The full title of the following document, which comes from the University of Michigan’s Early English Books site, is Relation of the State of Religion: and with what Hopes and Pollicies it hath beene framed, and is maintained in the severall states of these westerne parts of the world. The spelling has been modernised in part, — Lionel Gossman
I should heere make an end concerning the Church of Rome, but that a question incident to the mater, which last was spoken of, beeing mooved by many, & diversly aunswered, dooth sommon me to deliver vppe my coniecture also; and that is, upon what ground of equitie or pollicie the Pope should suffer both the Iewes and Graecians to have publike exercise of their religion in Italie, yea in Romeit selfe, under his Holinesse nose, and onely the poore Protestant must be persecuted and chased, if it be possible, out of the worlde; no view of his religion to other, no exercise of it to himselfe permitted. For as for the Graeci∣ans they have a Church at Venice, with an Archbishop of Philadelphia, a Bishope of Origo, and sundry other Priests to governe it. And the Italians also doe often repaire unto thiere Masse. They have their Masse also in Greeke with leavened breade & other schismaticall ceremonies at Rome it selfe and in Naples they say their priests retaine their wives still by permission from the Pope; in regard that in these places they acknowledge the Popes preheminence and power, which at Venice they doe not, but a meere primacie of order, which the auncient Councils thought good to give him. No more do Grecians in Apuglia, and Calabria, about Otranto, and at Cassana, nor in Corfu, & other Ilands adioyning to that coast, being the old remaines of the Occidentall Grecians, and who have alwaies, and doe still followe the Greeke Church in all things, though these in Calabria, and Apuglia be subiect to the King of Spaine, and in his power to roote out when soeuer himselfe listeth. And yet euen in Italy it selfe doth he suffer them and their Religion, who never could be induced to tollerate the Protestants in any the remotest corner of his huge scattered Monarchie, though the Grecians are condemned Heretiques, even in matter of the Trinitie, and perpetuall oppugners of the Papall right and authoritie. Then for the Iewes, they even swarme in the most of the chiefe parts of Italie, at Rome specially where the least number I could ever heare them esteemed at, is ten thousand and vpwards, though others say twise as many. They haue there, at the least, fower or fiue Synagogues, both there & else-where; their Circumcision, their Liturgies, their Sermons in publique, and all that •i•t may resort vnto them: yea, in means of enriching themselves, they are so much fauoured, that in all places they are permitted to straine up their usurie to eighteene in the hundred vpon the Christian, (for among themselves they no where use it) whereas also that summe in a Christian is not tollerated, which causeth many of the Christians to use these Iewes under-hand, in improoving their unlawful rents to their utmost proportion. They have also in some places & it may be in all, a peculiar Magistrate, to decide any controversie betweene Christians and them, with particular direction to favor them in their trades. And lastly, where France hath banished that race, in Avingnon only the Popes citie are they harbored & retained. Some answere to this demand in defence of the Pope, that the Church hath no authoritie to chastice the Iewes, who never were within the Church, but are as enemies in euen termes, whereas the Protestants are either unnaturall or rebellious children, who haue flung out of the Church; or the issue of such, against whom her authoritie is endlesse, & unrestrained, to take all courses possible to reclaime them for ever. This answere seemes faultie, both as short of the question, seeing it extendeth not to the Grecians, who are in the very same role of Hereticks, & Schismaticks, flingers out of the Church; & for that there is difference betweene exercising iurisdiction in punishing an enemie, & not harboring & cherishing him, and his unlawfull and scandalous religion in our verie bosoms, as is done in Italie, who have called the Iewes in thither, yea, & stil do entice them whom Fraunce, England, & Spaine, have banished from them long since. Others leaving these quirkes of iustice, hold by the text of Charitie, That it is a Christian act to harbor a harmelesse enemie, & especially that it is of al other most befitting the Church, who hath hereby also better meanes to reduce them to the Faith: And so in fine to save their soules, which is the summe of their endevors. And in fortifying this answere, there is to bee alledged for the first point, that the Iewes have their Service in Hebrewe, and the Grecians in Greeke, which Italie understands not, yea, and that they haue purged the Hebrewe Liturgy from all points wherein they did impugne or scandalize Christianitie. And for the second point; that the Iewes are bound to repaire at some times to the Christian Sermons by which meanes some few of them have beene conuerted and more may be when God shall please so. But neither seems this answer so perfect as were requisite, for the Iews doe make their Sermons or expositions of the Lawe in the Italian language, though the text of Scripture they cite in the originall. And although they have purged their Liturgies, as they say, yet leaving them Circumcision, they tollerate that which is now intollerable. And as for their gayning of any soules among them, if they gained not more Crownes, that reason would not stand: for if any credit may be given to the Hebrewes themselues, as many Friars become Iewes, as Iewes become Friars, of both sorts some, but few of eyther. But of the good provision they have taken to convert them, and of the fruites thereof I shall speake hereafter: In the meane time, this I aske: would they suffer the English Protestants to have an English Church there, none understanding their language, neyther in service, nor Sermons, yea and purging their Lyturgy of whatsoever may seeme to impugne or deface their religion (if there be any thing in it of that offensive qualitie) as for my part I know nothing, but thinke rather, with great iudgement it was purposely so framed out of the grounds of Religion, wherein both sides agree, that their verie Catholickes might resort to it, without scruple, or scandal, if faction more then reason did not sway. Then for repayring to their Sermons they know by experience they will not be backward, especially having the opinion of great men (as some say) that it is not unlawfull. And lastly, what reason why they should not be as hopefull to gaine English mens soules as Iewes? yes, their hope is greater, else would they not bee at such cost upon the one abroad, and bestow so little labour upon the other at home. To this question they would aunswere; first, that there were more daunger of flocking away their people, if they should have but once a bare view of our Churches, as being more infectious, therefore no policie. And secondly, to what purpose the making of any such motion, what need unto us, and unto them what profit? This answer deduced from policy and profit I take to be the right answer. Also to the first principall question, and neyther of the former drawne from Iustice or Charitie; For there is no cause of any feare at all, eyther of the oppressed Grecian, or of the obstinate Iewe, bearing a marke of ignominie and reproach in all places, yea, they remaine rather as examples, and spectacles among them, of contempt and miserie; the one for the ungratefull refusall of Christ himselfe; the other for his sedition against the Vicar of Christ, as they inferre against him: whereas to give the Protestant any foot amongst them, were the next way to leave themselves no foote to stand on: On the other side, by extending pitie towards the afflicted, and dismaid Graecian, whom the verie hand of God hath laid as low as the verie dust, they saw some hope of regaining him againe vnder their subiection, which were to them a reputation and strength inestimable, and such as they cunningly by false bruits, cause the wicked daily to feede on. Then for the Iew, the profit by him is exceeding great, and greater in proportion of number then by the verie Curtesans, and that as well to the Pope, as to other Princes of Italy, to whom they pay a yearely rent for the very heads they weare, besides other meanes, to racke, and wracke them in their purses at pleasure: which gaine, as it is a peece of a cause why the beastly trade of the one; so it is the entire reason why the cruell trade of the other is permitted: they being used as the Friars, to sucke from the meanest, and to be sucked by the greatest; insomuch, that the Pope besides their certaine tribute, doth sometimes (as is said) impose on them a subsidy for ten thousand crownes extraordinarie for some seruice of state.
Now to consider a little, what probabilitie of their conuersion there is in these parts. And by the way to touch somewhat of their religion, and usage. Thus standeth their case; they haue a religion, though something strange to our conceits, as being framed, not only out of the law of the old Bible, but also out of sundry capricious fancies & fables of their Rabbins, yet so hansomly peeced and glued togither, that one part seemes to hang to the other not absurdly. And that which they hold, they are so perfit in, that they wil give both a probable account of it out of certaine Morall Philosophie, & reason, (wherin they are wel seen) as also make some shew for it out of the Bible it self, wherin they are the skilfullest men (I beleeve) in the world. And needes must they be so, setting their children to the Hebrew language at three yeeres olde, and following no other studie save of the Bible, and writings upon it all their life long, except some few that betake themselves to Physicke. Touching God and his nature: Their opinions are for the most part very honorable and holy, save that they deny the trinitie. Touching Angels, but weake, and soyled with much Poetrie, Touching the nature and condition of man, very exquisite, and for the most part, drawing neere unto truth. But for the three states of the soule of man, they run some more strange courses, holding the creation of them altogether with sundry of the antient, and others, the 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 of Pythagoras (though not to different species) and Platoes Purgatorie of Vertue and Vice, and mans course; in both they thinke not much amisse, so that to the expiation of sinne, they hold nothing necessary but the repentance of the sinners, and the mercie of the Forgiver, which in that case is alwaies readie; For reward, that it commeth wholy from the bountie of God, without desert, yet different in degree, according to the works of each man. That the generall law of all men is the law of nature onely, which who so keepes, it shall lead him to blisse, in what Religion soever, though the Hebrewes, unto whom the law of Moses was peculiarly given, by observing it shall haue a prerogative of glory.
They preferre the ciuill life before the solitarie, and Marriage before Virginitie, as being to Nature more agreeable, to mankinde more profitable, and consequently to God more acceptable. Their beleefe of the end of the world, of the finall iudgement, of the restoring of mens bodies, and of their happinesse everlasting in the height of the heauens, is good in the generall: But as they thinke it a bad opinion which some men seeme to hold, That God in his everlasting and absolute pleasure should affect the extreame miserie of any of his creatures, for the shewing of his iustice and severity in tormenting them; Or that the calamitie, casting away, and damnation of some should absolutely and necessarily redound more to his glorie than the felicitie of them all, considering that his nature is meere goodnesse and happinesse, and hath no affinitie with rigour or miserie: so contrariwise they thinke with Origen, That hell, in the end, shall be utterly abolished: And that the Divels themselues after a long course of bitter repentance and punishment shall finde mercie at his handes that did create them, That the World may bee entirely restored unto that puritie wherein Almightie God at the first did make it. And to that perfection and happinesse whereto each part of it in his severall degrees was destined by him, from whom no∣thing but goodnesse and blessednesse could proceed: Their Lyturgie in the kinde of it, is not much different from ours, consisting in Psalmes, and Prayers with sundrie short Hymnes and Responds of Lessons: One out of the Lawe, and read by some chiefe person, an other out of the Prophets, correspondent unto the former in Argument, but is read by some boy or meane companion; For they will in no sort doe honour, neyther attribute they that authoritie to any other part of the Bible that they doe to their Law, which they doe usually carrie about their Synagogue at the end of their Service in procession, with many ornaments of Crownes and Scepters, the children kissing it, as it doth passe by them. And sometimes doe they make proclamation, who will give most to their treasure, to have the honour of that time of taking out of the Law. But for the manner of performing their service and their behauiour therat, it is different from all other that ever I saw; They chaunt it in a strange wilde halowing tune, with imitating sometimes trumpets, and ecchoing one to another, and winding up by degrees from a soft or silent whispering to the highest and lowdest notes that their voyces will beare, with continual great wagging of their bodies, and exultation, as it were, in some sauage and raging solemnitie, sometimes all springing up lightly from the ground, and with as much varietie as wilde worke will receive, They weare certaine Ornaments of imbrodered linnen, cast mantle-wise about their shoulders, which are their Philacteries edged with knotted, fringe, according to the number of the Commandements, and serving as locall memories of the Lawe. The reverence they shewe, is in standing vp at times, and the gesture of adoration in bowing forwards of their bodies; for kneeling they vse none, no more than doe the Graecians; neither stirre they their bonets in their Synagogue to any man, but remaine still covered: They come to it with washed hands, and in it, they burne Lamps to the honour of God: but for any shewe of devotion, or elevation of spirit, that, yet in Iewes could I never discerne; but they are as reverend in their Synagogues, as Grammer boyes are at Schoole, when their master is absent: in summe, their holinesse is the very outward worke it selfe, beeing a brainelesse head and soulelesse bodie. For circumcision they use it to the dead as well as to the living, yet no way thinke it necessarie for the infants salvation: They are a subtill and advantagious people, and wonderfull eagre for gaine, insomuch, that whoso deales with them, needes let his wit goe with his beliefe, or else his findings shall come short to his expecting; as earnest to make Proselits as ever were their ancestors, and as obstinate against Christ as the Priests that condemned him. In other points they are, perhaps, rather to be commended than otherwise. Their care of avoiding fornication is such, that they doe marie their sons at eighteene yeares: but adulterie they would punish with death, if they had liberty; when they break the Lawe, they come to their Rabbi for punishment, yet without any particular disclosing of their fault: they kepe their fasts and feasts verie duely: But as the Christians fast the night, so they the noone alwaies: They are charitable among themselves, leaving no poore unrelieved, no prisoner unransomed, which maketh them good price upon everie pretence. And although for their usurie and guilefull dealing they are generally hated there, and handled like verie dogges, yet some of them I have knowne men of singular vertue and integritie of minde, seeming to want no grace but the faith of a Christian: Each Synagogue hath his Rabbi to expound their Lawe, to instruct their children, to decide their differences. For their Massias, they say now, seeing hee stayes so long, hee shall bee a fore-runner of the end of the world, and shall gather by his power, all nations into one folde, and so resigne them up into the handes of that eternall Pastor. But it doth seeme they expect him out of the East, whither the Spanish Iewes fled, and have exceedingly multiplyed, for those doe they holde to bee of the Tribe of Iuda, and the other in Germanie and in Italie to be of the Tribe of Beniamin, who in honour of the more noble Tribe, and to correspond with them the better, do learne the Spanish tongue which those still retaine.
But now to come to the point which I principally intended, which is, what probabilitie there is of their conversion in Italie: Three great impediments, besides their naturall and inrooted obstinacie I suppose there are which hinder it. The scandals of the Christians, the want of means to instruct them, & the punishment or losse which by their conversion they incurre. A scandall it is to see mans lawe preferred before Gods, to see so great a matter made of eating flesh upon a friday: and that adulterie should passe for so ordinarie a pastime; a scandall are all these blasphe∣mies darted up with hellish mouthes against God and our Sauiour, so ordinarily and openly, that some of them are become verie Interiections of speech to the vulgar, and othersome meere phrases of gallantry to the braver: a scandall is the forging and packing of myracles, wherein the Friars and Iewes concurre in equall diligence, the one in contriving, the other in discovering them. And surely this is an exceeding great scandall to them; seeing truth is of so pure and victorious a nature, that it refuseth to be in league with any falshood in the world, much more disdaineth to be assisted by it: neither can there bee a greater wrong done to a true conclusion, then to indevour to prove it by an untrue allegation: a scandall is the alterations which they are forced by the inquisitors to make in their Authors and monuments of antiquitie, thinking that these devises are our best evidences. But of all these altera∣tions, they keepe a note for a time: A scandall is the vowing and praying to Angels and Saints, which they hold to be the duties peculiar to God onely, and so hath it beene esteemed among them in all ages: yea, and they note that the Christians pray more often and more willingly unto Christs mother, then unto Christ himselfe, or to God. But the greatest scandall of all others, is their worshipping of Images, for which both Iewes & Turkes call them Idolatrous Christians. Now this is so much the greater, & of more indignitie, for that they generally conceiue it to be a thing which Christ himselfe expresly commanded, and that in the Gospel of Christ, written by the Evangelists themselves; that the Decalogue should be recited with omission of the second Precept, as one of their greatest Rabbines contested with me, beeing induced into that error by some Catechisme of the Christians, which he had seene with that fault. Now when they come to conference with the Priests & Friars, (as somtimes they do), they vpbraid this as a peremptorie exception against Christ: those good men deny it not for feare of scandalizing their own, but letting it passe for currant; that Christ, whom the Iewes call a Carpenters son, was an Image-maker: or howsoever, an Author of the worshipping of them, seeking to save up the gash which they have made in the plaine words of that Law which was written by the finger of God, with their speculative plaisters of distinguishing betweene the Image of the true God, and the Idolls of the false gods, of 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 & 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 of intention instrumental, & finall in worship; all which are the vnfavorest dregs to the Iew in the world, who faith; there was never yet Nation in the world vnder the Sunne, so blockish as to worship a stocke and stone, as a finall obiect, but onely as a representer of some absent divinitye, and that the heathen themselves call them the ,em>Effigies and simulacra of other; yet such Effigies, as that the divine power by his vertue, did sometimes inhabite & work miracles by, even as our Lady doth in her images in divers places of Christendome; whereby, if the poore ideot were deceived among the Pagās, to thinke sometimes that very image some diviner persō, as cleare it is, that the like befalls infinite simple christians, seeing their images either to grone or to weepe and bleede, as they doe often, and so infinite cares wrought by viewing and touching them: And for their degrees of worshipe betweene Gods image & the Saintes, they cannot perceive them, they kneele to them alike, they pray to them alike, they vow to them alike, they incence them alike, they burne candles to them alike, they clothe them alike, they offer giftes to them alike: the difference (if it be any) is in their mentall affections, which whether the blunt and undistinguishing witts of the vulgar doe observe, they suppose a small measure of discretion may coniecture. In like sort, for their distinction betweene the images of the true God, and of the false gods: they tel them that in other cases that might have his place; but now in this law, it being expounded in other places as prohibiting this base & sensuall seducing kinde of worshiping God himselfe by an image (if any image of God were possible to be made) That thus the law it selfe doth plainely deliver: thus they which received the law understood it, thus al their ho∣ly ancestors & learned doctors have still interpreted it▪ and thus hath their nation in all ages beleeved: and therefore they say, for their comming to the Christians sermons; that as long as they shall see the Preacher direct his speech and prayer to that little wooden crucifixe that stands on the pulpit by him, to call it his Lord and Saviour, to kneele to it, to imbrace it, to kisse it, to weepe upon it, (as is the fashion of Italy) this is preaching sufficient for them & perswades them more with the very sight of it, to hate Christian religion, then any reason that the world can alleadge to love it: and those be the scandalls which I heard themselves alleadge they take on that side, besides their Transubstantiation, which they can at no hand digest: The particular scandalls from the Protestants, is their mutual dissentions which they hold to proceed from the want of the unity of truth in their foundations, otherwise save for their generall exceptions against Christianity, they hold their religion very conformable to the law of Nature, which they account the principall. But were all the unneedefull scandalls in those parts removed, yet is their no good meanes there of the Iewes conversion used. They complaine first, that the new Testament, being the ground of our religion, they cannot see it. That Italian translation which they had, is called in, and taken from them, it is printed in Hebrew letters, but not in Hebrew language, at leastwise, not in such as they can understand. With Greeke and Latine their nations never medled: besides which, the Inquisitors have inhibited and taken from them, all bookes that were ever published in that theame on either side, as well those that have bin written in defence of christian religion, as also the contrary against it, alleadging they will have no disputing in matter of religion either way, much like to an Edict set up at Dola, in the french County, where the Iesuites reside, forbidding any talke of God, either in good sort, or in bad. Then lastly, for those few sermons they are bound to repaire to, seldome are they directed to the pointes they sticke on, but holde on their usuall tenour, as respecting meerely the Christians. The last discouragement to men, especially of their mettall, is, that at their conuersion to Christianity, they must quitte their goods to the Christians. And the reason is, for that in baptisme they reenounce the divell and all his workes, part whereof, are the Iewes goods being gotten, eyther of themselves, or of their ancestors by usury. Now this is such a cold comfort to a man set on the world, (as that Nation is wonderfully) that for my part I have not heard of any converted in those parts, save some Phisitians, with some of their children, who by friendship to the Pope, have obtained dispensation to retaine their goods stil, in as much as they were gotten by their honorable profession. But if on the contrarie side, the Christians would againe in their charity, give somewhat for the competent entertainment of such as for Gods sake did give up their owne, I could not but well commend that rigor of iustice, which the bountifulnesse of this mercy did mitigate and asweeten. But being no such matter, there remains nothing for a Iew converted, but to be friared, a trade which of all other they lest can fancy, as being contrary (as they alledge to Nature it selfe) which hath made man sociable, and each helpfull to other in all civill duties, a trade never commanded or commended by God, never practised nor counselled by their renowned ancestors, who received continuall instruction and inspiration from above, which none of their Patriarkes or Prophets hath given example of. Onely in three or foure thousand years, Elias and some one other, hath beene found, upon verie extraordinarie cause, to haue taken also an extraordinarie course of life, though of other nature, and to other purpose then the votaries of our times. And these are the termes that the Iewes stand on in those parts: and so must I leave them to the mercifull care of God, an unblessed and forsaken people, obstinate within, and scandalized without, indefatigable in their expectations, untractable in perswasion, worldly, yet wretched, received of their enemies, but despised and hated, scattered ouer all countries, but no where planted, daily multiplying in number, but to the increase of their servitude, and not to their power. In summe, a long conti∣nued and marked example of Gods iust severitie to abate their pride, that glory even as they in their ancestors and founders, Gods Temple, and Oracles, promises, and many prerogatives, long continuance in honourable estate and glorie, (which things, if they were sufficient to preserve any seat in the world, euen their seat had beene preserved by them) and to proclaime to the whole world, that there is no assurance of the fauour, protection, and assistance of God, (without which all falls to ruine) but in beleeving in his Sonne, and in keeping his commandements. And this also may serve touching the Church of Rome sufficient.
Sandys, Sir Edwin 1561-1629.Relation of the State of Religion: and with what Hopes and Pollicies it hath beene framed, and is maintained in the severall states of these westerne parts of the world. [URL for text] London, Printed for Simon Waterson dwelling in Paules Churchyard at the signe of the Crowne, 1605. Online version provided by the University of Michigan’s Early English Books
Last modified 10 July 2020