« AnteriorContinuar »
the state of the commonwealth wherein they lived. They had their secret corner-meetings and assemblies in the night, the people flocked unto them by thousands. The means whereby they both allured and P. 420. retained so great multitudes, were most effectual; first, a wonderful show of zeal towards God, wherewith they seemed to be even wrapped in every thing they spake ; secondly, a hatred of sin, and a singu: P. 55. lar love of integrity, which men did think to be much more than ordinary in them, by reason of the custom which they had to fill the ears of the people with invectives against their authorized guides, as well spiritual as civil: thirdly, the bountiful relief wherewith they eased the broken estate of such needy creatures, as were in that respect the more apt to be drawn away: fourthly, a tender compassion which they were thought to take upon the miseries of the common sort, over whose heads their manner was even to pour down showers of tears in complaining that no respect was had unto them, that their goods were devoured by wicked cormorants, their per- P.6. sons had in contempt, all liberty, both temporal and spiritual, taken from them; that it was high time for God now to hear their groans, P.7. and to send them deliverance. Lastly, a cunning slight which they had to stroke and smooth up the minds of their followers, as well by appropriating unto them all the favourable titles, the good words, and the gracious promises, in Scripture ; as also by casting the contrary always on the heads of such as were severed from that retinue. Whereupon, the people's common acclamation unto such deceivers was, “These are verily the men of God, these are his true P.7. and sincere prophets.” If any such prophet or man of God did suffer by order of law condign and deserved punishment, were it for felony, rebellion, murder, or what else, the people (so strangely were their hearts enchanted), as though blessed Saint Stephen had been again martyred, did lament, that God took away his most dear servants P. 27. from them. In all these things being fully persuaded, that what they did, it was obedience to the will of God, and that all men should do the like; there remained, after speculation, practice, whereby the whole world thereunto (if it were possible) might be framed. This they saw could not be done but with mighty oppo- P. 6. sition and resistance; against which, to strengthen themselves, they secretly entered into a league of association. And peradventure considering, that although they were many, yet long wars would in time waste them out; they began to think, whether it might not be, that God would have them do for their speedy and mighty increase, the same which sometime God's own chosen people, the people of Israel did. Glad and fain they were to have it so; which very desire was itself apt to breed both an opinion of possibility, and a willingness to gather arguments of likelihood,
that so God himself would have it. Nothing more clear unto their seeming, than that a new Jerusalem being often spoken of in Scripture, they undoubtedly were themselves that new Jerusalem, and the old did by way of a certain figurative resemblance signify what they should both be and do. Here they drew in a sea of matter, by amplifying all things unto their own company, which are any where spoken concerning Divine favours and benefits bestowed upon the old commonwealth of Israel; concluding, that as Israel was delivered out of Egypt, so they spiritually out of Egypt of this world's servile thraldom unto sin and superstition: as Israel was to root out the idolatrous nations, and to plant instead of them, a people which feared God; so the same Lord's good will and plea. sure was now, that these new Israelites should, under the conduct of other Joshuas, Sampsons, and Gideons, perform a work no less miraculous in casting out violently the wicked from the earth, and establishing the kingdom of Christ with perfect liberty: and there. fore, as the cause why the children of Israel took unto one man many wives, might be, lest the casualties of war should any way hinder the promise of God concerning their multitude, from taking effect in them; so it was not unlike that, for the necessary propagation of Christ's kingdom under the gospel, the Lord was content to allow as much. Now whatsoever they did in such sort collect out of Scripture, when they came to justify or persuade it unto others, all was the heavenly Father's appointment, his commandment, his will, and charge. Which thing is the very point, in regard whereof I have gathered this declaration. For my purpose herein is to shew, that when the minds of men are once erroneously persuaded, that it is the will of God to have those things done which they fancy; then opinions are as thorns in their sides, never suffering them to take rest, till they have brought their speculations into practice. The lets and impediments of which practice, their restless desire and study to remove, leadeth them every day forth by the band into other more dangerous opinions, sometimes quite and clean contrary to their first pretended meanings. So as what will grow out of such errors as go masked under the cloak of Divine authority, impossible it is, that ever the wit of man should imagine, till time have brought forth the fruits of them: for which cause, it behoveth wisdom to fear the sequels thereof, even beyond all apparent cause e of fear. These men, in whose mouths at the first sounded nothing but only mortification of the flesh, were come at length, to think they might lawfully have their six or seven wives a-piece. They which at the first thought judgment and justice themselves to be merciless cruelty ; accounted, at the length, their own hands sanctified with being imbrued in Christian blood.
They who at the first were wont to beat down all dominion, and to urge against poor constables, “ kings of nations;" had, at the length, both consuls and kings of their own erection amongst themselves. Finally, They which could not brook at the first, that any man should seek, no not by law, the recovery of goods injuriously taken or withheld from them, were grown at the last to think they could not offer unto God more acceptable sacrifice, than by turning their adversaries clean out of house and home, and by enriching themselves with all kinds of spoil and pillage. Which thing being laid P. 41. to their charge, they had in a readiness their answer, that now the time was come, when according to our Saviour's promise, “ the Matt. meek ones must inherit the earth;" and that their title hereunto V. 5. was the same which the righteous Israelites had unto the goods of Exod. the wicked Egyptians. Wherefore sith the world hath had in these xi. 2. men so fresh experience, how dangerous such active errors are, it must not offend you, though touching the sequel of your present mispersuasions, much more be doubted than your own intents and purposes do haply aim at. And yet your words already are some- Mart. in what, when ye affirm, that your pastors, doctors, elders, and dea- his third cons, ought to be in this church of England," whether her Majesty p. 28. and our state will or no;" when for the animating of your confederates, ye publish the musters which ye have made of your own bands, and proclaim them to amount to I know not how many thousands; when ye threaten, that sith neither your suits to the parliament, nor supplications to our convocation-house; neither your defences by writing, nor challenges of disputation in behalf of that cause, are able to prevail, we must blame ourselves, if, to bring in discipline, some such means hereafter be used, as shall cause all our hearts to ache. “That things doubtful are to be con- Demonstr. strued in the better part,” is a principle not safe to be followed in in the Pref. matters concerning the public state of a commonweal. But howsoever these and the like speeches be accounted as arrows idly shot at random, without either eye had to any mark, or regard to their lighting-place; hath not your longing desire for the practice of your discipline, brought the matter already unto this demurrer amongst you; whether the people and their godly pastors, that way affected, ought not to make separation from the rest, and to begin the exercise of discipline without the licence of civil
powers, which licence they have sought for, and are not heard? Upon which question, as ye have now divided yourselves, the warier sort of you taking the one part, and the forwarder in zeal the other; so in case these earnest ones should prevail, what other sequel can any wise man imagine but this, that having first resolved, that attempts for discipline without superiors are lawful, it will follow in the next place to be disputed, what may be attempted against supe
riors, which will not have the sceptre of that discipline to rule over them? Yea, even by you which have stayed yourselves from running headlong with the other sort, somewhat notwithstanding there hath been done without the leave or liking of your lawful superiors, for the exercise of a part of your discipline amongst the clergy thereunto addicted. And lest examination of principal parties therein should bring those things to light, which might hinder and let your proceedings; behold, for a bar against that impediment, one opinion ye have newly added unto the rest, even upon this occasion, an opinion to exempt you from taking oaths which may turn to the molestation of your brethren in that cause. The next neighbour opinion whereunto, when occasion requireth, may follow for dispensation with oaths already taken, if they afterwards be found to import a necessity of detecting aught which may bring such good men into trouble or damage, whatsoever the cause be. O merciful God, what man's wit is there able to sound the depth of those dangerous and fearful evils, whereunto our weak and impotent nature is inclinable to sink itself, rather than to shew an acknowledgment of error in that which once we have unadvisedly taken upon us to defend, against the stream, as it were, of a contrary public resolution! Wherefore, if we any thing respect their error, who being persuaded, even as ye are, have gone farther upon that persuasion than ye allow; if we regard the present state of the highest governor placed over us, if the quality and disposition of our nobles, if the orders and laws of our famous universities, if the profession of the civil, or the practice of the common law amongst us, if the mischiefs whereinto, even before our eyes, so many others have fallen headlong from no less plausible and fair beginnings than yours are: there is in every of these considerations most just cause to fear, lest our hastiness to embrace a thing of so perilous consequence, should cause posterity to feel those evils, which as yet are more easy for us to prevent, than they would be
for them to remedy. The conolusion
9. The best and safest way for you therefore, my dear brethren, of all. is, to call your deeds past to a new reckoning, to re-examine the
have taken in hand, and to try it even point by point, ar. gument by argument, with all the diligent exactness ye can, to lay aside the gall of that bitterness wherein your minds have hitherto over-abounded, and with meekness to search the truth. Think ye are men ; deem it not impossible for you to err; sift impartially your own hearts, whether it be force of reason, or vehemency of affection, which hath bred, and still doth feed these opinions in you. If truth do any where manifest itself, seek not to smother it with glossing delusion, acknowledge the greatness thereof, and think it your best victory, when the same doth prevail over you.
That ye have been earnest in speaking or writing again and again the contrary way, should be no blemish or discredit at all unto you. Amongst so many, so huge volumes, as the infinite pains of St. Augustine have brought forth, what one hath gotten him greater love, commendation, and honour, than the book wherein he carefully collecteth his own oversights, and sincerely condemneth them? Many speeches there are of Job's, whereby his wisdom and other virtues may appear; but the glory of an ingenuous mind he hath purchased by these words only, “Behold, I will lay mine hand Job on my mouth ; I have spoken once, yet will I not therefore main- xl. 4, 5. tain argument; yea twice, howbeit for that cause farther I will not proceed.” Far more comfort it were for us (so small is the joy we take in these strifes) to labour under the same yoke, as men that look for the same eternal reward of their labours, to be enjoined with you in bands of indissoluble love and amity, to live as if our persons being many, our souls were but one, rather than in such dismembered sort to spend our few and wretched days in a tedious prosecuting of wearisome contentions; the end whereof, if they have not some speedy end, will be heavy, even on both sides. Brought already we are even to that estate which Gregory Nazianzen mournfully describeth, saying, “My mind leadeth me (sith there is no other Greg. remedy) to fly and convoy myself into some corner out of sight, Naz. in
Apol. where I may scape from this cloudy tempest of maliciousness, whereby all parts are entered into a deadly war amongst themselves, and that little remnant of love which was, is now consumed to no. thing. The only godliness we glory in, is to find out somewhat whereby we may judge others to be ungodly. Each other's faults we observe, as matter of exprobation, and not of grief. By these means we have grown hateful in the eyes of the heathens themselves, and (which woundeth us the more deeply) able we are not to deny, but that we have deserved their hatred : with the better sort of our own, our fame and credit are clean lost. The less we are to marvel, if they judge vilely of us, who although we did well, would hardly allow thereof. On our backs they also build that are lewd, and what we object one against another, the same they use, to the utter scorn and disgrace of us all. This we have gained by our mutual home-dissensions: this we are worthily rewarded with, which are more forward to strive, than becometh men of virtuous and mild disposition.” But our trust in the Almighty is, that with us contentions are now at the highest float, and that the day will come, (for what cause of despair is there ?). when the passions of former en. mity being allayed, we shall with ten times redoubled tokens of our unfeignedly-reconciled love, shew ourselves each towards other the same with Joseph, and the brethren of Joseph were at the time of