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THE most learned and reverend Archbishop Usher observed, 1613, that “at that time the Papists disputed “ with Protestants, and particularly with those of the “ Church of England, the antiquity of their religion, and “ the perpetual succession or continuation of it to that “ time. The former of these,” his Grace said, “the learned “Jewel, Bishop of Salisbury, defended with the best suc
cess, and claimed to us Protestants the first six hundred
years, as the most ancient, as well as the best part of “time. The other part, the perpetual succession, is,” he said, “ greater and more obscure, containing the space of “ nine hundred years; in all which time, the Papists pre“ tend, that either our Church was no where at all, or was Bellarm. de
compelled to serve strange gods, to adore idols, and cles. c. S. " communicate with the sacrilegious.” This the Archbishop undertook to confute, and for that purpose wrote an historical explication of the most important question of the continual succession of the Christian Churches, especially in the Western parts, from the Apostles' times to that in which he lived. But they being times of danger and trouble, and his Grace being robbed in Wales of the MSS. which he had purchased for that purpose, he executed this good design no farther than the times of our famous Dr. John Wiclif. To continue this history therefore, I wrote the Life of Doctor Wiclif, and gave as particular an account as I could of his opinions. It was, I found, no difficult matter to do this, and to shew their opposi
tion to those held then by the Papists; since Dr. Wiclif's works in print and written hand are still preserved, and to be found and read a in the English libraries.
“b John Wiclif was the most renowned man of that
age, both for learning and picty, as appears by his “ works above mentioned. Whether he maintained the “ doctrine of the Waldenses or no, certain it is, that it “received new lustre from his learning, and those who “ joined with him in defence of the truth in opposition to “the Popish errors and superstitions. Of these he made
a very particular discussion, in which we meet with a great knowledge of holy Scripture, and great skill in an
tiquity, whose authority he makes use of to confound “ the Romish novelties; we likewise discover there a “great strength in his way of reasoning, and an extraor“ dinary method in his consequences, so that he seems to “have fully penetrated the weakness of the Roman cause; “ there being scarcely any articles controverted between “ the Church of Rome and the Protestants to be met “ with, which Dr. Wiclif has not touched and handled, “ and that with sufficient exactness too.”
It was with the same view, that I undertook to collect and write the following Life of Doctor Reynold Pecock, the learned Bishop of Chichester, a candid and moderate opposer of the Wiclifists; in doing which I have followed the Archbishop's example, who“ professed not to use his
own words, where he could have the use of the words “ of others; because that manner of writing seemed much “ more accommodated to the truth of the narrative, and “ the proof of the things which are told or related." I have therefore copied the Bishop's arguments and opinions from several tracts or books of his, which are still preserved in MS. in our libraries.
• A particular account of them, and where they are reposited, may be seen in the Life of Dr. Wiclif, chap. ix. p. 179, &c.
1 In 1722, in the famous University of Oxford, lived one Thomas Hearne, who gave the following character of this great and venerable man; qui revera rebellis impiusque erat: and for proof of it recommended false and bitter Popish libels on that University, printed 1623, as a great rarity. Forduni Scotichronicon. See Advertisement before the Life of Dr. Wiclif, edit. 1723.
By this method we see the state of the controversy betwixt the Papists and dissenting English Lollards in our Bishop's time; by what pleas these latter justified their separation from the established Popish Church, and what answers were returned to them. We have likewise a view of all or most of the changes, and reigning abuses, and corruptions of Popery brought into the Church of England before the happy reformation of it. To use the words of a very learned and judicious friend, who saw and perused Dr. Daniel
Waterland. the following papers, “ while the Bishop defends these
abuses, complained of by the Dissenters, in such a way “as he could, he at least owns the facts, which is very “ considerable. The Wiclifists might be suspected of “ falsifying, or however of aggravating; and it has been
pretended, that no credit ought to be given to the re“ports of adversaries. But our Bishop was a friend of “the Papacy, and a very sincere one; what he therefore “ owns and confesses cannot well be suspected of being “ false or misreported."
The reader will also see a farther proof of the vanity and falsehood of the late c and former shameless brags and boastings of our Popish emissaries, that the doctrine called Popery is as ancient as Christianity. So far is this from being true, that during the first six hundred years after Christ there was no such thing in the world as what is now called Popery. Nay, Doctor Wiclif maintained, that it had no being till after the loosing of Satan in the second millenary; and so much was ingenuously owned by Cardinal Quignonius, that “ by little and little a de“parture had been made from the very godly institutions “ of the ancient fathers." The learned John Beleth of Paris observed, that “ heretofore the sacrifice was cele- D. Offic.
Expl. c. 42.
• The shortest Way to end Disputes about Religion, 1716, vit, to have an implicit faith in an infallible judge and guide.