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ticularly may these reflections be applied to invite the Romanists amongst us into the free, sincere, and cordial communion with the Church of England, which once, though only to outward appearance, they generally observed, and have almost nothing to object against it, but the rash and schismatical interdict of a foreign usurped power. That the terms of our communion are most truly Catholic, hath been the chief design of this small tract to prove, and thereby to prevent the common prejudice from the name of the Catholic and Apostolic Church ; in which, whatever they assume to themselves, we have as good a title to our share as any Church in the world. And no sensible evidence have we of our communion with that Catholic Church, but by communicating with the more particular Church, in which Divine providence hath placed us, where nothing is required of us repugnant to the bond of unity in the whole.
Many of our Church, yea our constitution itself, have been often charged and reviled, though most unjustly, with too favourable an inclination to them of Rome; because whatever of good order and decent solemnity, as well as sound doctrine, and wholesome instruction, was found among them, is still retained and cherished by us. And that we are not so hasty and peremptory in unchurching them all together, or damning presently all that have been, or are still of their communion, as some would have us ; which is, in effect, for being more tender in preserving the principles of true Catholic unity, than in pleasing some private humours or prejudices.
Štill we must be aware, that no pretended charity to them, nor yet compliance with those who pretend the greatest opposition to them, must tempt us to betray the truth of God, or violate our obligation to his commands on either side; and within those bonds to consult, as much as possible, the peace and unity of his Church, and continue therein. If the former retort our kindness upon us in new oppositions ; if the latter load our religious care and modest caution with all those dreadful imputations due to others ; if we suffer from both sides, whilst it is only for speaking the truth, and doing our duty, which we have no power to alter ; we may justify ourselves before God and our own consciences, and in due time, with all good, reasonable, and considerative men, and then it is no matter what the clamours and captious cavils of others lay upon us.
But yet our adversaries of the Roman persuasion must take notice, that while we are so wary and sparing in our censures of them, we are not the less apprehensive of the extreme danger
which attends those gross errors and superstitions wherewith we charge them, which have a direct tendency to their ruin, and very much undermine the foundations of faith and good life, which they own in common with us. What may be their influence upon any particular persons is more than we dare determine, and think always more safe to incline to the favourable side, where it may be without prejudice to what is certainly true and good. Notwithstanding whatever our opinion be, that will not alter the case at last ; and thus far we are most determinate, that the corruptions among them are such, which every Church is bound to reform, and every true Christian to keep at a distance from as much as is in his power.
Whatsoever were the condition of those who lived in that communion before the Reformation, many of them groaned under those oppressions, from which we are happily freed; nay, whatever charitable allowance may still be made for them, who now live within those boundaries, where they have little op portunity of knowing better, and are under vast prejudices by. contrary education, and the severest awe over them ; -how far, I say, these cases may be pleadable, must be left to God and their own consciences.
As for those born and bred amongst us, who have been treacherously deluded into apostasy from us, or will persist in their hereditary obstinate perverseness to us, against the clearest conviction which they may receive, and in opposition to the express laws of God and of the land, to the perpetual disturbance of the state and confusion of the Church : there appears no room for any excuse to lessen their crime, or alleviate their doom, which will be mightily increased, when all manner of hidden and crafty artifices, or open violences against the common rights of humane society and moral honesty, as well as the faith and charity of Christ's Church, are employed and consecrated into a religious but blind zeal for the destruction of both.
No marvel, if the nation, awakened with the effects hereof, which it hath sometimes felt, and oftener had reason to fear, have provided some severe laws for an awe over them, and to stop the first beginnings of such exorbitant attempts, ready to break through all ordinary inclosures, and which will hardly be restrained by the usual methods of government. No temper is more difficultly mastered, or more mischievous, if let loose, than such a false fiery zeal, which neglected, burns all before it.
But whatever may have been their treatment of us formerly,
or we may justly apprehend would be still, had they any opportunity, which God prevent, we ought not, and hope shall not ever desist from wishing and endeavouring, as much as is in our power, their real welfare, and so of all our implacable enemies, and therein their hearty union with us in the holy offices of religion and fellowship of God's Church where they live, with the sincere renunciation of those dangerous errors and practices that hitherto keep them at a distance from us.
In conclusion, instead of querulous expostulations, or catching occasions to find fault, we have great reason to admire and adore that gracious Providence, which amidst so many confusions, disorders, and corruptions, that prevail too much in most places round about, hath placed our lot in so happy a soil, and provided for us so goodly a heritage, and safe retreat in the bosom of that Church, whose charity is as eminent as its faith, and its order is as signal as its purity; whose arms are always open to receive its returning enemies with the most tender compassions, as well as to cherish its faithful friends with the most wholesome and indulgent provisions ; where nothing is wanting to ensure our safety, and encourage our proficiency in every thing that is good and excellent : which, upon former trial of both the opposite extremes, the whole kingdom bath seen necessary to flee back into, to repair the confusions and devastations they had wrought; and in its most dangerous convulsions here hath found the readiest cure, and under whose name her very enemies desire to shelter themselves; which, finally, engages us to express our gratitude for so peculiar privileges, by ready and impartial obedience to the holy doctrine we are taught, and a fruitful improvement of all those happy advantages which we enjoy therein. That our lives may be answerable to our profession, and our pious, virtuous, peaceable, and charitable conversation may be in some proportion as defensible, and remarkable, as the principles we proceed upon, or the benefits we lay claim to.
This would most effectually silence the captious cavils of our enemies on every side, and more powerfully invite them to our communion, than all other the most demonstrative arguments, when their very senses would bear witness that God is in us of a truth. I hope we are not destitute of some such eminent examples of unfeigned piety, true holiness, and universal probity. God Almighty increase their number more and more: yet whatsoever may be the effect thereof upon
other method would most unquestionably ensure our own firmest
peace here, and everlasting salvation hereafter.
Here we keep certainly within our own bounds, and may most safely and profitably spend all our zeal, while other men please themselves in diverting it abroad to what they have no power over.
It seems horrible nauseous to hear men quarrel fiercely about the best Church, who live in the most open defiance to all religion; and I doubt there are too many of all denominations chargeable herewith. Yet whatever the case of others prove, it will be most safe and pious to bring it home, and close to ourselves
. Be our Church or our profession never so much better than any other, if we be not also suitably better than other men, they will rise up in judgment against us at the last.
But by a careful and diligent observance of its sacred prescriptions, we shall justify our reformation throughout, put a stop to the reproaches, and shame the calumnies of our adversaries, and which is the summary of all good intentions and endeavours, bring honour to our great Lord and master, the author and finisher of our faith.
A VINDICATION OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND FROM THE FOUL ASPERSIONS OF SCHISM AND HERESY, UNJUSTLY CAST UPON HER BY THE CHURCH OF ROME.
THERE is nothing more frequent among those of the Romish communion, than to charge those of the Reformation with the guilt of schism and heresy. They blacken us with those odious names of schismatic and heretic; and though we do publicly declare our abhorrence of those crimes, and disavow both the name and thing ; yet must we be represented as such, and under that character be exposed to the world.
Whether this charge be just or unjust, will appear by the sequel of this discourse. But whethersoever it be, certain it is, that it is generally taken for granted among them, that we are such. A late author of theirs, in answer to this question,
Why are you a Catholic ?” having, as he thinks, charged these crimes home upon Protestants, at length sums up his harangue in these words, p. 12:—“Now it being impossible for Protestants to excuse, much less to justify their manifest schism, to what purpose is it to enter into debate with them about particular points of doctrine ? As long as the charge of schism subsists, uncleared by them, and this schism grounded on pretended dangerous errors in the Catholic Church, being schismatics, they are heretics too, and so condemned by themselves, and consequently not to be hearkened to, when they would raise particular controversies ; since this one general controversy determines against them all particular debates."
And now, who would not think that here was a fair end put to all debates, between the Church of Rome and us? for if we be really schismatics, and our schism so manifest that it will admit of no excuse, much less of any justification, then this