Imágenes de páginas

times a hindėrance unto piety and religious service of God, was to enter into consideration first, that the change of laws, especially concerning matter of religion, must be warily proceeded in. Laws, as all other things human, are many times full of imperfection; and that which is supposed behoveful unto men, proveth oftentimes most pernicious. The wisdom which is learned by tract of time, findeth the laws that have been in former ages established, needful in latter to be abrogated. Besides, that which sometime is expedient doth not always so continue; and the number of needless laws unabolished doth weaken the force of them that are necessary. But true withal it is, that alteration, though it be from worse to better, hath in it inconveniences, and those weighty; unless it be in such laws as have been made upon special occasions, which occasions ceasing, laws of that kind do abrogate themselves. But when we abrogate a law, as being ill made, the whole cause for which it was made still remaining, do we not herein revoke our very own deed, and upbraid ourselves with folly, yea, all that were makers of it, with oversight and with error? Farther, if it be a law which the custom and continual practice of many ages or years hath confirmed in the minds of men; to alter it must needs be troublesome and scandalous. It amazeth them, it causeth them to stand in doubt whether any thing be, in itself, by nature, either good or evil; and not all things rather such as men at this or that time agree to account of them, when they behold even those things disproved, disannulled, rejected, which use had made in a manner natural. What have we to induce men unto the willing obedience and observation of laws, but the weight of so many men's judgments as have with deliberate advice assented thereunto; the weight of that long experience which the world hath had thereof with consent and good liking: So that to change any such law, must needs with the common sort impair and weaken the force of those grounds whereby all laws are made effectual. Notwithstand. ing, we do not deny alteration of laws to be sometimes a thing necessary; as when they are unnatural, or impious, or otherwise hurtful unto the public community of men, and against that good for which human societies were instituted. When the apostles of our Lord and Saviour were ordained to alter the laws of heathenish religion received throughout the whole world, chosen, I grant, they were (Paul excepted), the

[ocr errors]

rest ignorant, poor, simple, unschooled altogether, and unlettered men; howbeit, extraordinarily endued with ghostly wisdom from above, before they ever undertook this enterprise; yea, their authority confirmed by miracle, to the end it might plainly appear that they were the Lord's ambassadors, unto whose sovereign power for all flesh to stoop, for all the kingdoms of the earth to yield themselves willingly conformable in whatsoever should be required, it was their duty. In this case, therefore, their oppositions in maintenance of public superstition against apostolic endeavours, as that they might not condemn the ways of their ancient predecessors, that they must keep religiones traditas, the rights which from age to age had descended, that the ceremonies of religion had been ever accounted by so much holier as elder; these and the like allegations, in this case, were vain and frivolous. Not to stay longer, therefore, in speech concerning this point, we will conclude, that as the change of such laws as have been specified is necessary, so the evidence that they are such must be great. If we have neither voice from heaven that so pronounceth of them; neither sentence of men grounded upon such manifest and clear proof, that they in whose hands it is to alter them, may likewise infallibly even in heart and conscience judge them so; upon necessity to urge alteration, is to trouble and disturb without necessity. As for arbitrary alterations, when laws of themselves not simply bad or unmeet, are changed for better and more expedient, if the benefit of that which is newly better devised be but small, sith the custom of easiness to alter and change is so evil, nó doubt, but to bear a tolerable sore, is better than to venture on a dangerous remedy: which being generally thought upon as a matter that touched nearly their whole enterprise, whereas change was notwithstanding concluded necessary in regard of the great hurt which the church đid receive by a number of things then in use, whereupon a great deal of that which had been was now to be taken away and removed out of the church ; yet sith there are divers ways of abrogating things established, they saw it best to cut off presently such things as might in that sort be extinguished without danger, leaving the rest to be abolished by disusage through tract of time. And as this was done for the manner of abrogation; so touching the stint or measure thereof, rites and ceremonies and other external things of like nature being hurtful unto

the church, either in respect of their quality, or in regard of their number ; in the former, there could be no doubt or difficulty what should be done; their deliberation in the latter was more hard. And, therefore, inasmuch as they did resolve to remove only such things of that kind as the church might best spare, retaining the residue; their whole counsel is in this point utterly condemned, as having either proceeded from the blindness of those times, or from negligence, or from desire of honour and glory, or from an erroneous opinion, that such things might be tolerated for awhile; or if it did proceed (as they which would seem most favourable, are content to think it possible) from a purpose, “partlya the easilier to draw papists unto the gospel (by keeping so many orders still the same with theirs), and partly to redeem peace thereby, the breach whereof they might fear would ensue upon more thorough alteration;" or howsoever it came to pass, the thing they did is judged evil. But such is the lot of all that deal in public affairs, whether of church or commonwealth, that which men list to surmise of their doings, be it good or ill, they must beforehand patiently arm their minds to endure. Wherefore, to let go private surmises, whereby the thing in itself is not made either better or worse; if just and allowable reasons might lead them to do as they did, then are all these censures frustrate. Touching ceremonies, harmless therefore in themselves, and hurtful only in respect of number, was it amiss to decree, that those things which were least needful and newliest come, should be the first that were taken away; as in the abrogating of a number of saints' days, and of other the like customs, it appeareth they did, till afterward the Form of Common Prayer being perfected, articles of sound religion and discipline agreed upon, catechisms framed for the needful instruction of youth, churches purged of things that indeed were burdensome to the people, or to the simple offensive and scandalous, all was brought at the length unto that wherein now we stand? Or was it amiss, that having this

way eased the church, as they thought of superfluity, they went on till they had plucked up even those things also which had taken a great deal stronger and deeper root, those things, which to abrogate without constraint of manifest harm thereby

& It may well be, their purpose was by that temper of popish ceremonies with the gospel, partly the easilier to draw the papists to the gospel, &c. partly to redeem peace thereby. T. C. 1. ii. p. 99.

arising, had been to alter unnecessarily (in their judgments) the ancient-received custom of the whole church, the universal practice of the people of God, and those very decrees of our fathers, which were not only set down by agreement of general councils, but had accordingly been put in ure, and so continued in use till that very time present ? True it is, that neither councils nor customs, be they never so ancient and so general, can let the church from taking away that thing which is hurtful to be retained. Where things have been instituted, which being convenient and good at the first, do afterward in process of time wax otherwise, we make no doubt but they may be altered, yea, though councils or customs ge

neral have received them. And, therefore, it is but a needless T.C. kind of opposition which they make, who thus dispute, “ If in 1. iii.

those things which are not expressed in the Scripture, that p. 30.

is to be observed of the church, which is the custom of the people of God, and decree of our forefathers; then how can these things at any time be varied, which heretofore have been once ordained in such sort? Whereto we say, that things so ordained are to be kept, howbeit not necessarily, any longer than till there grow some urgent cause to ordain the contrary. For there is not any positive law of men, whether it be general or particular, received by formal express consent, as in councils; or by secret approbation, as in custom it cometh to pass; but the same may be taken away if occasion serve : even as we all know, that many things generally kept heretofore, are now in like sort generally unkept and abolished every where; notwithstanding till such things

be abolished, what exception can there be taken against the August. Epist. judgment of St. Augustine, who saith," that of things harm

less, whatsoever there is which the whole church doth observe throughout the world, to argue for any man's immunity from observing the same, it were a point of most insolent madness?" And, surely, odious it must needs have been for one Christian church to abolish that which all had received and held for the space of many ages, and that without any detriment unto religion so manifest and so great, as might in the eyes of impartial men appear sufficient to clear them from all blame of rash and inconsiderate proceeding, if in fervour of zeal they had removed such things. Whereas contrariwise, so reason. able moderation herein used, hath freed us from being deservedly subject unto that bitter kind of obloquy, whereby as the church of Rome doth under the colour of love towards those things which be harmless, maintain extremely most hurtful corruptions ; so we peradventure might be upbraided, that under colour of hatred towards those things that are corrupt, we are on the other side as extreme even against most harmless ordinances; and as they are obstinate to retain that, which no man of any conscience is able well to defend, so we might be reckoned fierce and violent to tear away that, which if our own mouths did condemn, our consciences would storm and repine thereat. The Romans having banished Tarquinius the Proud, and taken a solemn oath that they never would permit any man more to reign, could not herewith content themselves, or think that tyranny was thoroughly extinguished, till they had driven one of their consuls to depart the city, against whom they found not in the world what to object, saving only that his name was Tarquin, and that the commonwealth could not seem to have recovered perfect freedom as long as a man of so dangerous a name was left remaining. For the church of England to have done the like, in casting out papal tyranny and superstition, to have shewed greater willingness of accepting the very ceremonies of the Turk, Christ's professed enemy, than of the most indifferent things which the church of Rome approveth; to have left not so much as the names which the church of Rome doth give unto things innocent; to have rejected whatsoever that church doth make account of, be it never so harmless in itself, and of never so ancient continuance, without any other crime to charge it with, than only that it hath been the hap thereof to be used by the church of Rome, and not to be commanded in the word of God: this kind of proceeding might haply have pleased some few men who having begun such a course themselves, must needs be glad to see their example followed by us. But the Almighty which giveth wisdom, and inspireth with right understanding whomsoever it pleaseth him, he foreseeing that which man's wit had never been able to reach unto; namely, what tragedies the attempt of so extreme alteration would raise in some parts of the Christian world, did for the endless good of his church (as we cannot choose but interpret it) use the bridle of his provident restraining hand to stay those eager af


a For indeed it were more safe for as to conform our indifferent ceremonies to the Turks which are far off, than to the papists which are so near. T. C. 1. i. p. 131.

« AnteriorContinuar »