Page images
PDF
EPUB

those halting and timeserving prelates, that after much bold importunity, they went their way not without shame and tears.

Nor was this the first time that they discovered to be followers of this world; for when the protector's brother, Lord Sudley, the admiral, through private malice and malengine was to lose his life, no man could be found fitter than Bishop Latimer (like another Dr. Shaw) to divulge in his sermon the forged accusations laid to his charge, thereby to defame him with the people, who else it was thought would take ill the innocent man's death, unless the reverend bishop could warrant them there was no foul play. What could be more impious than to debar the children of the king from their right to the crown? To comply with the ambitious usurpation of a traitor, and to make void the last will of Henry VIII, to which the breakers had sworn observance? Yet bishop Cranmer, one of the executors, and the other bishops, none refusing, (lest they should resist the Duke of Northumberland) could find in their consciences to set their hands to the disenabling and defeating not only the princess Mary the papist, but of Elizabeth the protestant, and (by the bishops judgment) the lawful issue of king Henry.

Who then can think (though these prelates had sought a further reformation) that the least wry face of a politician would not have hushed them? But it will be said, these men were martyrs: what then? though every true Christian will be a martyr when he is called to it; not presently does it follow, that every one suffering for religion is, without exception, Saint Paul writes, that

a man may give his body to be burnt, (meaning for religion) and yet not have charity :” he is not therefore

above all possibility of erring, because he burns for some points of truth. ****

And here withal I invoke the Immortal Deity, revealer and judge of secrets, that wherever I have in this book plainly and roundly (though worthily and truly) laid open the faults and blemishes of fathers, martyrs, or christian emperors, or have otherwise inveighed against error and superstition with vehement expressions; I have done it neither out of malice, nor list to speak evil, nor any vain glory, but of mere necessity to vindicate the spotless truth from an ignominious bondage, whose native worth is now become of such a low esteem, that she is like to find small credit with us for what she can say, unless she can bring a ticket from Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley; or prove herself a retainer to Constantine, and wear his badge. More tolera able it were for the church of God, that all these names were utterly abolished like the brazen serpent, than that men's fond opinion should thus idolize them, and the heavenly truth be thus captivated.

Now to proceed, whatsoever the bishops were, it seems they themselves were unsatisfied in matters of religion as they then stood, by that commission granted to eight bishops, eight other divines, eight civilians, eight common lawyers, to frame ecclesiastical constitutions; which no wonder if it came to nothing, for (as Hayward relates) both their professions and their ends were different. Lastly, we all know by example, that exact reformation is not perfected at the first push, and those unwieldy times of Edward VI may hold some plea by this excuse. Now let any reasonable man judge whether that king's reign be a fit time from whence to pattern out the constitution of a church discipline,

much less that it should yield occasion from whence to foster and establish the continuance of imperfection, with the commendatory subscriptions of confessors and martyrs, to entitle and engage a glorious name to a gross corruption. ****

From hence then I pass to queen Elizabeth, the next protestant prince, in whose days why religion attained not a perfect reducement in the beginning of her reign, I

suppose the hindering causes will be found to be common with some formerly alleged for King Edward VI; the greenness of the times, the weak estate which queen Mary left the realm in, the great places and offices executed by papists, the judges, the lawyers, the justices of peace for the most part popish, the bishops firm to Rome; from whence was to be expected the furious flashing of excommunications, and absolving the people from their obedience. Next, her private counsellors, whoever they were, persuaded her (as Camden writes) that the altering of ecclesiastical policy would move sedition. Then was the liturgy given to a number of moderate divines, and sir Thomas Smith a statesman, to be purged and physicked: and surely they were inoderate divines indeed, neither hot nor cold; and Grindal the best of them, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury, lost favour in the court, and I think was discharged the government of his see, for favoring the ministers, though Camden seem willing to find another cause : therefore about her second year, in a parliament, of men and minds some scarce well grounded, others belching the sour crudities of yesterday's popery, those constitutions of Edward VI, which as you heard before no way satisfied the men that made them, are now established for best, and not to be mended. From that time followed nothing but imprisonments, troubles, disgraces on all

those that found fault with the decrees of the convocation, and straight were they branded with the name of puritans. As for the queen herself, she was made believe that by putting down bishops her prerogative would be infringed, of which shall be spoken anon as the course of method brings it in: and why the prelates laboured it should be so thought, ask not them, but ask their bellies. They had found a good tabernacle, they sate under a spreading vine, their lot was fallen in a fair inheritance. And these perhaps were the chief impeachments of a more sound rectifying the charch in the queen's time.

From this period I count to begin our times, which because they concern us more nearly, and our own eyes and ears can give us the ampler scope to judge, will require a more exact search : and to effect this the speedier, I shall distinguish such as I esteem to be the hinderers of reformation into three sorts, Antiquitarians (for so I had rather call them than antiquaries, whose labours are useful and laudable). 2. Libertines. 3. Politicans.

To the votarists of antiquity I shall think to have fully answered, if I shall be able to prove out of antiquity, First, that if they will conform our bishops to the purer times, they must mew their feathers, and their pounces, and make but curtailed bishops of them.

Secondly, that those purer times were corrupt, and their books corrupted soon after. Thirdly, that the best of those that then wrote disclaim that any man should repose on them, and send all to the scriptures.

(Under the first of these general heads, our author proves from the authority of the fathers, that, in the primitive times, bishops were elected by the general suffrage of the people, and that this election prevailed

66 that

during 400 years after Christ, and probably lower : that a diocese had no precise limits, an assertion confirmed also by Camden, a warm friend of episcopacy, who says, “ That over all the world, bishops had no certain diocese till pope Dionysius, about the year 268, did cut them out; and that the bishops of Scotland executed their function in what place soever they came indifferently and without distinction, till king Malcolm the Third, about the -year 1070;" that, in fact, the British bishops, in particular, were so poor, being called to the council of Ariminum, in the year 359, they had not wherewithal to pay the expences of their journey :” and that as to episcopal dignity, the bishops assumed nothing over the presbyters in general, whom they styled fellow-counsellors, fellow-benchers, and combresbyters, and that there is a relict of this dependance in the authority of the pope himself, who performs all ecclesiastical jurisdiction in consistory with his cardinals, originally the parish priests of Rome. Hence he concludes, that he who would “ mould a modern bishop into a primitive, must yield him to be elected by the popular voice, undiocesed, unrevenued, unlorded, and leave him nothing but brotherly equality, matchless temperance, frequent fasting, incessant prayer and preaching, continual watchings and labours in his ministry."

But even admitting, that ancient times made for modern bishops, he contends, that those times are not to be trusted, for the three following reasons : First,

66 The best times were spreadingly affected. Secondly, The best men of those times foully tainted. Thirdly, 'The best writings of those men dangerously adulterated.” After several citations from Ignatius, Eusebius, and Hegesippus, corroborative of the first of these positions, our author remarks :)

« PreviousContinue »