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with if they durft, is, that there should be any such book in the world, and that it should 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 speak out, the quarrel is against the scriptures themselves. This is too evident by the counsel given to Pope Julius III. by the Bilhops met at Bononia, to consult about the establishment of the Roman see; where, among other things, they gave this as their last advice, and as the greatest and weightiest of all, “ That by all “ means as little of the gospel as might be, especially “ in the vulgar tongue, should be read to the people; " and that little which was in the mass ought to be “ sufficient : neither should it be permitted to any mor66 tal to read more. For so long (say they) as men
were contented with that little, all things went well “ with them ; but quite otherwise, since more was com“monly read.” And speaking of the scripture, they give this remarkable testimony and commendation of it. “ This in short is that book which, above all others, S hath raised those tempests and whirlwinds which we
were almost carried away with. And, in truth, if “ any one diligently considers it, and compares it with o what is done in our church, he will find them very contrary to each other; and our doctrine not only to
very different from it, but repugnant to it.” If this be the case, they do like the rest of the children of this world, prudently enough in their generation. Can we blame them for being against the scriptures, when the scriptures are acknowledged to be so clearly against them? But surely no body that considereth these things would be of thát church, which is brought by the undeniable evidence of the things themselves to this shameful confesfion, that several of their doctrines and practices are very contrary to the word of God.
Much more might have been said against the practice of the church of Rome in these two particulars; but this is sufficient.
I shall, in the second place, consider what is pretended for them. And indeed what can be pretended in juAtification of fo contumelious an affront to inankind, so
great a tyranny and cruelty to the souls of men ? Hath God forbidden the people to look into the scriptures ? No: quite contrary. Was it the practice of the ancient church to lay this restraint upon men, or to celebrate the service of God in an unknown tongue ? Our adversaries themselves have not the face to pretend this. I fhall truly represent the substance of what they fay in these two points.
1. As to the service of God in an unknown tongue, they say these four things for themselves.
ill, That the people do exercise a general devotion, and come with an intention to serve God; and that is accepted, though they do not particularly understand the prayers that are made, and the lessons that are read.
But is this all that is intended in the service of God ? Does not St. Paul expressly require more ? that the understanding of the people should be edified by the particular service that is performed ? And if what is done be not particularly understood, he tells us the people are not edified, nor can say Amen to the prayers and thanksgivings that are put up to God; and that any man that should come in and find people serving 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 service that is performed, that so they might exercise a particular devotion ? So that they are devout no farther than they understand ; and consequently, as to what they do not understand, had every whit as good be absent.
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 also ? or indeed how can men pray to God without understanding what they ask 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 say they to the lessons and exhortati
ons of scripture, which are likewise read to the people in an unknown tongue ? Are these directed to God, or to the people only ? and are they not designed by God for their instruction and read either to that purpose or to none ? and is it possible to instruct 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 should learn. Is it not all one, as to all purposes of edification, as if the scriptures were not read, or any thing else in the place of them ? as they many times do their legends, which the wiser sort 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 distinguilh.
3dly, They say, 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 relt; and more than the church either desires or intends : for if they desired it, they might order their service so as every man might understand it.
4thly, They say, that it is convenient that God should be served and worshipped in the same language all the world over.
Convenient for whom ? for God? or for the people ? Not for God, surely : 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 so convenient for the people; because they generally understand no language but their own; and it is very inconvenient they should not understand what they do in the service of God. But perhaps they mean, that it is convenient for the Roman church to have it fo; because this will look like an argument that they are the catholick or universal church, when the language which was originally theirs shall be the universal language in which all nations shall serve God. And by this means also they may bring all nations to be of their religion, and yet make them never the wiser : and this is a very great convenience; because knowledge is a troublesome thing, and ignorance very quiet and VOL. II. R
peaceable, peaccable, rendering men fit to be governed, and unfit to dispute.
2. As to their depriving the people of the fcriptures, the sum of what they say may be reduced to these three heads.
1t, That the church can give leave to men to read the scriptures. But this not without great trouble and difficulty. There must be a licence for it under the hand of the Bishop or inquisitor, by the advice of the priest or confeffor, concerning the fitness of the person that desires this privilege: and we may be sure they will think nonc fit, but those of whom they have the greatest confidence and security. And whoever presumes to do it otherwise, is to be denied absolution; which is, as much as in them lies, to damn men for presuming 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 possession of their power, and have the people perfectly under their yoke.
2dly, They tell us, they instruct the people otherwise. This indeed were something, if they did it to purpose; but generally they do it very sparingly and slightly. Their sermons are commonly inade up of feigned stories and miracles of saints, and exhortations to the worship of them, and especially of the blessed virgin, and of their images and relicks. And for the truth of this I appeal to the innumerable volumes of their sermons and postils in print; which I suppose are none of their worst. I am sure Erasmus says, that, in his time, in several countries the people did scarce once in half a year hear a profitable sermon to exhort them to true piety. Indeed they allow the people fome catechisms and manuals of devotion; and yet in many of them they have the conscience and the confidence to steal away the second commandment in the face of the eighth.
But, to bring the matter to a point, if those helps of inltruction are agreeable to the scriptures, why are they so afraid the people should read the scriptures? If they are not, why do they deceive and delude them? zitly, They say, that people are apt to wrest the
fcriptures to their own destruction; and that the promiscuous use of them hath been the great occasion of heresies. 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 must all these be therefore taken away? This very inconvenience, of people's wresting the feriptures 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 successors have done fince. Suppose the reading of the scriptures hath been the occasion of heresies, were there ever more than in the first ages of Christianity? And yet neither the Apostles nor their successors ever prescribed this remedy. But are they in earnest ? Must not men know the truth for fear of falling into error? Because men may posibly misstheir way at noon-day, mult they never travel but in the night, when they are sure to lose it?
And, when all is done, this is not true, that heresies have sprung from this cause. They have generally been broached by the learned, from whom the Icriptures neither were, nor could be concealed. And for this I appeal to the history and experience of all ages. I am well assured the ancient fathers were of another mind. St. Chrysostom says, “If men would be conversant in “ the scriptures, and attend to them, they would not
only not fall into errors themselves, but rescue those " that are deceived; and that the scriptures would in“ struct men both in right opinions and a good life.” And St. Hierom, more expressly to our purpose, That “ infinite evils arise from the ignorance of the scri
ptures; and that from that cause the most part of he« refies have come.”
But, if what they say were true, is not this to lay the blame of all the ancient heresies upon the ill management of things by our Saviour and his Apostles, and the holy fathers of the church for so many ages, and their imprudent dispensing of the scriptures to the people? This indeed is to charge the matter home ; and yet this consequence is unavoidable. For the church of Rome cannot justify the piety and prudence of their present practices, without accusing all these.