AN APOLOGY FOR THE Ministers of the County of Wilts, in their Actings at the election of Members for the approaching PARLIAMENT.

In Answer to a Letter sent out of the said County, Pretending to lay open the dangerous Designes of the Clergy, in reference to the approaching Parliament.

Wherein is shewed, The notorious falshood of the said Let­ter: How injurious it is to the Gentlemen elected: and the dangerous designe of it against the Ministry.

By some of the Defamed Ministers of the Gospel in the same County.

  • Humphrey Chambers, D.D.
  • John Strickland.
  • Adoniram Bifield.
  • Peter Ince.
Neh. 6.8. Then I sent unto him saying, There are no such things done as thou sayest, but thou feignest them out of thy own heart.
1 Cor. 4.5. Therefore judge nothing before the time, untill the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will manifest the counsels of the hearts, and then shall every man have praise of God.

London, Printed for Ralph Smith, at the Bible in Cornhill, neer the Royall Exchange. 1654.

An Apology for the Ministers of the County of Wilts in their actings at the Election of Members for the Approaching Parliament.

ALthough Christians in generall, especially the Ministers of the Gospel, must look and prepare for reproaches in this life, and may weare them as a crown of Glory, when they are unjustly cast upon them; yet the Apostle Pauls often endeavours to quit himselfe from sleightings and slanders, that his Ministry might not be blamed or blemi­shed through him, seems to us a sufficient warrant for any, Christians or Ministers, to seek to remove such slan­derous imputations, as being openly and falsly raised against them, tend to the dishonour of Christianity, or Ministry, or both; especially when the Actors in this in­jury are high pretenders to an extraordinary pitch of holinesse, religion and piety; whose words may there­fore plead for credit where they come. This is an Apo­logy for appearing in print at this time, in Answer to a Letter lately printed and published, sent out of Wiltshire to a Gentleman in London, pretending to lay open the dangerous designes of the Clergy in reference to the ap­proaching Parliament. This Letter pretended to be written to a friend in London, was intended and calcula­ted as we see by the hasty printing and publishing of it, generally for all England, publiquely to calumniate the Clergy and Gentlemen chosen to serve in the next Par­liament for the County of Wilts, and to prepare contempt and scorn for them in the hearts of all men, so far as the [Page 2]credit or cunning of the Compiler of this Letter could possibly prevaile for that end; yet it is said to be written by a true friend to the publique interest and all peaceable men: to which we have not much to say, though the spirit of this Letter seem not to subscribe the testimony which the writer thereof bears to himselfe. But our main bu­sinesse is with the Letter it selfe, the dangerous designe whereof is manifest, viz. to render the Clergy (as he cals them) despicable in the eyes of the people, which wil more fully appeare in the Answer to the Letter it selfe. In which the Authour pretends to answer the expectation of the Gentleman to whom he writes, in giving a true account of passages relating to the choosing of Members to sit in Parliament for the County of Wilts; but how much he hath disappoin­ted the expectation of his friend, wil appeare to the im­partial Reader, when we shal have discovered the falsness both of his Narrative and Invective. It seems this man was very angry, and therefore quarrels with all that stand in his way, and some are apt to think it was because himselfe was not chosen, at least because his friends were passed by: and if this be true, the ingenuity of the Noble Theban that went home rejoycing that there were so many men fitter then himselfe to serve the publike, would have saved him all this labour.

We wil not so far prejudice that Noble Gentleman whom the Author of this Letter hath sufficiently descri­bed, and unworthily traduced, and whom by way of ho­nour we shal name, Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper, as to make any Answer to what is in this Letter charged upon him; he needs no Advocate in what he did, acting as we are confidently assured with a publique spirit, and desirous to doe his Countrey reall service. Nor wil we so far lessen the esteem of those Gentlemen chosen in our Coun­try to serve in the next Parliament, as to undertake their defence, against that reproach which is boldly and gene­rally cast upon them in this Letter; aetatem habent. We are much assured, having particular knowledge of the Religious integrity and eminent faithfulnesse of many [Page 3]of them, that they have no way deserved that black ca­lumny he seeketh to fasten upon them, as unworthy time-serving men, and such as never did the State any service. Si accusasse sufficiat, quis erit Innocens. Neither doe we know why this single accuser should think so highly of htmself, as to expect that he should bear down with the weight and warrant of his own Letter, the reputation of those Gentlemen, whom their Countrey hath honoured, and in assurance of their fidelity entrusted with whatso­ever is dear unto them in this world. But since the Pen­man of this Letter, (whether upon his own account, or with advice of others, we know not) is pleased to vent the heat of his indignation against the Clergie, as he is pleased to stile them, and to set some of us by name as ringleaders of the faction in the front of those Ministers of the Gospel in this Countrey whom in his Rhetorick he cals a Scottish faction, Politique state Parsons, a time-serving generation, self-seeking Parsons, the corrupt Clergy, Rigid foolish men, a corrupt self-seeking generation of men, and to bend all his forces against us and them, as carrying on some dangerous designe in our activity about this election of Members to the Parliament, concerning which he makes such a horrible outcry: We conceive our selves bound in duty towards God, and for the upholding of the credit of our Ministery, so much reproached by him, to examine the Bil of high complaints laid in against us. The accusation in which we with the rest of the brethren of the Association are charged in this Letter, is either by way of Narrative, or Invective; and we shal answer unto both. By way of Narrative it is affirmed for truth, first, That the Ringleaders of this faction were, Dr. Chambers, Mr. Byfield, Strickland; these, with the rest of the brethren of their Association gathered together a great number of people, and taught them their lesson beforehand. To which we answer:

First, see how this man stumbles at the threshold; the truth is, the first of those mentioned in the Catalogue, his acting in the businesse, except upon the day of election, was next to doing nothing in it: which we mention not [Page 4]because any of us know any cause why we or any other should be either sorry or ashamed, of being more active therein; but the truth is, upon a pressing occasion he was out of this Countrey for above a fortnight together, and came not to his own house till the night before the ele­ction: and not to Wilton, till a great part of the compa­ny were gone unto the Hil on the day, and at the time of the Election: and so it fell out by providence that he had not opportunity to gather together a great number of people, much lesse to teach them their lessons before hand: By this the Reader may see how little truth is to be expected in the rest, when there is so grosse an untruth in the be­ginning. And we see evidently, that the writer of this Letter watcheth for our halting, and beareth us so much good wil as to take us up before we be down.

Secondly, suppose it had been true of all the three Ring­leaders mentioned, with the rest of their brethren, as it is more particularly charged upon one of them (who hath lear­ned, though he be by name reviled with the title of Scribe and Pharisee, yet not to revile again, but to commit him­selfe to him who judgeth righteously,) that they were active, and exceedingly bestirred themselves in that election, busly intermedling with more then ordinary diligence and activity. What is their crime? how can they be truly charged as offenders, and over busie intermedlers in that which concerns them not, who are members of the same Commonwealth with others, and therefore are as much concerned in the welfare thereof as any others: In the peace thereof we shall have peace.

But it may be the crime is our more then ordinary diligence and activity: To which we answer, what we have now done? is there not a cause? Surely more then ordinary diligence and activity is very justifiable when the case is more then ordinary. Can we expect to see another Parliament, in which the Interest of all that is or should be deare unto us in this world, as Christians, and as Englishmen, can be more concerned then in this present Parliament? Nay, are there not a generation of men amongst us, who are [Page 5]acted by such principles as do manifestly tend to the sub­verting of Law, destruction of Propriety, and the utter extinguishing of the Ministry of the Gospel, and shall we sit stil?

Another Charge is, 2 That we with the rest of our brethren of the Association taught the people gathered together by us, their lesson beforehand, to cry up onely those ten men named in our List.

To this we answer: That there was a List given out of ten names, we shal not deny; neither do we know any just exception to be made against it; we are confident the compiler of this Letter would have found no hurt at all in it, if that List which he abetted, and which many were brought violently to abet, had been owned by us, and fol­lowed by the Countrey in their election; so as that the fault was this, that we did not teach them to cry up their List; but we demand any shadow or proof of this, that we taught the people to cry up onely those ten men mentioned in that List, which he cals ours, which yet twas no more ours then those Gentlemen of the Countrey, who were also concerned in it with our selves. Nay, we doe with much confidence affirm, that it was often expressed to severall men, that men were left to their free liberty, if they were not satisfied in any of the ten to put in any other fit per­son or persons in their room, and accordingly some did take that liberty. Neither did we ever perswade any per­son to adhere to any of the ten, further then upon the ge­neral account of their fitnesse to do their Countrey faith­full service, and that was in truth the depth of our design, that such men, and such onely might be chosen.

Another charge is, 3 That we did teach the people to brand others, as namely Lieut. Gen. Ludlow, Col. Eyres, &c. (who were nominated by approved faithfull men in the Countrey) with the names of Anabaptists, Levellers, to render them odious to the generality of the judicious people, by these false and mali­cious imputations.

Ans. We do again demand proof of this charge, that any of us did ever teach any one to brand Lieut, Gen. Ludlow, [Page 6] Col. Eyres, &c. with the names of Anabaptists, Levellers; we doe with confidence affirme, that as we did not our selves, so neither did we heare any other to put them into this dresse, till we found them so clothed in the Letter. But suppose that some did use those expressions, will it follow that they were taught by us so to doe? we thinke the leaders of their party would not take it well if we should charge upon them all those reproachful, scornful, and re­viling speeches, uttered by very many of their followers upon the place, against such who might have expected better language from them. We expected upon the men­tion of two in their List, the Author would have given us the names of all the rest in my List, and not have left us to spell out the meaning of an &c. and to defend our selves from branding with reproachful names, we know not who. It were no difficult work we think to finde out the rest of the names in that List; but since the Author of that Letter is pleased to conceal them, we will not further provoke him by the mention of them.

It is true that List was commonly called by the compa­ny upon the place, the Anabaptists List; because the num­ber in that List did either consist of such, or some of the most notedst sticklers for it went under that denomina­tion; and so it wil not be strange, that there should be frequent mention of the name Anabaptist: yet we doe a­gain deny that we did brand any of them with those names, Anabaptists, Levellers, or taught others so to doe: And thus the ground-work fails him; surely then those other words, to render them odious to the generality of the judicious people by those false and malicious imputations, must needs be left to stand alone, and signifie nothing; onely because the words may be of good use if they be rightly applied, we shal borrow them, and retort them with much more clearness of truth.

The Authour in this Letter hath branded the faithfull Ministers of the Gospel, not onely in this Countrey, but throughout the Nation with the titles of a corrupt Cler­gie, a corrupt self-seeking generation of men; and divers [Page 7]such like reproachfull terms to render them odious to the generality of the judicious people by those false and malicious imputations.

Another charge, at least insinuated against us, is, 4 That some hundreds gave their voyces who were either Cavaliers, or else of inconsiderable estates, not worth 100 li. and therefore uncapable of choosing by the modle of the established govern­ment.

Although the words may be as wel applied to those that voted for his List, and with as much truth, as to the other side; yet because there is in this Letter nothing but what is intended either directly or by insinuation to cast an odium upon us: We shall therefore say that we do not know of any one person that came thither upon any of our requests or desires, that is lyable to either of those exceptions. And we doe again put the Authour to this faire issue, either to make proofe but of one so qualified as is mentioned, that was brought thither to give his vote, by us: or else to say, that he hath wronged us in this insi­nuation.

The next charge is more expresse, 5 though it hath as little truth as any of the former. He saith, it was agreed upon at length that the severall lists should be called one by one, and so put to the yea's or no's, without naming any other in com­petition with the former: but this order was violated by the Clergies party, by which means, through the instigation of the Scottish faction Lieut: Gen. Ludlow was put by.

A. Whereas he saith, it was agreed upon at length that the severall Lists should be called one by one: the truth is, it was agreed upon at first, upon the first comming upon the place: But it is apparently false, that this order was purpose­ly violated by the Clergie party; for the truth was, though it was agreed on by the Sheriffe and those Gentlemen that were about him, and neere unto him, yet we are con­fident the agreement was not known unto the tenth man, when the question was put. And upon this mistake the generality did look upon the question, as if there were a compatition, and so did cry up him whom they did most [Page 8]affect and desire; and it was some time before this mistake could be rectified, which yet was as much endeavoured by those whom he cals the Scottish faction, as by any of their party that appeared on the other side: so that the violation of this Order was only by a mistake. And it is apparently false that by means of the violation of this Or­der, through the instigation of the Scottish faction, Lieut. Gen. Ludlow was put by; for the truth is, he was put by for want of voyces. That that Noble Gentleman hath been ser­viceable to the publique, we shal not deny, or goe about to diminish his worth; yet we see no reason to subscribe to that odious comparison, as if he had been more servicea­ble to the true interest of the State, then all the men that are cho­sen, put them together. And we doubt not but the modesty and ingenuity of that Gentleman is such, that he will give them little thanks for putting him in the ballance alone against the ten, many of whom have been eminent­ly serviceable in their places, and to whom the Lieut. G. Ludlow wil think it no disparagement to give them the right hand of fellowship. Whether it were the desire of that Gentleman to be mentioned for the place, is much questioned by some who pretend to know something; it is strongly suspected that his name was made use of with­out his consent, to make way for others; and if this be true, surely he wil give them but little thanks for ther la­bour, in making use of his name to such an end; how­ever we are confident, so great an assertor of the liberties of the people cannot take it wel, to have his name made use of, to impose upon the people so as it shal be accoun­ted a crime for any not to appeare for him.

The next charge is, These Politique State Parsons neglected the preaching of their Lecture at Sarum, 6 that they might bawle with open mouth no Ludlow, no Ludlow, till they were even hoarse again; they chose rather to spend their breath in decry­ing honest men, then in preaching the Gospel of the Lord Jesus.

Ans. The truth is, the Lecture at Sarum (which he not without some scorn cals their Lecture) upon the day, and at the time of the election, was for that time omitted, but [Page 9]not as he saith neglected; there may be sufficient justifiable reasons for the omitting of the Lecture for a turn, which yet wil not amount to a neglect of it: and we suppose this was a justifiable ground for that omission; The greatest part of the Auditors were called to another spe­cial service, in which they were very much concerned, which could not be done at any other time. It is neglected by those, who when they have time and opportunity, doe not frequent it: and then it wil be easie to judge, who they be who doe neglect the Lecture at Sarum. This is e­vident, the Ministers who are called to preach that Le­cture, are far more ready to bestow their pains in preach­ing of it, then some of those who are so forward to turn this single omission to our reproach, are to attend upon it; there is onely this difference, the Ministers did once omit it, and those men never come unto it.

For that other part of the charge, That we did baule and cry with open mouth no Ludlow, no Ludlow, till we were even hoarse again, choosing rather to spend our breath in decrying honest men, then in preaching the Gospel of the Lord Jesus: We answer there was a necessity of decrying some, as wil appeare by what is confessed to be agreed upon, viz. That every one should be put to their yeas and noes, without naming any other in competition with him: for we demand how it was possible for us to give our votes according to that a­greement, when there were so many in nomination, with­out decrying some. It is confidently affirmed that this course was agreed on by their own motion and desire; and if that be true, let the world see how they deale with us; put us on a necessity of crying, and then beat us for crying: But he saith, we did decry honest men. An. That which was to be decryed at that time, was not who were honest men, but amongst many honest men, who were most fit to serve in Parliament; surely the choosing of one doth not at all necessarily question the honesty of him that is refused. Whereas he saith we chose rather to spend our breath in decry­ing honest men, then in preaching the Gospel of the Lord Jesus; we answer, this work we were then called to, was not to [Page 10]preach the Gospel, but to choose members for the approaching Parliament; that was the work of the day.

Besides these partculars in the Letter by way of Narra­tive, relating to our selves, there are two passages in the letter relating to others, though charged obliquely upon our account, which are not to be omitted.

The first in these words, What shall I say of the impudency of these men? One Stone a Factor for them, and a vassal to them, went up and down at the election like a mad man, crying out, Now friends appeare for the Church of God or never; poor man! can he put no difference between appearing for the lusts of men, and the Church of Christ? between the Classicall usurpations of ehe self-seeking Parsons, and the truth of Christ?

An. By that person whom he reproachfully calleth one Stone, is meant Mr. William Stone of Sarum, a man of known sufferings for, and fidelity to the publique, and whose in­tegrity in point of Religion (for ought we know, or have heard of) is unblemished. He desired us to let the world know that neither the words ascribed to him by the in­diter of this letter, nor any to the same purpose, were spo­ken by him; howbeit he seeth no cause to extract, or blush at them, if he had spoken them; though he abhors the spiteful commentary which is made upon them; he knoweth very wel how to distinguish betwixt Christs Church and mens lusts, and wisheth that distinction were better studied, and held on all sides; but as to the speech fully ascribed to him, he looketh upon it as a meer fig­ment, invented to bring him in within the scrape, that he might have a share in the reproach the writer of this let­ter was resolved with his best skil to cast upon the Clergy, and all that were friends unto them.

The other personal charge is in these words: Sir, I had a sight of a letter writ by one Burges, a person of the confe­deracy, sent to one of his brethren in this County: his words are as followeth: Sir, I hope you will be active to engage all that ever you can to appeare with us for such men as will be valiant for the truth; and be ready to meet Dr. Chambers, Mr. Byfield, Strickland, Ince, &c. and that we may not be divided, there [Page 11]shall be a Last of the ten to be chosen given to every one that appeareth for the best interest; let us not be accessary to our own ruine, and give occasion to the succeeding generation to curse us, by not putting forth our interest to the utmost for choosing right men. If we remember the last men that met at West­minster, what they were voting by and withall, how the monster of their malice was even brought to the birth, it will make us active for a better choice. Besides what this Parson writ in his letter, he told the party, before one Mr. Dyer, that there was a commission comming out for ejecting Ministers, and that he would be in danger of being outed his living, that should not appeare with the Ministers at the election. To this we answer.

By that person whom he reproachfully calls one Bur­ges a parson of the confederacy, he meaneth Mr. Daniel Burgesse, whom we look upon as a godly and able Mini­ster of Jesus Christ, but no Parson of the confederacy; for we own no such thing in his sence: we are indeed in an association with many others of our godly brethren, in a way of Christian communion, but not of a subtile combina­tion. That the Author had a sight of that Letter written by Mr. Burges, we will not deny; but we are assured that he hath not truly recited the said Letter, as appeares by a copy of it, which we have under Mr. Burges his hand: his words in the close of the letter are not as they are above recited, but as followeth: I pray you let us not be accessary to own ruine, and give the comming generation cause to curse us, by not exerting our selves to the utmost for the choosing of sound and faithfull men: if we remember the last men that met at Westminster, and what they were voting to ruine, have not we cause to adore that hand of providence that dashed their designe (the monster of their malice) when it was even come unto the birth, and now points us our to a better choice? the same Lord give us wisdome timely to improve it. The inge­nious Reader cannot but observe a considerable diffe­rence, and so Mr. Burges is not obliged to own that letter as his, which his accuser hath so mangled; yet because he doth own it for the substance, we say that we see nothing [Page 12]in it, that would have turned to his reproach, if it had fallen into the hands of one that had been willing to give it a candid Interpretation. For these words so confidently affirmed to be spoken by Mr. Burges to the party before one Mr. Dyer, That there was a commission comming out touching Mi­nisters, and that he would be in danger of being outed of his li­ving, that should not appeare with the Ministers at the Electi­on; Some of us have spoken with Mr. Burges and Mr. Dyer, and they confidently affirm the charge to be fals through­out, and deny the words, so that we may well apply the following words unto the Author, The world may see how he maketh lyes his refuge, and hath recourse to carnal wea­pons.

Besides this Narrative, by way of Invective he char­geth us,

1. With being of the Scottish faction, and promoting of the Scottish interest. To this we answer:

1. In general, that we can the better beare their bitter revilings, because the most eminent servants of God in their generations, after whom we are not worthy to be named, Luther, Calvin, and others met with the self-same usage, not only from Popish Adversaries, but even many who pretended to higher attainments in religion, scorned, derided, and loaded them with reproach: Doubtlesse the Gospel would have lesse Reproach, and the Professors thereof more love amongst them, if at the length these Scripture rules might obtaine place and practice in good earnest, amongst those that name the name of Christ: Let us not judge one another any more, but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling blocke or an occasion to fall in his brothers way. And againe, Let all bitternesse, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil-speaking be put away from you with all ma­lice. But to come more particularly to the sharpe In­vective against us.

These words, Faction, Interest, and Scottish joyned with them, are words of late much come into use amongst us, but of that ambiguity, when they are used by way of In­vective, that few can tell the meaning of them, it lying in [Page 13]the brest of him that doth impose them upon others, to expresse in what sense he meanes them; and therefore till the Author speakes out what he intends by this charge, we shall only say at present: that when there hath been so much blood unhappily shed betwixt the Professors of the Gospel in England and Scotland, it savoureth not much of a Christian spirit, now that there is a hope of a Ʋnion betwixt the Nations, to foment a perpetual enmity betwixt them, by making Scottish still a proverbial ex­pression of what is evil. What we can probably imagine to be his meaning in this Invective, will be fully answered in the examination of some of these Invectives that follow.

2. He doth charge us, that we make the oppression of Tythes and fat Benefices our great Diana, which makes us in businesse so active to uphold them. To this we answer.

First, Whether we doe make Tythes, and worldly gaine, and fat Benefices our great Diana, the accuser we are sure cannot tell; possibly we may be of another frame of spirit before the Lords eyes, then we are before his; certainly it would savour more of a Christian spirit to leave secret things to the Lord our God.

Secondly, What crime is it to desire to uphold and enjoy the established way of maintenance by Tythes, which for so many hundreds of yeares hath been settled upon the Ministry, both by Custome and Law? We are very sensi­ble that there are many men justly chargeable with the sin of covetousnesse, in reference unto Tythes. But then the compiler of this Letter should doe well to consider whether it be not more likely to be those who covet to take them to themselves when they have no right unto them, then those who desire but to enjoy their own by the same propriety that any man hath in his estate.

Thirdly, For that maintenance settled by the Law of the Land upon the Ministers of the Gospel, we own it, and take it, in all Christian freedome of spirit, blessing the Lord, who hath dealt with us in outward things beyond our de­serts or expectations; and we would aske the writer of the Letter a question in his care; whether if he could get one [Page 14]of those fat benefices he speakes of, settled by Act of State upon himselfe and his posterity, for his good ser­vice in decrying the Ministry, would he then take it for Idolatry or superstition to enjoy what he calls the op­pression of Tythes: this we are sure is very evident in the practice of many that are the lowdest cryers against this intolerable oppression, that they are content to liquor their fingers in it, and it is their greater griefe and burden that they may not keep that to themselves, to which they can pretend no more right then a Tenant to detaine his Rent from his Landlord: And because we are now upon the businesse of Tythes, we shall examine another passage in the close of the Letter relating thereunto. In those words, This corrupt self-seeking generation of men will not cease from busie intermedling in State matters and raising factions, till the maintenance of the Ministry be brought into one Treasury, and equally divided. In Holland (you know) where the Magistrate takes a strict account, the Ministers dare not busie themselves thus in State-affaires. To this we say.

First, This is indeed a grand project, which some men please themselves so much with, as that it is very proba­ble they have already laid out what place they shall get in this new office.

Secondly, In this passage there is more then a hint of the grand intention of this designe of the common Trea­sury for the Ministers maintenance, viz. to make the Mini­sters to be lesse active and busie, especially in crossing the wills of those upon whom they are made to be so depen­dant; and if that be the intention of those men, whom wt are charged to be so active in crying downe, we shall not need to say much to justifie our activity, especially to all judicious men, who are sensible of the great mischiefe t [...]at must needs come unto Religion, by such a course, especially when this dispensation of the Gospel shall fall into the hands of such who serve the Lord that they may serve their Bellies, and in order thereunto must serve the times, and therein the various lusts, humours, and inte­rests of their masters upon whom they doe depend. Ne­verthelesse [Page 15]we doubt not but that if God have any plea­sure in us, and delight still to dwell amongst us, he will reserve a number that have obtained mercy to be faithful, who will not be turned out of their way by such byasses of humane dependances, and if ever they should be lead into that temptation, God will deliver them from the snare and the evil of it.

Thirdly, How inconsistent is this project with the com­plaint before of the oppression of Tythes? will that be lesse­ned by taking them into a common treasury? we doubt the Country man will not finde it so, when Tythes shall be required by more severe exactors then ever Ministers were; So as that the world may see the ease of the people is not intended, no not by those who make the lowdest cry of the oppression of Tythes.

Thirdly, He doth by way of charge against us, rank us with that sort of men who have caused the late broyles in this Nation and Scotland, and who will not cease plotting and combining till we imbroyle the Nation again in blood, if the Lord in mercy prevent not.

Answ. We answer, we abhor the mention, either of a­betting the former broyles, or of plotting and combining to imbroyle the Nations againe in blood; and we de­mand of the accuser, to make good his charge as to any of us, or to lay aside such cursed provoking insinuations against those who desire to be peaceable in the Land.

Fourthly, We are charged to carry on a design to bring the Nation again into Egyptian bondage, and to set up our selves, & our Classical Diana by civil sanction, and to that end to endea­vour to procure a considerable number of Members that may vote in the next Parliament an Assembly or Convention of Ministers to make Canons for the inthralling the consciences of men, and to impose upon, and domineer over our brethren.

Answ. Whether his friend to whom he writes, be as he sayes, so considerate (that we say not so inconsiderate) as to observe such a designe carried on by us with the rest of the Clergy of this Nation, we cannot tell; but this is evident, [Page 16]himselfe is so suspicious, as that he can create Imaginary Plots and designes, and so uncharitable as to put the grossest mis-construction upon an innocent action; and for our Innocency, we can appeal to God, and doe testi­fie in the presence of the all-seeing God, that we desire no such power, nor affect no such dominion over the consciences of men; we tremble at and abhor the thought of it, knowing that it is best with the Church of God when men have least to doe in making Lawes in it, and when they intend mainly the establishing and observing of the Lawes of Christ the King of Saints; and if to be sub­ject to his lawes, be with this man to be brought againe into Egyptian Bondage, surely though he ranke himselfe a­mongst the Saints, yet Jesus Christ (we doubt) will ranke him amongst those who say we will not have this man to reigne over us: If there be a desire in any to promote such a settlement in matters of Religion as may be agreeable to the minde of Christ, and consistent with the due liber­ty of tender consciences, we know not how that should be accounted making Cannons to inthral the conscien­ces of men.

Fifthly, We are charged that we will rather joyn with the vilest of men, then with such as crosse our carnal interests, and dissent from us, though never so godly; and this he sayeth he plainly seeth.

Answ. For that of our joyning with the vilest of men, we suppose he speakes this in reference to the Election, and to our activity at it; and if so, we say, it is a most false and unchristian accusation, and such as could not have been fastned upon us, by any discerning eye. But there is no sense against the calumnies of men, forestalled with prejudice, and blinded with malice. It may be the pen­man of this Letter reckons all those amongst the vilest of men that are not registred in his Catalogue of Saints, and so would have dominion founded in grace and Saint­ship to be the only qualification for government. We deny not but it were much to be wished that governours [Page 17]might alwayes be endewed with grace and the knowledge of God in Christ, added to their other qualifications; but we cannot subscribe to that principle which is truly cal­led a State-heresie by the Author of the true estate of the case of the Commonwealth in reference to the late esta­blished government, viz. That godly persons though of small understanding and little ability of minde in publick affaires, are more fit for government, then men of great knowledge and wisdome, if endewed only with natural parts and moral ver­tues: But if our Author be not infected with that heresie, we further answer, when he shall be pleased to tell us whom he doth meane by the vilest of men, and in what act of ours he did plainly see our joyning with such, we shall be able to give a better account by way of answer to him; and in the meane time if he have not too much worke upon him already to make good his other charges against us, we shall put him to that farther trouble, to name but any one of the ten that were chosen, whom we cryed up and voted for, that can in the least give an occasion to such a charge; and in this he hath a double task to make good; one that the party is of the vilest of men, and the other that we voted for him; and we are wel assured, he cannot make good either the one or the other. We list not to re­criminate, and desire to avoyd all personall reflections; otherwise possibly there might be some just ground found to retort the charge, but we forbeare. Onely we desire him seriously to consider with whom he joyns in his slan­dring of the Ministers of the Gospel; surely this is the pra­ctise of the vilest of men.

For that other branch of the charge, our not joyning with those who crosse our carnall interests and dissent from us, though never so godly.

A. We answer, We doe so far honour, and prize, the power of godlinesse, as that we should be heartily glad to close with such in whom we finde it, in all waies of love and peace; it hath been our prayer, and shall be our en­deavour, that all who accord in fundamentals of Gospel-truth [Page 18]and holinesse, may be brought to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace; we hope (through mercy) we have learnt not to value our carnall interest before the Churches peace and unity; and to think and speak of divi­sions, emulations, and breaking into parties and facti­ons, amongst those that are truly godly, as we doe think and speak of theft, whordome, murder, and the like fruits of the flesh. But yet we say,

First, we dare not under the specious pretence of joyning with the godly party, close with any who are, or seem to be such, in actings of that nature, as are destructive, not so much to our carnall interest, as to the true interest of the glorious Gospel of the blessed God: (for so we doe conceive the upholding of the Ministry and its maintenance is more the interest of the Gospel then our own) lest whilst we seek to knit with men, we disjoyne our selves from God; and whilst we would make up strife with others, we make a greater breach between God and our own souls.

Secondly, we see but little hope that ever there should be a happy closure with those who do so factiously engross all the honour of Saintship, yea honesty and faithfulnesse, to themselves and their own party; for so the Author seems to carry it throughout the Letter. Himselfe and his party he mentions as the poor despised Saints, as the appro­ved faithfull men in the County, honest publique spirited men, men that are most faithfull to the publique interest, such as have been valiant in the field, and ventured their lives in the high places for the liberties of the people; such as have all along in the greatest revolutions and dangers appeared in their purses and persons for the true interest of the Nation, such as have poured out floods of tears and prayers for the cause of Christ; But the rest who doe oppose them, or not joyn with them, are called a Time-serving generation, a company of time-serving Cavaliers, and corrupt persons, such who in the greatest Revolutions and Dangers durst not shew their fa­ces, unlesse it were at Oxon, where some of them sate and acted; [Page 19]a company of unworthy time-serving men, such as never did the State any faithfull service, such as doe unworthily and vain-gloriously in their own persons hunt after worldy honour, and popular applause, and doe even hate and abhor the poore despised Saints.

An. We would be loth to be justly ranked amongst those who doe hate and abhor the poor despised Saints; we desire to love and honour them all, as the excellent ones in whom is our delight; yet we doe hate and abhor that cursed dividing principle, whereby Godliness and Saintship is made a faction with many; whilst they inclose and mono­polize it unto themselves and their own party, so as that none shall be counted Godly and Saints, owned, loved, and esteemed as such, but those of their own way: we doe not doubt but that God hath many whom he will own as Saints, who yet are branded as carnall, nay as antichristian; And we could heartily wish, that even amongst those who are most forward to ascribe and appropriate this title to themselves, that there were more of Saintship to be found in them. The true Saints of God are indeed often despised and reproached by the men of the world; but it is certainly no evidence of Saintship to be despisers and reproachers of their fellow brethren, and of any of the faithful Ministers of the Gospel: If the tree must be known by its fruits, how little Saintship shall we finde amongst many of those who yet doe ingrosse all unto them­selves?

We shall not goe about to make our selves guilty of that which we have already condemned in the Author of this Letter, viz. making odious comparisons and descrip­tions of all that are not of our party; yet we are not as­sured of this, either that all who did appear for that List, for opposing whereof we are so much reviled, were Ap­proved faithfull men, publique-spirited men, &c. nor that they onely of that party were the onely honest, approved, faithfull, publique-spirited men in the County; being very confident, that there are very many in our County, who [Page 20]though of a different perswasion in matters of Religion, from the Authour and his party he so much commends, yet are approved faithfull men, faithfull to the publique inte­rest, for which so much blood hath been spilt, and treasure spent, such as have been valiant in the field, and ventured their lives in the high places for the liberties of the people, such as have all along in the greatest Revolutions and Dangers, appeared in their purses and persons, for the true interest of the Nation: such as have poured forth floods of prayers and tears, for the cause of Christ; and who cannot be justly accused for sitting and voting at Oxon.

Upon the whole, this we demand, as the poor servants and despised Ministers of Jesus Christ, that upon the re­ceipt of this our Reply, he doe either make good the truth of his publique Narrative, and Invective, as to our selves, whom he hath particularly named, and reproached, which we are confident he shall never doe: or else that he doe us right, by making some acknowledgement that he hath done us wrong. If he wil doe neither, let him know, who ever he be, that his Letter wil dog him to his death­bed, and if he obtain not pardon for it in the blood of Christ, (which from our hearts we wish him) it wil stand up sadly against him at that day when without shall be —Whosoever loveth and maketh a lye.

Besides this Narrative and Invective against us, the heat of his indignation vents it selfe farther against our Asso­ciation. The Author of this Letter having failed thus as we trust, in finding occasion or fault against us concerning the Kingdome: he endeavours further, to finde it against us, concerning the Law of our God, attempting to turn it at least to our reproach, that we as fellow brethren, yea as yoke­fellows, labourers together in the work of the Gospel, doe main­tain a communion and fellowship together, for mutual assistance in our common work. This we cannot but say something to, lest any should be canslesly byassed, by great and empty words, to judge harshly and falsly of some poor unworthy servants of Jesus Christ, who desire to be [Page 21]faithfull. His words are these.

Sir, by this daies work you may judge of the issue and fruit of the Ministers association in this County, which may rather be called a subtile Combination, then a Christian spirituall Com­munion, as they mannage it: you will heare of the like procee­dings in other Counties, especially where this Association is carried on, the same being divised as a shelter upon a Politique account against an approaching storm.

For the Author to wrest the fault, if there were any, of the late election of members for Parliament upon the Association of Ministers, is so groundlesse an attempt, as that it proveth onely that the Authour of this Letter being resolved to take the first occasion, loudly to reproach the Association, caught hold of this in his anger, before ever he considered whether it were of weight or no for his purpose. The truth is, so little influence had our Associa­tion upon this Election, as that in all the meetings of the Brethren, where we were present, never was any the least consultation about it; we professedly decline in our meetings all intermedlings in matters of civil concernment, so as that daies work was no more the issue and fruit of our Association, then Tenterden steeple was the cause of Good­wins sands.

But he saith our Association may rather be called a sub­tile combination, then a Christian spiritual Communion, as we manage it. He should have done wel to have told the world how we doe manage it more like a subtile combi­nation then a Christian spirituall communion; and if he could have done it, he would not have spared us: but we see he hath learnt that principle, Boldly to calumniate, and then something will stick. And because he wants whereof in particular to accuse our actings in this Association, there­fore he doth quarrel with out Intentions, and tels the world that this Association was devised as a shelter upon a Politique account against an approaching storm.

They rise above their measure doubtlesse, who take upon them to judge of heart designes and intentions, and [Page 22]thereby to condemne actions apparently good, if wel meant. But to satisfie the world, and to justifie our in­nocency, we are not afraid nor ashamed to lay open the bottome of our design in this Association, and how it hath been managed all along. The Brethren are united in Christian love, for mutual assistance and advice one with another, in that common work of the Ministry to which we are called, and those meetings which have been hither­to in this Association, have been managed to the Christi­an comfort and edification of one another, and of the be­holders, blessed be God for it; and we trust in Jesus Christ they shall be so ever.

Though our Adversary be pleased to call it a subtile combination, yet we can appeale to him whom we desire to serve in the Gospel of his Sonne, that we intend nothing but a Spirituall, holy, Christian union improved (so far as our frailty wil permit) in the exercise of those uniting graces of love, humility, self-denial, meeknesse, and brotherly kind­nesse, for mutuall edification in faith and love which is in Jesus Christ. And if thus to unite be a griefe of heart unto any, yet we are sure it is a rejoycing of heart unto many, who behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren thus to dwell even together in unity.

The ends that we propounded to our selves, before ex­pressed, are such as we are sure no tongue but such as is set on fire of Hell, can speak against; and the blessed fruits and issue of such an Association, through the good hand of God upon it, will be such as none but such as are too much possessed with the spirit of envy can envy us the hap­pinesse thereof. We have long groaned under the evil and the mischiefe of our divisions, and we finde that most of our jealousies and jarrings are occasioned by our strangenesle and distance; and upon this account our bre­thren at the last general meeting, testified unanimously, and very affectionately, their desire to have such brethren, who differ in matters of Church constitution and order to joyn in with them, that as far forth as we are come we may [Page 15]walk together in love and cheerfulness by the same rule; and if this might be obtained, we believe it would be accepta­ble to the Lord, and a ready way to make a grave wherein to bury for ever much of those unlively jealousies, enmity, and unbrotherly bitternesse which sadly appeareth amongst some whom we cannot otherwise judge of but that they are brethren.

The Authour seems to be possest with the spirit of jea­lousie, and of evil surmisings; since he can get nothing against us, he will surmise that there is something; and if he can­not charge our actions, he wil judge our hearts and inten­tions, and from thinking there may be, concludes surely there is something very blameworthy in us; as the Jews of Asia, seeing Trophimus the Ephesian with Paul in the City supposed that Paul had brought him into the Temple, and cried out, Men of Israel help, this is the man that brought Greeks into the Temple, and hath polluted this holy place. How much this is against the law of love, he may doe wel to consider, for love thinketh no evil. It is storied of Cambyses, he did but dream his [...] should [...] King of Persia, and for this he put him to death: so this man doth but dream of plots and designes of a subtile combination, and a politique device, and he presently concludes, so it is: and what he would do unto us if he had power in his hand it is easie to judge; even that which (to use his own words) would make our cares to tingle, and our hearts to ake: which leads us from his Invective to his threatnings.

He tels us of an approaching storm; and again, as it was with the Prelates in entring their Protestation in the former Parliament, they prepared a Rod to whip themselves with, and digged a pit wherein they themselves did fall: so will these men doe, that which they have designed for upholding their corrupt interest, will be the Ruine thereof: and again those rigid and foolish men will not see the hand of God which is gone out against them, but goe on in their vain waies of oppo­sition, notwithstanding they have been so often disappinted: [Page 24]yea the work of the Lord shall prosper, and God will ere long separate his faithfull Ministers and servants from this corrupt self-seeking generation of men. And again, though good men should be silent and sit still, yet the Lord himselfe will shortly avenge the cause of his people, and bring deliverance in a way which we think not of, which will make the ears of some to tingle, and their hearts ake.

In all these passages he doth threaten the Ministers shrewdly, with what is comming upon them, and no marvil, Quicquid speramus facile Credimus; he hopes to see the downfal of the Ministry, and so easily believes it, and it may be thinks it will never be well till it be so. It is no new thing to meet with peremptory predictions of the ruine and downfal of the Ministry, which yet through the goodnesse of our God have fallen to the ground without expected accomplishment; and it is no smal mer­cy that God hath beaten out the Teeth of our Maligners; that they only can bark and not bite, that their tongues on­ly and not their hands can reach us: yet the world may see they doe what they can, and therefore the Author here doth not so much Prophecy of, as Project our ruine, by ren­dring us odious both to the People, by ranking us with the Prelates, and also to his Highnesse and his Army, by pro­voking them against us, as being of that sort of men who have caused the late broiles, and will yet againe imbroile the Nation in blood if God in mercy prevents not: In which he deales with us and the rest of the Clergy of this Nation, (as he stiles them) as the Persecuters did in the Primitive times with the Christians, they put the bodies of Christi­ans into the skins of wilde beasts, and then set wilde beasts upon them for to tear them, so he puts us into the shapes of his own conceits, of his own apprehensions, and his own slanders of purpose to make us ugly, and to render us vile and contemptible, that so the more easie way may be made for our ruine: But our trust is in our God who knowes our hearts, that he will in due time cleare our Inno­cency against those malicious suggestions, and make it [Page 25]appeare to his Highnesse and his Army, and to the whole Nation, that as poor weak servants of Jesus Christ, we desire joyntly to promote the Kingdome of Jesus Christ, and the prosperity of the Commonwealth in which we live.

But he tells us we will not see the hand of God which is gone out against us, but go on in our vaine wayes of opposition not­withstanding we have been so often disappointed. To this we answer.

We feare we have been all of us too unobservant of the Lords hand, both of chastisement and mercy too when it is lifted up over us, but surely it is our blindnesse, or else the Lords hand hath not been altogether stretched out a­gainst the contemned Ministry of this Nation in Judgement, of latter times: we think there was a time not long since, when many sadly feared, and others strongly hoped that the despised, disowned Ministers of England should quite have shaken hands with their maintenance and Ministry together, and had done so, had not the Lord then appea­red in the Mount wonderously, and unexpectedly, for the rescuing his poor servants. We have often thought it our duty to acknowledge this work of God, and to walke humbly, carefully, and thankfully before the Lord in re­gard hereof. Our comfort and hope at the worst was, that our Lord Christ hath his Stars of all magnitudes in his right hand, and that unlesse he remove the Candlestick he will continue his Stars amongst us, how much soever they be clouded by the reproaches of many adversaries; and our hope and comfort still is, that we have the same Lord who hath delivered us, upon whom to trust that he will yet deliver us; And we heartily blesse God for the instruments under him of our deliverance, and we hope that they shall never have cause to repent, they nor their posterity, that they have rescued a poor despised Ministry from rapine and ruine.

The Author seemes to be desirous the world should think that he is no enemy to the Ministry, but only to such as are corrupt, self-seekers, busie-bodies, and therefore,

1. He makes an honourable mention of some whom he calls faithful Ministers, and saith, God will e're long separate his faithful Ministers and servants from this corrupt self-see­king generation of men; But if this corrupt self-seeking gene­ration of men be the whole Clergy of the Nation, as he seems all along to carry it, then they stand all without the reach of his charity, and cannot any of them obtaine so much from him, as to hope that they are in the number of Gods faithful Ministers and servants, yet we doubt not but that even amongst those whom he calls, this corrupt self-seeking generation, God hath many precious ones even amongst those whom he accounts as the filth and [...]he off-scowring of all things; Many faithful ones whose Ministerial abilities, admi­rable successe in winning soules to God, diligent and powerful Preaching, sound and wholsome doctrine, peaceable demeanour, and holy and exemplary conversation doth distinguish them and separate them from a corrupt self-seekin [...] generation: and this separation we doubt not but God hath already made in the hearts of those who are truly sensible of the many gracious workes the Lord hath wrought by them, and who for their workes sake doe account them worthy of double honour.

2. He prayes that God would forgive these men, for they cause the Ministry of Christ to be evil spoken of, and to stinke in the nostrils of people who doe but deride them as a company of vain busie-bodies.

Who would have expected after all this dirt cast upon us by the Author, to have found in him so deep a sense of the reproaches cast upon the Ministry of Christ? but alas, a few good words in the close will not be sufficient to wash off the guilt of all his former reproachings and revilings: how much himself doth stand in need of the benefit of this prayer, will appear to the judicious reader, if we do make a very little alteration in it; God forgive this man for cau­sing (as much as in him is) the Ministry of Christ to be evil spoken of, and to stinke in the nostrils of the people by his de­riding of them as a company of vaine busie-bodies, for their do­ing [Page 22]of that which no law of God or man doth forbid unto them. And we would desire the Author of this Letter to examine his own conscience in secret, upon this Interrogatory, how tender soever he seemes to be of the reputation of the Mi­nistry that he would not have it to stink in the nostrils of the people, whether that which troubles him at the very heart be not because he sees us, and other poor servants of Jesus Christ, notwithstanding all open and secret counter wor­kings, still to retaine a high place both as to our persons and Ministery in the love and esteem of multitudes who truly feare the Lord; however it will sound in his cares, we shall take the boldnesse in all humility and thankefulness to our good God for his abundant kindnesse towards his un­worthy servants, to assure him that the despised Ministry and Ministers of the Gospel in this Nation, even at this day doe finds (blessed b [...] the Lord) much love in the hearts of very many who walk humbly and closely with the Lord their God; nor doe these servants of God discover any more eminent effect of the hard speeches which are in word and Print uttered against them by bitter men of seve­ral spirits and interests, then the blowing up of the affecti­ons of many of Gods people to a stronger flame of love to­wards them and their Ministry; which therefore we hope the Lord will teach and strengthen his weake servants with greater faithfulnesse to fulfil to his own glory, the stopping of the mouthes of their enraged adversaries, and the good of the poor of his flock who wait on him.

We are glad to hear that the Author of this Letter be­thinks himself at last of the Christian weapons of Faith Hope, Patience, Prayers, and Teares; it was our hard lot to fall into his h [...]nds whilest he was making use of other more sharpe weapons; Psal. 57. v. 4. yet if he and those of his party, of whom he speaketh, be in good earnest to stand to those spiritual weapons only, for the time to come we shall desire to make use of no other; and if we fight on both sides with these Armes, there may at last be hope that we may be brought together into the bond of truth and [Page 28]Christian love, to serve our God with one consent ac­cording to his blessed word.

All the revenge we will take of our accuser for his in­jurious dealing with us, shall be to joyne him with our selves in our prayers to the Lord (though possibly he may scorne the motion, as not thinking that we have any ac­quaintance with God) that he would deliver both him and us from every evil worke, and keep us to his heavenly Kingdome to whom be glory for ever, Amen.


Books newly printed by Ralph Smith, viz.

Mr. Dicksons Exposition on the whole Book of the Psalms in three Books.

The Christian Charter, shewing the priviledge of Belie­vers in this life, and in the life to come: by Mr. Watson Minister of Stephen Walbroke; the third Edition, much enlarged.

Also, Mr. Watsons Art of Divine contentment; the second Edition.

Mr. Hutchinsons Exposition on the six small Prophets, viz. Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zepha­niah.

Mr. Hutchinsons Exposition on the three last Prophets, viz. Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.

An Exposition on the whole book of Ecclesiastes, by that late learned and pious Divine, Mr. John Cotton Pastor of Bostock in New England.

A Sermon of Mr. Simon Ash at the funerall of Mr. Je­remiah Whitaker. Together with a Narrative of his pious life. The second Edition, many other Poems and Elegies added.

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