[Page] [Page] THE HUMBLE PETITION OF Many thousands, Gentlemen, Free-holders, and others, of the County of WORCESTER, To the Parliament of the Common-wealth of ENGLAND.

In behalf of the Able, Faithful, Godly Ministry of this NATION.

Delivered by Colonel John Bridges, and Mr. Thomas Foly, December 22. 1652.

VVith the Parliaments Answer thereunto.

LONDON, Printed by Robert White, for Francis Tyton, and Thomas Ʋnderhill, and are to be sold at their Shops, the three Daggers in Fleetstreet, and the Bible and Anchor in Pauls Church-yard. 1652.

To the Honourable the Parliament of the Common-wealth of ENGLAND.
The Humble Petition of us Gentlemen, Free-holders, and others inhabiting the County of Worcester.

SHEVVETH,

THAT your Petitioners having with grief observed both the Language of many Pamphlets and persons of late times, against the Ministers of Christ among us, and Petitions preferred to you against their pre­sent maintenance, without any regard to the substitu­tion of a fitter: and these pretending to the relief of the impoverished Nation, as if they were the very sense and language of the body of this Com­monwealth: We cannot but suspect, yea discern that there is a party that desire and endeavour the subversion of the Ministrie; yet have we hitherto remained silent, partly in hopes that they were so few and inconsiderable, as not to deserve to be publikely taken notice of, and mentioned, to the dishonour of our Nation: partly that we might not in­terrupt your weighty consultations, but chiefly lest we should be mis-inter­preted to suspect your fidelitie to the Ministrie, and consequently to Christianity and Christ himself: which we know you must needs resent as an uncharitable censoriousness, considering how evident you have seen, and how often acknowledged with greatest solemnity, the Lord Jesus in your preservations; and how deeply you are engaged to him above most men on earth, and how sensibly you vindicated a persecuted Ministrie in the ve­ry beginning of this Parliament, and how strongly you have obliged your selves, not only to preserve the Reformed Religion in Doctrine, Worship, Discipline, and Government; but also to promote in all these a further reformation where it is wanting; as also considering what a tender respect to a faithful Ministrie you have all along to this day professed, and are still consulting for the Propagation of the Gospel, and have done Justice on some opposers so near you; besides the augmentations you have allow­ed [Page 4] to many places where means was wanting. We disclaim therefore all such ungrateful censoriousness, and thankfully acknowledge all your favors to the Ministrie and Gospel of the Lord Jesus, who is easily able to reward you, and see that you be no losers by him and his Cause. But yet least our con­tinued silence should seem to signifie our consent to those that would undo us, under pretence of releiving us; and lest they be thought to speak our sense, lest their audaciousness encrease while none contradict them: and lest we dishonour our Nation in the eyes of the Christian world, whilest they think that the voice of these few is the common voice; and lest your own hearts should be overwhelmed with grief, not only to see such a degenera­ted people living under your Government; but also that so few gain say them, as if the Nation had lost their love to the Gospel: and that after such light, profession and engagements; and consequently you may think they will prove an ungrateful people to you, who prove so ungrateful to the Lord their Saviour; We have therefore adventured on this bold enterpel­lation, and crave your patience, while we do with more then ordinary im­portunity bespeak you, seeing it is in the zeal of the Lord, for his glory, his Church, his Gospel, and the souls of our selves and posterity. We know it was by Ministers of the Gospel, that the Lord Jesus did set up his King­dom on earth, and hath subdued so much of the World to himself, destroy­ing the Kingdom of Darkness, Paganism, Idolatry, and wickedness: we know he granted their Commission upon the reception of his plenipotencie, and upon his ascending he gave them for the perfecting of the Saints, and the edifying of his body, till they come to his fulness, and that as a means to preserve them from Seducers, and being tossed and carryed about as children with every wind of Doctrine, Eph. 49. to 15. and hath promised to be with them to the end of the world: which promise he hath hitherto eminently accomplished. It is the Ministrie by which Christ hath con­tinued his Church to this day: nor do we know, or have heard of that place on earth where Christianity was ever maintained in splendor and vigor (if at all continued) without a Ministrie. It was the Ministers by whom Christ did waken the superstitious world, and discover to them the Romish delusions; and by whom he begun and carryed on the Work of Reformation, by them exciting a zealous Magistracie; and after all their labours, multitudes of them did sacrifice their lives in the flames. It is the writings of a learned able Ministrie which yet stand up in the face of Heathenish, Mahometan, and Romish adversaries, to their vexation and confusion, which they may sooner reproach or burn, then answer: by which after-ages are, and still may be stablished in the truth, against all the sub­till endeavours of Seducers. It is a learned, able, faithful Ministrie, which yet is the daunting and discouragement of the Jesuits and other deceivers, [Page 5] who well know, if these were but taken out of their way, how boldly they might dare us, how insultingly they might challenge us to dispute for our Religion, and how easily they might silence and shame us, and thereby carry away the multitude after them. For who should streng­then the Peoples hearts and defend the Cause of the LORD against them, if such a Ministry were down? It was a faithfull Ministry who revealed Gods Mercy, and the precious Truths of the Gospel to our own souls, and whom God by the Cooperation of his Spirit hath blessed to be the means of converting, or confirming, or both, the souls of all those of us who have attained to any saving knowledge of himself. When we remember how often and how happily our souls have been revi­ved and refreshed by their Ministry, we are ashamed of the remisness of our Zeal in this Cause; when we think that they are our Fathers, and con­firmers in Christ, and how they must present us to him at his appearing as their Joy and Crown, Phil. 2. 19, 20. and that when we have escaped the flames of Hell, and meet them in glory, we must acknowledge them Instru­ments of so unvaluable a blessing; we had rather there were no tongues in our mouths, then that ever we should joyn with their reproachers, and had rather suffer greater wants then ever we yet suffered, then ungrate­fully deny them their necessary maintenance, seeing our Lord himself said, when he set them upon his Work, The Labourer is worthy of his hire; and the Holy Ghost saith, Who goeth to warfare at his own charge? They that minister about holy things, live of the things of the Temple; even so hath the Lord ordained, that they which preach the Gospel, should live of the Gospel, 1 Cor. 9. 7. to 15. Considering also that they are not Forreigners, but Eng­lishmen, our own Brethren, and Sons that receive it from us, even that which by Law is not ours but theirs; and considering also how much more liberal Papists are to their Mass-Priests and seducing Jesuits then we are to a faithfull Ministry of Christ. And when we consider, that if England do excell other Nations in the light of knowledge, and power of Godli­ness, it is the Ministry that are herein our glory, and the means of what the People do enjoy, we cannot be so ungratefull to them as to starve them, and cast them off; nor yet such enemies to Englands happiness and honour: yea when we consider how the dreadfull, omnipotent King of Saints doth call them his Co-workers, and hath sent them in subserviency to his own blood shed, and Spirit, and said, He that despiseth you, despiseth me; we had rather endure any corporal calamities, then stand charged with such a sin at the Bar of our Lord: Yea▪ and when we consider how he hath owned and stood by them, and rebuked Kings for their sakes and his Churches, char­ging them to do his Prophets no harm; and how well those Rulers have sped, that have most obeyed, and encouraged them in the Work of the [Page 6] Lord; and how God hath broken those powers that have disobeyed and abused them, 2 Chron. 36. 15, 16, 17. and how severely he hath dealt in England before our eyes with that generation of men that silenced, reproached, and persecuted them; we tremble at Gods Judgements, and dare not venter into the same consuming fire, whose flames are yet so fresh in our memory.

Your Petitioners having as in the presence of the Lord made this neces­sary and solemn profession of their Judgements, Affections, and Resoluti­ons, to acquaint you how far they are from approving or consenting to any opposers or underminers of the Ministry and Gospel of the Lord Jesus, do humbly address themselves, with these earnest requests, to this Honour­able Assembly.

First, That you will be pleased, not only to continue your owning of, and tenderest care for the upholding or an Able, Godly, Faithfull Ministry (of which we dare not doubt) but also that you will so far countenance and encourage them in the Lords Work, and discountenance all that op­pose them directly or indirectly, that all the World, and especially the People of this Common-wealth, may still see, and acknowledge your open and resolved adhering to the Reformed Christian Religion, and Interest of the Lord Jesus: and seeing all the ungodly (besides misguided distempered Christians) are ever discouragers of them, God having sent them on a Work so unpleasing to flesh and blood, you will the more sedulously encou­rage them, as nursing Fathers of the Church.

Secondly, that you will be pleased to this end, to take special care of their competent maintenance, that we may not have an ignorant Ministry, while they are forced to be labouring for food and raiment, while they should be in their studies, or watching over their flocks; and that through disability or unpreparedness, they disgrace not the work of Christ, nor make it and their office contemptible, thereby rejoycing the enemy, and hindring the saving of souls; specially seeing it is expected that they credit their Do­ctrine with works of Charity: And seeing that a dependant and beggarly Ministry will lose so much of their Authority with the souls that most need them, and themselves will be laid open to the sore temptation of Man-plea­sing; besides the probability of the suffering of their children, when they are dead: And if the Ministers of this Age be never so resolved to continue their work through all necessities, yet in the next Age the Church is like to be destitute and desolate, because men will set their sons to other studies and imployments: We therefore humbly crave, that this Honorable Assem­bly will not take down the present Maintenance by Tythes (though we have as much reason to be sensible of those inconveniences that it is charged with, [Page 7] as others) or at least, not till they, instead of it, establish as sure, and full, and fit a Maintenance.

Thirdly, That you will be pleased to take into your compassionate thoughts, both the dark places in England and Wales which want able godly Teachers; and the state of great Cities, and populous Towns, where through the ex­ceeding number of souls, one Minister hath more work then can possibly be done by many: whereby while they are confined to the publike work alone, all private Ministerial Instruction, Admonition, and other over­sight, must needs be neglected: That therefore to such very numerous Congregations, you would allow a maintenance, if not to Ministers pro­portionable to the number of souls, and greatness of the work; yet at least more then in smaller places: We offer but the same request to you, in your places, which Christ hath commanded us to offer to God himself, That where the harvest is great, and the Labourers are few, more Labourers may be sent into the harvest.

Fourthly, That you will be pleased to continue your care of the Univer­sities, and Schools of Learning, and tenderly preserve their maintenance and necessary priviledges, that there may be a meet supply of Labourers for the continuation of the Gospel, and the glory of England to our Posterity.

Fifthly, And because our sad divisions in matter of Religion, especially about Church-Government, have been such a hinderance to the propaga­tion of the Gospel, that you will be pleased speedily to imploy your utmost wisdom and power for the healing of them: And to that end would call together some of the most godly, prudent, peaceable Divines of each party, that differs in points of Church-Government, and lay upon them your Commands and Adjuration, that they cease not amicable consulting and seeking God▪ till they have found out a meet way for accommodation and unity, and acquainted you therewith: And if through Gods heavy displea­sure against us he shall suffer the spirit of division and prejudice so far to prevail, as to frustrate their consultations (the contrary whereto we should strongly hope) that you would be pleased to advise with those Divines that are most judicious and peaceable, and least addicted to parties; and there­upon to recommend at least to the people, so much of Church-Order and Government, as you finde to be clearly required by Jesus Christ, and vouch­safe it your publique Countenance and Encouragement, though you scruple an enforcement.

[Page 8] These things we humbly and earnestly request of this Honorable Assem­bly, in the behalf of Jesus Christ (to whom we doubt not but you are daily Petitioners) and of this Commonwealth, and the souls of men: beseeching you to let the interest of the Gospel have the most speedy and resolute dispatch in your consultations, and at least to equal it with our most necessary defence, whereby you will the more en­gage Christ to defend both you and us, whom you have so often found to be the surest defence: So shall you be called The Repairers of our Breaches; And shall oblige us to pray, &c.
[Subscribed by above Six thousand.]

COl: Iohn Bridges, and Mr. Thomas Foly being called in to the House, Master Speaker told them, the House had read and considered the Petition brought up out of the County of Worcester, and the House had commanded him to give them thanks on the behalf of those of the County of Worcester that sent it, for their good affecti­ons expressed therein: And accordingly he did give them the thanks of the House, and that they would take their Petition into serious consideration in due time.

FINIS.

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