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Modern History Sourcebook:
James I and VI: from Anglicanism, 1616

I will never be ashamed to render an accompt of my profession and of that hope that is in me, as the Apostle prescribeth. I am such a CATHOLIC CHRISTIAN as believeth the three Creeds, that of the Apostles, that of the Council of Nice, and that of Athanasius, the two latter being paraphrases to the former. And I believe them in that sense as the ancient Fathers and Councils that made them did understand them, to which three Creeds all the ministers of England do subscribe at their Ordination. And I also acknowledge for Orthodox all those other forms of Creeds that either were devised by Councils or particular Fathers, against such particular heresies as most reigned in their times.

I reverence and admit the Four First General Councils as Catholic and Orthodox. And the said Four General Councils are acknowledged by our Acts of Parliament, and received for orthodox by our Church.

As for the Fathers, I reverence them as much and more than the Jesuits do, and as much as themselves ever craved. For whatever the Fathers for the first five hundred years did with an unanime consent agree upon, to be believed as a necessary point of salvation, I either will believe it also, or at least will be humbly silent, not taking upon me to condemn the same. But for every private Father's opinion, it binds not my conscience more than Bellarmine's, every one of the Fathers usually contradicting others. I will therefore in that case follow St. Augustine's rule in judging of their opinions as I find them agree with the Scriptures. What I find agreeable thereto I will gladly embrace. What is otherwise I will (with their reverence) reject.

As for the Scriptures, no man doubteth I will believe them. But even for the Apocrypha, I hold them in the same accompt that the Ancients did. They are still printed and bound with our Bibles, and publicly read in our churches. I reverence them as the writings of holy and good men. But since they are not found in the Canon, we accompt them to be secundae lectionis or ordinis (which is Bellarmine's own distinction) and therefore not sufficient whereupon alone to ground any Article of Faith, except it be confirmed by some other place of Canonical Scripture; concluding this point with Rufinus (who is no Novelist, I hope) that the Apocryphal books were by the Fathers permitted to be read, not for confirmation of doctrine, but only for instruction of the people.

As for the Saints departed, I honour their memory, and in honour of them do we in our Church observe the days of so many of them as the Scripture doth canonize for saints; but I am loath to believe all the tales of the legended saints.

And first for the Blessed Virgin Mary, I yield her that which the Angel Gabriel pronounced of her, and which in her Canticle she prophecied of herself, that is, That she is blessed among women, and That all generations shall call her blessed. I reverence her as the Mother of Christ, of whom our Saviour took His flesh, and so the Mother of God, since the Divinity and Humanity of Christ are inseparable. And I freely confess that she is in glory both above angels and men, her own Son (that is both God and man) only excepted. But I dare not mock her, and blaspheme against God, calling her not only Diva but Dea, and praying her to command and control her Son, Who is her God and her Saviour. Nor yet not, I think, that she hath no other thing to do in Heaven than to hear every idle man's suit and busy herself in their errands, whiles requesting, whiles commanding her Son, whiles coming down to kiss and make love with priests, and whiles disputing and brawling with devils. In Heaven she is in eternal glory and joy, never to be interrupted with any worldly business; and there I leave her with her blessed Son, our Saviour and hers, in eternal felicity.

As for prayer to Saints, Christ, I am sure, hath commanded us to come all to Him that are loaden with sin, and He will relieve us; and St. Paul hath forbidden us to worship angels, or to use any such voluntary worship, that hath a shew of humility in that it spareth not the flesh. But what warrant we have to have recourse unto these Dii Penates or Tutelares, these Courtiers of God, I know not; I remit that to these philosophical Neoteric Divines. It satisfieth me to pray to God through Christ, as I am commanded, which I am sure must be the safest way; and 1 am sure the safest way is the best way in points of salvation. But if the Romish Church hath coined new Articles of Faith, never heard of in the first 500 years after Christ, 1 hope 1 shall never be condemned for an heretic, for not being a Novelist. Such are the Private Masses, where the Priest playeth the part both of the Priest and of the People. And such are the Amputation of the one half of the Sacrament from the people; the Transubstantiation, Elevation for Adoration, and Circumportation in procession of the Sacrament; the Works of Supererogation, rightly named Thesaurus Ecclesiae; the Baptizing of Bells and a thousand other tricks, but above all, the Worshipping of Images. If my faith be weak in these, I confess I had rather believe too little than too much. And yet since I believe as much as the Scriptures do warrant, the Creeds do persuade, and the ancient Councils decreed, I may well be a schismatic from Rome, but I am sure I am no heretic.

For Relics of Saints, If I had any such I were assured were members of their bodies, I would honourably bury them and not give them the reward of condemned men's members, which are only ordained to be deprived of burial. But for worshipping either them or images, I must account it damnable idolatry.

I am no Iconomachus. I quarrel not with the making of images, either for public decoration or for men's private uses. But that they should be worshipped, be prayed to, or any holiness attributed unto them, was never known of the ancients. And the Scriptures are so directly, vehemently, and punctually against it, as I wonder what brain of man or suggestion of Satan durst offer it to Christians. And all must be salved with nice philosophical distinctions as Idolunt nihil est; and They worship (forsooth) the Images of things in being and the Image of the true God. But the Scripture forbiddeth to worship the Image of anything that God created. It was not a nihil then that God forbade only to be worshipped, neither was the Brazen Serpent nor the body of Moses a nihil; and yet the one was destroyed and the other hidden for eschewing of idolatry. Yea, the Image of God Himself is not only expressly forbidden to be worshipped, but even to be made. The reason is given, That no eye ever saw God; and how can we paint His Face, when Moses (the man that was ever most familiar with God) never saw but His back parts? Surely, since He cannot be drawn to the vive, it is a thankless labour to mar it with a false representation; which no Prince, nor scarcely any other man, will be contented with in their own pictures. Let them therefore that maintain this doctrine answer it to Christ at the latter day, when He shall accuse them of idolatry. And then I doubt if He will be paid with such nice sophistical distinctions....

As for Purgatory, and all the trash depending thereupon, it is not worth the talking of; Bellarmine cannot find any ground for it in all the Scriptures. Only I would pray him to tell me, If that fair green meadow that is in Purgatory have a brook running through it, that in case I come there I may have hawking upon it. But as for me, I am sure there is a Heaven and a Hell, praenium et poena, for the Elect and Reprobate; how many other rooms there be, I am not on God His council. Multae sunt mansiones in domo Patris mei, ["there are many mansions in my father's house"] saith Christ, Who is the true purgatory for our sins. But how many chambers and ante-chambers the Devil hath, they can best tell that go to him. But in case there were more places for souls to go to than we know of, yet let us content us with that which in His Word He hath revealed unto us, and not inquire further into His secrets. Heaven and Hell are there revealed to be the eternal home of all mankind. Let us endeavour to win the one and eschew the other; and there is an end.

Now in all this discourse have I yet left out the main article of the Romish faith, and that is, the Head of the Church or Peter's Primacy; for who denieth this, denieth fidem Catholicam [The catholic faith], saith Bellarmine. That Bishops ought to be in the Church, I ever maintained it as an Apostolic institution and so the ordinance of God,contrary to the Puritans, and likewise to Bellarmine, who denies that Bishops have their jurisdiction immediately from God. (But it is no wonder he takes the Puritans' part, since Jesuits are nothing but Puritan-Papists.) And as I ever maintained the state of Bishops and the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy for order sake, so was I ever an enemy to the confused anarchy or parity of the Puritans, as well appeareth in my Basilikon Archon. Heaven is governed by order, and all the good angels there. Nay, Hell itself could not subsist without some order. And the very devils are divided into legions and have their chieftains. How can any society, then, upon earth subsist without order and degrees? And therefore I cannot enough wonder with what brazen face this Answerer could say, That I was a Puritan in Scotland and an enemy to Protestants, - I that was persecuted by Puritans there, not from my birth only, but even since four months before my birth? I that in the year of God 84 [1584] I erected Bishops and depressed all their popular parity, I then being not 18 years of age? I that in my said Book to my Son do speak ten times more bitterly of them nor of the Papists, having in my second edition thereof affixed a long Apologetic Preface, only in odium Puritanorum? And I that for the space of six years before my coming into England laboured nothing so much as to depress their parity and re-erect Bishops again? Nay, if the daily commentaries of my life and actions in Scotland were written (as Julius Caesar's were) there would scarcely a month pass in all my life, since my entering into the thirteenth year of my age, wherein some accident or other would not convince the Cardinal of a lie in this point. And surely I give a fair commendation to the Puritans in that place of my book, where I affirm that I have found greater honesty with the highland and border thieves than with that sort of people. But leaving him to his own impudence, I return to my purpose.

Of Bishops and Church Hierarchy I very well allow (as I said before) and likewise of ranks and degrees amongst bishops. Patriarchs I know were in the time of the Primitive Church, and I likewise reverence that institution for order sake; and amongst them was a contention for the first place. And for myself (if that were yet the question) I would with all my heart give my consent that the Bishop of Rome should have the first seat; I being a Western King would go with the Patriarch of the West. And for his temporal principality over the Signory of Rome, I do not quarrel it either. Let him in God His Name be Primus Episcopus inter omnes Episcopos ["first bishop among all bishops"],   and Princeps Episcoporum [Prince of bishops] so it be no otherwise but as Peter was Princeps Apostolorum. But as I well allow of the hierarchy of the Church for distinction of orders (for so I understand it), so I utterly deny that there is an earthly Monarch thereof, whose word must be a law, and who cannot err in his sentence, by an Infallibility of Spirit. Because earthly Kingdoms must have earthly Monarchs, it doth not follow that the Church must have a visible Monarch too. For the world hath not one earthly temporal Monarch. Christ is His Church's Monarch, and the Holy Ghost His Deputy, Reges Gentium dominants eorum, vos autem non sic. Christ did not promise before His Ascension to leave Peter with them to direct and instruct them in all things. But He promised to send the Holy Ghost unto them for that end.

And as for these two before cited places, whereby Bellarmine maketh the Pope to triumph over kings, I mean Pasce oves and Tibi dabo claves, the Cardinal knows well enough that the same words of Tibi dabo are in another place spoken by Christ in the plural number. And he likewise knows what reason the ancients do give why Christ bade Peter pascere oves, and also what a cloud of witnesses there is, both of ancients, and even of late Popish writers, yea divers Cardinals, that do all agree, that both these speeches used to Peter were meant to all the Apostles represented in his person. Otherwise, how could Paul direct the Church of Corinth to excommunicate the incestuous person cum spiritu suo, whereas he should then have said, cum spiritu Petri? And how could all the Apostles have otherwise used all their censures only in Christ's Name, and never a word of His Vicar? Peter, we read, did in all the Apostles' meetings sit amongst them as one of their number. And when chosen men were sent to Antiochia from that great Apostolic Council at Jerusalem (Acts xv), the text saith, It seemed good to the Apostles and Elders with the whole Church to send chosen men; but no mention made of the Head thereof. And so in their Letters no mention is made of Peter, but only of the Apostles, Elders, and Brethren. And it is a wonder why Paul rebuketh the Church of Corinth for making exception of persons, because some followed Paul, some Apollos, some Cephas, if Peter was their visible Head! For then those that followed not Peter or Cephas renounced the Catholic Faith. But it appeareth well that Paul knew little of our new doctrine, since he handleth Peter so rudely, as he not only compareth, but preferreth, himself unto him. But our Cardinal proves Peter's superiority by Paul's going to visit him. Indeed Paul saith, He went to Jerusalem to visit Peter and confer with him. But he should have added, "And to kiss his feet." . . .

Thus have I now made a free Confession of my Faith. And, I hope, I have fully cleared myself from being an Apostate; and, as far from being an heretic as one may be, that believeth the Scriptures, and the three Creeds, and acknowledgeth the four first General Councils. If I be loath to believe too much, especially of novelties, men of greater knowledge may well pity my weakness. But I am sure none will condemn me for an heretic, save such as make the Pope their God, and think him such a speaking Scripture as they can define heresy no otherwise, but to be whatsoever opinion is maintained against the Pope's definition of faith. And I will sincerely promise, that whenever any point of the Religion I profess shall be proved to be new, and not Ancient, Catholic, and Apostolic (I mean for matter of faith), I will as soon renounce it, closing up this head with the maxim of Vincentius Lirinensis, that I will never refuse to embrace any opinion in divinity necessary to salvation which the whole Catholic Church with an unanime consent have constantly taught and believed even from the Apostles' days, for the space of many ages thereafter without any interruption.


Source:

From A Premonition to All Most Mighty Monarchs, Kings, Free Princes, and States of Christendom Works, ed. James Montague, Bp. of Wint hester (1616), pp. 301-308.


This text is part of the Internet Modern History Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts for introductory level classes in modern European and World history.

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© Paul Halsall, July 1998
halsall@murray.fordham.edu