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.
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