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a several way; impotently conceited of his own model and his own materials, reason is always striving, and always at a loss; and of necessity it must so come to pass, while it is exercised about that which is not its proper object. Let us be content, at last, to know God by his own methods; at least, so much of him as he is pleased to reveal to us in the sacred Scriptures. To apprehend them to be the word of God is all our reason has to do; for all beyond it is the work of faith, which is the seal of heaven impressed upon our human understanding.
And now for what concerns the holy Bishop Athanasius, the preface of whose creed seems inconsistent with my opinion, which is, that heathens may possibly be saved. In the first place, I desire it may be considered, that it is the preface only, not the creed itself, which, till I am better informed, is of too hard a digestion for my charity. It is not that I am ignorant, how many several texts of Scripture seemingly support that cause ; but neither am I ignorant, how all those texts may receive a kinder, and more mollified interpretation. Every man, who is read in church history, knows that belief was drawn up after a long contestation with Arius, concerning the divinity of our blessed Saviour, and his being one substance with the Father; and that thus compiled, it was sent abroad among the Christian churches, as a kind of test, which, whosoever took, was looked on as an orthodox believer. † It is manifest from hence, that the
* “ Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic faith.
“ Which faith, except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
+ The controversy between Athanasius and Arius long divided Bhe Christian church. The former was patriarch of Alexandria,
heathen part of the empire was not concerned in it; for its business was not to distinguish betwixt Pagans and Christians, but betwixt heretics and true believers. This, well considered, takes off the heavy weight of censure, which I would willingly avoid from so venerable a man; for if this proportion, “ whosoever will be saved,” be restrained only to those to whom it was intended, and for whom it was composed, I mean the Christians; then the anathema reaches not the heathens, who had never heard of Christ, and were nothing interested in that dispute. After all, I am far from blaming even that prefatory addition to the creed, and as far from cavilling at the continuation of it in the liturgy of the church, where, on the days appointed, it is publicly read: for I suppose there is the same reason for it now, in opposition to the Socinians, as there was then against the Arians; the one being a heresy, which seems to have been refined out of the other; and with how much more plausibility of reason it combats our religion, with so much more caution it ought to be avoided : therefore, the prudence of our church is to be commend
and the latter bishop of Nicomedia, in Asia.
The dispute regarded the godhead of the Trinity. The doctrine of Arius, that God the Son was not co-existent, consequently, not equal in dignity with God the Father, was condemned by the grand general council of Nice, and he was banished. But he was afterwards recalled by the emperor; and his heresy spread so widely, that almost all the Christian world were at one time Arians. As a test of the true orthodox doctrine, Athanasius composed the creed which goes by his name. Being written expressly for this purpose, and for the exclusive use of the Christian world, Dryden argues, with great apparent justice, that the anathema with which it is fenced, has no relation to the heathens, and that we cannot, with charity, or even logically, argue from thence concerning their state in the next world.
ed, which has interposed her authority for the recommendation of this creed. Yet to such as are grounded in the true belief, those explanatory creeds, the Nicene and this of Athanasius, night perhaps be spared; for what is supernatural will always be a niystery in spite of exposition ; and, for my own part, the plain Apostle's creed is most suitable to my weak understanding, as the simplest diet is the most easy of digestion.
I have ciwelt longer on this subject than I intended, and longer than perhaps I ought; for, having laid down, as my foundation, that the Scripture is a rule ; that in all things needful to salvation it is clear, sufficient, and ordained by God Almighty for that purpose; I have left myself no right to interpret obscure places, such as concern the possibility of eternal happiness to heathens ; because whatsoever is obscure is concluded not necessary to be known.
But, by asserting the Scripture to be the canon of our faith, I have unavoidably created to myself two sorts of enemies; the papists, indeed, more directly, because they have kept the Scripture from us what they could, and have reserved to themselves a right of interpreting what they have delivered under the pretence of infallibility; and the fanatics, more collaterally, because they have assumed what amounts to an infallibility in the private spirit, and have distorted those texts of Scripture which are not necessary to salvation, to the damnable uses of sedition, disturbance, and destruction of the civil government. To begin with the papists, and to speak freely, I think them the less dangerous (at least in appearance) to our present state; for not only the penal laws are in force against them, and their number is contemptible, but also their peerage and commons are excluded from parliaments, and conse
quently those laws in no probability of being repealed. A general and uninterrupted plot of their clergy, ever since the Reformation, I suppose all protestants believe; for it is not reasonable to think, but that so many of their orders, as were outed from their fat possessions, would endeavour a reentrance against those whom they account heretics. * As for the late design, Mr Coleman's letters, for aught I know, are the best evidence; and what they discover, without wire-drawing their sense, or malicious glosses, all men of reason conclude credible. † If there be any thing more than
* “ It is certain, that the restless and enterprising spirit of the Catholic church, particularly of the Jesuits, merits attention, and is, in some degree, dangerous to every other communion. Such zeal of proselytism actuates that sect, that its missionaries have penetrated into every nation of the globe, and, in one sense, there is a Popish-plot perpetually carrying on against all states, Protestant, Pagan, and Mahometan.”—Hume, Vol. VII. p. 72.
+ The unfortunate Edward Coleman was secretary to the Duke of York, and in high favour with his master. With the intriguing spirit of a courtier, and the zeal of a Catholic, he had long carried on a correspondence with Father La Chaise, confessor to the king of France, with the Pope's nuncio, and with other Catholics abroad, for the purpose, as he himself states it, of “ the conversion of three kingdoms, and by that, perhaps, the utter subduing of a pestilent heresy, which has a long time domineered over a great part of the northern world.” It would seem, from these letters, that it was the purpose of the Catholics, to begin by obtaining, if possible, a toleration, or exemption from the penal laws; and then, while strengthening themselves by new converts, to await the succession of James, or the open declaration of Charles in favour of their religion. From various points it appears, that Coleman was a better Catholic than an Englishman; and would not have hesitated to sacrifice the interests of his country to France, if, by so doing, he could have brought her faith nearer to Rome. There were also indications of both the king's and duke's accessibility to foreign influence, which were fraught with consequences highly dangerous to the country. But, while the Catholics were availing themselves of these unworthy dispositions in the royal brothers, it was quite absurd to suppose, that they should have for
this required of me, I must believe it as well as I am able, in spite of the witnesses, and out of a decent conformity to the votes of parliament; for I suppose the fanatics will not allow the private spirit in this case. Here the infallibility is at least in one part of the government; and our understandings, as well as our wills, are represented. But, to return to the Roman Catholics, how can we be secure from the practice of jesuited papists in that religion ? For not two or three of that order, as some of them would impose upon us, but almost the whole body of them, are of opinion, that their infallible master has a right over kings, not only in spirituals, but temporals. Not to name Mariana, Bellarmine, Emanuel Sa, Molina, Santarel, Simancha, * and at least twenty others of foreign coun
feited every prospect of success, by assassinating these very persons, upon whose lives their whole plan depended, to place upon the throne the Prince of Orange, the head of the Protestant League. Yet, although not the least trace is to be found in Coleman's letters of the murders, invasions, fires, and massacres, which Oates and Bedloe bore witness to, the real and imaginary conspiracy were identified by the general prepossession of the nation; and Coleman, who undoubtedly deserved death for his unlawful and treasonable trafficking with foreign interests against the religion and liberty of his country, actually suffered for a plot which was totally chimerical.
These are all Jesuits and controversial writers. Mariana maintains, that it is well for princes to believe, that if they become oppressive to their people, they may be killed, not only lawfully, but most commendably.-Institut. pp. 61, 64. In the 6th chapter of the same work, he calls the murder of Henry III. of France by Jaques Clement, “ insignem animi confidentiam---facinus memorabile-cuso rege, ingens sibi nomen fecit."
Bellarmine declares roundly, that all heretics are to be cut off, unless they are the stronger party, and then the Catholics must remain quiet, and wait a fitter time.---De Laicis, Liber III. cap. 22.
Simancha affirms, “propter Hæresin Regis, non solum Rex regno privatur, et a communione fidelium diris proscriptionibus separatur ; sed et ejus filii a regni successione pelluntur,” Suarez expressly