MONTAGU, Richard

The acts and monuments of the church before Christ Incarnate

London, Miles Flesher and Robert Young, 1642


FIRST EDITION. Folio. pp. [iv], 307, [i], 313-552. [A]², B-2C⁶, 2D⁴, 2E-3A⁶. Roman letter, some Italic and Greek. Title within double line rule, small woodcut printer’s device, historiated and floriated woodcut initials, woodcut head and tail-pieces, C18 autograph ‘Ro Britiffe’ at head of title. Light age yellowing, margins of title browned, rare marginal spot of mark. A very good copy crisp and clean in contemporary calf, covers bordered with a double blind rule, spine with raised bands blind ruled in compartments, gilt armorial device of Harbord Harbord, 1st Baron Suffield in one compartment, a.e.r. head and tail, joints and corners worn, lacking label.

First edition, published posthumously, a year after the author’s death, of this controversial work intended to help mend the schism between the Church of England and the Vatican by the celebrated anglican Bishop Montague. Richard Montague was educated at Eton and Cambridge, became chaplain to James I, Bishop of Chichester in 1628 and of Norwich in 1638. He disliked the extremes of both Calvinism and Romanism, a position which did little to ingratiate him with either group. In the present work Montagu examines Jewish doctrine and practices before the birth of Jesus, and their implications for Christianity; in doing so he argues strongly against Casaubon, Scaliger, and other Protestant scholars, while defending the Catholic Baronius and his Annales Ecclesiastici. “The importance of Foxe’s history of martyrdom in the struggle for the identity of the English Church is confirmed by the fact the Bishop of Norwich Richard Montagu, .., published posthumously his own volume of Acts and Monuments in 1642, when the argument in England was almost lost, for the next eighteen years at least. The difference between his view of the Church and that propounded in the ‘Song of Songs’ is shown in the full title for the work: ‘The acts and monuments of the church before Christ Incarnate.’ The very idea that the church could exist before the coming of Christ was anathema to those who believed that the Church was ‘His Bride’: Montagu argued that there always had been a visible church in existence, that the Synagogue was indistinguishable from the Church, that good works were acceptable to God even in Pagans. Nothing could be more objectionable to those who believed in the predestinating love of God singled the Church out from the rest of corrupt humanity, protected her and gave her privileges and especial favours which demanded complete devotion and spiritual-mindedness in return.” Elizabeth Clarke ‘Politics, Religion and the Song of Songs in Seventeenth-Century England.’

“For the first time, some writers expressed a general distaste for the religious controversy per se, in terms which included the Roman Church. Richard Montagu [in the Acts and Monuments] contrasted the mildness and brotherly love exhibited by the fathers of the early church, despite their differences of opinion, with the temper of ‘these days of gall and wormwood’, in which all was perverted by private interests and opinions. ‘It is mens delight’, he observed, ‘to engarboyle the Church upon high termes of Heresie, Recusancie, Separation, most commonly for points of that nature and assise, which no way advance or impeach salvation.’ The needless controversies of ‘our contentious times’ led to a more general ‘neglect and contempt of the Truth’”. Anthony Milton. ‘Catholic and Reformed: The Roman and Protestant Churches in English.’

From the library of Harbord Harbord, (armorial device gilt on spine) 1st Baron Suffield (1734 – 1810), a British landowner and politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1756 to 1784 when he was raised to the peerage as Baron Suffield. The book came to him through his wife’s family; his wife Elizabeth Britiffe, was daughter of Robert Britiffe, Recorder of Norwich. (autograph at head of title). His younger son Edward was a radical politician and anti-slavery campaigner.

ESTC R3327. Wing M2469. Lowndes IV 1588.
Stock Number: L2376b Categories: , ,

In stock