صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

with if they durft, is, that there should be any fuch book in the world, and that it fhould be in any body's hands, learned or unlearned; for, if it be dangerous to any, none are so capable of doing mischief with it as men of wit and learning. So that, at the bottom, if they would fpeak out, the quarrel is against the scriptures themselves. This is too evident by the counfel given to Pope Julius III. by the Bithops met at Bononia, to confult about the establishment of the Roman fee; where, among other things, they gave this as their last advice, and as the greatest and weightieft of all, "That by all "means as little of the gospel as might be, especially "in the vulgar tongue, fhould be read to the people; "and that little which was in the mafs ought to be "fufficient: neither fhould it be permitted to any mor❝tal to read more. For fo long (fay they) as men 66 were contented with that little, all things went well "with them; but quite otherwife, fince more was com"monly read." And fpeaking of the fcripture, they give this remarkable testimony and commendation of it. "This in fhort is that book which, above all others, "hath raised those tempefts and whirlwinds which we were almost carried away with. And, in truth, if << any one diligently confiders it, and compares it with "what is done in our church, he will find them very

66

contrary to each other; and our doctrine not only to "be very different from it, but repugnant to it." If this be the cafe, they do like the reft of the children of this world, prudently enough in their generation. Can we blame them for being against the scriptures, when the fcriptures are acknowledged to be fo clearly against them? But furely no body that confidereth these things would be of that church, which is brought by the undeniable evidence of the things themselves to this fhameful confeffion, that feveral of their doctrines and practices are very contrary to the word of God.

Much more might have been faid against the practice of the church of Rome in thefe two particulars; but this is fufficient.

I fhall, in the fecond place, confider what is pretended for them. And indeed what can be pretended in ju ftification of fo contumelious an affront to mankind, fo

great

great a tyranny and cruelty to the fouls of men? HathGod forbidden the people to look into the fcriptures ? No: quite contrary. Was it the practice of the ancient church to lay this restraint upon men, or to celebrate the fervice of God in an unknown tongue? Our adverfaries themselves have not the face to pretend this. I fhall truly reprefent the fubftance of what they fay in these two points.

I. As to the fervice of God in an unknown tongue, they fay these four things for themselves.

ift, That the people do exercise a general devotion, and come with an intention to ferve God; and that is accepted, though they do not particularly understand the prayers that are made, and the leffons that are read.

But is this all that is intended in the fervice of God? Does not St. Paul expressly require more? that the understanding of the people fhould be edified by the particular fervice that is performed? And if what is done be not particularly understood, he tells us the people are not edified, nor can fay Amen to the prayers and thanksgivings that are put up to God; and that any man that fhould come in and find people ferving of God in this unprofitable and unreasonable manner, would conclude that they were mad.

And if there be any general devotion in the people, it is because in general they understand what they are about; and why may they not as well understand the particular fervice that is performed, that fo they might exercise a particular devotion? So that they are devout no farther than they understand; and confequently, as to what they do not understand, had every whit as good be abfent.

2dly, They fay, the prayers are to God, and he understands them; and that is enough. But what harm were it, if all they that pray understood them alfo? or indeed how can men pray to God without understanding what they afk of him? Is not prayer a part of the Christian worship? and is not that a reasonable service? and is any service reasonable that is not directed by our understandings, and accompanied with our hearts and affections?

But then what fay they to the leffons and exhortati

ons

ons of fcripture, which are likewise read to the people in an unknown tongue? Are thefe directed to God, or to the people only? and are they not defigned by God for their inftruction? and read either to that purpofe or to none? and is it poffible to inftruct men by what they do not understand? This is a new and wonderful way of teaching, by concealing from the people the things which they fhould learn. Is it not all one, as to all purposes of edification, as if the fcriptures were not read, or any thing elfe in the place of them? as they many times do their legends, which the wifer fort among them do not believe when they read them. For all things are alike to them that understand none; as all things are of a colour in the dark. Ignorance knows no difference of things: it is only knowledge that can diftinguish.

3dly, They fay, that some do, at least in some meafure, understand the particular prayers. If they do, that is no thanks to them. It is by accident if they are more knowing than the reft; and more than the church either defires or intends: for if they defired it, they might order their fervice fo as every man might underftand it.

4thly, They fay, that it is convenient that God fhould be ferved and worshipped in the fame language all the world over.

Convenient for whom? for God? or for the people? Not for God, furely: for he understands all other languages as well as Latin; and, for any thing we know to the contrary, likes them as well. And certainly it cannot be fo convenient for the people; becaufe they generally underftand no language but their own; and it is very inconvenient they fhould not understand what they do in the fervice of God. But perhaps they mean, that it is convenient for the Roman church to have it fo; becaufe this will look like an argument that they are the catholick or univerfal church, when the language which was originally theirs fhall be the univerfal language in which all nations fhall ferve God. And by this means alfo they may bring all nations to be of their religion, and yet make them never the wiser: and this is a very great convenience; becaufe knowledge is a troublesome thing, and ignorance very quiet and peaceable,

VOL. II.

R

peaceable, rendering men fit to be governed, and unfit to difpute.

2. As to their depriving the people of the fcriptures, the fum of what they say may be reduced to these three heads.

Ift, That the church can give leave to men to read the fcriptures. But this not without great trouble and . difficulty. There must be a licence for it under the hand of the Bishop or inquifitor, by the advice of the priest or confeffor, concerning the fitnefs of the perfon that defires this privilege: and we may be fure they will think nonc fit, but thofe of whom they have the greatest confidence and fecurity. And whoever prefumes to do it otherwife, is to be denied abfolution; which is, as much as in them lies, to damn men for prefuming to read the word of God without their leave.

And whatever they may allow here in England, where they hold their people upon more flippery terms; yet this privilege is very rarely granted where they are in full poffeffion of their power, and have the people perfectly under their yoke.

2dly, They tell us, they inftruct the people otherwife. This indeed were fomething, if they did it to purpofe; but generally they do it very fparingly and flightly. Their fermons are commonly inade up of feigned ftories and miracles of faints, and exhortations to the worship of them, and especially of the bleffed virgin, and of their images and relicks. And for the truth of this I appeal to the innumerable volumes of their fermons and poftils in print; which I fuppofe are none of their worst. I am fure Erafmus fays, that, in his time, in feveral countries the people did fcarce once in half a year hear a profitable fermon to exhort them to true piety. Indeed they allow the people fome catechifms and manuals of devotion; and yet in many of them they have the confcience and the confidence to fteal away the second commandment in the face of the eighth.

But, to bring the matter to a point, if thofe helps of inftruction are agreeable to the fcriptures, why are they fo afraid the people fhould read the fcriptures? If they are not, why do they deceive and delude them? ady, They fay, that people are apt to wreft the fcriptures

fcriptures to their own deftruction; and that the promifcuous ufe of them hath been the great occafion of herefies. It cannot be denied to be the condition of the very best things in the world, that they are liable to be abused; health, and light, and liberty, as well as knowledge. But muft all these be therefore taken away? This very inconvenience, of people's wrefting the fcriptures to their own ruin, St. Peter takes notice of in his days; but he does not therefore forbid men the reading of them, as his more prudent fucceffors have done fince. Suppofe the reading of the fcriptures hath been the occafion of herefies, were there ever more than in the first ages of Christianity? And yet neither the Apoftles nor their fucceffors ever prescribed this remedy. But are they in earnest? Muft not men know the truth for fear of falling into error? Because men may poffibly miss their way at noon-day, must they never travel but in the night, when they are fure to lose it?

And, when all is done, this is not true, that herefies have fprung from this caufe. They have generally been broached by the learned, from whom the fcriptures neither were, nor could be concealed. And for this I appeal to the hiftory and experience of all ages. I am well affured the ancient fathers were of another mind. St. Chryfoftom fays, "If men would be converfant in "the fcriptures, and attend to them, they would not "only not fall into errors themselves, but refcue those "that are deceived; and that the fcriptures would in"ftruct men both in right opinions and a good life." And St. Hierom, more exprefsly to our purpose, That "infinite evils arife from the ignorance of the fcri<< ptures; and that from that cause the most part of he"refies have come.'

But, if what they fay were true, is not this to lay the blame of all the ancient herefies upon the ill management of things by our Saviour and his Apoftles, and the holy fathers of the church for fo many ages, and their imprudent difpenfing of the fcriptures to the people? This indeed is to charge the matter home; and yet this confequence is unavoidable. For the church of Rome cannot justify the piety and prudence of their prefent practices, without accufing all these.

R 2

But

« السابقةمتابعة »