An Ancient Poem of Catholic Apologetics

This poem came from the hand of an anonymous Catholic convert in England in 1583 A.D. It was in a book of Catholic apologetics called “Love of the Soule.” At the end of the book, this poem appears and asks the Protestant reader a number of questions about the nature of the Church and tries to prove, in lyrical form, that the Catholic Church is true. Note: I did some significant editing. I updated the spelling of the words, I added a few words in certain lines to clarify the meaning, and I changed two terms: “window hie” to “windowside” and “darnell” to “weedlings.”

I Pray Thee Protestant - 1583 A.D.
From the book “Love of the Soule”

I pray thee, Protestant, bear with me,
To ask thee questions two or three;
And if an answer you can make,
More of thy counsel I will take.
If not, then must thou be content
That I remain, as I am bent,
A Roman Catholic to be,
Which was a Protestant once with thee;
But now am gone away from you,
To those I take for Christians true.

Many and sundry sects appear
Now in the world, both far and near;
The Protestant, the Puritan,
The Calvinist, and Zwinglian,
The Brownist, and the Family of Love,
And many more that I can prove;
Beside the Roman faith truly,
Which Protestants call Papistry.
All these are Christ’s true church, they say;
But now on which shall my soul stay?

All these with Rome in very deed
Rehearse all articles of the creed,
And every one of them still saith,
Theirs is the true Catholic faith.
But how should I, amongst all these,
Know truth from falsehood, God to please?
This is the thing that still I seek,
To know the true Church Catholic,
The fellowship and company
Of holy men in unity.

THE CHURCH OF ROME CATHOLIC.

I in your Bibles thus have read,
The Church must through the world be spread;
For Christ he his apostles sent,
With power and with commandment,
That to all nations they should go,
To preach and to baptize also.
What company then took in hand
To win and to convert this land,
With other countries far and near,
But Rome, our mother Church most dear?

Saint Paul in his Epistle saith,
The Romans had the Catholic faith,
And was so far forth renowned,
That none like it was published
Throughout the world in places all,
To be the truth universal.
If yours in England had been so,
Then to your churches I would go;
But till you prove your faith thus clear,
To yours I will no more come near.

We read in the prophet Malachi,
There shall be offerings far and nigh;
A clean oblation sacrifice
From place where now the sun doth rise
Unto the setting of the same.
O, what is that? I pray thee, name.
If this be not the holy Mass,
I’ll be a Protestant as I was:
Wherefore resolve me speedily,
If you will have my company.

In the eighteenth Psalm there it is found,
That all the world shall hear their sound:
That is to say, shall understand,
In every nation, realm, and land,
That Rome, and too the faith of Rome,
Is universal without doom.
Go where you will the world throughout,
And Rome is famous without doubt.
And if this mark you do not want,
Then presently I will recant.

THE CHURCH OF ROME’S CONTINUANCE.

This is another mark most sure,
The faith of Christ must still endure;
According as our Saviour said,
When for Saint Peter once he prayed:
Simon, thy faith shall never fail;
The gates of hell shall not prevail;
The Holy Ghost your Comforter,
He shall remain with you ever;
And myself, your surest friend,
Will be with you to the world’s end.

Saint Paul doth plainly write, and says,
There shall be in the Church always
Apostles, prophets, and such like,
That for the flock of Christ shall seek,
And by their preaching bring them home,
Of Jews and Gentiles, where they roam.
Our Church have these, and many more,
Which labour thus, and bide much woe.
If this be false, and not at Rome,
Then will I be converted soon.

THE CHURCH VISIBLE.

This is another mark most clear:
The Church of God must still appear,
And as a city on a hill,
So must we see it flourish still;
And as a candle shining bright,
So must God’s Church appear in sight.
Our Saviour says, If one offend,
And will not by rebukes amend,
Esteem him as a wicked man,
A heathen or a publican.

OF SUCCESSION.

And is not that the Church most true,
Wherein succeeded, still in view,
Of bishops some two hundred, three,
As you in histories may see?
Saint Peter first, and then the rest,
Which have the people taught and blest?
Show me this mark once among you,
And I will say your faith is true.
If not, it is the Church of Rome
That I will cleave unto for doom.

Cont’d next post

Cont’d from last post

OF THEIR UNITY.

There is another mark also,
By which the true Church you may know;
And that indeed is unity,
Set out in many a simile
By Christ our Saviour; who foretold
Of one shepherd, and one sheepfold;
One spouse; one husband her to love;
One darling dear, and one fair dove:
One faith, one baptism is here,
And no dissention does appear.

THEIR HOLINESS.

You Protestants do daily read,
In Nicene and Apostles’ creed,
The Church of God must holy be,
Which we perform in each degree;
Most holy men and sacrifice,
Sweet service and fine ceremonies;
Seven sacraments we have always,
Double and triple holy days;
Virgins and saints, martyrs, and all,
Be ours, and you have none at all.

A SPEECH TOUCHING HERETICS, SCHISMATICS, ETC.

Our Saviour warns us to have care,
And of false prophets to beware;
Which in his name to us will come,
Not sent by him, and yet they run;
Strong thieves, not entering in aright
By Christ the door; but in the night
They break in at the windowside,
And steal that none may them espy:
Their coming is not to do good,
But like to wolves they thirst for blood.

Yet in sheep’s clothing these do go,
Because God’s people should not know
But that they are his pastors sure,
Which Christ has sent with doctrine pure,
To teach, to preach, to set, and sow,
That Christ in the end might reap and mow:
But when their seeds are somewhat sprung,
They prove but tares and weedlings young;
Thistles and thorns so are they found,
Choking and cumbering the ground.

These live even as they want truly:
Their god we see is their belly;
Like dogs and foxes so they range;
Sects they devise, and schisms strange;
Heaping upon themselves damnation,
For living after such a fashion.
These notes and marks we find in you,
More than in any Turk or Jew,
Who do deny the name of Christ,
And do not make them any priest.

You say, that your faith did appear
To be the truth six hundred years:
But tell me then, Sir, if you can,
When Popery at first began?
Where were the servants of the Lord?
Did none of them then speak a word?
Where were the feeders of the sheep?
Were they all dead, or fast asleep?
Did none of them defend the truth,
But was controlled in age and youth?

Did now St. Peter’s strong faith fail?
And did the gates of hell prevail?
Or did the salt his savour lose?
Did Christ some other spouse then choose?
Or was truth’s pillar overthrown,
By which all truth was to be known?
If this were so, Christ’s word so plain,
And promises, must be but vain;
Which was that heaven and earth should quail,
Before his word one jot should fail.

Where have you been so long a time?
And unto whom did your light shine?
Where did your chiefest pastor sit?
Who kept your keys, your helm, and ship?
Show us some churches you have built,
As we can show where you have spilt.
What, were all damned eternally,
That were not of your company?
How might a man have found you out,
To hear and help in things of doubt?

When Luther, like a lying friar,
One whom the devil did inspire,
Did break his vow to wed a nun,
Even then your heresy begun,
And favored was in Saxony
By dukes that loved liberty;
And in king Edward’s time again
It began to grow and spread in men.
A thousand years, you write and say,
That papistry did bear the sway.

And during all that time and space
We say you did not show your face.
Who kept the holy Scriptures then
From hands of wild and wicked men?
Who had authority to ordain
Bishops, doctors, and priests, again?
For he that came in without order,
Comes as a thief to steal and murder:
He is a wolf, and not a priest;
An enemy, no friend to Christ.

And one thing more doth make me muse,
That our priests you did not refuse
To say your service, and to sing
A psalme of David. Note that thing.
This man a benefice might have,
If he at any time did crave.
Like Jeroboam, so dealt ye,
And took all sorts of each degree:
A worthy mingle-mangle then
Was made of you, for lack of men.
How may your Church make any priest,
If she be not the Church of Christ?
Answer these questions, if you can,
And I will be a Protestan.

But while your answer you devise,
I counsel all men that are wise
To hold the faith maintained here
The space of fifteen hundred years,
Or of one thousand at the least;
From which who turns shall prove a beast.
Saint Augustine our apostle was,
Who came from Rome and here said Mass:
He first arrived here in Kent,
And so to other places went.
His faith came from pope Gregory,
Which faith was kept successively
By many bishops, as we read,
From Peter’s time, who was the head:
Who learned his faith of Christ, I say,
To whom be praise now and always.
Amen. Amend.

And a few decades later, a Protestant writer came out with a verse-by-verse rebuttal.

The Papists request.

I Pray thee, Protestant, beare with me,
to aske thee questions 2. or three:
And if an answere thou cāst make,
more of thy counsell I will take.
If not, then must thou be content,
that I remayne as I am bent,*
A Romane Catholike to bee,
which was a Protestant once with thee:
But now am gone away from you,
to those I take for Christians true.

The Protestants answere.

I Am content, Sir Catholike,
to heare & grant the thing you seek:
But how should I assured be,
that you will then be rulde by mee,
When in your Lawe it is set downe,
you may break faith with King & Clown?
Well, yet if God and learned men
will giue me leaue to vse my pen,
I answere will (though simply)
your questions drawne from Popery.

The whole thing may be viewed here

thanks for sharing.

:thumbsup: I wish there was still popular interest in religious controversies. We would have back-and-forths like this in more places than just apologetics forums.

In my opinion, the Catholic has the better of the fight. One of my favorite parts is where he discusses the antiquity of the Church and the Protestant responds that the Catholic Church departed from the gospel: “We grant [that] truth must still endure…but…we…hold the faith of Christ… Your doctrine is a dung-hill heap.”

It’s like this author doesn’t really care that his church just started up a few decades ago. That the Catholic Church was there from the beginning means nothing, to him, even though Scriptures were cited about the Church enduring forever. He just says it’s the Truth that endures forever, as if the Bible doesn’t say the Church endures forever too.

The Protestant does have an interesting theory here:

“The true Church was eclipsed then [in the time of Boniface III]… A thousand years this held out so, / that Christ’s true flock you could not know, / But by their persecution sharp, / which they endured with willing heart.”

If a sect existed from the 600s all the way until Martin Luther that taught protestant ideas, and were persecuted, how come nobody wrote about the heresy they were persecuting during all that time that supposedly taught these protestant ideas? They wrote about all the other sects they encountered, why not this one? The better conclusion is that the protestant doctrines really hadn’t been heard of for 1000 years, which is proof that protestant doctrine is not true, because even this author admits that the Bible said the true Church (doctrine included) would endure forever.

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