Page images

selves; defeating, as far as creatures are able, the gracious defigns of the Creator of all; and turning his world into the very contrary of what he intended it should be.

Well might one have hoped, that our natural principles of humanity, at least of religion, would have fo far restrained us, that evils of this kind, if they existed at all, should not be fre quent, or extreme. But early and general experience hath too fully confuted fuch imaginations. However, when revelation came in to the aid of reafon, giying fo much clearer no❤ tice of our duty, and stronger motives to it; one should firmly have expected, that the voice of God, speaking exprefsly from heaven, muft have produced a general and a lasting reformation. But, inftead of this, a new gloom arifes from hence, to make our view still more difcouraging. We fee re vealed religion, as well as natural, profeffedly scorned by many, and seriously regarded by very few. Yet, though it hath but little influence, were all that influence good, there would ftill be fome joy. But to have the very light, which is in us, become darkness *; and what was calculated, beyond all things, to make us good and happy, perverted to make us wicked and miferable, this completes the forrow.

Yet fo it is: The gold itself is become dim; the most fine gold is changed t. The piety of the patriarchal ages degenerated very early into pernicious idolatries, full of rites impure and barbarous. And no fooner almoft were the Jews reformed effectually from the worship of falfe gods, than their zeal for the true one became fo by degrees, fo blind and fierce, that the condition of many of them might feem not to be extreme. ly altered for the better. Towards the heathen, and one another, indeed, their bitterness might usually defend itself by the plea of antecedent provocation; but their treatment of Chriftianity, when it appeared, was void of all excufe. That perfectly benevolent doctrine, recommended to them by every inftance of unmixed goodness attending its delivery, if it had not charms enough to attract their love, had furely nothing to excite their hatred. Yet fuch was the turn of this perverfe nation, that even their own Meffiah, the hope of Ifrael ‡, contradicting their favourite scheme, of devoutly indulging their lufts, and piously tyrannizing over the reft of the world; they crucified

‡ Acts xxviii. 20.

*Matth. vi. 23.

[ocr errors]

+ Lam. iy. r.

crucified him, and purfued his followers, with that inhuman bigotry, which, in the words of the text, he foretold they


Nor did this wicked fpirit actuate them alone; but the heathens also, who had borne, for the most part, very patiently, with the infinite variety of one another's gods; who had long borne with the Jewish religion, as oppofite to all their own as could be; yet perfecuted the Chriftians with a most barbarous rage, for three hundred years; till at length, triumphing over cruelty with mere patience and innocence, it gradually became the eftablished belief of the Roman em pire.

And then, at leaft, would a compaffionate fpectator of the courfe of this world, tired out with the fins and miseries of it, have furely thought, the time must be come now, to lift up. his head, and rejoice in the happy change. For who could poffibly imagine, that the profeffors of fo merciful a religion, efpecially after experiencing so long the evil of persecution themselves, would ever be brought to exercise it on their own brethren. But how then fhould the feriptures be fulfilled, thus it must be? The wisdom of God forefaw and foretold, what could not but feem to the first difciples very incredible in itfelf, that, by quick degrees, their fucceffors would bring into the Christian church almost all the corruptions, which they had heard their mafter condemn in the Jewith: human additions to the law of God; human traditions, that made it of no effect; dishonest zeal to gain profelytes; implacable refentment against all who differed from them.

Too foon, and too wide, did thefe offences fpread among the professed followers of Chrift: and would God any part of them were quite innocent, that ever had the power of being guilty. But unspeakably the deepest root did this evil take in the See of Rome: which began furprizingly early to verify of itself one part of our Saviour's words, by putting out of the fynagogue, excommunicating, or at least attempting to excommunicate, without caufe, the churches of Afia, in the controverfy of Eafter; and employed afterwards, at fome times the dignity of the imperial feat, at others the reverence of a principal apoftolic foundation, to obtain continually fresh acceffions

* Luke xxi. 28. † Matth. xxvi. 54. Matth. xv. 6. Mark vii. 13.

ceffions of power; till at length a bishop of that See, in the feventh century *, affumed the title, which his 'almost immediate predeceffort had declared to be a mark of antichrift; that of the univerfal paftor of Chrift's church. And his fucceffors took effectual care, that it should be fed with fuch doctrines most diligently, as were most subservient to their wicked defigns. All, who opposed any of their novelties, but especially any new claim of authority, they profecuted with infinitely greater vehemence, than if guilty of the groffeft immoralities and not only fubjected them to the utmost rigour of spiritual cenfures, but to the heavieft temporal penalties that they could; and at length to death itself.

Even over princes, in process of time, was this unwarrantable dominion extended: and having often been exercised in fact, was in the laft place openly afferted, as a juft right. For the fourth council of Lateran, held in the year 1215, and pretended to be a general, and therefore infallible one, after beginning with a Creed, of which tranfubftantiation, then first established, made a part; proceeds, in the third canon, to decree," that all the deniers of that, or any other of the [pre"tended] Catholic doctrines, be excommunicated by the fe"cular arm: that all, who are suspected, unless they clear "themselves within a year, be deemed heretics; and that all "civil powers, of what rank foever, be admonished, and, if "need require, compelled by ecclefiaftical cenfures, to swear, "that they will extirpate all heretics out of their territories; "and if any of them refuses it, that he also be excommunica❝ted; and if he give not fatisfaction within a year, the Pope "shall declare his fubjects to be free from their oath of fide"lity, and give his dominions to catholics; who, driving he"refy out of them, may poffefs them without contradiction, "and preferve them in the purity of the faith." These are the words of that canon. Nay further still; the fame council gives to all, who, taking upon them the badge of the cross, fhall fight against heretics, the fame spiritual privileges and indulgences, as if they fought against infidels. For making war on the latter, merely for the fake of religion, though a most unchristian employment, they had already, for selfish ends, taught to be meritorious. And having now raised fighting

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

ing against the former to the fame degree of merit, they foon effected the destruction, not only of the Albigenfes, a very blameable fect, but of the poor Waldenses likewise, much better believers than themselves; thus fulfilling the fecond part of Chrift's prediction, Yea, the time cometh, that whofoever killeth you, will think, that he doth God service.

After these beginnings, the inftances, that followed, of Popish ufurpation, treachery, and cruelty, in every nation in Europe, every nation upon earth, in which popery hath got footing, have been so numerous, that the time would fail me even to name them: and therefore I fhall confine myself to a general mention of fuch as have happened in a country, which, God be thanked, hath felt much lefs of them, than many others; I mean our own. And this I fhall do without bitternefs, far from exaggerating any one fact, or dwelling with the least pleasure on things so dishonourable to the Chriftian profeffion; and much too mournful to be remembered, if it were fafe to forget them.

No fooner * had King Henry the Eighth been declared, what he undoubtedly was, the fupreme head of the clergy, as well as laity, in his own kingdom; but though he had meddled with no one point of the Romish doctrine befides; nay, was fo far from being a proteftant, that all his life long he burnt others for being fo; yet Pope Paul the Third pronounced him, by a bull, to have forfeited his crown, required all his fubjects to revolt from him; and all Chriftian kings to make war upon him. And in fact this produced fome dangerous infurrections, both in his reign, and that of his fon Edward the fixth; under whom no papist was put to death on account of religion, excepting fuch as rebelled on account of it. How deftructive to proteftants the short reign of his fifter, Queen Mary, was, notwithstanding their raifing her to the throne, and notwithstanding her folemn promises to them, we all know. Yet, in the first ten years of her fucceffor, Queen Elizabeth, not one papift, not one of the perfecutors, fuffered; but all enjoyed quietly the private exercise of their own worship. Indeed almost all of them conformed publicly to the establish


The following facts are chiefly taken from Foulis's history of Romish Treafons, fol. 1673, a discourse concerning the original of the Powder Plot," 4t0, 1674, and a book intitled, The Gunpowder Treafon, republished, with a preface, by Bishop Barlow, 8vo, 1679%

[merged small][ocr errors]

ed church; till, in her eleventh year, Pope Pius the Fifth forbad it; and finding his secret defigns ineffectual, commanded, by a bull, the whole nation to rebel against her; and de pounced a curfe against all, that should obey her; which order of his a daring traitor published in the city of London; and feceiving for it the reward, which he deserved, is the first martyr, of whom the Romanifts have to boast in her reign; for a real martyr they account him. And the famous Thuanus, a French historian of their own communion, having called this man's deed a rafh action; even fo gentle a cenfure was ordered by the court of Rome to be ftruck out of his book.

Immediately after this, they began to feparate from the church, and rebel against the state: and though very unfuc cefsful, yet held themselves bound by the Pope's anathema to rebel on till his fucceffor, Gregory the Thirteenth, pitying the dangers, to which they had expofed themfelves, for ten years together, gave them at length a permiffion in form to be quiet; provided it were no longer, than till the above-mentioned bull could be openly executed. In the mean while, another method was taken, of private attempts to murder the Queen. Many fuch there were; and almost all of them encoura➡ ged by the confeffors of the wretches, who engaged in them:particularly by those of that new invented order, which hath profanely diftinguished, by the name of the meek and holy JESUS, the most bloody and faithlefs combination of men, whom the fun ever beheld; among whofe fundamental conftitutions it is, that whatever their fuperior commands, they fhall always think lawffl; and ronouncing blindly their own judgment, receive the word, that comes out of his mouth, as that of Christ himfelf. This is that fociety, which one of themselves, Father Campian, in a letter to Queen Elizabeth's council, declares, have entered into a covenant, to deftroy, by all methods they can, all heretic princes; in which, he fays, they will perfist, fo long as one of them remains in being. And this man also, being executed here for treafon, is reputed by his brethren a martyr.

No wonder, if in such a state of things, at length severe laws were made. None fuch had been made in the firft twelve years of the Queen's reign: nor was it capital for priests to be in England, till the twenty-feventh: when the better fort, VOL. IV. D


[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »