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THE BRITISH CHURCH; AND THE ANGLICAN
Though truth is a blessing which God has laid open and in common to mankind, and they who consider the nature of man, and the great purposes for which he is sent into the world cannot but own, that every one has the same right, and is under the same obligation, to embrace truth and reject error, as to make a right use of his natural faculties, or to believe and obey God, and to take care of his own salvation ; and though this is so evident that if they who plead for an implicit faith, did not at the same time offer us marks of the true church and the infallible guide, and in so doing make every private Christian a judge in the greatest and most perplexed controversy in religion, and appeal to the reason which they call us to resign, and by contradicting themselves become the jest, they would fall under a different character, and be treated as the common enemies of mankind ;-yet it must be owned, that it is a strange deference and veneration which some men pay to the understanding and usages of their ancestors. They will not see, if their fathers happened to live in the dark; refuse truth, if it had not been offered to them; and venture their salvation upon the credit of their wisdom, who wanted opportunities to be sufficiently informed; and even they choose error if it has but the colour of antiquity to recommend it. And which is stranger still, as if there was some particular charm
The Anglican.] From “ Origines Anglicana, or, a History of the English Church, by John Inett, D.D. Chanter and Canon Residentiary of the Cathedral Church of Lincoln. Fol. 2 vols. 1710. Oxford.” Being the Preface to Vol. ii.
in proximity of blood, error in the possession of their immediate ancestors has the advantages of truth at a distance; and the dark, illiterate, and corrupted, are by some Christians preferred to the more knowing and purer ages of the Church. And it is so difficult to set men right who go wrong out of choice, that he who attempts to undeceive them is more likely to fall under their displeasure, and be thought their enemy for telling them the truth, than to convince and bring them to retract their errors.
But if some men add obstinacy to their mistakes nothing can be more reasonable than that they who never received, or, upon better information, have forsaken the mistakes, should be just to truth, and guard the honour of their religion from the censures and reproaches of those who unhappily mistake and pervert it. Our enemies know too much to trust their cause to the decision of that rule which ought to determine all the controversies of the Christian Church; take refuge in antiquity, and hope for the pro
1 tection amongst men, which God and his word have denied them ; and when we plead Scriptures, boldly reply, that the doctrines which they now maintain are the same that our ancestors received with their Christianity; and the authority which they challenge, no other than what these submitted to. Although there is no weight in arguments of this kind, but such as may with equal force serve the interest of Judaism against our common Christianity, and of paganism against them both; yet the better to undeceive men in their own way, by removing the popular objections from antiquity which commonly mislead them, I have ever thought that a fair and impartial history of the corrupt doctrines of the church of Rome would be the best answer to the antiquity pretended for them, and just views of the time when, and the unworthy arts by which, they gained a power over the Western churches, would be the best, and all the apology that was necessary to justify their rejecting of it. This consideration seems to have directed the labours of that great prelate' who wrote the history of the British church, and the same views have been the guide to the continuator thereof.
The case of the British church is so fully accounted for by the aforesaid prelate, that I shall say nothing of it; and what has
1 That great prelate.] Bishop Stillingfleet; in his “ Origines Britannicæ ; or, the Antiquities of the British Churches. 1685. Fol.” By “the Continuator thereof,” the author refers to himself, and to the work of which the extract before us is the Preface to the second volume.
already been observed in the history of the first ages of the English church, will render it needless to say more to justify the doctrine of our Holy Mother; except only to remind the reader, that the missionaries from Rome, who bore a part in the conversions of our ancestors, suffered them to bring some of their pagan corruptions and superstitious practices along with them into the church. Yet they maintained the doctrine of Gregory the Great who forbade the worship of images; and God was the only object of their worship. They followed the ancients in their prayers to him to consummate the happiness of departed souls, but knew nothing of praying them out of purgatory. Their Homilies are full and express against the doctrine of transubstantiation. They translated the Holy Scriptures into the vulgar tongue, and by their canons required the reading of them. They forbade private masses, and required and practised the administration of the sacrament in both kinds. And if Lanfrank and the Norman clergy made any change in the doctrine of the blessed sacrament, it went no further than private opinion, till the council of Lateran, in the beginning of the thirteenth century. That of Constance in the fifteenth shows us when, and by what authority the practice of administering the sacrament in one kind was first established. The original of chantries in England in the thirteenth century shows when the doctrine of purgatory was received. That of infallibility arose out of the claims of an universal pastorship, first broached by Gregory the Seventh in the latter end of the eleventh century, but sped in England as it did in France, and was never received. In short, if the world had a just history of
1 Already been observed.] That is, in the author's preceding volume.
Their Homilies.] So Archbishop Parker, in his portion of “ The Defence of Priests' Marriages.” “But, in God's name, why should they make this their doctrine of transubstantiation, and the gross presence to be so new, that Berengarius must be the first author declaring against it? Whereas ancient records prove the true doctrine was urged and appointed both for priests in their synods, for the religious in their collations, for the common people in their ordinary exhortations, and expressed in Homilies of a great number, extant in Saxon speech for all the fesiiral days in the year, which written were so used many a year before Berengarius was born or heard of. So that the bishops of old may as well be charged to be Calvinists, if the assertion be so considered, as the bishop of Sarum” (Jewell), “or any bishops at these days.” p. 336. 4to. black letter. Some of these Homilies were published under the encouragement of the archbishop, by Fox the martyrologist, A.D. 1571. 4to. See also 1 Inett, p. 348—55, and 366, 7.