Page images

be the timeliest and the most effectual remedy, that man's prevention can use. For this authentic Spanish policy of licensing books, if I have said aught, will prove the most unlicented book itself within a short while; and was the immediate image of a star-chamber decree to that purpose made in those very times when that court did the rest of those her pious works, for which she is now fallen from the stars with Lucifer. Whereby ye may guess what kind of state prudence, what love of the people, what care of religion, or good manners there was at the contriving although with fingular hypocrisy it pretended to bind books to their good behaviour. And how it got the upper hand of your precedent order so well constituted before, if we may believe those men whose profession gives them cause to inquire most, it may be doubted there was in it the fraud of some old patentees and monopolizers in the trade of bookselling; who under pretence of the poor in their company not to be defrauded, and the just retaining of each man hiş several copy, (which God forbid should be gainlaid) brought divers gloffing colours to the house, which were indeed but colours, and serving to no end except it be to exercise a superiority over their neighbours; men who do not therefore labour in an honest profession; to which learning is indebted, that they should be made other men's vafials. Another end is thought was aimed at by some of them in procuring by petition this order, that having power in their hands, malignant books might the easier escape abroad, as the event shows. But of these sophisms and elenchs of merchandize I skill not: This I know, that errours in a good government and in a bad are equally almost incident; for what magiftrate may not be inisinformed, and much the sooner, if liberty of printing be reduced into the power of a few ? But to redress willingly and speedily what hath been erred, and in higheft authority to esteem a plain advertisement more than others have done a sumptuous bride, is a virtue (honoured lords and commons !) answerable to your highest actions, and whereof none can participate but greatest and wilest men.




: OF


Restored to the good of both sexes, from the bondage of

canon law, and other mistakes, to the true meaning of fcripture in the law and gospel compared.

Wherein also are set down the bad consequences of abolishing, or

condemning of 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 of England, with the assembly.

[ocr errors]

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 Thame unto him."

To the Parliament of England, with the Assembly. If it were seriously asked, (and it would be no untimely question,) renowned parliament, select assembly! who of all teachers and masters, that have ever taught, hath drawn the most disciples after him, both in religion and in manners ? it might be not untruly answered, Custom. Though virtue be commended for the most persuasivo in her theory, and conscience in the plain demonftration of the spirit finds most evincing; yet whether it be the secret of divine will, or the original blindness we are born in, so it happens for the most part, that custom still is filently received for the best instructor. Except it be, because her method is so glib and easy, in some manner like to that vision of Ezekiel rolling up her sudden book


of implicit knowledge, for him that will to take and swallow down at pleasure ; which proving but of bad nourishment in the concoction, as it was heedless in the devouring, puffs up unhealthily a certain big face of pretended learning, mistaken among credulous men for the wholesome habit of foundness and good conftitution, but is indeed no other than that swoln visage of counterfeit knowledge and literature, which not only in private mars our education, but also in public is the common climber into every chair, where either religion is preached, or law reported : filling each estate of life and profession with abject and servile principles, depressing the high and heavenborn spirit of man, far beneath the condition wherein either God created hiin, or fin hath sunk him. To pursue the allegory, custom being but a mere face, as echo is a mere voice, rests not in her unaccomplishment, until by secret inclination she accorporate herself with errour, who being a blind and serpentine body without a head, willingly accepts what he wants, and supplies what her incompleteness went seeking. Hence it is, that errour supports custom, custom countenances errour: and these two between them would persecute and chase away all truth and solid wisdom out of human life, were it not that God, rather than man, once in many ages calls together the prudent and religious counsels of men, deputed to repress the incroachments, and to work off the inveterate blots and obscurities wrought upon our minds by the subtle insinuating of errour and custom; who, with the numerous and vulgar train of their followers, make it their chief design to envy and cry down the industry of free reasoning, under the terms of humour and innovation; as if the womb of teeming truth were to be closed up, if the presume to bring forth aught that forts not with their unchewed notions and suppositions. Against which notorious injury and abuse of man's free soul, to testify and oppose the utmost that study and true labour can attain, heretofore the incitement of men reputed grave hath led me among others ; and now the duty and the right of an instructed Chriftian calls me through the chance of good or evil report, to be the fole advocate of a discountenanced truth : a

high enterprise, lords and commons ! a high enterprise and a hard, and such as every seventh son of a seventh fon does not venture on. Nor have I amidst the clamour of so much envy and impertinence whither to appeal, but to the concourse of so much picty and wisdom here assembled. Bringing in my hands an ancient and most necessary, most charitable, and yet most injured ftatute of Moses ; not repealed ever by him who only had the authority, but thrown afide 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 fo 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


mifjudged opinion, unless his resolutions be firmly feated in a square and constant mind, not conscious to itself of any deserved blame, and regardless of ungrounded fuspicions. For this let him be sure he shall be boarded presently by the ruder sort, but not by discreet and wellnurtured men, with a thousand idle descants and furmises. 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 fo the truth be preached, whether of envy or other pretence whatToever :" for truth is as impossible to be foiled 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 needlefs 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


[ocr errors]

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 envy may work in other men to do her fretful wiń 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 no liberty is pleasing, but unbridled and vagabond luft 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 honeft liberty is the greatest foe to dishoneft licence. And what though others, out of a waterish and queasy conscience, because ever crazy and never yet found, 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 Affyrian blasphemer, all this while reproaching not man, but the Almighty, the Holy One of Israel, whom they do hot 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 fobriety 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 wifdom, 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


« PreviousContinue »