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TO THE REVEREND FATHER IN CHRIST, AND BELOVED MASTER,
THE MOST VIGILANT BISHOP OF THE CHURCH OF DURHAM.
many and how great are the labours which you have devoted, right honourable Prelate, to the church of Christ, there are few men of studious habits throughout Europe who know not ; whose hands have so diligently handled those famous volumes of Controversies, which you published some time ago, and to which the generations of our posterity will acknowledge themselves very much indebted.
For such has ever been the merciful arrangement of Divine Providence, that seldom has he permitted any considerable term of years, (from the time when the light of the returning Gospel blessed our country,) no not even the present, the most deplorable of all ages, to elapse, without maintainers of his truth, pillars and bulwarks of the Church, forthcoming from the ranks of English Episcopacy. I cite the book-shops of all nations, I cite the bitterest enemies of the gospel of God, to bear witness to the fact : it is one which the seven-billed city, once the mistress of the world, has felt, and felt to her pain and sorrow.
But while thus we direct our pens against that priestly system of willWorship, behold a number of new heads openly springing up out of the Lernæan monster, far more formidable in fierceness than any that have appeared before ; the heresies of the Nearians, the Socinians, and the Anomæans, brought to life again : and, in addition to these, schisms, more detestable than ever, propagated by sects of every kind beyond all number ; threatening the Church of God, on every side, with nothing less than actual ruin.
What is there now, which more concerns us, if we desire to leave any Church to our descendants, than to distinguish, as carefully as possible, things which differ? that is, if I may add my own interpretation, to separate the precious from the vile, the worst from the bad, sects from trifling errors of opinion, heresies from sects : as for heresies, which rend the very foundations of the faith, first to convict them fully, and then to consign them to that place of darkness, whence we may be sure such furies issue ; but as for other errors, to try whether we cannot bring them back by mild persuasion into the path of truth: the confederate and implacable enemies of the faith, utterly to drive away, and overthrow with the breath of our mouth ; the dissentients of a milder sort, to treat with the bowels of compassion, and admit within our bosom : and to do our best, meanwhile, that the gaping wounds of our brethren may be closed and healed.
This is the task I here attempt; nor need I feel ashamed, if, with a wrinkled and tremulous hand, (the usual indications of old age!) I have offered my contribution, such as it is, to the cause of public peace. Indeed I am troubled in mind, and almost worn away for grief, (what man of piety, forsooth, can be otherwise affected ?) when I'behold not merely the seamless cloak, but the very members of Christ, so miserably rent and torn even by their own hands, that it is difficult for the most sagacious judge to prognosticate, to what result affairs are at length tending.
This, in short, is the calamity of these latter days, under which we grieve and groan, till our life becomes a burden. We can all moan and whimper,
solemus omnes : vix quis, tamen, malo huic averruncando manum admovet : sed et pauci illi, qui istud benevolo in Ecclesiam animo tentarunt eipnvoTolei, satis iniquam operis boni mercedem utrinque reportârunt.
Neque, tamen, ita me movent ista, ut à tam salutari instituto, quovis periculo absterreri possim. Deus ille Pacis, cui soli in hâc re totus inservio, opellam hanc qualemcunque suo patrocinio, utinam et æquè felici successu, beare non detrectabit.
Tu, interim, Præsul verè reverende, quem sanctè administrata a portaria, veneranda canities, singularis pietas, acre judicium, labor indefessus, eximia denique rerum humanarum divinarumque scientia, toti Ecclesiæ Christi charum unà et percelebrem præstiterunt, negotium hoc sacrum tuo, si placet, suffragio promovere velis ; ac insuper, ubi Bißlapidov hoc oculis lustrare libuerit, paginam quamque, aut obelo aut asterisco, pro judicio tuo, more Origenico, notare non dedigneris, rogat
Conservorum tuorum infimus ac humillimus,
J. H. N.
Norwici : Prid. Cal.
easily enough, both to God and man: yet scarcely any one applies his hand to diminish the evil : while the few who have attempted, as peace-makers, to perform that act of kindness to the Church, have received, from either side, but poor returns for their good work.
Still these things move me not so far, as to deter me, by any apprehension of danger, from a purpose so serviceable and useful. The God of Peace, to whose service I wholly devote myself in the matter, will not disdain to bless this humble effort with his patronage, and, I would even venture to hope, with a proportionate measure of success.
May you, meanwhile, most reverend Prelate, endeared at once and commended as you are to the whole Church of Christ, by uprightness in the functions of your office, by venerable age, by eminent piety, by penetrating judgment, by unwearied labour, and lastly, by wonderful erudition whether in things human or divine ; may you be willing, should it meet your approbation, to promote this holy business by your furtherance ; and, whenever you find time to cast your eye over this little book, may you condescend, after the custom of Origen, just to note each page either with a good or bad mark, according to the judgment you conceive of its contents. So begs the lowest and humblest of
J. H. N. Norwich, Nov. 30th, 1647.
Audite, omnes, quotquot, ubilibet gentium estis, Christiani; et ad ea, quæ in rem conducunt vestram, sedulò attendite.
Satis, jam diu, superque, per totum orbem Christianum depugnatum est : neque desunt, qui classicum ubique canant insuper, sævi præcones; crudelíque ac temerario zelo, et gladios exacuant et animos.
Ecce me, nuncium pacis Evangelicæ; quæ, nisi vos non vultis, fessam ac mutuis vulneribus fædè cruentatam, penéque exanimem, Christi Ecclesiam jam serò invisere ac beare gestit. Nec cui bono ingratum esse potest, quod angelis celestibus accinimus, Luc. ii. 14: neque turpes videri queunt illi pedes, quos olim sanctus Propheta speciosos pronunciavit ; Isai. lii. 7.
Vos, interim, deponite arma, Christiani ; lauróque olivam, quam supplex fero, anteponite. Æternis laudibus merito effertur miles ille Romanus, qui, hostem jam stricto ense transfixurus, auditâ subitò ad recessum conclamante tubâ, retraxit illico manum, gladiumque recondidit; satius ratus ducis imperio, quàm propriæ vindictæ, obtemperare. Quin et vos pariter facitis. Revocat vos, me buccinatore, Deus ab hoc ferali certamine : referte modò pedes manusque: desistite jam nunc; et, post inducias subinde factas, duraturæ pacis consilia inite.
Nolo pluribus præfari: hoc agamus : £ù sè Deos, etc., ut olim cantores Atticia.
SECT. 1. Pauca fuerunt illa fidei capita', quæ primævis Christianis necessariò credenda proponebantur.
• Συν δε θεοί μάκαρες. Suid.
• Pauca credenda. Reg. S. Columb,
PEACE ON EARTH.
HEAR, one and all, however many ye be, and wheresoever ye dwell, ye disciples of Christ : and diligently note the things which pertain unto your welfare.
Enough, long since, and more than enough, has war prevailed throughout the whole territory of Christendom: and yet there are heralds of bloodshed, who would still blow the trumpet of battle on every side ; and, with fierce and reckless impetuosity, would sharpen anew both the swords and the passions of mankind.
Behold me here, a messenger of Gospel-Peace; who longs, though late, if ye reject her not, to visit and to bless the Church of Christ, worn with fatigue, covered with blood from the wounds of her own children, and almost ready to breathe her last. Surely no good man will be displeased, that we sing the song of the angels which are in heaven, Luke ii. 14: nor can those feet appear unseemly, which the holy Prophet of old pronounced beautiful; Isaiah lii. 7.
You, then, who are called after the name of Christ, lay down your arms forthwith : and prefer the olive of peace, which I urge you to accept, rather than the laurel of victory. Justly is that Roman soldier lauded through successive ages, who, at the very moment he was about to plunge his drawn sword into his enemy, hearing on a sudden the trumpet sounding a retreat, withdrew his arm, and sheathed his weapon; deeming it better to obey the will of his commander, than to gratify the desire of personal revenge. Nay, then, do ye likewise. God calls you from this deadly conflict; in his name, I blow the trumpet: withhold immediately both your hands and feet: stop, stop, this instant; and let a momentary truce serve but to conduct your determinations towards an endless peace.
I am unwilling to say more by way of preface. Let us proceed at once to our subject; praying, with holier devotion than the psalmists of Greece, that the God of heaven may help us.
SECT. 1. Few were the articles of faith, proposed to the primitive Christians, as indispensably to be acknowledged and professed.