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mocked the messengers of the Lord, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, his wrath arose against his people till there was no remedy ; (2 Chron. xxvi. 16 ;) and O that you who are the physicians of this diseased land would specially call them to repentance for this, and help them against it for the time to come!
Having called you first to remember your misdoings, and, secondly, to loathe yourselves in your own eyes for them, I must add a third, that you stop not here, but proceed to reformation, or else all the rest is but hypocrisy. And here it is that I most earnestly entreat this honorable assembly for their best assistance. O make not the forementioned sins your own, lest you hear from God, “ quod minus crimine, quam absolutione peccatum est.” Though England hath been used to cry loud for liberty, let them not have liberty to abuse their Maker, and to damn their souls, if you can hinder it. “Optimus est reipublicæ status, ubi nulla libertas deest, nisi licentia pereundi,” as Nero was once told by his unsuccessful tutor.
Use not men to a liberty of scorning the laws of God, lest you teach them to scorn yours; for can you expect to be better used than God. And “cui plus licet quam par est, plus vult quam licet.” (Gell. 1. 17., c. 14.) We have all seen the evils of liberty to be wanton in religion. Is it not worse to have liberty to deride religion ? If men shall have leave to go quietly to hell themselves, let them not have leave to mock poor souls from heaven. The suffering to the sound in faith is as nothing; for what is the foaming rage of madmen to be regarded ? But that in England, God should be so provoked, and souls so hindered from the paths of life, that whoever will be converted and saved must be made a laughing stock, which carnal minds cannot endure; this is the mischief which we deprecate.
The eyes of the nation, and of the christian world, are much upon you, some high in hopes, some deep in fears, some waiting in dubious expectations for the issue of your counsels. Great expectations, in deep necessities, should awake you to the greatest care and diligence. Though I would not, by omitting any necessary directions or admonitions to you invite the world to think that I speak to such as cannot endure to hear, and that so honorable an assembly doth call the ministers of Christ to do those works of their proper office, which yet
they will be offended, if they do, yet had I rather err in the desective part than by excess, and therefore shall not presume to be too particular. Only in general, in the name of Christ, and on the behalf of a trembling, yet hoping nation, I most earnestly beseech and warn you, that you own and promote the power and practice of Godliness in the land, and that as God, whose ministers you are, (Rom. xiii. 4,) is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him, (Heb. xi. 6,) and hath made this a principal article of our faith, so you would imitate your absolute Lord, and honor them that fear the Lord, and encourage them that diligently seek him. And may I not freely tell you that God should have the precedency? And that you must first seek his kingdom, and the righteousness thereof, and he will facilitate all the rest of your work. Surely no powers on earth should be offended, that the God from whom, and for whom, and through whom, they have what they have, is preferred before them, when they should own no interest but his, and what is subservient to it. I have long thought that pretences of a necessity of beginning with our own affairs, hath frustrated our hopes from many parliaments already; and I am sure that by delays, the enemies of our peace have got advantage to cross our ends, and attain their own. Our calamities begun in differences about religion, and still that is the wound that most needs closing. And if that were done, how easily, I dare confidently speak it, would the generality of sober, godly people, be agreed in things civil, and become the strength and glory of the sovereign, under God. And though, with grief and shame, we see this work so long updone, (may we hope that God hath reserved it to this season,) yet I have the confidence to profess, that, as the exalting of one party, by the ejection and persecuting of the rest, is the sinful way to your dishonor and our ruin, so the terms on which the differing parties most considerable among us may safely, easily, and suddenly unite, are very obvious, and our concord a very easy thing, if the prudent and moderate might be the guides, and selfish interests and passion did not set us at a further distance than our principles have done. And to show you the facility of such an agreement, were it not that such personal matters are much liable to misinterpretations, I should tell you, that the late reverend Primate of Ireland, consented, in less
than half an hour's debate, to five or six propositions which I offered him, as sufficient for the concord of the moderate Episcopal and Presbyterians, without forsaking the principles of their parties.
O that the Lord would yet show so much mercy to a sinful nation, as to put it into your hearts to promote but the practice of those christian principles which we are all agreed in! I hope there is no controversy among us whether God should be obeyed, and hell avoided, and heaven first sought, and Scripture be the rule and test of our religion, and sin abhorred and cast out. O that you would but further the practice of this with all your might! We crave not of you any lordship or dominion, nor riches, nor interest in your temporal affairs; we had rather see a law to exclude all ecclesiastics from all power of force. The God of heaven that will judge you and us will be a righteous judge betwixt us, whether we crave any thing unreasonable at your hands. These are the sum of our requests: 1. That holiness may be encouraged, and the overspreading profaneness of this nation effectually kept down. 2. That an able, diligent ministry may be encouraged, and not corrupted by temporal power. 3. That discipline may be seriously promoted, and ministers no more hindered by magistrates in the exercise of their office than physicians and schoolmasters are in theirs, seeing it is but a government like theirs, consisting in the liberty of conscionably managing the works of our own office, that we expect. Give us but leave to labor in Christ's vineyard with such encouragements as the necessity of obstinate souls requireth, and we will ask no more. You have less cause to restrain us from discipline than from preaching. For it is a more flesh displeasing work that we are hardlier brought to. I foretell you that you shut out me, and all that are of my mind, if you would force us to administer sacraments, without discipline, and without the conduct of our own discretion, to whom the magistrate appoints it, as if a physician must give no physic but by your prescript. The antidisciplinarian magistrate I could as resolutely suffer under as the superstitious, it being worse to cast out discipline, than to err in the circumstances of it. The question is not, whether bishops or no, but whether discipline or none? And whether cnough to use it? 4. We earnestly request that scripture sufficiency, as the test of our reVOL. II.
ligion and only universal law of Christ, may be maintained, and that nothing unnecessary may be inposed as necessary, nor the church's unity laid on that which will not bear it, nor ever did. Othat we might but have leave to serve God only as Christ hath commanded us, and to go to heaven in the same way as the apostles did! These are our desires, and whether they are reasonable, God will judge.
Give first to God the things that are God's, and then give to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's. Let your wisdom be first pure, and then peaceable. Not but that we are resolved to be loyal to sovreignty, though you deny us all these. Whatever malicious men pretend, that is not, nor shall not, be our difference. I have proved more publicly, when it was more dangerous to publish it, that the generality of the orthodox, sober ministers, and godly people of this nation, did never consent to king-killing, and resisting sovereign power, nor the change of the ancient government of this land, but abhorred the pride and ambition that attempted it. I again repeat it, the blood of some, the imprisonment and displacing of others, the banishment or flight of others, and the detestations and public protestations of more; the oft-declared sense of England, and the wars and sad estate of Scotland, have all declared before the world, to the shamo of calumniators, that the generality of the orthodox, sober protestants of these nations, have been true to their allegiance, and detesters of unfaithfulness and ambition in subjects, and resisters of heresy and schism in the church, and of anarchy and democratical confusions in the commonwealth. And though the land hath ringed with complaints and threatenings against myself, for publishing a little of the mixture of jesuitical and familistical contrivances, for taking down together our government and religion, and setting up new ones for the introduction of popery, infidelity, and heresy, yet I am assured that there is much more of this contederacy for the allseeing God to discover in time, to the shame of papists, that cannot be content to write themselves for the killing of kings when the pope hath once excommunicated them, and by the decrees of a general council at the Lateran, to depose princes that will not extirpate such as the pope calls heretics, and absolve all their subjects from their fidelily and allegiance, but they must also creep into the councils and
armies of protestants, and taking the advantage of successes and ambition, withdraw men at once from their religion and allegiance, that they may cheat the world into a belief that treasons are the fruits of the protestant profession, when these masked jugglers have come by night, and sown and cherished these Romish tares. As a papist must cease to be a papist if he will be truly and fully loyal to his sovereign, (as I am ready to prove against any adversary,) so a protestant must so far cease to be a protestant, before he can be disloyal. For Rom. 13. is part of the rule of his religion. Unhappily there hath been a difference among us which is the higher power, when those that have their shares in the sovereignty are divided, but whether we should be subject to the higher power, is no question with us.
Gentlemen, I have nothing to ask of you for mysell, nor any of my brethren, as for themselves, but that you will be friends to serious preaching and holy living, and will not ensnare our consciences with any unscriptural inventions of men. This I would beg of you as on my knees : 1. As for the sake of Christ, whose cause and people it is that I am pleading for. 2. For the sake of thousands of poor souls in this land, whose salvation or damnation will be much promoted by you. 3. For the sake of thousands of the dear servants of the Lord, whose eyes are waiting to see what God will do by your hands. 4. For your own sakes, who are undone if
yourselves on the rock you should build on, and set against the holy God and turn the cries of his servants to heaven for deliverance from you. (Luke xviii. 8.) If you stumble on Christ, he will break you in pieces; but if he fall upon you, he, will grind you to powder. 5. For the sake of your posterity, that they may not be bred up in ignorance or ungodliness. 6. For the honor of the nation and yourselves, that you turn by all the suspicions and fears that are raised in the land. 7. For the honor of sound doctrine and church-government, that you may not bring schism into greater credit than now you have brought it to deserve shame. For if you frown on godliness under pretence of uniformity in unnecessary things, and make times worse than when libertinism and schism so prevailed, the people will look back with groans, and say, What happy times did we once see!' And so will honor schism, and libertinism, and usurpation,