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A35021 The legacy of the Right Reverend Father in God, Herbert, Lord Bishop of Hereford, to his diocess, or, A short determination of all controversies we have with the papists, by Gods holy word Croft, Herbert, 1603-1691. 1679 (1679) Wing C6966; ESTC R1143 85,065 144

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not to add any thing nor subtract from it under a severe penalty there declared Wherefore we must take this Text as it lies without any human addition and so 't is evident that it contains nothing but the determination of matters of trespass between Neighbours of which our Saviour would have the offender privately admonisht and if no amendment than appeal to the Congregation in publick Not one word here concerning matters of Faith And thus beloved you see what a vain empty sound this great clamor is which the Papists make of this Text Hear ye the Church and whoever will not hear the Church let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican Every part of it most grosly mistaken and wrested from the true meaning matters of fact such as trespasses and injuries wrested to matters of Faith the word Church wrested from the Congregation to the Clergy contrary to the whole current of Scripture Wherefore my beloved you see how necessary it is for you to follow this counsel of our Saviour and search the Scriptures and advise also with the more learned Pastors of our Church to arm you against these seducing teachers I hope this Text is sufficiently cleared and so I pass unto another 1 Tim. iii. 15. There 't is said The Church is the Pillar and ground of truth This Scripture say the Papists plainly relates to matters of Faith for truth is the object of our Faith we readily grant it What then Why then we are to hold fast to the Faith of the Church for that is the Pillar of truth ergo she cannot err This is another of their feigned consequences far from the meaning of the Text let us then peruse the Text it self with the circumstances there set down as we did the former and you will not find any such thing here as the Papists pretend That thou mayst know how thou oughtest to behave thy self in the house of God which is the Church of the living God the pillar and ground of truth First That thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thy self in the house of God There is nothing more frequent in Scripture than to set the word House for the People the house of Israel for the people hundreds of times And so Moses was faithful in all his house Heb. iii. 2. that is among all his people And so 1 Pet. ii 5. tells the Christians That as living stones they are built up a spiritual house to God And again iv 17. If judgment begin at the house of God that is the people of God Wherefore here Behave thy self in the house of God signifies the houshold the people of God That place where a man dwells is commonly called his house and God being said to dwell among his people 2 Cor. vi 16. I will dwell in them and walk in them and I will be their God and they shall be my people therefore the people are called the house of God Next follows Which is the Church of the living God that is the Congregation of the living God for 't is the same word 〈◊〉 〈◊〉 〈◊〉 〈◊〉 〈◊〉 which I shewed you alwaies in Scripture signifies the Congregation Now I pray you put this together that thou mayest know how to behave thy self among the people of God which is the Congregation of the living God the pillar and ground of the truth This last part of the verse the pillar and ground of the truth is metaphorical and may be interpreted several ways according to several mens apprehensions But in the first place I conceive all must grant that no metaphorical saying can be a clear evident and general rule to explain and determin other sentences but rather in it self needs an exposition But however you take this place it is evident that the Papists from hence can never have any proof for the infallibility of their Church as they would have it for S. Paul calls the Congregation of the people the pillar and ground of the truth But to shew you how little this Text will serve their turn though 〈◊〉 〈◊〉 〈◊〉 〈◊〉 〈◊〉 never in Scripture signifies the Clergy yet for their greater conviction let it pass The Clergy are here called the pillar and ground of truth What then Why then the assembly of the Clergy must be infallible Hold there I beseech you Why can truth be fallible no certainly but the pillar of truth may fail the pillar may decay and go to ruin but the truth of God endureth for ever 1 Pet. i. 23. What then is meant by these words The pillar and ground of the truth I will shew you I suppose you have seen pillars set up in high ways at the meeting of several ways together and inscriptions written on the several sides of the pillars This way leads to such a place That way leads to that place some pillars have arms in them and hands pointing to the ways The pillar is only that which bears the inscription 't is the inscription that gives you the true information which is the way Now St. Paul saith Rom. iii. 2. speaking of the people of the Iews and the great advantage they had over other Nations For unto them were committed the Oracles of God And so St. Stephen Acts vii 38. tells his brethren the Iews that their fathers received the Oracles of God to give unto us So we may say of the Christians to their great honour and advantage above all other people in the world To them were committed the Oracles of God the Holy Scriptures to give unto us As then of old the people of the Iews were peculiarly the people of God the house of God which was then the Church of the living God the pillar and ground of the truth and they bare the Oracles of God the Holy Scriptures So St. Paul now calleth the Christians the peculiar people of God the house of God which is the Church of the living God the pillar and ground of the truth for they now bear the Oracles of God the Holy Scriptures the word of truth teaching us the true and perfect way to the Heavenly Ierusalem This my Exposition is strongly backed and confirmed by another Text of Scripture which is accounted by all men the best way of expounding Scripture Rev. i. 20. The seven Churches or Congregations are set forth by seven golden Candlesticks and you know candlesticks give no light of themselves but only hold the candles which give the light so the Churches are to hold forth Christ he is the light of the world and his Doctrine contained in the Scriptures they give the light they teach us the way to Eternal Life As in the former place the pillars bear and hold forth the inscriptions the Oracles of God so here the Candlesticks hold forth the light of Gods Holy Word this teacheth us the way herein lies the infallible truth not in the Church the Congregation that consists of fallible men Gods Word is truth all men are liars And
as the Iews people and Priests also erred and so grosly erred as to become Idolaters yet the Oracles they bare never erred so we may too truly say to the proud boasting Papists their whole Church Pope Princes People have and do all err and so grosly err as to be guilty of great Idolatry worshipping and praying and thereby giving Gods glory to Saints and Angels to Pictures and Images This is most rationally and learnedly proved by Dr. Stillingfleet now the Reverend Dean of St. Pauls and most practically and palpably shewed in a small Book Intitled A Letter to a Friend concerning Popish Idolatry which in one hours reading fully declares it Of which Letter I will say only this That I am sure all there set down is truth for with my own eyes I have seen all having lived many years abroad amongst them But I grant they are not all practised here in England for two reasons First They would be ashamed to set up Pictures and Images here publickly to worship in the face of the Gospel-Sunshine where very Children would deride them And Secondly the Laws and Government would not suffer them Wherefore to conclude this point whoever reads the Gospel and by that examines the Doctrines of the Romish Church shall see that she is not the infallible Church she is pretended to be as plainly as you see the Moon is not the Sun you will discover such foul black spots in her face as may assure you she is not that beautiful beloved Spouse set forth in the Canticles for she hath so foully erred against the truth of the Gospel in several things which I have formerly laid before you as makes it most evident that she is neither truth nor so much as the pillar of truth but the pillar of error stifly mainteining several errors and doth not so much as hold forth the Gospel of truth to teach the people the way to Heaven but shuts it up from the people that she may lead them blindfold into error And so much be spoken concerning this Text The Church is the pillar and ground of the truth If any man can give a better exposition of this Text I shall be glad to learn it of him but I am sure the Papists have not yet by all that ever I saw or heard of They bring us another Text much like this Matth. the last Chapter where Christ sends forth his Disciples to teach all Nations promising to be with them in teaching unto the end of the world This Text I fully answered in my last Sermon Moreover these words being spoken by our Saviour to all the Apostles in general and their Successors of necessity gives equal Commission to them all and therefore makes more against the superiority of the Romish Church than for it for by this all Churches planted by other Apostles have the same promise The Papists therefore have one Scripture more which they urge particularly for their Church but it hath been so oft disputed and so fully confuted by whole Volumes of our Writers as a man would wonder to see them like Cats knockt down and quite dead in all appearance yet rise up again with this Text in their mouths It is this Thou art Peter and upon this rock will I build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it Matt. xvi 18. As to this I shall give you the heads only of several answers as plainly and briefly as may be for your more easie remembrance But I pray you still remember what we are searching Scripture for and that is a plain easie rule to determine all doubts that may arise in matters of faith And certainly this Text is not such but as far or farther from that than the former for 't is a figurative speech all along it speaks of building on a rock and the gates of Hell of binding and loosing almost every word a figure and the greatest Doctors and Fathers of the Church have disputed very variously about it the Papists cannot deny it and therefore this cannot be a plain easie rule to clear doubtful matters it being so doubtful in it self Let us now hear what the Text it self saith Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it Is here any one word that the Church shall be infallible and cannot err The gates of Hell shall not prevail against the Church therefore say they she cannot err The veriest dunce in the University would be ashamed to make such ridiculous consequences Put the case God had promised the King of England that the French King should not prevail against him must it therefore follow that 't is impossible the French King should set foot upon English ground or kill any one of our Kings Subjects or take any of his Ships Rare nonsence Many Princes after several battels lost much of their Country invaded yet have prevailed and driven out the Enemy many a man after several wounds received hath prevailed and killed his Adversary Let then the Papists go and learn what that means The seed of the woman shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel Gen. iii. 15. The seed of the Woman crushed the Head of Satan and prevailed against the gates of Hell though the Prince thereof bruised and wounded him in the heel Many errors and Heresies have bruised and wounded the Church yet have not prevailed to destroy it the vitals the fundamentals have still been preserved That profession of Peter whereon Christ built his Church was Thou art Christ the Son of the living God This saith hath still been preserved in the Church the gates of Hell never could prevail against it This is all our Saviour here promised and this he hath ever to this day made good and will assuredly make good to the end of the world But put the case these words The gates of Hell shall not prevail against the Church did imply some infallibility promised to the Church in general yet how come the Papists to challenge this insallibility to the Church of Rome and deprive all other Churches of it Why say they Christ here promises to build his Church on St. Peter 'T is false the Text doth not say Thou art Peter and upon thee will I build my Church but Upon this rock will I build my Church and that rock was Christ 1 Cor. x. 4. Christ the Son of the Living God whom Peter professed on this rock was the Church built But suppose yet farther that our Saviour had promised he would build his Church on Peter what then Yet not on him alone for St. Paul tells us Eph. ii 19 20. That the House of God which is the Church of God is built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets Christ Iesus himself being the chief corner stone built upon other Apostles and Prophets also as well as on Peter but chiefly on Christ himself And then for those words Binding and
beseech you tell me from whence sprang this mighty Headship of the Pope to be Lord of the whole World Successors as Successors can challenge no more Authority than their Predecessors had If the present Bishop of Salisbury hath no Authority over the Bishop of Lincoln certainly Salisburies Successor can have none over Lincolns Successor And so Saint Peter having no Lordship over S. Iohn nor any other Apostle Peter's Successor can have none over their Successors this is clear How then Did Christ ever come again upon Earth to establish this Headship or Did an Angel come from Heaven to do it Though I must tell you should an Angel come from Heaven and preach any other Doctrine than what is in Scripture we are fully warranted not to receive it But if neither Christ nor Angel nor any one Scripture declare this Headship is it not a most unreasonable thing to require us to believe this as a matter absolutely necessary to Salvation and to believe it with as full assurance as we believe Christ was born of the Virgin or that Christ was Crucified and that he rose from the dead Let them shew us then in such plain Scripture words that the Pope is to be Head of the Church that the Church of Rome shall be Infallible unto the worlds end that we are to receive all her Doctrines as the Oracles of God or that in the Church of Rome we have Eternal Life Let them but shew us some promise some command plain like this and we shall readily submit really we should be heartily glad to see it it would save us much trouble But beloved you all know there is nothing like this in all the Scripture How then dare any man venture the eternal salvation of his Soul and in obedience to the Church of Rome practise things so apparently contrary to Gods Commands as to worship Images pray unto Saints receive the Sacrament of the Lords Supper in one kind and such like as I mentioned formerly I know there are in the writings of several Fathers many expressions which highly magnifie the Authority of the Church in general and some for the Church of Rome in particular all which signifie very little if you consider the circumstances and motives for their so speaking When the Church was infested with Heresies the Orthodox Fathers disputing with them used all the Arguments they could to reduce them to the Truth but perverse men not hearkening to their reasons their last and pressing Argument was the Authority of the Church which they set forth with great lustre to make the Argument more powerful and force their submission unto it And because the generality of the Church in those days by Gods blessing was not yet infected with errors they urged the Authority and true belief of the Universal Church to reclaim the particular Heretical Churches from their Error and the most general Language being then Greek they used the word Catholick which in that Language signifies Universal and hence arose the phrase of the Catholick Church Moreover it pleased God to preserve the Roman Church in the true Faith with great Zeal and Piety for many years their Bishops being successively Martyr'd by the Heathen Emperors and their Officers at Rome And their true Faith being celebrated also in Scripture by S. Paul it was magnified by the true believing Fathers of other Churches as Antioch Ephesus Constantinople Alexandria c. that it might the more move the Heretical Members of their Churches to conform unto it telling them how S. Peter and S. Paul the two great Pillars of the Church were Martyr'd there and therefore they ought to believe no Error could enter that Church which was so sanctified with the blood of those two great Apostles and divers other famous Martyrs All which they uttered with great zeal that they might make the unbelievers to reverence it the more and submit unto it As when two of our Lawyers differ in opinion he that hath the Lord Chief Justice Coke on his side will magnifie him as such an Oracle of the Law that could not err and say all that his wit can invent to set it forth it doth not therefore follow that he seriously thinks Coke to have been infallible no more do these sayings of the Fathers conclude the Roman Church to be infallible as I shall now shew you by one Example sufficient to satisfie any man without farther trouble S. Cyprian was a Bishop and Martyr of the true Catholick Church as famous for Learning and Sanctity as for his Faith and Martyrdom he wrote a zealous Tract for the unity of the Church wherein he uttered those sayings which the Papists have so frequently in their mouths Habere non potest Deum Patrem qui Ecclesiam non habet Matrem he cannot have God for his Father who will not have the Church for his Mother And As no man was saved out of Noah ' s Ark so no man can be saved out of the Church Which being spoken by so great a man seem to carry great Authority with them But if I might freely speak my mind I would say of them that they are fine flourishing sentences sounding handsomely to the ear but cannot much satisfie a mans reason unless he had clearly exprest what he means by the word Ecclesia Church I know full well what the Papists mean by it they mean the Bishop of Rome and his Clergy and all those that are of his Faith and Communion and believe that no man can be saved that is not in that Communion And this is with them the Mother Church and Noah's Ark. But I shall now plainly shew that S. Cyprian meant no such thing for in the beginning of this Tract he declares that St. Peter whom the Papists would needs have to be the Founder of their Church had no Authority over the rest of the Apostles and Churches founded by them but that all the Apostles were of equal honour and authority Pari consortio praediti honoris potestatis Which saying he fully confirmed by his practice which is the clearest exposition of a mans meaning for a great dispute arising between him and Stephen the Bishop of Rome about Rebaptizing those which were Christned in Heretical Churches S. Cyprian declared his Judgment was for Rebaptizing Stephen declares the contrary and both parties adhering stifly to their own opinions the dispute grew so high that Cyprian held a Council of all the African Bishops and there Decreed that they ought to be Rebaptized for there being but one Baptism which was to be had only in the true Church the Heretical Baptism being done out of the true Church was no Baptism Here 't is plain S. Cyprian meant by the word Church his Church and all that were in Communion with him Stephen on the other side calls a Council at Rome and there Decrees that the Heretical Baptism being performed in due manner though the Priest Baptizing were an Heretick out of the Church yet the Baptism
whatsoever Wherefore I cannot but conclude that Saint Austin was of the same Faith with the Catholick Church of his time and that the Papists are of a very different Faith from him and them I know full well that the Papists do alledge another place of Saint Austin's where he seems to speak somewhat in conformity to their Faith as in his Explication or Paraphrase on the Thirty third Psalm Where discoursing of those words Ferebatur manibus suis He was carried in his own hands He applies those words unto Christ saying That they could not be literally meant of any body else because Christ only bare himself in his own hands when he deliver'd with his own hands his Body in the Sacrament to his Disciples To this I could answer That if St. Austin doth here seem to contradict what he had proved before it follows from hence that we cannot take the authority of any Father for our Faith because this learned and eminent Father as well as many others seems to contradict himself But I will not make so injurious an answer to so worthy a Father of the Church for in truth he doth not here contradict in the least what he said before as I shall now make appear Saint Austin in his Epistle to Dardanus doth professedly discourse the point in a Doctrinal way and doth not only give his Opinion but the reasons that so enforce it as that it can't be otherwise But it is quite another thing to discourse by way of Paraphrase as Saint Austin doth on that Psalm we may well affirm that he used the common paraphrastical liberty which is very frequent among the Fathers especially the more ancient and chiefly in Origen whom I may well call the origine of such Libertin discourse that great luxuriant Wit making flourishes upon every word often used Expressions too too light for the weighty sence of Holy Scripture but his great Wit and Learning having obtain'd great reverence these things passed pardonable in him and became too much imitated by succeeding Doctors And therefore 't is no wonder that Saint Austin not much unlike him in luxuriancy of Wit was somewhat like him in the way of Allegories and Paraphrases wherein men do not so much intend the clear positive Doctrine as flourishing circumlocutions and variety of Phansies But we may the better excuse Saint Austin in this if we take in Saint Austin's rule That it is no strange thing or false thing to affirm that of the signs which belong to the thing signified as he exemplifies in our Saviour himself Non dubitavit dicere hoc est corpus meum cùm signum daret corporis sui Our Saviour doubted not to affirm to his Disciples and say This is my body when he gave unto them the sign of his Body which was the Bread he blessed brake and gave unto them And so St. Austin doubted not to affirm and say That Christ bare his Body in his own hands when he bare Bread which was the sign of his Body And so those words He was carried in his own hands may be said to be literally verified of our Saviour secundùm quendum modum after a certain manner the Phrase St. Austin useth upon this very subject in another place not literally in the exact sence And the meaning is only this These words He was carried in his own hands cannot be so properly or so literally understood of David or any other man as of Christ for David in no sence can be said to carry himself in his own hands our Saviour may because he carried Bread the sign of his Body in his own hands And now for the clear conviction of the Papists and for the full satisfaction of every impartial man It is evident Saint Austin himself doth in this very place plainly declare He meant no otherwise than I have exprest him For after he had discoursed much of this business he concludes thus Ipse se portabat quodammodo cùm diceret Hoc est corpus meum He bare himself in his own hands after a certain manner when he said This is my body which as I said plainly shews he meant not our Saviour did really carry himself in his hands but as he saith Quodammodo after a certain manner which Quodammodo had been very improper had our Saviour really carried himself in his own hands But put the case Saint Austin had not here added this word Quodammodo after a certain manner yet any man that is the least verst in matters of Learning will certainly be far more moved in his Opinion by what Saint Austin Doctrinally and Demonstratively affirms than by what he Paraphrastically discourses which is the slightest way of discoursing in the world I will not here urge against the Papists that place of Saint Austin I mentioned but now That Christ doubted not to say to his Disciples This is my body when he gave them the sign of his Body because he doth not there purposely dispute this business but brings in that occasionally to prove somewhat else Yet from hence it is apparent enough that Saint Austin understood the Bread in the Lord's Supper to be only a sign of Christ's Body and not his real Body as the Papists believe But I return to the business in hand There is a passage in Scripture usually objected against this Argument of St. Austin's That our Saviour came into the Room where his Disciples were the doors being shut Which seems to imply That a glorified Body doth not require such spaces and dimensions of place as mortal Bodies because our Saviour's Body entred the Room passing through the material Body of Stone Wood or the like as they would have it This Objection is easily answered That no Man is able to affirm How our Saviour's Body entred the Room it being not expressed in Scripture but this is clear That our Saviour might divide the Walls or Doors or Roof or Floor and so make way for his Body to enter and yet his Disciples not perceive it As our Saviour passed through the midst of the Iews and they perceived it not when they carried him to the brow of the Hill to cast him down head long no Man supposes from hence That our Saviour passed through the Bodies of the Iews but by them unseen Wherefore it not being declared in Scripture how he entred how can any Argument be drawn from hence of our Saviour's Body passing through other Bodies and consequently how doth this confute or weaken St. Austin's Argument Certainly not at all I will set down one passage more of another memorable Father and Bishop Theodoret who disputing with an Heretick named Eranistes that denied our Saviour to have a real humane substantial Body after his Resurrection and affirmed That his Humanity was wholly swallowed up in the Divinity Theodoret arguing against him Dia● 2. Ch. 24. affirmeth That as the Bread after the Consecration in the Lord's Supper is not changed in form and substance but remains the very
Imprimatur Jan. 20. 1678. Guil. Jane R. P. D. Hen. Episc. Lond. à sacris domesticis THE LEGACY OF THE Right Reverend Father in GOD HERBERT Lord Bishop of Hereford To his DIOCESS OR A SHORT Determination of all Controversies We have with the PAPISTS By Gods Holy Word JOHN xvii 17. Thy Word is Truth LONDON Printed for Charles Harper at the Flower-de-luce over against St. Dunstans Church in Fleet-street 1679. To All within my Diocess especially those of the City of HEREFORD Dearly Beloved in the Lord T IS now a year and half since in my Cathedral I told you my sad apprehensions of Popish designs to destroy both us and our Religion for though no particular discovery could then be made yet the discourse and actings of several Papists in these parts did plainly shew they were then preparing that which is now discovered for they were then providing Horse and Arms they posted about day and night they threatned many that they must ere long turn or burn and some told their friends that if it came to cutting of throats they should be saved which made it evident that not only they had some bloody design but thought themselves also sure to effect it Whereupon I besought you to arm your selves for the day of Tryal and preached a Sermon to that effect and afterwards the better to strengthen you against the incursion of Popish Superstitious Doctrines I preached several Sermons how you were to stick close to the Scriptures Gods Holy Word which was our only Rule of Faith and not knowing what kind of Pastor you might have after my death whether a Protestant Pastor not well verst in such matters or a Popish Pastor wholly devoted to them I resolved at my decease to leave you these Sermons as a Legacy for my great age of seventy five years past assuring me according to 2. Pet. 1. 14 15. That shortly I must put off this my Tabernacle I will endeavour that you may be able after my decease to have these things alwaies in remembrance But now I have a new and farther reason to hasten this my Legacy to you because I hear my bloody Enemies the Jesuitical Priests are resolved as soon as they can find opportunity to hasten my death This hath made me speed these Sermons to the Press lest I and they fall into their hands who will give the same speedy end to both And the truth of what I now deliver to you I trust by Gods assisting grace to seal with my blood if he call me to it for then I know he will enable me for it And though I am a weak carnal worm of my self not able to do any thing yet by Gods powerful grace I may and I hope I shall be enabled to do all things for he hath said I will never leave thee nor forsake thee And therefore I most humbly and most readily commit the keeping of my Soul to him in well doing as unto a faithful Creator His will be done Amen TO THE Christian Reader THere being so many Books of our Controversies with the Papists both learned and unlearned already printed this may seem both useless and vain yet I hope it may prove otherwise because I humbly conceive you may find some useful things here not uttered before and if but one yet considering the great concern of the matter in hand our right faith and our salvation thereon depending no conscientious man will repent the spending five or six hours time in that short space the whole may be perused in the pursuit of it and I heartily wish more hours were not spent in things as useless sometimes even by good and learned men But put the case there be not one good thing here but what hath formerly been better set forth yet this little Book may be useful Experience shews man to be so affected with novelty as soon to grow weary of the best things and for variety take up worse and so this meaner discourse may have better effect by being new And if I may any way contribute to the establishing my Diocess and others in the true primitive Catholick Religion I shall not repent my labour though you do yours Considering with my self that the greater part of men are illiterate and can reap but little benefit by learned Treatises and of the more literate some not so zealous in Religion as willingly to spend much time in the search of truth I resolved on such a plain and compendious way as might satisfie and settle the greater part of men not troubling their heads with many or scarce any quotations out of several Authors which pardon me if I say can be useful but to very few men For such small scantlings as are there set down can give little or no assurance of the sence of the Author We see that Christian Writers taking here and there pieces of heathen Virgil make him speak Christianity so taking small parcels of any Orthodox Father you may make him speak Popery Wherefore such short quotations can serve only as Indexes to guide men to the Tracts from whence they are taken and before you can have the clear meaning of the Author you must observe the main business in hand and the scope he drives at you must also know his usual way of expression whether allegorical or plain literal rhetorical or concise with several other circumstances and it will be often necessary to compare one place with another of the same Author all which not one man of a thousand hath ability leisure and will to perform and he that hath and doth so yet after all his labour he hath but human assurance in a matter of his salvation which is no better than a bank of sand to build his eternal ill or welfare on which sure no wise man will do but only on that Rock Christ Jesus and his Holy Gospel hold fast to that and be sure to observe our Saviours way of encountring the Devil and his deluding ministers with a Scriptum est thus and thus it is written you will be sure to drive them away and overcome them But if you once quit the Word of God and hearken to the doctrines of men your unstable heart like a wave of the sea will be tossed to and fro with diversity of doctrines For you will find one Father say this another that yea the same Father say diversly in divers places St. Austin wrote a whole Tract of Recantations with great piety and ingenuity acknowledging his former Errors had he dyed before he wrote those Recantations then all those Errors by the rule of the Papists had past with great Authority for Truths I heartily wish the other great Doctors of the Church had seriously reviewed in their riper Age what they wrote in their Youth as St. Austin did doubtless some of them would have found things to recant as well as he Whoever hath a mind to see more of this let him read Daillee of the true use of the
great examples and leaders to piety and godly life but I say it only to prevent our being led into errors by their Authority who though they were very learned and godly men yet still were men and being men were subject to error and for this cause no assurance can be had in the word of man alone but of him only who was God and man for God only is truth And as for the miracles pretended to be wrought by the Fathers of the Church in confirmation of their Doctrine I answer First We find in no authentick Author any miracles wrought by the prime and principal Fathers of the Church in confirmation of any Doctrine taught by them St. Cyprian St. Ambrose St. Ierome St. Austine St. Chrysostome St. Gregory Nazianzen and such like Secondly For the pretended Fathers of the Church in later Ages and Mothers also it is sufficiently known what gross and ridiculous impostures have been in later Ages noised abroad for great miracles Our learned Dr. Stillingfleet hath sufficiently set them forth in their proper colours These fine devices began about the six hundredth year after Christ and in a few years after they grew as familiar as jugling feats especially in the female sex of whom I find none that wrought them in the Apostles days when true miracles were frequent among men and when there were women certainly as holy as any whatsoever in future Ages We do not find that the blessed Virgin her self ever wrought any miracle though now the Papists will tell you of a thousand wrought daily by several images of hers But this we know that in the later days lying wonders shall be wrought to deceive if it were possible the very Elect and we also know that whatever seeming miracle is wrought contrary to the word of God is a lying wonder for Gods word is truth and all liars that speak against that But these miracles which they pretend to be wrought at the images of the blessed Virgin and other Saints are apparently contrary to the word of God which commands us not to bow down to nor worship any images and consequently these must needs be lying wonders wrought to deceive the people who are thereby induced to worship those images and do daily visit them and prostrate themselves before them with as much reverence and devotion as if Christ himself were there present This is fully known to every man that hath travelled those parts But the Popish Priests here surely ashamed of their own Devotions will boldly deny it and finding us too strongly fortified with Scripture truth to be seduced by their supposititious Saints with their lying wonders and too quick-sighted to be catched with such stauking horses they come upon us with a whole Army of the Church Militant the Universal Catholick Church meaning the Romish Church falsly so called yea and back'd with Scripture too and so fight us at our own weapon and thence thunder out irresistable Cannon Shot He that will not hear the Church let him be unto thee as an Heathen man and a Publicane Matt. xviii 17. Beloved my time would fail me should I now engage in a fresh battel I shall therefore refer this to another time and for the present add only a few words of direction for those who take comfort in reading the Scripture and desire to improve their knowledge therein but meet with many obscure and difficult places which exceed their capacity in which they would gladly be farther instructed To this I answer first That I conceive it fit to advise with some learned orthodox sober and godly Divine if they have any such in their Neighbourhood for give me leave to say men so compleatly qualified are not every where to be found in these unfortunate days But if they can find any such let them desire his assistance and if this godly person can by other plain places of Scripture and clear reason make the sense of that doubtful place evident to his understanding then he may well conclude that to be the true meaning of the Holy Ghost But if this godly Counsellor makes use of any human Authority that is any one or many Fathers of the Church or Councils or the like to make good his exposition and cannot do it by clear places of Scripture or such circumstances as make that doubtful place clear to your understanding but require you to submit meerly to their Authority then you are to afford him no more than a human belief which helps you nothing forward to your salvation for that wholly depends on divine faith and belief in God not in man as I have shewed you And as for the doubtful places pass them over as doubtful and the clear knowledge thereof not necessary to your salvation God requires of no man beyond the talent which he hath given him and in his infinite goodness hath so provided that all things necessary for salvation may be understood of all What can be more plainly set forth to common understanding than it is in Scripture That there is one God Creator of Heaven and Earth one Saviour Iesus Christ the Son of God who dyed for all men rose again the third day ascended into Heaven and shall come again at the last day to judge and reward every man according to his deeds And then for the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lords Supper and such like necessary things they are also plainly set forth in Scripture even to vulgar understandings And lastly for our course of life what can be more plainly prohibited than fornication adultery all lasciviousness murther striking railing cousening What can be more plainly commanded than to do justice shew mercy charity c. and in sum to do unto all men as we would have them do unto us Now whosoever shall believe and practise all these plain things my Soul for his he shall never miss of his Salvation though he miss the understanding of a hundred places of Scripture many whereof the most learned understand very little better though they can talk more of them When our Saviour represents unto us the great Judgment day Mat. XXV He doth not call any to his right hand because they understood these and these dark places in Scripture nor curse any on his left hand because they understood them not but the whole Judgment depends on doing or not doing Come ye blessed for ye have fed the hungry cloathed the naked c. and go ye cursed for ye have not done so Wherefore the question in the Gospel is Good Master what shall I do to inherit Eternal Life and our Saviour's Answer is This do and thou shalt live And S. Paul tells us though we understood all Mysteries yet this profiteth not without Charity Charity and the deeds thereof with a firm belief of so much of Scripture as God enables us to understand would undoubtedly bring us to Christ's right hand in that great day Were but our practice according to the measure of our knowledge it
said before and yet the Divine and Humane Natures are not so extreamly opposite as the Spirit of God and the spirit of the Devil May we not then in all humility desire to hea to see narrowly observe yea and handle with our hands some fi●m Evidence of this Union of the Spirit of God and the spirit of the Devil in the heart of Pope Alexander the sixth guilty of Rapine Murther Incest and all other Abominati●ns imaginable Let then the Papists shew us from St. Iohn or some other Apostle some such full Evidence as this of St. Iohn for this incredible Union and I shall submit but certainly never till I hear see and handle it let them believe what they please Having thus as I suppose given you sufficient reasons to take you off from so long a Journey as to Rome to consult his infallible Holiness the Pope Perchance you will ask me to whom then you are to make your address for the determination of such doubts and disputes as may arise in matters of Religion Hath God left his Church without any Head to guide and govern it No certainly we have a Head and Guide Infallible Christ Jesus our Lord. But he is in Heaven we cannot ascend thither nor must we expect miraculous Voices from thence to answer us I grant it