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LETTER OF ANSWER
FREQUENT INJECTING OF TEMPTATIONS.
case, whereof you complain, is not more worthy of secrecy, than of pity: and yet, in true judgment, not so heinous as you conceive it. Evil motions are cast into you, which yet you entertain not with consent. Let me assure you, these are not your sins; but his, that injects them. You may be, as you are, troubled with their importunity ; but you are not tainted with their evil, while you dislike and hate them, and are grieved with their suggestion. That bold and subtle enemy of ours durst cast temptations into the Son of God himself; in whom yet he could find nothing. It were woe with us, if lewd motions, though repelled, should be imputed unto us : it is only our consent, that brings them home to us, and makes them our sins. Were then these thoughts, as you suppose them, blasphemies; yet, while your heart goes not with them, but abhors them and strives against them, they may afflict you, they cannot hurt
you. As Luther said, in the like case, birds may fly over our heads, whether we will or no; but they cannot nestle in our hair, unless we permit them. Take heart, therefore, to yourself; and be not too much dejected, with the wicked solicitations of a known enemy: for the redress whereof, as I have not been unacquainted with the like causes of complaints, let me prescribe you a double remedy ; Resolution and Prayer.
In the first place, take up strong Resolutions, not to give heed or ear to these unreasonable motions. Resolve, rather, to scorn and contemn them, upon their first intimation; as not worthy of a particular answer : for, certainly, holding chat with them and sad agitations, and arguing of them as thoughts meet to receive a satisfaction, draws on their more troublesome importunity ; whereas, if they were slighted and disdainfully turned off upon their first glimpse, they would go away ashamed. Whensoever, therefore, any such suggestions offer themselves unto you, think with yourself: “I know whence this comes : it is Satan's : let him take it, whose it is; I will not meddle with it.” Say but, in your Saviour's
words, Avoid, Satan; and divert your thoughts to some holy and profitable subject; and these temptations will, by God's grace,
vanish. In the second place, apply yourself to the remedy of that Chosen Vessel, who, when he was buffeted by the messenger of Satan, had recourse to the Throne of Grace; and besought God thrice, that is frequently, that he might depart away from him. Whensoever you shall be thus troubled, do you, by a sudden ejaculation, raise up your heart to God; and beseech him to rebuke that Evil One: and do not so much care to answer the temptation, as to implore the aid of him, who can take off the tempter at pleasure; who hath a hook in the nostrils of that leviathan. Certainly, those evil thoughts cannot be more swift-winged, than our prayers may be; nor so prevalent to our vexation, as our prayers shall be for our rescue. Be, therefore, fervent and assiduous in them; and, my soul for yours, the enemy shall have no power to harm you.
As for your doubt of receiving the blessed sacrament, because of these misconceived blasphemies, it falls alone by what I have already said. The blasphemies, if they were such, are Satan's, not yours: why should you not do yourself good, because he would do you a mischief? In God's name, go on to defy that Evil One; and let him take his wickedness to himself; and do you go, with cheerfulness and good courage, to that Holy Table: as there and thence expecting to receive new strength against all his assaults. Neither doubt I, but that our good God will
so bless unto you this institution of his own, together with your prayers and resolutions, that you shall be soon and fully freed from these hateful guests, and comfortably enjoy him and yourself; which I shall also gladly second with my prayers for you, though unknown, as who am
Your truly compassionate,
and well-wishing friend in Christ, Exon, April 14, 1630.
RESOLUTIONS FOR RELIGION.
WHEREAS there are many loud quarrels and brabbles about matters of religion, this is my firm and stedfast Resolution, wherein I find peace with God and my own soul; as being undoubtedly certain in itself, and holily charitable to others, and that in which I constantly purpose, God willing, as to live, so to die.
1. I do believe and know, that there is but one way to heaven, even the true and living way, Je us Christ, God and Man, the Saviour of the World.
2. I believe and know, that this way, however it is a narrow and strait way, in respect of the world; yet hath much latitude in itself: so as those, that truly believe in this Son of God, their Saviour, though they may be mis-led into many by-paths of small errors ; yet, by the mercy of God, are acknowledged not to be out of the main highway to eternal life.
3. I believe and know, that the Canonical Scriptures of God are the true and unfailing Rule of our Faith : so as, whatsoever is therein contained, is the infallible truth of God; and whatsoever is necessary to be believed to eternal salvation, is therein expressly, or, by clear and undoubted consequence, contained; and so set forth, as it neither needeth farther explication, nor admits of any probable contradiction.
4. I believe and know, that God hath, ever since the creation of mankind, had a Church upon earth; and so shall have, to the end of the world: which is a society or communion of faithful men, professing his Name; against which, the gates of hell shall never be able to prevail, for the failing thereof.
5. I believe and know, that the consenting voice of the successions, and present universality of faithful men in all times and places, is worthy of great authority; both for our confirmation in all truths, and for our direction in all the circumstantial points of God's service : so as it cannot be opposed, or severed from, without just offence to God.
6." I believe and know, that, besides those necessary truths contained in the Holy Scriptures and seconded by the consent and profession of all God's faithful ones, there may be and ever have been certain collateral and not-mainly importing verities, wherein it is not unlawful, for several particular Churches, to maintain their own tenets, and to dissent from other; and, the several members of those particular Churches are bound, so far to tender the common peace, as not to oppose such publicly received truths.
7. I do confidently believe, that if all the particular Churches, through the whole Christian world, should meet together, and determine these secondary and unimporting truths to be believed upon necessity of salvation, and shall enact damnation to all those which shall deny their assent thereurito, they should go beyond the commission which God hath given them, and do an act which God hath never undertaken to warrant; since there can be no new principles of Christian Religion, however there may be an apo plication, of some formerly received divine truths to some emergent occasions, and a clearer explication of some obscure verities.
8. I do confidently believe, that God hath never confined the determination of his will, in all questions and matters pertaining to salvation, or whatsoever controversies of Religion, to the breast of any one man, or to a particular Church, or to a correspondence of some particular Churches; so as they shall not possibly err, in their definitions and decrees.
9. I do contidently believe, that the Church of Rome, comprehending both the head and those her adherents and dependants, being but particular Churches, have highly offended God, in arrogating to themselves the privilege of infallibility, which was never given them; and in ordaining new articles of faith ; and excluding from the bosom of God's Church and the gates of heaven, all those, which differ from her in the refusal of her late-bred impositions, though otherwise holy men, and no less true Christians, than any
of themselves. 10. I do confidently believe, that, though it be a thing very requisite to public peace and good order, that every several Christian should be ranged under some particular Church, and every particular assembly be subordinate to some higher government, which may oversee and overrule them, in the case of different opinions and matters of practice; yet, that God hath not required or commanded either of these, upon necessity of salvation: so as an Indian convert, in the remotest part of the world, believing in Christ, may, without relation to any Church whatsover, be saved : and a particular Church, being orthodox in the main principles of religion, upon matter of litigious contestation, flying off from some more eminent Church under which it was ranked for order's sake, however it may be faulty, in an undue division, yet is not hereby excluded from the capacity of salvation; since such slight jars and unkindnesses in Churches, can no more shut them out from a common interest in Christ, than the like quarrels of a Paul and Barnabas, Acts xv. 39. could keep either of them out of heaven.
11. I do confidently believe, that all the particular National Churches, through the whole Christian World, are no other than Sisters; Daughters of the same Father, God; of the same Mother, the Spiritual Jerusalem which is from above: some of them are elder sisters; others, younger : some, more tall and large spread; others, of less stature: some, fairer, in respect of holiness of life and orthodoxy of judgment; others, fouler, in respect of corrup
tions, both of doctrine and manners: still Sisters. And, if any of them shall usurp a mistress-ship over the rest, or make herself a queen over them, and make them subjects and slaves to ber; or a motherhood to the rest, otherwise than in a priority and aid of conversion, and make them, but daughters and punies to her: she shall be guilty of a bigh arrogance and presumption, against Christ and his dear Spouse, the Church; since, with the just and holy God, there is no respect of persons or places, but in all nations those, that serve him best, are most accepted of him.
12. From hence will follow this double Corollary:
First: That, as there is a kind of natural equality in sisterhood, no particular National Church can, by right of any institution of God, challenge a commanding power over the rest; however some one may have a precedency to other, in respect, whether of more constant holiness and sincerity, or more speed of conversion, or of larger extent, or of the civil greatness and pre-eminence of that state or nation wherein it is settled; and, upon this occasion, may and must improve and exercise her eminence, to the defence and furtherance of the weaker and more distressed: but if any particular National Church, being less able to sustain itself, shall agree voluntarily to submit herself, for order's sake and for safety and protection, to the sway of one more famous and powerful, her engagement doth justly bind her, so far as lawfully it reacheth; viz. To acknowledge a priority of place, and to respect her directions in matters of form and outward administration, so long as they vary not from the rule, which God hath set in his Church : but if that more potent Church shall abuse that power, and begin to exercise tyranny over the weaker, by forcing upon her new and undue impositions of faith, or intolerable insolencies in government; there is no law of God, that binds that weaker Church, Issachar-like, to lie down between two burdens: she may challenge and resume the right of a sister, and shake off the yoke of a slave, without the violation of any command of God; and, not the injured, but the oppressor, is guilty of the breach of peace.
Secondly, It will hence follow, that the relation of this common sisterhood of all Christian Churches, justly ties all those, that profess the Name of Christ, to a charitable regard of each to other : so as, though there be in some of them gross errors in matters of doctrine, and foul corruptions in matters of practice; yet, while they hold and maintain all the articles of the same Christian Faith, and acknowledge the same Scriptures, the substance of the same Baptism, and of the institution of the Holy Eucharist, they cease not to continue sisters, notwithstanding their manifold enormities and depravations. These are enough to deform any Church; not enough to dis-church it. These are enough to impair the health; not to bereave the life. Howsoever, therefore, we must always hate and cry down their errors, which a wilful maintenance makes no less than damnable; yet we must pity and pray for their persons, and, by all good means, labour to bring them to an acknowledgment of the opposed truth. And, although I well know there