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stances of ignorance, incapacity, want of means to be instructed, erroneous conscience, and the like; which being very various and different, cannot be well comprehended under any general rule. But in delivering general doctrines, we must consider things as they be ex natura rei, or per se loquendo, (as divines speak) that is, according to their natures, if all circumstances concur proportionable thereunto. As for example, some may for a time have invincible ignorance even of some fundamental article of faith, through want of capacity, instruction, or the like; and so not offend either in such ignorance or error; and yet we must absolutely say, that error in any one fundamental point is damnable ; because so it is, if we consider things in theinselves, abstracting from accidental circumstances in particular persons: as contrarily if some man judge some act of virtue, or some indifferent action to be a sin, in him it is a sin indeed, by reason of his erroneous conscience; and yet we ought not to say absolutely, that virtuous or indifferent actions are sins; and in all sciences we must distinguish the general rules from their particular exceptions. And therefore when, for example, he answers to our demand, whether we hold that catholics may be saved, or whether their pretended errors be fundamental and damnable? he is not to change the state of the question, and have recourse to ignorance, and the like; but to answer concerning the errors being considered what they are apt to be in themselves, and as they are neither increased or diminished by accidental circumstances.
23. “And the like I say of all the other points, to which I once again desire an answer without any of these or the like ambiguous terms, in some sort, in some sense, in some degree, which may be explicated afterward, as strictly or largely as may best serve his turn; but let him tell us roundly and particularly in what sort, in what sense, in what degree he understands those, and the like obscure mincing phrases. If he proceed solidly after this manner, and not by way of mere words, more like a preacher to a vulgar auditory, than like a learned man with a pen in his hand; thy patience shall be less abused, and truth will also receive more right. And since we have already laid the grounds of the question, much may be said hereafter in few words, if (as I said) he keep close to the real point of every difficulty, without wandering into impertinent disputes, or multiplying vulgar and thread-bare objections and arguments, or labouring to prove what no man denies, or making a vain ostentation by citing a number of schoolmen, which every puny brought up in schools is able to do; and if he cite his authors with such sincerity, as no time need be spent in opening his corruptions; and, finally, if he set himself at work with this consideration, that we are to give a more strict account to a most just and impartial Judge, of every period, line, and word that passeth under our pen. For if at the latter day we shall be arraigned for every idle word which is spoken, so much more will that be done for every idle word which is written, as the deliberation wherewith it passeth makes a man guilty of more malice; and as the importance of the matter which is treated of in books concerning true faith and religion, without which no soul can be saved, makes a man's errors more material than they would be if the question were but of toys:"
ANSWER TO THE PREFACE.
Ap. 1 and 2. §.
If beginnings be ominous (as they say they are) D. Potter hath cause to look for great store of uningenuous dealing from you; the very first words you speak of him, viz, that he hath not so much as once truly and really fallen upon the point in question, being a most unjust and immodest imputation.
2. For, first. The point in question, was not that which you pretend, Whether both papists and protestants can be saved in their several professions? But, Whether you may without uncharitableness affirm, that protestancy unrepented destroys salvation ? And that this is the very question, is most apparent and unquestionable, both from the title of Charity Mistaken, and from the arguments of the three first chapters of it, and from the title of your own reply. And therefore if D. Potter had joined issue with his adversary only thus far; and, not meddling at all with papists, but leaving them to stand or to fall to their own Master, had proved protestants living and dying so capable of salvation, I cannot see how it could justly be charged upon him, that he had not once truly and really fallen upon the point
in question. Neither may it be said, that your question here and mine, are in effect the same, seeing it is very possible, that the true answer to the one might have been affirmative, and to the other negative. For there is no incongruity, but it may be true, that you and we cannot both be saved ? And yet as true, that without uncharitableness you cannot pronounce us damned. For, all ungrounded and unwarrantable sentencing men to damnation, is either in a propriety of speech uncharitable, or else (which for my purpose is all one) it is that which protestants mean, when they say, papists for damning them are uncharitable. And, therefore, though the author of C. M. had proved as strongly as he hath done weakly, that one heaven could not receive protestants and papists both; yet certainly, it was very hastily and unwarrantably, and therefore uncharitably concluded, that protestants were the part that was to be excluded. As though Jews and Christians cannot both be saved; yet a Jew cannot, justly, and therefore not charitably, pronounce a Christian damned.
3. But, then, secondly, to shew your dealing with him very injurious; I say, he doth speak to this very question very largely, and
effect ually; as by confronting his work and Charity M. together, will presently appear. Charity M. proves, you say in general, that “there is but one church.” D. Potter tells him, his labour is lost in proving the unity of the catholic church, whereof there is no doubt or controversy: and here, I hope, you will grant he answers right and to the purpose.
C. M. proves, you say, secondly, that “all Christians are obliged to
hearken to the church.” D. Potter answers, “It is true: yet not absolutely in all things, but only when she commands those things which God doth not countermand.” And this, also, I hope, is to his purpose, though not to your’s. C. M. proves, you say, thirdly, that “the church must be ever visible and infallible.” For her visibility, D. Potter denies it not; and, as for infallibility, he grants it in fundamentals, but not in superstructures. C. M. proves, you say, fourthly, that “to separate one's self from the church's communion, is schism." D. Potter grants it, with this exception, unless there be necessary cause to do so; unless the conditions of her communion be apparently unlawful. C. M. proves, you say, lastly, that “to dissent from her doctrine is heresy, though it be in points never so, few, and never so small; and therefore, that the distinction of points fundamental and unfundamental, as it is applied by protestants, is wholly vain." This D. Potter denies ; shews the reasons brought for it weak and unconcluding; proves the contrary, by reasons unanswerable: and therefore, that the distinction of points into fundamental and not fundamental, as it is applied by protestants, is very good. Upon these grounds, you say, C. M. clearly evinces, that “any least difference in faith cannot stand with salvation; and therefore seeing catholics and protestants disagree in very many points of faith, they both cannot hope to be saved without repentance;" you must mean, without an explicit and particular repentance, and dereliction of their errors; for so C. M. hath declared himself, (p. 14.) where he hath these words : “ We may safely say, that a man who