[Page] A LETTER FROM A Person of Quality IN THE NORTH To a Friend in LONDON, CONCERNING Bishop Lake's Late Declaration Of his Dying in the Belief of the Doctrine OF PASSIVE OBEDIENCE, AS THE Distinguishing Character of the CHURCH of ENGLAND.

Licens'd Sept. 19th. 1689.

J. F.

LONDON, Printed for Awnsham Churchill at the Black-Swan near Amen-Corner. 1689.

[Page 1] A LETTER FROM A Person of Quality.

Dear Sir,

YOU may wonder, that at this time of day I should begin to talk to you of Bishop Lake's Death, for which I dare say both of us have before this, paid our just Tribute of Sorrow, and for whose Memory every True Protestant must have a ve­ry particular Respect, so long as the Courage and Con­stancy of the Seven Bishops remains upon Record; which I verily believe will be till time shall be no more: But some (as if this Glorious Action had not been enough to have secured his Fame to all Eternity) seem rather desirous to transmit him to Posterity by another Distinguishing Character; that of the Great Champion for Passive Obedience; thinking that to be a greater Honour than to be recorded for one of the great Maintainers and Assertors of the Protestant Re­ligion, and the English Liberties; For there is a Pa­per sent abroad about our Country, attested not only by his own Hand, but also by several unquestionable Witnesses, wherein the Good Bishop on his Death-Bed declares, That he had been brought up in, and had al­so [Page 2] taught others that great Doctrine of Passive Obedi­ence, which he always look't upon as the Distinguishing Character of the Church of England, and that he would not have taken the Oath, though the Penalty had been Loss of Life; but found great Satisfaction and Consolation in his Mind because he had not taken it; and these he desired might be look'd upon as the Words of a Dying Man, and so represented to his Friends: But whether those Friends had not done him as good Service if they had kept it to themselves, and not represented it to the World, I think may be a Question: for I must confess 'tis a little unaccountable to me what Designs they could have in Publishing it: For 'tis so far from being neces­sary on the Bishop's account, that 'twas really imper­tinent: For he that at that time was under, and had submitted to a Suspension, meerly upon his refusal of the Oaths, had certainly given the World as convin­cing a Proof of his Opinion, as if he had printed a Thousand Volumes about it: So that there was no more occasion (I think of making, but I am sure) of Publishing such a Declaration, than there is for my Lord Bishop of Cant. to Print Manifestoes, to tell the People he is suspended on the same account. And since there was so very little Reason to do it on the Bi­shop's Score, the Motives and Designs had need be very good that can justifie their doing it on their own. Had either they or the Bishop given us the Reasons of his adhering to that Opinion, besides that of his being bred and born in it, (an Argument that a Turk or Pagan may have for the Truth of their Religion), they might have obliged the World exceedingly; but the only Motives at least that are to me apparent, for telling us what we knew before, I think might as well have been spared: for there are Two Inferences which may very easily be made from the [Page 3] Paper, and which I suspect was the chief aim in publish­ing: The First is to insinuate, that from the beginning of the Reformation, ever since the Church of England was restored to its Purity, Passive Obedience was the Corner-stone of it: for 'tis call'd, The Distinguishing Cha­racter of the Church of England: so that it seems none was accounted her true Sons that did not hold it. Now if this be true, here's the whole Body of the Clergy in Queen Elizabeth's days cut off from the Church of Eng­land at one blow; for 'tis not the Opinion of one or two private Prelates, but the whole Convocation, who agree not only in giving the Queen so very large Subsidies, but also in declaring the accounts on which they did it; and that was assisting and protecting the Scotch and French Protestants, and for abating all Hostilities against the true Professors of Gods holy Gospel, and for the ad­vancing the free profession of the Gospel within and without Her Majesties Dominions; and a great deal more to this purpose, as may be seen at large in the Pre­ambles to the Three Subsidy Bills, given the 5th of Eliz. l. 24. the 35th of Eliz. c. 12. and the 43d of Eliz. c. 17. So that 'tis apparent it was their practice for Forty years, and I hope their Faith also: for I cannot be so uncha­ritable as to think they would sin against their Consci­ence, and purchase Damnation at so dear a rate, as those vast Sums they gave for the assistance of those that I am sure did resist their Kings, and who according to the Doctrine of Passive Obedience, ought to have been look'd upon, and used as Rebels. And truly, whatever is pre­tended, their Doctrine was agreeable to their practice; for altho the Book of Homilies hath been so often cited for the confirmation of this Doctrine, yet the Example of David, which is so much recommended to us in the 2d Homily against Rebellion, for his Loyalty and our imi­tation, that is we desire to stand or fall by; for if the Sub­ject [Page 4] may be allow'd to take up (as we are sure David did against Saul) Defensive Arms, I think they would be very unreasonable to desire any more. But this ha­ving been enlarged on by better Pens, I shall say no more of it; but cannot pass by the Epithet of the di­stinguishing Character of the Church of England, without some Animadversions on it: And, first, I would ask you, Sir, whether you think it necessary for particular Churches to have particular distinguishing Doctrines? For I must confess, to me (but if I am in an Error I hope you will correct it) it appears so far from necessary; that I think 'tis very inconvenient when particular Churches have such distinguishing Doctrines: for I believe it has been the occasion of all the Schisms in the World. For since, as the Apostle saith, Eph. 4. 5. there is but one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism; and I may add, one Church, and one Truth. Why should we not (at least endeavour to) be all of one mind, and not af­fect little distinctions, which oftentimes create great Animosities? of which our present Age can give too many sad instances. But alas, the Disease did not begin, neither will it, I fear, end with us; for we find St. Paul reproving it in his Corinthians, as that which occasioned all their Divisions; while one cryed he was of Paul, and another of Apollo, and I of Ce­phas, and I of Christ: So that it seems they did not only give their patticular Teachers the preference a­bove others, but also set them in opposition to Christ; but to such I may ask the Apostles Question, Who is Paul, or who is Apollos, but Ministers by whom you have believed? But if Paul, or an Angel Preach any other Gospel, let him be Anathema; and the same thing may, and I think ought to be said of Churches, when they impose any thing but what is the true Catholick Faith. Therefore to say such a Doctrine [Page 5] is particular to such a Church, and that which di­stinguisheth it from the Catholick, is indeed to say the worst thing in the World of it; and to own that is not any part of the Catholick Faith. And why Bishop Lake, or any body, should value a Doctrine so much on that score, is that I cannot comprehend. And in my Opinion, it would more have become his Lordship, if as the Office for the Sick directs, he had made a Confession of the Christian Faith contain'd in the Apostles Creed, which unquestiona­bly he believ'd; but it would satisfy us Lay-people very much, if those Gentlemen who have attested this Recognition of his distinguishing Faith, would Print another Paper, to assure us that he rehearsed the Articles of our Common Creed; that we may not be misled by the Example of a Bishop, to depart from the Rules of the Church when we come to die, and instead of the Cristian Faith, declare we believe just quite contrary to his Distinguishing Faith; that in some cases Resistance is lawful.

But I fear I have already tired you by being so large on my First Inference, therefore shall endea­vour to be as short on the Second as I can, and that I take to be this; that from the Bishops decla­ring he would not have taken the Oath to have saved his Life, and that his not taking it was the great Consolation he had at that time, they would insi­nuate that the taking of the Oath is a very wicked unlawful thing: For they being the words of a dy­ing Man just going to receive the Sacrament, ought to be the more credited, and to make the deeper impression; for so good a Man as he could not be easily deceived himself, and at such time 'tis certain did not design to deceive others. To which I shall crave leave to Reply, First, That as to the main [Page 6] Question of the Lawfulness of the Oath, it has been so fully and so satisfactorily discussed already, that I am very confident you and I know some that have taken it with as good a Conscience as Bishop Lake or any body could refuse it with; therefore it would be superfluous to say any thing on that point: But only wish that instead of urging any humane Ex­ample, both sides would remember the Divine Rule of St. Paul, Rom. 14. 3. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him that eateth not judge him that eateth.

But then, Secondly, as to the Authority that Bishop Lake's Dying Words ought to have over mine or any Mans judgment, I must declare, that till Infallibility be, I will not say the distinguishing Character, but the inseparable Attendant of a good Man, I can­not say that they ought to influence any body any farther than they appear true and reasonable. For if dying Mens Sentiments were to be the Rule of our Faith, we should have a very uncertain Standard. For you must know that once I was acquainted with a Papist, that I think, setting aside his Opinion, was a very good Man, for he led a good Life; and when this Person came to die, he did it with as great confidence, and comfort too, as could be imagined; and express'd as great satisfaction in his not being a Protestant, as the Bishop could in not taking the Oaths. So that we may see 'tis only the strong perswasion of the Party, and not the truth of the Tenets, that produces that sort of Consolation. For I am confi­dent the Bishop himself would not have approved of the Argument, had I turned Papist on that dying Mans declaration. But it seems some think it no great matter▪ what we turn now; for I hear some are so exceeding fierce, that they will hardly allow those [Page 7] which have taken the new Oathes to be so much as out-lyers of the Church of England; but to be sure none must be within the Pail that have not the di­stinguishing character; and truly the number of the enclosed will be so small, that King James himself could hardly have hoped to have contracted the Church of England in so small a compass; and may in part be said to have got his ends of us, for I am sure he has done more mischief by the Divisions he has occasioned among our selves, than he could have done by his Persecutions. But although some Persons indiscreet Zeal have made them so uncharitable, I am as far from supposing it the temper of all the worthy Men of that Party, as I am from believing the Doctrine of Passive Obedience in that unlimited sence it was Preached up by some, was the universal Opinion of the Church of England in any Age. For that it was not so for Forty Years of Queen Elizabeth's Reign has been made pretty evident by matter of fact; and that it is not so at this day, I think may be demonstrated by the same way of Argumentation. For although I might have supposed it possible that a few particular private Persons might for interest sake have disclaimed their former Opinion, and comply'd with any thing; yet truly I have so much respect for the Clergy of the Church of England, as not to believe that the whole Body of them could be guilty of so mean a thing; to say no worse of it. For really the Dissenters, in com­parison, are so few, that had there not been some Names of note among them, they would hardly have been reckoned a number; which gives me great hopes that those great and good Men, whom we look'd upon as the Pillars of our Church, will not forsake the stations they so well became, for the sake of a parti­cular private Doctrine, which was no way essential [Page 8] either to the being, or well-being of the Church▪ but whose only use was to distinguish the Church of England from all the Churches in the World, and that is really from the Catholick Church. For this Bishop Lake seems to me to own, when he calls it the distinguishing Character of the Church of Eng­land; and so truly it may still continue if they please, for I believe there is no other Church so fond of it, as to rob us of it, if to be carried so high as some would have it. But if taken in its limited and true sence, Passive Obedience must be acknowledged so necessary a Duty, that the World could not well subsist with­out it. And I am very confident, that all the diffe­rence about it has been occasioned by a little mistake, in applying those Rules to Communities, which were given to particular private Persons, and only designed for such. For although in my single private capacity I ought to submit to, and suffer the greatest injustice, rather than disobey the lawful Magistrate, and di­sturb the Government: Yet as I am an English Man, I think I am as much obliged, by all tyes both Civil and Sacred, to defend and maintain that Go­vernment and Constitution of which I am a Member, as I am to obey the King; and that being the Pri­mary Obligation, ought to be discharged in the first place; but the safety of that being secured, Subjects ought to obey without any other reserve. And this seems to me so evident, that I think it needs no further proof, though 'tis capable of the clearest, if it were necessary, as I hope it is not; for after all, I am very confident that the greatest and best of our Dissenters are of my mind in this point, as might very easily be proved, if they would please but truly to resolve me one Question; and that is, Whether they did not both wish and pray, that London-derry should [Page 9] be delivered out of the hands of those merciless Butchers? and this the excellency of their temper, as well as their Christianity, obliging to, I cannot at all question but they did; nay, I verily believe they would have gone further, and assisted them with their Purses, if they had known how to have con­veyed them Relief.

And now pray let us a little consider the Consequen­ces of this; for if the Doctrine is true, That 'tis unlawful to take up Arms for the Defence of our Lives and Liberties, then all those great and gallant Men were certainly great Rebels, and whosoever did assist or abet them, in­curr'd the same guilt: so that for any thing I see, we may all shake hands as to that matter. But in case I should be mistaken, and they were not so good natur'd (as I do still believe they were), but did desire that so many thousand innocent persons might fall into the hands of their bloody implacable Enemies: If, I say, they could wish this, it would give me a greater preju­dice against the Doctrine than ever yet I had. Since it not only made them put off those Bowels of Mercies which Christians out to have for one another, but even devested them of common Humanity. For unless it be the Papists, I know no other Sect that is arrived to that height of Barbarity, as to wish, that so many thousand persons (who they never saw, nor never did them any wrong) should perish, only because they were not of their Opinion; and if this could be their Temper, I'm sure I would never be their Proselyte; for I should dread it as much as Popery it self; and so truly I believe those good men do. But I forget my self, having already, I fear, exceeded the bounds of a Letter, and trespass'd too much on your patience. But whatever the Effect may be, I hope the Cause is pardonable, because it proceeds [Page 10] from that intire Confidence I have both in your Judg­ment and Friendship, that all my Notions must be appro­ved by you, before they can be so, by,

Dear Sir,
Your most intirely affectionate Friend and Servant.

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