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IN TWO BOOKS.
WRITTEN TO A FRIEND.
MIDST thofe deep and retired thoughts, which, with every man chriftianly inftructed, ought to be moft frequent of God, and of his miraculous ways and works amongst men, and of our religion and works, to be performed to him; after the ftory of our Saviour Chrift, fuffering to the lowest bent of weakness in the flesh, and prefently triumphing to the highest pitch of glory in the fpirit, which drew up his body alfo; till we in both be united to him in the revelation of his kingdom, I do not know of any thing more worthy to take up the whole paffion of pity on the one fide, and joy on the other, than to confider firft the foul and fudden corruption, and then, after many a tedious age, the long deferred, but much more wonderful and happy reformation of the church in these latter days. Sad it is to think how that doctrine of the gospel, planted by teachers divinely inspired, and by them winnowed and fifted from the chaff of overdated ceremonies, and refined to fuch a spiritual height and temper of purity, and knowledge of the Creator, that the body, with all the circumftances of time and place, were purified by the affections of the regenerate foul, and nothing left impure but fin; faith needing not the weak VOL. I.
and fallible office of the fenfes, to be either 1 interpreters of heavenly mysteries, fave whe. himself in his facraments ordained; that fuch should, through the groffness and blindness of h fors, and the fraud of deceivable traditions, drag wards, as to backflide one way into the Jewish be old caft rudiments, and stumble forward another w the new-vomited paganifm of fenfual idolatry, attributing purity or impurity to things indifferent, that they might bring the inward acts of the spirit to the outward and customary eye-fservice of the body, as if they could make God earthly and fleshly, because they could not make themselves heavenly and fpiritual; they began to draw down all the divine intercourfe betwixt God and the foul, yea, the very fhape of God himself, into an exterior and bodily form, urgently pretending a neceffity and obligement of joining the body in a formal reverence, and worfhip circumfcribed; they hallowed it, they fumed it, they sprinkled it, they bedecked it, not in robes of pure innocency, but of pure linen, with other deformed and fantastic dreffes, in palls and mitres, gold, and gewgaws fetched from Aaron's old wardrobe, or the flamins veftry: then was the priest fet to con his motions and his poftures, his liturgies and his lurries, till the foul by this means of overbodying herself, given up juftly to flefhly delights, bated her wing apace downward: and finding the eafe fhe had from her visible and fenfuous colleague the body, in performance of religious duties, her pinions now broken, and flagging, fhifted off from herself the labour of high foaring any more, forgot her heavenly flight, and left the dull and droiling carcafe to plod on in the old road, and drudging trade of outward conformity. And here out of queftion from her perverfe conceiting of God and holy things, fhe had fallen to believe no God at all, had not cuftom and the worm of confcience nipped her incredulity: hence to all the duties of evangelical grace, inftead of the adoptive and cheerful boldness which our new alliance with God requires, came fervile, and thrallike fear: for in very deed, the fuperftitious man by his good will is an atheift; but being fcared from thence by the
pangs and gripes of a boiling confcience, all in a pudder fhuffles up to himself fuch a God and fuch a worfhip as is most agreeable to remedy his fear; which fear of his, as alfo is his hope, fixed only upon the flesh, renders likewife the whole faculty of his apprehenfion carnal; and all the inward acts of worship, iffuing from the native ftrength of the foul, run out lavishly to the upper skin, and there harden into a cruft of formality. Hence men came to scan the fcriptures by the letter, and in the covenant of our redemption, magnified the external figns more than the quickening power of the Spirit; and yet looking on them through their own guiltinefs with a fervile fear, and finding as little comfort, or rather terrour from them again, they knew not how to hide their flavish approach to God's behefts by them not understood, nor worthily received, but by cloaking their fervile crouching to all religious prefentments, fometimes lawful, fometimes idolatrous, under the name of humility, and terming the piebald frippery and oftentation of ceremonies, decency.
Then was baptifm changed into a kind of exorcifm, and water, fanctified by Chrift's inftitute, thought little enough to wash off the original spot, without the scratch or crofs impreffion of a prieft's forefinger: and that feast of free grace and adoption to which Chrift invited his disciples to fit as brethren, and coheirs of the happy covenant, which at that table was to be fealed to them, even that feaft of love and heavenly-admitted fellowship, the feal of filial grace, became the subject of horrour, and glouting adoration, pageanted about like a dreadful idol; which fometimes deceives well meaning men, and beguiles them of their reward, by their voluntary humility; which indeed is fleshly pride, preferring a foolish facrifice, and the rudiments of the world, as Saint Paul to the Coloffians explaineth, before a favoury obedience to Chrift's example. Such was Peter's unfeasonable humility, as then his knowledge was small, when Chrift came to wash his feet; who at an impertinent time would needs ftrain courtesy with his mafter, and falling troubletomely upon the lowly, all-wife, and unexaminable intention of Chrift, in what he went with refolution to do, so provoked by his interruption
interruption the meek Lord, that he threatened to exclude him from his heavenly portion, unless he could be content to be lefs arrogant and ftiffnecked in his humility.
But to dwell no longer in characterizing the depravities of the church, and how they fprung, and how they took increase; when I recall to mind at laft, after fo many dark ages, wherein the huge overfhadowing train of errour had almost swept all the ftars out of the firmament of the church; how the bright and blissful reformation (by divine power) ftrook through the black and fettled night of ignorance and antichriftian tyranny, methinks a fovereign and reviving joy muft needs rufh into the bofom of him that reads or hears; and the sweet odour of the returning gospel imbathe his foul with the fragrancy of HeaThen was the facred Bible fought out of the dusty corners where profane falfehood and neglect had thrown it, the fchools opened, divine and human learning raked out of the embers of forgotten tongues, the princes and cities trooping apace to the new-erected banner of falvation; the martyrs, with the unrefiftible might of weakness, shaking the powers of darkness, and fcorning the fiery rage of the old red dragon.
The pleafing purfuit of these thoughts hath ofttimes led me into a ferious queftion and debatement with myfelf, how it fhould come to pafs that England (having had this grace and honour from God, to be the first that fhould fet up a ftandard for the recovery of loft truth, and blow the first evangelic trumpet to the nations, holding up, as from a hill, the new lamp of faving light to all chriftendom) fhould now be laft, and moft unsettled in the enjoyment of that peace, whereof the taught the way to others; although indeed our Wickliffe's preaching, at which all the fucceeding reformers more effectually lighted their tapers, was to his countrymen but a short blaze, foon damped and ftifled by the pope and prelates for fix or feven kings reigns; yet methinks the precedency which God gave this ifland, to be firft reftorer of buried truth, fhould have been followed with more happy fuccefs, and fooner attained perfection; in which as yet we are amongst the laft: for, albeit in purity of doctrine we agree with our brethren; yet in difcipline, which is the execution and applying
applying of doctrine home, and laying the falve to the very orifice of the wound, yea, tenting and fearching to the core, without which pulpit-preaching is but shooting at rovers; in this we are no better than a fchifm from all the reformation, and a fore scandal to them: for while we hold ordination to belong only to bifhops, as our prelates do, we muft of neceffity hold also their minifters to be no minifters, and fhortly after their church to be no church. Not to fpeak of those fenfelefs ceremonies which we only retain, as a dangerous earneft of fliding back to Rome, and ferving merely, either as a mift to cover nakedness where true grace is extinguished, or as an interlude to fet out the pomp of prelatifm. Certainly it would be worth the while therefore, and the pains, to inquire more particularly, what, and how many the chief causes have been, that have still hindered our uniform confent to the reft of the churches abroad, at this time especially when the kingdom is in 'a good propenfity thereto; and all men in prayers, in hopes, or in difputes, either for or against it.
Yet I will not infist on that which may feem to be the caufe on God's part; as his judgment on our fins, the trial of his own, the unmasking of hypocrites: nor fhall I stay to speak of the continual eagerness and extreme diligence of the pope and papifts to ftop the furtherance of reformation, which know they have no hold or hope of England their loft darling, longer than the government of bishops bolsters them out; and therefore plot all they can to uphold them, as may be seen by the book of Santa Clara, the popish prieft, in defence of bishops, which came out piping hot much about the time that one of our own prelates, out of an ominous fear, had writ on the fame argument; as if they had joined their forces, like good confederates, to fupport one falling Babel.
But I fhall chiefly endeavour to declare thofe caufes that hinder the forwarding of true difcipline, which are among ourfelves. Orderly proceeding will divide our inquiry into our forefathers' days, and into our times. Henry VIII was the first that rent this kingdom from the pope's fubjection totally; but his quarrel being more about fupremacy, than other faultinefs in religion that he regarded,