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AMIDST 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 loweft 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 thefe latter days. Sad it is to think how that doctrine of the gofpel, planted by teachers divinely inspired, and by them winnowed and fifted from the chaff of overdated ceremonies, and refined to fuch a fpiritual 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 myfteries, fave whe. himself in his facraments ordained; that fuch fhould, through the groffnefs 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 cuftomary eye-fervice of the body, as if they could make God earthly and fleshly, because they could not make themselves heavenly and spiritual; they began to draw down all the divine intercourse betwixt God and the foul, yea, the very fhape of God himfelf, 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 postures, his liturgies and his lurries, till the foul by this means of overbodying herself, given up juftly to fleshly delights, bated her wing apace downward: and finding the eafe fhe had from her visible and fensuous colleague the body, in performance of religious duties, her pinions now broken, and flagging, shifted 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, instead of the adoptive and cheerful boldnefs 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 scared from thence by the
pangs and gripes of a boiling confcience, all in a pudder fhuffles up to himself such a God and fuch a worfhip as is moft agreeable to remedy his fear; which fearof 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 strength of the foul, run out lavishly to the upper fkin, and there harden into a cruft of formality. Hence men came to fean 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 guiltiness 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 exorcism, and water, fanctified by Chrift's institute, thought little enough to wash off the original spot, without the fcratch or crofs impreffion of a prieft's forefinger: and that feast of free grace and adoption to which Chrift invited his difciples 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 Christ'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 strain courtefy 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 sprung, 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 almoft fwept 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 fweet 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 schools 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 pursuit of these thoughts hath ofttimes led me into a serious queftion and debatement with myfelf, how it should come to pafs that England (having had this grace and honour from God, to be the first that fhould fet up a flandard 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 christendom) fhould now be laft, and most unsettled in the enjoyment of that peace, whereof she 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 fhort 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 last for, albeit in purity of doctrine we agree with our brethren; yet in difcipline, which is the execution and
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 fhooting 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 alfo their minifters to be no minifters, and fhortly after their church to be no church. Not to fpeak of thofe fenfelefs ceremonies which we only retain, as a dangerous earnest of fliding back to Rome, and ferving merely, either as a mift to cover nakednefs 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 ftill 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 infift 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 ftay 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 popifh priest, in defence of bifhops, 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 those causes 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 firft 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,