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But would God there were no more Jews than appear! Even in this sense also, he is a Jew, that is one within: plainly, whose heart doth not sincerely confess his Redeemer. Though a Christian Jew, is no other than an atheist; and therefore must be scourged elsewhere.
The Jew thus answered, the TURK stands out for his Mahomet, that cozening Arabian; whose religion, if it deserve that name, stands upon nothing, but rude ignorance and palpable imposture.
Yet, lo here a subtle Devil, in a gross religion : for, when he saw that he could not, by single twists of heresy, pull down the well-built walls of the Church; he winds them all up in one cable, to see if his cord of so many folds might happily prevail : raising up wicked Mabomet, to deny, with Sabellius, the distinction of persons; with Arius, Christ's Divinity; with Macedonius, the Deity of the Holy Ghost; with Sergius, two wills in Christ; with Marcion, Christ's suffering.
And these policies, seconded with violence, how have they wasted Christendom! O damnable mixture, miserably successful! which yet could not have been, but that it meets with sottish clients; and sooths up nature; and debars both all knowledge and contradiction.
What is their Alcoran, but a fardel of foolish impossibilities? Whosoever shall hear me relate the stories of angel Adriel's death, Seraphuel's trumpet, Gabriel's bridge, Horroth and Marroth's hanging, the moon's descending into Mahomet's sleeve, the Litter wherein he saw God carried by eight angels, their ridiculous and swinish Paradise, and thousands of the same bran; would say, that Mahomet hoped to meet, either with beasts or mad men. Besides these barbarous fictions, behold their laws, full of licence, full of impiety : in which, revenge is encouraged, multitude of wives allowed, theft tolerated; and the frame of their opinions such, as well bewrays their whole religion to be but the mongrel issue of an Arian, Jew, Nestorian, and Arabian: a monster, of many seeds, and all accursed. In both which regards, nature herself, in whose breast God hath written his royal Law, though in part by her defaced, hath light enough to condemn a Turk, as the worst Pagan. Let no man look for further disproof. These follies, a wise Christian will scorn to confute, and scarce vouchsafe to laugh at.
The GREEKISH Church (so the Russes term themselves) put in the next claim; but with no better success : whose infinite Clergy affords not a man, that can give either reason or account of their own doctrine. These are the basest dregs of all Christians. So we favourably term them; though they, perhaps in more simplicity than wilfulness, would admit none of all the other Christian world to their font, but those, who, in a solemn renunciation, spit at and abjure their former God, religion, baptism. Yet, peradventure, we might more justly term them Nicolaitans: for, that obscure Saint (if a Saint; if honest) by an unequal division, finds more homage from them than his Master. These are as ignorant, as Turks; as idolatrous, as Heathens; as obstinate, as Jews, and more superstitious than Papists. To speak ingenuously from that I have heard and read, if the worst of the Romish religion and the best of the Muscovite be compared, the choice would be hard, whether should be less ill. I labour the less in all these, whose reinoteness and absurdity secure us from infection, and whose only name is their confutation. EPISTLE IV.
I descend to that main rival of truth, which creeps into her bosom, and is not less near than subtle; the religion, if not rather the faction, of PAPISM: whose plea is importunate; and so much more dangerous, as it carries fairer probability. Since then, of all religions, the Christian obtaineth ; let us see, of those that are called Christians, which should command assent and profession. Every religion bears in her lineaments the image of her parent: the true religion, therefore, is spiritual ; and looks like God, in her purity: all false religions are carnal; and carry the face of Nature, their mother; and of him whose illusion begot them, Satan.
In sum, nature never conceived any, which did not favour her; nor the Spirit any, which did not oppugn her. Let this then be the Lydian stone of this trial: we need no more. Whether reJigion soever doth more plausibly content nature, is false; whether gives more sincere glory to God, is his truth.
Lay aside prejudice: Whither, I beseech you, tendeth all Popery, but to make nature either vainly proud, or carelessly wanton ?
What can more advance her pride, than to tell her, that she hath, in her own hands, freedom enough of will, with a little prevention, to prepare herself to her justification; that she hath, whereof to rejoice, somewhat, which she hath not received; that, if God please but to unfetter her, she can walk alone? she is insolent enough of herself: this flattery is enough to make her mad of conceit: after this; that, if God will but bear half the charges by his co-operation, she may undertake to merit her own glory, and brave God, in the proof of his most accurate judgment, to fulfil the whole royal law; and that, from the superfluity of her own satisfactions, she may be abundantly beneficial to her neighbours; that, naturally, without faith, a man may do some good works; that we may repose confidence in our merits? Neither is our good only by this flattery extolled, but our ill also diminished: our evils are our sins: some of them, they say, are in their nature venial, and not worthy of death; more, that our original sin, is but the want of our first justice; no guilt of our first-father's offence, no inherent ill-disposition; and that, by baptismal water, is taken away whatever hath the nature of sin; that a mere man (let me not wrong St. Peter's successor in so terming him) hath power to remit both punishment and sin, past and future; that many have suffered more than their sins have required; that the sufferings of the saints added to Christ's passions, make up the treasure of the Church, that spiritual Exchequer, whereof their Bishop must keep the key, and make his friends. In all these, the gain of nature, who sees not, is God's loss? all her bravery is
ath, in bed prepare omewhat, wher, she camough to me the charges,
stolen from above: besides those other direct derogations from him; that his Scriptures are not sufficient; that their original fountains are corrupted, and the streams run clearer; that there is a multitude, if a finite number, of mediators.
Turn your eyes now to us; and see, contrarily, how we abase nature, how we knead her in the dust; spoiling ber of her proud rags, loading her with reproaches; and giving glory to him that says he will not give it to another: while we teach, that we neither have good, nor can do good of ourselves; that we are not sick or fettered, but dead in our sin ; that we cannot move to good, more than we are moved; that our best actions are faulty, our satisfactions debts, our deserts damnation ; that all our merit is his mercy that saves us ; that every of our sins is deadly, every of our natures originally depraved and corrupted; that no water can entirely wash away the filthiness of our concupiscence; that none but the blood of Him, that was God, can cleanse us; that all our possible sufferings are below our offences; that God's written word is all-sufficient to inform us, to make us both wise and perfect; that Christ's mediation is more than sufficient to save us, his sufferings to redeem us, bis obedience to enrich us.
You have seen how Papistry makes nature proud: now see how it makes her lawless and wanton: while it teacheth, yet this one not so universally, that Christ died effectually for all; that, in true contrition, an express purpose of new life is not necessary; that wicked men are true members of the Church; that a lewd mis. creant or infidel, in the business of the altar, partakes of the true body and blood of Christ, yea, which is a shame to tell, a brute creature; that men may save the labour of searching, for that it is both easy and safe, with that Catholic Collier, to believe with the Church, at a venture: more than so; that devotion is the seed of ignorance; that there is infallibility annexed to a particular place and person ; that the bare act of the sacraments confers grace, without faith; that the mere sign of the Cross made by a Jew or Infidel, is of force to drive away devils; that the sacrifice of the Mass, in the very work wrought, avails to obtain pardon of our sins, not in our life only, but when we lie frying in purgatory; that we need not pray in faith, to be heard, or in understanding; that alms given merit heaven), dispose to justification, satisfy God for sin; that abstinence from some meats and drinks is meritorious; that Indulgences may be granted, to dispense with all the penance of sins, afterward to be committed; that these, by a living man, may be applied to the dead; that one man may deliver another's soul, out of his purging torments; and, therefore, that he, who wants not either money or friends, need not fear the smart of his sins. () religion, sweet to the wealthy; to the needy, desperate ! Who will now care, henceforth, how sound his devotions be, how lewd his life, how heinous his sins, that knows these refuges?
On the contrary, we curb nature; we restrain, we discourage, we threaten her: teaching her, not to rest in implicit faiths, or general intentions, or external actions of piety, or presumptuous
dispensations of men; but to strive unto sincere faith; without which we have no part in Christ, in his Church; no benefit by sacraments, prayers, fastings, beneficences: to set the heart on work, in all our devotions; without which the hand and tongue are but hypocrites: to set the hands on work, in good actions ; without which the presuming heart is but a hypocrite: to expect no pardon for sin, before we commit it; and from Christ alone, when we have committed it; and, to repent, before we expect it: to hope for no chaffering, no ransom of our souls from below; no contrary change of estate, after dissolution : that life is the time of mercy; death, of retribution.
Now, let me appeal to your soul, and to the judgment of all the world, whether of these two religions is framed to the humour of nature: yea, let me but know what action Popery requires of any of her followers, which a mere naturalist hath not done, cannot do.
See, how I have chosen to beat them with that rod, wherewith they think we have so often smarted: for what cavil hath been more ordinary against us, than this of ease and liberty; yea, licence given and taken by our religion; together with the upbraidings of their own strict and rigorous austereness? Where are our penal works, our fastings, scourges, hair-cloth, weary pilgrimages, blush. ing confessions, solemn vows of willing beggary and perpetual continency?
To do them right, we yield: in all the hard works of will-worship, they go beyond us; but, lest they should insult in the victory, not so much as the priests of Baal went beyond them. I see their whips: shew me their knives. Where did ever zealous Romanist lance and carve his flesh in devotion? The Baalites did it; and yet never the wiser, never the holier. Either, therefore, this zeal, in works of their own devising, makes them not better than we, or it makes the Baalites better than they: let them take their choice.
Alas, these difficulties are but a colour, to avoid greater. No, no; to work our stubborn wills to subjection; to draw this untoward flesh to a sincere cheerfulness in God's service; to reach unto a sound belief in the Lord Jesus ; to pray with a true heart, without distraction, without distrust, without misconceit; to keep the heart in continual awe of God: these are the hard tasks of a Christian; worthy of our sweat, worthy of our rejoicing: all which, that Babylonish religion shifteth off, with a careless fashionableness; as if it had not to do with the soul. Give us obedience: let them take sacrifice.
Do you yet look for more evidence? look into particulars, and satisfy yourself in God's decision, as Optatus advised of old. Since the goods of our father are in questio!), whither should we go but to his Will and Testament? My soul bear the danger of this bold assertion : If we err, we err with Christ and his Apostles. In a word, against all staggering, our Saviour's rule is sure and eternal :
If any man will do my Father's will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God.
TO MR. EDMUND SLEIGH.
A Discourse of the Hardness of Christianity; and the abundant Re
com pence, in the Pleasures and Commodities of that Profession. How hard a thing is it, Dear Uncle, to be a Christian! Perhaps, others are less dull, and more quiet; more waxen to the impressions of grace, and less troublesome to themselves.
I accuse none, but whom I know, and whom I dare, myself. Even easy businesses are hard to the weak: let others boast; I must complain.
To keep our station is hard; harder, to move forward. One while, I scarce restrain my unruly desires, from evil; ofter, can find no lust to good. My heart will either be vain or sullen. When I am wrought, with much sweat, to detest sin, and distaste the world; yet, who shall raise up this dross of mine to a spiritual joy? Sometimes, I purpose well; and, if those thoughts, not mine, begin to lift me up from my earth; lo, he, that rules in the air, stoops upon me with powerful temptations, or the world pulls me down with a sweet violence: so as I know not, whether Î be forced or persuaded to yield.
I find much weakness in myself; but more treachery. How willing am I to be deceived! how loth to be altered! Good duties seem harsh ; and can hardly escape the repulse, or delay of excuses; and, not without much strife grow to any relish of pleasure; and, when they are at best, cannot avoid the mixture of many infirmities : which do, at once, disquiet and discourage the mind; not suffering it to rest in what it would have done, and could not. And if, after many sighs and tears, I have attained to do well, and resolve better; yet this good estate is far from constant, and easily inclining to change. And, while I strive, in spite of my natural fickleness, to hold my own with some progress and gain; what difficulty do I find, what opposition !
o God, what adversaries hast thou provided for us weak men! what encounters ! malicious and subtle spirits, an alluring world, a serpentine and stubborn nature.
Force and fraud do their worst to us: sometimes, because they are spiritual enemies, I see them not; and complain to feel them. too late: other-while, my spiritual eyes see them with amazement; and I, like a cowardly Israelite, am ready to flee, and plead their measure, for my fear: Who is able to stand before the sons of Anak ? some other times, I stand still, and, as I can, weakly resist; but am foiled, with indignation and shame: then again, I rise up, not without bashfulness and scorn; and, with more hearty resistance, prevail and triumph : when, ere long, surprised with a sudden and un