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THE CONTROVERSIES OF THE CHURCH
It is but ignorance, if any man find it strange, that the state of religion, especially in the days of peace, should be exercised and troubled with controversies: for as it is the condition of the Church militant to be ever under trials, so it cometh to pass, that when the fiery trial of persecution ceaseth, there succeedeth another trial, which, as it were, by contrary blasts of doctrine, doth sift and winnow men's faith, and proveth whether they know God aright; even as that other of afflictions discovereth whether they love him better than the world. Accordingly was it foretold by Christ, saying, “ that in the later times it should be said, Lo here, lo there is Christ :" which is to be understood, not as if the very person of Christ should be assumed and counterfeited, but his authority and pre-eminence, which is to be the truth itself, should be challenged and pretended. Thus have we read and seen to be fulfilled that which followeth, Ecce in deserto, ecce in penetralibus ;” while some have sought the truth in the conventicles and conciliables of heretics and sectaries; others in the external face and representation of the Church ; and both sorts have been seduced. Were it then that the controversies of the Church of England were such, as they did divide the unity of the spirit, and not only such as do unswathe her of her
bands, the bands of peace, yet could it be no occasion for any pretended catholic to judge us, or for any irreligious person to despise us; or if it be, it shall but happen to us all as it hath used to do; to them to be hardened, and to us to endure the good pleasure of God. But now that our contentions are such, as we need not so much that general canon and sentence of Christ pronounced against heretics ; “Erratis, nescientes Scripturas, et potestatem Dei ;” you do err, not knowing the Scripture, and the
of God : as we need the admonition of St. James. “ Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath ;” and that the wound is no way dangerous, except we poison it with our remedies : as the former sort of men have less reason to make themselves music in our discord, so I have good hope that nothing shall displease ourselves, which shall be sincerely and modestly propounded for the appeasing of these dissentions. For if any shall be offended at this voice, “ Vos estis fratres ;" ye are brethren, why strive ye? he shall give a great presumption against himself, that he is the party that doth his brethren wrong.
The controversies themselves I will not enter into, as judging that the disease requireth rather rest than any other cure. Thus much we all know and confess, that they be not of the highest nature, for they are not touching the high mysteries of faith, such as detained the churches for many years after their first peace, what time the heretics moved curious questions, and made strange anatomies of the natures and person of Christ; and the catholic fathers were compelled to follow them with all subtlety of decisions and determinations to exclude them from their evasions, and to take them in their labyrinths ; so as it is rightly said, “illis temporibus, ingeniosa res fuit, esse Christianum ;" in those days it was an ingenious and subtle thing to be a Christian.
Neither are they concerning the great parts of the worship of God, of which it is true, that “ non servatur unitas in credendo, nisi eadem adsit in colendo;" there will be kept no unity in believing, except it be entertained in worshipping ; such as were the controversies of the east and west churches touching images, and such as are many of those between the church of Rome and us : as about the adoration of the Sacrament, and the like; but we contend about ceremonies and things indifferent, about the external policy and government of the Church; in which kind, if we would but remember that the ancient and true bonds of unity are “ one faith,
, one baptism," and not one ceremony, one policy ; if we would observe the league amongst Christians that is penned by our Saviour," he that is not against us is with us ;" if-we could but comprehend that saying, “ differentiæ rituum commendant unitatem doctrinæ ;" the diversities of ceremonies do set forth the unity of doctrine; and that “ habet religio quæ sunt æternitatis, habet quæ sunt temporis;" religion hath parts which belong to eternity, and parts which pertain to time: and if we did but know the virtue of silence and slowness to speak,
commended by St. James, our controversies of themselves would close up and grow together : but most especially, if we would leave the over-weaning and turbulent humours of these times, and revive the blessed proceeding of the Apostles and Fathers of the primitive Church, which was, in the like and greater cases, not to enter into assertions and positions, but to deliver counsels and advices, we should need no other remedy at all : “ si eadem consulis, frater, quæ affirmas, consulenti debetur reverentia, cum non debeatur fides affirmanti ;” brother, if that which you set down as an assertion, you would deliver by way of advice, there were reverence due to your counsel, whereas faith is not due to your affirmation. St. Paul was content to speak thus, “Ego, non Dominus,” I, and not the Lord : “ Et, secundum consilium meum ;” according to my counsel. But now men do too lightly say, “ Non ego, sed Dominus;” not I, but the Lord: yea, and bind it with an heavy denunciation of his judgments, to terrify the simple, which have not sufficiently understood out of Solomon, that “the causeless curse shall not come.”
Therefore seeing the accidents are they which breed the peril, and not the things themselves in their own nature, it is meet the remedies be applied unto them, by opening what it is on either part, that keepeth the wound green, and formalizeth both sides to a farther opposition, and worketh an indisposition in men's minds to be reunited : wherein no accusation is pretended; but I find in reason, that peace is best built upon a repetition of wrongs ; and in example, that the speeches which have been made by the wisest men, “ de concordia ordinum," have not abstained from reducing to memory the extremities used on both parts; so as it is true which is said, “ Qui pacem tractat non repetitis conditionibus dissidii, is magis animos hominum dulcedine pacis fallit, quam æquitate componit.”
And first of all, it is more than time that there were an end and surcease made of this immodest and deformed manner of writing lately entertained, whereby matter of religion is handled in the stile of the stage. Indeed, bitter and earnest writing must not hastily be eondemned; for men cannot contend coldly, and without affection, about things which they hold dear and precious. A politic man may write from his brain without touch and sense of his heart; as in a speculation that appertaineth not unto him; but a feeling Christian will express in his words a character of zeal or love. The latter of which, as I could wish rather embraced, being more proper for these times, yet is the former warranted also by great examples.
But to leave all reverent and religious compassion towards evils, or indignation towards faults, and to turn religion into a comedy or satire ; to search and rip up wounds with a laughing countenance, to intermix Scripture and scurrility sometimes in one sentence, is a thing far from the devout reverence of a Christian, and scant beseeming the honest regard of a sober man. “ Non est major confusio,