« PreviousContinue »
I am, I confess, naturally inclined to that which misguided zeal terms superstition: my common conversation I do acknowledge austere, my behaviour full of rigour, sometimes not without morosity; yet at my devotion I love to use the civility of my knee, my hat, and hand, with all those outward and sensible motions which may express or promote my invisible devotion.(7) I should violate my own arm rather than a church, nor willingly deface the name of saint or martyr. At the sight of a cross or crucifix I can dispense with my hat, but scarce with the thought or memory of my Saviour: I cannot laugh at, but rather pity the fruitless journeys of pilgrims, or contemn the miserable condition of friars; for though misplaced in circumstances, there is some
(7) For my own part I no more think it necessary that all men should observe a strict conformity, on minor points, in the matter of religion, than that they should seek to resemble each other in features. Agreed on fundamentals, we may very innocently, I think, follow our own bent in the rest; if it were not so He would have told us. In our Father's house are many mansions; and in his Church on earth there are many varieties of belief and practice, but like the radii of a circle, all, perhaps, tending to one centre, which is Christ. I am the more confirmed in this opinion by finding that I hold it in common with Jeremy Taylor, who, describing the useless attempts which had been made to reconcile all religious differences among mankind, observes_" Few in the meantime considered, that so long as men had such variety of principles, such several constitutions, educations, tempers, and distempers, hopes, interests, and weaknesses, degrees of light, and degrees of understanding, it was impossible all should be of one mind. And what is impossible to be done, it is not necessary it should be done.”—Liberty of Prophesying, p. 2.ED.
thing in it of devotion. I could never hear the Ave Maria bell (8) without an elevation, or think it a sufficient warrant, because they erred in one circumstance, for me to err in all, that is, in silence and dumb contempt; whilst therefore they direct their devotions to her, I offer mine to God, and rectify the errors of their prayers, by rightly ordering mine own. At a solemn procession I have wept abundantly, while my consorts, blind with opposition and prejudice, have fallen into an excess of scorn and laughter. There are, questionless, both in Greek, Roman, and African churches, solemnities and ceremonies, whereof the wiser zeals do make a Christian use, and stand condemned by us, not as evil in themselves, but as allurements and baits of superstition to those vulgar heads that look asquint on the face of truth, and those unstable judgments that cannot resist in the narrow point and centre of virtue without a reel or stagger to the circumference.
As there were many reformers, so likewise many reformations; every country proceeding in a particular way and method, according as their national interest, together with their constitution and clime inclined them; some angrily, and with extremity; others calmly, and with mediocrity, not rending, but easily dividing the community, and
(8) A church bell that tolls every day at six and twelve of the clock; at the hearing whereof every one in what place soever, either of house or street, betakes himself to his prayer, which is commonly directed to the virgin.
leaving an honest possibility of a reconciliation; which, though peaceable spirits do desire, and may conceive that revolution of time and the mercies of God may effect, yet that judgment that shall consider the present antipathies between the two extremes, their contrarieties in condition, affection, and opinion, may with the same hopes expect an union in the poles of heaven.
But to difference myself nearer, and draw into a lesser circle: there is no church, whose every part so squares unto my conscience; whose articles, constitutions, and customs seem so consonant unto reason, and as it were framed to my particular devotion, as this whereof I hold my belief, the Church of England, to whose faith I am a sworn subject; and therefore in a double obligation subscribe unto her articles, and endeavour to observe her constitutions; whatsoever is beyond, as points indifferent, I observe according to the rules of my private reason, or the humour and fashion of my devotion; neither believing this, because Luther affirmed it, nor disapproving that, because Calvin hath disavouched it. I condemn not all things in the council of Trent, nor approve all in the synod of Dort. In brief, where the Scripture is silent, the church is my text; where that speaks, it is but my comment: where there is a joint silence of both, I borrow not the rules of my religion from Rome or Geneva, but the dictates of my own reason. It is an unjust scandal of our adversaries, and a gross error in ourselves, to compute the nativity of our religion from Henry the Eighth, who
though he rejected the pope, (9) refused not the faith of Rome, and effected no more than what his own predecessors desired and essayed in ages past, and was conceived the state of Venice would have attempted in our days. (10) It is as uncharitable a point in us to fall upon those popular scurrilities and opprobrious scoffs of the bishop of Rome, to whom, as temporal prince, we owe the duty of good language. I confess there is a cause of passion between us; by his sentence I stand excommunicated; heretic is the best language he affords me; yet can no ear witness, I ever returned him the name of antichrist, man of sin, or whore of Babylon. (") It is the method of charity to suffer without reaction: those usual satires and invectives of the pulpit may perchance produce a good effect on the vulgar, whose ears are opener to
(9) So much Buchanan, in his own life written by himself, testifieth, who speaking of his coming into England about the latter end of the king's time, saith, "Sed ibi tum omnia adeo erant incerta, ut eodem die, ac eodem igne (very strange) utriusque factionis homines cremarentur, Henrico VIII. jam seniore suæ magis securitati quam religionis puritati intento." And for a confirmation of this assertion of the author, vide. Stat. 31. H. VIII. cap. 14. ANON. ANNOT.
(10) This expectation was in the time of Pope Paul V., who, by excommunicating that republic, gave occasion to the senate to banish all such of the clergy as would not, by reason of the pope's command, administer the sacrament, and upon that account the Jesuits were cast out, and never since received into that state. ANON. ANNOT.
(") An example of forbearance worthy of imitation. Our Saviour, though he describes the Pharisees in strong terms, never meets reviling with reviling: "He was smitten, yet opened he not his mouth."-ED.
rhetoric than logic; yet do they in no wise confirm the faith of wiser believers, who know that a good cause needs not to be pardoned by passion, but can sustain itself upon a temperate dispute.
I could never divide myself from any man upon the difference of an opinion, or be angry with his judgment for not agreeing with me in that, from which within a few days I should dissent myself. I have no genius to disputes in religion, and have often thought it wisdom to decline them, especially upon a disadvantage, or when the cause of truth might suffer in the weakness of my patronage. Where we desire to be informed, it is good to contest with men above ourselves; but to confirm and establish our opinions, it is best to argue with judgments below our own, that the frequent spoils and victories over their reasons, may settle in ourselves an esteem and confirmed opinion of our own. (12) Every man is not a proper champion for truth, nor fit to take up the gauntlet in the cause of verity. Many from the ignorance of these maxims, and an inconsiderate zeal unto truth, have too rashly charged the troops of error, and remain as trophies
(2) This was the rule adopted by the Sophists, who delighted to make long speeches before ignorant and vulgar audiences, who could neither confute nor perplex them with subtle questions. So long as they could figure thus, moreover, they were cheerful, complaisant, gracious, condescending. But the slightest contradiction ruffled their temper. Even Gorgias, the ablest and most gentlemanly of them all, was incapable of enduring this test; and, when closely pressed by Socrates, grew angry, and became ready to quarrel. Plat. Oper. III. 25. ff. Bekk.-ED.