Page images
PDF
EPUB

of heaven during its separation, they have in the council of Florence flatly condemned. Now if it be then no crime in them to reject the opinions of those primitive Christians, on which this practice was founded, nay, to censure the very practice itself upon any other account but that which they now assert, and which the ancient Fathers, as we have seen, never knew; how comes it to be more unlawful in us to do this, than it is in them? or why may not we as well give off praying for the dead as the ancient church did, as they themselves not only leave it off, but even censure it to have been impious and absurd, which we never presumed to do? But,

2dly, If the person who makes this objection be of some other communion, I have several reflections to offer in our justification in this matter.

1st, Let his reverence for antiquity be never so great, yet he will not, I am sure, say either that those holy men were infallible in every thing they did, or that we ought to receive at all adventures whatever can be proved to have descended from them. We do indeed confess, that this custom of praying for the dead was one of the most early practices of the church.

But then we have seen what it was that introduced it: and their grounds are many of them such as are now generally disclaimed by almost all Christians: such as that of Christ's millenary kingdom; of the passing of all men through the purgatory fire at the end of the world; of the souls of the just being in a place of sequester out of heaven till the last day, and the like: the rest so inconsiderable, as that we cannot by any means think them sufficient to warrant so dangerous a practice. For what is it to engage us to this, that the ancients thought hereby to "distinguish the best of men from our Saviour Christ ?" to testify their hopes of a future resurrection? to maintain a kind of fellowship and communion with them? There are other ways enough to do all this, without engaging in such a piety as the holy scripture is not so much as pretended to countenance; the most that ever the holy Fathers offered for it being the custom of the church; and Tertullian expressly places it among those things which are nowhere written. How far such an authority might then have obliged us to compliance with the

practice of the church, had we lived in those primitive times, it is not necessary to inquire; but since neither the holy scripture requires it, nor does the custom of the church now exact it of us, nor do we acknowledge those opinions on which it was heretofore used, nor can we see any benefit that we are able to do the dead by them; it is but reasonable to omit that which might justly give offence to some, but cannot possibly bring advantage to any.

But, 2dly, we have yet a more particular reason why it is by no means fitting at this time thus to pray for the dead; and that is, to prevent that danger which the present practice of the church of Rome would be apt to expose men to, should we do it. To pray for the souls departed, as that church does, neither did the primitive Fathers ever allow, and we have sufficiently shewn how dangerously erroneous it is to do so. It is therefore by no means convenient to continue a practice, whereby it might be very easy to lead men into such gross mistakes; and however some might still be able to make the distinction, and see a great difference in the design and intention of the same kind of praying; yet the ill use that is made, even of what those holy Fathers did, sufficiently shews us how apt men are to confound those things together that have so nigh a relation, as to the practice and the act being the same, to lead them to believe that the principle is so too.

In short, 3dly, we cannot imagine, if there were indeed any such great piety in this practice, as to deserve our apology for the omission of it, how it comes to pass that neither precept nor example of any such thing is to be found in the holy scriptures and to those who make that the rule of their religion, we do not see that any more need be said than this, that we find nothing there to authorize such a devotion, and that therefore we cannot think it fitting to make it a part of the church's service.

I shall close up all with the words of our church in her homily upon this subject : "Let these and such other considerations be sufficient to take away the gross error of purgatory out of our heads; neither let us dream any more that the souls of the dead are any thing at all holpen by our prayers: but as the scripture teacheth us, let us think that the soul of r Third part of Sermon concerning Prayer, p. 212. ed. Oxon. 1683.

man passing out of the body, goeth straightways either to heaven or else to hell; whereof the one needeth no prayer, the other is without redemption. The only purgatory wherein we must trust to be saved, is the death and blood of Christ, which if we apprehend with a true and steadfast faith, it purgeth and cleanseth us from all our sins, even as well as if he were now hanging upon the cross. The blood of Christ, saith St. Johns, hath cleansed us from all sin. The blood of Christ, saith St. Paul, hath purged our consciences from dead works to serve the living God. Also in another place, he saith', We be sanctified and made holy by the offering up of the body of Jesus Christ done once for all. Yea, he addeth more, saying, With the one oblation of his blessed body and precious blood, he hath made perfect for ever and ever all them that are sanctified. This then is that purgatory wherein all Christian men put their whole trust and confidence; nothing doubting but if they truly repent them of their sins, and die in perfect faith, that then they shall forthwith pass from death to life. If this kind of purgation will not serve them, let them never hope to be released by other men's prayers, though they should continue therein unto the world's end. He that cannot be saved by faith in Christ's blood, how shall he look to be delivered by man's intercessions? Hath God more respect to man on earth than he hath to Christ in heaven? If any man sin, saith St. John, we have an advocate with the Father, even Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins". But we must take heed that we call upon this Advocate while we have space given us in this life, lest when we are once dead there be no hope of salvation left unto us. For as every man sleepeth with his own cause, so every man shall rise again with his own cause. And look in what state he dieth, in the same state be shall also be judged, whether it be to salvation or damnation.

"Let us not therefore dream either of purgatory, or of prayer for the souls of them that be dead; but let us earnestly and diligently pray for them which are expressly commanded in holy scripture, namely, for kings and rulers, for ministers of God's holy word and sacraments, for the saints of this world, otherwise called the faithful; to be short, for all men living,

[blocks in formation]

be they never so great enemies to God and his people, as Jews, Turks, pagans, infidels, heretics. Then shall we truly fulfil the commandment of God in that behalf, and plainly declare ourselves to be the true children of our heavenly Father, who suffereth the sun to shine upon the good and bad, and the rain to fall upon the just and unjust.

"For which, and all other benefits, most abundantly bestowed upon mankind from the beginning, let us give him hearty thanks, as we are most bound, and praise his name for ever and ever. Amen."

THE

COUNCIL OF TRENT

EXAMINED AND DISPROVED

BY

CATHOLIC TRADITION,

IN

THE MAIN POINTS IN CONTROVERSY BETWEEN US AND THE CHURCH OF ROME, WITH A PARTICULAR ACCOUNT OF THE TIMES AND OCCASIONS OF INTRODUCING THEM.

TO WHICH A PREFACE Is préfixed, CONCERNING THE TRUE SENSE OF THE COUNCIL OF TRENT, AND THE NOTION OF TRANSUBSTANTIATION.

THE PREFACE.

THERE is, it seems, a train in controversies, as well as in thoughts, one thing still giving a start to another; conferences produce letters; letters, books; and one discourse gives occasion for another. For this follows the former as a necessary pursuit of the same argument against tradition.

J. Serjeant, in his last Lettera, had vouched the authority of the council of Trent producing upon tradition, and he instanced in three points, Transubstantiation, Sacramental Confession, and Extreme Unction. The examination of this I thought fit to reserve for a discourse by itself; wherein, instead of confining myself to those three particulars, I intend to go through the most material points there established; and to prove, from the most authentic testimonies, that there was no true catholic tradition for any of them. And if I can make good what I have undertaken, I shall make the council of Trent itself the great instance against the infallibility of tradition.

a Third Letter, p. 64.

« PreviousContinue »