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insult the sacramental God which the Papists worshiped, when they called it a wafer-God, and refused to own and worship it?
"But the Papists, (they would reply,) were palpably in the wrong, and guilty of direct idolatry and breach of the second commandment in worshiping, as the Supreme God, what was obviously nothing but a piece of bread or cake." And did they appear less criminal in the eyes of the Papists, who refused to worship God where they owned him really and immediately present? For Christ, whom they held, with the Papists, to be the Supreme God; and whose real presence (so called) in the sacrament they also maintained, had said of the sacramental bread, this is my body; and their Papal adversaries would well reply, that he who was the truth itself was surely to be believed in what he said, and ought to be worshiped, wherever his bodily presence was acknowledged.
"But these Arians, (would these Protestant persecutors farther say,) sapped the very foundations of Christianity, by denying the Divinity of Christ, and the atonement, asserting that the Father only was God." And did not themselves deny what to the Papists appeared equally fundamental, namely, that there is only one, holy, Roman, catholic, apostolic church, out of which there is no salvation?
What does all this on both sides amount to but
barely averring, "We are in the right, you are in the wrong?" In short, by punishing their Protestant brethren for dissenting from them upon the doctrine of the Trinity or any other point, they fully justified the Papists in putting them or their fathers to the stake, and contributed all that in them lay to perpetuate persecution and murdering of conscientious men, in all countries, to the end of time.
Alas! Protestants had then to learn (I would there were none who had yet to learn) the unalienable rights of conscience, and the liberty from all human controul in that respect wherewith Christ hath made us free: they had to learn the common equality of all men in the things of God, the full import of that express injunction of their divine Master, Matt. xxiii. 8, "Be not ye called Rabbi, for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren." They had also to learn the innocency of error, from which none can plead exemption; and to bear with each other in their differing apprehensions concerning the nature of the first great cause and Father of all, and the person of Christ, and the manner and date of his deriving his being and high perfections from God; a point this latter, which was darkened and perverted at the very first by philosophy and vain science of the learned heathen converts, from which it hath not yet recovered itself: but surely it must also be owned to have been left in some
obscurity in the Scriptures themselves, which might mislead readers full of heathen prejudices, (otherwise so many men, wise and good, would not have differed, and still continue to differ concerning it;) and so left, it should seem, on purpose to whet human industry and the spirit of inquiry into the things of God, to give scope for the exercise of men's charity and mutual forbearance of one another, and to be, one great means of cultivating the moral dispositions, which is plainly the design of the holy spirit of God in the Christian revelation, and not any high perfection in knowledge which so few can attain.
One is grieved to find the reign of our great Princess Elizabeth, stained with the blood of men, who, if they were mistaken in these abstruse points, were innocently so; for I find no sedition or crime laid to their charge, but only obstinacy in error.
Bishop Burnet* speaks of some Anabaptists, who, in the reign of Edward VI., had fled hither from Germany, whose peculiar sentiment about baptism, saith he, was the mildest of the opinions that they held; for their errors were, "that there was not a Trinity of persons; that Christ was not God, and took not flesh of the Virgin; and that a regenerate man could not sin."+
Abridgment of History of Reformation, Vol. II. p. 81. + Mosheim relates, that at the very beginning of the Reformation, several that went under the name of Anabaptists
Of this sect were those, I presume, of whom Fuller thus writes :* "On Easterday, 1575, was disclosed a congregation of Dutch Anabaptists without Aldgate, in London, whereof seven-andtwenty were taken and imprisoned, and four, bearing faggots at Paul's Cross, solemnly recanted their dangerous opinions."
"Next month, one Dutchman and ten women were condemned, one of whom was converted to renounce her errors, eight were banished the land, but two of these unhappy creatures, more obstinate than the rest, were burned in Smithfield, and died (says my author) in great horror, with crying and roaring."
Our pious and very learned martyrologist, John Fox, whom the Queen always called her father Fox, wrote to Elizabeth at the time to move her to spare these poor wretches, or at least to mitigate their sentence, and change it into banishment, or some other death less horrible and inhuman. Fuller has preserved to us his letter, penned in
opposed the received doctrine of the Trinity. And it appears from Burnet, that this was one of the common tenets of the Anabaptists, at least of many of them. It is probable, that these people were of the number of those, who, as he tells us in another place, before the time of Luther and Calvin, lay concealed in almost all the countries of Europe, particularly in Bohemia, Moravia, Switzerland, and Germany. See Ecclesiastical History, Vol. IV. pp. 132, 169, and p. 183. Note.
* Church History of Britain, Book ix. pp. 104, 105.
Latin, a language the Queen well understood, and the common language of princes and the learned in those days. It is little inferior to the pure compositions of the Augustan age, and is enforced with such persuasive eloquence and argument, that one wonders it did not prevail.* It is here presented to the reader in an English dress.
* Fuller from Stow, says, "She gave him a flat denial as to the saving of their lives, if, after a month's reprieve, and conference with divines, they would not récant their errors." He thus apologizes for Elizabeth: "Indeed, damnable were their impieties, and she necessitated to this severity, who having formerly punished some traitors, if now sparing these blasphemers, the world would condemn her, as being more earnest in asserting her own safety, than God's honour."
Saith our Saviour Christ, (describing beforehand to his apostles the blind zeal and calm cruelty of those who would oppose their preaching of the gospel,) John xvi. 2, “ Yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you, will think that he doeth God service." This has been too sadly verified even by his followers in destroying one another; which was an extreme not then to be thought of. 'Tis to be hoped, that the Christian world has learned a better lesson, after practising this bad one so long; and that the time is now over. God wanteth no such services. He is able and ready to vindicate his own honour when injured, if it can be injured, which it cannot, by the speculations of his sincere and erring creatures.