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craftily, but in good faith before God, truly, ingenuously, clearly, and evidently, that the most holy gospel, the ancient bishops, and primitive church, agree with us; and that we have not without reason renounced the Popish tenets, and returned to the apostles, and to the ancient catholic fathers; and if those very persons
who detest our doctrine, and pride themselves in the name of Catholics, shall be clearly convinced that all these titles of antiquity, of which they so immoderately boast, belong not to them; and that there is more strength in our cause than they have been willing to allow; then we devoutly hope, that not one of them will be so careless of his Salvation, as not duly and painfully to deliberate, to which party he ought to belong.' Undoubtedly, if a man hath not hardened his heart, and stopped his ear against conviction, he will never regret the attentive perusal of our defence, and the having considered how far our profession of Faith is conformable to the Christian religion.
With respect to the charge of HERESY, which is made against us, it is a crime so heinous, that it ought not to be believed of any Christain, un
less established by the clearest evidence, and as it were,* seen with the eyes, and handled with the hands; for heresy is the renunciation of our salvation, the rejection of the grace of God, a separation from the body and spirit of Christ. But this has ever been an invariable custom, both with them and their fathers, to condemn as sectarians; and promoters of heresy and schism, all who presumed to complain of their errors, and desired a reformation in religion. For no other reason was Christ himself called a Samaritan, but because he was thought to have fallen off to some new religion, and to have been the founder of a new sect: and Paul, the Apostle of Jesus was summoned to appear before the judges, and defend himself against a charge of heresy; whereupon he replied, † “ I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and the prophets.” In short, all that religion which Christians now profess, was, in the primitive ages, branded by the heathens I as a sect, and heresy. With these accusations they have always filled the ears of
* 1 John i. 1.
+ Acts xxiv. 14. Tertull. in Apologetico.
princes, that when, through prejudice, they had conceived an aversion to us, and entertained suspicion that all our arguments were grounded upon heresy and sedition, they might be diverted from the subject of debate, and take no cognizance whatever of our cause. And here we must observe, that the proofs ought to be strong and clear, in proportion to the guilt and atrocity of the accusation, especially in these days, when men begin, in some degree, to distrust the infallibility of their oracles, and to enquire more closely than heretofore into the truth of their doctrines. For: the system of instruction now pursued towards the people of God, is materially different from that formerly in use, when the decrees and dogmas of the Popes of Rome were 'esteemed as Gospel, and all religion rested on their sole authority; for now the Holy Scriptures, the writings of the Apostles and Prophets, can readily be procured,* by which the truth of the Catholic tenets may be established, and all heresy confuted.
But since no proofs are adduced from Scripture against us, neither have we forsaken Christ,
* 2 Tim. iii. 15.
the Apostles, or the Prophets, the conduct of our adversaries in stigmatizing us as Heretics, is both scandalous and cruel. With this Sword, (sc. of Scripture) Christ overcame the Devil, who tempted him; with these weapons
every high thing that exalteth itself against God shall be cast down and utterly destroyed. All scripture, saith St. Paul,t is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works; and accordingly, the holy fathers have never defended themselves against the Heretics with any other weapons than those furnished by the Holy Scriptures. St. Augustin, & in his controversy with Petilian, the Donatist, exclaimeth, • Let not these words, • I say, or you say,' be heard between us; but rather let us argue, Thus saith the Lord, there let us seek the church, by him let our cause be judged, our doubts settled.” And St. Jerome declares, Ş “ All things which are
* 2 Cor. x. 4, 5.
+ 2 Tim. iii, 16, 17. De Unitate Eccles. c. 3. He also maintains the same sentiment against the Arian bishop Maximinus, l. iii. c. 14; and again epist. xviii.
In prim. cap. Aggei.
affirmed to be Apostolical traditions, unless established by the authority of Scripture, are vanquished by the sword of God's word.” St. Ambrose,* also, in his address to the emperor Gratian, says, “ Let the scriptures, the apostles, the prophets, and Christ himself, be consulted.” All these sayings clearly show, that the Catholic Fathers and Bishops of that time, were convinced that the truth of our religion could be proved from the sacred writings; nor did they ever dare to pronounce any man a Heretic, unless he .could clearly and indisputably be convicted of his crime from those same Scriptures. For our parts, we may easily vindicate ourselves in the words of St. Paul,t and reply, “ after the way which they call heresy, worship we God, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, believing all things which are contained in the Law, the Prophets, or the writings of the Apostles.”
If we then are Heretics, and they (as they would fain be called,) are Catholics, why do they not act as they well know the Catholic Fathers have heretofore done? Why do they not refute
• Cap. xiv. in prim. cap. Haggai.
+ Acts xxiv. 14.