« PreviousContinue »
chised, enlarged, and lifted up our apprehensions degrees above themselves. Ye cannot make us now less capable, less knowing, less eagerly pursuing of the truth, unless ye first make yourselves, that made us so, less the lovers, less the founders of our true liberty. We can grow ignorant again, brutish, formal, and slavish, as ye found us; but you then must first become that which ye cannot be, oppressive, arbitrary, and tyrannous, as they were from whom ye have freed us. That our hearts are now more capacious, our thoughts more erected to the search and expectation of greatest and exactest things, is the issue of your own virtue propagated in us; ye cannot suppress that, unless ye reinforce an abrogated and merciless law, that fathers may dispatch at will their own children. And who shall then stick closest to ye and excite others? Not he who takes up arms for coat and conduct, and his four nobles of Danegelt. Although I dispraise not the defence of just immunities, yet love my peace better, if that were all. Give me the liberty to know, to otter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.
| light and clear knowledge to be sent down among us, would think of other matters to be constituted beyond the discipline of Geneva, framed and fabricked already to our hands. Yet when the new light which we beg for shines in upon us, there be who envy and oppose, if it come not first in at their casements. What a collusion is this, whenas we are exhorted by the wise man to use diligence, "to seek for wisdom as for hidden treasures" early and late, that another order shall enjoin us, to know nothing but by statute? When a man hath been labouring the hardest labour in the deep mines of knowledge, hath furnished out his findings in all their equipage, drawn forth his reasons as it were a battle ranged, scattered and defeated all objections in his way, calls out his adversary into the plain, offers him the advantage of wind and sun, if he please, only that he may try the matter by dint of argument; for his opponents then to sculk, to lay ambushments, to keep a narrow bridge of licensing where the challenger should pass, though it be valour enough in soldiership, is but weakness and cowardice in the wars of truth. For who knows not that truth is strong, next to the
What would be best advised then, if it be found so Almighty; she needs no policies, nor stratagems, nor bartful and so unequal to suppress opinions for the new-licensings to make her victorious, those are the shifts ness or the unsuitableness to a customary acceptance, and the defences that errour uses against her power: Fill not be my task to say; I shall only repeat what I give her but room, and do not bind her when she sleeps, have learned from one of your own honourable num- for then she speaks not true, as the old Proteus did, bera right noble and pious lord, who had he not sa- who spake oracles only when he was caught and bound, trifeed his life and fortunes to the church and com- but then rather she turns herself into all shapes, exmonwealth, we had not now missed and bewailed a cept her own, and perhaps tunes her voice according to worthy and undoubted patron of this argument. Ye the time, as Micaiah did before Ahab, until she be adknow him, I am sure; yet I for honour's sake, and jured into her own likeness. Yet is it not impossible may it be eternal to him, shall name him, the Lord that she may have more shapes than one? What else Brock. He writing of episcopacy, and by the way is all that rank of things indifferent, wherein truth treating of sects and schisms, left ye his vote, or rather may be on this side, or on the other, without being unnow the last words of his dying charge, which I know like herself? What but a vain shadow else is the abowill ever be of dear and honoured regard with ye, so lition of those ordinances, that hand-writing nailed fell of meekness and breathing charity, that next to to the cross ?" What great purchase is this christian his last testament, who bequeathed love and peace to liberty which Paul so often boasts of? His doctrine is, his disciples, I cannot call to mind where I have read that he who eats or eats not, regards a day or regards rheard words more mild and peaceful. He there ex- it not, may do either to the Lord. How many other
borts us to hear with patience and humility those, how-things might be tolerated in peace, and left to con
ever they be miscalled, that desire to live purely, in
science, had we but charity, and were it not the chief
that all in a church is to be expected "gold and silver | and precious stones:" it is not possible for man to sever the wheat from the tares, the good fish from the other fry; that must be the angels' ministry at the end of mortal things. Yet if all cannot be of one mind, as who looks they should be? this doubtless is more wholesome, more prudent, and more christian, that many be tolerated rather than all compelled. I mean not tolerated popery, and open superstition, which as it extirpates all religions and civil supremacies, so itself should be extirpate, provided first that all charitable and compassionate means be used to win and regain the weak and the misled that also which is impious or evil absolutely either against faith or manners, no law can possibly permit, that intends not to unlaw itself: but those neighbouring differences, or rather indifferences, are what I speak of, whether in some point of doctrine or of discipline, which though they may be many, yet need not interrupt the unity of spirit, if we could but find among us the bond of peace. In the mean while, if any one would write, and bring his helpful hand to the slow moving reformation which we labour under, if truth have spoken to him before others, or but seemed at least to speak, who hath so bejesuited us, that we should trouble that man with asking licence to do so worthy a deed; and not consider this, that if it come to prohibiting, there is not aught more likely to be prohibited than truth itself: whose first appearance to our eyes, bleared and dimmed with prejudice and custom, is more unsightly and unplausible than many errours; even as the person is of many a great man slight and contemptible to see to. And what do they tell us vainly of new opinions, when this very opinion of theirs, that none must be heard but whom they like, is the worst and newest opinion of all others; and is the chief cause why sects and schisms do so much abound, and true knowledge is kept at distance from us; besides yet a greater danger which is in it. For when God shakes a kingdom, with strong and healthful commotions, to a general reforming, it is not untrue that many sectaries and false teachers are then busiest in seducing. But yet more true it is, that God then raises to his own work men of rare abilities, and more than common industry, not only to look back and revise what hath been taught heretofore, but to gain further, and to go on some new enlightened steps in the discovery of truth. For such is the order of God's enlightening his church, to dispense and deal out by degrees his beam, so as our earthly eyes may best sustain it. Neither is God appointed and confined, where and out of what place these his chosen shall be first heard to speak; for he sees not as man sees, chooses not as man chooses, lest we should devote ourselves again to set places and assemblies, and outward callings of men; planting our faith one while in the old convocation house, and another while in the chapel at Westminster; when all the faith and religion that shall be there canonized, is not sufficient without plain convincement, and the charity of patient instruction, to supple the least bruise of conscience, to edify the meanest Christian, who de
sires to walk in the spirit, and not in the letter of human trust, for all the number of voices that can be there made; no, though Harry the seventh himself there, with all his liege tombs about him, should lend them voices from the dead to swell their number. And if the men be erroneous who appear to be the leading schismatics, what withholds us but our sloth, our selfwill, and distrust in the right cause, that we do not give them gentle meetings and gentle dismissions, that we debate not and examine the matter thoroughly with liberal and frequent audience; if not for their sakes yet for our own? Seeing no man who hath tasted learning, but will confess the many ways of profiting by those who, not contented with stale receipts, are able to manage and set forth new positions to the world. And were they but as the dust and cinders of our feet, so long as in that notion they may yet serve to polish and brighten the armory of truth, even for that respect they were not utterly to be cast away. But if they be of those whom God hath fitted for the special use of these times with eminent and ample gifts, and those perhaps neither among the priests, nor among the Pharisees, and we in the haste of a precipitant zeal shall make no distinction, but resolve to stop their mouths, because we fear they come with new and dangerous opinions, as we commonly forejudge them ere we understand them; no less than woe to us, while, thinking thus to defend the gospel, we are found the persecutors!
There have been not a few since the beginning of this parliament, both of the presbytery and others, who by their unlicensed books to the contempt of an imprimatur first broke that triple ice clung about our hearts, and taught the people to see day: I hope that none of those were the persuaders to renew upon us this bondage, which they themselves have wrought so much good by contemning. But if neither the check that Moses gave to young Joshua, nor the countermand which our Saviour gave to young John, who was so ready to prohibit those whom he thought unlicensed, be not enough to admonish our elders how unacceptable to God their testy mood of prohibiting is; if neither their own remembrance what evil hath abounded in the church by this lett of licensing, and what good they themselves have begun by transgress ing it, be not enough, but that they will persuade and execute the most Dominican part of the inquisition over us, and are already with one foot in the stirrup so active at suppressing, it would be no unequal distribution in the first place to suppress the suppressors themselves; whom the change of their condition hath puffed up, more than their late experience of harder times hath made wise.
And as for regulating the press, let no man think to have the honour of advising ye better than yourselves have done in that order published next before this, "That no book be printed, unless the printer's and the author's name, or at least the printer's, be registered." Those which otherwise come forth, if they be found mischievous and libellous, the fire and the executioner will be the timeliest and the most effectual remedy,
that man's prevention can use. For this authentic | and serving to no end except it be to exercise a su
Spanish policy of licensing books, if I have said aught,
periority over their neighbours; men who do not there-
THE DOCTRINE AND DISCIPLINE
RESTORED TO THE GOOD OF BOTH SEXES, FROM THE BONDAGE OF CANON LAW, AND OTHER MIS TO THE TRUE MEANING OF SCRIPTURE IN THE LAW AND GOSPEL COMPARED. WHEREIN ALSO ARE SET DOWN THE BAD CONSEQUENCES OF ABOLISHING, OR CONDEMNIN
AS SIN, THAT WHICH THE LAW OF GOD ALLOWS, AND CHRIST ABOLISHED NOT.
NOW THE SECOND TIME REVISED, AND MUCH AUGMENTED, IN TWO BOOKS: TO THE PARLIAMENT
MATTH. xiii, 52. "Every scribe instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a house, which bringeth out of his treasury things new and old."
PROV. xviii. 13. "He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.“
[FIRST PUBLISHED 1643, 1644.1
TO THE PARLIAMENT OF ENGLAND, WITH THE ASSEMBLY.
If it were seriously asked, (and it would be no untimely | with errour, who being a blind and ser question,) renowned parliament, select assembly! who without a head, willingly accepts what of all teachers and masters, that have ever taught, hath supplies what her incompleteness went se drawn the most disciples after him, both in religion it is, that errour supports custom, custom and in manners? it might be not untruly answered, errour: and these two between them we Custom. Though virtue be commended for the most and chase away all truth and solid wisd persuasive in her theory, and conscience in the plain man life, were it not that God, rather t demonstration of the spirit finds most evincing; yet in many ages calls together the prudent whether it be the secret of divine will, or the original counsels of men, deputed to repress the blindness we are born in, so it happens for the most and to work off the inveterate blots a part, that custom still is silently received for the best wrought upou our minds by the subtle instructor. Except it be, because her method is so gliberrour and custom; who, with the num and easy, in some manner like to that vision of Ezekiel gar train of their followers, make it the rolling up her sudden book of implicit knowledge, for to envy and cry down the industry of him that will to take and swallow down at pleasure; under the terms of humour and innova which proving but of bad nourishment in the concoction, womb of teeming truth were to be c as it was heedless in the devouring, puffs up unhealthily presume to bring forth aught that sort a certain big face of pretended learning, mistaken unchewed notions and suppositions. among credulous men for the wholesome habit of notorious injury and abuse of man's fre soundness and good constitution, but is indeed no and oppose the utmost that study and other than that swoln visage of counterfeit know- attain, heretofore the incitement of me ledge and literature, which not only in private mars hath led me among others; and now our education, but also in public is the common climber right of an instructed Christian calls into every chair, where either religion is preached, or chance of good or evil report, to be t law reported: filling each estate of life and profession of a discountenanced truth: a high with abject and servile principles, depressing the high and commons! a high enterprise and and heaven-born spirit of man, far beneath the condition as every seventh son of a seventh son wherein either God created him, or sin hath sunk him. on. Nor have I amidst the clamour To pursue the allegory, custom being but a mere face, and impertinence whither to appeal as echo is a mere voice, rests not in her unaccomplish-course of so much piety and wisdom ment, until by secret inclination she accorporate herself Bringing in my hands an ancient an
most charitable, and yet most injured statute of Moses; not repealed ever by him who only had the authority, but thrown aside with much inconsiderate neglect, under the rubbish of canonical ignorance; as once the whole law was by some such like conveyance in Josiah's time. And he who shall endeavour the amendment of any old neglected grievance in church or state, or in the daily course of life, if he be gifted with abilities of mind, that may raise him to so high an undertaking, I grant he hath already much whereof not to repent him; yet let me aread him, not to be the foreman of any misjudged opinion, unless his resolutions be firmly seated in a square and constant mind, not conscious to itself of any deserved blame, and regardless of ungrounded suspicions. For this let him be sure, he shall be boarded presently by the ruder sort, but not by discreet and well-nurtured men, with a thousand idle descants and surmises. Who when they cannot confute the least joint or sinew of any passage in the book; yet God forbid that truth should be truth, because they have a boisterous conceit of some pretences in the writer. But were they not more busy and inquisitive than the apostle commends, they would hear him at least,“ rejoicing so the truth be preached, whether of envy or other pretence whatsoever:" for truth is as impossible to be soiled by any outward touch, as the sunbeam; though this ill hap wait on her nativity, that she never comes into the world, but like a bastard, to the ignominy of him that brought her forth; till time, the midwife rather than the mother of truth, have washed and salted the infant, declared her legitimate, and churched the father of his young Minerva, from the needless causes of his purgation. Yourselves can best witness this, worthy patriots! and better will, no doubt, hereafter: for who among ye of the foremost that have travailed in her behalf to the good of church or state, hath not been often traduced to be the agent of his own by-ends, under pretext of reformation? So much the more I shall not be unjust to hope, that however infamy or eavy may work in other men to do her fretful will against this discourse, yet that the experience of your own uprightness misinterpreted will put ye in mind, to give it free audience and generous construction. What though the brood of Belial, the draff of men, to whom liberty is pleasing, but unbridled and vagabond last without pale or partition, will laugh broad perhaps, to see so great a strength of Scripture mustering up in favour, as they suppose, of their debaucheries; they will know better when they shall hence learn, that honest liberty is the greatest foe to dishonest licence. And what though others, out of a waterish and queasy conscience, because ever crazy and never yet sound, will rail and fancy to themselves that injury and licence is the best of this book? Did not the distemper of their own stomachs affect them with a dizzy megrim, they would soon tie up their tongues, and discern themselves like that Assyrian blasphemer, all this while reproachng not man, but the Almighty, the Holy One of Israel, whom they do not deny to have belawgiven his own sacred people with this very allowance, which they now call injury and licence, and dare cry shame on,
and will do yet a while, till they get a little cordial sobriety to settle their qualming zeal. But this question concerns not us perhaps : indeed man's disposition, though prone to search after vain curiosities, yet when points of difficulty are to be discussed, appertaining to the removal of unreasonable wrong and burden from the perplexed life of our brother, it is incredible how cold, how dull, and far from all fellow-feeling we are, without the spur of self-concernment. Yet if the wisdom, the justice, the purity of God be to be cleared from foulest imputations, which are not yet avoided; if charity be not to be degraded and trodden down under a civil ordinance; if matrimony be not to be advanced like that exalted perdition written of to the Thessalonians," above all that is called God," or goodness, nay against them both; then I dare affirm, there will be found in the contents of this book that which may concern us all. You it concerns chiefly, worthies in parliament! on whom, as on our deliverers, all our grievances and cares, by the merit of your eminence and fortitude, are devolved. Me it concerns next, having with much labour and faithful diligence first found out, or at least with a fearless and communicative candour first published to the manifest good of christendom, that which, calling to witness every thing mortal and immortal, I believe unfeignedly to be true. Let not other men think their conscience bound to search continually after truth, to pray for enlightening from above, to publish what they think they have so obtained, and debar me from conceiving myself tied by the same duties. Ye have now, doubtless, by the favour and appointment of God, ye have now in your hands a great and populous nation to reform; from what corruption, what blindness in religion, ye know well; in what a degenerate and fallen spirit from the apprehension of native liberty, and true manliness, I am sure ye find; with what unbounded licence rushing to whoredoms and adulteries, needs not long inquiry: insomuch that the fears, which men have of too strict a discipline, perhaps exceed the hopes, that can be in others, of ever introducing it with any great success. What if I should tell ye now of dispensations and indulgences, to give a little the reins, to let them play and nibble with the bait a while; a people as hard of heart as that Egyptian colony that went to Canaan. This is the common doctrine that adulterous and injurious divorces were not connived only, but with eye open allowed of old for hardness of heart. But that opinion, I trust, by then this following argument hath been well read, will be left for one of the mysteries of an indulgent Antichrist, to farm out incest by, and those his other tributary pollutions. What middle way can be taken then, may some interrupt, if we must neither turn to the right, nor to the left, and that the people hate to be reformed? Mark then, judges and lawgivers, and ye whose office it is to be our teachers, for I will utter now a doctrine, if ever any other, though neglected or not understood, yet of great and powerful importance to the governing of mankind. He who wisely would restrain the reasonable soul of man within due bounds, must first himself know perfectly, how far the territory