Page images
PDF
EPUB

many other nations is leaft atheistical, and bears a natural difpofition of much reverence and awe towards the Deity; but in his weaknefs and want of better inftruction, which among us too frequently is neglected, efpecially by the meaner fort, turning the bent of his own wits, with a fcrupulous and ceafelefs care, what he might do to inform himself aright of God and his worship, he may fall not unlikely fometimes, as any other landman, into an uncouth opinion. And verily if we look at his native towardlinefs in the roughcaft without breeding, fome nation or other may haply be better compofed to a natural civility and right judgment than he. But if he get the benefit once of a wife and well rectified nurture, which must first come in general from the godly vigilance of the church, I suppose that wherever mention is made of countries, manners, or men, the english people, among the first that shall be praised, may deferve to be accounted a right pious, right honeft, and right hardy nation. But thus while some ftand dallying and deferring to reform for fear of that which fhould mainly haften them forward, left fchifm and errour fhould increase, we may now thank ourselves and our delays, if inftead of fchifm a bloody and inhuman rebellion be ftrook in between our flow movings. Indeed against violent and powerful oppofition there can be no juft blame of a lingering difpatch. But this I urge against thofe that difcourfe it for a maxim, as if the swift opportunities of establishing or reforming religion were to attend upon the phlegm of ftate-bufinefs. In state many things at firft are crude and hard to digeft, which only time and deliberation can fupple and concoct. But in religion, wherein is no immaturity, nothing out of season, it goes far otherwife. The door of grace turns upon fmooth hinges wide opening to send out, but foon shutting to recall the precious offers of mercy to a nation : which, unless watchfulness and zeal, two quickfighted and readyhanded virgins, be there in our behalf to receive, we lose and still the oftener we lose, the straiter the door opens, and the lefs is offered. This is all we get by demurring in God's fervice. It is not rebellion that ought to be the hinderance of reformation, but it is the want of this which is the caufe of that. The prelates which boast themselves the only bridlers of fchifm, God knows have

been

been fo cold and backward both there and with us to reprefs herefy and idolatry, that either, through their carelefsnefs, or their craft, all this mifchief is befallen. What can the Irish fubjects do lefs in God's juft difpleafure against us, than revenge upon english bodies the little care that our prelates have had of their fouls? Nor hath their negligence been new in that ifland, but ever notorious in queen Elizabeth's days, as Camden their known friend forbears not to complain. Yet fo little are they touched with remorse of these their cruelties, (for these cruelties are theirs, the bloody revenge of thofe fouls which they have famished,) that whenas against our brethren the Scots, who, by their upright and loyal deeds, have now brought themfelves an honourable name to pofterity, whatsoever malice by flander could invent, rage in hoftility attempt, they greedily attempted; toward these murderous Irish, the enemies of God and mankind, a curfed offspring of their own connivance, no man takes notice but that they feem to be very calmly and indifferently affected. Where then fhould we begin to extinguish a rebellion, that hath its caufe from the mifgovernment of the church? where, but at the church's reformation, and the removal of that government, which purfues and wars with all good chriftians under the name of schifmatics, but maintains and fofters all papifts and idolaters as tolerable chriftians? And if the facred Bible may be our light, we are neither without example, nor the witness of God himself, that the corrupted eftate of the church is both the caufe of tumult and civil wars, and that to ftint them, the peace of the church must first be fettled. "Now, for a long season," faith Azariah to king Asa, “Ifrael hath been without the true God, and without a teaching prieft, and without law: and in thofe times there was no peace to him that went out, nor to him that came in, buț great vexations were upon all the inhabitants of the countries. And nation was deftroyed of nation, and city of city, for God did vex them with all adverfity. Be ye ftrong therefore," faith he to the reformers of that age, "and let not your hands be weak, for your work fhall be rewarded." And in thofe prophets that lived in the times of reformation after the captivity, often doth God ftir up the people to confider, that while establishment of church

matters

matters was neglected, and put off, there" was no peace to him that went out or came in; "for I," faith God, "had fet all men every one against his neighbour." But from the very day forward that they went ferioufly and effectually about the welfare of the church, he tells them, that they themselves might perceive the fudden change of things into a profperous and peaceful condition. But it will here be faid, that the reformation is a long work, and the miseries of Ireland are urgent of a speedy redress. They be indeed; and how speedy we are, the poor afflicted remnant of our martyred countrymen that fit there on the feashore, counting the hours of our delay with their fighs, and the minutes with their falling tears, perhaps with the diftilling of their bloody wounds, if they have not quite by this time caft off, and almoft curfed the vain. hope of our foundered fhips and aids, can beft judge how speedy we are to their relief. But let their fuccours be hafted, as all need and reason is; and let not therefore the reformation, which is the chiefest cause of fuccefs and victory, be ftill procraftinated. They of the captivity in their greateft extremities could find both counsel and hands enough at once to build, and to expect the enemy's affault. And we, for our parts, a populous and mighty nation, muft needs be fallen into a strange plight either of effeminacy or confufion, if Ireland, that was once the conqueft of one fingle earl with his private forces, and the small affiftance of a petty Kernifh prince, should now take up all the wifdom and prowefs of this potent monarchy, to quell a barbarous crew of rebels, whom, if we take but the right course to fubdue, that is, beginning at the reformation of our church, their own horrid murders and rapes will fo fight against them, that the very futlers and horfeboys of the camp will be able to rout and chafe them, without the ftaining of any noble sword. To proceed by other method in this enterprife, be our captains and commanders never fo expert, will be as great an errour in the art of war, as any novice in foldierfhip ever committed. And thus I leave it as a declared truth, that neither the fear of fects, no nor rebellion, can be a fit plea to ftay reformation, but rather to push it forward with all poffible diligence and fpeed, I

VOL. I.

THE

THE SECOND BOOK.

How happy were it for this frail, and as it may be called

mortal life of man, fince all earthly things which have the name of good and convenient in our daily use, are withal fo cumbersome and full of trouble, if knowledge, yet which is the beft and lightfomeft poffeffion of the mind, were, as the common faying is, no burden; and that what it wanted of being a load to any part of the body, it did not with a heavy advantage overlay upon the fpirit! For not to speak of that knowledge that resis in the contemplation of natural causes and dimenfions, which muft needs be a lower wisdom, as the object is low, certain it is, that he who hath obtained in more than the scantiest measure to know any thing diftinctly of God, and of his true worship, and what is infallibly good and happy in the state of man's life, what in itself evil and miferable, though vulgarly not fo efteemed; he that hath obtained to know this, the only high valuable wifdom indeed, remembering alfo that God, even to a strictness,requires the improvement of thefe his entrusted gifts, cannot but fuftain a forer burden of mind, and more preffing than any supportable toil or weight, which the body can labour under; how and in what manner he fhall difpofe and employ thofe fums of knowledge and illumination, which God hath fent him into this world to trade with. And that which aggravates the burden more, is, that, having received amongst his allotted parcels, certain precious truths, of fuch an orient luftre as no diamond can equal; which nevertheless he has in charge to put off at any cheap rate, yea, for nothing to them that will; the great merchants of this world, fearing that this courfe would foon difcover and difgrace the falfe glitter of their deceitful wares, wherewith they abuse the people, like poor Indians with beads and glaffes, practife by all means how they may fupprefs the vending of fuch rarities, and at fuch a cheapnefs as would undo them, and turn their trash upon their hands. Therefore by gratifying the corrupt defires of men in fleshly doctrines, they ftir them up to perfecute with hatred and contempt all those, that seek

to

to bear themselves uprightly in this their fpiritual factory: which they foreseeing, though they cannot but teftify of truth, and the excellency of that heavenly traffick which they bring, againft what oppofition or danger foever, yet needs muft it fit heavily upon their spirits, that, being in God's prime intention, and their own, felected heralds of peace, and difpenfers of treasure ineftimable, without price to them that have no peace, they find in the difcharge of their commiffion, that they are made the greateft variance and offence, a very fword and fire both in house and city over the whole earth. This is that which the fad prophet Jeremiah laments: "Wo is me, my mother, that thou haft born me, a man of ftrife and contention!" And although divine infpiration muft certainly have been sweet to thofe ancient prophets, yet the irksomeness of that truth which they brought was fo unpleasant unto them, that everywhere they call it a burden. Yea, that myfterious book of revelation, which the great evangelift was bid to eat, as it had been fome eyebrightening electuary of knowledge and forefight, though it were tweet in his mouth, and, in the learning, it was bitter in his belly, bitter in the denouncing. Nor was this hid from the wife poet Sophocles, who in that place of his tragedy, where Tirefias is called to refolve king Edipus in a matter which he knew would be grievous, brings him in bemoaning his lot, that he knew more than other men. For furely to every good and peaceable man, it must in nature needs be a hateful thing to be the difpleafer and molefter of thousands; much better would it like him doubtlefs to be the meffenger of gladness and contentment, which is his chief intended business to all mankind, but that they refift and oppofe their own true happiness. But when God commands to take the trumpet, and blow a dolorous or a jarring blaft, it lies not in man's will what he fhall fay, or what he shall conceal. If he fhall think to be filent, as Jeremiah did, because of the reproach and derifion he met with daily, "and all his familiar friends watched for his halting," to be revenged on him for fpeaking the truth, he would be forced to confefs as he confeffed; "his word was in my heart as a burning fire fhut up in my bones; I was weary with forbearing, and could not stay." Which might I 2

teach

« PreviousContinue »