Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

tion. If this first character in the text belongs to popery ; let us secure the other to ourselves, “ that we handle the word in sincerity, as of God, as in the sight of God in Christ.” The Reformation without this must forfeit its name ; and the church of England must lose its nature. “Let every one therefore that

“ thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” Our very text informs us, that in the apostle's own days, when the church was in its greatest purity and simplicity; there were even then many káando, fraudulent dealers, among its members : though the traffic must needs run low, when the whole community was so poor. But when the emperors became Christian, and the immense revenues of the pagan priesthood were (as indeed they ought to be) all confiscated and distributed; without doubt the spoil and the plunder attracted crowds of new converts; and the courtiers found it useful to declare themselves good Christians. Even the Reformation itself did not make the slower progress for the vast riches of the monasteries that were to be dissolved ; nor had it been less honour to it, if as the lands and manors of the abbeys were justly restored to the laity; so their impropriations had reverted to the parochial clergy, from whom they had been robbed. To say the truth, the spirit of popery is near as old as the human race; it is in all

ages
and places;

and even then exerts itself when it demolishes popery. The generality of men, oi moldoi, were always káando, traders in a profession. The Epicureans of old, though they denied and derided the heathen gods, would yet gladly accept of a fat benefice, “opimum sacerdotium ;” and to gain an ample revenue, would officiate at those altars which they silently laughed at.—Think not, therefore, that all the priests were the vilest of men ; but that some of the vilest of men got in to be priests. They saw the opportunity of enslaving and pillaging mankind, if they could but manage the priesthood upon atheistical principles. This was the temptation, this gave the original to popery ; and nothing to be accused for it but human nature in common.- What profession, what conjunction of laymen, if not continually watched, if not curbed and regulated by authority, have not abused the like advantage and ascendant in their several ways, to their private emolument and the oppression of the public? Let us watch therefore against this fatal degeneration incident to all things. He that aims malis artibus to arrive at church preferment, by sinful or servile compliance, by turbulency and faction ; what is he but káundos, a trafficker for sordid

VOL. I.

M

lucre ? He that zealously vends his novelties, or revives dead and buried heresies to the disturbance of the community ; what is he but a trader for the fame of singularity? He that labours to dig up all the fences of the church ; to throw down her articles and canons, her liturgy and ceremonies ; to extinguish her nurseries of learning ; and when he has made her a mere waste and a common, shall call that a comprehension ; what is he but a vile factor to libertinism and sacrilege? He that propagates suspected doctrines, such as praying for the dead, auricular confession, and the like, whose sole tendency is the gain and power of the priest ; what is he but a negotiator for his partisans abroad? what does he but sow the seeds of popery in the very soil of the reformation?

But if we are to watch against the silent tide of popery in the small rivulets at home; much more against its inundation and deluge from abroad : which always meditates, and now threatens' to overwhelm us. If foreign popery once return and regain all the provinces that it lost at the Reformation,-0 the terrible storm of persecution at its first regress! O the dark prospect of slavery and ignorance for the ages behind! In tract of time it will rise again to as full a measure of usurped hierarchy, as when the hero Luther first proclaimed war against it. For then was popery in its meridian height: it was not raised up all at once, but by the slow work of many centuries. In all the steps and advances of its progress, the good men of the several ages opposed it, but in vain : they were overborne by a majority ; were silenced by the strong arguments of processes and prisons. For it first subdued its own priests, before it brought the laity under its yoke. Good letters became a crime even in the clergy. Or heresy or magic, according to the different turn of men's studies, was a certain imputation upon all that dared to excel. And though popery, since the Reformation, has even in its own quarters permitted learning and humanity; and prudently withdrawn some of its most scandalous trumpery: yet if once again it sees itself universal, the whole warehouse, now kept under key, will again be set wide open: the old tyranny will ride triumphant upon the necks of enslaved mankind, with certain provision against a future revolt. The two instruments, the two parents of the Reformation, ancient learning, and the art of printing, both coming providentially at one juncture of time, will be made the first martyrs, the earliest sacrifice to popish

a

· Now threatens.] A.D. 1715.

politic. The dead languages, as they are now called, will then die in good earnest. All the old authors of Greece and Italy, as the conveyers of hurtful knowledge, as inspirers of dangerous liberty, will be condemned to the flames; an enterprise of no difficulty, when the pope shall once again be the general dictator. All these writings must then perish together: no old records shall survive, to bear witness against popery; nor any new be permitted to give it disturbance. The press will then be kept under custody in a citadel, like the mint and the coinage : nothing but mass books and rosaries, nothing but dry postills and fabulous legends, shall then be the staple commodities, even in an university.

For the double festivity therefore of this candid and joyful day; for the double deliverance obtained in it, the one from the conspiracy of popery, the other from its tyranny; for the happy preservation of our religion, laws, and liberties under the protection of pious and gracious princes ; for the flourishing estate of learning and the prosperity of our nursing mother, be all thanks, praise and glory to God for ever and ever. AMEN.

JOHN WICKLIFFE.

« ForrigeFortsæt »