« AnteriorContinuar »
DEDICATION TO THE POPE.
TO HIS HOLINESS CLEMENT XI.
Your Holiness will be surprised at so uncommon a thing, as an address of this nature, from one, who is, in your account, and in the language of your church, a schismatic, heretic, and infidel. But, as I think it my duty to make this public restitution of the following treatise, which I acknowledge myself to have clandestinely procured; so I will restore it fourfold, with all possible advantage to you and your church.
I find that all the infallibility, with which your Holiness is illuminated, doth not disdain the help of human information ; and that your accounts of the religious, as well as civil, state of this kingdom, are in a particular manner defective; and therefore I have resolved to act the part of a generous adversary, and without reserve to lay before you, out of the fulness of my heart, such things, as will give you a juster information of the state we of these
nations are in, than any of your predecessors in the Holy See ever enjoyed; and this, without any further ceremony, just in the order in which they shall arise in my own mind.
Your Holiness is not perhaps aware, how near the churches of us Protestants have at length come to those privileges and perfections, which you boast of, as peculiar to your own. So near,
of the most quicksighted and sagacious persons have not been able to discover any other difference between us, as to the main principle of all doctrine, government, worship, and discipline, but this one, viz. that you cannot err in any thing you determine, and we never do. That is, in other words, that infallible, and we always in the right. We cannot but esteem the advantage to be exceedingly on our side, in this case, because we have all the benefits of infallibility, without the absurdity of pretending to it; and without the uneasy task of maintaining a point so shocking to the understanding of mankind. And you must pardon us, if we cannot help thinking it to be as great and as glorious a privilege in us to be always in the right, without the pretence to infallibility, as it can be in you to be always in the wrong with it.
Thus the Synod of Dort, for whose unerring decisions, public thanks to almighty God are every three years offered up, with the greatest solemnity, by the magistrates in that country; the Councils of
the Reformed in France ; the Assembly of the Kirk of Scotland; and, if I may presume to name it, the Convocation of England, have been all found to have the very same unquestionable authority, which your church claims solely upon the infallibility which resides in it; and the people, to be under the very same strict obligation of obedience to their determinations, which, with you, is the consequence only of an absolute infallibility. The reason, therefore, why we do not openly set up an infallibility, is because we can do without it. Authority results as well from power, as from right; and a majority of votes is as strong a foundation for it, as infallibility itself. Councils that may err, never do; and besides, being composed of men, whose peculiar business it is to be in the right, it is very immodest for any private person to think them not so; because this is to set up a private corrupted understanding, above a public uncorrupted judgment.
Thus it is in the north, as well as the south ; abroad, as well as at home. All maintain the exercise of the same authority in themselves; which yet they know not how so much as to speak of without ridicule in others.
In England it stands thus. The synod of Dort is of no weight; it determined many doctrines wrong. The assembly of Scotland hath nothing of a true authority, and is very much out in its scheme of doctrines, worship, and government. But the church
of England is vested with all authority, and justly challengeth all obedience.
If one crosses a river in the north, there it stands thus. The church of England is not enough reformed; its doctrines, worship, and government have too much of antichristian Rome in them. But the kirk of Scotland hath a divine right, from its only head, Christ Jesus, to meet and to enact what to it shall seem fit, for the good of his church.
Thus we left you for your enormous, unjustifiable claim to an unerring spirit, and have found out a way, unknown to your Holiness and your predecessors, of claiming all the rights that belong to infallibility, even whilst we disclaim and abjure the thing itself.
As for us of the Church of England, if we will believe many of its greatest advocates, we have bishops in a succession as certainly uninterrupted from the Apostles, as your church could communicate it to us. And upon this bottom, which makes us a true church, we have a right to separate from you ; but no persons living have any right to differ or separate from us. And they again, who differ from us, value themselves upon something or other, in which we are supposed defective; or upon being free from some superfluities which we enjoy ; and think it hard, that any will be still going farther, and refine upon their scheme of worship and discipline.