There is no man who is regarded both by themselves and by others as so much in accord with the modern mediaeval school as Archbishop Laud. The following passages will show how entirely unfounded is the belief that Laud looked with any tenderness on the Roman Church, and how little support can be derived from him for any preference of unreformed to reformed doctrines.
The Roman Church
The Church of Rome neither is nor was “the right Church.” A particular Church it is and was, and in some times right and in some times wrong, and then in some things right and in some things wrong; but “the right Church” or “the Holy Catholic Church ” it never was, nor ever can be, and, therefore, was not such before Luther and others left it or were thrust from it. A particular Church it was. The Church of Rome both was, and was not, a “right” or orthodox Church before Luther made a breach in it. For the word before may look upon Rome and that Church a great way off or long before; and then, in the prime times of it, it was a most right and orthodox Church. But it may look also nearer home and upon the immediate times before Luther, or some ages before that; and then in those times Rome was a corrupt and a tainted Church, far from being right. The word before includes the whole time before Luther, in part of which time that Church of Rome was right and in other part it was wrong. It is no news that any particular Church, Roman as well as another, may once have been right and afterwards wrong and in far worse case. And so it was in Rome after the enemy had sown tares among the wheat. So, though it was once right, yet the tares, which grow thick in it, are the cause why it is not so now. And then though that Church did not depart from the Protestants Church, yet if it gave great and just cause for the Protestant Church to depart from the errors of it, while it in some particulars departed from the truth of Christ, it comes all to one for this particular, that the Roman Church, which was once right, is now become wrong by embracing superstition and error. … I never granted that the Roman Church either is or was “the right Church.” It is too true that there is a miserable rent in the Church, and I make no question but the best men do most bemoan it. But I never said nor thought that the Protestants made this rent. The cause of the schism is yours; for you thrust us from you, because we called for truth and redress of abuses. For a schism must needs be theirs, whose the cause of it is (Conference with Fisher, 21).
That there are errors in doctrine, and some of them such as most manifestly endanger salvation in the Church of Rome, is evident to them that will not shut their eyes (ibid. 24).
The Church of Rome hath in all ages maintained the faith unchanged in the expression of the Articles themselves; but it hath in the exposition both of the Creeds and Councils quite changed and lost the sense and the meaning of some of them. So the faith is in many things changed both for life and belief, and yet seems the same. Now that which deceives the world is, that because the bark is the same, men think this old decayed tree is as sound as it was at first, and not weather-beaten in any age. But when they make me believe that painting is true beauty, I will believe too that Rome is not only sound but beautiful (ibid. 37).
The Romanists dare not believe but as the Roman Church believes; and the Roman Church at this day doth not believe the Scripture and the Creeds in the sense in which the ancient Primitive Church received them. For the Primitive Church did not acknowledge a purgatory in a side part of hell; nor did it ever interpret away half the sacrament from Christ’s own institution (which to break, Stapleton confesses expressly is a damnable error); nor make the intention of the priest of the essence of baptism; nor believe worship due to images; nor dream of a Transubstantiation, which at this day is a scandal to both Jew and Gentile and the Church of God. I have mentioned here more instances than one, in some of which they have erred in the foundation or very near it. But for the Church of England, let A. C. instance, if he can, in any one point in “which she hath departed from the foundation” (ibid. 38).
The truth is, you do hold new devices of your own, which the Primitive Church was never acquainted with; and some of them, so far from being conformable, as that they are little less than contradictory to Scripture; in which particulars and divers others the Scriptures are not interpreted by “unanime consent of Fathers” or “Definitions of Councils,” unless perhaps by some late Councils packed on purpose to do that ill service. I pray, whose device was Transubstantiation, and whose, Communion under one kind, and whose, deposition and unthroning, nay killing, of princes, and the like, if they were not yours? Neither is any Jesuit able to show any Scripture, interpreted by “unanime consent of Fathers of the Primitive Church,” to prove any of these, nor any “definition of Councils,” but only Lateran for Transubstantiation, and that of Constance for the Eucharist in one kind, which two are modern, at least far downwards from the Primitive Church, and have done more mischief to the Church by those determinations than will be cured, I fear, in many generations (ibid. 38).
Titles enough are given to the Roman Church, and I wish she deserved them all, for then we should have peace. But it is far otherwise. “One” she is, as a particular Church, but not “the one.” “Holy” she would be counted; but the world may see, if it will not blind itself, of what value holiness is in that court and country. “Catholic” she is not in any sense of the word, for she is not the universal, and so not Catholic in extent; nor is she sound in doctrine, and in things which come near upon the foundation too; so not Catholic in belief; nor is she the “prime mother Church” of Christianity; Jerusalem was that; and so not Catholic as a fountain or original or as the head or root of the Catholic (ibid).
Is there no superstition in adoration of images? None in invocation of saints? None in the adoration of the sacrament? Is there no error in breaking Christ’s own institution of the sacrament, by giving it but in one kind? None about purgatory? About common prayer in an unknown tongue, none? These and many more are in the Roman religion. And it is no hard work to prove every one of them to be error or superstition or both. But these things which the Church of England charges upon the Roman party to be superstitious and erroneous, are not held or practised in or by the Universal Church generally either for time or place. The Bishop and Church of Rome have in this particular of judging controversies taken that authority to themselves which neither Christ nor His Church Catholic did ever give them (ibid. 39).
While they seek to tie all Christians to Rome by a divine precept, their ambition of sovereignty is one main cause that Jerusalem, even the whole Church of Christ, is not at unity in itself this day (Sermon III.).
Rome hath not the gift, nor her bishop neither (Conference, 3).
If this company of men be infallibly assisted, whence is it that this very company have erred so dangerously as they have, not only in some other things, but even in this particular, by equalling the tradition of the present Church to the written Word of God? Which is a doctrine unknown to the Primitive Church, and which frets upon the very foundation itself by jostling with it. So belike, he that hath but half an indifferent eye may see this assisted company have erred, and yet we must wink in obedience and think them infallible (ibid. 16).
For my own part I am clear of Jacobus Almain’s opinion: “And a great wonder it is to me, that they which affirm the Pope cannot err, do not affirm likewise that he cannot sin. And I verily believe they would be bold enough to affirm it, did not the daily works of the Popes compel them to believe the contrary.” For very many of them have led lives quite contrary to the gospel of Christ; nay, such lives as no Epicurean monster, storied out to the world, hath outgone them in sensuality or other gross impiety, if their own historians be true. Take your choice of John XIII. about the year 966, or of Sylvester II. about the year 999, or John XVIII. about the year 1003, or Benedict IX. about the year 1003, or Boniface VIII. about the year 1294, or Alexander VI. about the year 1492. And yet these and their like must be infallible in their dictates and conclusions of faith. Do your own believe it? Surely no. Lyra says expressly that many Popes, as well as other inferiors, have not only erred but even quite apostatized from the faith. And yet now nothing but infallibility will serve their turns. … I would fain know, since this had been so easy a way either to prevent all divisions about the faith, or to end all controversies did they arise, why this brief but most necessary proposition, “The Bishop of Rome cannot err in his judicial determinations concerning the faith,” is not found, either in letter or in sense, in any Scripture, in any Council, or in any Father of the Church for the full space of a thousand years and more after Christ? But certainly, as no divine of worth did then dream of any such infallibility in him, so is it a mere dream, or worse, of those modern divines who affirm it now. Most certain it is that the Pope hath no infallibility to attend his cathedral judgments in things belonging to the faith (ibid. 33).
The Popes grew under the Emperors till they had overgrown them (ibid. 25).
The Pope in ancient Councils never had more power than any the other patriarchs; precedency perhaps for order’s sake and other respects he had. Nor had the Pope any negative voice against the rest in point of differences. No, nor was he held superior to the Council; therefore, the ancient Church never accounted or admitted him a judge; no, not with a Council, much less without it (ibid. 39).
The Catholic Church
The Catholic Church of Christ is neither Rome nor a conventicle. Out of that, there is no salvation. I easily admit it. But out of Rome there is, and out of a conventicle too; salvation’s not shut up into such a narrow conclave (Epist. Dedic. xvii.).
In all the primitive times of the Church, a man or a family or a national Church were accounted right and orthodox as they agreed with the Catholic Church, but the Catholic was never then measured or judged by man, family or nation. But now in the Jesuits new school, the one holy Catholic Church must be measured by that which is in the city or diocese of Rome, or of those which agreed with it, and not Rome by the Catholic (Conference, 20).
We confess as well as you that out of the Catholic Church of Christ there is no salvation. But what do you mean by “out of the Church”? Sure, out of the Roman Church. Why, but the Roman Church and the Church of England are but two distinct members of that Catholic Church which is spread over the face of the earth. Therefore Rome is not the house where the Church dwells, but Rome itself, as well as other particular Churches, dwells in this great universal house, unless you will shut up the Church in Rome, as the Donatists did in Africa. When did Christ give that power to an elder sister, that she and her steward the bishop there should thrust out what child she pleased, especially when she herself is justly accused to have given the offence that is taken in the house? Salvation need not be feared of any dutiful child, nor outing from the Church, because this elder sister’s faults are discovered in the house, and she grown forward for it against them that complained (ibid. 36).
The Catholic Faith
A man may believe the whole and entire Catholic Faith, even as St. Athanasius requires, and yet justly refuse for dross a great part of that which is now the Roman faith. And Athanasius himself, as if he meant to arm the Catholic Faith against all corrupting additions, hath in the beginning of his Creed these words, “This is the Catholic Faith,” this, and no other; this and no other than here follows. And again at the end of the Creed, “This is the Catholic Faith,” this and no more than is here delivered (always presupposing the Apostles Creed, as Athanasius did), and this is the largest of all Creeds (ibid. 38).
The Protestant Reformation
There is no greater absurdity stirring this day in Christendom than that the reformation of an old corrupted Church, will we nill we, must be taken for the building of a new. And were not this so, we should never be troubled with that idle and impertinent question of theirs: “Where was your Church before Luther?” For it was just there where theirs is now one and the same Church still; no doubt of that; one in substance, but not one in condition of state and purity, their part of the same Church remaining in corruption, and our part of the same Church under reformation. The same Naaman, and he a Syrian still, but leprous with them and cleansed with us, the same man still (Epist. Dedic. xv.).
Is it, then, such a strange thing that a particular Church may reform itself, if the general will not? I had thought, and do so still, that in point of reformation of either manners or doctrine, it is lawful for the Church since Christ to do as the Church before Christ did, and might do. Was it not lawful for Judah to reform herself when Israel would not join? To reform what is amiss in doctrine or manners is as lawful for a particular Church as it is to publish and promulgate anything that is Catholic. What, should we have suffered this gangrene to endanger life and all rather than be cured in time by a physician of a weaker knowledge and a less able hand? If this were practised so often and in so many places, why may not a national council of the Church of England do the like as she did? For she cast off the Pope’s usurpation, and, as much as in her lay, restored the King to his right. That appears by a book subscribed by the Bishops in Henry VIII’s time, and by the records in the Archbishop’s office, orderly kept and to be seen. In the Reformation which came after, our Princes had their parts and the clergy theirs, and to these two principally the power and direction for reformation belonged. That our Princes had their parts is manifest by their calling together of the Bishops and other of the clergy to consider of that which might seem worthy reformation. And the clergy did their part, for, being thus called together by regal power, they met in the national Synod of 1562, and the Articles there agreed on were afterwards confirmed by Acts of State and the royal assent. In this Synod the positive truths which are delivered are more than the polemics; so that a mere calumny it is, that we profess only a negative religion. True it is, and we must thank Rome for it, our Confession must needs contain some negatives; for we cannot but deny that images are to be adored, nor can we admit maimed sacraments, nor grant prayers in an unknown tongue; and in a corrupt time or place it is as necessary for a religion to deny falsehood as to assert and vindicate truth. Indeed this latter can hardly be well and sufficiently done but by the former, an affirmative verity being ever included in the negative to a falsehood. I make no doubt but that as the universal Catholic Church would have reformed herself had she been in all parts free of the Roman yoke, so while she was, for the most, in these western parts, under that yoke, the Church of Rome was, if not the only, yet the chief hindrance of reformation. And then, in this sense, it is more than clear that if the Roman Church will neither reform nor suffer reformation, it is lawful for any other particular Church to reform itself so long as it does it peaceably and orderly, and keeps itself to the foundation and free from sacrilege (Conference, 24).
The Protestants charge upon the Pope that he hath governed, if not the whole yet so much of the Church as he has been able to bring under his power, so as that he hath given too just cause of the present continued separation, and as the corruptions in the doctrine of faith in the Church of Rome were the cause of the first separation, so are they at this present day the cause why the separation continues. And further, I for my part am clear of opinion that the errors in the doctrine of faith which are charged upon the whole Church, at least so much of the whole as in these parts of Europe have been kept under the Roman jurisdiction, have had their original and continuance from this; that so much of the universal Church (which indeed they account all) hath forgotten her own liberty and submitted to the Roman Church and Bishop; and so is in a manner forced to embrace all the corruptions which the particular Church of Rome hath contracted upon itself; and being now not able to free herself from the Roman jurisdiction, is made to continue also in all her corruptions. And for the Protestants, they have made no separation from the general Church, properly so called, but their separation is only from the Church of Rome and such other Churches as by adhering to her have hazarded themselves, and do now miscall themselves the whole Catholic Church. Nay, even here the Protestants have not left the Church of Rome in her essence but in her errors; not in the things which constitute a Church but only in such abuses and corruptions as work toward the dissolution of a Church (ibid. 25).
There is peril, great peril, of damnable both schism and heresy and other sins by living and dying in the Roman Faith, tainted with so many superstitions, as at this day it is, and their tyranny to boot. I do indeed for my part, leaving other men free to their own judgment, acknowledge a possibility of salvation in the Roman Church; but so as that which I grant to Romanists is not as they are Romanists, but as they are Christians; that is, as they believe the Creed and hold the foundation Christ Himself, not as they associate themselves wittingly and knowingly to the gross superstitions of the Romish Church. And I am willing to hope there are many among them which keep within that Church and yet wish the superstitions abolished which they know, and which pray to God to forgive their errors in what they know not, and which hold the foundation firm, and live accordingly, and which would have all things amended that are amiss, were it in their power. And to such I dare not deny a possibility of salvation for that which is Christ’s in them, though they hazard themselves extremely by keeping so close to that which is superstition, and in the case of images comes too near idolatry (ibid. 35).
That was never heard of in the primitive Church, nor till the Council of Lateran (1215), nor can it be proved out of Scripture, and taken properly cannot stand with the grounds of Christian religion (ibid. 33).
Communion in One Kind
Christ’s institution is clear against that; and not only the primitive Church, but the whole Church of Christ kept it so till within less than 400 years, for Aquinas confesses that it was so in use even to his times, and he was both born and dead during the reign of Henry III. of England (ibid.).
Here their building with untempered mortar appears most manifestly, for they have no show to maintain this but the fiction of Thomas of Aquinas that he which receives the Body of Christ receives also His Blood by concomitancy, because the blood goes always with the body; of which term Thomas was the first author I can yet find (ibid. 35)
Invocation of Saints
Though some of the ancient fathers have some rhetorical flourishes about it for the stirring up of devotion as they thought, yet the Church then admitted not of the invocation of them, but only of the commemoration of the martyrs, as appears clearly in St. Augustine, and when the Church prayed to God for anything, she desired to be heard for the mercies and the merits of Christ, not for the merits of any saints whatsoever (ibid. 33).
Adoration of Images
The ancient Church knew it not, and the modern Church of Rome is too like to Paganism in the practice of it, and driven to scarce intelligible subtleties in her servants writings that defend it, and this without any care had of millions of souls unable to understand her subtleties or shun her practices. I heartily wish it were not, and that men of learning would not strain their wits to spoil the truth and rend the peace of the Church of Christ by such dangerous, such superstitious vanities. For better they are not, but they may be worse (ibid.).
The Council of Florence first defined purgatory, to be believed as a divine truth and matter of faith. The doctrine of Purgatory was not held ever in the whole Catholic Church of Christ, therefore purgatory is no matter of faith. Alphonsus a Castro deals honestly and plainly, and tells us that the mention of purgatory in ancient writers is almost none at all, especially in the Greeks, and he adds that hereupon purgatory is not believed by the Grecians to this very day (ibid.).
The Council of Trent
Is that Council legal where the Pope, the chief person to be reformed, shall sit President in it, and be chief judge in his own cause against all law divine, natural and human? In a place not free but in or too near his own dominion? To which all were not called that had deliberative or consultative voice? In which none have suffrage but such as were sworn to the Pope and the Church of Rome and professed enemies to all that called for reformation or a free council? And the Pope himself, to show his charity, had declared and pronounced the appellants heretics before they were condemned by the Council? (ibid. 27).
As Christ offered Himself up once for all a full and all-sufficient sacrifice for the sin of the whole world, so did He institute and command a memory of the sacrifice in a sacrament even till His coming again. Thus far these dissenting (differing) Churches agree that in the Eucharist there is a sacrifice of duty, and a sacrifice of praise and a sacrifice of commemoration of Christ. Therefore according to the former rule, and here in truth too, it is safest for a man to believe the commemorative, the praising, and the performing sacrifice and to offer them duly to God, and leave the Church of Rome in this particular to her superstitions, that I may say no more (ibid. 35).
We shall conclude by quoting some of Laud’s declarations in respect to his personal faith :
I have lived, and shall, God willing, die, in the faith of Christ as it was professed in the ancient primitive Church, and as it is professed in the present Church of England; and for the rule which governs me herein, if I cannot be confident for my soul upon the Scripture, and the primitive Church expounding and declaring it, I will be confident upon no other. This can never deceive me; another, namely, the faith of the Roman Church, may. Therefore I will venture my salvation upon the rule aforesaid, and not trouble myself to seek another of man’s making, to the forsaking or weakening of this which God hath given me; for I know they committed two evils which forsook the fountain of living waters to hew out for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water (ibid. 38).
I did never desire that England and Rome should meet together, but with forsaking of error and superstition, especially such as grate upon and fret the foundations of religion. That I should practise with Rome as now it stands, and to that end should confederate with priests and Jesuits, or hold secret intelligence with the Pope, or treat with him or by any agents is utterly untrue. I do here make my solemn protestation in the presence of God and this great Court that I am innocent of anything, greater or less, in this Article or any part of it (Troubles and Trial, p. 413).
I have hindered as many from going to the Roman party and have reduced as many from it, and some of great quality and some of great learning and judgment, as, I believe, any divine in England hath done (ibid.).
I am as innocent in this business of religion, as free from all practice or so much as the thought of practice for any alteration to Popery or any way blemishing the true Protestant religion established in the Church of England, as I was when my mother first bare me into the world (ibid.).
For my faith; I die as I have lived, in the true orthodox profession of the Catholic faith of Christ, foreshadowed by the prophets and preached to the world by Christ Himself, His blessed Apostles, and their successors; and a true member of His Catholic Church, within the communion of a living part thereof, the present Church of England, as it stands established by law (Last Will and Testament ).
We may add that in Laud’s Visitation Articles there is no encouragement of vestments, but there is a strict inquiry as to the zeal of the minister in converting Popish recusants.
If even Archbishop Laud had such a firm hold of Protestantism as is exhibited in the above extracts, can those who look back with desire to the doctrines and practices of the unreformed Church be regarded as legitimate successors of the seventeenth-century divines? Can even the Laudian school be appealed to in justification of their present claims? And if not in the Laudian school, where else can they find a sanction in the history of the Church of England since the Reformation?