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happiness of mankind, yet, if one were to frame his idea of it from their conduct as above described, would appear to be no better than a stratagem to en. rich and aggrandize a few men, called ecclesiasticks, at the cost of impoverishing and ensaving the rest; from whence I cease to wonder at the contempt with which the profession of Christianity, without the power and spirit of it, hath been sometimes created.
Of the Reformation, and its gradual progress, and the
. defects yet attending it.
OF the woful darkness above described, which did for some ages eclipse the brightness of the gospel-day, it hath feemed good to Divine Providence to fore. warn us in the Revelation, where the church is sup. posed to be represented by the 6 woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars,” and being with child, and perfecuted by the dragon “ whose tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven and did cast them to the earth; and he stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as foon as it was born ; but the child being brought forth, and caught up to God and his throne, she fled into the wilderness,” (a state of obscurity) and was to remain there during the time appointed her of God: which was but a limited time, and is believed to have been accomplished, and that the return of the church out of the wilderness commenced at the reformation, and that this great work shall be carried on and perfected in God's time.
It must indeed be acknowledged, to the glory of God's good providence, that even in the most dark and corrupt ages there was still preserved a faithful remnant, who bore witness against the prevailing corruptions, though the greater part of these were branded for hereticks by the ruling majority, whereof it is necessary to subjoin a few instances. .
A. D. 815, Claudius, bishop of Turin, is stigma. tized for an arch heretick for teaching that the cross is not to be worshipped, nor the sepulchres nor re. liques of faints, and that pilgrimages are vain : and for the like reason were Petrus de Bruis and Henricus ex Monacho, A. D. 1119, branded for hereticks.*
In the year 1146 lived Hildegardis, a prophetess, and indeed so esteemed by the papists themselves, who among other things f prophesieth against the priests and prelates of the Romish church thus:
Now is the law neglected among the spiritual people, which neglect to teach and do good things; the master likewise and the prelate do leep, despising justice, and laying it afide: and in a certain vifion the church appeared to her in the shape of a woman complaining that the priests had bewrayed her face with dust, rent her coat, &c. and that they did not shine over the people, neither in doctrine, nor example of life--that all ecclesiastical order did every day become worse and worse, and that the priests did not teach, but destroy the law of God: and for these horrible crimes the threateneth and prophesieth unto them God's most heavy wrath and displeasure, and doleful punishments. The crown of apostolical ho nour shall be divided, because there shall be found no' religion among the apoftolical order; and for that cause shall they despise the dignity of that name, and shall set over them other men and other archbishops, in so much that the apostolic fee of that time shall have scarce Rome and a few other countries thereabouts under his crown. And these things shall partly come to pass by incursion of wars, and partly also by a common counsel and consent of the fecular and, fpiritual persons. Then shall justice flourish, so that in those days men shall honestly apply themselves to the ancient customs and discipline of ancient men, and shall obserye them as ancient men did.'!
Synops Concilior. Paris 1691.
A. D. 1160, one Waldo, a merchant of Lyons, applying himself to the study of the Scriptures, and finding there no grounds for several of the popish doctrines, and particularly transubstantiation, publickly opposed them. His followers, called Waldenses, were grievously perfecuted by the reigning power, some of them burnt to death, and others scattered into divers countries, and indeed they did overspread a great part of * Europe, by which means (to the glory of God's Providence bringing good out of evil). the reformation was also spread
Among others of their tenets were the following: • That the church of Rome is Babylon spoken of in the Revelation : that praying for the dead is vain, and a thing only found out for the lucre of priests: that the host is an idol : that the feasts and festivals of the saints ought to be rejected : that preaching of the word is free to all men called to thereunta.
And indeed in that dark interval of time, between the year 1170 and 1470, many bore a publick testimony against the corruption and abominable idolatry which was crept into the church; though commonly with the lofs of their liberties or lives; for a further account of whom I refer to the last-cited author ; and it is observable, to the glory of the power and providence of God, now as formerly, “ choosing the weak things to confound the things that are mighty ;" and that though there were some learned men among these, many of them were mean persons, mechanics, and several women, (who suffered for their testimony to the Truth): not for the most part the men of the establishment, the mercenary priests and billiops, who were commonly their perfecutors, and hindered, as much as in them lay, the progress of the reformation.
In the year 1370.g. lived Bridget, dignified by the
name of Holy, the church of Rome having canonized her not only for a faint, but prophetess, who, notwithstanding, in her book of revelations, was a great rebuker of the pope and of the filth of his clergy, calling him a murderer of fools, a spiller and piller of the flock of Christ, affirming that the prelates, bishops, and priests, are the cause why the doctrine of Christ is neglected and almost extinct; that the clergy have turned the Ten Commandmens of God into two words, Da Pecuniam, or Give money; and prophefieth that the fee of the pope shall be thrown down into the deep like a millstone.* .
But it were an inexcusable neglect, in' a discourse of this kind, to supprefs one fa&t' redounding to the singular honour of the English nation, or rather a notable instance of God's goodness' worthy of the molt grateful commemoration from the people of these nations, viz.' that England was one of the first that was favoured with the dawn of the glorious light of the reformation, even long before the days of Martin Luther, viz. by the means of John Wickliff, who has been called the morning star of the reformation, and was born about the year 1324, was Divinity Professor in Oxford, and afterwards parfon of Lutterworth in Leicestershire. He flourished in the latter end of king Edward HI. and the beginning of king Richard IId's time, about 130 years before che reformation of Luther.t.
He published certain conclusions against transub. ftantiation and the infallibility of the pope, and that the church of Rome was not the head of all other churches. That'the New Testament is a perfect rule of life and manners, and ought to be read by the people. He also declared againft che establishment of tithes, asserting them to be pure alms, and main
Fos's Ecclesiastical History.