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could add nothing to that belief which is already at the height; nay, perhaps, that my own seeing these cities would make no accession, add no degree to the strength and firmness of my faith concerning this matter, only it would change the kind of my assent, and make me know that which formerly I did but believe.
To the fourth, that seeming reasons are not much to be regarded against sense or experience, and moral certainties (but withal I should have told my uncle, that I fear his supposition is hardly possible, and that the nature of the thing will not admit, that there should be any great, nay, any probable reasons invented, to persuade me that there was never such a city as London); and therefore, if any man should go about to persuade me that there was never such a city as London; that there were no such men as called themselves, or were called by others, protestants, in England, in the days of Queen Elizabeth; perhaps such a man's wit delights me, but his reasons sure would never persuade me.
Hitherto we should have gone hand in hand together: but whereas in the next place he says, in like manner then you do not doubt, but a catholic, living in a catholic country, may undoubtedly know what was the public religion of his country in his father's days, and that so assuredly, that it were a mere madness for him to doubt thereof; I should have craved leave to tell my uncle, that he presumed too far upon his nephew's yielding disposition. For that as it is a far more easy thing to know, and more authentically testified, that there were some men called protestants by themselves and others, than what opinions these pro
testants held, divers men hold divers things, which yet were all called by this name; so is it far more easy for a Roman catholic to know, that in his father's days there were some men, for their outward communion with, and subordination to, the Bishop of Rome, called Roman catholics, than to know what was the religion of those men who went under this name: for they might be as different one from another in their belief, as some protestants are from others.
As for example, had I lived before the Lateran council, which condemned Berengarius, possibly I might have known, that the belief of the real presence of Christ in the sacrament was part of the public doctrine of my country; but whether the real absence of the bread and wine after consecration, and their transubstantiation into Christ's body, were likewise catholic doctrines at that time, that I could not have known, seeing that all men were at liberty to hold it was so, or it was not so.
Moreover, I should have told my uncle, that living now, I know it is catholic doctrine, that the souls of the blessed enjoy the vision of God: but if I had lived in the reign of Pope John XXII. I should not have known that then it was so, considering that many good catholics before that time had believed, and then even the pope himself did believe the contrary: and he is warranted by Bellarmine for doing so, because the church had not then defined it.
I should have told him further, that either catholics of the present time do so differ in their belief, that what some hold lawful and pious, others condemn as unlawful and impious; or else, that
all now consent, and consequently make it catholic doctrine, That it is not unlawful to make the usual pictures of the Trinity, and to set them in churches to be adored. But had I lived in St. Augustine's time, I should then have been taught another lesson; to wit, that this doctrine and practice was impious, and the contrary doctrine catholic.
I should have told him, that now I was taught that the doctrine of indulgences was an apostolic tradition: but had I lived six hundred years since, and found that in all antiquity there was no use of them; I should either have thought the primitive church no faithful steward in defrauding men's souls of this treasure intended by God to them, and so necessary for them, or rather that the doctrine of indulgences, now practised in the church of Rome, was not then catholic.
I should have told him, that the general practice of Roman catholics now taught me, that it was a pious thing to offer incense and tapers to the saints and to their pictures: but had I lived in the primitive church, I should, with the church, have condemned it in the Collyridians as heretical.
I should have represented to him Erasmus's complaint against the protestants, whose departing from the Roman church occasioned the determining and exacting the belief of many points as necessary, wherein, before Luther, men enjoyed the liberties of their judgments, and tongues, and pens. 'Antea, (says he) licebat varias agitare quæstiones, de potestate pontificis, de condonationibus, de restituendo, de purgatorio; nunc tutum non est hiscere, ne de his quidem, quæ pie
vereque dicuntur. Et credere cogimur, quod homo gignit ex se opera meritoria, quod benefactis meretur vitam æternam, etiam de condigno, quod B. Virgo potest imperare Filio cum Patre regnanti, ut exaudiat hujus aut illius preces, aliaque permulta, ad quæ piæ mentes inhorrescunt." And from hence I should have collected, as I think very probably, that it was not then such a known and certain thing, what was the catholic faith in many points, which now are determined; but that divers men who held external communion with that church, which now holds these as matters of faith, conceived themselves no ways bound to do so, but at liberty to hold as they saw
I should have shewed him, by the confession of another learned catholic, that through the negligence of the bishops in former ages, and the indiscreet devotion of the people, many opinions and practices were brought into the church, which at first perhaps were but winked at, after tolerated, then approved, and at length, after they had spread themselves into a seeming generality, confirmed for good and catholic; and that therefore there was no certainty that they came from the beginning, whose beginning was not known.
I should have remembered him, that even by the acknowledgment of the council of Trent, many corruptions and superstitions had by insensible degrees insinuated themselves into the very mass and offices of the church, which they thought fit to cast out; and, therefore, seeing that some abuses have come in, God knows how, and have been cast out again, who can ascertain me, that some errors have not got in, and while men slept
(for it is apparent they did sleep) gathered such strength, got such deep root, and so incorporated themselves, like ivy in a wall, in the state and policy of the Roman church, that to pull them up had been to pull them down, by razing the foundation on which it stands, to wit, the church's infallibility? Besides, as much water passes under the mill, which the miller sees not; so who can warrant me, that some old corruptions might not escape from them, and pass for original and apostolical traditions? I say, might not, though they had been as studious to reduce all to the primitive state, as they were to preserve them in the present state; as diligent to cast out all postnate and introduced opinions, as they were to persuade men that there were none such, but all as truly catholic and apostolic, as they were Roman.
I should have declared unto him, that many things reckoned up in the roll of traditions, are now grown out of fashion, and out of use, in the church of Rome; and therefore, that either they believe them not, whatever they pretend, or were not so obedient to the apostle's command, as they themselves interpret it, "Keep the traditions which ye have received, whether by word, or by our epistle."
And seeing there have been so many vicissitudes and changes in the Roman church; catholic doctrines growing exsolete, and being degraded from their catholicism, and perhaps depressed into the number of heresies; points of indifference, or at least aliens from the faith, getting first to be inmates, after procuring to be made denizens, and in process of time necessary members of the body of the faith; nay old heresies, sometimes,