A LETTER From a GENTLEMAN in the COUNTREY To some of his Familiar Friends AT LONDON, Shewing from the PRINCIPLES of the JESUITS That their Protestations at their Death Is no Argument of their INNOCENCY.

LONDON, Printed in the Year 1679.

A LETTER From a Gentleman in the Countrey to some of his Familiar Friends at London, &c.

My worthy Friends,

AMong the manifold Occurrences which this time doth fruitfully minister for exercising of mens thoughts, and which gave me with you, while at London, plentiful oc­casion of Discoursing together; That concerning the Plot may justly challenge a chief place. The pleasant enter­tainment your friendly and kind Converse did afford me, while I was among you, doth easily engage me to adventure to transmit unto you my more serious and retired thoughts upon that Subject, being more able, both composedly to perpend, and sedately to digest them, when I am removed from the hurry and confused and contradictory noises of that place; which labour of mine, however Impolite, yet, as being plain and from your Friend, I hope will not prove troublesom, but rather ac­ceptable unto You.

You need not my Information to know, that there hath scarce any thing faln out in this Age, of Matter of Fact, concerning which the Judgments of Men do more vastly differ, than about this Plot; for many do look upon it as a thing so plain and evident, that it is to do manifest violence to our understandings and sense, to make the least question of it; besides, That they judge it to be a most abusive accusing of the Justice of our English Nation, to make any doubt thereof; since, not only the Common Juries have found the Evidences sufficient, but the Great Council of the Nation, always commended for their Solidity and Sobriety, have, as with one Voice, declared their full Convincement thereof.

Others there are, who scruple not to affirm that there never was any such thing as a Plot, and that there is as yet no sufficient Evidence produced, to convince any impartial, unprejudiced man thereof, in respect there is little or nothing for Proof, save the meer Affirmation of the Witnesses, who being Persons under such Circumstances, until the very time they pretend to make this Discovery, as ought not by their bare Testimony to have such weight in a matter of this Consequence, especially being flatly contradicted by other Witnesses. To this is objected, as Evidences of Fact, Colemans Letters, that of Pedre, and the Death of Sir Edmond­bury Godfrey. To which they make Answer, That as for Colemans Letters, they have nothing relating to the Kings Murther, which was the great Hinge upon which the success of the Plot depended. That of Pedre is only suspicious by reason of other concurring Circumstances, for of it self it could not have proved a sufficient Evidence. And as to Godfrey's [Page 4] Death, it is Answered, That although that Matter of Fact be undeniable, that he was Murthered, yet it is not so manifest by whom; since the chief Witness did once solemnly deny, what he before and since has affirmed, and there have been no improbable insinuations published, attributing it to the Contrivance of the Earl of Danby. These things I thought meet only to mention, and not to insist upon, leaving to every one to judge of the weight of the respective Reasons, as they shall see most cause: and because I do not find that in any of these, such as seek to disprove the Plot, place the greatest weight, but chiefly in the Speeches and Protestations of the Five Jesuits at their Death, therefore that is the matter I purpose chiefly to con­sider: which as I have seriously weighed in my self, so I will commit the same to writing with that candor, as I may avoid the least occasion of de­ceiving either my self or others. I love not to force my self unto the belief of a lie out of prejudice to any, nor yet refrain to believe a Truth, how­ever it may prove to the disadvantage of those I may love: as I would not have blind charity to my greatest Friends, so I would not deny true charity to my greatest Enemies, knowing the one to be no less hurtful than the other.

Abstracting then from the probability or not probability of the Plot, up­on the nature of the Evidence, or other concurring Circumstances, or how far it may be made manifest to be a very natural consequence of Popish Principles, of which much and well hath been said by others; The great Question here to be enquired into, is, Whether it be probable, that if such a thing had been true, and these Persons guilty of it, they would or could have denyed it, in such positive, express and solemn terms, as they did at the very instant of their Death? or what temptation could be strong enough to per­swade men to do that which themseves declared they did abhor, (to wit, all Equivocation or formal Prolocution whatsoever) in ipso mortis articulo? Since whatever may be the absurdities of their Religion otherwise, it is known they believe a God, a Heaven, and a Hell, and the Immortality of the Soul, and rewards and punishments for mens actions, especially the men being confessed to have been of sober and serious Conversations, accord­ing to their own Principles, and in Morals supposed far to have exceeded some men of the Reformed Religion.

I hope now I have as fully and advantageously expressed the matter, as any Roman Catholick could desire, in so few words; and I must also ingenu­ously acknowledge, that I cannot agree to their sentiment, who endeavour to get over this difficulty, by apprehending there was some secret falacy in the Prisoners Expressions at their Execution: for I cannot judge the men would place their Eternal happiness upon so mean a quibble; nor do I incline to the judgment of such as are apt to believe, that either with respect to Absolution before received, they did affirm themselves to be as innocent as the Child un­born, or that they trusted to the Absolution they might have or did receive from one another, after they ended their Speeches, as reckoning thereby, all guilt they might by such denying have incurred, would be cleansed and re­moved from them; for that seemeth to me improbable for the former Reason, in respect it is a received Doctrine of the Church of Rome, That no Absolu­tion can prove effectual, but where the Party confessing doth truly repent of and detest the evil committed, resolving to amend, which could not be in this Case.

And yet nevertheless, I think it no hard matter to conceive, that these men might in such solemn manner affirm themselves to be innocent, though [Page 3] really guilty, and that not only to preserve and advance the Interest of their Cause; but as seriously and deliberately believing that to do so; was the way to please God, and to advantage their own Souls: and this seemeth to me not at all strange, but easily imaginable, and that without the least breach of Charity or injury to those dying men, for making which appear, let it be considered.

That a true and solid Judgment of mens actions, with respect to their future and Eternal Condition, is not to be made according to our Principles, who make the Judgment, but according to theirs whose actions are to be Judged of. That may seem very hurtful and pernicious to the Soul in the Judgment of one man, which is believed to be most beneficial and advan­tageous by another; therefore they are like to mistake this case, who in charity judge hard to believe that to be true of the Papists, because our Prin­ciples would reckon it abominable. If their plain acknowledgment did not put it beyond doubts, perhaps it might be reckoned as great a breach of Charity, to believe that these men could think, that the words of a Priest could con­vert Bread and Wine to the Flesh and Bloud of Christ, and not only so, but unto the very Godhead; so that what was formerly real Bread, doth become in an instant, by the Breath of a Priest, (though the most debauched pro­fligate Villain living) that true and omnipotent God who created all things, and that blessed Lord Jesus Christ, who is the great Mediator; and that therefore to that Wafer, which both Reason and Sense assures us is still the same, is due all the Worship, Adoration, Reverence and Subjection we owe to Almighty God. Now if we may suppose, and that without breach of Charity, as surely we can, that Wise men, that men who (in a sence) may be called good men, such as believe there is a God, such as really labor for the Salvation of their Souls, seek to avoid many sins, yea, all they Judge such, for that end, and study earnestly to mortify themselves: I say, If such can believe this, and for this end, as judging thereby to please God and go to Heaven, firmly perswading themselves, they should offend God and endanger the Salvation of their Souls, if they did otherways; I would willingly know of sober men, what thing can be so strange, but the Wisest men may be supposed to do it for this end, having once drunk in a Principle, that in so doing God will be well pleased with them. If then it can be de­monstrated, that these Jesuits, upon Principles received, and from their very entring into that Profession, drunk in by them, might really, and even as Wise men so circumstantiated, believe, that such their Protestations at their Death, though contrary to the Truth of matter of Fact, was pleasing to God, and the way to advantage their Souls, then it will be no strange thing to conceive, nor no harsh thing to judge this might be done by them.

To make this then appear, I shall propose some few things out of their great Father Ignatius Loyola his Instructions and Rules to them: in his Epistle to his Brethren at Portugal, He recomends to them to excel not in Fastings and Watchings, as the other Monks, but in the renowned simplicity of a blind obedience, which obliged them to subscribe without condition to the Orders of their Superior, albeit he should have but little Counsel or Pru­dence to defend these his Orders: Moreover, to offer themselves by this obe­dience altogether in Sacrifice, renounce willingly to all their own right, for to enslave themselves and give themselves up to the Conduct of the same Superior, as they would do to that of Divine Providence, from whence he Concludes that it cannot be denied, but such an Obedience comprehends not only the exe­cution [Page 4] to do that which is enjoyned, and the will to do it cheerfully, but the judgment to make appear right and true (so far as the will can by its force bow the understanding) Injunctions and Sentiments of the Superior, adding moreover, That this renowned simplicity of blind Obedience is lost, if we move this Question to our selves, (viz.) Whether they command right or not; and there­fore we must confirm our selves in this resolution, that whatsoever the Superior Commands, is the Ordinance of God himself; And as they ought to apply themselves with all their courage and affection to believe what the Catholick Faith proposes, so also they ought to be carried by a certain impetuous blindness of the will, to do whatsoever the Superior says, being desirous to obey without any disquisition or search whatsoever, believing it was thus that Abraham carried himself, when he received the Commandment to offer up his Son. In short, That they force and subject their Will and Judgment.

And in the 6th. part of his Constitutions there are the same precepts: he wills, That they obey when they have but a sign of the will of their Superior without any express Commandment; that they ought to perswade themselves, that those who live under obedience ought to suffer themselves to be carried and governed in the Divine Providence by their Superiors, as if they were a Ca­daver which is transported any ways, or in any manner as men please, and as the Staff of an Old Man, which serves him to hold in his hand every where, and in what thing or manner he pleases to use it, and that they be perswaded, that whatsoever the Superior has Commanded is just, rejecting and overcoming (as by force) by a blind obedience all their own Opinion and Judgment, that may be to the contrary, that in service they resign up their own Will and Judgment, and have no Judgment of their own.

Having thus shewn in the express words of Ignatius, the Constitution of the Jesuits, which by Oath they do oblige themselves to fulfil; I will in cha­rity suppose, that these Jesuits who Suffered at Tyburn did honestly and sincerely enter into this Society, as being greatly perswaded in their minds, that thereby they would glorify God and advantage their own Souls; and that accordingly, they looked upon such Rules, as the most effectual means for accomplishing that end, their judgment and understanding being no less fully possest with the Faith thereof, than with the Faith of Transubstantiati­on, Infalabillity, or the Supremacy of the See and Bishop of Rome, which all understanding men know to be firmly believed by all real Roman Catholicks, as that which is a Faith necessary to lead to Heaven; and that many both Wise and Serious men among them, have and do live and die in this Perswasion. The case being then thus, may it not rationally be judged that upon Discovery of the Plot, the Superiors of these Jesuits, as well for preserving the Interest and Honor of their Religion, as for deliver­ing themselves from the imputation of so odious a Fact, did command these Jesuits, or at leastwise give them some sign by which they might understand, it was their mind they should solemnly declare in as full and ample words as could be conceived, that they were as innocent as Children unborn, of all they were charged with: for the more full and expressive the words were, there lay the greater mystery both of concealing the Plot, and jumbling mens minds concerning it; in which case is it any wonder, that these men did very readily and cheerfully herein comply with the command of their Superiors? yea, as on the one hand, it were madness to think the Jesuits such fools as not to use this knack to preserve their Religion in ge­neral, and their Profession in particular, from so great a scandal which [Page 5] was of that consequence, that the doing otherwise would have frustrated the whole endeavours and end of that Society; (those that have read the Casuists among the Romanists, will find them dispense with greater Evils than a lye sometimes to save a mans life, or a house from being burned) What may be then done to keep the Religion from Ruine? So on the other hand, it is most rational to judge, that these Jesuits would rather esteem themselves favoured, than wronged by their Superiors, in imposing upon them a necessity thus to assert their Innocency; for since (as is above shewn) their Principles did engage them to believe themselves safe, as to God and Heavenward, by their Obedience, surely it could not but be far more acceptable for them to dye as Innocent Men and Martyrs, than as Traitors and Murderers. If it be thought strange that men at their Death should hold such Principles, it may be also thought strange men should dye believing Transubstantiation, Purgatory, &c. Did not Papists dye rather than renounce the Popes Supremacy in Henry the 8ths. days? so this will not seem strange to any who consider the power and influence of once receiving or believing any Opinion in matters Religious, for its being placed upon that foot overcomes all reasoning, untill the mind be overpowred by something that can more fully perswade it. Did not Christ put this thing out of doubt when he said, In killing you they shall think they do God good Service? and we read that a certain Indian made a pile of Wood, and burned himself before Alexander the Great, and another afterwards did the like at Athens; hence that Proverb of the Ancients Tantum Religio potuit. If it be then no won­der to see a Papist dye believing Transubstantiation, it is no wonder to see a Jesuit dye obeying and answering the Rules of his Order; yea, less, since men are usually more Zealous for the performance of those extraordinary Tyes, than for the common Rules of their Religion. As for example, no understanding Papist that will be ingenuous, can deny, but it is esteemed by them a greater sin for a Priest to marry than to commit Adultery with another mans Wife, although the one be to sin against the positive Law of God, and the other only to transgress a human Constitution. So that if we will suppose these Jesuits to have been true, honest and sincere in their own Profession, we may with great charity suppose, yea, we cannot with­out breach of charity think otherwise, than that, albeit they were guilty of the things charged upon them, yet they both might and ought to have denied them, and that in such manner as they did; and that they could not have done otherwise, unless they had been false and dishonest to their own Principles, and have utterly forsaken them, which we know, and on all hands is confessed, they did not. This I shall evince by one or two Syllogisms deduced from the Maxims abovementioned.

Whoever ought in Obedience to his Superior, become blind, renounce all his own right Judgment and Will, subject himself unto the Conduct of the same Superior, as to the Providence of God, do all that he Commands, Will all that he Wills, Judge as he Judges, and perswade himself (with the same disposition that the Articles of Faith are believed, or that Abraham believed God) that all his Commandments are the Commandments of God himself: ought to obey without exception, and cannot without renouncing his Religion do otherwise.

And again, whoever swears to obey his Superior, without making any disquisition or search of his Commandments, whatever they are, and without calling in question whether he commands right or not, ought to obey without re­serve or exception, and cannot do otherwise.

[Page 6]And again, whoever ought to suffer himself, (as if he were a Cadaver or a Staff) to be transported where and to what use the Superior pleaseth, and hold certainly that whatever he commands is jast, ought to obey simply, and without any respect of the thing commanded.

This is so plain, that nothing can be said more evident, so that the only question is, Whether the Jesuits Superiors would or did so command? the probability whereof I leave to your Judgment: and I would desire herein to be understood, only to shew how these dying Jesuits might have so done according to their own Principles, to take away from such as understand not, all occasion of wondering at that, or questioning the truth of the Plot upon that head, not that I determine these did so, defacto. That I leave every one to judge as they shall see most cause, supposing other evidence sufficient; the manner of their dying need not stagger any. Much more might be enlarged upon these things I have hinted, but I resolve not to exceed the limits of a Post Letter, hoping hitherto I have not been tedious unto you, and that you will let me know your kindly acceptance of this, by transmitting to me some of those daily Essays, whereof this Season seems to be very fruitful, in doing whereof you will oblige your real Friend to serve you,

N. N.
FINIS.

This keyboarded and encoded edition of the work described above is co-owned by the institutions providing financial support to the Text Creation Partnership. Searching, reading, printing, or downloading EEBO-TCP texts is reserved for the authorized users of these project partner institutions. Permission must be granted for subsequent distribution, in print or electronically, of this EEBO-TCP Phase II text, in whole or in part.