« PreviousContinue »
with ill opinions, and false judgement in doctrine; first to think ill of all true religion, and at last to think nothing of God himself; one special point that is to be learned in Italy and Italian books.” And that which is most to be lamented, and therefore more needful to be looked to, there be more of these ungracious books set out in print within these few months, than have been seen in England many score years before. And because our Englishmen made Italians cannot hurt but certain persons, and in certain places, therefore these Italian books are made English, to bring mischief enough openly and boldly, to all states, great and mean, young and old, every where.
And thus you see, how will enticed to wantonness, doth easily allure the mind to false opinions; and how corrupt manners in living, breed false judgement in doctrine; how sin and fleshliness, bring forth sects and heresies : and therefore suffer not vain books to breed vanity in men's wills, if you would have God's truth take root in men's minds.
That Italian, that first invented the Italian proverb against our Englishmen Italianated, meant no more their vanity in living, than their lewd opinion in religion: for in calling them devils, he carrieth them clean from God; and yet he carrieth them no farther than they willingly go themselves; that is, where they may freely say their minds to the open contempt of God, and all godliness, both in living and doctrine.
And how? I will express how; not by a fable of Homer, nor by the philosophy of Plato, but by a plain truth of God's word, sensibly uttered by David thus: these men, abominabiles facti in studiis suis, think verily and sing gladly the verse before, Dixit insipiens in corde suo, non est Deus : that is to say, they giving themselves up to vanity, shaking off the motions of grace, driving from them the fear of God, and running headlong into all sin, first lustily contemn God, then scornfully mock his word, and also spitefully hate and hurt all well willers thereof. “ Then they have in more reverence the triumphs of Petrarch than the Genesis of Moses; they make more account of Tully's Offices than St. Paul's Epistles; of a tale in Boccace, than a story of the Bible. ; -Then they count as fables the holy mysteries of Christian religion. They make Christ and his Gospel only serve civil policy;" Then neither religion cometh amiss to them; in time they be promoters of both openly; in place
again mockers of both privily; as I wrote once in a rude rhyme :
Now new, now old, now both, now neither ;
To serve the world's course, they care not with whether. For where they dare, in company where they like, they boldly laugh to scorn both protestant and papist. They care for no Scripture; they make no account of general councils ; they contemn the consent of the church; they pass for no doctors; they mock the Pope, they rail on Luther; they allow neither side; they like none, but only themselves. The mark they shoot at, the end they look for, the heaven they desire, is only their own present pleasure and private profit; whereby they plainly declare of whose school, of what religion they be; that is, “ Epicures in living, and "Abeo in doctrine.” This last word is no more unknown now to plain Englishmen, than the person was unknown sometime in England, until some Englishman took pains to fetch that devilish opinion out of Italy. These men thus Italianated abroad, cannot abide our godly Italian church at home; they be not of that parish; they be not of that fellowship; they like not that preacher; they hear not his sermons, except sometimes for company they come thither to hear the Italian tongue naturally spoken, not to hear God's doctrine truly preached.
And yet these men, in matters of divinity, openly pretend a great knowledge, and have privately to themselves a very compendious understanding of all; which nevertheless they will utter, when and where they list. And that is this : All the mysteries of Moses, the whole law and ceremonies, the Psalms and Prophets, Christ and his Gospel, God, and the devil, heaven and hell, faith, conscience, sin, death, and all, they shortly wrap up, they quickly expound with this one half verse of Horace, Credat Judæus Apella.
Yet though in Italy they may freely be of no religion, as they are in England in very deed too; nevertheless returning into England, they must countenance the profession of the one or the other, howsoever inwardly they laugh to scorn both. And though for their private matters they can follow, fawn, and flatter noble personages, contrary to them in all respects; yet commonly they ally themselves with the worst papists, to whom they be wedded, and do well agree together in three proper opinions; in open contempt of God's word, in a secret security of sin, and in a bloody desire to have all taken away by sword or burning, that be not of their faction. They that do read with an indifferent judgement * Pighius and Machiavel, two indifferent patriarchs of these two religions, do know full well that I say true.
You see what manners and doctrine our Englishmen fetch out of Italy: for finding no other there, they can bring no other hither. And therefore many godly and excellent learned Englishmen, not many years ago, did make a better choice; when open cruelty drove them out of this country, to place themselves there, where Christ's doctrine, the fear of God, punishment of sin, and discipline of honesty, were had in special regard.
I was once in Italy myself; but I thank God my abode there was but nine days; and yet I saw in that little time, in one city, more liberty to sin, than ever I heard tell of in our noble city of London in nine year. I saw it was there as free to sin, not only without all punishment, but also without any man's marking, as it is free in the city of London, to choose without all blame, whether a man lust to wear shoe or pantocle. And good cause why: for being unlike in truth of religion, they must needs be unlike in honesty of living. For, blessed be Christ, in our city of London, commonly the commandments of God be more diligently taught, and the service of God more reverently used, and that daily in many private men's houses, than they be in Italy once a week in their common churches; where masking ceremonies to delight the eye, and vain sounds to please the ear, do quite thrust out of the churches all service of God in spirit and truth. Yea, the lord mayor of London, being but a civil officer, is commonly for his time more diligent in punishing sin, the bent enemy against God and good order, than all the bloody inquisitors in Italy be in seven year. For their care and charge is, not to punish sin, not to amend manners, not to purge doctrine, but only to
* Albertus Pighius, a famous champion for the Romish cause, and one of Luther's antagonists. “ Meminerit Cardinalem Campegium, Albertum Pighium, aliosque complures suos docuisse, sacerdotem illum multò sanctius et castius vivere, qui alat concubinam, quàm qui uxorem habeat in matrimonio.'
watch and oversee that Christ's true religion set no sure footing where the Pope hath any jurisdiction.
I learned, when I was at Venice, that there it is counted good policy, when there be four or five brethren of one family, one only to marry, and all the rest to welter with as little shame in open lechery, as swine do here in the common mire. Yea, there be as fair houses of religion, as great provision, as diligent officers to keep up this misorder, as Bridewell is, and all the masters there, to keep down misorder. And therefore, * if the Pope himself do not only grant pardons to further these wicked purposes abroad in Italy, but also (although this present pope in the beginning made some show of misliking thereof) assign both meed and merit to the maintenance of stews and brothel houses at home in Rome; then let wise men think Italy a safe place for wholesome doctrine and godly manners, and a fit school for young gentlemen of England to be brought up in.
Our Italians bring home with them other faults from Italy, though not so great as this of religion, yet a great deal greater than many good men can well bear.
For commonly they come home common contemners of marriage, and ready persuaders of all others to the same; not because they love virginity, nor yet because they hate pretty young virgins, but being free in Italy to go whithersoever lust will carry them, they do not like that law and honesty should be such a bar to their liberty at home in England. And yet they be the greatest makers of love, the daily dalliers with such pleasant words, with such smiling and secret countenances, with such signs, tokens, wagers, purposed to be lost before they were purposed to be made, with bargains of wearing colours, flowers, and herbs, to breed occasion of ofter meeting of him and her, and bolder talking of this and that, &c. And although I have seen some innocent of all ill, and staid in all honesty, that have used these things without all harm, without all suspicion of harm; yet these knacks were brought first into England by them that learned them before in Italy in Circe's court; and how courtly
* “ Nondum ille, spero, oblitus est, multa esse Romæ publicarum meretricum millia, et se ex illis in singulos annos, vectigalis nomine, colligere ad triginta millia ducatorum. Oblivisci non potest, se Romæ lenocinium publicè exercere, et de fædissima mercede fæde ac nequiter delitiari.” Juelli Apol.
courtesies soever they be counted now, yet if the meaning and manners of some that do use them were somewhat amended, it were no great hurt neither to themselves nor to others. • Another property of these our English Italians is, to be marvellous singular in all their matters; singular in knowledge, ignorant of nothing; so singular in wisdom (in their own opinion) as scarce they count the best counsellor the prince hath comparable with them : common discoursers of all matters, busy searchers of most secret affairs, open flatterers of great men, privy mislikers of good men, fair speak ers with smiling countenances, and much courtesy openly to all men; ready backbiters, sore nippers, and spiteful reporters privily of good men. And being brought up in Italy in some free city, as all cities be there; where a man may freely discourse against what he will, against whom he lust, against any prince, against any government, yea, against God himself and his whole religion; where he must be either Guelf or Gibiline, either French or Spanish; and always compelled to be of some party, of some faction, he shall never be compelled to be of any religion : and if he meddle not over. much with Christ's true religion, he shall have free liberty to embrace all religions, and become if he lust, at once, without any let or punishment, Jewish, Turkish, papish, and devilish.
A young gentleman, thus bred up in this goodly school, to learn the next and ready way to sin, to have a busy head, a factious heart, a talkative tongue, fed with discoursing of factions, led to contemn God and his religion, shall come. home into England but very ill taught, either to be an honest man himself, a quiet subject to his prince, or willing to serve God, under the obedience of true doctrine, or within the order of honest living.
I know none will be offended with this my general writing, but only such as find themselves guilty privately therein; who shall have good leave to be offended with me, until they begin to amend themselves. I touch not them that be good, and I say too little of them that be naught. And so, though not enough for their deserving, yet sufficiently for this time, and more else-when, if occasion require. And thus much have I wandered from
purpose of teaching a child, yet not altogether out of the way, because this whole talk hath tended to the only advancement of