Sunday, 2 October 2016

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 155.




"It is so reasonable to expect, that a person always bred up in the Church of England, and as well instructed in the doctrine of it as the best divines and her capacity could make her, should be liable to many censures, for leaving that, and making herself a member of the Roman Catholic Church, to which, I confess, I was one of the greatest enemies it ever had; that I choose rather to endeavor to satisfy my friends by reading this paper, than to have the trouble to answer all the questions that may daily be asked me. And first, I do profess in the presence of Almighty God, that no person, man, or woman, directly or indirectly, ever said any thing to me, (since I came into England) or used the least endeavor to make me change my religion. It is a blessing I wholly owe to Almighty God, and I hope the hearing of a prayer I daily made him, ever since I was in France and Flanders, where seeing much of the devotion of the Catholics (though I had very little myself) I made it my continual request to Almighty God, that if I were not, I might, before I died, be in the true religion. I did not in the least doubt, but that I was so; and never had any manner of scruple till November last: when reading a book, called " The History of the Reformation, by Dr. Heylin; which I had heard very much commended, and had been told, if ever I had any doubt in my religion, that would settle me; instead of which, I found it the description of the most horrid sacrileges in the world: and could find no reason why we left the Church, but for three of the most abominable ones, that were ever heard of amongst Christians. First, Henry VIII. renounces the pope's authority, because he would not give him leave to part with his wife, and marry another, in her lifetime. Secondly, Edward the Sixth was a child, and governed by his uncle, who made his estate out of Church lands.

"And then queen Elizabeth, who being no lawful heiress to the crown, could have no way to keep it, but by renouncing a Church that could never suffer so unlawful a thing to be done by one of her children. I confess, I cannot think the Holy Ghost could ever be in such councils: and it is very strange, that, if the bishops had no design but (as they say) the restoring us to the doctrine of the primitive Church: they should never think upon it, till Henry VIII. made 'the breach upon so unlawful a pretence. These scruples being raised I began to consider of the difference between the Catholics and us; and examined them as well as I could by the holy Scriptures, which, though I do not pretend to be able to understand, yet, there are some things I found so easy, that I cannot but wonder I had been so long without finding them out: as the real presence in the blessed sacrament, the infallibility of the Church; confession, and praying for the dead. After this, I spoke severally to two of the best bishops we have in England, who both told me, there were many things in the Roman Church, which it were very much to be wished we had kept; as confession, which was, no doubt, commanded by God; that praying for the dead was one of the ancient things in Christianity; that for their parts, they did it daily, though they would not own it. And afterwards pressing one of them very much upon the other points, hef told me, that if he had been bred a Catholic, he would not change his religion; but, that being of another Church, wherein he was sure were all things necessary to salvation, he thought it very ill, to give that scandal as to leave that Church, wherein he had received his baptism.

" All these discourses did but add more to the desire I had, to be a Catholic: and gave me the most terrible agonies in the world, within myself. For all this, fearing to be rash in a matter of that weight, I did all I could to satisfy myself; made it my daily prayer to God, to settle me in the right; and so went on Christmas-day to receive in the king's chapel; after which I was more troubled than ever, and could never be in quiet, till I had told my desire to a Catholic, who brought a priest to me, and that was the first I ever did converse "with, upon my word. The more I spoke to him, the more I was confirmed in my design : and, as it is impossible for me to doubt of the words of our blessed Saviour, who says, the holy sacrament is his body and blood; so I cannot believe, that he who is the author of all truth, and who has promised to be with his Church to the end of the world, would permit them to give that holy mystery to the laity but in one kind, if it were not lawful so to do.

"I am not able, nor if I were, would I enter into disputes with any body. I only, in short, say this, for the changing of my religion, which I take God to witness, I would never have done, if I had thought it possible to save my soul otherwise. I think, I need not say, it is any interest in this world leads me to it. It will be plain enough to every body, that I must lose all the friends and credit I have here by it; and have very well weighed, which I could best part with, my share in this world or the next. I thank God I found no difficulty in the choice.

" My only prayer is, that the poor Catholics of this nation, may not suffer for my being of their religion: that God would but give me patience to bear them, and then, send me any afflictions in this world, so I may enjoy a blessed eternity hereafter.

" St. James's, August 20, 1670."