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REFORMATION IN ENGLAND,
THAT HITHERTO HAVE HINDERED IT.
IN TWO BOOKS.
WRITTEN TO A FRIEND.
I do, not know of any thing more worthy to take up the whole passion of pity on the one side, and joy on the other, than to consider first the foul and sudden corruption, and then, after many a tedious age, the long deferred, but much more wonderful and happy reformation of the church in these latter days. **** When I recall to mind at last, after so many dark
wherein the huge overshadowing train of error had almost swept all the stars out of the firmament of the church; how the bright and blissful reformation (by divine power) strook through the black and settled night of ignorance and antichristian tyranny, methinks a sovereign and reviving joy must needs rush into the bosom of him that reads or hears; and the sweet odour of the re. turning gospel imbathe his suul with the fragrancy of Heaven. Then was the sacred Bible sought out of the dusty corners where profane falsehood and neglect had thrown it, the schools opened, divine and human learning raked out of the embers of forgotten tongues, the princes and cities trooping apace to the new-erected banner of salvation; the martyrs, with the unresistible might of weakness, shaking the powers of darkness, and scorning the fiery rage of the old red dragon.
The pleasing pursuit of these thoughts hath ofttimes led me into a serious question and debatement with myself, how it should come to pass that England (having had this grace and honour from God, to be the first that should set up a standard for the recovery of lost truth, and blow the first evangelic trumpet to the nations, holding up, as from a hill, the new lamp of saving light to all christendom) should now be last, and most unsettled in the enjoyment of that peace, whereof she taught the way to others; although indeed our Wickliffe's preaching, at which all the succeeding reformers more effectually lighted their tapers, was to his countrymen but a short blaze, soon damped and stifled by the pope and prelates for six or seven kings reigns; yet methinks the precedency which God gave this island, to be first restorer of buried truth, should have been followed with more happy success, and sooner attained perfection; in which as yet we are amongst the last; for, albeit in purity of doctrine we agree with our brethren ; yet in discipline, which is the execution and applying of doctrine home, and laying the salve to the very orifice of the wound, yea, tenţing and searching to the core, without which pulpit-preaching is but shoot. ing at rovers; in this we are no better than a schism from all the reformation, and a sore scandal to them: for while we hold ordination to belong only to bishops, as our prelates do, we must of necessity hold also their ministers to be no ministers, and shortly after their church to be no church. Not to speak of those senseless ceremonies which we only retain, as a dangerous earnest of sliding back to Rome, and serving merely, either as a mist to cover nakedness where true grace is extinguished, or as an interlude to set out the pomp of prelatism. Certainly it would be worth the while therefore, and the pains, to inquire more particularly, what, and how many the chief causes have been, that have still hindered our uniform consent to the rest of -the churehes abroad, at this time especially when the kingdom is in a good propensity thereto; and all men in
prayers, in hopes, or in disputes, either for or against it. * * * *
Orderly proceeding will divide our inquiry into our forefathers days, and into our times. Henry VIII. was the first that rent this kingdom from the pope's subjection totally; but his quarrel being more about supremacy, than other faultiness'in religion that he regarded, it is no marvel if he stuck where he did. The next default was in the bishops, who though they had renounced the pope, they still hugged the popedom, and shared the authority among themselves, hy their six bloody articles persecuting the protestants no slacker than the pope would have done. And doubtless, whenever the pope shall fall, it his ruin be not like the sudden downcome of a tower, the bishops, when they see him tottering, will leave him, and fall to scrambling, catch who may, he a patriarchdom, and another what comes
next hand; as the French cardinal of late and the see of Canterbury hath plainly affected.
In Edward the Sixth’s days, why a complete reforma-. tion was not effected, to any considerate man may appear. First, he no sooner entered into his kingdom, but into a war with Scotland; from whence the protector returning with victory, had but newly put his hand to repeal the six articles, and throw the images out of churches, but rebellions on all sides, stirred up by obdurate papists, and other tumults, with a plain war in Norfolk, holding tack against two of the king's generals, made them of force content themselves with what they had already done. Hereupon followed ambitious contentions among
ch ceased not but with the protector's death, who was the most zealous in this point: and then Northumberland was he that could do most in England, who little minding religion, (as his apostasy well showed at his death) bent all his wit how to bring the right of the crown into his own line. And for the bishops, they were so far from any such worthy attempts, as that they suffered themselves to be the common stales, to countenance with their prostituted gravities every politic fetch that was then on foot, as oft as the potent statists pleased to employ them. Never do we read that they made use of their authority and high place of access, to bring the jarring nobility to christian peace, or to withstand their disloyal projects : but if a toleration for mass were to be begged of the king for his sister Mary, lest Charles the Fifth should be angry; who but the grave prelates, Cranmer and Ridley, must be sent to extort it from the young king? But out of the mouth of that godly and royal child, Christ himself returned such an awful repulse to