Page images

The emperor yafe the pope sometime
So high lordship him about,
That at last the silly kime,

The proud pope put him out;
So of this realm is no doubt,

But lords beware and them defend;
For now these folks be wonders stout,
The king and lords now this amend.

And in the next Stanza, which begins the third part of the tale, he argues that they ought not to be lords.

Moses law forbade it tho

That priests should no lordship welde,
Christ's gospel biddeth also

That they should no lordships held:
Ne Christ's apostles were never so bold

No such lordships to hem embrace,

But smeren her sheep and keep her fold.

And so forward. Whether the bishops of England have deserved thus to be feared by men so wise as our Chaucer is esteemed; and how agreeable to our monarchy and monarchs their demeanour has been, he that is but meanly read in our chronicles needs not be instructed. Have they not been as the Canaanites, and Philistines, to this kingdom? what treasons, what revolts to the pope? what rebellions, and those the basest and most pretenceless, have they not been chief in? What could monarchy think, when Becket durst challenge the custody of Rochester-castle, and the Tower of London, as appertaining to his signory? To omit his other insolencies and affronts to regal majesty, until the lashes inflicted on the anointed body of the king, washed off the holy unction with his blood drawn by the polluted hands of bishops, abbots, and monks.

What good upholders of royalty were the bishops, when by their rebellious opposition against King John, Normandy was lost, he himself deposed, and this kingdom made over to the pope? When the bishop of Winchester durst tell the nobles, the pillars of the realm, that there were no peers in England, as in France, but that the king might do what he pleased. What could tyranny say more? It would be pretty now if I should insist upon the rendering up of Tournay by Woolsey's treason, the excommunications, cursings, and interdicts upon the whole land; for haply I shall be cut off short by a reply, that these were the faults of men and their popish errors, not of episcopacy, that hath now renounced the pope, and is a protestant. Yes, sure; as wise and famous men have suspected and feared the protestant episcopacy in England, as those that have feared the papal.

You know, sir, what was the judgment of Padre Paolo, the great Venetian antagonist of the pope, for it is extant in the hands of many men, whereby he declares his fear, that when the hierarchy of England shall light into the hands of busy and audacious men, or shall meet with princes tractable to the prelacy, then much mischief is like to ensue. And can it be nearer hand, than when bishops shall openly affirm that, no bishop no king? A trim paradox, and that ye may know where they have been a begging for it, I will fetch you the twin brother to it out of the Jesuits' cell: they feeling the axe of God's reformation, hewing at the old and hollow trunk of papacy, and finding the Spaniard their surest friend, and safest refuge, to sooth him up in his dream of a fifth monarchy, and withal to uphold the decrepit papalty, have invented this superpolitic aphorism, as one terms it, one pope and one king.

Surely, there is not any prince in Christendom, who, hearing this rare sophistry, can choose but smile; and if we be not blind at home, we may

as well perceive that this worthy motto, no bishop no king, is of the same batch, and infanted out of the same fears, a mere ague-cake coagulated of a certain fever they have, presaging their time to be but short: and now like those that are sinking, they catch round of that which is likeliest to hold them up; and would persuade regal power, that if they dive, he must after. But what greater debasement can there be to royal dignity, whose towering and stedfast height rests upon the unmovable foundations of justice, and heroic virtue, than to chain it in a dependance of subsisting, or ruining, to the painted battlements and gaudy rottenness of prelatry, which want but one puff of the king's to blow them down like a pasteboard house built of court-cards? Sir, the little ado which methinks I find in untacking these pleasant sophisms, puts me into the mood to tell you a tale ere I proceed further; and Meneinus Agrippa speed us.

Upon a time the body summoned all the members to meet in the guild for the common good (as Esop's chronicles aver many stranger accidents:) the head by right takes the first seat, and next to it a huge and monstrous wen, little less than the head itself, growing to it by a narrow excrescency. The members, amazed, began to ask one another what he was that took place next their chief? none could resolve. Whereat the wen, though unwieldy, with much ado gets up, and bespeaks the assembly to this purpose: that as in place he was second to the head, so by due of merit; that he was to it an ornament, and strength, and of special near relation; and that if the head should fail, none were fitter than himself to step into his place: therefore he thought it for the honour of the body, that such dignities and rich endowments should be decreed him, as did adorn, and set out the noblest members. To this was answered, that it should be consulted. Then was a wise and learned philosopher sent for, that knew all the charters, laws, and tenures of the body. On him it is imposed by all, as chief committee to examine and discuss the claim and petition of right put in by the wen; who soon perceiving the matter, and wondering at the boldness of such a swoln tumor; "Wilt thou (quoth he) that art but a bottle of vicious and hardened excrements, contend with the lawful and free-born members, whose certain number is set by ancient and unrepealable statute? head thou art none, though thou receive this huge substance from it: what office bearest thou? what good canst thou show by thee done to the commonweal?" The wen not easily dashed, replies, that his office was his glory; for so oft as the soul would retire out of the head from over the steaming vapours of the lower parts to divine contemplation, with him she found the purest and quietest retreat, as being most remote from soil and disturbance. Lourdan, quoth the philosopher, thy folly is as great as thy filth: know that all the faculties of the soul are confined of old to their several vessels and ventricles, from which they cannot part without dissolution of the whole body; and that thou containest no good thing in thee, but a heap of hard and loathsome uncleanness, and art to the head a foul disfigurement and burden; when I have cut thee off, and opened thee, as by the help of these implements I will do, all men shall see.

But to return whence was digressed: seeing that the throne of a king, as the wise king Solomon often remembers us, "is established in justice," which is the universal justice that Aristotle so much praises, containing in it all other virtues, it may assure us that the fall of prelacy, whose actions are so far distant from justice, cannot shake the least fringe that borders the royal canopy; but that their standing doth continually oppose and lay battery to regal safety, shall by that which follows easily appear. Amongst many secondary and accessary causes that support monarchy, these are not

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

of least reckoning, though common to all other states; the love of the sub
jects, the multitude and valour of the people, and store of treasure.
In al
these things hath the kingdom been of late sore weakened, and chiefly by
the prelates. First, let any man consider, that if any prince shall suffer
under him a commission of authority to be exercised, till all the land groan
and cry out, as against a whip of scorpions, whether this be not likely to
lessen, and keel the affections of the subject. Next, what numbers of
faithful and freeborn Englishmen, and good Christians, have been con-
strained to forsake their dearest home, their friends and kindred, whom no-
thing but the wide ocean, and the savage deserts of America, could hide
and shelter from the fury of the bishops? O sir, if we could but see the
shape of our dear mother England, as poets are wont to give a personal
form to what they please, how would she appear, think ye, but in a mourn-
ing weed, with ashes upon her head, and tears abundantly flowing from
her eyes to behold so many of her children exposed at once, and thrust
from things of dearest necessity, because their conscience could not assent
to things which the bishops thought, indifferent? What more binding than
conscience? What more free than indifferency? Cruel then must that
indifferency needs be, that shall violate the strict necessity of conscience;
merciless and inhuman that free choice and liberty that shall break asunder
the bonds of religion! Let the astrologer be dismayed at the portentous
blaze of comets, and impressions in the air, as foretelling troubles and
changes to states: I shall believe there cannot be a more ill-boding sign to
a nation (God turn the omen from us!) than when the inhabitants, to avoid
insufferable grievances at home, are enforced by heaps to forsake their na-
tive country. Now, whereas the only remedy and amends against the
depopulation and thinness of a land within, is the borrowed strength of firm
alliance from without, these priestly policies of theirs, having thus exhausted
our domestic forces, have gone the way also to leave us as naked of our
firmest and faithfullest neighbours abroad, by disparaging and alienating
from us all protestant princes and commonwealths; who are not ignorant
that our prelates, and as many as they can infect, account them no better
than a sort of sacrilegious and puritanical rebels, preferring the Spaniard
our deadly enemy before them, and set all orthodox writers at nought in
comparison with the Jesuits, who are indeed the only corrupters of youth
and good learning: and I have heard many wise and learned men in Italy
say as much. It cannot be that the strongest knot of confederacy should
not daily slacken, when religion, which is the chief engagement of our
league, shall be turned to their reproach. Hence it is that the prosperous
and prudent states of the United Provinces, (whom we ought to love, if not
for themselves, yet for our own good work in them, they having been in a
manner planted and erected by us, and having been since to us the faithful
watchmen and discoverers of many a popish and Austrian complotted trea-
son, and with us the partners of many a bloody and victorious battle,) whom
the similitude of manners and language, the commodity of traffic, which
founded the old Burgundian league betwixt us, but chiefly religion, should
bind to us immortally; even such friends as these, out of some principles
instilled into us by the prelates, have been often dismissed with distasteful an-
swers, and sometimes unfriendly actions: nor is it to be considered to the
breach of confederate nations, whose mutual interests is of such consequence,
though their merchants bicker in the East Indies; neither is it safe, or wary,
or indeed Christianly, that the French king, of a different faith, should af-
ford our nearest allies as good protection as we. Sir, I persuade myself,
if our zeal to true religion, and the brotherly usage of our traest friends,

were as notorious to the world, as our prelatical schism, and captivity to rochet apophthegms, we had ere this seen our old conquerors, and afterwards liegemen the Normans, together with the Britons our proper colony, and all the Gascoins that are the rightful dowry of our ancient kings, come with cap and knee, desiring the shadow of the English sceptre to defend them from the hot persecutions and taxes of the French. But when they come hither, and see a tympany of Spaniolized bishops swaggering in the foretop of the state, and meddling to turn and dandle the royal ball with unskilful and pedantic palms, no marvel though they think it as unsafe to commit religion and liberty to their arbitrating as to a synagogue of Jesuits. But what do I stand reckoning upon advantages and gains lost by the misrule and turbulency of the prelates? What do I pick up so thriftly their scatterings and diminishings of the meaner subject, whilst they by their seditious practices have endangered to lose the king one third of his main stock? What have they not done to banish him from his own native country? But to speak of this as it ought, would ask a volume by itself. Thus as they have unpeopled the kingdom by expulsion of so many thousands, as they have endeavoured to lay the skirts of it bare by disheartening and dishonouring our loyalest confederates abroad, so have they hamstrung the valour of the subject by seeking to effeminate us all at home. Well knows every wise nation, that their liberty consists in manly and honest labours, in sobriety and rigorous honour to the marriage-bed, which in both sexes should be bred up from chaste hopes to loyal enjoyments; and when the people slacken, and fall to looseness and riot, then do they as much as if they laid down their necks for some wild tyrant to get up and ride. Thus learnt Cyrus to tame the Lydians, whom by arms he could not whilst they kept themselves from luxury; with one easy proclamation to set up stews, dancing, feasting, and dicing, he made them soon his slaves. I know not what drift the prelates had, whose brokers they were to prepare, and supple us either for a foreign invasion or domestic oppression: but this I am sure, they took the ready way to despoil us both of manhood and grace at once, and that in the shamefullest and ungodliest manner, upon that day which God's law, and even our own reason hath consecrated, that we might have one day at least of seven set apart wherein to examine and increase our knowledge of God, to meditate and commune of our faith, our hope, our eternal city in heaven, and to quicken withal the study and exercise of charity; at such a time that men should be plucked from their soberest and saddest thoughts, and by bishops, the pretended fathers of the church, instigated by public edict, and with earnest endeavour pushed forward to gaming, jigging, wassailing, and mixed dancing, is a horror to think! Thus did the reprobate hireling priest Balaam seek to subdue the Israelites to Moab, if not by force, then by this devilish policy, to draw them from the sanctuary of God to the luxurious and ribald feasts of Baal-peor. Thus have they trespassed not only against the monarchy of England, but of heaven also, as others, I doubt not, can prosecute against them.

I proceed within my own bounds to show you next what good agents they are about the revenues and riches of the kingdom, which declare of what moment they are to monarchy, or what avail. Two leeches they have that still suck, and suck the kingdom, their ceremonies and their courts. If any man will contend that ceremonies be lawful under the gospel, he may be answered other where. This doubtless, that they ought to be many and overcostly, no true protestant will affirm. Now I appeal to all wise men, what an excessive waste of treasure hath been within these few years in this land, not in the expedient, but in the idolatrous erection of temples

beautified exquisitely to outvie the papists, the costly and dear-bought scandals and snares of images, pictures, rich copes, gorgeous altar-cloths: and by the courses they took, and the opinions they held, it was not likely any stay would be, or any end of their madness, where a pious pretext is so ready at hand to cover their insatiate desires. What can we suppose this will come to? What other materials than these have built up the spiritual Babel to the height of her abominations? Believe it, sir, right truly it may be said, that Antichrist is Mammon's son. The sour leaven of human traditions, mixed in one putrefied mass with the poisonous dregs of hypocrisy in the hearts of prelates, that lie basking in the sunny warmth of wealth and promotion, is the serpent's egg that will hatch an Antichrist wheresoever, and engender the same monster as big, or little, as the lump is which breeds him. If the splendour of gold and silver begin to lord it once again in the church of England, we shall see Antichrist shortly wallow here, though his chief kennel be at Rome. If they had one thought upon God's glory, and the advancement of Christian faith, they would be a means that with these expenses, thus profusely thrown away in trash, rather churches and schools might be built, where they cry out for want; and more added wher too few are; a moderate maintenance distributed to every painful minister, that now scarce sustains his family with bread, while the prelates revel like Belshazzar with their full carouses in goblets, and vessels of gold snatched from God's temple; which (I hope) the worthy men of our land will consider. Now then for their courts. What a mass of money is drawn from the veins into the ulcers of the kingdom this way; their extortions, their open corruptions, the multitude of hungry and ravenous harpies that swarm about their offices, declare sufficiently. And what though all this go not over sea? It were better it did: better a penurious kingdom, than where excessive wealth flows into the graceless and injurious hands of common spunges, to the impoverishing of good and loyal men, and that by such execrable, such irreligious courses.

If the sacred and dreadful works of holy discipline, censure, penance, excommunication, and absolution, where no profane thing ought to have access, nothing to be assistant but sage and Christianly admonition, brotherly love, flaming charity and zeal; and then, according to the effects, paternal sorrow, or paternal joy, mild severity, melting compassion: if such divine ministeries as these, wherein the angel of the church represents the person of Christ Jesus, must lie prostitute to sordid fees, and not pass to and fro between our Saviour, that of free grace redeemed us, and the submissive penitent, without the truckage of perishing coin, and the butcherly execution of tormentors, rooks, and rakeshames sold to lucre; then have the Babylonish merchants of souls just excuse. Hitherto, sir, you have heard how the prelates have weakened and withdrawn the external accomplishments of kingly prosperity, the love of the people, their multitude, their valour, their wealth; mining and sapping the outworks and redoubts of monarchy. Now hear how they strike at the very heart and vitals.

We know that monarchy is made up of two parts, the liberty of the subject, and the supremacy of the king. I begin at the root. See what gentle and benign fathers they have been to our liberty! Their trade being, by the same alchymy that the pope uses to extract heaps of gold and silver out of the drossy bullion of the people's sins, and justly fearing that the quicksighted protestant eye, cleared in great part from the mist of superstiion, may at one time or other look with a good judgment into these their deceitful pedlaries; to gain as many associates of guiltiness as they can, and to infect the temporal magistrate with the like lawless, though not sacrile

« PreviousContinue »