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TO THE RIGHT REVEREND FATHER IN GOD,
DR. J. HALL, BISHOP OF NORWICH.
R. R. SIR:
WITH my respective remembrance. I cannot blame you, if you were much moved with that wrong, which was so publicly done to your name, in that mentioned pamphlet: whereof we, that are your friends, are so sensible, as that I have been advised by several of them to publish that Letter of Vindication, which you were pleased to address privately to me: whereunto I have been easily induced to consent. For, though I had, at the first receipt of it, purposed to conceal it; as supposing it not needful to take notice of that aspersion which was thus cast upon you by a nameless author; well knowing that all wise men were satisfied long ago with that full Defence that you made for yourself, and which was so effectually seconded by those Reverend Bishops and learned Doctors, who were in the height of reputation for their profound judgment, and out of all danger of suspicion of any Popish inclination: yet now, perceiving that the less judicious, and common sort of people are apt to take offence at this imputation, which is so confidently laid upon you by some person that would seem to carry authority in his public employment, I have thought it requisite to let this your short Vindication to fly abroad, although thus late, for the satisfaction of those, who either have not seen the Resolutions and Apologetical Answers of those learned Bishops and Doctors, or who are not able to judge of the state of this question; raised, as you have truly said, and Bishop Davenant before you, out of a mere misconstruction of words, and not any real difference in matter.
Sir, I hope I have done nothing herein, that may be displeasing to you: since what I have done hath been out of a zealous respect to your dear reputation, which herein suffers too much in the weak opinion of vulgar readers.
Commending all your studies and holy endeavours to the blessing of the Almighty, I take leave; and am
Your much obliged friend to serve you,
Nov. 20, 1654.
LETTER OF APOLOGY,
SENT BY THE
REV. DR. HALL, B. N
A PRIVATE FRIEND.
IN that strange Pamphlet, which I received from you yesterday, you cannot marvel if I startled to meet so inexpectly with the name of Bishop Hall disgracefully ranked with Priests and Jesuits, and the man that was executed the other day: for so it hath pleased my unknown Accuser, in his great charity, to range my unworthiness.
If my pale and wrinkled cheeks could be any whit capable of the tincture of shame, you may well think what change of countenance these words must needs have wrought in me. Lord, thought I, what so heinous crime is this, for which I am thus shamefully arraigned before all the world, now on the brink of my grave! Forsooth, Bishop Hall, as the rest of those meet complices, saith the Church of Rome is a True Church! Grave crimen, Caie Cesar!
What an impotent malice is this, to single out my name thus ignominiously from all the rest of my profession, for an odious paradox; when I say no more, than all the Orthodox Divines of Christendom! How must the reader now needs think, "Sure this Bishop Hall is a man of corrupt principles; singular, for his dangerous misopinions; a greater friend to Rome, than all his fellows!" when as the world knows that I have already, about twenty-eight years ago, clearly vindicated myself from this gross misconstruction; and shewed, that, in my sense, there is no knowing Protestant Divine that agrees not fully with me.
You remember, that, about the time mentioned, when, upon some passages of the "Old Religion" then published by me, Mr. Burton and some others boggled at that expression, namely, That the Church of Rome is yet a True Visible Church, though extremely corrupted; and that the quarrel began to wax warm, and the press to complain of being pestered with opposite Tractates: in a due care to
AN APOLOGETICAL LETTER TO A PERSON OF QUALITY.
lay this ill-raised spirit, besides my own full and satisfactory Apology then set forth, I appealed to other unquestionable Divines, the Oracles of our Church; writing my public letters to two famously learned Bishops, Bishop Morton, and Bishop Davenant; and to two eminent and approvedly Orthodox Doctors, Dr. Prideaux and Doctor Primrose Pastor of the French Church; earnestly desiring them to declare their judgments freely and fully concerning this point. All which have not only in their published answers* declared this to be an undoubted truth, in the sense proposed; proving it, by sound and convincing reasons; and asserting it, not as their own private opinion, but as conceived by them to be the just and common tenet of all Orthodox Divines and Churches: but, withal, affirming that those men little know what prejudice they do to the Protestant cause, that hold the contrary. The instances whereof it were easy for me to give, were it not that I fear and hate to furnish the adversary with weapons to wound ourselves. I wis, those enemies are quick-eyed enough to espy their own advantages, and our exposedness to the danger of self-wronging consequences, without our intimation.
The grave and solid determination of those godly and judicious Divines is still extant in a thousand hands: upon the publication whereof, the world then rested satisfied, myself acquitted, the adversary silenced, and the controversy quieted, which is now thus uncharitably and unadvisedly raked up from under the ashes of a wise and just silence.
The truth is, nothing but a gross and inconsiderate mistake is guilty of this quarrel. The homonymy of this word "True," as Master Blake in his Answer to Master Tombes, besides the forenamed authors, hath truly observed, makes all this seeming difference. If we take a "True Church" for a true believing Church, so the Church of Rome is far from a True Church. If we take a "True Church" for a Church truly existing in a visible profession of Christianity, so it cannot be denied to be a True Visible Church. A thief is no true man; yet he is truly a man: so the Church of Rome, though false in too many of her doctrines, yet hath a true visible being. Her clients vainly flatter her with the title of Catholic or Universal: we expect no thanks from her, to say she is universally corrupted, yet a Church Visible still. Those gross errors, wherewith she abounds, have marred her first purity, but do not forfeit her outward Churchship. It were a strange uncharitableness to say that a Romanist is no Christian; though too many of their tenets are justly branded for Antichristian: and, where there is a Society of Christians, not directly and obstinately destroying the foundation, though otherwise foul and erroneous in opinion, there cannot be denied a visible appearance of a Church.
Let the Church of Rome then go for as erroneous, impure, false in matter of opinion and practice, as she is; she cannot be denied the face of a Church, however rotten at the heart.
See these Pieces at pp. 307–334 of vol. ix. EDITOR.
All which hath been so judiciously and amply declared by those learned and worthy Contests, whom I formerly mentioned, in their public discourses of this point, that I am confident, if Mr. Sadler had had leisure to have considered, he would rather have distinguished than denied; and the Questionist, whoever he was, would, upon second thoughts, have thought good to suffer my innocent name to rest in peace: whereas now, he hath both wronged me, and himself more, in drawing upon himself an opinion of either ignorance or uncharitableness, or both. God forgive him! I do.
Thus we too well see how apt nature is, even in those who profess an eminence in holiness, to raise and maintain animosities against those, whose calling or person they pretend to find cause to dislike; and perhaps also to brand with the black note of unjust infamy those, who concenter not with them in some light opinions, although indivisibly theirs in the brotherhood of the same most holy faith, and meekly affecting to hold with them the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Truly, Sir, to open myself freely to you, nothing hath more wounded my soul, nor drawn deeper sighs from me in secret, than to see, that, whereas our Dear and Blessed Saviour hath so vehemently encharged all his true disciples with the duty of mutual love; and his Chosen Vessel, with so zealous importunity, cries down strife and contention, as arguing mere carnality, and utterly inconsistent with the truth of Christian disposition and practice: yet no grace is such a stranger to us, for the most part, as Charity; nor no employment so universally rife amongst us, on all hands, as quarrels and brawlings, both verbal and real, arising commonly from false surmises and misconstructions, and proceeding too often not to the scratching of faces but to the ripping of bowels and to the stabbing of hearts, to the infinite scandal of the Gospel of Peace, and to the sport and triumph of Gath and Ascalon.
Now the God of Peace, whom we all profess to serve, be pleased, for his great mercies' sake, to pull out of our bosoms all these roots of bitterness, and to compose our mis-alienated hearts to perfect love and concord, to the glory of his great Name, and to the comfort of all those that are faithful in his Sion!
Sir, you will pardon me, if I have thus, passionately enough, unloaded myself, into the bosom of so faithful a friend, of my justly conceived grief, to be thus scandalously and causelessly traduced. Your love will put the best construction upon these sudden lines; and, where you meet with this blur undeservedly cast upon my name, wipe it off with a just and friendly vindication: wherein you shall do an office worthy of the thankful acknowledgment of
Your unfeignedly devoted,
Higham, Nov. 5, 1654.
in all Christian affection,
JOSEPH HALL, B. N.