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Has England gained by the Reformation in Spiritual Wisdom?
HER great gain, in this respect, is asserted by you in every part of "the Book of the Church :" I shall mention a single fact, then leave yourself to decide on the truth of your own repeated assertion.
From "the Book of the Church," I conclude that you are a sincere believer in the doctrines of the established church of England, as they are expressed in the thirty-nine articles, the authentic formulary of her faith. You therefore believe all that the roman-catholic church believes respecting the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Divinity of Christ, and the Atonement; but are these doctrines seriously and sincerely believed by the great body of the present English clergy? or by the great body of the present English laity? Do not the former, to use Mr. Gibbon's expression, sign the thirtynine articles with a sigh, or a smile? Is a sincere and conscientious belief of the doctrines expressed in them, considered by many of the laity to be a condition for salvation?
Indifference to the thirty-nine articles being thus universal, or at least very general, among those who profess themselves members of the established church, must not you, who deem so highly of them, admit that, as the roman-catholic church believes all that is said in the thirty-nine articles respecting the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Divinity of Christ,
and the Atonement,--there existed, when the reformation peered, and all these articles were universally believed, more spiritual wisdom in England than exists in her at this time, with her present scanty creed?
Thus the balance, in respect both to temporal happiness and spiritual wisdom, now stands; but if you look at the period between the first introduction of the reformation and its present æra, what years of havoc, what disputed successions of the crown, what wars, what legal murders, what demolitions of magnificent edifices, what destructions of manuscripts, of printed books, of sacred and profane monuments of art; what proscriptions, what confiscations, what calumnies, what imaginary plots, and what other inflictions of misery, in every form, were found necessary to extirpate the antient creed, and to introduce and establish the reformation! Surely you will acknowledge that an infinity, both of public and individual wretchedness would have been spared to England, if the reformation had not been carried to the extent to which it was carried :—but,
"Vicisti! et victos tendere palmas "Ausonii videre!"
VIRGIL. The reformation, and all that is connected with it, are now established by law; and never have a vanquished people more completely submitted to the conquerors, have conducted themselves with greater propriety, or received alleviations of their condition with greater gratitude, than the romancatholics have done: NONE of his majesty's subjects
are more attached to his government. When we think of past grievances, we bless the hands which have removed so many of them; an angry feeling seldom rises, except when, as in "the Book of the "Church," we find our religion traduced, and our ancestors vilified in such a manner, that we should deservedly be thought either more or less than men, if we did not exert ourselves to repel the unmerited aggression.
Was the Reformation attended by a general Improvement in Morals?
THE primitive reformers themselves assert the contrary:-"We see," says Luther, “that, through "the malice of the devil, men are now more avaricious, more cruel, more disorderly, more insolent, "and much more wicked, than they were under popery*."—" If any one wish," says Musculus, "to see a multitude of knaves, disturbers of the 'public peace, &c., let him go to a city where the gospel is preached in its purity,"-(he means a re'formed city);—“ for it is clearer than the light of "the day, that never were pagans more vicious and disorderly than those professors of the gospel t." "The thing," says Melancthon," speaks for itself. "In this country, among the reformed, their whole "time is devoted to intemperance and drunkenness, (immanibus poculis). So deeply are the people
* In Postil. Dom. part 1; Dom. 2, Adv.
"sunk into barbarity and ignorance, that many of "them would imagine they should die in the night, "if they should chance to fast in the day*." Neither was this growth of vice and ignorance confined to foreign kingdoms. "In this nation," says Stubbs, after he had made the tour of England, "I found a general decay of good works, or "rather a plain defection or falling away from "God. For good works, who sees not that they," (the papists of former times), "were far before us, "and we far behind them?" - Erasmus thus describes the fruits of the reformation: he was, indeed, a catholic; but a catholic, whom the protestants allow to have been impartial. He was an eye-witness to the introduction and progress of the reformation; he observed its workings with the eye of a philosopher, and marked them down with the accuracy of a candid and correct historian:"And who," says he, "are those gospel people? "Look around you, and show me one who has "become a better man ;-show me one, who, once "a glutton, is now turned sober;-one, who, be"fore violent, is now meek ;-one, who, before avaricious, is now generous ;-one, who, before impure, is now chaste. I can point out multi"tudes, who are become far worse than they were "before. In their assemblies you never see any of "them heave a sigh, shed a tear, or strike his "breast, even on the days that are sacred to afflic
* Ad Cap. 6, lat.
+ Motives of Good Works, with an Epistle dedicatorie to the Lord Mayor of London, an. 1596.
"tion. Their discourses are little else but calum"nies against the priesthood.-They have abolished "confession; and few of them confess their sins " even to God.-They have abrogated fasting, and Ithey wallow in sensuality.-They have become epicureans, for fear of being Jews.-They have "cast off the yoke of human institutions, and along "with it, they have shaken off the yoke of the "Lord. So far from being submissive to bishops,
they are disobedient to the civil magistrates. "What tumults and seditions mark their conduct! "For what trifles do they fly to arms! St. Paul "commanded the first christians to shun the society "of the wicked; and, behold! the reformers seek "most the society of the most corrupted; these are "their delight. The gospel now flourishes, for"sooth, because priests and monks take wives in opposition to human laws, and in despite of their "sacred vows. Own it; it is folly to exchange "evils for evils, and madness to exchange small "evils for great ones."-"Indeed," says Melancthon*, weeping while he says it, "speaking "modestly, any other state of things, in any other
age, exhibits the beauty of an age of gold, when "it is compared to the confusion which the re"formers introduced."
Capitot, a great partizan of Luther, and much connected with Bucer, writes thus to Farell, a leader among the calvinists: "As they have wholly deprived the clergy of credit, it is natural that all
* Ep. lib. iv.
+ Epist. ad Farell, int. Calv. p. 5.