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ceits ! Are we then heretics, condemned in ourselves ? Wherein overthrow we the foundation ? what other God, Saviour, Scriptures, justification, sacraments, heaven, do they teach, besides us? Can all the Masters of Separation, Yea can all the Churches in Christendom, set forth a more exquisite and worthy Confession of Faith, than is contained in the Articles of the Church of England ? Who can hold these, and be heretical? or, from which of these are we revolted ? But to make this good, they have taught you to say, that every truth in Scripture is fundamental : so fruitful is error of absurdities; whereof still one breeds another more deformed than itself. That Trophimus was left at Miletum, sick; that Paul's cloak was left at Troas; that Gaius, Paul's host, saluted the Romans; that Nabal was drunk; or, that Tamar baked cakes; and a thousand of this nature, are fundamental! how large is the Separatist's Creed, that hath all these Articles ! If they say, all Scripture is of the same Author, of the same authority : so say we; but not of the same use. Is it as necessary for a Christian to know, that Peter hosted with one Simon, a tanner, in Joppa ; as that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was born of the Virgin Mary? What a monster is this of an opinion, that all truths are equal! that this spiritual house should be all foundation; no walls, no roof! Can no man be saved, but he, that knows every thing in Scripture? then, both they and we are excluded : heaven would not have so many, as their parlour at Amsterdam. Can any man be saved, that knows nothing in Scripture? It is far from them, to be so overcharitable to affirm it. You see then, that both all truths must not of necessity be known, and some must; and these we justly call fundamental: which whoso holdeth, all his hay and stubble, through the mercy of God, condemn him not ; still he hath right to the Church on earth, and hope in heaven. “But, whether every truth be fundamental, or necessary; discipline,” you say, “ is so :" indeed necessary to the well-being of a Church; no more: it may be true without it; not perfect. Christ compares his Spouse to an army with banners : as order is to an army, so is discipline to the Church : if the troops be not well marshalled in their several ranks, and move not forward according to the discipline of war, it is an army still : confusion may hinder their success; it cannot bereave them of their name. It is, as beautiful proportion, to the body; a hedge, to a vineyard; a wall, to a city; a hem, to a garment; ceiling, to a house: it may be a body, vineyard, city, gar. ment, house, without them; it cannot be well and perfect. Yet, which of our adversaries will say we have no discipline? Some they grant; but not the right : as if they said; “ Your city hath a brick wall indeed; but it should have one of hewn stone: your vineyard is hedged; but it should be paled and ditched.” While they cavil at what we want, we thank God for what we have ; and so much we have, in spite of all detraction, as makes us both a true Church; and a worthy one.
But the main quarrel is against our Ministry, and Form of Worship: let these be examined.
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This is the circle of their censure. “No Church; therefore no Ministry : and no Ministry; therefore no Church :" unnatural sons, that spit in the face of those spiritual fathers, that begot them; and the mother, that bore them! What would they have? Have we not competent gifts from above, for so great a function ? Are we all unlearned, unsufficient ? not a man, that knows to divide the word aright? As Paul to the Corinths, Is it so, that there is not one wise man amongst us? No man will affirm it : some of them have censured our excess in some knowledge; none, our defect in all. What then? Have we not a true desire to do faithful service to God and his Church ? no zeal for God's glory? Who hath been in our hearts to see this? who dare usurp upon God, and condemn our thoughts? Yea, we appeal to that only Judge of Hearts, whether he hath not given us a sincere longing for the good of his Sion : he shall make the thoughts of all hearts manifest; and then shall every man have praise of God. If, then, we have both ability and will to public good; our inward calling, which is the main point, is good and perfect. For the outward, what want we are we not first, after good trial, presented and approved by the learned, in our Colleges; examined by our Church-governors; ordained by imposition of hands of the Eldership; allowed by the Congregations we are set over? do we not labour in word and doctrine ? do we not carefully administer the Sacraments of the Lord Jesus? have we not, by our public means, won many souls to God? what should we have and do more? all this, and yet no true Ministers? we pass very little to be judged of them, or of man's day. But our Ordainers, you say, are antichristian : surely our censurers are unchristian. Though we should grant it, some of us were baptized by heretics, is the Sacrament annihilated, and must it be redoubled ? how much less Ordination, which is but an outward admission to preach the Gospel! God forbid, that we should thus condemn the innocent: more hands were laid upon us, than one; and, of them, for the principal, except but their perpetual honour and some few immaterial rites, let an enemy say what they differ from Superintendents : and can their double honour make them no Elders? If they have any personal faults, why is their calling scourged? Look into our Saviour's times: what corruptions were in the very Priesthood! It was now made annual; which was, before, fixed and singular. Christ saw these abuses, and was silent: here was much dislike, and no clamour : we, for less, exclaim and separate: even personal offences are fetched into the condemnation of lawful courses. God give both pardon and redress, to this foul uncharitableness, Alas, how ready are we to toss the forepart of our wallet, while our own faults are ready to break our necks behind us : all the world sees and condemns their Ordination to be faulty, yea none at all; yet they cry out first on us ; craftily, I think, lest we should complain. That Church-governors should ordain Ministers, hath been the constant practice of the Church, from Christ's time to this hour. I except only, in an extreme desolation, merely for the first course. That the people should make their Ministers, was unheard of in all ages and Churches, till Bolton, Brown, and Barrow; and hath neither colour nor example. Doth not this comparison seem strange and harsh? their tradesmen may make true Ministers; our Ministers cannot : who, but they, would not be ashamed of such a position ? or, who, but you, would not think the time mis-spent in answering it?
No less frivolous are those exceptions, that are taken against our Worship of God; condemned, for false and idolatrous: whereof volumes of Apologies are written by others. We meet together, pray, read, hear, preach, sing, administer and receive Sacraments : wherein offend we? How many gods do we pray to? or to whom, but the true God ? in what words, but holy? whom do we preach, but the same Christ with them ? what point of faith, not theirs ? what Sacraments, but those they dare not but allow? where lies our idolatry, that we may let it out?
“In the manner of performing: in set prayers, antichristian ceremonies of crossing, kneeling, &c.”
For the former : what sin is this? The original and truth of prayer is in the heart : the voice is but as accidental. If the heart may often conceive the same thought, the tongue her servant may often utter it, in the same words; and, if daily to repeat the same speeches be amiss, then to entertain the same spiritual desires is sinful. To speak once, without the heart, is hypocritical; but to speak often the same request, with the heart, never offendeth. What intolerable boldness is this; to condemn that in us, which is recorded to have been the continual practice of God's Church, in all succession ! of the Jews; in the time of Moses, David, Solomon, Jehosaphat, Hezekiah, Jeremiah : of the ancient Christian assemblies, both Greek and Latin ; and now, at this day, of all Reformed Churches in Christendom: yea, which our Saviour himself so directly allowed; and, in a manner, prescribed : and the blessed Apostles, Paul and Peter, in all their formal salutations, which were no other than set prayers, so commonly practised.
For the other, lest I exceed a Letter, though we yield them such as you imagine, worse they cannot be, they are but ceremonious appendances: the body, and substance, is sound. Blessed be God, that we can have his true Sacraments at so easy a rate; at the payment, if they were such, of a few circumstantial inconveniences. How many dear children of God, in all ages, even near the golden times of the Apostles, have gladly purchased them much dearer, and not complained ! But see how our Church imposes them : not as to bind the conscience, otherwise than by the common bond of obedience; not as actions, wherein God's worship essentially consisteth; but as themselves, Ceremonies : comely or convenient, not necessary. Whatsoever : is this a sufficient ground of separation? How many moderate and wiser spirits have we, that cannot approve the Ceremonies, yet dare not forsake the Church; and that hold your departure far more evil, than the cause! You are invited to a feast: if but a napkin or trencher be misplaced, or a dish ili carved ; do you run from the table, and not stay to thank the host ? Either be less curious, or more charitable. Would God both you and all other, which either favour the Separation or profess it, could but read over the ancient stories of the Church, to see the true state of things and times; the beginnings, proceedings, increases, encounters, yieldings, restorations of the Gospel ; what the holy Fathers of those first times were glad to swallow for peace; what they held, practised, found, left. Whosoever knows but these things, cannot separate; and shall not be contented only, but thankful. God shall give you still more light: in the mean time, upon the peril of my soul, stay, and take the blessed offers of your God, in peace. And, since Christ saith by my hand, Will you also go away? Answer him, with that worthy disciple, Master, whither shall I go from thee? thou hast the words of eternal life.
TO MR. 1. B.
A Complaint of the Mis-education of our Gentry. I CONFESS, I cannot honour blood without good qualities; nor spare it, with ill. There is nothing, that I more desire to be taught, than what is true nobility.
What thank is it to you, that you are born well ? If you could have lost this privilege of nature, I fear you had not been thus far noble. That you may not plead desert, you had this before you were, long ere you could either know or prevent it. You are deceived, if you think this any other than the body of gentility : the life and soul of it is, in noble and virtuous disposition; in gallantness of spirit, without haughtiness, without insolence, without scorrful overliness ; shortly, in generous qualities, carriage, actions. See your error; and know, that this demeanor doth not answer an honest birth. If you can follow all fashions, drink all healths, wear favours and good clothes, consort with ruffianly companions, swear the biggest oaths, quarrel easily, fight desperately, game in every inordinate ordinary, spend your patrimony ere it fall, look on every man betwixt scorn and anger, use gracefully some gestures of apish compliment, talk irreligiously, dally with a mistress, or, which term is plainer, hunt after harlots, take smoke at a playhouse, and live as if you were made all for sport, you think you have done enough, to merit, both of your blood and others' opinions.
Certainly, the world hath no baseness, if this be generosity : wellfare the honest and civil rudeness of the obscure sons of the earth, if such be the graces of the eminent: the shame whereof, methinks, is not so proper to the wildness of youth, as to the carelessness or vanity of parents.
I speak it boldly; our land hath no blemish, comparable to the mis-education of our gentry. Infancy and youth are the seed-times of all hopes : if those pass unseasonably, no fruit can be expected from our age, but shame and sorrow : who should improve these, but they, which may command them?
I cannot altogether complain of our first years. How like are we to children, in the training up of our children! Give a child some painted babe: he joys in it, at first sight; and, for some days, will not abide it out of his hand or bosom; but, when he hath sated himself with the new pleasure of that guest, he now, after a while, casts it into corners, forgets it, and can look upon it with no care, Thus do we by ours. Their first times find us not more fond, than careful : we do not more follow them with our love, than ply them with instruction: when this delight begins to grow stale, we begin to grow negligent.
Nothing, that I know, can be faulted in the ordering of child. hood, but indulgence. Foolish mothers admit of tutors; but de. bar rods. These, while they desire their children may learn, but not smart, as is said of apes, kill their young ones with love; for what can work upon that age, but fear ? and what fear, without correction ?
Now, at last, with what measure of learning their own will would vouchsafe to receive, they are too early sent to the common Nurseries of Knowledge. There, unless they fall under careful tuition, they study in jest, and play in earnest. In such universal means of learning, all cannot fall beside them. What their company, what their recreation would either instil or permit, they bring home to their glad parents.
Thence are they transplanted to the Collegiate Inns of our Common Laws: and there, too many learn to be lawless, and to forget their former little. Paul's is their Westminster; their Study, an Ordinary, or Play house, or Dancing-school; and some Lambert, their Ploydon.
And now, after they have, not without much expence, learned fashions and licentiousness, they return home, full of welcomes and gratulations.
By this time, some blossoms of youth, appearing in their face, admonish their parents to seek them some seasonable match: wherein, the father enquires for wealth ; the son, for beauty ; perhaps the mother, for parentage; scarce any, for virtue, for religion.
Thus settled, what is their care, their discourse, yea, their trade; but either a hound, or a hawk ? and it is well, if no worse. And now, they so live, as if they had forgotten that there were books. Learning is for priests and pedants; for gentlemen, pleasure. Oh, that either wealth or wit should be cast away thus basely! that ever reason should grow so debauched, as to think any thing more worthy than knowledge!
With what shame and emulation, may we look upon other na