SOME REMARKS Recommended unto Ecclesiasticks OF ALL PERSWASIONS.

NOT to trouble you with Prefaces or Apologies, it is certain, That as in the Church of the Jews, they were not all Israel that were of Israel, Rom. 9.6. so in our Church they have not all been, nor yet are, all true Church of England-men who boast and pride themselves in monopolizing that Cha­racter to themselves: And yet I hope I may with great Truth affirm, That the In­dependant Protestant Church of England, is the best constituted Church, both for Do­ctrine and Discipline, in the World; and that there are both in our Hierarchie and in our Inferior Clergy, many seven shining Stars, many true Nathaniels indeed, in whom is no guile, John 1.47. and yet I fear in the same Church, that as there hath been, so there are still many seven deadly Sinners, Linsey-wolsey Divines, not much un­like those of Samaria, who feared God, yet served Idols: or like those of Israel who swore by the Lord and Melcom. Whoever will seriously and impartially consider and examine the Prints of Dr. Leighton, Pryn, Bastwick and Burton, and compare them with the Prints of Harsenet, Parker, (late Bishop of Oxon) Montague, Sybthorp, Man­waring, and others, must conclude the Doctrines and Positions of these Men to be far more pernicious and destructive to whole Kingdoms than the other; and better deserved their punishment than to be rewarded with Preferments as they were. And then if we consider how Instrumental some Prelates of those times were in Punishing the one, and Preferring the other, contrary to all true Religion, and to the genius and sense of the most Pious of the Nation; thereby manifestly espousing their Cause to be their own, whereby they became participes criminis; by which misbehaviour of theirs they brought upon themselves contempt, and the Nation ab­horred them, and would not be satisfied untill they had disenabled them by Act of Parliament, 17 Car. And if we consider the Opinions that the late Bishop of Oxon. (otherwise a pious worthy Prelate) sacrificed to the Flames in July 1683, and the purport of the Address of the other University to his Majesty in September 1681. And also the Contents of very many Sermons preached on the Ninth of September 1683. Besides very many others, rank of one and the same poysonous Leaven, all squinting towards Arbitrary Power, and, as much as in them lies, allu­ring and encouraging Kings to attempt the same, by rendring them absolutely Ab­solute, and unaccountable until Dooms-day in the Afternoon; whereby they become only Nominal (I had almost said Mungril) Church-of-England-men, but not true Is­raelites, not true Nathaniels indeed: These things considered, how can I expect less than a whole host of Chemarims about my Ears? But when I consider that (accord­ing to the Doctrine of the Church of England) the Word of God is the only Rule of Faith and Obedience, and disapproves all implicite Faith, blind Obedience, and Infallibility, and that we are not to imbibe Doctrines on trust, and expect Salvation [Page 2]by a deputy Faith and Obedience. And that St. Paul exhorts us, that we be no more henceforth children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, Eph. 4.14. And the Scripture it self counts it nobleness of mind to examine the doctrines of our Teachers, whether those things are so, Act 17.11. And the Angel of the Church of Ephe­sus, highly commended for that, he had tried them which said they were Apostles and were not, and found them lyers, Revel. 2.2. And St. Paul bids us prove all things, and hold fast that which is good, 1 Thess. 5.21. Sure then after such Apostolical Precepts, it is no crime to inquire whether they that boast of being Church-of-England-men are so in truth or no. I appeal to your selves, Is it Fair, nay, is it Just? nay, Is it not Pride and Folly to assert Truth by arrogating to your selves the only freedom of Speech, and stopping of Mouths, and Pens, and Press, and burning Opinions of others, equally gifted and furnished with the same means of knowledge with your selves, and have like precious Souls to save as your selves; and yet can let Popish Books, and other vile Tenets, be published and read as common as your own with­out Controul, Fire, or Faggot; and connive at them, but storm against Protestant Conventicles, and can let Swearers, Drunkards, Whoremungers, and Adulterers, march openly and confidently in our Streets, without so much as the Summons of an Apparitor, or Excommunication.

Tacitus, intending to write the Life of Agricola, Incursurus tam saeva & infest a vir­tutibus tempora, did beg Pardon, which otherwise he would not have done, considering that Aurelius Rusticus for praising Paetus Thrasea, calling him virum sanctum, was put to Death by Nero, virtutem ipsam exscindere concupiscens. And also Herennius Senecio, because he had written the Life of Helvidius Priscus another Cato or Brutus, a Per­son of most free Speech in behalf of the Commonwealth, for calling them most Holy and Upright Persons. Besides, severity was used against the Writers of Books, charge being given to the Aediles and Triumviri capitales, that the Works of those Noble Wits should solemnly be burnt in the Market-place, supposing that with that Fire they could stop the Mouths of the People of Rome, abolish the Liberty of the Senate, and suppress the Knowledge of all Mankind: Expelling withall, the Pro­fessors of Wisdom, and all good Learning and Arts, lest any sparks of Honesty should remain. Hence Sulpitia, a Poetess of that time,

Nunc igitur qui res Romanas imperat inter,
Et studia & sapiens hominum nomenque genusque,
Omnia abice foras atque urbe excedere jussit.

A very noble and pious Example taken from Heathenish Princes for Christians to imitate. We naturally love, nay long for forbidden Fruit, and are most inqui­sitive after Books forbidden, as being always jealous that some Truths lie dormant in such, ready to fly in the Faces of those that forbid them, and make wise Men con­clude, That Reason cannot stand on their side, who will not suffer the Reasons of both Par­ties to be read and published. Gospel Truths need no such Artifices; Souls purely di­vine without mixtures and allay of little pittiful ends and interests do scorn the mo­tion, lest happily some Divine Truths may by such sinister devices be suppressed and stifled. And others being of the contrary Opinion, diametrically opposite one to the other, and each differing no farther from the one than the other from them, and neither Infallible, what would you have us poor Laicks do? death and damna­tion being pulpited against us by both Perswasions, as one Opinion or the other happeneth to possess the Pulpit.

1. I say, That the differences among us are occasioned not as Christians, but as Men. The Gospel is the Gospel of Peace; Peace was the last Legacy that Christ left to his Church: My peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you, John 14.27. And his command was to have peace one with another, Mark 9.50. and the unity of the spi­rit is preserved by the bond of peace, Ephes. 4.3. But the little self-ends of Earth and Interest, of the Preferments, Ambition, and Domination, is the cause of Con­troversies, Animosities, and Contentions, to which Priests are as subject as others.

2. I say, There were false Prophets among the Jews, and was foretold, that as there were false Prophets among them, so there should be false teachers among us, 2 Pet. 2.1. And St. Paul forewarned the Bishop of Ephesus, That out of your own selves, should arise men speaking perverse things, Acts 20.30. and Christ himself, when he cau­tioneth [Page 3]us to beware of false Prophets by calling, which shall be found false by their teaching. St. Paul also granteth many to be ministers of Christ by profession, and yet in words and deeds the ministers of Satan, 2 Cor. 11.13, 14, 15. such false Apostles, saith he, are deceitful workers, and transform themselves into the Apostles of Christ: and for certain these Priests of such different Perswasions, Principles, and Doctrines, cannot both be in the right, and therefore good Reason that if poor Laicks are to live and die Eternally, according to the Doctrines our Pastors pulpit to us, it is but just, and right, that we should try the Spirits, as commanded, John 1.41. and judg of Doctrine as directed, Cor. 10.15. for certainly we are not to live by the deputy Faith of our Officers, but by our own Faith, and must stand and fall accordingly: Now seeing our Teachers cannot agree Doctrines (as in point of Resistance and Passive Obe­dience, taking and refusing new Oaths, Ceremonies, Conformity, as well as in many others they do not) and both cannot be in the right, then are their Flocks in a very sad condition, Pulpit-rebels both to the one and to the other, as the one or the other prevails, for neither are Infallible, so that we are clearly left to be our own Judges, and both Priest and People have no other Divine Rule or Authority without them (war­rantable to one another, as a common Ground or Rule, either for Holy living or decision of Controversies in Matters of Religion, unto which all ought to submit,) but the Scriptures, nor any other within either Priest or People. But the Illumination of the Spirit so inter­preting the same Scriptures as warrantable both to Priests and People; and to such whose Consciences they can so perswade can have no other ground in matters of Religion, but only from the same Scriptures; and these not being possible to be understood without Divine Illu­mination, which no man can know at all times to be in himself, much less to be at any time for certain in another: and therefore the Scriptures being the only infallible Rule of life, and of judging Controversies, and the Light within us no farther Light, than wherein it agrees with this Word; if it do not, it is Darkness not Light.

Now these things considered, will justifie our taking up the Cudgels for our own Defence and Justification in these great and dangerous Disputes, having Souls, Lives, Fortunes, Liberties to save and enjoy, as well as Ecclesiasticks.

Though the Church of England be the best constituted Church in the World, wherein the lively Oracles of God are purely Preached, and full fraught with ma­ny, very worthy pious and learned Priests and Prelates, yet there are amongst them many false Prophets, (and no wonder, was not there a Judas among the Twelve?) and false Teachers; nay, very many time-servers that pimp for Dominati­on, Honors, Preferments, and other vile and base ends, and, like Micha's Levite, for a little better reward swallow any thing, stick at nothing, by School-quirks and false Reasonings, perverting Scriptures to rob whole Kingdoms of their Laws, Li­berties, and Religion, that daub with untempered Mortar, flatter Profaneness, court and allure Royalties to Perjury and Robbery, whilst they Preach Quod libet licet, and Sovereignty absolutely Absolute to be in Kings, and their unaccountableness, be­tray Truths, smothering and dissembling the Strictness and Purity of holy Ways; I contend not here against the lazy Drones that suck the Hony from the Bees by their Non-residency, nor against the Dammees Euphoniae gratia: these are personal Sins, and hurt others only by Example, and such there are; but my contest is against those Ecclesiasticks who living, and had interest at the upper end of the World, not only usurped more Powers than they had right unto, but abused those Powers and that Interest they had at Court; from which abuse of Power pulpiting Divine Prerogatives of Kings beyond measure, their unaccountableness, misconstruing and extending Passive Obedience beyond its just Bounds: Which have been the Harrangues of Prints and Pul­pits, till their own Copiholds came to be concerned, come all the disturbances of Government in Church and State to whole Kingdoms. No wonder then if con­tempt be poured on such of the Clergy (and on such of them only) as Preach such destructive Doctrines as deserve the severe Reprimand of whole Kingdoms; for thereby all Laws, Liberty, Property, Religion, and Honesty would be trampled under foot.

Therefore it's no Crime in the Laity to stand up in the defence of their own Rights and Concerns. As it is the duty of Priests, Ministers of the Gospel, to teach us with Wisdom and Knowledge, so it is our duty to esteem them highly in love (if they do so) for their Works sake; and they that labour in the Word and Doctrine are worthy of double Honour and double Revenue; they cannot have too much: but they that do not Teach us with Knowledge and Understanding are worthy of neither; but when they abuse and usurp Powers, they have no right unto, and claim them as their [Page 4]due by the most Potent Claim in the World (Jure Divino) monstrum horrendum! Witness Excommunication, because there hath (as of old, so of more late Days) so much ill use made thereof, of which I shall only say with Erastus de Excommunica­tione, that there is no such thing (as it is now used) in all the Scripture; in Sanctis Scri­ptur [...]s nullum extat mandatum, sed commentum est pure humanum, p. 67. Which renders the Execution thereof abominable. To wrest Scripture to maintain such unlawful Powers doth very ill become the Priests of the most High God. As it is their Duty to Teach, so it is our Priviledge and Right to judge of their Doctrines, yea, and to put them in mind and admonish them also of their duty, Coloss. 4.17. Mistake me not, as if this were bent against the Bishops only; no, no, Papist, Presbyter, Indepen­dant are all to blame in this Point: and it's no excuse to us if we are deceived by the cunning Crastiness of our Ghostly Fathers, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.

Let us look a little back, no farther than our own Times and Memories, and let them stand or fall in the good Graces of the Kingdom, according to their Merits or Demerits.Rushworth, 644, 1628. In the time of King James, the Parliament sitting, Dr. Harsenet Bishop of Chichester Preached a Sermon at Whitehall upon Mark 12.17. Give unto Caesar, &c. wherein he insisted, that Goods and Money were Caesars, and therefore they were not to be denied unto him; at which the whole Parliament stormed and took great Offence, which that wise and peaceable Prince endeavoured to calm and qualifie by mode­rate Exposition thereof, to the Lords and Commons for that purpose Assembled in the Banquetting-House, viz. That the Doctor meant it according to the Laws and Customs of the Country wherein they did live. This did mollifie, but not satisfie, and therefore the Sermon was burnt to satisfie their Indignation against such vile and destructive Doctrines; for which he was well rewarded by being translated to Norwich, Rush. 177. then to York, a shrewd sign that such Doctrines did please the Court, tho' not the Parliament. Likewise Mr. Ric. Montague, who 21 Jac. printed an Answer to the late Gag of Protestants: and about 22 Jac. printed another Book, Entituled, A Treatise of the Invocation of Saints. 1 Car. 1. he printed another, Entituled, An Appeal to Caesar; which Books contained so many Erronious and false Doctrines, contrary to the very Articles agreed on in the Convocation held at London 1562. that they disobliged the whole Nation so much that the Commons House exhibited Articles against him 1 Car. and prayed that he might be punished. This Cause began 21 Jac. when he had published a former Book, called A new Gag for an old Goose, and was then questioned in Parliament, and committed to the Archbishop of Can­terbury, and ended in an Admonition only given to Montague by the Archbishop, who disliked that Book, and thought to suppress it but could not: It was printed and dedicated to the King; and his Cause was recommended to the Duke of Buckingham by the Bishops of Oxford, Rochester, and St. Davids; all mighty Church of England Men, (not Puritans) whereby they espoused it as their common Cause and Concern; and Montague is made his Majesties Chaplain, yet his Majesty was so just and prudent as to leave him to the Parliament; which did not please the Bishops; and the Commons House did exhibit Articles against him, and prayed his Book might be burnt and himself punished, but the Bishops prevailed so much with the King on their own behalf, that he was made first Bishop of Chichester, and then Bishop of Norwich, and his Book only called in by Proclamation, yet so as all An­swers thereunto by Preaching or Writing were forbidden. For the several Answers made by Dr. Featly, Dr. G [...]ad, in their Parallels by Mr. Burton, Ward, Yates, Wetton, Rouse, in a Book called King James's Religion, were all suppressed, and some of the Printers questioned in the High Commission; and Montague had a Royal Pardon, which was inquired into 4 Car. by the Commons House.

In the same Parliament a Petition was exhibited from some Booksellers and Prin­ters in London, complaining of the restraint of Books written against Popery; and the contrary allowed of by the only means of Dr. Land Bishop of London, and di­vers of the Printers and Booksellers were sent for by Pursevants, for Printing Books against Popery, and the Licensing is only restrained to the Bishop of London and his Chaplains.

Ph. de Comines complained, That tho' the King of France had a wise Coun­cil, yet they rid all upon one Horse. And must we be Priest-ridden by a Bi­shop and his Chaplains? Upon which Mr. Selden declared, That there was no Law to prevent Printing of any Books, only a Decree in Star-Chamber, and he ad­vised that a Law might be made concerning Printing, else one may be Fined, Im­prisoned [Page 5]prisoned, and his Goods taken from him by vertue of such Decrees, which is a great invasion upon the Liberty of the Subject.

About the same time also came out Cosins his Book of Seven Sacraments, con­taining strange things; against whom the Commons House exhibit 21 Articles, whereof one was for calling some Gentlewomen Whores, and Jades, and Pa­gans, and for tearing some of their Clothes when they were in their Seats in the Church, because they would not bow to the Altar, nor at the Name of Jesus, &c. Nalson 789.

About this time the Clergy had wrought themselves with great Power and In­terest at Court, which encouraged the Inferior Clergy to great boldness, and to pul­pit any thing that might please, as the very Road of Preferment, Teach for Hire, and Divine for Money.

Another that did appear bare faced, and without any Vizard, was one Sybthorp, Vicar of Brackley, scarce Batchellor of Art, who preached Feb. 22. 1626. at Lent Assizes at Northampton, on Rom. 13.7. Which Sermon, called Apostolical Obedience, tho' full fraught with many Theses destructive to all human Society: yet had such countenance from the Court-Clergy, that they procured his Majesty to send to the Archbishop of Canterbury to License it for the Press, for the better grace of the bu­siness, which his Majesty did feveral times by Mr. William Murrey; but the Arch­bishop, like a true Nathaniel, refused to give it an Imprimatur; but not without great Reasons humbly submitted to his Majesty for his so doing. It was afterwards car­ried to Dr. Worrall, Chaplain to the then Bishop of London; who having hand over head Licens'd it, afterward took advice of Councel; who told him, That if all in that Sermon were true, there was no meum & tuum left to Subjects, and that he might be called to an Account for it and hanged: Whereupon he blotted out his Name again; and the Book was afterward Licens'd by Laud, then Bishop of London, who gave it a great and stately Allowance, and caused it to be dedicated to the King, and published upon his Majesties Commission for the Raising of Money by the way of Loan; which was by such Royal Authority, to give greater countenance thereto: It taught that the King's Duty is to direct and make Laws, that nothing may excuse from Active Obedience, but what is against the Law of God, or Na­ture, or Impossible: That all Antiquity was absolutely for Absolute Obedience in all Civil and Temporal Things. Laud also allowed the Book called, The Seven Sacraments, with all its Errors, which were afterwards expunged.

Another bold faced Priest, that did appear about the same time, was Dr. Man­waring, who promoted the same Design in two Sermons, preached before the King and Court at Wintehall, called Religion and Allegiance; in which he declared, That the King was not bound to observe the Laws of the Realm concerning the Subjects Rights and Liberty, but that his Royal Will and Command in imposing Loans and Taxes without common consent in Parliament, doth oblige the Subjects Conscience upon pain of Eternal Domnation; that they who refused to pay this Loan, offended against the Law of God and the Kings Supreme Authority, and became guilty of Impiety, Disloyalty and Rebellion; and that the Authority of Parliament is not necessary for Raising the of Aids, and Subsidies, &c. for which he was impeached in Parliament, 4 Car. for that they tended to alter and subvert the whole Frame and Fabrick of this State and Commonwealth, that they tended to infuse into the Conscience of his Majesty, the perswasion of a Pow­er not bounding it self with Laws; which King James, in his Speech March 21. 1609. to the Parliament, calls Tyranny with Perjury: he endeavours to perswade the Con­science of the Subjects, that they are bound to obey commands illegal; yea, he damns them for not obeying them; he robs the Subject of the Property of their Goods, and seeks like Faux and his fellows, to blow up Parliaments, and Parlia­mentary Power, &c. That they hold it a great presumption for a private Divine to de­bate the Right and Power of the King, which is a matter of such high Conse­quence, as to be handled only in Parliament, and that with moderation: therefore upon the whole matter he was censured to be Imprisoned during the pleasure of the House, Fined 1000 l. to make his submission at both Bars, suspended three Years from the exercise of his Ministry, disabled to have any Ecclesiastical Government, or Secular Office, for ever disabled to Preach at Court, his Book to be burnt in London, and in both Univer­sities, and the re-printing thereof to be inhibited by his Majesties Proclamation.

Notwithstanding all these Censures, Reprimands, and Judgment of Parliament, yet such Juglers were the mighty Church of England Priests and Prelates, and such was the Prevalency, Potency, and Impudency of the then Court Clergy, (no Na­thaniels) [Page 6]that they procured their Royal Pardons of all Errors heretofore commit­ted by them, either in Speaking, Writing, or Printing, and Manwaring was imme­diately presented to the Rectory of Stampford Rivers in Essex, and had a Dispensa­tion to hold it, together with the Rectory of St. Giles's in the Fields. Rushwerth's Collect. when as the justness of the Nation required their severe Reprimands, nay, their Punishments, nay, the Muzling of their Mouths.

These and their Abettors, (no Nathaniels) Bishops of London, Durham, Rochester, Oxford, and others, being of the same Quire and Chorus, sung the same Tune, and boasted themselves to be the true Church of England Men; but the Archbishop-Abbot (though Primate and Metropolitan of all England,) and multitudes of others, both Bishops, Priests, and Lay, much more Loyal and more True Church of England Men than themselves, were branded for not being right Church of England Men, and reviled as Puritanical, Factious; what not? Under which Notion, the Arch­bishop Abbot suffered being disgraced at Court, commanded to withdraw into the Country, Sequestred, &c.

Whoever will seriously consider how Industriously, Active, and Instrumental, the Bishops then in Vogue (who were the Bishops of London, and his Complices, viz. Durham, Rochester, Oxon. St. Davids, and others) were to procure Dr. Alexander Leighton, a learned Scotch-man, Mr. Burton, B. D. Mr. Pryn, Barrister, and Dr. Bast­wick, to be so inhumanly censured in the Star-Chamber, and High Commission, viz. Imprisoned, Fined, Whipt, Pillored, Ears cut off, Cheeks branded, with other Se­verities fitter for Infidels, nay, for Brutes rather than Christians; and for what? not truly for Crimes, scarce Peccadilloes (but rather for Rebukes of Sin,) as their Works do testifie, in respect of what abominable Doctrines their own Priests preached, countenancing and preferring those that Preached them, espousing their Cause as their own, and so became participes criminis, tho' against the Interest and Sense of the whole Kingdom assembled in Parliament: whereby, and by their be­ing a constant dead wait for the Court against the Kingdom, they brought so great a Disdain and Contempt on their Hierarchy, and those Courts, that the Nation was not able to bear them, and was forced to take away both these Courts, and their Priviledge of Sitting in the House of Lords.

On which I shall only Remark thus much, viz. That those Ecclesiasticks that preached Prerogative highest, tho' to the ruine of the Nation, and tho' con­demned by the whole Kingdom in Parliament, and that severely, and with high Resentments, yet when the Parliament was up, Bishop Laud and his Com­plices (no true, but Mungril Church of England Men) so improved their Interest at Court, that they were preferred; and others that did but Write and Preach against their violent and unconscionable Proceedings were barbarously censured and used; which the Parliament so laid to Heart, that they took away both these Courts: And when those Three, viz. Prin, Bastwick, and Burton, returned from their designed perpetual Imprisonment, they were met and caressed all along the Road, and received by the City with great Joy and Acclamations. And some while after Bishop Laud came to his unhappy Doom; how deservedly I judge not.

If so to countenance and prefer those that Preach Doctrines so destructive to whole Nations, and to Persecute learned and pious Men, by the Character of a right Church of England Man, I must confess that I cannot distinguish between Na­thaniels and those that can swear by the Lord and Melcom. I Appeal to the whole World, whether of those two Contemporaries, Archbishop Abbot or Bishop Laud, were the Nathaniel, the truest Church of England Man? Abbot refusing, and Laud granting an Imprimatur to Sibthorp's Sermon, which was condemned to be burnt, and yet Abbot Discountenanced, Sequestred, sent into the Country, &c. and Laud advanced.

Besides, I verily believe, that it cannot be proved by any plain place of Scri­pture, that there is any Power under Heaven, Ecclesiastick or Civil, that hath lawful Authority to forbid any Man (lawfully qualified) to Preach the Gospel, or to Prosecute any Man for denying submission to the use of Ceremonies no ways Essential to the Salvation of Souls. If so, what are we modestly to think of those Ecclesiasticks and their Adherents, that ever since the Reformation Persecuted our Dissenters for Non-conforming to such commands?

What made so many of our Learned, Pious, Conscientious Clergy and Laiety, Orthodox both in Life and Doctrine, cry Migremus hinc, and plant themselves in Foreign Barbarous Countries, but Persecutions for their Consciences, and for Re­bukes of Sin rather than for any Crimes or Sins? And yet their Persecutors had the Impudency of Abab the son of Omri, (who did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that went before him,) to tax them for Troublers of Israel, when themselves, Abab-like troubled it, for they medled not with the Conformist, but the Conformist with them; not considering that Christ came to take away the heavy Yoke of Jewish Ceremonies, and he and his Apostles never used nor prescribed any other; and why any other Authority should impose any other Ceremonies, and compel Obedience to them, whereby they require other Conditions of Gospel-Communion than ever Christ himself did, or his Apostles after him, is past all Understanding. They would oblige us, to shew us by any one plain place of Scripture, that Christ hath given any Charter to his Church, or to any Officers thereof, to require more Ce­remonies to be admitted into his Fellowship and Worship than he himself hath done; or, to deny their Communinn, that are as capable of Heaven without the use of them, as themselves with the use of them.

To the Council met at Jerusalem, Acts 15. consisting of Apostles, and all the faith­ful in the Church, and to the Holy Ghost, it seemed good to lay upon them no greater burthen than things necessary, yet some of our Mungril Church of England Men, ta­king themselves to be wiser than either the Apostles or the Holy Ghost, have da­red to impose Ceremonies and Observances, no way necessary nor conducing to the Saving of Souls, or Edification; yea, and more strictly requiring Conformity unto them, punishing more severely the breach of them, than the breach of Gods Precepts.

Tho' to err manifestly against the Scriptures, be the most dangerous and greatest blindness that can possibly befal any Christian; and the greatest Chastisement that God can impose in punishment of them, whoever shall make use of the Divine Au­thority to serve their own turns in any worldly Interests; yet so active is the Zeal of Priests of enlarging their own Phylacteries, their Greatness and Impery, that they make no Bones of wresting and perverting any Scripture, Old or New, to make it serve their turns; which in plain English is to make Godliness wait upon Gain, Pride, and Ambition.

Let us now also add and consider the grand Pique these Priestly Court Parasites (pure Church of England Men) have had against Puritans, (the sober and think­ing part of the Nation,) and Puritanism of old, and the same under the names of Whigs and Phanaticks, the Arts and Tricks they have used to suppress the Purity and Power of Religion, by reviling their Persons, decrying and suppressing Lectures on the Week-days, Sermons on Sundays in the Afternoon, and Conventicles, and gi­ving encouragement to Idleness, Looseness, and Prophaness in the People. Witness the Book allowing Sports on the Lord's Day;Printed 1633. and the Countenance given there­to by the then Court Prelates and Prelatical Priests, who procured a Royal Procla­mation to justifie the same: And Archbishop Laud sequestred Mr. Wilson four Years for not Reading that Book; and prosecuted him in the High Commission Court, for not Read­ing the Prayers of the last Edition, commanded by the Archbishop. Nalson 571. Who yet Countenanced Publick Sports on the Lord's-Day by the Examples of the Re­formed Churches beyond Sea, and for the Publick Dances of our Youth upon Country Greens on Sundays after the Duties of the Day; so Bishop Bramhall (other­wise a pious Person, and stout assertor of the Protestant Religion against Popery,) who sees nothing in them but innocent and agreeable to that under sort of Peo­ple, who likewise takes the promiscuous License to unqualified Persons to read the Scripture to be far more prejudicial, nay, more pernicious than the over rigorous restraint of the Roma­nists, p. 641, 642, 643.

This may be the Court Dialect, and Prelatical Gospel, but certainly not Apo­stolical: for the same Equity for keeping the Sabbath strictly, yea, very strictly (not Jewishly Ceremonious) is as incumbent and obliging unto us under the Go­spel at this Day as to the Jews under the Law, I cannot understand such Liberty to be keeping of the Sabbath, but rather a polluting of it, Isai. 56.2, 6. Keeping of the Sabbath is not to rest only from bodily Labour, but to abstain from doing our own pleasures, and our own ways, and not speaking our own words, Isai. 58.13, 14. and abstaining from the delights of Sin, as well as from the Works of our ordinary Cal­lings. What! weary of strict keeping the Sabbaths here, and yet presume on [Page 8]the expectation of an Eternity, which shall be nothing else but Sabbaths? Certain­ly our Sabbaths here are but an Earnest and a Pledge of that Eternal Sabbath which we desire to Celebrate with Saints and Angels in Heavenly Places. I wonder how so Pious a Prince, and of such mighty Insight and Understanding, could be so im­posed upon by his Prelates, and to Countenance such a Book by his Proclamation. I wonder also how Bishop Bramball could shew such dislike of unqualified Persons Reading the Scriptures, (when to search them is a Precept Universal, and to judge of Doctrines also, and) whereas there's nothing in them of absolute necessity to Salva­tion to be believed, but what is very obvious and intelligible to every indifferent ca­pacity.

Bold Church of England Men, that dare to be wiser than Almighty God, by taking upon them to foresee Dangers that God never did foresee, and to prevent them by such Methods as thwart God's own Appointments. Beyond all peradven­ture such Doctrines, such Practices, such Methods, can never conduce to the Bene­fit and Service of God's Holy Church and Chosen, or to the Putity or Propaga­tion of the Gospel, but are rather a muzling of their Mouths, who should tread out their Corn, which should bring forth the food of Life Everlasting unto the People. How­ever, tho' there have been such Priests and Prelates that have so acted, yet I am not of their Opinion who therefore deemed them Papists in Heart. No, no, some of them have given abundant Testimony to the contrary, by their worthy Works, as of Archbishop Laud, Bramball, and others. But it is too plain that they impro­ved what Interest they had at the upper end of the World, towards tho Setting up and Advancing the Power, Impery, and Grandeur of the Church Men, and to keep the Laiety under; and did not improve their Interest towards advancing the Purity and Simplicity of the Gospel, or towards the making of a high way of Holiness through out the Land, that way-fairing men, though fools, might not err therein, Isai. 35.8. that be­ing certainly their greater Duty, to have bestowed themselves and their Interest on the benefit and Service of the Church, rather than of the Pride and Ambition of Church Men.

Thus much by way of Caution, to prevent the like for the future, being of Opi­nion, that the Persecuting Dissenters and Conventicles is as National a Sin as Drink­ing, Drabbing, and Swearing, and ought to be as nationally to be lamented both by Clergy and Laiety: For I must confess my self absolutely ignorant of any one thing, or signal Constitution, from the very beginning of the Reformation to this very day, to which the Dissenters were required to conform and submit, that was es­sentially necessary, either to the Salvation of Souls, or to the more pure and sincere Preaching of the Gospel, unto which they deenid their Conformity or Submission. They would yet ve­ry much oblige us, if they would make known unto us such Constitutions, if any such there be: for if in truth they have not been such, then the Imposers, not the Dissenters, are the Separatists and Schismaticks, for tho very self same Reasons that the Papists are Schismaticks, not Protestants. And I am afraid that it is not Conscience, but finister ends, that makes Prelates contend so out of measure for things no way Essential to Salvation. According to St. Cyprian, In sinu sacerdorum ambitio dormit, ibi sub umbrâ recubat, in Secreto Tholami & fraudulenter occultar & nihil intentatum praetermittit. 442.

About the Year 1558, there being a Custom among the People of Paris, in the Summer Evenings, to go out of the Suburbs of St. German in great Multitudes to take the Fresco, and to Solace themselves with divers kinds of Sports; those of the new Religion, instead of doing so, began to sing the Psalms of David in French Verses; the Multitude first laughed at the Novelty, then leaving the Sports, joyned themselves unto the Singers. And the number of those who came to that place began to increase more than usually, whereupon the Pope's Nuntio told the King of this Novelty, as of a thing pernicious and dangerous; because the Ministeries of Religion, usually Celebrated in the Church in the Latin Tongue by Religious Men only, were put into the Mouths of the common People in the Vulgar Language, which was an invention of the Lutherans; telling him, that if he did not resist the beginnings, in a short time, all Paris would be Lutherans: the King gave order that the principal Authors should be proceeded against; wherein they went not very far, having found Anthony, King of Navar, and his Wife in that Number: but for hereafter it was forbid upon pain of Death. Trent. 410.

Thus you see how both the Hugonots and Papists behaved themselves beyond Sea, and that the King and Queen of Navar were not ashamed to Conventicle openly, nor of Christ, nor of his Words, lest Christ should be ashamed of them when he shall come in his own Glory, and in his Fathers, and of the Holy Angels, Luke 9.26. not ashamed to search the Scriptures in their own Language, because com­manded, and because in them is eternal life, John 5.39.

This Nation and Government did presume at least, that such solemn Rebukes, such severe Reprimands as the Preachers of such Doctrines received from the whole Kingdom, represented in Parliament by King, Lords, and Commons, Clergy and Layety should have forewarned and discouraged all the succeeding Clergy for ever Preaching such destructive Doctrines again; of which we now see and feel the smart and sad effects, which our prudent Predecessors did foresee, and would have prevented by their timely Rebukes and Precautions: but they have not prevailed. In the Church of Ephesus there were those that boasted themselves to be Apostles, but being tried by the Angel of that Church were found Lyars. Is it not so with us? Have we not many that boast themselves to be the only true Church of Eng­land Men, that if tried by our Angels would be found but Mungrils? nay, Ly­ars, making Kings glad with their Wickedness, and Princes with their Lyes, Hos. 7.3. But the Works, and Labour, and Patience, of our true Church of England Men, true Nathaniels indeed, cannot bear such Church of England Men as are so evil, as to dare to Preach and Print such enslaving Doctrines. Nay, now at this very Day its a shame to tell how such false Prophets use the Church of the Great God, by making Her a very Tool and Slave to serve their own turns, and to bring their own ends about, not caring what havock they make of the Purity and Sim­plicity of the Gospel.

Mr. Clifford on Psalm 51.4. pulpits, That Kings, as such are above the Law, have Power to Dispense with the Law at their Pleasure, and alter Religion at Plea­sure, pag. 7.

Mr. J.T — in his Sermon on Eccles. 10.20. declares, That Resistance in all Cases, and in all its Degrees and Circumstances, absolutely unlawful, because it supposes an Appeal of the People from the King to themselves, and makes them Judges of their own Causes: for to place Sovereignty, and the last Appeal, in all the People together, is perfect nonsense, because all the People will never be of one mind while the World stands, pag. 8.9. (and I will add, nor all the Clergy.) And yet he is so ingenious as to confess, That the Interest of a Nation is to be preferred before the Interest or Welfare of one Man: according to John 11.49, 50, 51. It is expedient for us, that one man dye for the People, and that the whole Nation perish not. So that we have a sure word of Prophe­sie, that it is the Testimony of God himself, That a greater Interest of Mankind is to be preferred before a lesser, pag. 20, 21.

As perfect nonsense as this Priest is pleased to make Appeals unto the People to be, yet so wise were the Roman State, above Fifty Years before Christ's time, and so careful of their own Happiness, Rights, and Interests, that they thought it, even then, a most prudent Law: And therefore Publius Valerius caused it to be an Esta­blish't Law, That Appeals should be allowed from any Magistrate to the People. Livy lib. 3. n. 8. And that no Man should offer to make any Magistrate without liberty of Appeal: and if he did, it should be lawful to kill him. Ibid. lib. 3. n. 34. For which prudent Law they honored him, by adding Publicola to his other name.

What the Power of the First Kings were, appears, for that Ephron, Chief Prince of the Children of Heth, would not grant Abraham the possession of a Sepulchre in the Land of the Children of Heth, but in the presence, and with the approbation of the Children of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of his City, Gen. 23.

Nor would Hamor, Prince of the Country, make a League with Jacob, but by the consent of all that went out of the gate of his City, Gen. 34. because all the great Concerns of the Governed was referred unto the Common Council and consent of the People, which in those Empires was easily done, which commonly was circumscribed with­in one or few Cities. But when Kings began to enlarge their Territorios, so that all the People could not Assemble in one Place without danger of confusion; there were ordinarily instituted Tribunes of the People, or Officers of the Kingdom, or of the Governed, to assist and defend the Rights and Priviledges of the People, granted to them by the Law of God and Nature; and upon great Exigences great Assemblies of the Sages of the Governed were assembled, as an Epitome of the Universal People, were extraordinarily congregated to consider and consult thereof.

In the Israelitish Kingdom (which, by consent and judgment of all Politick Wri­ters, was the best constituted Government of the World) was the same order ob­served; the King had his particular Officers, and the Kingdom theirs; Seventy one Elders, their Captains chosen out of every Tribe, which both in War and Peace should take care of the whole; Magistrates also in singulis Municipiis: that as they were to take care of the whole, so the several Officers were to take care of their particular Ci­ties and Charges over which they were set. For David called all the Congregation when he desired to Invest Solomon in his Kingdom: when he had restored the Po­licy of that Nation to have it examined and approved, 1 Chron. 19. So when Da­vid was to fetch back the Ark, &c. 1 Chron. 13. which Officers, because they repre­sented the People, it is said, the People came together; so the People rescued Jona­than, whom Saul had appointed to die, 1 Sam. 14.45. by which it appears, that an Ap­peal did lie from the King to the People. So the Kingdom of Israel was rent from Re­hoboam by the People; by which it appears, that the Synedrium of Seventy one at Jerusalem, had the Authority, that as Kings did judge particular Persons, so these had the Power to judge Kings.

The Hogen-Mogen words of Sovereign and Supreme, are but verba solennia, words of Course and Complemental, but confer no Power: what Great and Sovereign Powers Kings by Right have, are given and limited by Laws of common Consent, and not Absolute: what other Laws of Sovereignty there are of Right that belong to them is past all Understanding, absolute Sovereignty in Kings hath no warrant beyond any Divine Law, that belongs only to God, who is Lord of all the Kingdoms of the Earth. And though Appeals to all the People may be Nonsence, yet it is ve­ry good Sense to Appeal to their Epitomy, their Representatives, their Ephori, and Tri­bunes to the Laws, and to the Legislators which are the Supreme and Sovereign Power of the Nation, and have an equal share in making our Laws.

The Commons House, 4. Car. 1628, having prepared a Petition to present to his Majesty, sent it to the Lords for their concurrence; who returned it, adding these words, viz. [With due regard to leave intire the Sovereign Power, wherewith your Majesty is intrusted for the Protection, Safety, and Happiness of the People.] Which terms of Sove­reign Power were so distasteful to the Commons, as looking, being free from any condition, and that they were no part of the Law, no Parliamentary words, that they weakned Magna Charta, and all our Statutes, that by intendment and implica­tion they might give a Sovereign Power above all those Laws, &c. and therefore would by no means admit thereof, tho' strongly contested for by the Lords. Rush. 568.

‘These, and such like were the things that made the Parliament in 1641 Remon­strate to his Majesty, That the most Publick and Solemn Sermons before his Ma­jesty, were either to advance Prerogative above Law, or decry the Property of the Subject, and thereby lay a foundation of difference between the King and his People, or else Invectives to make those odious who sought to maintain the Reli­gion and Laws of the Kingdom, and to have them weeded out of all Com­missions, or other Imployments of Power in the Government, that the Bishops and others of the Clergy did, by their Suspensions, Excommunications, Deprivations, and Degradations, of divers painful, learned, and pious Ministers, oppress his Ma­jesty's Subjects; that the High Commission Court, and the Courts of the Bishops did exceed in sharpness and severity little less than the Romish Inquisition, that those were fittest for Ecclesiastical Preferments, and soonest obtained them, who were most virulent against Godliness and Honesty, and used means to suppress the Purity and Power of Religion, and to increase and maintain, ignorance, looseness and prophaness in the People: that the Archbishops and other Bishops and Clergy conti­nued the Convocation by a new Commission, and turned it to a Provincial Synod, in which by an unheard of Presumption; they made Canons that contained in them many matters contrary to the Kings Prerogative, to the fundamental Laws and Statutes of the Realm, to the Right of Parliaments, to the Property and Liberty of the Subject, and matters tending to Sedition, and of dangerous Con­sequence; thereby establishing their own Usurpations, justifying their Altar-wor­ship, and those other Superstitions and Innovations, which they formerly intro­duced without warrant of Law. They imposed a new Oath upon divers of his Ma­jesty's Subjects, both Ecclesiastical and Lay, for maintaining their own Tyranny, and laid a great Tax upon the Clergy, for supply of his Majesty; and generally they shewed themselves very affectionate to the War with Scotland, (which was the be­ginning [Page 11]of all our future mischief,) and by themselves stiled Bellum Episcopale, all their pretended Canons and Constitutions were armed with several censures of Suspension, Excommunication, Deprivation, by which they would have thrust out all the good Ministers, and most of the well affected People of the Kingdom, and left an easie passage to their own design of Reconciliation with Rome. Remonstr. Decemb. 15. 1641.

This is no new way of Remonstrating against such ill Church of England Men, designing to enslave a free Kingdom by their Doctrines. For in the Parliament 1625, the House of Commons did Article against Mr. Ric. Montague, that he might be punished, and his Book burnt, for his impious and profane scoffing at Preaching, Meditations, and Conferrences, (which in plain English is Conventickling,) Pulpits, Lectures, Bible, and all shew of Religion, and for casting the odious name of Puri­tans on Orthodox Men. Rushworth 215. ‘And in the Parliament 1628, the Com­mons did Remonstrate against Dr. Neal, Bishop of Winton, and Laud Bishop of Bath and Wells, that there hath been no small labouring to remove that which is the most powerful means to strengthen and increase our own Religion, and to oppose both those, which is the diligent Teaching and Instructing in the true Knowledge and Worship of God; and therefore means have been sought out to depress and discountenance Pious, Painful, and Orthodox Preachers, how con­formable soever, and Peaceable in their Disposition and Carriage they be; yet the preferment of such is opposed, and instead of being encouraged they are mo­lested with vexatious Courses and Punishments, and hardly permitted to Lecture.’ Rushworth 215, 633, 634.

What were they also in their Opinion, but high and mighty Church of England Men, against whom the Parliament, 4 Car. 1628. did Declare and Remonstrate, ‘That with a wicked and malicious intention, to seduce and misguide the Conscience of the Kings most Excellent Majesty, touching the observation of the Laws and Cu­stoms of this Kingdom, and of the Rights and Liberties of the Subjects, to in­cense his Royal Displeasure against his good Subjects, so refusing to scandalize, subvert, and impeach the good Laws and Government of this Realm, and the Au­thority of the High Court of Parliament, to Alienate his Royal Heart from his People, and to cause Jealousies, Sedition, and Division in the Kingdom, who did Teach that his Majesty is not bound to keep and observe the good Laws and Cu­stoms of this Realm, concerning the Rights and Liberties of the Subjects. And that his Royal Will and Command in imposing Loans and Taxes, and other Aids upon the People without common consent in Parliament, doth so far bind the Consciences of Subjects, that they cannot refuse the same without peril of Eternal Damnation; that those who refused the Loan did therein offend against the Law of God, against his Majesty's Supreme Authority, and by so doing became guilty of Impiety, Disloyalty, Rebellion, and Disobedience, and liable to many other Taxes and Censures; that Authority of Parliament is not necessary for the Raising of Aids and Subsidies.’ Rush. 602. An. 1628.

‘That there was a general fear of secret Working and Combination, to intro­duce into this Kingdom Innovation and change of our pure Religion, by Persons much favoured and advanced, not wanting Friends even of the Clergy, near to your Majesty, namely, Dr. Neal, Bishop of Winchester, and Dr. Laud, Bishop of Bath and Wells, who are justly suspected to be unsound in their Opinions that way; It being generally held to be the High-way to Preferment and Promotion in the Church; many Scholars do bend the course of their Studies to maintain those Er­rors, that their Books and Opinions are suffered to be printed and published, and others written against them and in defence of the Orthodox Church are hindered and prohibited: And we find that there hath been no small labouring to remove that which is the most powerful means to strengthen and increase our own Religion, and to oppress Popery, which is the diligent Teaching and Instruction of the Peo­ple in the true Knowledg and Worship of God, and therefore means have been sought out to depress and discountenance Pious, Painful, and Orthodox Preach­ers, peaceable in their Disposition and Carriage, and yet their Preferment of such is opposed, and instead of being encouraged they are molested with vexatious courses and pursuits, hardly permitted to Lecture, 602, 632, 634. 1628.’

Tantum Religio potuit suadere malorum
Quae peperit saepè scelerata atque impia facta. 195.

And our high and mighty Church of England Men did in our memories so su­perciliously manage their own haughty Resolutions, that they necessitated the Par­liament to take away their High Commission and their Parliamentary Priviledge, forbidding them to meddle with any Temporal Affairs: And I do not find that they are grown much more prudent yet, for that they manage themselves in this intricate juncture of time at such a rate that all Mens Mouths are ready, and stand half cockt against them, and I fear may in time provoke the Parliament to do the like or more again, they monopolizing all Government over others of them­selves, which is far from being Apostolical; for in the Apostles times, and divers Ages after, all the People being under the inspection of one Bishop (vulgarly the the Pastor of a Parish) were wont to meet together, not only for Worship, but other Church Administrations; all publick Acts passed at the Assemblies of the whole People, they were consulted with, their concurrence was thought necessary, and their presence required, that nothing might pass without their Cognizance, Satisfaction, and Consent.

This was observed not only in Election of Bishops, Priests, and Officers, but in Ordination and Censures, in Admission of Members, and Reconciling of Penitents, and in Debates and Consultations about other Emergencies: but not one plain word in Scripture that one Apostle was subject to another, nor one gathered Church subject to another, or that any Man had lawful Authority to forbid Assembling of the Brethren together, whether with or without a Priest.

In summ, when Priest-craft had enlarged their Territories beyond their ancient Bounds, (which was but one Parish, or a select Number, scarce exceeding 150 or 200,) unto many, whereby they became Cardinals and Diocesans, &c. They thereby cajoled the People of their undoubted Rights and Priviledges, and neces­sarily introduced an essential change of the True and Primitive Government of the Church set up by Christ, and set up one to fit their own turn and ends. In the very next Ages succeeding the Apostles, (and so for 400 Years and more) one Pa­rish or single Congregation was thought sufficient for one Bishop or Pastor, so that as Christians multiplied, so separate Congregations, Bishops, or Pastors; so that there were as many Pastors or Bishops as there were several Congregations, or Churches in a Province, and not one Church or Congregation subject to the Laws, Usages, or Ordinances of any other. No Churches gathered by St. Paul were sub­ject to those gathered by St. Peter, nor è contra of them, or of any other of the Apo­stles, or of any Churches gathered by their Successors. Hence came several and di­versity of Rites and Usages in the Ancient Churches, without being accounted Schismaticks, Separatists, Non-cons, or Phanaticks, and with perfect Love, Unity, and Uniformity, because they held the same Faith and Doctrine. And 150, or 200 Souls, was thought as many as one Bishop or one Pastor could take charge and give a good account of. So that a single Congregation, or gathered Church, was esteemed a competent Charge for an Episcopal Pastor; for the Episcopal Churches were daily multiplied, and each Church had Power to govern and order it self, and so followed such orders as every Church or gathered Congregation thought fit without being obliged to conform to those of any other Church or Congregation: they had no Rule or Order in things of this nature requiring observance, or did they regard such Uniformity as later Ages have been fond of, to the prejudice of the Unity and Peace of the Church, even to the persecuting of Righteous Men in our Kingdoms, none of those Churches used the same Prayers, all of them had not the same Creeds, they had not the same Rites in Baptism, or the Lord's Sup­per, nor the same way in Confirming, Marrying, or Burying: they used not the same mode either in reading the Scriptures, or Singing; they observed not the same methods in admitting Members, or preparing them for the Communion, neither proceeding to Censures or reconciling Penitents: they differed also in their Ha­bits and Postures, they varied in their Fasts, both for time and manner, and observed not the same Festivals: This was the Uniformity of the more Pure and Primitive times, and no Persecution ensued; no Appeals allowed from one Bishop, or one Congregation to another: So that the Uniformity the latter Ages have been so fond of, is a down-right Novelty and Innovation, which hath broken the Bond of Charity and Unity, and instead thereof hath brought in Animosities, Divisions, and Separations, nay, Persecutions on God's Holy People, very unworthy and unbe­seeming Christian Pastors, to make such actings more their business than the sup­pressings of Sin, and promoting of real and strict Holiness.

All this, and much more, is so plain in ancient Writers, that none but Novices and Chits in Story can be ignorant hereof. If you will believe one of the greatest Prelates of the West, and at no less than 600 Years distance from Christ: In una fide nibil officit Sanctae Ecclesiae diversa consuetudo, saith Gregory the first; where there is one Faith its no harm to the Church if there be diversity of usages, i. e. the Church hath no harm for want of Uniformity.

And before him Innocent the first, who lived about the Second Century, in his Epist. ad Decen. writes, that diversè in diversis locis vel Ecclesiis obtineri aut celebrari videntur.

To the Justification whereof, and to the constant Practice thereof, even from the Days of the Apostles unto this very Day, gives abundant Testimony the Churches of the Vaudois (called Waldenses, Albigenses, poor Men of Lyons, Chaignard, Tramontani, Lollards, Siccari, Fraticelli, Gazares, Turlepini, &c. and for their Simplicity; Purity, and Sincerity termed Evangelical, having been for many Hundreds of Years injured, reproached, despised, banished, excommunicated, anathematized, Goods confiscated, tortured, wearing Miters in derision, reviled, spit upon, Ears cropt, their Flesh pincht off with Princers, drawn with Horses, drag'd up and down, broiled, roasted, stoned to death, burnt, drowned, dismembred, smothered in Caves by hellish Papists, &c.) who have preserved themselves from the infecti­on of External Ministries of other Churches, defiled with infinite human invention. It being the Tenth Article of their Belief, viz. That the inventions of Men are an unspeakable abomination before God. And their custom is, That if any of their Barbes, their Pastors, shall fall into any foul or unclean Sin, he is cast out of their company, and forbidden the Charge of Preaching. They Teach also, Arti­cle 15. ‘That because the differences of Ceremonies, Customs, and Rites, which are used in several Churches, and are not prejudicial or hurtful to Piety, they ought not to be offended one with another, or contemn, hate, and persecute one ano­ther.’ And Ph. Melancthon is of the same mind in his Epistle to Mr. Benedict and the rest of the Waldenses, viz. ‘that no difference and variety of Rites and Ceremo­nies ought to disunite our Minds.’

Now, if the Churches of the Valleys have been Celebrated through all Ages of the Church, as they have been and are yet even to this day, as the Worshippers of God in the greatest Purity and Simplicity, and nearest the Purity and Simplicity of Christ and his Apostles, and the least tainted with Romish Superstitions and human Inventions, with what Face can Protestants Persecute Protestants for things in­different, desiring to Worship God in the same Simplicity, Purity and Sin­cerity?

If the true Church of England be to be known by her Faith, Doctrine, Articles, and Sacraments, then beyond all contradiction the Non-con Presbyters and Inde­pendants are more truly right Church of England Men, (maugre all the Obloquies and ungrounded Prejudices against them) than those that so imperiously appropri­ate and usurp that Name to themselves; and happily a more sincere Homogeneal part of the Church Catholick, without infringing Unity of Faith or true Doctrine. But if Ceremonies or Usages not prescribed nor used by Christ or his Apostles in the purest Times must make the distinction, then certainly their Non-conformi­ty is more agreeable to the Practice of Christ and his Apostles, and the Primitive Times, than the Ceremonial Usages and Practices of these later Ages: for it must appear upon due examination, that there was not one Ceremony either used or commanded in their times, and yet Converts as many, and then it will certainly and undeniably follow, that all those Ceremonies introduced since, are Innovations; and consequently, those that impose them on Severities and Censures are the Inno­vators and Separatists, I had almost said Schismaticks; tho' some with Brows of Brass have cast those odious Names on the Presbyters and Independants. For those that impose Rites and Ceremonies, no ways Essential to the saving of Souls, on Pe­nalties and Severities, especially unto Silencing and Suspension, to which consci­entious Persons cannot submit, must be the Schismaticks, or else our Separation from Rome can hardly be justified.

If such Tenets and Practices must be the Test and Character of true Church of England Men, I must confess my self not as yet so well qualified; and I believe few others yet are more true Church of England Men: for, indeed, I have no mind to make Religion lackey and hunt after earthly ends and purposes, lest by pertaking with other Mens Sins I should receive of their Plagues also: but [Page 14]by such Practices it is plain, that they are not all Israel which are of Israel. The true Church of England Men are Men of better Principles, and more Honesty, both Bi­shops and others, who do comply conscientiously with the Innocent Ceremonies of our Church without Reviling, Slandering, Persecuting, or Disturbing those who do as conscientiously Preach the same Gospel in Sincerity, tho' in Conventicles, without any Ceremonies, as Christ and his Apostles did.

That the Churches of Christ are miserably rent and torn cannot be denied; and that the breaches thereof hath proceeded from the Pride, Ambition, Laziness, Un­charitableness, and Contentions of the Clergy, have been the chief cause thereof is as true. The renting of Christ's seamless Coat began even in the days of the Apo­stles, who rebuked them who said, I am of Paul, I am of Apollo, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ; as if Christ had been divided, 1 Cor. 1.22. And therefore Paul besought them by the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, That they would all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions amongst them: but that they be perfectly joyned together in the same mind, and in the same judgment, ver. 10. For whereas there is among you en­vying, and strife, and division, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? Who then is Paul? and who is Apollo? but Ministers by whom yee believed, 1 Cor. 3.3, 4, 5. And it is well known, that the wisest and most peaceable Men, (tho' of different Perswasions, as protestants, Papists, and others,) are of Opinion, that Constantine and other Pious Emperours endowing the Clergy with great Powers, Priviledges, Honours, Offices, Dignities, and Preferments, hath been the occasion of the Pride, Luxury, Tyranny, Uncharitableness, and Laziness of the Clergy; and consequently, the bane and de­struction of true Holiness, Purity and Simplicity, that ought to be in the Clergy, they being as Baits, Snares, Allurements, and Temptations, to seek and hunt after them, and so to neglect to seek the Kingdom of God in the first place as they ought to do. I may also say with many other wise and peaceable minded Men, as a very great truth, That as through pride cometh contention, Prov. 13.10. so through the Pride and Haughtiness of the Clergy, more havock hath been made of Love, Charity, Purity, Sincerity, and Simplicity of the Gospel, than all the bloody Persecutions that have been in the World.

It is the Opinion of learned and judicious Mr. Jo. Hales in his Tract of Schism, ‘That were Liturgies and publick Forms of Service so framed as that they admit­ted not of particular and private Fancies, but contained only such things as in which all Christians do agree on: And the event shall be, that the Publick Ser­vice and Honour of God shall no ways suffer. Whereas to load our Publick Forms with the private Fancies upon which we differ, is the most sovereign way to per­petuate Schism unto the Worlds end. Prayer, Confession, Thanksgiving, Reading, and Exposition of Scriptures, Administration of Sacraments in the plainest and simplest manner, were matter enough to furnish out a sufficient Liturgy, tho' no­thing either of private or Church Pomp, of Garments, of prescribed Gestures, of Imagery, of Musick, of matter concerning the Dead, of many Superfluities, which creep into the Churches under the name of Order and Decency did interpose it self. For to charge Churches and Liturgies with things unnecessary, was the be­ginning of all Superstition; and when scruples of Conscience began to be made, or pretended, then Schisms began to break in. If the Spiritual Guides and Fathers of the Church would be a little sparing, of incumbring Churches with superfluities, and not over-rigid in either reviving obsolete Customs, or imposing new, there were far less danger of Schism or Superstition, and all the inconveniences likely to ensue would be but this, they should in so doing yield a little to the Imbecillity of Inferiors; a thing which St. Paul would never have refused to do. Mean while wheresoever false and suspected Opinions are made a piece of the Church Liturgy, he that separates is not the Schismatick, for that is a like unlawful, to make Pro­fession of known or suspected Falshoods, as to put in practice unlawful or suspect Actions.’

Much of the same Opinion is Bishop Usher, ‘If at this day we should take a Sur­vey of the several Professions of Christianity that have any large spread in any part of the World, (as of the Religion of the Romans, and the Reformed Churches in our Quarters; of the Egyptians and Ethiopians in the South; of the Graecians, and other Christians in the East,) and should put by the Points wherein they differ one from another, and gather from one Body the rest of the Articles wherein they all did generally agree, we should find, that in those Propositions, which without Controversie are Universally received in the whole Christian World; so much [Page 15]Truth is contained, that being joyned with Holy Obedience, may be sufficient to bring Men into everlasting Salvation.’ His Sermon on Ephes. 4.13. preached before his Majesty. 1624.

If our Ecclesiastical Grandees in the last Reformation of our Liturgy had been of St. Paul's mind, (as they ought to have been) and not abuse their Power in the Gospel; who, though he was free from all Men, yet made himself Servant unto all, that he might gain the more; to the Jew, a Jew; to them that are under the Law, as under the Law, to them that are without the Law, as without the Law, [being not without Law to God, but under the Law to Christ.] To the weak as weak: and was made all things to all men, that by any means he might save some. And this he did for the Gospel sake, 1 Cor. 9.18, 23. And by his so doing, he gave no offence neither to the Jews, nor the Gentiles, nor to the Church of God: but he pleased all men in all things, not seeking his own pro­fit, but the profit of many, that they might be saved, chap. 10. ver. 32, 33. There had been no complaining of our Prelates, nor any matter left to pick quarrels withall, and the Kingdom much happier than now it is; which Doctrine of Compliance is to be understood only of things indifferent. And our Non-cons desire but the like in things indifferent. Sure if St. Paul, so much a more excellent Person than our Pontiffs, held it his Duty thus to comply, it would be no disparagement to our Prelates to do the same.

Certainly none will dare to aver, That our Conventicles, quatenus Conventicles, are unlawful, but unlawful only upon Presumptions, and ungrounded Prejudices, and Surmizes that their Non-conformist Teachers (mostly Presbyterians or Indepen­dants) do teach or foment Rebellion, Schism, Faction. Now if in truth they are not guilty of such Crimes, but their good Conversation is falsly abused by them, 1 Pet. 3.16. What have such Conformist Church of England Men to answer for themselves, that so slander them by laying such Crimes to their charge as they are no ways guilty of, and in their Pulpits, out of which nothing should be Preach't, but what is as true as Gospel?

One Mr. J.T. in his Sermon on Eccl. 10.20. pag. 29, 31. hath so hard thoughts of them, as to believe, That we shall never be free of a Plot, if not against the Lafe of the King, yet against the Peace, and Honour of his Government, so long as there is one Con­venticle in England left. And that as it is Death by the Laws of this Nation, for a Po­pish Priest to be seen upon English Ground; so it would be very well, if it were so for a Non conforming one too. Very Ghostly Councel to come from a Ministor of the Go­spel of Peace! I could wish that he, and those of the like Junto, did understand their Priesthood as it ought to be understood, then they would Preach things that now were Holy, Pure, Peaceable, and of good Report, without such Trash.

This Gentleman is not alone in these stabbing Censures, there are more of his Quire that sing to the like Tune, a temper very ill becoming Preachers of the Go­spel of Peace.

One other, Mr. M. B. (commonly known in the University by the Character of his Majesty's D—ee Chaplain was turned out (for what it's a shame to tell) tho' since crept in again,) in his Sermon on Luke 19.14. tells us, That among Phana­ticks (a new Nick-name for old Puritans,) their Loyalty is Rebellion, and their Reli­gion is Treason; and whose very Gospel is the Mystery of Iniquity: and that amongst Pha­naticks and Atheists, transformed into malitious Fiends, by the Hellish divinity of that Monster of a Priest, the Author of Julian the Apostate, whose whole Book it as great an Apostacy from the Practice of the Primitive Christians, the Precepts of Obedience delivered by Christ and his Apostles, and Christianity it self, as ever Julian was guilty of, pag. 19. As false a Scandal as a Priest of Baal could pulpit. These are your Boanarges, pure Church of England Men in their right Colours and Pontificalibus. Nay, the unclean Spirits, like the Frogs that came out of the mouth of the Dragon, and out of the mouth of the Beast, and out of the mouth of the false Prophet; which are the Spirits of Devils, which go forth unto the Kings of the Earth, &c. Rev. 26.13, 14. who are not content falsly to Calumniate the Non-cons only, but to Stigmatize also true Nathaniels. Witness M. B. charging, as a profligate Wretch, and mercenary Scribler, the late Writer of Julian the Apostate; of which Charge, the generality, and best, and wisest, both of Clergy and Laiety, do now acquit, and justifie him to be the more Orthodox, by their Pulpits, Prints, and Practices. Sure, sure, Pulpits were never designed to spit Venome, nor fulsly to Calumniate any, especially for Printing and Publishing Gospel truths, as that of lawful Resistance and Passive Obedience: which Doctrines the generality of the Nation, Lords, Commons, Bishops, Priests, Clergy, and Laiety, now own and practice; and which was [Page 16]ever the Doctrine of the Church of England, and of all sound Divines, tho' meta­morphosised and misrepresented by some Mungril Church of England Men, as thwarting their sublunary designs of Pride, Ambition, Covetousness, Honours, and Preferments, very ill becoming that most excellent Spirit that ought to be in true Gospel Preachers. For in the end such Pulpiteers do but foam out their own Shame, daring in that Sacred Place to do more than Michael the Arch-Angel, who contending with the Devil himself, durst not bring a railing accusation against him. But I hope their Eyes are now inlightned by seeing that destructive Doctrine bafled by a Miriad of Priests and Pulpits, which the former Government would not bear, and yet the true Doctrine of Passive Obedience, with its just Limits and Qualifications, re­mains as true and as firm in the Church of England as ever.

These Priests are not alone in vilely Characterizing our Conventicles; for if you consult our Sermons of late Years, especially those Preached on certain Solemn Days, as those on the 30th of January, on the 9th of Sept. 1683, and the like, you will find them generally be-spattering our Conventicles, either in broad glances, or plain terms, as tho' it were the business of Christianity to revile and persecute Men for their Consciences differing from them in small things; and those inde­terminate by plain places of Scriptures. Whether the Characters that these Men, and those of the same quorum, or the Character that I have given of them be the truest, I appeal to God and the whole Nation: however I have this for my Justi­fication, or at least for Extenuation, viz. the several Addresses of several Parliaments to the King on their behalf and against their Persecutors. And if I am in an Er­ror, it is an Error on the Right-hand, to judge them Pious that seem so, tho' in truth they were not so: I am no discerner of Hearts, God only knows them; but Charity believeth all things, hopeth all things, and covereth a multitude of faults. This good Opinion of mine of them is not without the Testimony of many of their grave, sober, pious, peaceable, learned, and understanding Auditors averring the same; and that they constantly pray as fervently and heartily for the King, Church, and State, as any Conformist Church of England Priests. And which is yet more demonstrable, their Sermons and Works in Print manifest the same to all the World, as the Works of Dr. Bates, Dr. Owen, Tho. Godwin, R. Baxter, R. Allen, and a hundred more, which declare to all the World their Sentiments, their Learn­ing, and their Piety, wherein they are as Orthodox as other true Church of England Men are, tho' neither one nor the other are Infallible. And must we after such Testimonies and Demonstration of their Abilities, their Soundness of Doctrine, their Labours and Endeavours for Holy Living and Conversation, esteem them as Monsters of Priests, revile them, take up evil Reports against them, and load them with the guilt of all the late horrid Rebellious Plots, the Assosiation, Fire at New Market, the Rye, and that of the late Duke of Monmouth, without infallible Proof and Demonstration? Sure, sure, this ought not to be. What if some few of many hundreds have been so phanatick, so mad, to ingage in some or all of these Rebel­lions, must all the rest be esteemed guilty therefore? Sure this can be no Righteous Judgment. Were all the Eleven Apostles Traitors because Judas was? Happily, if a fair computation could be made, there would be found guilty of some or of all these Rebellions, many more Atheistical Debauchees, and ill-lived Persons, than Conventiclers or Non-conformists.

Mr. J. T. himself, for all his hard Speeches against them, is not so uncharitable as to believe, but that most of the Dissenters knew nothing of the Duke of Monmouth's De­sign; yet he is certain, that if it had taken effect, they would all have sided with the Con­spirators against the Laws, the Monarchy, and the Church of England, pag. 29. Though the Hearts of Men are deceitful above all things, yet it seems this Church of England Priest knows them all. I know the Opinion that the high Church of England Men have of the Non-conformists in general, is, that of Villanies, the well-meaning Zealots (it's well known whom they mean thereby) are the most dangerous. So the Ecclesiastical Politician.

If we reflect on the severe Reprimands and Censures laid upon Sibthorp and Manwaring for their destructive Principles and Doctrines of Government, and the Remonstrances of a Kingdom reprefented in a Parliament against those, that dis­countenanced good and Pious Ministers of the Gospel, and their Assembling, one would think should for ever have deterred all future Ages from entertaining any such like Principles again, and from discouraging and discountenancing Assemblies meeting only to serve God, and to save their own Souls. But I see Hogen-Mogen [Page 17]Church of England Men will be so still, maugre all the Judgments, Censures, and Punishments, that a whole Kingdom can inflict upon them.

If our Conventicles are such as are represented, Factious, Rebellious, Schismatical, why do not our Tory Priests assemble themselves, and teach and practise better things? But to be like Dogs in the Manger, neither eat Hay, nor let the Horses eat: neither assemble themselves, nor suffer others that would, is no Character of a good Shepherd. As it cannot be denied, that God requires his Worship to be Pub­lick, and Celebrated in great Congregations in the beauty of Holiness, as in Temples, Altars, Forms of Service, Set times, &c. so it cannot be denied, that God requires the in­ward and private Devotions, both in Heart, Closet, and Houses; and that all Assemblings of Christians for Mutual and Reciprecal help of Piety and Devotion wheresoever, and by whomsoever Celebrated, ought to be permitted without exception or stint.

It is a shame to publish it, but it is a sad truth, that the Pride, and Haughtiness of the Clergy in all Ages, and the Villanous Doctrines they teach concerning King­ly Powers and their own, have abused, and seduced, and misguided Kings into all Misgovernments, viz. That Kings have an Arbitrary Power from above, to direct what Laws, and to take what Tribute they please; that they have Power to bind the Consciences of their Subjects to the Religion they think best; that they are unaccountable to any on Earth, and that all private Consciences must be subject to the publick Conscience; without which they are no better than Statues, and Images of Authority: These, and worse, if worse may be, are the frequent Documents of our high Church of England Mens Pulpits, and Prints, which are destructive to all Governments and human Societies: So that upon the whole matter, it is no matter what Religion, or what Government God hath established, but what Kings and Princes command.

These Tory Church of England Men have no consideration how easily uncontro­lable Authority degenerates into Tyranny, till the Poor have scarse a hole to hide their Heads in, or a rag to cloath their naked Backs, or a morsel of Bread to fill their hungry Bowels. Masterless Power on Earth is apt to make even Kings to forget their King and Judge in Heaven; as if Providence slept because Judgment is not speedily executed. Consider it all yet that forget God, and remember that the Redeemer of the oppressed is mighty, and never more ready to avenge the Cause of the innocent and oppressed, than when it is most neglected by his Vice-gerents. Ahab and Jezabel exer­cised in Israel Authority without controul. Who should punish the oppression of Naboth? the Lord takes the Cause into his own Hand, and causeth Dogs to lick hhis Blood in the very place where they licked the innocent Blood of Naboth; and the Dogs did eat the Flesh of Jezabel, that cursed Woman, by the wall of Jezreel: so there is Blood for Blood, and an utter extinction of Ahab's posterity, 1 Kings 21. lege Taleonis.

M. B. in his Sermon before his Majesty on the 2 Pet. 3.16. lays down for a sure Rule, That it is the Duty of private men to submit their Judgments, in matters of Religion, to the Determinations of those whom God hath constituted to be their Spiritual Guides and Governours, unless it manifestly appears that such Determinations are contrary to God's Word, pag. 6. And so we are if anyApollos Mi­nister of Cae­sarea and of Iconia, was an Elo­quent Man, mighty in the Scripture, in­structed in the way of the Lord, servent in the Spirit, why spake and taught dili­gently the things of the Lord; and spake boldly in the Synagogue: and yet Aquila and Priscilla his Wife, Tent-makers, when they heard him, took him home, and expounded to him the way of God more perfectly, Acts 18.24, 25, 26. private Man teach another any Truths, and to believe the private Man before any Spiritual Guides or Governours that preach and teach Untruths, and every Man for himself is the proper Judge of what is taught. The Apostles themselves, tho' infallible, submitted their Doctrines to the Judgment of their Disciples. Judge ye, Acts 4.19. 1 Cor. 10.15. and so must our Guides and Governors; which he would insinuate here to be the Clergy, i. e. Bishops and Priests; if so, he will be mistaken: they are only Officers in the Church to Teach, Baptize, &c. but the Church, in the truest sense, (i. e. the whole Con­gregation of the Faithful) is to govern its own Body, and the Officers thereof, not the Officers the Church; which will not please.

The Ecclesiastical Politician declares, That it is absolutely necessary to the Peace and Government of the World; that the Supreme Magistrate of every Commonwealth should be vested with a Power to Govern and Conduct the Consciences of Subjects in Affairs of Reli­gion, pag. 10. How is it possible, that the Supreme Magistrate, and our Spiritual Guides and Governors, should both have the guide of our Consciences? And that Peace and Tranquillity of Commonwealth, being the prime and most important end of Govern­ment, can never be sufficiently secured, unless Religion be subject to the Authority of the [Page 18]Supreme Power, pag. 11. And unless Princes have Power to bind their Subjects to that Religion that they apprehend most advantageous to publick Peace and Tranquillity, and re­strain those Religious mistakes that tend to its subversion, they are no better than Statues and Images of Authority, pag. 12. For it is clear (if this Ecclesiastical Polititian may be believed) that a Prince is endued with a Power to conduct Religion, and that must be subject to his Dominion as well as other Affairs of State, pag. 13. The consequence of which Doctrines are, That if Nebuchadnezzar erect his prodigious Idol, and upon pain of a fiery Furnace require all to Worship it; all People, Nations, and Languages, must pre­sently be upon their Faces: and for their warrant for so doing, he assures them, That in Cases and Disputes of publick concernment, private Men are not properly sui Juris, they have no Power over their own Actions, they are not to be directed by their own Judgments, or determined by their own Wills; but by the Commands and Determinations of the publick Conscience. And if there be any sin in the command, he that imposed it shall answer for it, and not I whose Duty is to obey: the commands of Authority will warrant my Obedience, my Obedience will hallow, or at least excuse my Action, and so secure me from Sin, if not from Error: because I follow the best Guide, and most probable Direction I am capable of: and tho' I may mistake, my Integrity shall perserve my Innocence. In all doubtful and disputable Cases, it is better to err with Authority, than to be in the right against it; and therefore in all such matters their Commands are the Supreme Rule of Conscience: not only because the danger of a little Error (and so it is if it be disputable,) is over-weighed by the importance of the great Duty of Obedience, but because they are the fittest Judges, pag. 308, 309.

What is this but down-right asserting the abominable Papal Doctrines of Probabi­lity and of blind Obedience? brave Doctrines for a Tory Church of England Man to Preach and Print impuné. Good God! whether are we posting? I thank God I have been taught better things, viz. Every one of us shall give account of himself to God, Rom. 14.12. The soul that sinneth, it shall die, Ezek. 28.20. The soul of the pub­lick conscience shall not be put to death for the sins of the private; nor the souls of private consciences be put to death for the sins of the publick: but every man shall be put to death for his own sin, Deut. 24.16.

Daw-Divines! to Print that the publick Conscience shall stand between the pri­vate Conscience (sinning by his Command) and the Judgment of the great Day, and excuse from Sin. I thank God that I have been taught by true Church of England Men indeed, that God never created Men, nor ever endued them with Consci­sciences, or gave them Talents of Reason or Judgment, subject and enslaved to the Judg­ment, Conscience, or Reason of others; but hath endued and trusted every Man with his own proper Talent of Conscience, Reason, and Judgment to chuse for himself; according to which only he shall be judged, and stand or fall at the Day of Judgment: and not ac­cording to any publick Conscience. There would be very little need of Priests, if blind Obedience ought to prevail, and not our own free choice.

He proceeds and tells us, That God hath appointed the Magistrates to be his Trustees and Officials here upon Earth, to act and determine in moral Virtues and pious Devotions, according to all accidents and emergencies of Affairs, to assign new particulars of the Di­vine Law, to declare new bounds of right and wrong, which the Law of God neither doth nor can limit, pag. 18. That its absolutely necessary to the Peace and Happiness of King­doms, that there be set up a more severe Government over Mens Consciences, and Religions, and Perswasions, than over their Vices and Immoralities. Preface to his Eccl. Pol. p. 53. And that Princes may with less bazard give liberty to Mens Vices and Debaucheries than to their Consciences, pag. 55. I have heard it also preached before the King, That it is better to offend in Doctrine than in Discipline. Sure much Learning, or Haughty Pride, and Ambition, Self-ends, and Interest, hath made these Men mad. And so fulfilled the Prophecy of Hosea 9.7. The Prophet is a fool, and the Spiritual man mad. Sure God hath turned these wise Ecclesiastical Polititians backwards, and made their knowledge foollish, Isai. 44.25.

However I will say thus much to them, That Liberty of Conscience is undeniably the right of every true Believer, viz. to judge of such things as belong chiefly to the knowledge and service of God, whether they are above the reach and light of Nature, (and therefore liable to be variously understood by human Reason,) or enjoyned or forbidden by Divine Pre­cept, and to follow that full perswasion whereby every one is assured, that his Belief and Practice, as far as he is able to apprehend, is according to the Will of God, and his Holy Spirit within him; which undoubtedly we ought to follow, much rather than any publick Conscience or Law of Man, Magistrate, or not Magistrate, as both the [Page 19]Word of God bids us, and the very dictate of Reason tells us, Acts 4.19. Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you, more than unto God, judge ye. And we have no other outward Divine Rule to judge by than the Scriptures, nor no other within us but the illumination of the Spirit, so interpreting that Scripture as war­rantably only unto our selves, which commands us to search the Scriptures daily, whe­ther those things are so, Acts 17.11. and gives us Reason also, let every man prove his own (not his Magistrates) work, and then shall he have rejoycing in himself alone, and not in another, (tho' publick Conscience,) for every man shall bear his own burden, Gal. 6.4, 5. Is it not false Doctrine in the Papists, to teach that Believers only, as the Church believes, are discharged in God's Account? Is it not the general con­sent of sound Protestants, that neither Traditions, Councils, nor Canons of any visible Church, much less any Edicts of any Magistrate or Civil Session, but the Scripture only can be the final Judge or Rule in matrers of Religion? and that only in the Conscience of every Christian to himself. For if the Church be not suffici­ent to be implicitly and blindly believed, (as certain it is not) what can there else be named of more Authority than the Church, but the Conscience, than which God only is greater? 1 John 3.20. But if any shall pretend that the Scripture judges to his Conscience for other Men, (as this proud and saucy Politician doth,) he makes himself greater than the Church, Scripture, or Consciences of other Men: a presumption too high for any mortal, since every true Christian, able to give a reason of his Faith, hath the word of God before him, the promised holy Spirit, and the mind of Christ within him, 1 Cor. 2.16. A much better and safer guide of Consci­ence, than this Polititian in publick Conscience, who in this is no less a Pope than the Pope at Rome. The Spiritual man judgeth all things, but himself is judged of no man, 1 Cor. 2.15. And is not the Pope deservedly esteemed Antichristian, for appro­priating to himself such Infallibity over both Conscience and Scripture? Whether tends all this? but to make themselves to have Dominion over our Faith, and Lords over God's Heritage; which the Aposties utterly disclaimed, and accounted themselves only helpers of cur joy, and to be feeders of the flock not by constraint, but willingly, 1 Pet. 5.2, 3. 2 Cor. 1.24.

If Bishop Saunderson can judge, The Word of God doth expresly forbid us to subject our Consciences to the Judgment of any other, or to usurp Dominion over the Consciences of any other. Saunderson's 10 Lectures 1660. v. 3. Lect. 30. §. p. 103.

None but God alone hath Power to impose a Law upon the Conscience of any Man, to which it ought to be subjected as obliging by it self. For there is but one Law-giver, who can both save and destroy, James 4.12. not one picked out amongst many, not one above many, but one exclusively, i. e. one, and but one onely; who art thou that dost judge ano­ther? It doth not belong to thee to thrust thy sawcy Sickle into the Harvest of another Man, much less to fling thy self into the Throne of Almighty God: to him it belongeth alone to judge of the Consciences of Men, to whom alone it doth belong to impose Laws on the Consciences of men; which none can do but God alone. Conscientiis Dominari velle est Arcem Coeli invadere, said Maximilian the first; To exercise a Domination over Consciences, is to invade the Power of Heaven. He is a plunderer of the Glory of God, and an usurper of that Tower that is due unto him, that claims a right to the Consciences of Men, or practise an usurpation over them. v. Lect. 4. §. 9, 10, 11.

He tells us moreover, That if Princes will be Resolute, (and if they will Go­vern, so they must be) they may easily make the most stubborn Consciences to bend to their Resolutions, pag. 271. Princes must be sure to bind on at first their Ecclesiastical Laws with the straitest knot, and afterwards keep them in force by the severity of their execution, pag. 221. So easie is it for Men to deserve to be punished for their Consciences, that there is no Nation in the World in which (were Government rightly understood, and duly managed,) mistakes and abuses of Religion would not supply the Gallies with vastly greater Numbers than Villanies, pag. 223. Brave Doctrines for a Tory Church of Eng­land Man to Preach impuné.

Sure this Anonimus Ecclesiastical Polititian would make a brave Mufty, or Inquisitor General, or a Compito, with a Dog-whip in his Hand, which would affright worse than the Inquisition, and make many much honester Men than himself know sorrow in abundance.

These and many more Positions of the same complexion are the Farci of that Pestilent Book, which well becomes a thorough-paced Church of England Priest: such Positions and Doctrines brings contempt on such of the Clergy, as being a re­proach to any Church, and which the Church of England doth not Teach, and which are [Page 20]so vile, that they much more deserve Fire and Faggot than those burnt in Oxford, July 1683. but instead thereof he was made a Bishop. Whether tends all this treacher­ous dealings with the People of God? Whilst, like the Ministers of Jeroboam, ye lay such Snares in Mispah, and spread such Nets upon Tabor, teaching and perswading Kings to use Laws, Menaces, and Subtilties, to force and confine the People to Regal and State Religion, be it true or false? or, at least to force them to dissemble, or to walk in a neutrality, or indifferency between God and Baal; or else to make the Souls of Men and God's Glory subordinate to the Lusts and Risings of Kings and Priests, who Balaam-like for the hope of Honour or Preferments, or like Micha's Levite for a little better reward, crouch and cringe, and become more sensless of God's Glory, Wrath, and Indignation, and the eternal Welfare of the pretious Souls of God's own People than was Balaam's dumb Ass.

The fatal mischief of such base Flattery, and of such Pulpit Laws and Doctrines, as it was foreseen, punished, and declared to tend to the ruine of this or any other Nation, by the Wisdom of our Sage Predecessors; so we did see it was fairly ful­filling in our late Days and times. Such was the Imprudence, nay Impudence of the then Court Clergy, favourites and sycophants in those Days, that tho' Sibthorp and Mainwaring were by King and Parliament so severely doomed to be punished, yet no sooner was the Parliament up, but by the Interest of those fawning time-servers, the said Mainwaring and Sibthorp were preferred, and Archbishop Abbot frowned upon, because he would not License such pulpit destructive Doctrines. And it is such only of the Clergy, and other lewd Priests, that are in contempt and vile esteem with the Nation, whilst others, true Church of England Men indeed, are as highly in their Esteem and Veneration. Thus to discover Crimes of some Priests is not to Calumniate the Church of England, but that she may be purged of such Vermin.

The Reverend Dean of Rippon in his Sermon on 1 Kings 8.66. is of like Mind and Principles, who therein declares, That be the Kings Heart inclinable to any Religion or none, yet it leaves him no Rival, none to contradict him; for he is made our King by God's Law, of which the Law of the Land is only declarative. Kings must not be upbraided with their Promises; which Promises are Donatives, and it is reason the Donor should have the explaining of his own Mind: that the King is major universis, as well as singulis; that the sole Legislative Power is lodged in the King, and to him belongs the Interpretation of all Laws, and Dispensing with them: and that he may make a grant with a non ob­stante to them, &c. Pure Doctrine for a Reverend Dean to Preach, and yet this pure Mungril Church of England Man preferred to be Bishop of Chester for these abominable Doctrines.

Whoever will seriously consider and compare those dismal Preachments and Prints, destructive to all human Societies, which our high Church of England Men pulpitted and printed heretofore, and how highly they were disgusted by several Parliaments, (the greatest Wisdom of our Nation,) and dissatisfied therewith, and how they stigmatized those very Doctrines, and condemning the Authors of them to mulcts and punishments, and yet when those Parliaments were up, those very false Teachers were carressed with Pardons and Preferments; whoever I say will com­pare those Doctrines with those Mr. Samuel Johnson printed and maintained, even to the undergoing of Inquisition Torments, and which the present Parliament and generality of the Nation now own, justifie, and practise with their Lives and For­tunes, must confess that both the Reward and Punishment of the one and the other were mightily misplaced.

It is yet fresh in our own Memories when our Clergy were much more mo­dest, when but one Temporizing Sibthorp, and another Court-Parasite Mainwaring durst Pulpit or Print such Doctrines under the Sacred Title of Apostolick Obedience, Licens'd by the then Bishop of London, and for which they received the just Cen­sures of the King and the whole Kingdom in Parliament; which in the truest sense, is the Church, or rather the Representative Governing part both of Church and State, the Bishops and Priests being but Officers thereof; (which they do not love to hear of,) but now Confidence, nay the Brow of Brass, is the Temper and Complexion of very many Pulpits, which Thunder every where with such Docu­ments and Outcries, as the High-ways to Preferments, always having their Mouths half-cockt to let fly at all their gain-sayers, not only in the Pulpits and Prints, but also in all publick places and Meetings, as Coffee-Houses, Westminster-Hall, Court of Request, Lobbies in Parliament-time can witness; whereby they have obtained a new name of [Page 21] Tory Church of England Men. They scorn to consider the black Characters they were then stigmatized and branded with by former Parliaments, as serpens qui devorat ser­pentem fit Draco, that they tended to the alteration and subversion of the whole Frame and Fabrick of the State and Common-wealth: ‘That they tended to the seducing of the Conscience of the King, to increase his Royal displeasure against his Subjects, to scandalize, impeach, and subvert the good Laws and Government of the Kingdom, and Authority of Parliaments; to avert his Majesty's Mind from cal­ling of Parliaments, to alienate his Royal Heart from his People, to cause Jealou­sies, Sedition, and Divisions in the Kingdom; &c. Besides these Characters, they held it a great presumption for a private Divine to debate the Right and Power of the King; which is a matter of such a nature as to be handled onely in Parlia­ment, and that with moderation: and therefore the said two Sermons, called Re­ligion and Allegiance, were adjudged to be called in, and burnt by the King's Pro­clamation; the Author to make his submission and acknowledgment of his Crime, to the imprisoned during the pleasure of the House, to be fined 1000 l. suspend­ed for three Years from the Exercise of the Ministery, disabled to have any Ecclesiastical Dignity, or Secular Office, and for ever disabled to Preach at Court.’ A better Example to imitate and follow, than either Fire and Faggot, or the Address of the Universities, or the Pulpit Doctrines of the 9th of September 1683, wherein both King, Nobles, Prelates, and People were interessed in that Judg­ment. Were such Tenets of such ill consequence by the Judgment of the whole Nation in those Days, and are they not the same now? where's the difference? The violation offered to plain Texts of Scripture, by perverting the true and natural sense and meaning of them, by such of the Clergy, (a Generation of Men that un­der the umbrage of that Sacred Canopy of Religion, as being appointed Teach­ers and Ministers of the Gospel, indued with the Power of Ordination, set up for themselves in an opposite and distinct Interest, separated from the rest, or Body of the Church, whereby they erect regnum in regno against the Purity and Sinceri­ty of Religion and Interest of Mankind: and this they have been upon the catch to compass by little and little almost ever since the Apostles Days, and that by si­nister means) hath been the occasion of all Misgovernments, by ascribing Divine Power to Kings, and that they are accountable to none but God for any male-regi­ment.

False Prophets! not considering if Rulers hearken to Lyes; (and such are all false glossers on Texts of Scripture,) all his servants will be wicked, Prov. 9.12. such-like of the Clergy are the Time-servers and Court-Parasites, that draw odium and con­tempt upon that Sacred Profession that ought to be had in Reverence by all the Sons and Daughters of Men. I could wish that they would first pull out the Beams that are in their own Eyes, before they go about to remove the Motes that are in their Bro­thers Eyes. Should I rake (as some naked Truths have done) into the Bosome of their Regiment of their Church Discipline, I doubt it would be found so foul as not to be swept, cleansed, and purified, but by the Beesom of destruction, by reducing it to what it was in the Apostles days, and purest times, which might easily be done if Priests were more Heavenly than Earthly minded, and would first seek the Kingdom of Heaven; under which easie Government the Gospel flourished, (tho' all Nations and Kingdoms were accursed Enemies thereunto,) and would flourish now again with greater Purity than now it doth, did not our Tory Ecclesiasticks disdain, and think it too mean and below them to live the life of the Apostles, and as Christ him­self did; who, tho' being in the Form of God, and thought it no robbery to be equal with God, yet made himself of no Reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and to Minister, and not be administred unto. Remember the Reprimand and Counsels that Christ himself gave to James and John, who sought high things; but it shall not be so among you: but whoever will be great among you, let him be the Minister, Math. 20. Mark 10. Luke 22.

However let us consider what Government Christ left to his Church, and trace that as far as we can, that we may see how well it hath been observed, or how far degenerated.

The Church, the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, is the most glorious State in the World, formed in the Council of God before the Creation of the Heavens, founded on the Cross of his Son in the fulness of time, governed by his Eternal Self, quickned by his Spirit, the most valued of all his Jewels, the last End of all his Works, and the onely Scope of all his Marvels; a State not mortal, but en­dureth [Page 22]for ever, against which the Gates of Hell shall not prevail: It is the House of Al­mighty God, the Temple of his Holiness, the Pillar of his Truth, the Dwelling-place of his Grace and Glory. This Church, this Kingdom, tho' it is not of this World, yet it is first chosen, gathered, erected and established in this World, not by the Wisdom of the mighty Potentates of this World, viz. Kings, Emperors, and Armies, but by the Preaching of the Gospel, by Fishermen, and other illiterate and mean Persons, and would have its Administrations without Temporal or Secular mixtures of human Power or Policy, as so much as of inticing words, lest his People should thereby be be­guiled, Col. 2.4. but chose rather by the foolishness of Preaching to propagate his Gospel, and to confound the wise and the mighty things of the World. So Paul, 1 Cor. 2. my speech, and my preaching was not with inticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit, and of power, v. 4. That your Faith should not stand in the wisdom of Men, but in the power of God, ver. 5. However, we speak wisdom among them that are per­fect; yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the Princes of the world, ver. 6. but we speak the wisdom of God in a mysterie, even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world, unto our glory, verse 7. Which none of the Princes of the world knew, &c.

The way and manner of propagating the Gospel, and gathering of Churches from the beginning was after this sort and manner, viz. Christ after his Ascension having given them their Commission, Matth. 28.19, 20. and having filled all the Apostles with the Holy Ghost, according to his promise, Acts 1.8. and endued them with tongues; they departed, and separated, and gathered several Congregations or Churches, so that the sound thereof went into all the Earth, and their words unto the ends of the World, Rom. 10.18. which was after this manner, viz. Christ after his Glorious Resur­rection, having led Captivity Captive be gave gifts unto men, and called some to be his Apostles, some Prophets, some Teachers and Pastors, &c. who, after they had chosen Matthias in the room of Judas the Traitor, and cloven Tongues like as Fire having sate vpon each of them, and all filled with the Holy Ghost, and having preached the Gospel at Jerusalem and thereabouts, the Word of God and Number of Disciples daily in­creasing, from 120. to 3000. and more; for which they being persecuted by the Chief Priests and Sadduces, because they taught the People, and preached through Jesus the Resurrection of the Dead, (which seems to be the same Year that Christ was Cruci­fied, viz. An. Aet. suae 33. and 18. Tiberius) scourging some, and killing others: Which Per­secution occasioned divers of the Brethren to withdraw themselves into Neighbour­ing Places and Countries, which gave occasion to the Gospel to be more universal­ly spread throughout Palestine, (the Apostles yet remaining in Jerusalem,) Acts 8. who afterwards dispersing themselves, also spread the Gospel into all Nations after this sort and manner, viz. when a certain Number of Brethren, being Converted and well Instructed in the true Faith, agreed among themselves to build or hire a Temple, Tabernacle, or House, for their joint meetings and exercising their Reli­gion, hired a Priest, and constituted a Church; and as the Number encreased, so that the Church and Priest being not sufficient for them all, those who were most re­mote did build another, and fit themselves with more conveniences.

About the end of the First Century, or beginning of the Second, for good order and concord, and for civility and respect they did bear to their Bishop or Priest, custom be­gan to include his consent also; which in process of time soon degenerated into Lu­ciferian Usurpation, by the oblique Artifices of the Priests or Bishops; of which Rome in process of time taking hold, made great use to the abusing of the Power of the Brethren, and to incroach upon the Priviledges of the Body of the Church.

It is not unworthy of our further observation, That all his while the Apostles and their Successors were Independent one of the other, and so were their several and select gathered Congregations. And tho' there were Thousands of Churches gathered by the Apostles and their Successors, yet there are no foot steps remaining that the Churches gathered by any one Apostle, or Bishop, or Presbyter, were subject or did depend on any one or more Churches, gathered by any other or more A­postles.

The like is as true, after the death of the Apostles, That no one Church by what Apostle soever gathered, was left subject to any other Church gathered by any other Apostle, no nor yet subject to any other Church of their own converting and gathering, but every Church was to be governed by its own peculiar Body, observing Go­spel Precepts, viz. to love one another, to do all things decently and in order, &c. Tho' the Pope hath usurped a monstrous Supremacy over all Churches, yet how, and [Page 23]when, and by what Artifices and Tricks the Popes have usurped and monopolized it to themselves, Histories are full and plain.

It is no less worthy of our observation, That the Diocesses or the Provinces of the Pastors and Teachers, (whether Bishops or Presbyters) of the several congre­gated Churches, did not extend beyond one Church, one Altar, or one Parish, i. e. such a Number of Christians as might all assemble and meet to Confer, Hear, and Commu­nicate one with another for mutual Edification, so that every Bishop or Presbyter might take Cognizance of every Man's Life and Conversation, and of the Spiri­tual state of every individual Soul, of such congregated Churches. And One hun­died and fifty Souls were thought by St. Chrysostom and others, as many as one Pastor could well, and more than he could without great labour, discharge. v. his Homil. in Ignat.

Paulinus, Bishop of Tyre in Constantine's time, had but so many under his Episco­pal charge, as the Panegerist in Eusebius informs us, as he could take a Personal notice of their Souls, and accurately examine the inward state of every one, acquainting himself throughly with the condition of all those Souls that were committed to him.

As Christ's Church and Kingdom excelleth and differeth from all the Kingdoms of the World, so doth its Government, (because it was to be gathered and establish­ed in all other Kingdoms, accursed Enemies thereunto,) therefore Heavenly Wisdom it self appointed and ordained such a Government for his Church, as it might ex­ercise in any Nation by its own Spiritual Laws without the help of human Mixtures, Superstructions, or Politicks, and without interfering with their Government or with their Laws, or prejudicing their Civil Rights. What alterations or additions have been made to this Government in any Nation, that Nation hath thereby as much as in them lies reproached that Wisdom which is from above, and pure, and out of the proud conceits of their own Wisdom and Politicks, and out of their own covetous and ambitious Projects, and out of the mean conceits of the Purity and Simplicity of the Gospel have scorned to subscribe and submit to Gods own Appointment, not con­tenting themselves to be Servants and Ministers of the Church, as Christ himself, and as the Apostles were, but will be Masters, Lords, Dukes, Marquisses, Earls, Princes, Judges, Cardinals, Pontiffs, what not? over their Flocks, and over all the Kingdoms of the World, whereby they demonstrated their own Wisdom and Politicks to be Earthly, Sen­sual, Divellish.

As if Christ (in whom are hid all the Treasures of Wisdom and Knowledge,) did not know what Government was fittest and best for his Church and Kingdom, who chose to establish it not by high and mighty Powers, Princes, Potentates, and Pontiffs, but by mean and inconsiderate Persons (Fishermen, Tent-makers, and the like) to magnifie the Power of his Grace, and thereby to confound the Wisdom of the Worldly Wise. But so it shall not be among you: but whoever shall be great among you, shall be your minister: And whoever shall be chiefest, shall be servant of all For even the Son of Man came not to be ministred unto, but to minister, Mark 10.43, 44, 45.

To this Government Christ inseparably and indispensably annexed this great Pre­rogative and Priviledge, viz. Liberty of Preaching and Propagating his Gospel to all Nations, when he said, Go teach all nations, &c. and that beyond all contradiction of any Person or Power whatsoever, King, or Pontiff: with a command that Kings should be their Nursing Fathers.

What were they but the Chief Priests, Scribes, and Elders, that questioned Christ (Prince of all the Kindoms of the earth, Rev. 1.5. and to whom God had given the Heathen for his inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for his possession, Psal. 2.8.) when he Taught in the Temple, and Preached the Gospel, by what Authority he did those things? and who it was that gave him that authority? Luke 20.1, 2. And did not Christ dis­dain to give them a satisfactory Answer, as Persons medling with that they had no­thing to do with all? And are not those in our Days as sawcy and insolent as those proud Priests of old were, who endeavour to muzzle the Mouths of those that should tread out their Corn, and bring forth the food of Life unto the People, and that for things only indifferent, no ways Essential to Salvation? And not only so, but Persecuting them by Suspensions, depriving them of their Liberty, Maintenance, and Benefit, by Mulcts, Imprisonment, &c. Plagues little inferior to those of the Hellish Inquisition, a Sin as National as Drinking, Drabbing, Swearing, or the like; and requires as Na­tional, Publick, and Solemn Humiliation for it as for those other Crimes.

In the Days of Edward the VI. and Queen Elizabeth, the Dissenters of those times insisted mainly, That no Reformation of Church Discipline and Government could be per­fect unless reduced to that state it was in, in the Apostles Days. This, the Wisdom of those times thought neither possible, nor certain, nor absolutely convenient, be­cause what was used in those Times the Scripture fully declareth not; so that ma­king their Times the Rule and Canon of Church-Polity, is to make a Rule, which being not possible to be fully known, is as impossible to be fully observed. So Ju­dicious Hooker. However let us trace those Times as far as we can.

Without all peradventure, and beyond all contradiction, Christ knowing that his Messengers which he sent to gather a People to himself out of Jews and Gen­tiles, Heathens, Publicans, and Sinners, by perswasive means only, were to build up his Church within the Bosoms of Kingdoms, (avowed and accursed Enemies to his Gospel,) he therefore gave them such Doctrines, and such Commissions, for Do­ctrine and Discipline, as they might any where Publish and Exercise in a quiet and peaceable manner; the Subjects of no Commonwealth or Kingdom being any where therein concerned in Goods, or Persons by virtue of that Spiritual Regi­ment whereunto Christian Religion once embraced did make them liable.

The Documents, Powers, and Directions, are recorded sparsim in the Gospel, but more particularly in the 18th of Matth. viz. If thy Brother transgress against thee, what then? go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: If he hear thee, thou hast gained thy Brother; but if he will not hear thee, what then? then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established: and if he shall neglect to hear them, what then? tell it to the Church, (i. e. to that whole congregated Church or Assembly, whereof thou and he are Members,) what then? if he neglect to hear them, let him be to thee as an Heathen or Publican, i. e. pursue him in the Courts of Civil Judicature, as thou wouldst any other that is not a Christian, i. e. as a Publican or Heathen, or any other wrong doer, not to own them as Brethren, nor to keep company with them, with such no not to eat with them, as not being worthy the Name and Profession of Christians which they had put on, they not living to the adorning but to the shame of the Gospel.

This is the Summ of the Discipline and Government that Christ left to his Church for ought appears by any plain Scripture. And what need of more or other? For if the Ministers of the Everlasting Gospel have free liberty to Instruct, break Bread, exhibit the Sacraments, and Pray, the Civil Magistrate hath sufficient Power by God's own Ordinance to order all the rest. And their Commission extends no farther, viz. Go ye, and teach all Nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, Matth. 28.19, 20.

Cura Animarum (Salvation and Damnation of Souls being of Everlasting conse­quence, and of the highest concern in the World to every individual,) is, beyond all peradventure and contradiction, the main Duty and Glory both of Priest and Prelate, and to be apt to teach, to be instant in season, out of season, to reprove, rebuke, and exhort with all long suffering and doctrine, 2 Tim. 4.1, 2. for hereunto most especially, and if not onely, they are called as was Aaron; and if not called unto this Duty, they are called unto none by any Patent or Commission from Heaven.

This was the Government the Apostles used, and left no other; and the Gospel prospered under it then; and why it should not prosper under it still, no reason can be asscribed: however, let us trace the steps thereof, and see by what vile arts and means it became degenerated into meer worldly Forms, set up for meer worldly Ends and Interests.

In the Days of our Saviour, whilst on Earth, there was a common Purse which Judas carried, which was always filled and supplied with the free-will Offerings of pious devout Princes, and of private Persons, who plentifully contributed their Temporal Riches to the Churches; which was first instituted, kept, and distri­buted for two Ends only, viz. First, For the Necessities of Christ, and his Apostles, Preachers of the Gospel. Secondly, For Alms for the Poor, which was distributed (as the Lord commanded) by Judas, who was a Thief, and usurped to himself the said Goods, common to the Apostolical Colledge; and was so Covetous, that he sold to the Jews the very Person of Christ.

When Christ was ascended into Heaven, the Holy Apostles in the Church of Je­rusalem kept on foot the same Holy institution, and for the self-same Ends, viz. for the Necessities of the Ministers of the Gospel, and for Alms for the Poor; the Faithful [Page 25]in those Days making all their Goods common, sold their Possessions for the same Purse, or Stock, and Uses. So that the Community of the Church was not di­stinct from the particular of each faithful Man. Yet this Custom of having all things in common went not out of Jerusalem. And in other Churches planted also by the Holy Apostles, this Custom was not observed, neither did it last long in Je­rusalem.

Whereupon, 26 Years after Christ, it is read, That the publick was distinct from the private, every one knowing his own; but the Money being common in that Church, as in others founded in Oblations, which placed in common, served onely for the Ministers and for the Poor.

The first Day of the Week, (which for that cause was called the Lord's-Day) the Faithful met together, and each one offered that which he had set apart of the foregoing Week for the Necessities of the common; which was administred and di­stributed by the Apostles themselves for a short time after the Ascension, whence arose murmurings, and discontents, and many dissatisfactions, some thinking they were neglected, and had too little, and that others had too much, which gave great trouble and distractions to the Apostles; which they considering, and finding that they could not attend this perfectly together with Preaching the Word of God, they resolved to stick close to the Ministery of Preaching, and Teaching, and Praying continual­ly, and therefore appointed for this Office (of having care of Temporal things) ano­ther) sort of Ministers, (Deacons) quite disserent from that we see done in these Days; wherein the Pope and Chief Prelates of the Church attend the Govern­ment of Temporal things, and the Office of Preaching and Teaching, and the Do­ctrine of the Gospel neglected, and left unto Friars or Brethren, and inferior Priests in the Church. Wherefore they directed the Brethren to look out among them­selves, from the body of the Faithful, Seven Men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and Wisdom, whom they appointed for that Ministery, that they might give themselves continually to Prayer, and to the Ministery of the Word: And wheresoever they founded a Church, they also appointed Deacons in the same manner, and to the same Ministery.

As also they ordained Bishops and Priests and other Ecclesiastical Ministers (Fast­ing and Praying preceeding.) And the common Election of the Faithful following after; observing inviolably this order, never deputing any Man to any Ecclesiasti­cal Charge, who was not first Elected by the Universality of the Church; which is of all the Faithful together.

This Custom was observed not only during the life-times of the Apostles, but even about two hundred Years, maintaining the Ecclesiastical Ministers, and the Poor also with the publick Stock raised by such Oblations. And the fervent Zeal and Charity of those Times was so great, that the Oblations amounted to very great Summs.

In the Church of Rome, that rich City Marcion, about the Year 170, gave a free­will Offering at one time of Five thousand Crowns of Gold in the Church of Rome; who afterward holding Erroneous Opinions in matters of Faith, he was ex­pelled from the Congregation, and all his Money restored to him.

This rich City grew so rich by those Oblations, that after Two hundred and twenty Years the Roman Emperours coveted them. Whereupon Decius the Prince arrested St. Lawrence, a Roman Deacon, to take the Ecclesiastical Treasures from him; but, he being aware thereof, distributed them all suddenly, and so disap­pointed the Tyrant.

The Church thus abounding in Riches, the Clergy began then to degenerate and to live at ease, not being content with the daily Food of the Church, but would have their separate shares every Day, or Month, or longer, and live where they pleased; which, tho' it declined from the Primitive Perfection, was yet winked at by the Fathers: but it rested not here, for the Bishops began to fail the Poor of their due, and kept more for themselves; and so growing Rich with the Goods of the Church, dealt also in Usury to increase in Riches; and withall leaving off the Care of Teaching the Doctrines of Christ, and busied themselves in getting Pelf: of which St. Cyprian complains in his time.

Tho' the Church possessed so much Wealth, yet it had no settled or stable Goods at the first. Yet in France, and in Italy, some left or gave stable Goods to Churches, which in the Year 302 were all confiscated by Dioclesian and Maniminian; tho' in France the Emperors Decrees were not executed, by the bounty of Constance [Page 26]Cloro Caesar, who governed it. But a while after Constantine and Licinius granted freedom of Religion to the Christians, approved of the Ecclesiastical Colledges called Churches, granted generally throughout the Empire, that they might gain and ac­quire stable Goods as well by Gift as Testament, exempting also the Clergy from personal publick services, that they might attend the Duties of Religion more constantly.

But the Clergy made so ill use of these Favours, that Princes were forced to regulate them by Laws, in the Year 370: Which St. Jerom confesseth to have been a Remedy against the Corruptions entred amongst the Clergy, which was of getting Temporal Estates.

But that Law not being sufficient to suppress their greediness of getting Temporal Estates, another Law was made Anno 390 to the same end and purpose: this excess of getting was so unpleasant to St. Austin, who lived in those Days, that he openly declared against them, saying, The Ecclesiastical Ministry consisted not in getting and distributing much, but in getting and distributing well. Likewise he abhorred the new indirect ways they had found out of increasing their Stock, and would never per­mit them in his Church; and often declared in his Sermons, That he had ra­ther live on the Primitive Oblation, than to have a care of Possessions, which hin­dred from attending intirely upon the Principal Charge of a Bishop, i. e. Spiritual things.

Notwithstanding all Laws, Reprimands, and Checks, yet the Ecclesiastical Goods increased excessively above what it ought; but the ancient manner of Governing and Distributing lasted till the Year 420. both the Oblation and the Ecclesiastical incoms from real Estates were in common, and governed by Deacons, Sub-Deacons, and by other. Assistants, and distributed for the maintenance of Ecclesiastical Mi­nisters, and of the Poor. The Colledge of Priests, and the Bishops, were the Superintendants; so that the Bishops disposed of every thing, and the Deacons executed it.

But after France, Spain, and Africa, were divided from the Empire, the Churches were differently governed. The Eastern Church retained the common Government, but in the Western the Bishops by Administrators and Superintendants made them­selves Masters, and to govern the Goods of the Church Arbitrarily; from whence arose Confusions in the distribution of them, and the Buildings fell to ruine, and the Poor neglected and forsaken. For which cause, about the Year 470 in the Western Church, it was ordained, that the Ecclesiastical Goods should be divided into Four parts; which alteration was also soon abused. And also other changes made in the Govern­ment, which in and through all things proved contrary to the Ancient; as also the manner of chusing Ministers was instituted by the Apostles, That Bishops, Priests, and other Ministers of God's Word, and the Deacons, Ministers of Temporal things should be elected by the Universality of the Faithful, and should be ordained by the Bishops, with laying of Hands on the Head; a thing which lasts without alteration to this Day. Which Custom continued about 200 Years. The Bishops were chosen by the People, and ordained by the Metropolitan in the presence of all the Com-provincial Bishops or else by their Consents, &c. And afterwards many Provinces, for a better Form of Government, were subject to one Primate, whose Consent was also required for Ordaining. Then the Priests, Deacons, and other Clergy Men, were presented by the People, and ordained by the Bishop, or else nominated by the Bishops, and with the Consent of the People ordained by him. An unknown Man was never recei­ved, neither did the Bishop ever Ordain one who was not approved of and com­mended; or rather, presented by the People; and the Consent of the People was judged so necessary, that Pope Leo the First treated amply, that the Ordination of a Bishop could not be valid, nor lawful, which was not required by the People, and by them approved of; which was the Opinion of all the Saints of those times. A thing worthy to be noted now a Days, when that Election is declared to be illegitimate and null, where the People have any share. Thus is seen how things in the Go­vernment of the Church are degenerated from what they were in purer times, even quite contrary, that now accounted lawful, which was then accounted wicked, and that now unjust which then was reputed holy.

The Clergy finding the sweet and great Advantages of the Favours granted by Princes, did improve them to the uttermost, but by such means as were not plea­sing to the Faithful, of which St. Austin and St. Chrisostom greatly complained in their times. For they increased the common Stock by undue practises, and distri­buted [Page 27]over much to themselves, and neglecting the Poor. And their Wealth so vastly and unjustly increasing, they instituted new kinds of Government, which they changed at pleasure, until at last it came to that we see at this Day.

Not content with the old ways of getting, about the 500 Year another sort of Religious Colledges, called Monasteries, were erected. Monkery began in Egypt about the Year 300, and from thence past into Greece, whereby St. Basil at the Year 370, it was formed in the manner which yet continues. But in Italy about the Year 350, it was brought to Rome by Athanasius, but had little encouragement till about the Year 500, when St. Equitius and St. Benedict gave it a settled Form. The Institution of Equitius increased but little, but that of Benedict spread it self all over Italy, and beyond the Mountains. The Monks in those Days were not Ecclesia­sticks but Seculars; and in the Monasteries without the Cities they lived on their own Labour, Arts, and Husbandry, together with some addition out of the publick Obla­tions, and were governed by the Abbot.

The Abbot Tritemius makes Account that Monasteries of the Benedictine Monks were 15000, besides Prepositures and lesser Convents. The Monks themselves chose their own Abbots; by this time the Bishops by tricks and cunning Artifices became absolute Dispensators of the Fourth part of the Churches Goods, which made the haughty Clergy mind Temporal Goods more than Spiritual, and to make themselves Eminent and Popular; whence arose Discords, Seditions, Tumults, and Blows, to the great Disturbance of Civil States, especially about the Election of Clergy Dignitaries, which Primarily at the first Institution was in the People, beyond contradiction; but afterwards by the cunning craftiness of those that lay in wait to de­ceive, it was sometimes in the Clergy, sometimes in the Prince, sometimes in a mix­ture, one chusing and another confirming, as the Interest and Power of the one or the other could prevail: Elections being then used not as the end of Divine Service, but for secular Interests, and worldly Ends.

Antiquity knew of no distinction between Ordination and Benefice, and Ordaining was then the same thing as to give an Office, and the right of having ones liveli­hood from the common Goods of the Church. But afterward through Wars and Confusions, the Clergy being driven from their Ministries, had recourse and retired to other Churches, where they were received as their own Clergy, and sometimes when some Minister of their own died, a stranger, if eminently worthy, succeeded in his Ministry, and was then said to be Incardinated, whereas he that was first ex­alted to an Office was said to be Ordinated or Ordained, but he who was dispo­sessed of his own, and provided with another, was called Incardinated. This be­gan in Italy. Hence in process of time came Cardinals, from Parish Priests, to be now equal to Kings, and had their maintenance out of the common Stock accordingly: of which there were Episcopi Cardinales, & Presbyteri Cardinales. Rome and Ravenna being then the richest Churchs, received most of the eminent strangers, and there­fore they had most Cardinals, and they chose the most eminent Men, strangers, and were called Cardinals. In Rome the name remains to this Day; in Ravenna it lasted until 1543, and then was taken away by Paul the Thid. It is wonderful to see how from such a low beginning they have grown to such an excessive height, even from that which had neither Degree nor Order in the Church, but brought in by chance, or rather by Clergy-craft and subtilty, is raised to be so Supreme in the Church as we see it now a days: Aequiparantur Regibus was the common saying of the Court. Innocent the Fourth, Anno 1244, gave them the red Hat; and Paul the Second gave them the red Cap, the Regulars excepted; which was also granted to them by Gregory the Fourteenth.

Tho' at first none were Ordained without a Title, which continued until a little before the Year 500, yet afterwards the Bishops Ordained without a Title or any Office, and therefore without Benefice; which sort of Clergy in progress of time grew so excessively numerous, that thence arose a Multitude of Indecencies, Irregu­larities, and Scandals, which did more especially arise from the desire of many to become Clergy men for increase of their Livelihood, and to enjoy the Exemptions granted by Princes; the other from ambitious Prelates, desiring to have a multi­tude of Subjects, whom they might command; which disorder yet remains, and makes the People loose their great Respect for Religion and their Chari­ty. Before the Council of Trent such Bishops swarmed, but now much les­sened.

Tho' so great Inconveniences and Irregularities arose by Ordaining without a Title, yet the Jesuits will have it, that the Pope may Ordain without any Title, ei­ther true or feigned, whereby the Reverence to that Order hath abated, in respect to that it had when Ecclesiastical Orders were only Ordained to Offices; for which reason all them resided and dwelt upon their Charges, which could not be left vacant, there being none to supply them, all being occupied in their own. Likewise the distinctions of Benefices Compatibile & Incompatabile (found out only to cheat the World) was then unknown, whether fatter or leaner, the Possessor was obliged to serve it perso­nally without Unions, Reserves, Commenda's, and Devices, found out only by Clergy Craft to avoid the old and best Canons, and to bring all into the Popes Power.

There were many Provisions made by divers Princes to prevent the many Abuses occasioned by the Ambitious and Covetous Clergy but all in vain, Clergy-craft quickly found out Distinctions and Subtilties, and coined Evasions to avoid both Canons and Laws made for Redress of such and other Abuses which were before the Year 800.

About which time Charlemagn having reduced under his Obedience Italy, France, and Germany, reformed in some measure the Abuses in Ecclesiastical Affairs, re­ducing them to an Uniformity; which in divers places have been variously used, renewing many of the old Canons and Councels worn out of use by Clergy Craft, and making of Ecclesiastical Laws for the distribution of Benefices as they ought, and part­ly restored unto the Parishes the Possessions which the Bishops had usurped unto themselves, Ordaining that every Priest should have a sufficient Benefice, according to that say­ing, Beneficium datur propter officium. He restored also to the Monks that Power of chusing their own Abbot. He Established also, That the Bishops ought to Ordain those Priests who were presented by the People of the Parishes. He Established also the Pope of Rome in like manner as he had been instituted when the Emperors of the East had the Dominion over Rome, viz. That the Pope should be Elected by the Clergy and the People, and the Decree of the Election should be sent to the Emperour; upon whose Approbation the elected was consecrated: but to the Honour of the Clergy be it remembred, there was never any Law made to remedy any of their Abuses, but they soon found out a way to evade them.

About this time the Custom of giving Tythes unto Parish-Churches passed out of France over into Italy, which soon were abused as well as other Provisions made by the free-will Offerings of the Faithful, and so are to this Day. But what should I say more of their Abuses in other things, (as of Abbies and Abbots, Monkery and Monasteries, Annates, universally reputed grievous and condemned, yet justified by some, their Arms Spiritual, Expectancies, or Reversions, Benefices, Pluralities, Co­menda's, Unions, Reservations, Cardinals, Coajutorship, Decretals, Donations, Ele­lection of Popes, Priests, Bishops, and Deacons, Exemptions, Mendicants, Regresses, Indulgences, Quindeniums, Investitures, Reserves, Pensions, plentitude of Power, Non-obstante's, Devolution, Canons, Dominion of Goods Ecclesiastical, Resignations, Renuntiations, Alienations, Reservations, Symony, Vacancies, Titles of Dukes, Mar­quisses, and Earls given to Bishops, &c.) but that the Clergy in those times did abuse that Power they had in the Gospel, endeavouring rather to acquire Empire, Grandeur, and Temporal Estates, by any indirect means, than with Paul to have made the Gospel of Christ without charges, by preaching the Gospel willingly: A woe al­ways attending the neglect thereof, though they which minister about holy things, ought to live of the things of the Temple: and that they which wait at the Altar, ought to be par­takers of the Altar, 1 Cor. 9.13, 16, 17, 18.

It is an Observation of godly Men, That in those times the Court would never be induced, that a gainful Abuse should be abolished or corrected, until it had prepared a greater and more profitable one.

So great Authority tends to no good, because it appears thereby that almost all the Abuses have been introduced. From hence proceeded the Commendums, Pen­sions, Regresses, Unions, Resignations, Expectancies, Reservations, yearly Payments, Quindeniums, and other kinds which no Man defends.

The Government of the Church was first Democratical, all the Faithful being present in the chiefest Councels and Deliberations: Thus we see that all were present at the Election of Matthias unto the Apostleship, and in the Election of the Six Dea­cons, and when St. Peter received Cornelius, a Heathen Centurion, unto the Faith, he gave an account of it to all the Church. Likewise in the Councel celebrated in [Page 29] Jerusalem the Apostles, the Priests and the Faithful Brethren were present, and the Letters were written in the name of all the Three Orders. When Paul writ his Advice about the incestuous Person, he directed his Epistle unto the Church of God which is at Corinth; to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be Saints, with all that in every place call upon the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.

They perverted the Spiritual Arms of Excommunication, (which was used only for the Correction of Sinners,) into the defence of their Temporal Possessions. The Law of Tithes is indeed Mosaically Divine, but not a Law naturally Divine, nor Chri­stian; and it obliged only that People at that time, now it obligeth none. In the many Troubles and Uproars, occasioned by the Bishops confederating with the Popes against the Emperor, the Bishops obtained the Publick Incomes, and the Re­gal Rights or Duties; and when the Differences were composed, they had taken so firm Possession, that the Princes were necessitated to grant them in feudo that which de facto they had usurped to themselves; by which they acquired also the Titles of Dukes, and Marquisses, and Earls. Many of them are still in Germany, remaining such both in Name and Fact; but in Italy in Name only.

The Canonists say, That the Poor are obliged to pay Tithes, for that which is given them by Alms in Begging at Doors: and the Harlots are bound to pay Tithes of their gain by Whoredom. The greatest and most frequent Legacies and Gifts are from Harlots.

Prohibitions for Alienating, which were made against Clergy-men in favour of the Laiety, are turned about against the Laiety in favour of the Clergy.

The Popes never failed to get any Abuse whatever to be justified by Doctrines Tho' the Popes ought to feed and not share the Sheep, yet they make themselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Gods holy Church and People, 1 Sam. 2.29.

Having thus briefly declared the Government of the Church in general, which is more at large set forth by Padre Paolo, that incomparable Servite, in his Treatise of Beneficiary matters, let us consider how the Government of the Church of Eng­land now stands.

In brief thus: First, In the British times, before the Conversion of the Saxons, the particular modes of Administration, as all things else concerning the British Church, are very obscure. But this is clear enough, That the Popes Tyranny and Usur­pation being then unborn, and Princes enjoying their whole Power both in Ecclesia­sticks and Civils, nothing was ordained without their Authority and Permission, who yet gave large Powers to their Clergy, both for Debating and Judging in their own Consistories, things proper to their Care and Inspection, as at large appeareth in the Imperial Constitutions of Theodosius, Justinian, and others.

Seconldy, The English Saxons Church, being planted by Augustine the Monk, through the care and direction of Gregory the Great, did bear a respect to the Roman See, but owned none of its Authority and Dominion in Ecclesiastical matters. The Bishops and others of the Clergy assembled often, and made Ecclesiastical Laws and Consti­tutions, but not without the License and Allowance of the Kings, who by their own Authority, (indeed by Ecclesiastical Usurpation and Tyranny) enacted al­so many things of Religious and Ecclesiastical Practise; as appeareth largely in the Saxon Laws collected by Lambert and others, and Sir Henry Spillman's Councels.

Thirdly, For about 1000 Years after Christ, the English Church refused thus the Roman Yoke, till that proud Priest Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury first was so bold as to shake off the King's Rule and Authority in matters Ecclesiastical, deny­ing him Obedience without the Condition of Salvo Ordine suo, and so as much as in him lay destroyed the Liberty of the English Church and the King's Prerogative: This appeareth from Anselm's 36 Epist. to Paschalis, Matthew Paris, and others. Pe­ter Pence indeed were formerly paid out of respect to the Bishops of Rome; but the Pope never obtained the Investiture of Bishops, and the right of receiving Appeals, and consequently that Soveraignty and Headship over the Church, till such time as Becket being killed, Henry the Second, to get Absolution, subjected himself and his Kingdom to the Roman Jurisdiction about An. 1172.

Fourthly, This Foreign Authority was after 200 Years restrained by the Statute of Praemunire, and other Acts of Parliament; yet the Pope still kept his Foot here (tho' not his Body,) or rather his Hand, which scraped up a World of Treasure. The Canon Law was the Law of the Church; Archbishops without the King's [Page 30]leave assembled their Provincial Synods; the Decrees of which bound all Men by no other Authority than that meerly Ecclesiastical, and provided that they were not contrary to the Jus commune (as it is called of the Pope, rather than that) of the King. Great were the Priviledges and Exemptions of the Clergy from Secular Courts and Jurisdictions, as is to be seen in Articuli Cleri, and other old Laws, and the History of those times abundantly testisie.

Fifthly, This Exorbitant and Foreign Power was in part banished by Act of Parliament in Henry VIII his time. Now its provided that the King should be or­dained Supreme Head, or Chief, and Supreme in Ecclesiastical Affairs, as the Jew­ish Kings of old and the Ancient Christian Princes were; and it is made High Trea­son to deny it. Now consideration being had of the old Canon Law, it was considered how to reform and reduce it to such a temper as would sute with this new Alteration; and it was then thought fit that it should rather be quite Abolished, and a new intire Body collected for the Government of the Church.

Sixthly, To this purpose it was Enacted, that Thirty or more Persons should be deputed by the King to make this Collection. But it being better to live where no­thing, than where every thing is lawful, they were not so rash to run down Root and Branch, and take away the old Building before a new one was modelled; and therefore till this Model should be prepared and confirmed in Parliament, it was Enacted, That the Canon or Ecclesiastical Laws should stand in the same force as for­merly they did at that time, except in such Cases wherein they thwarted the Laws of the Land.

Seventhly, This new body of Ecclesiastical Laws was by Edward the Sixth attempted, and an Essay made by Dr. Haddon, since printed by the name of Reformatio Legum Ecclesiasticarum; but never was perfected nor confirmed by Act of Parliament, and therefore the Canon Law is still in force as formerly, but where it contradicts the Law of the Land.

Thus is the Crown with much ado pluckt out of the Paws of the Ecclesiastical Man of Sin, and restored in Parliament to its Ancient Rights in matters Ecclesiasti­cal; It being by Act of Parliament Established, That the Clergy should not Assemble without the King's License and Authority. By all which it appears, That the Kingdom, the Church of England, now hath a Supreme independent Right and Power within it self, to make Coerceive Laws for the Welfare of it self, without running to Rome or to any Foreign State or Power.

Upon this Popish Foundation (which hath not the least ground in Scripture) stands our Darling Ecclesiastical or Church-Discipline and Regiment, (a meer Po­pish Relick and Hierarchy, set up only not to minister unto, but to domineer, con­trary to Christ's Precepts and Examples.) And our Ecclesiasticks have not as yet made it their concern or business to endeavour a farther Reformation thereof, (tho' designed even from the beginning of the Reformation in Henry the Eighth's Days,) but are very well pleased to eat the Fat and drink the Sweet thereof: And tho' they know that their Incroachments and Usurpations have been all got by Popish Priest-craft, and by which they have for above 1000 Years cajoled and fooled both Crowns and People out of their just Rights, and subjected Caesars and great Princes and Principalities to their own Empire; And instead of a pure Gospel Government have Established to themselves a mighty Throne of Iniquity and Abominations, fit­ted for Pride, Domination, self-ends, and Interest, &c. Which Priest-craft, toge­gether with Antichrist, began to work in the Days of the Apostles, even from Ju­das's Purse, and continues to this very Day; which is demonstrably made out, as by many Histories, so more punctually and particularly by Father Paul s Treatise of Beneficiary matters, shewing how, and when, and by what Priest-craft all their Acqui­sitions, (Friars Annals, Arms Spiritual, Benefices, Unions and Vacancies of Bene­fices, Canons, Cardinals, Coajutors, Commendam's, Election of Bishops and Priests, Exemptions, Goods Ecclesiastical, Appeals, Monks, Monasteries, Indulgencies, In­vestitures, Pluralities, Non-residence, Excommunication, Episcopal Audience, Ab­solutions, Dispensations, Prebends, &c.) were acquired, used, and abused. A foul Mistake and Crime, to think to Establish the Church with good Government, taken from human Reason, as if twere a Temporal State.

The Church and Kingdom of Christ, as it is more Excellent than any other Kingdom in the World, (the Scepter of Righteousness being the Scepter of his King­dom, and to which Kingdom all other Kings and Princes ought to bow down [Page 31]and be subservient,) so it and the Government thereof differs from all other Go­vernments and Kingdoms. First, It hath but one Head, and that not by Election or Succession, but by everlasting Continuation. Secondly, This Head chose his Church or Kingdom, and not the Church him, John 15.16. Luke 32.23. Thirdly, The Laws of this Kingdom are more excellent and more unchangeable than the Laws of any other Commonwealth or Kingdom, as being the Dictates and Precepts of Christ, the onely and Eternal Head, and are the unchangeable Copies and Ex­pressions of his Immutable and most Holy Will. Fourthly, The Obligements and Conformity of every Member thereof unto these Laws are far more strickt and se­vere than in any other Commonwealth or Kingdom, viz. That every one should love his Lord and King above all, and his Neighbour and fellow Citizens as him­self, should abstain from all appearance of Evil, and resist unto Blood, striving against Sin, &c. Fifthly, In the visible Government of his Church and Kingdom, he hath appointed a Priesthood by irrevocable Ordination, (in which it is dissimular to all Temporal Governments,) as Officers of his Church and Kingdom to continue after his Ascension, viz. Priests and Bishops; and soon after his Ascension the Apo­stles added Deacons also by Ordination. What Powers Christ gave them, what Duties be obliged them unto, are visible by their Commission written in great and indelible Characters; viz. Go teach all Nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Fa­ther, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatso­ever I have commanded you: and so, I am with you to the end of the world, Matth. 28.19, 20. and they were to Preach not themselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and them­selves the servants of his Church for Jesus sake, 2 Cor. 4.5.

This is the Summ of their Commission and Authorities that Christ left them; Christ well knowing that his Apostles, and Ministers, and their Successors, were to gather him a Church from among both Jews and Gentiles, all bitter Enemies to him and his Gospel, and to Establish it in the Bosom of their Kingdoms, did prescribe them such a Government and Laws as they might any where execute peaceably, without prejudice to the Subjects of any Commonwealth or Kingdom, either in their Lives or Fortunes, no other Subjects being subject unto that Spiritual Regi­ment but onely such as embraced the Christian Religion. In this Christian Church Christ ordained Officers to Teach, Baptize, Ordain, and Administer his Sacraments: but for what concerned Honesty and Dishonesty, doing Good, and working Wie­kedness, and breaking the Laws of Morality, Christ gave many general Rules and Precepts to the whole Church, (who were to Govern its own Body and the Officers thereof, and not the Officers the Church or Body,) viz. to love one another, even our Neighbours as our selves, &c. And if any did trangress the Laws, not peculiar to them as Men, but as Christians, if the Offence were private, then they were privately to be admonished; If publick, then they that transgressed openly were to be rebuked openly; but if after Friendly Admonitions and Reprimands, private and publick, they still continued incorrigible, then not to own them as Brethren, nor keep company with them, with such, no not to cat: and in sine pursue and proecute them as Publicans and Hea­thens, i. e. Sue them in the Civil Courts: And this is the Summ of the whole Govern­ment and Discipline which Christ left to his Church; and any other there is not extant in Scripture: nor is there need of any more or other, as is hinted before.

Let the Pope, Prelate, or Paesbyter, demonstrate any other Form of Church Go­vernment, if they can. they know they cannot: but they will pelt us with Stories of another Government, and of its Antiquity, and general Use thereof for many Ages. Be it so, let them derive it as high as they can, from that very Day and Date, the very beginning of Popish Priest-craft will appear, which by good management heaping Pelian upon Ossa, now one thing, and then another, it early arrived at that monstrous heap of Irregularities, nay, Impieties it is now at in the Irregular use of the same in both Churches. Take it as it is with the best Construction can be made of it. What Concord? what Agreement had it with the Govern­ment set forth in the Gospel? even the same that Light hath with Darkness, and Christ with Belial.

To Day to burn Books and Tenets of Men as pious, and learned, and ha­ving as precious Souls to save as themselves, and to morrow suspend, and ex­travagantly punish Ministers and others for writing Rebukes of Sin, or not read­ing a Book of Sports, or for Lecturing; Excommunicate others for not paying Fees, or not observing the Orders of their Courts, and of their Officers, Chancel­lors, Surrogates, Archdeacons, Officials, Sumners, &c. And if an Excommunicate [Page 32]Person come into the Church in the time of Divine Service, the Celebration thereof is to cease: and a World of such-like Fopperies. A special Gospel Govern­ment, that Ecclesiasticks need be so fond of! Can this be a Gospel-Government, that conduces to no good end but to bring Grists to their Mills, and an odium upon themselves, and render them in some sense worse than the Furies of Hell, who only torment the guilty, but these vex the very Souls of Men as Righteous as themselves? Which Government was partly obtained by Antichristian Popish Priest­craft, partly by the supineness and negligence of the Brethren of former Ages of their own Rights and Priviledges, partly by the Crast and Subtilty of proud, covetous, and ambitious Popish Clergy, and partly by the carelesness of Princes, who not willing to trouble themselves with the Care of Religion, devolved it upon the Bishops and Priests, by whom they were easily out-witted, and seduced, and so set up for them­selves.

I wonder what plain Text of Scripture ever gave the Priesthood Authority to make Canons, curse and suspend, to impose and regulate, to bind and punish the Body of the Church, (which in plain English is putting the Cart before the Horses,) the Church being to Regulate its own Concerns, and Body, and the Officers there­of, and not the Officers the Body: for by the Judgment of St. Cyprian, The Praclice of the purest Times, which were freest from corruption, even when Holy Martyrs were Bi­shops, was, that Pastors were subject to the Censure of the Church. If this business were seriously inquired into, it would appear that there would be no need at all of this Ecclesiastical Government by Priests, as distinct from the Civil Christian Govern­ment; and if there be, yet the Body is to govern and regulate it self, and not the Clergy and Officers thereof the Body. Either this their Government is to be found in the New Testament, or it is not; if it had been there, it would have appeared long ago in the Contests between the Bishops and the Presbyterians. But by both their Writings it manifestly appears, That neither the one Government nor the other (as it is now practised) is to be found therein, nor any other Government than what I have suc­cinctly deseribed. What strange Priests are these thus to usurp wrong Powers, and make so very ill use of them, and yet expect to be had in Reverence of them over whom they so Tyrannize, by continuing the Usurpation of such wrong Pow­ers, got by Priest-craft in Evil and Popish times? How can they expect that we should hearken to, and believe them, Preaching Self denial and Reformation to us, when they hateo to be reformed themselves? They are called to be Priests and Bi­shops, and make their boasts of God, that they know his Will, and approve the things that are more excellent; and considently brag, that they are Guides to the Blind, Lights to them that are in Darkness, Instructers of the Foolish; and therefore you who teach others, why teach you not your selves? You that make your boasts of the Law, through breaking of the Law, dishonorest thou God? Rom. 2.17, 32. is not this, with [...]emas, to love the pre­sent World, and with Diotrephes to love Preheminence and Domination? All Histories, both Sacred and Prophane, swell with Out-cries and Exclamations against them, as the Disturbers of the common Peace of all Europe, as the Authors and Instruments of all Uproars, Seditions, Confusions, and Wars. Our own Church of England Men, and Bishops, boasted and signalized our first War 1639, (which was the Spawn of all that hath followed,) by the name of Bellum Episcopale; and not undeservedly. Which Royal Army, tho' in its march they injured no Body, but rather inriched all places, yet so averse was that War to the Genius of both Nations, that none of them could bid us God speed, as if God had stirred up the Spirit of these Nations, as he did the Spirits of Pul and Tilgah Pilnesar, Kings of Assyria, whereby vex Po­pult became vox Dei; and it thrived accordingly.

If this their Government now in use be not to be sound in Scripture, (as for cer­tain it is not,) what is it else, than for the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy to make the Souls of Men subordinate to their Pride and Impery, and to intitle God himself to be the Author of all their Usurpations, and to cast upon him the Shame and Disho­nour of all their Oppressions and Violencies, by gilding over all their Impieties with the Varnish of Religion, and by assuming the Coverture and Canepy of Prety for a Cloak for their Impieties. The Pagans were more modest towards their Gods, ac­counting Dissimulation meer Imposture.

Have they made it their Business, or improved their Interest, since his Majesty's Restauration, to restore that Tuesdays Sermon at Court, which the Holy Martyr most Religiously observed? Have they countenanced Lectures on the Week­days, and Sermons in the Afternoon on the Sabbath-days? Run through all the [Page 33]Counties of the Nation, and matter of fact will clear the point. I appeal to God and their own Consciences, and to vox Populi for the truth hereof. What violent suppression hath there been of Conventicles, and Persecution of the Conventiclers, (happily as great, if not greater than the Inquisition abroad,) tho' used in purest times by Christ and his Apostles, and recommended by them to all the faith­ful in general, by as true Jure Divino Precepts as Priests and Bishops have for their teaching all Nations by Matth. 28.19. and other plain Scriptures. To this Di­vine Prerogative and liberty of assembling of the faithful in general, for mutual and reciprocal Prophecying, Edification, Consolation, Conferring, and Communi­cating their several and diversities of Gists and Graces, their own mutual progres, growth, and failings of their designs for Heaven, and to participate of each others Advisoes and Prayers, and how to behave themselves therein. As this is a Divine Prerogative given to all the Faithful by the Gospel, so they may make use thereof in any Nation without asking leave of any body, and no Power ought to hin­der them, nor can they hinder it without Sin. to this signal Priviledge St. Paul gives abundant testimony, 1 Cor. 14. This Epistle was written not to Priests in par­ticular, but to the Church of God in general, to them that are sanctified in life, called to be Saints, with all that in every place call upon the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours, 1 Cor. 1.1. wherein all the faithful, whether Prtests or not Priests, are commanded to follow after Charity, and desire spiritual Gifts, but rather that they may Prophesie. By Prophets in this place are meant all Believers in general, those within the Pale of the Church, excluding those only without, as unfit to judge such mat­ters; and by Propherying here is not meant the Gifts of Prediction, or fore-telling events, or things to come, but speaking unto Edification, Exhortation, and Comfort: If therefore the whole Church (not Priests only) come together in one place, and all speak, &c. ver. 23. and all prophesie, ver. 24. and every one of you hath a Psalm, hath a Do­drine, ver. 26. If any Man speak, ver. 27. let the Prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge, ver. 29. If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first bold his peace, ver. 30. for ye may all prophesie one by one, that all may learn, and all be comforted, v. 31. and the Spirits of the Prophets are subject to the Prophets, v. 32. let the women keep silence, ver. 31. wherefore bretheren covet to prophesie, ver. 39. Now if the words or terms of the whole Church, all, every one, any Man, the other, ano­ther, Bretheren, be words and terms of universality and differencing, then certainly the Words, Prophets, and Prophecying in this Chapter are most especially applica­ble to the Bretheren, to the Auditors.

In this Chapter also are Instructions given, that Women in these Conventicles do hold their peace, ver. 31. let all prophesie, one by one, that all may learn and be comforted, and all things be done decently and in order; all which are Commandments of the Lord, ver. 37. If these be no Divine Oracles and Precepts to all the Faithful to congre­gate for the ends and purposes aforesaid, then I understand neither plain Scripture nor plain English. But if any Men will understand God otherwise than he will be understood, and distinguish Scriptures, and model them to their own humour, and accept or reject his truth, as will best consist with their own resolutions, and by oblique Arts think to trick us out of our just Rights, I leave them to the just Judg­ment of God, who will judge Righteously. The Primitive and puest Churches were so gathered and so propagated.

Moreover the same Apostle re-inforceth the same Doctrine in his Epistle to the Hebrews, ch. 10. ver. 23, 24, 25. to hold fast the profession of Faith without wavering, to consider one another, to provoke unto love, and to good works, not forsaking the assem­bling of your selves together, as the manner of some is, Heb. 10.23, 24, 25. who (fear­ing the Breath of Fools, and that thereby their designs of Honours and Prefer­ments, and other wretched Ends would be defeated,) dare not assemble to husband the precious moments of thier lives to the advantage of their Master; what is this else but to bespatter, and to have scornful and mean conceits of the humility of the ways of Christ, and of the simplicity of his Gospel? Do they not rather betray much luke-warmness and indifferency, and walk in a Neutrality and Adiaphorism, between God and Baal? nay, much hellishness and devillish Antipathy, to Christ and his strictest service. For in truth it is unbeseeming, nor Priest, nor Prelate, but a duty in­cumbent upon them, to counenance and encourage Conventicles, or Assemblies, guilty of no­thing, (maugre all the false Aspersions and Calumnies laid upon them by Men car­ried away with the stream of this wicked World, and the common prejudices and presumptions of foolish Men,) but of great Zeal to worship God, and save their own [Page 34]Souls, by besieging and besetting the Throne of heaven with more ardent and retired Pray­ers and Conferences. Why do they thus mock God, as one mocketh another? Job. 13.9. Certainly it would better become them to be zealous son Piety and good Lives, because vicious Habits are worse than false Opinions. And it is not only a duty in­cumbent on Prelate, Priest, and People, but their glory also, to countenance every thing that is done to gain Souls to Christ, whether in pretence or in truth, Phil. 1.15, 16, 17, 18. and nothing is unseemly but vice. Christians indeed ought to abstain from those things which are repugnant to Christian Profession, which are Sins, but what­soever may be done without sin is lawful for every man to do, and therefore may assemble. Besides nothing ought to be condemned or spoken ill of, that is capable of a good con­struction, (of which nature are our Conventicles, and yet are reviled and evil spoken of by some, who have the poyson of Asps under their Lips, and whose Throats are as open Sepulchers,) because it is not only humanity, but a Gospel Principle to make the most favourable and charitable construction of all Actions capable of a good and bad interpretation; for charity thinketh no evil, and we are commanded above all things to have fervent Charity, for that shall cover a multitude of sins, 1 Pet. 4.8. and envieth not, is kind, doth not behave it self unseemly, (as they do that decry Conven­ticles, thereby giving great jealousie, that in good earnest they esteem that Ordinance foolishness of Preaching, desperately contemning the Purity and Simplicity of the Gospel,) thinketh no evil, believeth all things, hopeth all things, 1 Cor. 13. and I fear that they that have not this Charity towards such Conventicles, their Charity is but as sounding Brass, or a tinkling Cymbal; and you know that Revilers are in the black Catalogue of the damned Crew, mentioned 1 Cor. 6.9, 10. and by so judging they prescribe for themselves, and prejudge themselves. Judge not, that ye be not judged, for with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged. Why beholdest thou the moat that's in thy Brether's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Matth. 7.1, 2, 3. Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own Master he standeth or falleth. Yea he shall be holden up, for God is able to make him stand, Rom. 14.4. and God alone is Judge of erring Persons. Besides, I know no Power on Earth that hath lawful Authority to forbid any Man to Preach the Gospel; or that they that are called to Preach are obliged to ask leave of any other to Preach the Gospel either publickly or privately. Christ and his Apostles, notwithstanding all Threatnings and Imprisonments, Prohibitings, Scour­gings, what not? yet preached the Gospel oth openly in their Synagogues and in the Temple; and also privately by stealth, even at midnight, breaking Bread from House to House, till they lost their lives for so doing; which they would not have done had it been unlawful so to have done. For my part I am of Opinion, That our love to the Bretheren, is the best and most manifest evidence of our love to God, and the best Rule whereby to measure our love to him; and I hope I shall never eminently see the Image of Christ in any Man (Conventicler or not Conventicler) but shall love him more dearly for it, and abhor my self for being so much unlike him. Why dost thou judge thy Brother? or why dost thou set at naught by Brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, Rom. 14.10. And God will measure us by his own Line, and by his own Plummet. Deus bone! unto what then doth all this Gall of Asps, these I breats as wide as open Sepulchers, decrying Conventicles and persecuting of them, tend? out of Zeal to the more strict and pure ways of serving God? not possible, it rather gives more occasions of greater Fears and Jealousies of more rancourous constitution of Hearts, against submitting to the narrow and more strict Rules of the Apostles, of abstaining from all appearance of Evil, of resisting unto Blood, siriving against sin, of endeavouring to be holy as our Heavenly Father is Holy; and perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect.

And certainly, it is much more agreeable tot he Mind of Christ to Conventicle with Assemblies of the Faithful, than to be blind watch men, ignerant, dumb Dogs, that cannot bark, sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber: yea, greedy Dogs that cannot have enough: shopherds that cannot understand, that look to their own way, every one for his gain, [...]. 56.10, 11. that feed themselves, but not the flock, Ezek. 34.2, 3, 4. Such as these are they that teach for hire, and divine for money; that soist their own Straw and Stubble upon the foundation laid by Christ our Lord; that will understand God other wise than he will be understood, and will not account that sense of Scripture truest, that most restraineth their corrupt humours, that thwarteth and crosseth their high imaginations and designs. We have with us, and amongst us, thousands that ask Counsel at their Stocks, and whose Staff declareth unto them; for the spirit of whoredoms hath caused them to err, and they have gone a whoring from under their God, [Page 35]Hos. 4.12. and yet not excommunicated, nor so severely persecuted as those that Conventicle and Assemble with the Brotherhood. We have also with us thousands of worthy, very worthy, pious and learned Prelates, Priests and People, that labour in the Word and Doctrine, and mourn in secret for the violences done to such As­semblies, in whom the Light of the Glorious Gospel most eminently and gloriously shineth, and who preach and practice God's pure and sincere Ordinances; so that no Nation under Heaven hath them more purely taught and exalted in Mercies than our own.

It is the rotten part of the Clergy only, whose Popish and other Books, publishing Doctrines destructive to whole Kingdoms, only herein meant, that occasions such contempt of the Clergy; the very tail of Priests, Isai. 9.15. that teach Lyes, and Doctrines that subject the whole Race of Mankind unto slavery and vassallage, whose Hearts, the love of the Wrold, of Riches, Honours and Preferments, hath de­bauched and prevailed with to hearken to the Flesh, when she pleads her secular contentments: no need of this zeal, this accurateness, this pressing, this violence for Heaven; and upon presumptuous and false prejudices, to account such strictness un­necessary, presuming on the easiness of a future Reformation, not considering that the least sin doth desile the Soul, and that the smallest omission qualifie for Hell; but can delight in sinful and desperate fellowships, blessing themselves in their own wickedness, and yet revile, and malign our Conventicles, (much better im­ployed than themselves,) being bewitcht to dore on present Contentments, to di­spence with much unjust Liberty, using lawful things unlawfully, to steal even from God's own Day, to gratifie their own corrupt humours and fleshly desires, Rom. 8.5, 6, 7, & 13, 14. by promoting and countenancing a Book of Sports, but discounte­nancing and prohibiting Sermons on Sundays in the Afternoon, and Lectures on the Week-days. Pulpit-preaching is the least part of a Ministers work: Paul taught from house to house day and night with tears, Acts 20.20. Most certainly St. Paul was more Heavenly minded, who accounted all things but loss for the excellency of the know­ledge (not notional only, but experimental also,) of Christ Jesus our Lord; for whom he suffered the loss of all things, and accounted them but dung, that he might win Christ, Phil 3.9. If these sticklers against Conventicles did but live now as they will wish they had done when they come to die, (a time speedily approaching,) they would be of another mind, and would not be of the Bedlam opinion of the World, who like not such zeal, such strictness, such violence for Heaven. Assembling together for edification and comfort, is a Command from Heaven, and no human Law ought to contradict it; nor hath any Government more Power to forbid private than publick preaching of the Gospel. Human Laws and Ordinances, or Customs against the Law of God, or Na­ture, are corruption, and derogate from the Authority of the Almighty, and are ipso facto void and null.

Pope Paul the Fourth usually cursed Colloquies, Councils, Dyets, for that they were always upon his Back. I lay no such charge to our Clergy, that do not favour of fancy such Conventicles. But I vehemently suspect that they look upon them as reproaches to themselves, as being the more diligent, and the more labo­rious, and the more zealous in the word and Doctrine than themselves. These dif­ferences would not be, if they would be governed according to the Scriptures, (which ought to be the rule of Resolutions, without respect to private Ends and worldly Interests.) and manifest vices corrected according to the Wrod of God. For which Reasons I conceive it a Spiritual Tyranny to forbid the Assembling of Bretheren together for the glory of God, the increase of Godliness, and of Brother­ly Love among the Faithful: And therefore conclude, that suppressing such Con­venticles cannot proceed from the Wisdom which is from above; which is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easie to be intreated, full of mercy and good sruits, without partiality, and without bypecrisie, James 3.17. but from that wisdom which is earthly, sensual, de­villish. For why should not that Liberty be granted to this Age, which other Ages have enjoyed with Spiritual Fruit, even in the infancy and purest Ages of the Church, and when all Nations were bitter and accursed Enemies to christ and his Gospel. Certainly, to forbid the Faithful to assemble, to improve, and make use of their proper Gifts and Graces in publick or in private, to bring Souls to Heaven, cannot proceed from any good intent: For the Holy Ghost is nto the Clergy Pe­tultar, but variety of Spiritual Gifts and Graces belongs so essentially to the perfection of the Church, that it is the very glory thereof, and of every individual. We are all so addicted to Sin, and so prone to Impieties, that all the allurements and intice­ments [Page 36]to holy living, ought to be encouraged, not discountenanced nor prohibited, lest the care of strict Piety, and eact walking in the ways of Holiness be aban­doned. And those Solemn Assemblies are but to husband are precious moments of lie, (for one Hour whereof, tormented Souls in Hell would give all the World (if they had the disposal thereof) to be but in the same possibilities of Salvation to make their Peace and Reconciliation with their provoked God.) to the advantage of the Lord of the Harvest, that when he comes he may find them so doing.

It seems very strange to thinking Men, and to right Reason it self, to deprive Men of their true Spiritual Liberty, and their just Right, and then perswade them to be content, and speak evil of them, accounting them Seditious, Schismatical, and Phanatical, if they do not acquiesce. And they are not only against the liberty of Prophesie, but of the Press also. A shrewd sign that they disguise the truth, and are afraid to be discovered, and that they do distrust the Judgment of the World upon such their Actions. For it is a derogation to Faith to dread the publishing of Truths.

All the World hath ever complained of the Vices, Incroachments, and Male­government of the Clergy, attributing the cause of all State Distempers to be, that the Clergy did creep into, and busie themselves in the Courts of Princes, and in the Af­fairs of the World, being Judges, Chancellors, Secretaries, Treasurers; What not? there being but few Officers of State into which some Ecclesiasticks have not insinuated themselves and crept in, which is to ridicule Religion, and shamefully to confound Spiri­tual and Temporal things together; which is altogether Unapostolical. This I am sure is forbidden by St. Paul, and the whole tenor of the Scripture, who thought it necessary, that a Soldier of the Church should abstain from Secular imployments, 2 Tim. 2.4. for Christianity is a continual Warfare, they would take it very ill, if one should say that Priesthood were not Jure Divino; and happily well they may: and I doubt they will take it as ill, if we say, that because it is Jure Divino, therefore no Priest, from the Presbyter to the Pope, ought to busie themselves, or take any Secular Imploy­ment, that may any way impede their daily Ministrations, distract or avert their Thoughts, or necessarily enforce their absence. Vid. Canon. Apost. 7.80. And in the Ecclesiastical Laws there is a whole Title, Ne Clerci vel Monachi secularibus nego­tiis innisceant.

Pope Clement the Seventh, to serve a turn, made all demonstration, that he had laid aside all thoughts of Temporal things. I could wish our Priests would do it in good earnest.

And St. Chrysostom hath a long discourse complaining of Clergy-men leaving the care of Souls and become Proctors, Economists, &c. Preaching things unbeseeming the Ministery: And it is not only against Precept Divine, but against Moral and Na­tural right, as appeareth Luke 10.7. and Matth. 10.10. 1 Tim. 5.18. It is the la­bourer, the workman, (not the lasie drone and loyterer,) that is worthy of his hire, his meat, and his reward. It is they who minister (not they who do not minister) about holy things, that have right to live of the things of the Temple; and they that wait (not they that do not wait) at the Altar, (not at the Court, or on secular Imployments) that have right to be partakers of the Altar; for the Lord hath so ordained, that they which preach (not they who preach not) the Gospel, should live of the Gospel, 1 Cor. 9. 13, 14. For Priesthood was at first instituted not for Honours, nor for Dignities, nor for Rewards, (as now used, and have been so used many hundreds of Years,) but for Ministeries and Charges, called by St. Paul, Works; and those that excrcise them, cal­led by Christ, Workmen; tho Priest-craft hath turned them into Benefices. For Priests are most properly God's Workmen. And St. Paul's practice was anserable to his Doctrine; and the charge is given, Rom. 12.7, 8. to wait on that office whereunto we are called, whether to prophecy, let us prophecy; according to the proportion of faith, or ministery, let us wait on our ministery; or be that teacheth, on teaching, &c. Where there is a Commandment, there lies a Bond upon the Conscience to do. To Preach the Go­spel there is a Duty ever binding a Minister, with a woe annexed if he Preach not.

Moreover, the work of Preaching is so much more excellent above all other Acts of the Ministery, that for my part I cannot imagine what that great and important busi­ness of the Ministery can be, to which it can become preaching to submit, I am sure not Sacraments; (and if not Sacraments, I am sure nothing more excellent.) Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel, 1 Cor. 1.17. he might as well have said, not to domineer, not to do any thing in this sense comparatively, as he desires to be understood. Besides, is there any thing more honourable? Hear the same [Page 37]Apostle, 1 Tim. 5.17. the Elders that rule well are worthy of double honour. Call it Re­verence or Maintenance, or both; however, a specialty in it belongs to them that la­bour in the Word and Doctrine. And it is most certain, that more sound honour is to be gained in the Hearts of the People by Preaching, than by all outward helps whatsoever. What say I? honour amongst Men? yea, more comfort to their Con­sciences, and glory in God's Kingdom. Hear Solomon, Prov. 11.30. he that winneth Souls is wise: and Daniel 12.3. they that turn others to righteousness shall shine as the Stars in the firmament: And Paul 1 Thess. 2.19. What is our hope, our joy, our crown of rejoycing? are ou not it in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? What com­fort like this? when a Minister comes before the Lord, the great Shepheard of the Sheep, with the word of Isaiah applied to our Saviour? Lo, me and the Children thou hast given me, Isai. 8.18. the Sons and Daughters which by thy blessing I have begotten unto thee in the Gospel. One of the Apostles, on whose Shoulders lay the care of all the Churches, yet denounces woe to himself, if he preach not the Gospel. And Timothy hath that charge laid on him, with an heavy adjuration to preach the Word, 2 Tim. 4.1, 2.

Besides, their very Priesthood obligeth them to be Watchmen, and therefore to watch continually on their Ministry; and if any of their Flock miscarry thro' their unwatchfulness, their blood will be required at their hands; and they cannot be ignorant that Sathan, with millions of sins and stratagems, are ever besieging, inticing, clamo­ring, haling, rebelling, intruding with Love, with Strength, with Law, with Argu­ments, with Importunities, always importuning and diverting their Flocks from the right way, and therefore they ought always to stand Sentinel to forewarn and help.

Certainly if the Apostles were so Puritanical, so Phanatical, so Whiggish, and so scrupulous of entertaining any Imployment, tho' never so Pious, and Charita­ble, that might any way in the least hinder the main end of their Duty; viz. to preach the Gospel: I humbly conceive that our Bishops and Priests (accounting them­selves successors of the Apostles, and sent as they were sent,) ought also to follow their Doctrine and Examples as well in this particular as in any other. And sith the Lords provision for Levites was so made, that they might attend the Altar, and wait continually on the Sanctuary, without the distraction and cumber of any ci­vil Imployments; I cannot see how plunging, conflicting earthly Imployments can consist with the duty and charge of a Minister, and execution of his Commission, seeing to preach the Gospel being a duty ever binding Ministers, with a Woe an­nxed if they preach not: Woe to the idle shepherds if they preach not, Ezek. 34.2. as heavy, as to those that are at ease in Sion. They cannot be ignorant that Christ hath service much more than enough (without Secular Imployments) to take up all the Might, Strengths, Studies, Abilities, Times, Callings of all his servants, (espe­cially those of the Ministry) whose peculiar Duty it is to teach others, and watch over them, and must give an account of them, that they may be always worshipping, communing of him, and conversant with him, and Enoch-like walk all the day long with him, not minding their own things only, but the things of others also, that as Instruments and fellow Members, by taking the hint of every fit opportunity they shall be put upon by the way of Providence, and may be always Exhorting, Reproving, Directing, Instructing, Restoring, Relieving and Helping others, always Mourning, Rejoycing, Praying with their flocks, and serving them in all ways of Love, always doing that which may bring in most Spiritual good to themselves and their Flocks, most true comfort to their own Souls and their Flocks, and most glory to their Maker and Redeemer, (which is the true end and design of Conventic­ling) and which the absurd love and attendance of the World is too prevalent to steal from us and to cheat us of, tho' things of most precious spiritual and ever­lasting consequence. They cannot be ignorant, that if the seed be sown among thorns, that the cares of this World, and the deceitfulness of Riches, and the lusts of other things, (fears of disappointment and miscarriage of earthly Ends and Interests) entring in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful, Mark 4.18, 19.

Erasmus was wont to say of Luther, That he medled with two precious but dan­gerous concerns, when he touched the Popes Crowns and the Monks Bellies, who are apt enough, even whilst their Meat is jet in their Mouths, whilst distenti & crepantes to cry out, Heu quanta patimur? But if Socrates say true, Monachus qui non laborat manibus similis est praedoni; Those Priests that feed themselves, and do not feed the Flock, whether through Laziness, or multitude of Secular Imployments, are at best but [Page 38] Pillagers and Robbers, even Locusts that eat up the best of the Fruit of the Church and Ecclesiastical preferments: for which severe Character I have Ezek. 34. for my undoubted warrant.

Certainly it is no very wild conjecture of him who hath printed, that nothing of­fended Julian the Apostate so much, or was so great an occasion of his Apostatizing, as were the Vices and vile Hypocrisie of the then Christian Clergy; who, besides their coining of contrary Creeds in the Reigns of Constantine and Constantius, and model­ling Religion by Court Intrigues, which seemed almost wholy to dispence even with Morality, placing Sanctimony not so much in a Holy Life as in the shict obser­vance of their Rituals, and the Symbolical Representations of Christian Religion, such as Baptism, the Eucharist, Chrism; but above all, in submitting to the formalities of Con­fession, Penance, Indulgences, Absolutions, Holy Water, &c. upon which the greatest Sins were so easily remitted. What Flesh could indure to hear the Murderers of ones Father, Uncle, two Brothers, six Cousin Germans, harangue to Heaven in Pulpits as Saints, be­cause (forsooth) absolv'd by their own Friends the Priests, who haply set them on work? The ground of this his conjecture is, because Julian is not so Satyrical on any occasion as upon this. In his Caesars, we find this flouting out-cry; viz. [...]. Ho! whoever is either Sodomite, Murderer, Rogue, or Villain, let him dread nothing but repair hither, with this Water I'll make him clean in a trice; and if he shall happen (as human Nature is frail) to reiterate the same Crimes, if he will but thump his Breast, and box his Noddle, I'll warrant him as innocent as the Child unborn.

Tho' this Julian (a Man of excellent Parts and Learning) became an accursed Apostate, yet he was against those that discountenanc'd and persecuted Men of ho­nest Principles, and against those that paid devout Visits to the Bones of dead Fri­ars, calling them Holy Reliques, and the like. This fully appears by his Epistle to the Citizens of Bostra, wherein he complains of his Predecessor, for Persecuting, Imprisoning and Banishing many of them; nay whole Corporations of them they term Here­ticks, were put to the Sword, insomuch that at Samosata, Cizicum, Paphlagonia, Bythi­nia, Galatia, and many other Countries, and whole Towns were laid level with the Earth; whereas Julian himself practised the clean contrary, recalling the exiled home, and re­storing such as were proscrib'd, their own intire; and vehemently complaining of the Clergy acting as Tyrants, not as Men, as above the controul of Laws, and that upon one another; and he laid the cause of all Tumults, Insurrections, and Tyranny, to the seduction of those they call Clergy: and all because they are restrain'd from their former excesses; and because they may not be Judges, nor make Peoples Wills, and possess themselves of other Mens Pa­trimonies, and so get all into their own Clutches; quo jure quâve injuria: and therefore advised the Laity, not to tumultuate with the Clergy, but to live in Peace one with ano­ther: and commanded, that in no wise any Injury, Affront, or Abuse should be offered to the Galilaean Laity, for that Men ought to be brought over by Reason and Perswasion, and not by ill Usage, Blows, and Stripes. I wish all our most Christian Kings had imitated him in this particular.

I know I am harping upon an unpleasing String, but it matters not, I am at a point for that, it may crush Arts and designs of Wealth, Honour, Preferments, and Plausibility; but God can recompence, maugre all black Mouths that may either barke or bite. Magna est veritas & prevalebit. These are not my sentiments alone, but they have been the complaints of many Generations, both of Lay and Eccle­siasticks. Witness Guicciardine, Sleydan, Thuanus, Padre Paolo, and others. Even in the Council of Trent some were so honest as to make the same complaints, and desire Reformation of them, averring, that all the evil did arise from the large Donati­ons of the Church, especially that of Jurisdiction; a thing inconvenient, that they who ought to give themselves to Prayer and Preaching, should exercise Power which is no ways es­sential to their Calling, nor was ever receiv'd immediately from Christ, nor any Autho­rity ever given by Christ, but what was meerly and purely Spiritual: but that packt Conventicle was not so honest as to redress them.

Dr. Jeremy Taylor, Lord Bishop of Down and Cannaught, hath written a very learned Discourse, justifying the liberty of Prophesying, &c. and Naked Truth, (sup­posed to have been written by another worthy Prelate,) makes the like complaints, and laments them. Of all which more largely in Jus Caesaris & Ecclesiae vere dictae.

As to the Reformation of them, Religion was certainly then most pure and sin­cere when there ws not one Ceremony used, nor one Bishop nor Priest ingaged in Secular Imployments. And no Reformation can be so good, so pure, as that which [Page 39]doth reduce things to their first innocent Beginnings and Institutions; against which no Objection can reasonably be made. The Primitive Church did conti­nue very many Years in perfection, with increase of Saints, and propagation of the Gospel, without the use of any ceremonies, or suppressing any holy Assemblies, (Con­venticles,) or Excommunicating, as now used, or any Priest imployed in Secular Affairs in Princes Courts, and the purity thereof can by this means only be restored; they knew full well that the Kingdom of God did not consist in Cringings, Ceremo­nies, Vestments, or Colours, but in righteousness, and peace, and joy in the holy Ghost, Rom. 14.17. and may be so governed again, if the Clergy would give it counte­nance and encouragement, and be as active in good earnest to divest themselves of all Temporal Dominion, and be content to live the life and practice of the Apo­stles, (yet with plentiful Revenues,) as they are to persecute their fellow Members in Christ for acting as the Apostles taught and did.

Be wise now therefore, O ye Prelates, be instructed yet Priests of the most High, do not offend little onesS that believe in their and your god, and that assemble in se­cret to imploy and improve precious time, and holy Talents; its better a Milstone were banged about your necks, and you drowned in the depth of the Sea, Mat. 18. than that you should be found guilty of such offence: remember that he that toucheth such, toucheth the Apple of his Eye, Zach. 2.8. If they are weak in Faith, yet receive them, but not to doubtful disputations, Rom. 14.12. and 15.1. for he that eateth, and he that eateth not, and he that conformeth, and he that conformeth not, may both meet in Hea­ven and see the Face of God with comfort. It is hard kicking against the pricks: if briars and thorns will set themselves in battle against the Lord, he will go through them, and burn them with unquenchable fire, Isai. 27.4.

To me it seems marvellous, nay monstruous, that Ministers of the Gospel should preach pure Doctrine, Holiness, and Strictness of Life and Conversation, and that most zealously, and yet at the same time, in the same Pulpit, revile and speak evil of Ministers of the same Gospel, preaching the same Doctrines as fer­vently as themselves, in private Assemblies or Conventicles, and out of their Pul­pits to rail, persecute, and trouble those that practise the same Doctrines that they themselves teach them, differing from them only about things indifferent. Doth a fountain send forth sweet water and bitter? James 3.11, 12. Are these Pastors accord­ing to God's own Heart? Is this to feed us with Knowledg and Understanding? Jer. 3.15. Is it not rather to be bruitish in Knowledg? Jer. 10.15. Falsest Priests! that teach one thing, and yet revile and persecute them that practise it; to me it seems impossible, that there should be sincerity in such Pulpits: is not this to preva­ricate with God and Man, to speak lyes in hypocrisie? and by slight and cunning crafti­ness lie in wait to deceive? Will you talk deceitfully for God? or as one man mocketh ano­ther, will you so mock him? Job. 13.7, 9.

Tho' I thus argue, yet am of Opinion, that the Ceremonies of the Church of England are so innocent, that they may be, and are used with very good Consci­ence by some, and may be injoyned. But I know no Power under Heaven that hath lawful Authority rigorously to command submission to them upon Penalties and Severities, that if any through either indiscreet Zeal, or truly conscientious Scrupu­losities cannot use them, they must not therefore preach the Gospel either pub­lickly or privately, or partake of Church Offices and Benefices. O! they are things indifferent, and may be commanded: be it so. And therefore they ought so to continue, and not be made necessary by any commands of Men. Let them so con­tinue, and Unity will necessarily ensue. Rites and Ceremonies, tho' by nature in­different, do then become bad, and of ill consequence, when imposed under Pe­nalties, and when they that do impose them have an Opinion, that they are good or necessary. Preaching, and Praying, and Assembling are of absolute necessity; use of Ce­remonies not so. And the Holy Ghost would have no greater burthen imposed, than things necessary, Acts 15.28. To press these things so severely, is with the Ministers of Jeroboam, to lay snares in Mispah, and spread nets upon Tabor, Hos. 5.1. And to sham, and use Laws, Menaces, and Subtleties, to keep the People from God's Temple and Sanctuary, and to smother and dissemble the strictness and purity of God's Holy Ways; but the righteous Lord will how the snares of the ungodly in pieces, Psalm 129.4. Preaching of the Gospel, and Administration of the Sacraments, are things com­manded by God, and therefore ought not to be forbidden by Men, and are so far exempt from human Laws, that the prohibition of them is of no force; it being in such cases better to obey God than Man, Acts 5.22. and for that no Man's right ought to [Page 40]be denied him either in things Civil, or Spiritual, for fear they should abuse it, for tha then no Man's Right shall be preserved safe and intire unto him. And for certain God hath given no Power at all, either to Princes or Prelates, but what is accompanied with Divine Wisdom and sincerity; and therefore to forbid any to preach the Gospel, because they refuse to submit and conform to commands of things indifferent, and no way Essential to the saving of Souls, or to the Sincerity or Purity of the Gospel, is utterly unlawful and sinful, and as arrant persecution as was that of the Jews towards the Apostles, and no ways to be countenanced in a Christian State: but such Abuse of Power is a plain demonstration that they hate them that rebuke in the Gate, and abhor them that speak uprightly, Amos 5.10.

Besides, the matters in Difference between Conformist and Non-conformist are confessed by both to be but about things indifferent, and therefore ought not to be imposed necessarily, because their imposition cannot be justified infallibly, and because inde­terminate by plain Scripture, and therefore can have no warrant from them. What are we then to conceive of those our Ecclesiasticks, who have been so far from promo­ting such a Reformation, that they have always opposed it with strong opposition? Witness of late Days their earnest and importunate solicitations of the Members of both Houses of Parliament, to Repeal that Act of Parliament made 17 Car. disenabling all Persons in Holy Orders to exercise any Temporal Jurisdiction or Au­thority; which by good management they have effected by another Act made 13 Car. 2. by which they are now re-instated on the old rotten Papal Foundation, and are at such ease therein, that if any do but mutter or peep against it, they are ready, with the two Men in the Gospel possessed with Devils coming out of the Tombs, exceeding fierce, and to cry out, Why are you come to torment us before the time? Matth. 8.28, 29. Are not such Priests those that teach for hire, and Prophets that divine for money, and pimp for domination? Mich. 3.11. and Demas-like forsake the fellowship of Saints, and embrace this present World? So that unless the Apostles return from Heaven, or that Christ himself come again in Person and lasn them, (as he did the Buyers and Sellers) out of the Temple, I see small hopes of Establishing the Government of the Church on a right Basis: If they would be active in good earnest to divest themselves of all Temporal Domination and Jurisdiction, and content to be reduced to the life and practise of the Apostles, as they are to persecute their fellow Members for Conventicling, we might be happy.

Yet I must do the right Reverend Author of Naked Truth that right, ‘That if the Ecclesiasticks were all of his mind, and first seek the Kingdom of God, it would easily be done: and I do with him humbly conceive, That the Bishops with the rest of the Clergy are bound in Conscience to implore the Assistance of both Houses of Parliament to Petition his Majesty for the Redress of the Abuses by Pious Laws, settling the Church Government in the Primitive Purity, and Au­thority; which most evidently was very great, and as greatly reverenced, Bishops and Priests being the Persons to whom Christ and his Apostles committed the Souls of Men bought with his most precious Blood.’

Therefore I think they do such Clergy-men (not Priesthood, not Episcopacy, not true Church of England Men,) no wrong, who esteem them (as they manage their matters) the very worst Interest that Protestant Kings and Kingdoms have, but that of the Papists. These Animosities and Differences have been ever since the be­ginning of the Reformation, between the Conforming and Non-conforming Cler­gy, and (I may truly prophesie) ever will be, so long as Conscience shall be on the Earth, and as long as Ministers will not be Servants but Lords over Gods heri­tage, and will not condescend to let things made by God Almighty indifferent, so to be and remain. the Reasons are pregnant, for that Conscience will be Con­science while the World stands; and therefore there ever will be Scrupulonties and Obligations upon Conscience, which are greater than all other Obligations in the World: And therefore King James the First would say, (and that truly) That the Puritans were never to be obliged, and for that Reason. Whereas if things indif­ferent might so remain, and the Conventiclers permitted to preach in publick, (to take away all Fears, Jealousies, and Suspicion,) we should be all at quiet, for then there would not be left so much as the pretence of Religion to occasion Dislentions or Quarrels.

Besides, it is the time-serving Clergy only, the Drones, that vilifies and abaseth, that caluminates and disturbs the Dissenters, and not the Dissenters them. EXtremi­ties used against them at their Instigation, Silencing, Imprisoning, Excommunicating, making use of Laws against them, that in their primary,35 Eliz. simple and sincere In­stitution were intended and enacted against Papists only, and they not proceeded against so violently, according to those very Laws in full force against them, as against the Non conformists, who have been Indicted under the Notion of Popish Re­cusants, and Penalties levied upon them, and the Papists either totally connived at, or remissly prosecuted; many Crimes, through ungrounded prejudices, laid to their charge, (as disturbing of the Government,) which they abhor and teach not, of which they are no otherways guilty, than by that Logick, that the Fox his Ear­on his Head were Horns, meer Surmizes, Calumnies, and Libels, and nothing pro­ved, but that contrary to a human Law, they (following the Command and Ex­ample of Christ and his Apostles) meet and assemble together to keep a more in­timate, near, and dear Communion with their and our God, and with one another, and to make Peace and Reconciliation with God, whilst they are yet in the way, yet in the possibility of Salvation; whcih Law in it self is null and void, because it contradicts the Law of God, which Commands all Men every where to call on the Name of the Lord Jesus, and all Priests to teach all Nations, Baptizing, &c. and to preach in every Church in season, out of season, &c. to reprove, exhort, rebuke, with all long-suffering and doctrine, 2 Tim. Is not this with the Priests of old, and the Captain of the Temple, to be grieved at the heart that they teach the People? and therefore laid hands on them, and put them in hold: and like Elymas the sorcerer, being full of all subtlety and all mischief, children of the Devil, enomies of all righteousness, never ceasing to per­vert the right ways of the Lord, Act. 4.2. and 13.10. But lying lips shall be put to si­lence: which speak grievous things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous, Psalm 31.18. It was St. Paul's Glory that Christ was preached any way, though through strife or vain glory: and I fear it is the glory of the more violent and haughty Tory Church of England Party, (as the road to Preferment,) to decry Conventicling and Preach­ing contrary to such a Law, and to stop the Mouths of them that would Preach; whereby they intitle themselves to the Character of the Shepherds described and deciphered, Isai. 56.10, 11.

Consider, that in Preaching contrary to such a Law, they do no more than what Christ and his Apostles did in their Days. The Rulers of the Jews, offended with Pe­ter's Sermon, imprisoned him and John; and having strictly examined them, and commanded them not to speak at all, nor teach in the Name of Jesus. Did they therefore forbear Preaching? or were they obedient to such Commands of the Rulers? I tell you nay; but answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to bearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye; and continued speaking the Wrod of God with great boldness, Acts 4. The like did the rest of the Apostles, even from house to house; though accused of turning the World up-side down, and of doing contrary to the decrees of Caesar, yet preaching the Word of God boldly, Act. 17.26. Either the Author to the Hebrews Preacht false Doctrine, when he exhorteth us to consider one another, to pro­voke unto Love, and to good Works, not forsaking the assembling of our selves together, as the manner of some is. And so did St. Paul when he wrote his Chap. 14. to the Co­rinthians, wherein he adviseth all to desire Spiritual gifts; but rather that they may pro­phesie, that they may speak unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort, when the Church is come together in one place; with particular Directions how all should behave themselves in such Assemblies, that all may profit; with a general Rule, that all things be done decently, and in order. Either, I say, these Apostles taught false Doctrines in so Teaching; or else they that preach and prate against such Assembling, (as the manner of some is,) are false teachers. I know no medium, take it as you please.

Can it it be imagined that if St. Paul (who rejoyced that Christ was preached in sea­son, and out of season, though out of envy and strife; though not sincerely, though but in pretence, and not in truth,) were living now, and here, would condemn our Conven­ticles, or would not rather be in the midst of them himself? I appeal to God and your own Consciences, if you your selves ought not to continue stedfast in the Apostles Doctrine and Fellowship, and in breaking of Bread from House to House, and Prayers.

If Conventicles in our Days do endeavour to come as near as they can to con­tinue stedfast in the Doctrine and Fellowship of the Apostles, why should they be interrupted? Were not Spiritual Men mad, doting upon mediocrities of Grace, they would never burlesque the purity and simplicity of the Gospel, nor the most strict ways of Piety, and by ungrounded prejudices mis-judge them, as Shagreen to good Go­vernment. According to my Divinity, Preaching in season, out of season, though not sincerely, though but in pretence, though not in truth, (Crimes of which I hope our Con­venticles are no ways guilty,) and to become all things to all men, that by all means they may save some, is but to do the Will of their Master: but more especially when their assembling and associating in such Conventicles is only to redeem and improve pre­cious time, by endeavouring to make all moments of their life comfortable and beneficial to themselves and others, sparing sufficient time to humble themselves, and to keep a constant communion with their and our God.

Pope Pius the Fourth could say, That he would humble himself to Heresie, in regard what ever was done to gain Souls to Christ, did become that See: And shall Protestants, Clergy, and not Clergy, be like the Saduces, and be grieved at heart that the People be taught the right ways of the Lord? Absit! I hope the Church of England (tho' there have been and still are scab'd Sheep among them) is not yet so corrupted as to have that laid to her charge which Christ told the Scribes and Pharisees, That in vain they worshipped God, teaching for Doctrines Mens Commandments: and of which St. Austin complained in the Church wherein he lived, which was so corrupted, that the Com­mandments of God are laid aside, teaching for Doctrines Mens Commandments; and those exacted with such Severity, nay with Tyranny, that they were more severely censured who transgressed them, than those who transgressed the Laws of God: It is certainly so in Rome; I will I could say it had never been so in England.

It is absurd to cry, The Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord, boasting of the Pri­viledges that the Gospel doth afford us, and at the same time to prevaricate with God and the Redeemed of his own Blood, to give them stones instead of bread, and ser­pents instead of fish, by such their destructive Doctrines, and punish more for Non-con­forming than for not Preaching; and as by Excommunication to deny and abridge the excommunicate the participation of Sermons, Sacraments, Sabbaths, &c. all out­ward means of Grace and Repentance. Did St. Paul and the Corinthians forbid him whom they had delivered to Satan to come to their Assemblies, or partake of the Sacraments? Did Christ ever forbid Publicans and Sinners to come unto him? Did he not eat the Passover with Judas the greatest of Sinners? When the Pharisees objected his eating and drinking with Sinners as a crime, did not he tell him, That they that are whole need not a Physician, but they that are sick? Matth. 9.11, 12. Did he not converse daily with them? Did he not cast out unclean Spirits, nay Devils out of them? And yet our excommunicates (tho' but for Niff-Naffs) must not approach the Temple of the Lord, nor assemble in the Holy Congregations: This hath been the practise of some Centuries of Years both of the Popish and Protestant Churches, when in truth there's no such thing in Holy Writ, as it hath been and still is used in both Churches: And that Excommunication that is mentioned in Scripture (if any at all) is in the body of the Church, and not in the Officers thereof; and which the Laity have as much Authority to exercise against the Clergy, as the Clergy against the Laity; it cannot be denied. Is it recorded in any Scripture, Old or New, that the Church doors were to be shut against the vilest Sinners, or Sacra­ments, or Communion denied unto them? and yet the use of Excommunication hath been and still is such in both Churches.

I should account it a marvellous happiness if any thing that I have written might so far prevail with our Clergy, as seriously to take into their consideration their interessing and intermedling with Civil Affairs and Imployments, and also Excom­munication, (which bring so much odium and contempt upon them,) and lay to Heart how many hundreds of Years the Church hath been imposed upon and abused by them. The abuse of which, by the Roman Pontiffs, hath been abomina­ble, even against Emperors, Kings, Princes, and States, that all Histories swell there­with, and stinks in the Nostrils of God and Man. But not so much abused by any Protestant Churches. By Excommunication, as now used, they have done as much as in them lay to frustrate the whole design of the Gospel, by debaring the Ex­communicates the use and enjoyment of the outward means of Grace and Re­pentance. What strange kind of Sacriledge is this? that when Christ hath ap­pointed [Page 43]Sabbaths, Sermons, Sacraments, &c. for the conversion of Sinners to him, and for establishing and confirming them when converted, our Priests out of self-Ends and Interests preach up another Doctrine; viz. Excommunication, which de­bars the benefit of them all; and so by a new Gospel of their own, do, as much as in them lieth, send People to the Devil, instead of allowing them the means of Salvation? How contrary, how unlike were the Gospel-censures of old to this now in vogue? they were for Edification, not for Destruction, as this knack or spell of Excom­munication is.

Besides the Spiritual prejudices to the Salvation of Souls by Priests-craft, it is ex­tended also unto Temporals, as that the Excommunicate cannot sue at Law for any Debts, Land, or for redress of injuries done unto him, nor at his Death dispose of his Goods or Estate. If this be Gospel, I understand not Gospel-truths.

It's a shame that Religion should be thus made use of, and used so dirtily as to make it serve turns, and Godliness to wait upon Gain, Pride, and Domination of Priests.

It would be a marvellous happiness to these Nations, if the Church of England Men would yet be so wise and considerate in these evil and confounding times, as to fettle among themselves the distracting Doubts of taking our New Oaths, of Pas­sive Obedience, of Non-resistance, of Allegiance, of Praying for our KING: For whilst they are of such different Opinions among themselves, what would they have us sid Mortals the Laicks to do? A separation, if not worse, must ensue, and that of the highest nature, and of most dismal consequence, infinitely beyond that of the Non-Cons, and which undeniably tends to the Persecution, do I say, nay even to the Destruction of the Protestant Religion throughout Europe, which now lies at stake gasping and a bleeding in this critical juncture of Affairs; and which is wonderful in the Eyes of most considerate Men, that all the Papists of Europe are at Defiance with our mighty Neighbour, but those of our own Nations; which argues them to have but Irish Understandings, and perhaps Religion also: And if he should pre­vail, Acium est de Religione Protestantium; and must be Slaves to boot.

I shall now draw towards a conclusion: first intimating an Axiome of that great Divine Dr. Thomas Jackson, viz. such are the Reciprocal Embracements and Inter­weavings of Truth and Goodness, that we cannot rightly judge any thing for Good which is not True; nor deny any known Truth to be in its own nature Good: yet it often comes to pass, that our desires are so eager and passionate on several Ob­jects, (as Riches, Honours, Impery, &c.) that they get the start of Deliberation, and our Minds and Inclinations so forcibly prepossessed thereof, that they cannot be dis­swaded from a mistaken Good, and that it is a true and real Evil, and only a seem­ing Good. And desires to have it abetted and countenanced with the Authority of Truth, are unlawful, and indeed prevaricating with God. And whilst our Trains, our counter-lustings, and opposite inclinations stand in equal Balance, there can be no settled Resolution, or actual Choice. And the Affections after such debate­ments will hardly sway the Soul, unless the Understanding do wave and decline the Point whereat it stood, and either yield to the suggestions and illusions of our fleshly Reasons for the time being as True and Good, or at least not ex­presly condemn them for False, nor with Christian Courage stoutly withstand them.

Truths or Precepts Divine, considered in general, or without incumberances an­nexed to their practise, many there be, which affect more vehemently than their more honestly and more humbly minded Brethren, who more willingly subscribe to the narrow Rules of the Apostles, and so walk more exactly and more blameless in all God's Commandments. But a servent and precipitato imbracement arising not from a clear intellectual apprehension of the abstract Truth, or zealous Sense of their Goodness, but rather from general innate temper of desiring eagerly and fiercely, whatsoever they desire at all becometh the Mint or Forge of metamorphosing and misrepresenting God's revealed Will in his Word, whilst they descend to actual choice of particulars preferred in their course of life.

That Christ's Advice is to be followed before any contrary Counsel, is not to be denied by any Christian: yet such is the corruption of our nature, that almost every Man in matters of practise prejudicial to their private earthly Interests, will traverse the meaning, whether of his clearest Maxims, or most peremptory Man­dates, and supersede them. Christ his reply to Martha, complaining of her Sister [Page 44]for not helping her to etertain him, Martha, Martha, thou art careful, and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful, and Mary hath chosen the better part, which shall not be taken away from her, Luke 10.41, 42. includes and warrants a Maxime of most Holy use; viz. [That a life priviledged and vacant from Secular Imploy­ments, for better Meditation and Solacing their Souls on Heaven and Heavenly things, is the most compendious and comfortable Course to that endless Life, which every good Christian proposeth as the sole end of this wearisome Pilgrimage, that at the end of his Days he may obtain the end of his Hopes, and be brought to the presence of God; where is fulness of joy; and at whose right-hand there are pleasures for evermore.] Were their Hearts true and constant to God, to the true Interest of their Souls, it were impossible but that their inclinations and assent should be swaied to the subordinate practises. But as the Heart is deceitful above all things, so it will quickly find Justifications, or Apologies, Tricks, or Shams, for the most sinister choices: the proud and haughty Spirit thus fobs and shames his own judgment; viz. practical Imployments for Preserments, (my opportunities and qualifications considered) are the best course I can take either for my own or others good: wherefore our Savi­our's Advice to Martha, rightly limited and interpreted, is no way contrary to my choice.

And if he can light of other Sacred Passages which mention the advancements of God's Saints to Civil Dignities, (as Daniel's wearing a Purple Robe,) and further­ance of the Churches Cause by his High Place in the Court, these he takes as sea­led Warrants to Authorize his ambitious Desires or self-exalting Projects; and so in a trimming way, walking between God and Baal, making the Souls of Men, and the Glory of God, subordinate to their ambitious Projections; who, Balaam like, for the hope of Honour and Preferment, rise early, sit up late, run and ride, and become more sensless of God's displeasure than was his dumb Ass. How many have we known pulpit Damnation against Pluralities of Benefices, and afterwards having tasted the sweet of one, have been content to swallow more, preach against three Parsonages as the most ready way to get two? How many have owned N [...] Episcopari, and yet accept thereof? For Prelates and Priests to intangle and ingage themselves in Civil Concerns is unapostolical, and to incumber themselves with Plu­ralities, with two contra-distinct Offices, and to be accounted as those that having put their hands to the plough and yet look back, are not fit for the Kingdom of Heaven, Luke 9.62. And according to St. Paul, 2 Tim. 2.34. no man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a Soldier; and a Christian-life is a continual Warfare.

Is it not a sad and lamentable condition when the violence of our Passions shall endeavour by wrestings of places of Scripture, and by false Reasonings, to bring the strait and inflexible Rule of Truth to bend to their Bow, the better to serve their base ends of Pride, Pelf, and Ambition? For without some shew of agreement with God's Word, no Dogmatical Assertion can be maintained as true by any Chri­stian.

But I have done, leaving them only to consider, That the manifest and notorious abuse of Power, (be it Civil or Ecclesiastical) dischargeth the Faithful from the sin of Contempt and Disobedience: the very word [Abuse] undeniably insers as much in its own plain and proper signification. And tho' this be an undeniable Truth, yet the subtle Ecclesiasticks will coin Distinctions and false Reasonings to enervate or evade the force thereof. So Bellarmine against Gerson in the point of Excommunication grants the consideration to be true hypothetically only; viz. if it be meant of the Abuse of the Keys in points Essential; as if the Prelate should exceed his Commis­sion: in which case he agrees with St. Peter, Obiendum est magis Deo quam hemini­bus, Acts 5. What is this but to dally and to play fast and loose with Scripture, by creating subtilties and distinctions where there needs none, (it being always to be understood of unjust Powers and Commands,) and to fight against Shadows, to wran­gle with their own Conjectures? Consider also that when a Prelate (so a Magi­gistrate in his Sphere) abuseth the Power of the Keys, he doth more disparage and injure the Keys, and offends God more grievously, than doth any Man subject to his Jurisdiction, when he obeys not his Prelate.

And hence it follows, that in such-like cases it is best to resist the Prelate to his Face, as St. Paul did Peter. The Reason is demonstrable, for that a human Praecept, subject to Errors, ought not to come in Competition, nor be laid in the Ballance with an express [Page 45]Precept from God. Besides, it is a greater sin to abuse Power than to disobey, for that one abuse of Power and Authority gives a greater scandal to the World, and is a cause of greater mischief than many disobediences: and the Person of the Superior, as more eminent, is much more bound by his greater Obligation to God to do his Duty. St. Paul'sgrave Rebuke to St. Peter, instructs Inferiors how they ought to behave themselves towards their Superiors, and no scandal can arise from such behaviour, but what is taken, not given. Therefore Cajetan, in his Tract, De Authoritate Papae & Concilii, affirms, That he ought to resist the Pope to his face, when he abuseth his Authority; and saith, Abusui potestatis, qui destruit, obviam eant congruis remediis, non obediendo in malis, non adulando, non tacendo, sed arguendo, Advocando illustres ad increpandaum ex­emplo Pauli, &c. The conclusion is certain, That as they that obey not their Superiors, commanding according to his Precepts that gave them their Authority, are to be condemned, so the Superiors that abuse the same Authority.

Notwithstanding such convincing Reasons, yet it is wonderful to consider with what confidence the mighty Potentates of the Earth, both Ecclesiastical and Civil, do assume and appropriate to themselves Authority to lay that blame on others, which, indeed, and in truth, doth belong to, and proceed from themselves;and from their own haughty and false Opinions, of I know not what Divine Authority, to be appropriate to themselves, that when they command what they have no Au­thority to do, or command unlawful things, if disobeyed, yet have the impudent confidence to lay the fault on the disobedient, and account and persecute them as Factious, Schismatical, Rebellious, what not? Whereas it is manifest to the whole World, and Histories swell with examples of Commotions, Tumults, Rebellions, (as they are pleased to call them,) that have their primary Origine and Spring from the abuse of Power in the Governors.

Look but a little back to the very beginning of the Separation that fell out some hundred Years since in Germany, which took not its Original from any disobedience of the Subjects, but out of an abuse of Power, and greatness in the Prelates, backt and countenanced by the Civil Power. It is very well known that it grew out of indiscreet and exorbitant Extortions, and extravigant Fashions of granting In­dulgences, &c.

Whence began those great Differences betwixt Pope Paul the Fifth and the State of Venice, but from the Abuse of Power, Pride, Insolence, and Avarice of the Papacy, and so adjudged by the Papists themselves? Most strange! that the Pope should claim Authority to innovate and change the course of Judicature, and Laws of ano­ther Nation, that had been used and established more than Twelve hundred Years past, and the Laws that had their Original Three hundred years before; wherein if he had prevailed, what would the end have been? even to have stripped all the Laity of their Laws, Liberties, Honour, and their Goods, as they have done alrea­dy of their true Religion. And in fine, some few, who (have nothing else but the bare name of Church-men) might, without fear of Justice, or controul, offend other Men both in their Lives, Honour, and Estate.

As in the Ecclesiastical, so in the Civil Government, run to and fro, far and near, through the Christian World, conslt all Histories, consider with your exactest Minds, and Judgments, and you will certainly find all the Seditions, Confusions, and those called Rebellions, have most especially been occasioned and proceed­ed from the abuse of Power; and that the best and truest Historians assert the same.

What made the United Provinces (quiet under the easie Government of Queen Mary their Governess) to shake off the Spanish Yoke, but the abuse of Power by the Duke of Alva, raging against them with great insolence, violently oppressing them by illegal Taxations? &c.

What made Hungary revolt against the Emperor, but his abuse of Power, abridging their Liberties, and not keep Covenants and Agreements most solemnly made with them?

What made the Subjects of the Duke of Savoy, about the Year 1559, to take up Arms in their own Defense against him, but his abuse of Power, forbidding them (by the instigation of the Pope) upon pain of Death to exercise their Religion? How faithfully the many Solemn Treaties, and Conditions, and Edicts of Peace, for the Liberties and Religion of the Hugonots have been kept, is so notorious, that it's enough only to name them. v. Mars Gallicus.

I have now done, most heartily wishing that Divines would not be so sawcy with the Word of God, as to put corrupt and false glosses upon plain places of Scripture; since to fall into open Errors, repugnant to the Scriptures, is a crime so great, that whosoever falleth into it, hath few sparks either of Godliness or true Knowledge. For to err manifestly against plain places of Scripture, is the greatest blindness that can happen to Christians, and the greatest chastisement that God can impose in punishment of him, whosoever shall make use of Divine Authority to serve his own turn in sinister ends, for sublunary and worldly Interests.

I shall conclude with Judicious Hooker; viz. That impossible it is, that any should have compleat lawful Power over-Commonwealths, but by consent of Men, or immediate appoint­ment of God; because not having the natural Superiority of Fathers, their Power must ei­ther be usurped, and then unlawful; or, if lawful, then either granted, or consented unto, by them over whom they exercise the same; or else given extraordinarily from God, unto whom all the World is subject.

That naturalDefence requires no Jurisdiction at all, and doth not appertain to Magi­strates only, but to private Man also, and that it is impossible that lawful Defence can be the Sin of Rebellion.

And therefore to conclude, That they are to be condemned that obey not their lawful Superiors, commanding lawful things lawfully; and those Superiors to be condemned that abuse the Laws, Powers, Priviledges, and Prerogatives of those who gave them such Authorities.

Opus exegi, & Liberavi animam meam.



PAge 2. line 22. for Paetus Thrasea, read Thraseas Paetus. l. 35. r. abire. p. 4. l. 2. been (as of old, so. p. 5. l. 43. r. for the raising of. p. 8. l. 32. dele to be. l. 37. r. denied. l. 44. r. fraudulenter se occultat. p. 9. l. 30. is absol. l. 55. r. commonly were re­fared. ult. dele were. p. 14. l. 8. r. proceeding, for hath proceeded. p. 15. l. 5. r. abused. l. 24. r. accused, for abused. l. 37. dele now. p. 16. l. 2. r. metamorphosed. l. 53. r. vil­laines. antep. r. think it should. p. 17. l. 37. r. Talionis. l. 43. dele and. p. 22. l. 1. r. during for ever. l. 8. r. or so much as of. p. 23. l. 14. r. Panagyrist. p. 25. l. 21. dele Pa­untheses. l. 41. r. that rich City, Marcion. p. 27. l. 1. dele the first And. p. 28. l. 32. r. it for them. p. 31. l. 4. dele 32. p. 32. l. 39. dele 32. p. 35. l. 60. r. Clergies.

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