be sometimes a just cause of Separation as
when a Church makes the conditions of her Communion such as a man cannot communicate with her without sin and danger But in this case particular members ought to be mighty wary and cautious for it is not every dissatisfaction of their own or every irregularity of that Church that will be a sufficient cause of Separation unless the terms of her Communion be manifestly and apparently sinful 4. That the great end and design of Excommunication is the repentance and amendment of the person excommunicated It doth not therefore make void the promises of God nor utterly deprive the sentenced person of the benefits thereof but onely by a temporary correction shews him his folly and danger and calls upon him by a timely repentance and amendment to recover himself out of the one and prevent the other But it must be acknowledged that if a man obstinately continue in that condition and live and die under that sentence his condition will be very dangerous These may serve as general Answers to this Query but if by the Separation or Excommunication here mentioned be meant as no question it is a Separation of Excommunication from the Society and Unity of the Church of Rome Then we have this further to say 1. That the present Church of Rome hath separated her self from the One Holy Catholick and Apostolick Church by setting up such Doctrines and practices as were never taught practised nor allowed either by Christ or his Apostles or their Successors in the Primitive Church 2. That the present Church of Rome hath made the conditions of her Communion such as none without sin and danger can Communicate with her and by that means hath justified a Separation from her 3. That the Church of Rome hath not nor ever had any lawful Power or Authority over the Church of England nor are we Subject to the Jurisdiction of that See whether we consider it as Episcopal or as Metropolitan or as Patriarchal and therefore we cannot be justly charged with a Separation therefrom It is true indeed that for some time she had Tyrannically usurped an unjust power over us and kept us in Bondage and Slavery to her but God be thanked we at last found an opportunity to shake off those Chains and deliver our selves from the servitude under which we had so long groaned And this we have done and are still ready to justifie to the whole world to be no sinful Separation 4. That an Excommunication thundered out by the Church of Rome against us of the Church of England is but only Brutum fulmen an insignicant Scare-Crow which upon mature consideration we have no cause to be afraid of for she having no power over us we are not accountable to her nor subject to any sentence pronounced by her And therefore notwithstanding that pretended Separation or Excommunication from the Society and Unity of that Church which they make so much noise with we are in no apprehension of losing the benefits of those promises which God hath made to his One Holy Catholick and Apostolick Church of Grace here and Eternal Happiness hereafter Qu. 3. Doth Christian Religion consist in matters of Morality or Ceremony of indifferency to be accepted or rejected and altered at the Choice Judgment and well liking of private Persons Corporations or States Ans Religion in general may be considered either in its Essentials or as it is cloathed with Circumstantials The former of which are unalterable but the latter may be subject to change The Christian Religion in particular falls under the same consideration the Being whereof consists indeed in matters of Morality which being innituted and ordained by Christ are not alterable by Men. But the order and decency which are things necessary to the well being of that Religion consists in Ceremonies and things indifferent which are in their own nature alterable and being the institutions of Men may be altered by Men but not by any private Persons For whatsoever hath been established by the whole Body cannot be altered by any particular member or any number of Men who are members of that Body nor by any Authority less than that by which at first it was established And here the Church of Rome may do well to consider by what power and authority she hath made so bold with the very Essentials of the Christian Religion altering some and adding others making new Articles of Faith which were never taught by Christ nor his Apostles and imposing them as necessary to be believed by all those of her Communion Qu. 4. Or doth it consist in the Laws and Rules of Faith and life of Christians so important and binding as that by the contempt thereof one must lose Eternal Happiness Ans This Query is very little different from the former and hath I think received a sufficient answer in the solution of that For by matters of Morality there wherein I say the Being of the Christian Religion doth consist I mean Moral and unchangeable truths which are to be received and believed by all Christians and Moral actions which are to be done by them and for our belief and performance of these things we have such laws and rules delivered by Christ and his Apostles as are binding unto all the contempt wherof may very much endanger and without a serious and seasonable repentance and amendment will certainly forfeit eternal happiness And therefore it will highly concern the Church of Rome to consider whether she be not guilty of such contempt whether in some of her publick Orders and Decrees she have not apparently contradicted some of these important Laws and Rules Qu. 5. Whether those Laws and Rules taught by Christ and his Apostles bind as well the Christians of succeeding Ages who could not be present to see and hear them as they bound those who were present heard them taught and saw their Original Writings Ans That these Laws and Rules are as binding to me now as they were to any of the Disciples in our Saviour's or his Apostles time I willingly grant And if this concession will do this Enquirer any service much good may do him with it For if the seeing of the Original Writings of Christ and his Apostles or being present to hear them deliver those Laws and Rules were necessary to make them obligatory then ought we to have Christ and his Apostles come down from Heaven and write and preach the same things over again not only in every Age but in every year every day of that year and in all places of the world too But let us proceed and see what mighty use this Enquirer will make of this wire drawing this Query Qu. 6. Whether after the death of Christ and his Apostles and Disciples by his institution other persons successively
on whose decisions they so much depend hath a quite different Notion of Justification and Merit That Council after some Months debate upon the Point of Justification at last came to a decision and declared That the only formal Cause of our Justification is God's Justice not by which he himself is just but by which he makes us just wherewith being endowed by him we are renewed in the Spirit of our Minds and are not only reputed but are made truly just receiving every man his own measure of justice which the Holy Ghost divides to him according to each mans predisposition of himself and co-operation And withall denounceth a flat Anathema to all those who shall dare to say that we are formally justified by Christ's righteousness or by the sole imputation of that righteousness or by the sole remission of our sins and not by our inherent grace diffused into our hearts by the Holy Ghost Sess 6. Can. 10 11. And the same Council speaking of the Merit of good Works saith If any man shall say that the good Works of a justified Person do not truly merit the increase of Grace and eternal Life let him be Anathema Sess 6 Can. 32. Now one would think the choice were very easie which of these to believe whether the Council of Trent or this Explainer The accounts they give are too different to be both believed and can there be any question which of them is most authoritative Certainly our Explaâner must be a very bold Person who in defiance of such a celebrated Council durst deliver what he hath done for the belief of Roman Catholicks in this point and he must look upon his Persons of Quality to whom he presents it as a parcel of unthinking and inconsiderate Animals who would swallow any thing without Examination Either he was in earnest or he had a mind to put a cheat upon them if the latter he plainly discovers how good a Christian and how true a Catholick he is If the former surely he did not well consider how fatal the Consequences of that Doctrine would be to the Church of Rome For 1. If this be really the Faith of Roman Catholicks then What becomes of that gainful Trade of Indulgences which is wholly founded upon the Treasure of the Church wherein are heaped up piles of satisfactions of Saints of which the Pope only keeps the Keys and hath power to dispense them where he lists There was a time indeed when Indulgences were look'd upon to be nothing else but a Mitigation or Relaxation upon just Causes of Canonical Penances which are or may be enjoyned by the Pastors of the Church on penitent Sinners according to their several Degrees of Demerits But this is a Doctrine out of date with the present Church of Rome insomuch that Greg. de Valentia saith That this Opinion differs not from that of the Hereticks and makes Indulgences to be useless and dangerous things de Indulg c. 2. And their great Champion Bellarmine among several other Arguments against this Doctrine brings this for one That if this were so there would be no need of the Treasure of the Church which he takes a great deal of pains to prove to be the Foundation of Indulgences But 2. What will become of the profitable Doctrine of Purgatory which is built upon Indulgences and they upon the Treasure of the Church wherein the Merits of Saints are kept to be dispensed by the Pope for the delivery of Souls out of Purgatory But 3. What will become of the Pope's Coffers which being once emptied and this Spring dried up which should have supplied them can have no prospect of any other so effectual way to replenish them again Had our Explainer well considered these ill Consequences of his Explanation he would certainly have thought of it more than once before he had exposed it I cannot imagine what should perswade him to such an Explanation unless he had obtained a dispensation to guild his Bait the more easily to catch what he angled for And if this be it is it not a great Argument of the Candour and Ingenuity of our Explainer and a mighty motive to his Persons of Quality to swallow all that shall be propounded by him And now we are come to the last point which he undertakes to explain and shall examine whether he be more ingenuous in that than he hath been in the other The EXPLAINER 4. We firmly believe and highly reverence the Moral Law being so solemnly delivered to Moses upon the Mount Exodus 20. Matth. 19. Eccles 12 13. so expresly confirmed by our Saviour in the Gospel and containing in it self so perfect an Abridgment of our whole Duty both to God and Man Which Moral Law we believe obliges all men to proceed with faithfulness and sincerity in their mutual Contracts one towards another and therefore our constant profession is That we are most strictly and absolutely bound to the exact and intire performance of our promises made to any Persons of what Religion soever much more to the Magistrates and Civil Powers under whose Protection we live whom we are taught by the Word of God to obey not only for fear but Conscience sake and to whom we will most faithfully observe our Promises of Duty and Obedience notwithstanding any Dispensation Absolution or other proceedings of any foreign Power or Authority whatsoever Wherefore we utterly deny and renounce that false and scandalous Position That Faith is not to be kept with Hereticks as most uncharitably imputed to our Practices and most unjustly pinned upon our Religion These we sincerely and solemnly profess as in the sight of God the searcher of all hearts taking the words plainly and simply in their usual and familiar sense without any Equivocation or Mental Reservation whatsoever The ANIMADVERTER Our Explainer would have the World believe that those of his Communion do highly reverence and have a mighty regard for the Moral Law We do the same but we know and believe the Second Commandment to be part of that Law and therefore dare not be guilty of Image-Worship which perhaps the Explainer did not think of He further tells us that they believe that this Law doth contain in it self a perfect Abridgment of our whole Duty both to God and Man We believe the same and we do further believe that whosoever shall keep the whole Law and yet offend in one point he is guilty of all James 2.10 And therefore we dare not worship Images nor give divine Honour to any Creatures nor disobey Magistrates nor deal falsly with our Neighbours under any pretence whatsoever nor do any thing that is there forbidden nor leave undone any thing that is there commanded Whether the Explainer thought of all this I know not but he cannot but know that the Practices of those of his Communion are not correspondent thereunto But the two great things that he would have the World believe of them upon the Credit of his Explanation are these
1. This Inference doth plainly imply a necessity of a visible Judge of Controversies to whom in all matters in difference there should be an Appeal and whose decision should be final Now if this be really so Then 1. It is mighty strange that Christ and his Apostles who pretended faithfully to deliver the whole mind and will of God to mankind should never once mention such an Officer in the Church Or 2. If they should omit to mention so necessary a thing in their writings and only deliver it by word of mouth to their immediate Successors it is no less strange that they should either not know or never make use of such an Expedient for the ending of those Controversies that arose in their days 3. We must conclude that either the Church hath been mighty careless of her own peace or that this Judge hath been very negligent in his business to suffer so great and so fatal Controversies to continue so long in the Church of God when there was so ready a way to put an end to them 2. Our Explainer in this Inference acquaints us with the great ends for the sake of which such a Judge is necessary viz. The ending of all controversies in our Religion and settling of peace in our Consciences These indeed are great things and greatly to be desired But whether there be any such Expedient or if there be whether it be sufficient for these ends are the things in question Now that from the first foundation of the Christian Church to this very day these great ends have not been universally attained is very plain and evident which to me is a very great Argument that either God never instituted any such expedient or if he did that it was not sufficient for these ends which would be a mighty reflection upon the power and wisedom of God But because some things in Scripture are hard to be understood doth it therefore necessarily follow that there must be a visible Judge of Controversies to deliver the sense of those places to us without whom we can never attain thereunto and from whose decision there lies no appeal I confess I cannot see the necessity of this consequence For if it be granted as it is on all hands that the Scriptures which we now have are the Word of God revealed by him and of infallible Authority we must believe that either God would not or could not explain his mind to the sons of men in words as plain and intelligible as any such Judge will or can do or else there can be no such necessity of any such Judge upon that account If there be no other way to attain the sense of Scripture but only the decision of such a Judge then what way or means is left us to understand the sense of the declaration of that Judge will there not want another Judge to determine that and another to explain his and so in infinitum But let us for once suppose though we do not grant it that there ought to be a Judge of Controversies in order to the attaining of these great ends let us see how he ought to be qualified and where we shall find him This Judge must be a person or number of people who must have a superiority not only of order but influence over all others to whose decisions and determinations all Christian people ought to conform their judgments and practices Nor must that influence be precarious but authoritative for nothing can warrant their Impositions but the Authority by which they are imposed Nor can any Authority suffice to oblige mankind to believe that which is neither necessary as to its matter nor evident as to its proof antecedently to the definition of such an Authority but only such an one as is infallible Now where shall we und such an one seeing there are so many pretenders to it If we believe the Popes themselves the Jesuits and the rest of the high Papalins then his holiness will carry away the Bell but if we believe General Councils and those who defend their Supremacy then they will carry it from the Pope and if we believe others of equal credit then the Catholick Church diffusive will carry it from both So that if there ought to be such a Judge you see it is not agreed upon among themselves who he is But 3. Our Explainer determines this Controversie telling us that it is the Judgment of the Church in a free General Council that we ought to submit to And in this we heartily joyn with him for we profess to have as great a deference for the Judgment of the Church in a free General Council as they have or can have and to have as great a regard to the sense of the whole Christian Church in all Ages since the Apostles as they nay it may be greater than they will pretend to have for we are so far from declining it that as to the matters in difference between them and us we appeal thereunto and are willing to be concluded thereby being as well assured as the Records of those Ages still remaining can assure us that it is on our side But if by Church here he mean the present Church of Rome as it stands divided from other Communions we deny that she hath any more authority to impose a sense of Scripture upon us than we upon her or any other particular Church upon either of us Or if by Councils he mean those Western Councils which have been held in these parts of the World in latter Ages we cannot allow them either to be free or general and consequently cannot grant nor have they any reason to claim any such authority over us But if by Councils he mean those primitive Councils which indeed were the most free and general and best deserved to be styled the Church Representative we have so great a veneration for their Opinion and Judgment that we shall not decline to submit the Umpirage of our Cause to them But what is all this to the present Church of Rome which at this day so arrogantly claims a right and authority to interpret Scripture and impose her sense upon us For unless she can prove her self infallible all her pretended authority in this case will fall to the ground If she be indeed infallible she would do well to let the world know whence she had her Infallibility She must have it either immediately from God or by delegation from the Catholick Church diffusive If from God let her produce her Charter If from the Catholick Church diffusive then it depends upon her authority and by the same authority she may recall it again when she pleaseth So that upon this ground it will prove but a very Fallible Infallibility We know she challenges it by virtue of those promises of the Spirit in the Scriptures which promises they themselves do confess to have been made only to the Catholick Church and therefore though an Infallibility even in Judgment were