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A L E T T E R

TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE

THE COUNTESS OF NEWBRUGH.

II

MADAM, I. HUMBLY beg your ladyship’s pardon, that I

have not sooner performed my duty, and obeyed your ladyship's desires, (which with me ought to have the force of commands,) by returning an answer to the letter of your Roman catholic friend and relation. The truth is, the letter came from your ladyship to my hands (after a considerable stop) in a very ill season, when I was wholly taken up by other businesses not to be dispensed with; and I do not remember, that in all my life I have had a task imposed on me in so unhappy a conjunction of circumstancesa : yet some hours I have forcibly snatched from the importunity of those urgent occasions, in which I have made a shift to shape the following

In reading whereof, all the favour I shall desire from your ladyship is this. First, That you would trust me in those citations out of the Fathers and learned authors which I produce, till the author of the letter shall prove me guilty of prevarication therein, which I am sure he will never be able to do. Secondly, That your ladyship would excuse

answer.

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[He probably alludes to the controversies in which he was engaged concerning the Harmonia Apostolica.]

that sharpness of style, which I sometime make use of in my answer. Indeed, the honourable relation to your ladyship, which the author of the letter lays claim to, bath restrained me from handling him as he deserves; but my zeal to the honour of God and his holy truth, so grossly confronted by him, (which I persuade myself is dearer also to your ladyship than your own honour,) hath constrained me sometimes to give him a just rebuke. Having premised these my humble requests unto your ladyship, I shall proceed (without the compliment of any farther preface) to examine whatsoever may seem any way considerable in the letter.

II. That collection of texts of Scripture concerning corporal austerities, which the author of the letter mentions, what it is I kuow not, your ladyship it seems having forgotten to send it b, and therefore cannot give him a direct answer to this part of his letter: but, in general, I can give your ladyship St. Paul's determination of the question, 1 Tim. iv. 8: Bodily exercise profiteth little : but godliness is profitable unto all things, &c. In the former part of which sentence the apostle acknowledgeth some little use of bodily exercise, or corporal austerities, or restraints and castigations laid upon the body : these may be in some degree useful, at least to some persons and in some cases, provided they are kept in the due bounds, tacitly laid down by the apostle otherwhere, Col. ij. 23; where he tells us, these austerities have a show of wisdom ind voluntary observation, which our translation renders in will-worship, in humility, in neglecting the body, and not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh. So that all the show and appearance of wisdom, that such austerities can be allowed to have, consists in these three things : First, that they be undertaken voluntarily and freely, not by imposition from others, not as necessary acts of piety. Secondly, That they be used with humility, not priding ourselves in them as great achievements in religion; not superciliously condemning or despising others who allow themselves a greater (if lawful) freedom than we do. Thirdly, That they be really made use of for the castigation of the body, and not in hypocritical pretence, so as that in the mean time we indulge ourselves in as great delights, or greater than those from which we abstain. I beseech your ladyship to consider these three cautions of the apostle; and then I shall leave it to yourself to judge, how far the austerities, commonly practised in the church of Rome are from being conform to those golden rules. For I am not willing to take the occasion, that is here given me, of laughing at the follies of our adversaries in this particular. Corporal austerities, thus limited, the true sons of the Church of England most willingly admit of and embrace; and I speak from my conscience, that I think those austerities are, in silence, better practised by some of our church, than by the generality of the Romanists that so much glory in them. But it is the latter part of the apostle's determination that we mainly stick to; Godliness is profitable unto all things; that is, true piety, consisting in the love of God, and our neighbours as ourselves, together with the fruits and effects of these, is always and to all persons, useful : indeed this is the unum necessarium, that one necessary thing.

b I have since received it from the lady P. and find it so inconsiderable, as not to deserve any more particular answer than is here given to it. • Or notion, λόγον έχοντα σοφίας.

d εν εθελοθρησκεία.

III. To this trial we will stand ; let that church, that most earnestly presseth this real piety, carry the bell, and be acknowledged for the best church ; and if this commendation be found due to the church of Rome, in its present estate, I will never speak a word to dissuade your ladyship from leaving our communion, and casting yourself into the bosom of that church, which is displayed at this day with so alluring a bravery; but will engage myself to attend your ladyship in a voyage to Rome, in the quality of one of your lackeys. The truth is, this very consideration kept me, when I was yet unacquainted with the true state of the controversy between us and the Roman church, from having any affection to the same, although I have not wanted some considerable temptations to entertain better thoughts thereof; for ever since I understood any thing of religion, I have apprehended the certain truth of what St. Paul tells us, Rom. xiv. 17: That the kingdom of God doth not consist in meat and drink, and such like external things, but in righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost ; that the soul of piety lies in the piety of the soul; and then observing how the spirits of the Roman devotion spend themselves in outward and external things, leaving the heart and vital parts thereof cold and languishing : how like the pharisees they shew themselves mighty zealots in the little appendages of religion, whilst they neglect the weightier matters of the law: how amongst them it is accounted almost (if not altogether) as heinous a crime to break a frivolous institution of one of their vainly devised orders, as to transgress a direct command of God : how that faction among them that governs the church of Rome, (the Jesuits,) are of all mortals the easiest and loosest casuists in questions that concern the substance of religion : how the corporal austerities they so much boast of, and commonly used by them, are commutations for the great and indispensable duties of Christianity, and umbrages to the foulest vices and impurities : (whence it comes to pass, that the most carnal and sensual protestants are most easily induced to undertake them; and it is to be observed by every one nowadays, that the filth of our church doth empty itself into the sink of Rome :) I say, when I considered these things, I was so far from admiring the church of Rome for that face of religious severity which it hath affected to put on, that that very affectation made me out of love with it, yea, wrought in me a kind of loathing of it: but enough of the corporal austerities of the church of Rome.

IV. In the next place, supposing that the collection of texts of Scripture mentioned had opened to your ladyship a prospect into farther doubts, that is, had puzzled your ladyship, and unsettled you, and so made way for his farther attempts upon your conscience and religion; he proceeded to recommend to your ladyship the perusal of a book, called the Catholic Scripturiste, and promiseth that therein you shall find, not only the faith, but the practice of the

e I wonder he should promise himself such great matters from so sorry a scrip of paper. (A second edition of this book was published in 1686.)

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