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of Elfric, to assist the re-establishment of the Protestan Church under Queen Elizabeth, it was his great aim to refute the boast of the Papists of Antiquity, and their charge against the Protestants of Novelty. He addressed this motto to his readers in the title:
Go into the streets, and inquire for the old way, and if it be the good and right way, then go therein, that ye may find rest for your souls." Jeremiah.
And it was singularly fortunate for the protestant cause that this Homily, the original of which was written about 980, in the very time of Ælfric, should display to the people all the more striking differences in the reformed Church, which the Papists were fain to represent as totally unknown to former times. The ill use which the Roman Catholics had made of their power, in the short reign of Mary, preached effectually in favour of Protestantism; and when the people found the new doctrines not only authorized and supported by antiquity, but that Protestantism was the religion of their ancestors, sifted from corruption, they were soon reconciled.
The faith and practice of our Saxon ancestors, were but slightly different from our own. At St. Austins arrival, when their conversion was effected, the Pope was little more than the patriarch of the west and the regal supremacy, it will be found, was never interrupted by the Papacy under the Saxons or the Danes. The images in their Churches were no other than memorials of holy men departed. Like many of the primitive Christians, they observed solemn festivals in remembrance of those who had been crowned with martyrdom, not only for the preservation of their memories, but to excite others to constancy and perseverance: yet, though they did not deny the intercession of Saints, they made no pe
titions to them. The cross they viewed not as an object of adoration, but as the badge of their profession; and this the earliest Saxon Christians placed over the graves of such of their brethren who were slain by the Pagans, as a token that they died in the faith of Christ. The Homilies of their Church which yet remain, were chiefly composed by Elfric Archbishop of Canterbury, in 995, who spared no pains to instruct the people in the principles and precepts of religion. From these we learn that transubstantiation had no place among the doctrines of the Saxon Church. The marriage of the clergy, indeed lay under great discouragements. In the prevailing opinion of men, Celibacy was more reputable; Ælfric, in the Homilies here mentioned, endeavoured to promote it; in what are called his Canons, he enjoined it strictly, and one of the last transactions of his life, was to expel the regular Canons of his Cathedral, who refused to abandon their wives. Many Clergymen, it is true, there were, who, burdensome as they found Celibacy, coveted the honour of it: yet the marriage of the Clergy was forbidden neither by the Canons of the Church or the Jurisprudence of the State.
Dr. Hickes has forcibly recommended a publication of all the Homilies to some Theologian, who in explanatory notes might handle, with skill and propriety, those topics most connected with the doctrines and principles of the Church to which we belong. A task which it is much to be wished was undertaken.
In short, the conformity of our present religious establishment to that of our Saxon ancestors, orms a topic, of all others most worthy contemplation. Christianity indeed, from the death of its first teachers had varied considerably; and many disagreeing non-essentials, had been adopted according to the people or the times that entertained
entertained it. The weakness of its professors had not in the Saxon times, gone on to wickedness; nor were they actuated by that fiery zeal, which afterwards marked the Papists. Ignorance of religious truth among the common people was as much as possible discouraged; they were allowed the Scriptures in the vulgar tongue, exhorted to learn the Lord's prayer and Creed; to frequent communion, to charity and fasting; and no vows of poverty or Celibacy were required of the religious.
Such were the doctrines, and such the practice of the Church among our Saxon ancestors. And so strongly may the coincidence be shewn, even in matters of more trifling concern, that Dr. Hickes particularly mentions, that the feasts of the Church, and the number of Saints upon its calendar, were as near as possible the same with those admitted at the reformation.
ORIGINAL LETTERS FROM THE REV. DR. GEO, HICKES.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCHMAN'S
MONG the desiderata of biographical research, I
cannot but reckon a good life of Dr. Hickes. I lately passed a few days in Oxford, where a friend, whose literary eminence is alone equalled by the ease with which his knowledge is imparted, shewed me, in the Bodleian, two or three volumes of the doctor's letters. Several I copied; from others I made only extracts; but
such as my collections were, I present your readers with a specimen.
DR. HICKES TO DR. CHARLETT, MASTER OF UNIVERSITY
"I HAVE seen many weak and fallacious papers about taking the oath, which give me no satisfaction, and though I do not expect any, yet I will consult the most learned compliers both among the lawyers and divines, to know upon what principles they will take the oath, to justify myself to the world by shewing that I am willing to be satisfied, and that I do not refuse out of pride or humour as some men are ready to say. In truth I should be glad to be satisfied, and kiss the feet of the man that could satisfy me; but if I cannot be fairly and honestly satisfied how a man that believes K. James to be rightful king of this realm can lawfully take a promissory oath of true allegiance to another, then I hope God will enable me to lay down all that I have from him, as chearfully as I took them up, and trust entirely to his good providence, who I hope will not let me want what is necessary to a contented man's subsistence. I would fain know what such men among you as believe K. James to be our rightful sovereign (as all must do that act not upon the hypothesis of forfeiture or abdication) will do at this critical time; if they comply, I would fain know the reasons of their compliance, and how they can transfer their true allegiance (which I think can be but one) from the rightful to the usurping King.—I am not surprised to hear of the forwardness of Dr. Mill, for he wrote to me above a month ago to dedicate my book to the King, by which I guessed he would comply."
TO THE SAME.
July 8, 1689.
"I will now tell you how much allegiance I think to be due to any king or governour who is possessor of the supreme power in this or any other kingdom. I think the people are bound to assist him in the advancement of trade, and commerce, the administration of civil justice, &c. and to aid and assist him against all invasions and rebellions reared against him, saving such as are made by the rightful sovereign or for his service. I think the people are also bound to deliver all treasons and conspiracies made against him by men that would pull him down to set up themselves, and not the rightful King. All this allegiance I will oblige myself to, if this quantum as you call it will be accepted, I will chearfully swear so much. But then to swear in this sense is to swear, as you say one of our friends intends, with a salvo jure, but then it is a salvo jure not expressed, but reserved in the mind of the swearer; and you have not yet told me how a man can take an oath in a limited, and reserved sense, which takes away all security from the King in fact, against the King in right, in sincerity and truth."
TO THE SAME.
Jan. 23, 171
"I AM SO taken up with writing additions to the third edition of my book, that of late I have scarce written letters to any, but can defer sending my humble thanks no longer for your kind new year's gifts; the stately almanack, and the Orationes ex poetis Latinis, where, after looking upon the title page, I happened to dip in