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Ch. xiv. 3.
The English Reform gradual, some think, to Excess. 409 be great. If we have neither voice from heaven that so pro- Book Iy, nounceth of them; neither sentence of men grounded upon such manifest and clear proof, that they in whose hands it is to alter them may likewise infallibly even in heart and conscience judge them so: upon necessity to urge alteration is to trouble and disturb without necessity. As for arbitrary alterations, when laws in themselves not simply bad or unmeet are changed for better and more expedient; if the benefit of that which is newly better devised be but small, sith the custom of easiness to alter and change is so evil, no doubt but to bear a tolerable sore is better than to venture on a dangerous remedy.
[3.] Which being generally thought upon as a matter that touched nearly their whole enterprise, whereas change was notwithstanding concluded necessary, in regard of the great hurt which the Church did receive by a number of things then in use, whereupon a great deal of that which had been was now to be taken away and removed out of the Church ; yet sith there are divers ways of abrogating things established, they saw it best to cut off presently such things as might in that sort be extinguished without danger, leaving the rest to be abolished by disusage through tract of time. And as this was done for the manner of abrogation : so touching the stint or measure thereof, rites and ceremonies and other external things of like nature being hurtful unto the Church, either in respect of their quality or in regard of their number; in the former there could be no doubt or difficulty what should be done, their deliberation in the latter was more hard. And therefore inasmuch as they did resolve to remove only such things of that kind as the Church might best spare, retaining the residue; their whole counsel is in this point utterly condemned, as having either proceeded from the blindness of those times, or from negligence, or from desire of honour and glory, or from an erroneous opinion that such things might be tolerated for a while; or if it did proceed (as they which would seem most favourable are content to think it possible) from a purpose, “*partly the easilier to draw papists unto
" It may
* T. C, lib. ii. p. 29.
“ the Gospel, partly the easilier to “ well be, their purpose was by that “ draw the papists to the Gospel, &c. temper of popish ceremonies with “partly to redeem peace thereby.” HOOKER, VOL. I.
Ch. xiv. 4,5.
410 Horo respectfully the English Reform dealt with old Customs. BOOK IV: “ the Gospel" (by keeping so many orders still the same with
theirs), “and partly to redeem peace thereby, the breach " whereof they might fear would ensue upon more thorough “ alteration ;" or howsoever it came to pass, the thing they did is judged evil. But such is the lot of all that deal in public affairs whether of church or commonwealth ; that which men list to surmise of their doings, be it good or ill, they must beforehand patiently arm their minds to endure. Wherefore to let go private surmises, whereby the thing in itself is not made either better or worse; if just and allowable reasons might lead them to do as they did, then are these censures all frustrate.
[4.] Touching ceremonies harmless therefore in themselves, and hurtful only in respect of number: was it amiss to decree, that those things which were least needful and newliest come should be the first that were taken away, as in the abrogating of a number of saints' days, and of other the like customs, it appeareth they did; till afterwards the Form of Common Prayer being perfected, Articles of sound Religion and Discipline agreed upon, Catechisms framed for the needful instruction of youth, churches purged of things that indeed were burdensome to the people or to the simple offensive and scandalous, all was brought at the length unto that wherein now we stand? Or was it amiss, that having this way eased the Church as they thought of superfluity, they went not on till they had plucked up even those things also, which had taken a great deal stronger and deeper root; those things which to abrogate without constraint of manifest harm thereby arising, had been to alter unnecessarily in their judgments) the ancient received custom of the whole Church, the universal practice of the people of God, and those very decrees of our fathers, which were not only set down by agreement of general councils, but had accordingly been put in ure and so continued in use till that very time present?
(5.) True it is, that neither councils nor customs, be they never so ancient and so general, can let the Church from taking away that thing which is hurtful to be retained. Where things have been instituted, which being convenient and good at the first, do afterwards in process of time wax otherwise ; we make no doubt but they may be altered, yea,
Ch. xiv. 6.
Moderation leaves entire the Prerogative of the Church. 411 though councils or customs general have received them. BOOK IV. And therefore it is but a needless kind of opposition which they make who thus dispute, “ If in those things which are “ not expressed in the Scripture, that is to be observed of “ the Church, which is the custom of the people of God " and decree of our forefathers; then how can these things “ at any time be varied, which heretofore have been once “ ordained in such sort *!" Whereto we say, that things so ordained are to be kept, howbeit not necessarily any longer, than till there grow some urgent cause to ordain the contrary. For there is not any positive law of men, whether it be general or particular ; received by formal express consent, as in councils, or by secret approbation, as in customs it cometh to pass ; but the same may be taken away
if occasion serve. Even as we all know, that many things generally kept heretofore are now in like sort generally unkept and abolished every where.
[6.] Notwithstanding till such things be abolished, what exception can there be taken against the judgment of St. Augustine, who saith, “That of things harmless, whatsoever “ there is which the whole Church doth observe throughout “ the world, to argue for any man's immunity from observing - the same, it were a point of most insolent madness + ?” And surely odious it must needs have been for one Christian church to abolish that which all had received and held for the space of many ages, and that without any detriment unto religion so manifest and so great, as might in the eyes
of unpartial men appear sufficient to clear them from all blame of rash and inconsiderate proceeding, if in fervour of zeal they had removed such things. Whereas contrariwise, so reasonable moderation herein used hath freed us from being deservedly subject unto that bitter kind of obloquy, whereby as the church of Rome doth under the colour of love towards those things which be harmless, maintain extremely most hurtful corruptions ; so we peradventure might be upbraided, that under colour of hatred towards those things that are corrupt, we are on the other side as extreme even against most harmless ordinances. And as they are obstinate to retain that, which
* T. C. lib. ïïi. p. 30.
† Aug. Epist. 118. [al. 54. c. 5. t. ii. 126.]
412 Wisdom of moderate Reform in England.—God's special BOOK IT no man of any conscience is able well to defend ; so we might Ch. xiv. 6.
be reckoned fierce and violent to tear away that, which if our
“than to the papists which are so
Ch. xiv, 7.
Providence over England since the Reformation. 413 it hath since fallen out, so likewise if in ours it had come to book IV. pass, that the adverse part being enraged, and betaking itself to such practices as men are commonly wont to embrace, when they behold things brought to desperate extremities, and no hope left to see any other end, than only the utter oppression and clean extinguishment of one side ; by this mean Christendom flaming in all parts of greatest importance at once, they all had wanted that comfort of mutual relief, whereby they are now for the time sustained (and not the least by this our church which they so much impeach) till mutual combustions, bloodsheds, and wastes, (because no other inducement will serve,) may enforce them through very faintness, after the experience of so endless miseries, to enter on all sides at the length into some such consultation, as may tend to the best reestablishment of the whole Church of Jesus Christ. To the singular good whereof it cannot but serve as a profitable direction to teach men what is most likely to prove available, when they shall quietly consider the trial that hath been thus long had of both kinds of reformation; as well this moderate kind which the church of England hath taken, as that other more extreme and rigorous which certain churches elsewhere have better liked. In the meanwhile it may be, that suspense of judgment and exercise of charity were safer and seemlier for Christian men, than the hot pursuit of these controversies, wherein they that are most fervent to dispute be not always the most able to determine. But who are on his side, and who against him, our Lord in his good time shall reveal.
[7.] And sith thus far we have proceeded in opening the things that have been done, let not the principal doers themselves be forgotten. When the ruins of the house of God (that house which consisting of religious souls is most immediately the precious temple of the Holy Ghost) were become, not in his sight alone, but in the eyes of the whole world so exceeding great, that very superstition began even to feel itself too far grown : the first that with us made way to repair the decays thereof by beheading superstition, was King Henry the Eighth. The son and successor of which famous king as we know was Edward the Saint : in whom (for so by the event we may gather) it pleased God righteous and just to let Eng