Mr. Chillingworth's Judgment OF THE RELIGION OF PROTESTANTS, &c.


SInce the Parliament is now upon a Bill of Compre­hension, and another of Indulgence or Toleration, I cannot but think it seasonable to publish these Passages, which I have collected out of Mr. Chil­lingworth's Book, intituled, The Religion of Prote­stants a safe Way to Salvation. Not but that I suppose there are few Lords, or Members of the House of Com­mons, that were so little concern'd in the Controversie between Papists and Protestants, as not to have read so famous a Book of that Subject; which in order to print­ing, had the high Approbation of the then Vice-Chancellor, and both the King's and Margaret Professors of Divini­ty in the Ʋniversity of Oxon; and since its publication, [Page 2]has had the highest Commendation of most, if not all Learned Protestants, as the most learned and judicious Book of any that had been publish'd before upon those great Controverted Points; yet even to such it will not be un­pleasing to be reminded of these few useful Things.

Here the Reader will find, in brief, what the Religion of Protestants is; what Errors are dangerous, what not: That differing Protestants agree in all Things necessary to Salvation; that it's Ʋnchristian to use Force in Matters meerly Religious. What is the Fountain of all the Schisms of the Church, and the Calamities that have in­fested Christendom about Opinions of Religion; and that Ʋniversal Liberty, well moderated, is the way to reduce Christians to Truth and Ʋnity.

This Book was first printed in the Year 1637, and de­dicated to his Majesty Charles the First, and reprinted 1663; and for more common Ʋse made shorter, by leaving out personal Matters, printed again Anno 1685.

Of the Religion of Protestants.

CHap. 6. Nom. 56. Know then, Sir, that when I say the Religion of Protestants is in pru­dence to be preferred before yours: as on the one side I do not understand by your Religion the Doctrine of Bellarmine, or Baronius, or any other private Man amongst you; nor the Doctrine of the Sorbon, or of the Jesuits, or of the Dominicans, or of any other particular Company amongst you, but that wherein you all agree, or profess to agree, The Doctrine of the Council of Trent: So accordingly on the other side, by The Religion of Protestants, I do not understand the Doctrine of Luther, or Calvin, or Melancton, nor the Confession of Augusta or Geneva, nor the Catechism of Heidelberg, nor the Articles of the Church of England, no, nor the Harmony of Protestant Confessions, but that wherein they all agree, and which they all subscribe with a greater Harmony, as a perfect Rule of their Faith and Actions; that is, the Bible, the Bible, I say the Bible only is the Re­ligion of Protestants! Whatsoever else they believe besides it, and the plain irrefragable, indubitable con­sequences of it, well may they hold it as a matter of Opinion, but not as a matter of Faith and Religion; neither can they with coherence to their own grounds believe it themselves, nor require the belief of it of others, without most high and most schismatical Pre­sumption. I, for my part, after a long (and as I ve­rily [Page 4]believe and hope) impartial search of the true way to eternal Happiness, do profess plainly, that I cannot find any rest for the sole of my foot, but upon this Rock only. I see plainly and with mine own eyes, that there are Popes against Popes, Councils against Coun­cils, some Fathers against others, the same Fathers against themselves, a Consent of Fathers of one Age against a Consent of Fathers of another Age, the Church of one Age against the Church of another Age; Traditive Interpretations of Scripture are pre­tended, but there are few or none to be found: No Tradition but only of Scripture can derive it self from the Fountain, but may be plainly proved, either to have been brought in, in such an Age after Christ, or that in such an Age it was not in. In a word, there is no sufficient certainty but of the Scripture only, for any considering Man to build upon. This there­fore, and this only, I have reason to believe; this I will profess, according to this I will live, and for this, if there be occasion, I will not only willingly, but even gladly lose my Life, though I should be sor­ry that Christians should take it from me. Propose me any thing out of this Book, and require whether I believe it or no, and seem it never so incomprehen­sible to Humane Reason, I will subscribe it with Hand and Heart, as knowing no demonstration can be stron­ger than this, God hath said so, therefore it is true. In other things I will take no Man's Liberty of Judg­ment from him, neither shall any Man take mine from me; I will think no Man the worse Man or the worse Christian; I will love no Man the less for diffe­ring in Opinion from me; and what measure I meet to others, I expect from them again: I am fully as­sured that God does not, and therefore that Men ought [Page 5]not to require any more of any Man than this, To believe the Scripture to be God's Word, to endeavour to find the true sence of it, and to live according to it.

N. 57. This is the Religion which I have chosen, after a long deliberation, and I am verily perswaded that I have chosen wisely, much more wisely than if I had guided my self according to your Churches Au­thority; for the Scripture being all true, I am secu­red by believing nothing else, that I shall believe no falshood as Matter of Faith: And if I mistake the sense of Scripture, and so fall into Error, yet I am secure from any danger thereby, if but your Grounds be true; because endeavouring to find the true Sense of Scrip­ture, I cannot but hold my Error without pertinacy, and be ready to forsake it, when a more true and a more probable sense shall appear unto me: And then all necessary Truth being, as I have proved, plainly set down in Scripture, I am certain by believing Scrip­ture, to believe all necessary Truth; and he that does so, if his Life be answerable to his Faith, how is it possible he should fail of Salvation?

Scripture the only Rule whereby to judg of Controversies.

Chap. 2. N. 11.—To speak properly (as Men should speak when they write of Controversies in Religion) the Scripture is not a Judg of Controversies, but a Rule only, and the only Rule for Christians to judg them by: Every Man is to judg for himself with the Judgment of Discretion, and to chuse either his Religion first, and then his Church, as we say; or as you, his Church first, and then his Religion. But by the Consent of both sides, every Man is to judg and chuse; and the Rule whereby he is to direct his choice, if he be a na­tural Man, is Reason; if he be already a Christian, [Page 6]Scripture, which we say is the Rule to judg all Con­troversies by, yet not all simply, but all the Contro­versies of Christians, of those that are already agreed upon this first Principle, that the Scripture is the Word of God. But that there is any Man, or any Company of Men, appointed to be Judg for all Men, that we deny; and that I believe you will never prove.

Every Man to judg for himself in Matters of Religion.

Chap. 2. N. 16. In Civil and Criminal Causes, the Parties have for the most part so much Interest, and very often so little Honesty, that they will not sub­mit to a Law though never so plain, if it be against them; or will not see it to be against them, though it be never so plainly: Whereas if Men were honest, and the Law were plain and extended to all Cases, there would be little need of Judges. Now in Matters of Religion, when the Question is, Whether every Man be a fit Judg and Chuser for himself? we suppose Men honest, and such as understand the difference between a Moment and Eternity; and such Men, we conceive, will think it highly concerns them to be of the true Religion, but nothing at all that this or that Religion should be the true: And then we suppose that all the necessary Points of Religi­on are plain and easie, and consequently every Man in this Cause to be a competent Judg for himself, be­cause it concerns himself to judg right as much as Eternal Happiness is worth, and if through his own default he judg amiss, he alone shall suffer for it.

Ch. 3. N. 81. — If they [Men] would be themselves, and be content that others should be, in the choice of their Religion, the Servants of God and not of Men; if they would allow, that the [Page 7]way to Heaven is no narrower now than Christ lest it, his Yoak no heavier than he made it; that the be­lief of no more Difficulties is required now to Salva­tion, than was in the Primitive Church; that no Error is in it self destructive and exclusive from Salvation now, which was not then; if instead of being zea­lous Papists, earnest Calvinists, rigid Lutherans, they would become themselves, and be content that o­thers should be plain and honest Christians; if all Men would believe the Scripture, and freeing them­selves from Prejudice and Passion, would sincerely en­deavour to find the true sence of it, and live accor­ding to it, and require no more of others but to do so, not denying their Communion to any that do so, would so order their Publick Service of God, that all which do so may without Scruple or Hypocrisie, or Protestation against any part of it, joyn with them in it; who does not see that (seeing as we suppose here, and shall prove hereafter) all necessary Truths are plainly and evidently set down in Scripture, there would of necessity be among all Men, in all things necessary, Unity of Opinion? And notwith­standing any other differences that are or could be, Unity of Communion, and Charity, and mutual To­leration; by which means all Schism and Heresie would be banished the World, and those wretched Contentions which now rend and tear in pieces not the Coat, but the Members and Bowels of Christ, with mutual Pride and Tyranny, and cursing, killing, and damning, would fain make immortal, should speedily receive a most blessed Catastrophe. But of this here­after, when we shall come to the Question of Schism, wherein I perswade my self that I shall plainly shew, that the most vehement Accusers are the greatest [Page 8]Offenders, and that they are indeed at this time the greatest Schismaticks, who make the way to Heaven narrower, the Yoke of Christ heavier, the differences of Faith greater, the Conditions of Ecclesiastical Go­vernment harder and stricter, than they were made at the beginning by Christ and his Apostles; they who talk of Unity and aim at Tyranny, and will have Peace with none but with their Slaves and Vassals.

Pres. N. 30. — For what one Conclusion is there in the whole Fabrick of my Discourse, that is not naturally deducible out of this one Principle, That all things necessary to Salvation are evidently contained in the Scriptures? Or what one Conclusion almost of importance is there in your Book, which is not by this one clearly confutable? Grant this, and it will presently follow, in opposition to your first Conclu­sion, and the Argument of your first Chapter, That a­mongst Men of different Opinions, touching the ob­scure and controverted Questions of Religion, such as may with probability be disputed on both sides, (and such are the Disputes of Protestants) good Men and Lovers of Truth of all sides may be saved, because all necessary things being supposed evident concerning them, with Men so qualified, there will be no diffe­rence; there being no more certain sign that a Point is not evident, than that honest and understanding and indifferent Men, and such as give themselves liberty of Judgment, after a mature Consideration of the matter, differ about it.

Of Disagreeing Protestants.

Ans. to Pref. N. 26. 1. The most disagreeing Pro­testants that are, yet thus far agree, that these Books [Page 9]of Scripture which were never doubted of in the Church, are the undoubted Word of God, and a per­fect Rule of Faith. 2. That the sense of them which God intended, whatsoever it is, is certainly true; so that they believe implicitly even those very Truths against which they err; and why an implicit Faith in Christ and his Word, should not suffice as well as an implicit Faith in your Church, I have desired to be resolved by many of your side, but never could. 3. That they are to use their best Endeavours to be­lieve the Scripture in true sense, and to live according to it. This, if they perform (as I hope many on all sides do) truly and sincerely, it is impossible but that they should believe aright in all things necessary to Salvation, that is, in all those things that pertain to the Covenant between God and Man in Christ; for so much is not only plainly but frequently contained in Scripture and believing aright the Covenant, if they for their parts perform the Condition required of them, which is sincere Obedience, why should they not expect that God will perform his Promise, and give them Salvation? For, as for other things which lie without the Covenant, and are therefore less ne­cessary, if by reason of the seeming Conflict which is oftentimes between Scripture, Reason, and Au­thority on the one side, and Scripture, Reason, and Authority on the other; if by reason of the va­riety of Tempers, Abilities, Educations, and una­voidable Prejudices, whereby Mens Understand­ings are variously formed and fashioned, they do em­brace several Opinions, whereof some must be er­roneous; to say that God will damn them for such Errors, who are Lovers of him, and Lovers of Truth, is to rob Man of his Comfort, and God of his [Page 10]Goodness, it is to make Man desperate, and God a Tyrant.

Ib. N. 27. That it is sufficient for any Man's Sal­vation, that he believe the Scripture, that he endea­vour to believe it in the true sense of it as far as con­cerns his Duty; and that he conform his Life unto it, either by Obedience or Repentance: He that does so, (and all Protestants, according to the Dictamen of their Religion, should do so) may be secured that he cannot err Fundamentally, so that notwithstanding their Differences, and your Presumption, the same Heaven may receive them all.

Ib. N. 29. Who can find fault with him [Dr. Potter] for saying; If through want of means of Instruction, Incapacity, invincible or probable Ignorance, a Man die in Error, he may be saved: But if he be negligent in seeking Truth, unwilling to find it, either doth see it and will not, or might see it and will not, that his Case is dangerous, and without Repentance, desperate.

Ch. 1. N. 11. Methinks, with much more Reason, and much more Charity, you must suppose that many of these Controversies which are now disputed among Christians, (all which profess themselves Lovers of Christ, and truly desirous to know his Will and do it) are either not decidable by that means which God hath provided, and so not necessary to be decided; or if they be, yet not so plainly and evidently, as to oblige Men to hold one way: Or lastly, if decidable, and evidently decided, yet you may hope that the erring part, by rea­son of some Veil before their Eyes, some execusable Ig­norance, or unavoidable Prejudice, does not see the Que­stion to be decided against him, and so opposes not that which he doth know to be the Word of God, but only that which you know to be so, and which he might [Page 11]know, were he void of Prejudice: which is a Fault, I confess, but a Fault which is incident even to good and honest Men very often; and not of such a Gigantick Disposition as you make it, to fly directly upon God Almighty, and to give him the Lie to his Face.

Of the Necessity of a Visible Judg in Controversies of Religion, as well as in Civil Matters.

Ch. 2. N. 17.—In Civil Controversies we are ob­liged only to external Passive Obedience, and not to an Internal and Active. We are bound to obey the Sen­tence of the Judg, or not to resist it, but not always to believe it just. But in Matters of Religion, such a Judg is required whom we should be obliged to believe to have judged right; so that in Civil Controversies every honest and understanding Man is fit to be a Judg, but in Religion none but he that is infallible.

5. In Civil Causes there is Means and Power, when the Judg has decreed to compel Men to obey his Sen­tence: otherwise I believe Laws alone would be to as much purpose for the ending of Differences, as Laws and Judges both. But all the Power in the World is neither fit to convince, nor able to compel a Man's Conscience to consent to any thing: Worldly Terror may prevail so far, as to make Men profess a Religion which they believe not, (such Men, I mean, who know not that there is a Heaven provided for Mar­tyrs, and a Hell for those that dissemble such Truths as are necessary to be professed) but to force either any Man to believe what he believes not, or any ho­nest Man to dissemble what he does believe, (if God commands him to profess it) or to profess what he does not believe, all the Powers in the World are too weak, with all the Powers of Hell to assist them.

7. In Civil Matters it is impossible Titius should hold the Land in question, and Sempronius too; and therefore either the Plaintiff must injure the Defen­dant by disquieting his Possession, or the Defendant wrong the Plaintiff, by keeping his Right from him. But in Controversies of Religion the Case is other­wise; I may hold my Opinion, and do you no wrong, and you yours, and do me none. Nay, we may both of us hold our Opinion, and yet do our selves no harm, provided the Difference be not touching any thing necessary to Salvation, and that we love Truth so well, as to be diligent to inform our Conscience, and con­stant in following it.

Concerning Errors Damnable, or not Damnable.

Ch. 3. N. 52. I Answer, that these Differences be­tween Protestants concerning Errors Damnable, and not Damnable: Truths Fundamental, and not Funda­mental, may be easily reconciled; for either the Er­ror they speak of may be purely and simply involuntary, or it may be, in respect of the cause of it, voluntary: If the Cause of it be some voluntary and unavoidable Fault, the Error is it self sinful, and consequently in its own Nature damnable; as if by negligence in seeking the Truth, by unwillingness to find it, by Pride, by Obstinacy, by desiring that Religion should be true which suits best with my Ends, by fear of Mens ill Opinion, or any other worldly Fear, or any worldly Hope, I betray my self to any Error contra­ry to any Divine revealed Truth, that Error may be justly stiled a Sin, and consequently of it self to such an one damnable; but if I be guilty of none of these Faults, but be desirous to know the Truth, and dili­gent in seeking it, and advise not at all with Flesh and [Page 13]Blood about the choice of my Opinions, but only with God, and that Reason that he hath given me: If I be thus qualified, and yet through humane Infirmity fall into Error, that Error cannot be damnable. Again, the Party erring, may be conceived either to die with Contrition, for all his Sins known and unknown, or without it: If he die without it, this Error in it self if damnable, will be likewise so unto him; if he die with Contrition (as his Error can be no Impediment but he may) his Error, though in it self damnable to him, according to your Doctrine, will not prove so.

Of using Force in Matters of Religion.

Ch. 5. N. 96. But they endeavoured to force the So­ciety, whereof they were parts, to be healed and reformed as they were; and if it refused, they did, when they had Power, drive them away, even their Superiors, both Spiritual and Temporal, as is notorious. The Proofs hereof are wanting, and therefore I might defer my Answer until they were produced, yet take this be­fore-hand: If they did so, then herein, in my Opi­nion, they did amiss; for I have learnt, from the An­cient Fathers of the Church, that Nothing is more a­gainst Religion, than to force Religion; and of St. Paul, The Weapons of the Christian Warfare are not Carnal: And great Reason; For humane Violence may make Men counterfeit, but cannot make them believe, and is therefore fit for nothing, but to breed Form without, and Atheism within. Besides, if this means of bring­ing Men to embrace any Religion were generally used, (as if it may be justly used in any place, by those that have Power, and think they have Truth, certainly they cannot with reason deny, but that it may be used in [Page 14]every place, by those that have Power as well as they, and think they have Truth as well as they) what could follow but the maintenance perhaps of Truth, but per­haps only of the profession of it in one place, and the oppression of it in an hundred? what will follow from it, but the preservation perhaps of Unity, but perad­venture only of Uniformity in particular States and Churches; but the immortalizing the greater and more lamentable Divisions of Christendom and the World? And therefore what can follow from it, but perhaps in the judgment of carnal Policy, the temporal Benefit and Tranquillity of Temporal States and Kingdoms, but the infinite Prejudice, if not the dissolution of the Kingdom of Christ? And therefore it well becomes them who have their Portion in this Life, who serve no higher State than that of England, or Spain, or France, nor this nei­ther, any further than they may serve themselves by it; who think of no other happiness but the preser­vation of their own Fortunes and Tranquillity in this World; who think of no other means to preserve States but humane Power and Machiavilian Policy, and believe no other Creed but this, Regi aut Civita­ti Imperium habenti nihil unjustum quod utile! Such Men as these it may become to maintain by worldly Power and Violence, their State, Instrument, Reli­gion: For if all be vain and false (as in their Judg­ment it is) the present whatsoever is better than any, because it is already setled: An alteration of it may draw with it change of States, and the change of State the subversion of their Fortune; but they that are indeed Servants and Lovers of Christ, of Truth, of the Church, and of Mankind, ought, with all cou­rage, to oppose themselves against it as a common Ene­my of all these.

They that know there is a King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, by whose Will and Pleasure Kings and Kingdoms stand and fall; they know that to no King or State any thing can be profitable which is unjust, and that nothing can be more evidently unjust, than to force weak Men by the Profession of a Reli­gion which they believe not, to lose their own Eternal Happiness, out of a vain and needless fear, lest they may possibly disturb their temporal Quietness, there being no danger to any State from any Mans Opinion, un­less it be such an Opinion by which Disobedience to Authority or Impiety is taught or licensed; which sort I confess may justly be punished as well as other Faults; or unless this sanguinary Doctrine be joyned with it, That it is lawful for him by human Violence to enforce others to it.

Chap. 4. N. 16. This presumptuous imposing of the Senses of Men upon the Words of God, the special Senses of Men upon the general Words of God, and laying them upon Mens Consciences together under the equal Penalty of Death and Damnation. This vain Conceit, that we can speak of the things of God bet­ter than the words of God; this deifying our own Interpretations, and tyrannous enforcing them upon others; this restraining of the Word of God, from that Latitude and Generality, and the Understandings of Men from that Liberty wherein Christ and the Apostles left them, This Per­swasion is no Singula­rity of mine, but the Do­ctrine which I have learned from Divines of great Learning and Judgment. Let the Reader be pleased to peruse the seventh Book of Acont. de Str [...]t. Satanae, and Zanch. his last Oration delivered by him after the composing of the Discord between him and Amervachius, and he shall confess as much. is, and hath been the only Foun­tain of all the Schisms of the Church, and that which makes them immortal: The common Incondiary of Christendom, and that which (as I said before) tears [Page 16]in pieces not the Coat, but the Bowels and Members of Christ; Ridente Turca, nec dolente Judico, take a­way these Walls of Separation, and all will quickly be one. Take away this Persecuting, Burning, Cursing, Damning of Men for not subscribing to the words of Men, as the words of God; require of Christians only to believe Christ, and to call no Man Master but him only; let those leave claiming Infallibility, that have no Title to it; and let them that in their Words dis­claim it, disclaim it likewise in their Actions. In a word, take away Tyranny, which is the Devils In­strument to support Errors, and Superstitions, and Impieties, in the several parts of the World, which could not otherwise long withstand the Power of Truth.

I say, take away Tyranny, and restore Christians to their just and full Liberty of captivating their Un­derstanding to Scripture only: and as Rivers, when they have a free Passage, run all to the Ocean; so it may well be hoped by God's Blessing, that universal Liberty thus moderated, may quickly reduce Christen­dom to Truth and Unity. These Thoughts of Peace (I am perswaded) may come from the God of Peace, and to his Blessing I recommend them.


Printed for Fr. Smith, at the Elephant and Castle in Pope's-head-Alley in Cornhill. 1689.

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