No one has been more frequently quoted during the last thirty years as favourable to mediaevalist tendencies than Bishop Cosin. The reason of this is that in the year 1855 Dr. Barrow, Principal of St. Edmund Hall, Oxford, having been invited to edit for the Anglo-Catholic Library the final volume of Cosin’s works, inserted into it some notes on the Prayer-Book which he designated as First Series of Notes. But these notes were not Cosin’s. Their existence had long been known. They were written in an interleaved Prayer-Book which fell into the hands of Hickes the Nonjuror in 1707. Hickes made every effort to discover who was the compiler of them, but was unsuccessful. Internal evidence, however, showed that the compiler was the author of five sermons which Cosin had not and could not have written, as at the date of the compilation he was either a layman or had only just been ordained. The notes were supposed to have been based to some extent on some lectures of Bishop Overall, and therefore, though they were not printed, several copies of them were made by hand. One of these copies was by Archbishop Sancroft, and to his copy he prefixed a statement that he had transcribed them out of Mr Hayward s book, of Coton. Mr Hayward of Coton was a nephew of Bishop Overall, and is thus proved almost with certainty to be the compiler, though he might have been only the owner, of the book. Cosin had nothing whatever to do with them, but in his library, which he bequeathed to Durham, there was a copy of the book, which Dr. Barrow found while seeking for material for the volume that he was editing. In consequence of this the idea suggested itself to Dr. Barrow, who was unaware of Sancroft’s statement, that these notes might be Cosin’s. He examined the handwriting, but they were written in a large hand, whereas Cosin’s well-known handwriting is very small. He examined the tone and tendency, but they were very different from, and in marked contrast to, those of a later series of notes acknowledged to be Cosin’s. Still, the Bishop’s handwriting might have changed as he grew older, and his principles might possibly have changed too, owing to irritation at his son having become a Romanist. So Dr. Barrow determined that they were Cosin’s compilation, and published them as such. There are some valuable passages in the series, but on the whole they are far more favourable to pre-Reformation doctrines and practices than the Bishop’s genuine works, and further, being a compilation, they contain long extracts from the Jesuit Maldonatus, the originals of which are honestly given by Dr. Barrow at the bottom of the paper. These passages have again and again been quoted, not as Maldonatus , but as Cosin’s and used to prove that Roman doctrine (e.g., the propitiatory character of the sacrifice of the Eucharist) is tenable in the Church of England because held by Bishop Cosin, who took so active a part in the final revision of the Prayer-Book. When Bishop Cosin is referred to as authorising anything mediaeval, the reader may feel sure that it is the First Series of Notes that is appealed to i.e., Pseudo-Cosin.
The following extracts from the Bishop’s genuine writings will show how thoroughly Protestant he was in his rejection of all Papal doctrine, and how he declined to see any opposition between the term Protestant and Catholic when each was properly understood.
In the preface to his Scholastical History of the Canon of Holy Scripture the Bishop enumerates them as follows :
1. A new additional canon of Scripture, first made in their late Council of Trent.
2. The Church of Rome the mother and mistress of all other Churches.
3. The Pope of Rome monarch, or head, of the universal visible Church, Vicar, or deputy, of Christ.
4. Scriptures to be expounded according to the sense of the Roman Church.
5. Seven Sacraments, neither more nor less, instituted by Christ Himself.
6. Transubstantiation, and a prayer and propitiatory sacrifice in the Mass offered up by the Priest for the sins of the quick and dead.
7. Private Masses and Communion in one kind.
8. Purgatory and Masses for the dead.
9. Invocation of saints.
10. Worship of relics and images.
12. The Roman decrees to be received as the Catholic faith.
These are their traditions, wherein now consisteth the very life and being of their peculiar and proper religion, that differeth from ours and the true Catholic religion of every Church and every age before them, which, having been confirmed by Pope Pius IV’s Bull, are made so many new articles of faith. But all these new traditions, as they have no ground in Scripture, so have they as little testimony of antiquity to be brought for them, out of both which we prescribe against them all. For it is but a vain pretence of antiquity, and a mere abusing of the world, when they go about to make simple people believe that all which they profess and believe hath the consent of all ages for them, and that all the ancient Fathers and Bishops of the Church never taught nor believed otherwise than they do now (p. xxiv.).
We that profess the Catholic faith and religion in the Church of England do not agree with the Roman Catholics in anything whereunto they now endeavour to convert us. But we totally differ from them in these points :
1. The Church of Rome mother and mistress of all other Churches.
2. The Pope of Rome Vicar-General of Christ.
3. The Canons of the Synod of Trent to be received as matters of Catholic faith.
4. Seven true and proper Sacraments instituted by Christ.
5. That the priests offer up our Saviour in the Mass, as a real, proper, and propitiatory sacrifice for the quick and dead.
7. Communion under one kind.
8. That there is a Purgatory after this life in which the souls of the dead are punished, and from whence they are fetched out by the prayers and offerings of the living.
9. Invocation of saints,
10. Worship of relics.
11. Worship of images.
12. Indulgences, as they are now practised in the Church of Rome both for the living and the dead.
13. Ceremonies, such as are spittle and salt at Baptism, the five crosses upon the Altar and Sacrament of the Eucharist, the holding of that Sacrament over the priest’s head to be adored, the exposing of it in their churches to be worshipped by the people, the circumgestation and carrying of it abroad in procession upon their Corpus Christi Day, and to their sick for the same, the oil and chrism in Confirmation, the anointing of the ears, the eyes and noses, the hands and reins of those that are ready to die, the giving of an empty chalice and paten to those that are to be ordained priests, and many others of this nature now in use with them.
14. Ecclesiastical observations and constitutions, such as are their laws of forbidding all priests to marry, the appointing several orders of monks, friars and nuns in the Church, the service of God in an unknown tongue, the saying of a number of Ave Marias by tale upon their chaplets, the sprinkling of themselves and the dead bodies with holy water as operative and effectual for the remission of venial sins, the distinctions of meats to be held for true fasting, the religious consecration and incensing of images, the baptizing of bells, the dedicating of divers holidays for the immaculate conception and the bodily assumption of the blessed Virgin, and for Corpus Christi, or transubstantiation of the Sacrament, the making of the Apocryphal books to be as canonical as any of the rest of the Holy and undoubted Scriptures, the keeping of these Scriptures from the free use and reading of the people, the approving of their own Latin translation only, and divers other matters of the like nature.
All which we hold, some to be pernicious, some unnecessary, many false and many fond, and none of them to be imposed upon any Church or any Christians, as the Roman Catholics do upon all Christians and all Churches whatsoever, for matters needful to be approved for eternal salvation (Paper written for the Countess of Peterborough).
The Roman Catholics:
1. Say and believe that we are all damned, as by the Articles of their new Creed they are bound to believe.
2. They call us heretics.
3. They excommunicate us.
4. Not long since they burned us, both alive and dead, at their stakes, and when the edicts of princes restrain them not, they do so still, as by their own laws they have obliged themselves to do, which laws, if civil respects suspend them not for the time, they can put in execution at an hours warning when they please.
5. They will allow us no other burial for our dead than the burial of a dog, accounting their churches and their churchyards to be polluted if any of our people be there put into a grave, and whoever it be among them (be it a son that shall bury his father, or a wife her husband) that die in our religion, if they venture to make a grave there, and put the dead corpse either of a father, of a husband, or other the like into it, they are bound to scrape up that corpse again with their own fingers, and carry it away to be buried in a ditch or a dunghill, or where else they can find room for it. Prince and peasant are herein alike; if they be not Roman Catholics, they shall be used no better (Paper: On the State of Us who adhere to the Church of England ).
Repudiation of Roman Superstitions
The strange, new and unreasonable doctrines and practices which in the lapse of time had crept into our Church by inadvertence, or had been wilfully introduced by Romish guile, have been reformed and brought into accordance with the Word of God in lawfully-assembled synods and in Parliament.
We have no unwritten faith, as Rome has, and admit no innovations of any sort in religion, for we have put aside the vain traditions of men and new-born dogmas, unsupported by Holy Scripture and by antiquity, and we rest in the one Catholic truth, faith and religion, as handed down to us from the first ages.
We do not bow down before a picture, or a gaudily-dressed image.
We do not worship we know not what in relics, hosts and images.
We do not hold Divine Service in a language not understanded of the people.
We do not invoke those in whom we do not believe (Romans 10:14).
We do not mutilate the Holy Eucharist, and lose one half of it.
We do not recognise the Roman Church as the mother or mistress of all other Churches, or of our own.
We have utterly cut off from our Church, as unhealthy excrescences on the ancient faith, the figments of transubstantiation, purgatory, human merits, the reiteration of the sacrifice of Christ offered daily by the priests for the quick and dead, the Divine authority of the Roman Bishop over all Churches throughout the world, the decrees of the Papal Councils, and the anathemas of the Synod of Trent, which Pope Pius IV. was audacious enough to order to be received as Articles of Faith under penalty of the loss of eternal salvation. Thus we have restored our Church to its native beauty and health (Regni Angliae Religio Catholica : Prisca, casta, defaecata, vii.).
Those men who do now so busily endeavour to seduce the sons and daughters of the Church of England from the grounds and truth of our religion, which is no other than that which we have received from Christ and His Universal Church, termed, nevertheless, by them a new Church and a new religion, which began in the days of King Henry VIII. (which is as true as if they should say a sick person began then to live when he recovered from the disease and distemper that was before upon him, for we are the same Church still as he the same person that we were before, though in a better state and health of our souls, in a greater soundness and purity of religion than indeed we were before when they had to do with it and infected us), these men, I say, who untruly term us novelists, are in truth themselves the greatest novelists of any in the world besides (Canon of Holy Scripture, 31).
It is clear from all this that we have introduced no new religion into the world or into the Church. On our principles none such could be introduced, but the faith must remain in its completeness, and unaltered. It is also clear that we retain in all essentials the Christian and Catholic faith, which existed formerly, by which we, as well as our ancestors, were brought into the bosom of the Church, and which alone could save us. For abuses, corruptions, and erroneous doctrines, whether introduced by ignorance and evil days, by zeal which was not according to knowledge, or too frequently by the avarice and ambition of men, are no parts of true religion, and no more belong to the essence or body of the Church than the warts and tumours which grow upon a man’s body are parts of his body. When these excrescences are removed, a body is not changed into another, but remains the same, only restored to its previous health and natural fair appearance. The sum of the matter is this : All that could be plainly and certainly proved by the testimony and consent of Holy Scripture and of ecclesiastical traditions in the first ages in subordination to Scripture has been retained; the rest has fallen by its own weakness, and has been deliberately rejected by our ancestors. As to rites and innocent ceremonies, we have retained and instituted such as seem to conduce best to decency and order (Regni Angliae Religio, viii).
We have put away many of the idle ceremonies with which our Church was overloaded, but we have retained and still observe those which we know to have been handed down from the Apostles, and some others also which it seemed would not harm the Church or injure religion, whilst we have clean rejected all which are contrary to Scripture and unworthy of sober men (ibid. 14).
In heart and affection we enjoy constant union with all other Churches on the earth which bear the title of Christian, and profess the Catholic faith and religion, though our actual union may be prevented by distance, or misunderstanding, or persecution, and dispersion of the faithful. We desire this to be particularly understood as referring to the Protestant Churches, and we are prepared to exhibit our Christian love when a fair occasion offers, and we earnestly desire and demand a reciprocal feeling on their part (ibid.).
The reformed Churches allow us not only to bury our dead among theirs in the churchyard which they have purchased and peculiarly set apart for that purpose, but they give us leave also to use our own office and order of burial (at least, they hinder us not to do it if the Roman Catholics permit it), and to set up our monuments and inscriptions over the graves, hereby professing unity with us, both alive and dead. In all which regards we ought no less to acknowledge them, and to make no schism between our Churches and theirs, however we approve not some defects that may be seen among them (The State of Us who adhere to the Church of England).
I know it is the interest of the Pope and the Jesuits with other of the like faction to cry down the jus divinum of Episcopacy, and as I never was, so by the grace of God I shall never be, of that faction, but the question only is whether there be such an absolute necessity and precept in that jus divinum in all places and at all times as where it cannot be put in practice, then in such a case of necessity the ordination of a presbyter by a college of presbyters (though altogether against the ancient and apostolic canons, for which they are to answer) shall be utterly void and invalid to all effects whatsoever. I could tell you of Bishop Overall’s judgment herein, who was so great a patron of antiquity and the Church of England as any Bishop or priest that ever lived in it, and was wont to say, “Though we are not to lessen the jus divinum of Episcopacy where it is established and may be had, yet we must take heed that we do not, for want of Episcopacy where it cannot be had, cry down and destroy all the reformed Churches abroad, both in Germany, France, and other places, and say they have neither ministers nor Sacraments, that all is void and null that they do ” (Letter to Gunning).
Till some few men (of the Latin Church only) met lately together at Trent, the new canon, in such terms as they have devised it, was never heard of (Canon of Scripture, 4).
Adhering to the ancient Catholic Faith and doctrine of the Church, we cannot admit or approve any such new decree as it has lately pleased the Masters of the Council of Trent to make; who have not only obtruded these books (the Apocrypha) upon their own people, to be received as true and authentical parts of the Ancient Testament, but have likewise damned all the world besides that will not recede from the universal
conclusion of the Christian Church (ibid., xix.).
Form of Ordination
He (Father Robinson) desired to know:
- Whether our priests or ministers had any power to consecrate the Sacrament of the Altar, and by what words that power was given them in our form of ordination.
- Whether they had any power to offer the Sacrifice of the Altar, and by what words that power, likewise, was with us conferred upon them. I told him that, excluding their pretended and vain sense of transubstantiating the bread and wine, of a true and proper Altar, and of a real sacrificing of the Body of Christ, all which we rejected as unsound and uncatholic doctrine, we had both the one and the other power given us that is, a power to bless the elements, and of common bread and wine to make them become sacred symbols, or the Sacraments of the Body and Blood of Christ; which was as certainly given to the faithful as the Sacrament itself was received by them; and a power to offer the sacrifice of the Eucharist, which is a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, made in the name of the Church for the sacrifice that Christ made of Himself and offered upon the altar of His Cross once for all (Concerning Ordination).
A power to consecrate the Sacrament, and to make a memorial of the Sacrifice, we grant him (Father Paul); a power to transubstantiate and really to sacrifice Christ upon the altar for the quick and dead we shall never grant him, that being a new doctrine which the Catholic Church never taught us (Concerning the Ordination of Priests).
Hence it is plain that the gangrene of transubstantiation had not yet (at the end of the tenth century) eaten into the Churches of the Christian world, but that sound doctrine was everywhere retained about the Body and Blood of the Lord, and His true, but spiritual and mystical, not carnal, presence, together with the symbols of Bread and Wine, which were regarded as remain ing in their own substance after consecration (Historia Transubstantiationis).
As soon as ever Transubstantiation was established, a foundation was laid for a number of superstitions and errors, which God-fearing men could not sanction or endure; and among the believers in Transubstantiation themselves there grew up a forest of questions, inextricable and portentous, with which the schoolmen occupied themselves to such a degree that it may be truly affirmed that a perfectly new and monstrous theology, unheard of by all the ancients, and the adoration of the Host then took its birth. … But who can believe that our Lord Christ willed to institute a presence of His most holy Body in His Church of such a nature that He Himself or His Body could be given into the hands of unbelieving Jews and Turks, or could be swallowed by dogs or mice, or cast into the fire, or burnt, or used for magical incantation? I cannot go on. I shudder at what I have already quoted (ibid.).
For the same purpose (because some men thought the words might otherwise have imported Transubstantiation) were the words in the Form of Consecration altered from fiat nobis corpus et sanguis Domini to what they now are. In like sort, because the very term of offering and sacrifice, though well used of old, and in a far different meaning from that sense wherein the Papists use them, seemed nevertheless to sound their meaning, and therefore to give offence, it is altered into another expression of “Christ s precious death” only (Notes on the Prayer-Book : Genuine Series).
The word “Mass” was used by the ancients in the Latin Church with quite a different meaning than that which now prevails among the Papists. But the old Latins used the expression: “Go, it is Mass” that is, “dismissal,” and hence all the sacred acts were called by the one name “Mass,” from a single act, and that the last of all. But the word “Mass,” as it is now used by the Papists for a true and proper sacrifice of Christ offered every time to God the Father for the living and the dead, is nowhere found among the ancients. And for this reason the very word “Mass,” in its new, not in its ancient, signification, is rejected by the English Church, which desired to abolish that wrong opinion about the sacrifice of the Mass (ibid.).
He sits for ever at the right hand of God. And therefore Christ can be no more offered, as the doctors and priests of the Roman party fancy Him to be, and plainly think that every time they say Mass they offer up and sacrifice Christ anew, as properly and truly as He offered up Himself in His sacrifice upon the cross. And this is one of the points of doctrine, and the chief one, whereof the Popish Mass consisted, abrogated and reformed here by the Church of England according to the express Word of God. … Without shedding of His blood, and killing Him over again, no proper sacrifice can be made of Him; which yet in their Masses the Roman priests pretend every day to do (ibid.)
A true, real, proper and propitiatory sacrificing of Christ every time the Sacrament is celebrated, which is the Popish doctrine, and which cannot be done without killing of Christ so often again, we hold not; believing it to be a false and blasphemous doctrine ; founding ourselves upon the Apostles doctrine that Christ was sacrificed but once, and that He dieth no more (ibid.)
The priest was appointed by the first liturgy, set forth in the second year of King Edward VI. to take the bread and cup into his hands (which is still observed among us); but he was not appointed to make any elevation of them as the new Roman Catholics do at their Mass, when the priest, saying Hoc est corpus Meum, suddenly lifts up the wafer over his head and afterwards the chalice, that the people may all fall down upon their knees and worship them, which rite neither we nor any of the Reformed or Protestant Churches observe, but, in regard of the peril of idolatry, have wholly omitted. Besides, it is but a novelty as the Roman priests now use it, for in the ancient Fathers we do not read of any such custom, and when afterwards this rite of elevation came into the Church, it was not a lifting up of the bread and wine as soon as they were sacramentally hallowed over the priest’s head, nor were the people then appointed to fall down and adore them as the very Body and Blood of Christ held up between the priest’s fingers and set down again upon the table, which is more than any priest of them all can do, but this only was the order or custom of the Church: After the elements were consecrated the priest and the deacon together held them in their hands and showed them to the people, whom at the same time they admonished and invited to approach and communicate thereof, saying to them, Sancta sanctis, siquis dignus sit, accedat et participet. And other elevation and ostension than this they had none (Note on the Prayer-Book, based on Calixtus).
In all which there is not a word tending to the people’s adoration of that bread and that cup; this being a late device of the New Roman Catholics after they had brought in their novelty of Transubstantiation (ibid.).
In this (affirming that it is enough to salvation to receive Christ’s Body and Blood under one kind and form) they are not Catholics that affirm it, for the Catholic Church of Christ ever holds it necessary to follow Christ’s institution and to obey His precept, which precept they wilfully neglect and break that do not only hold it sufficient to communicate under one kind, but have also made a law to punish others for heretics that is, to burn and damn them that hold it their duty to keep Christ’s order, and to communicate under both. And this have the Roman Catholics done in their late Council of Constance and in their late Synod of Trent, wherein they have not only departed from their own ancient piety and practice, but likewise from the public and universal order of the whole Catholic Church of Christ for many ages before and since (themselves only excepted), as may, if need be, be made evident by many and clear evidences against them (Letter about communicating in one kind).
“Do this in remembrance of Me” that is, of Christ put to death, and sacrificed for us upon the Cross, which is the sacrifice that He truly and perfectly once made, and whereof we only make a commemoration or a representation, toties quoties, as often as we celebrate this His Sacrament and observe the precept which He gave us about it (Note on the office of the Holy Communion).
Because that Body and Blood is neither sensibly present, nor otherwise at all present, but only to them that are duly prepared to receive them and in the very act of receiving them and the consecrated elements together to which they are sacramentally in that act united, the adoration is then and there given to Christ Himself, neither is, nor ought to be, directed to any external sensible object, such as are the blessed elements (ibid.).
Of the bread and wine which the priest consecrated for the Sacrament, if he be careful, as he ought to be, to consecrate no more than will suffice to be distributed unto the communicants, none will remain (ibid.).
Frequency in Communicating
The Eucharist is religiously and reverently celebrated by us on the greater festivals, and on the first Sunday of every month. If any desire it oftener, and are worthy to be communicants, it may and ought to be celebrated at other times also Sundays, festivals, or week-days (Regni Angliae Religio, xvii.).
After this (the prayer for the Church Militant) those that are not about to communicate are dismissed (ibid.).
The Church’s Sacrifice of Praise
When all have communicated, the Lord’s Prayer is said by the priest and people. This is accompanied by the Church’s solemn Eucharist or sacrifice of praise offered to God in commemoration of the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ once offered on the cross (ibid.).
The prophecy of Malachi concerning the Church under the New Testament, “My name is great among the Gentiles, and they shall offer (or sacrifice) unto Me a pure obligation,” applied by the doctors of the Roman Church to their proper sacrifice, as they call it, of the Mass, is interpreted and applied by the ancient Fathers sometimes in general to all the acts of our Christian religion, and sometimes in particular to the Eucharist that is, the act of our praise and thanksgiving for the sacrifice of Christ once made for us upon the cross, as here we use in the Church of England (Note on the office of the Holy Communion).
The Papal invention that there are neither more nor less than seven sacraments properly so called, and that that must be held as part of the Catholic faith, was certainly unknown to the ancient Church and unheard of. For if it had been received formerly in the Church some one of the Fathers would have expressed it in his writing, but not one out of so many has confirmed by his authority the sevenfold number of the Sacraments. That opinion did not prevail before Hugo de St. Victor and Peter Lombard, and there is no Council earlier than that of Florence in which this sevenfold number was sanctioned, A.D. 1439. These are the fine monuments of antiquity by which this cause is defended by the Papists against our Church (ibid.).
Of bringing souls out of purgatory, or relieving them in their pains there, they (the Liturgies) say nothing at all, for they knew of no such matter, neither did the Church of old teach the people to believe it (ibid.).
We come to another impiety, the impiety of some Christians, I mean the Papists, that are ready to persuade some of you to their own errors, and say that this (Non habebis Deos alias prater me) is none of God’s commandment, and that I know not what or how many saints may be worshipped and prayed to as well as He. … It were infinite to number up all, but I trow this is sufficient to show their vanity, their impiety, their manifest contempt and breach of this precept, when they have so many gods to run to, so many helpers to trust to, besides One. And let no man deceive you, they that hold of this religion they hold of a wrong one, and one that will deceive them all at last (Sermon X.).
The Romanists impose no hands, but hold them up and over the child, so the ancient use was abolished, and the new fashions brought in without any example of the Apostles or the primitive Church (Notes on the order of Confirmation).
Confirmation is by the Church of Rome, that now is corrupted with many errors and novelties in religion, held to be a Sacrament; but we, who by the grace of God are numbered among the Reformed Churches, whereof this Church of England is, both for doctrine and discipline, the most eminent and the most pure, the most agreeable to Scripture and antiquity of all others, we hold it to be none, and yet we hold it to be a sacred and a solemn action of religion (On Confirmation).
Confirmation is ministered by the Bishop; prayers and imposition of hands are alone used, and none of the idle rites which in late times have been invented by superstitious men (Regni Angliae Religio).
His Profession of Faith
Moreover, I do profess with holy asseveration and from my very heart that I am now, and have ever been from my youth, altogether free and averse from the corruptions and impertinent, new-fangled and papistical (so commonly called) superstitions and doctrines, and new super-additions to the ancient and primitive religion and faith of the most commended, so orthodox and Catholic Church, long since introduced, contrary to the Holy Scripture and the rules and customs of the ancient Fathers (Last Will and Testament).
Can any who favour Romish doctrines or practices derive sanction from Bishop Cosin?