Page images
PDF
EPUB

of my time: but that which is better, I can affure this confuter, I have read into them all. And if I want any thing yet, I fhall reply fomething toward that which in the defence of Muræna was answered by Cicero to Sulpitius the lawyer. If ye provoke me (for at no hand else will I undertake fuch a frivolous labour) I will in three months be an expert councilift. For, be not deceived, readers, by men that would overawe your ears with big names and huge tomes that contradict and repeal one another, because they can cram a margin with citations. Do but winnow their chaff from their wheat, ye fhall fee their great heap fhrink and wax thin paft belief. From hence he paffes to inquire wherefore I should blame the vices of the prelates only, feeing the inferiour clergy is known to be as faulty. To which let him hear in brief; that those priests whofe vices have been notorious, are all prelatical, which argues both the impiety of that opinion, and the wicked remiffness of that government. We hear not of any which are called nonconformists, that have been accused of fcandalous living; but are known to be pious or at least sober men. Which is a great good argument that they are in the truth and prelates in the errour. He would be refolved next, "What the corruptions of the univerfities concern the prelates?" And to that let him take this, that the Remonftrant having spoken as if learning would decay with the removal of prelates, I fhowed him that while books were extant and in print, learning could not readily be at a worte pafs in the univerfities than it was now under their government. Then he feeks to juftify the pernicious fermons of the clergy, as if they upheld fovereignty; whenas all Chriftian fovereignty is by law, and to no other end but to the maintenance of the common good. But their doctrine was plainly the diffolution of law, which only fets up fovereignty, and the erecting of an arbitrary sway according to private will, to which they would enjoin a flavish obedience without law; which is the known definition of a tyrant, and a tyrannised people. A little beneath he denies that great riches in the church are the baits of pride and ambition; of which errour to undeceive him, I fhall allege a reputed divine

authority,

authority, as ancient as Conftantine, which his love to antiquity must not except againft; and to add the more weight, he fhall learn it rather in the words of our old poet Gower than in mine, that he may fee it is no new opinion, but a truth delivered of old by a voice from Heaven, and ratified by long experience.

"This Conftantine which heal hath found,
"Within Rome anon let found

"Two churches which he did make
"For Peter and for Paul's fake:
"Of whom he had a vifion,
"And yafe thereto poffeffion
"Of lordship and of worlds good;
"But how fo that his will was good
"Toward the pope and his franchise,
"Yet hath it proved otherwise
"To fee the working of the deed:
"For in cronick thus I read,
"Anon as he hath made the yeft,
"A voice was heard on high the left,
"Of which all Rome was adrad,
"And faid, this day venim is fhad
"In holy Church, of temporall
"That meddleth with the spiritual;
"And how it ftant in that degree,
"Yet may a man the footh fee.
"God amend it whan he will,
"I can thereto none other skill."

But there were beafts of prey, faith he, before wealth was bestowed on the church. What, though, because the vultures had then but fmall pickings, fhall we therefore go and fling them a full gorge? If they for lucre ufe to creep into the church undifcernibly, the more wisdom will it be fo to provide that no revenue there may exceed the golden mean; for fo, good paftors will be content, as having need of no more, and knowing withal the precept and example of Chrift and his Apoftles, and also will be less tempted to ambition. The bad will have but small matter whereon to fet their mischief awork; and the worft and fubtleft heads will not come at all, when they fhall fee the crop nothing anfwerable to their capacious greedinefs; for fmall temptations allure but dribbling offenders; but a great purchase will

call

call fuch as both are most able of themselves, and will be moft enabled hereby to compafs dangerous projects. But, faith he, "a widow's houfe will tempt as well as a bishop's palace." Acutely fpoken! because neither we nor the prelates can abolish widows houses, which are but an occafion taken of evil without the church, therefore we shall fet up within the church a lottery of such prizes as are the direct inviting caufes of avarice and ambition, both unnecessary and harmful to be proposed, and most easy, moft convenient, and needful to be removed. "Yea but they are in a wife difpenfer's hand." Let them be in whofe hand they will, they are most apt to blind, to puff up, and pervert, the most seeming good. And how they have been kept from vultures, whatever the difpenfer's care hath been, we have learned by our miferies. But this which comes next in view, I know not what good vein or humour took him when he let drop into his paper; I that was ere while the ignorant, the loiterer, on the fudden by his permiffion am now granted "to know fomething." And that "fuch a volley of expreffions" he hath met withal," as he would never defire to have them better clothed." For me, readers, although I cannot fay that I am utterly untrained in thofe rules which beft rhetoricians have given, or unacquainted with those examples which the prime authors of eloquence have written in any learned tongue; yet true eloquence I find to be none, but the ferious and hearty love of truth and that whofe mind foever is fully poffeffed with a fervent defire to know good things, and with the deareft charity to infufe the knowledge of them into others, when fuch a man would speak, his words (by what I can express) like fo many nimble and airy fervitors trip about him at command, and in well-ordered files, as he would wifh, fall aptly into their own places. But now to the remainder of our difcourfe. Chrift refused great riches, and large honours at the devil's hand. But why, faith he, "as they were tendered by him from whom it was a fin to receive them." Timely remembered: why is it not therefore as much a fin to receive a liturgy of the maffes' giving, were it for nothing elfe but for the giver? "But he could make no ufe of fuch a high eftate," quoth

"

the

the confuter; opportunely. For why then fhould the fervant take upon him to use those things which his mafter had unfitted himself to use, that he might teach his minifters to follow his fteps in the fame ministry ? But "they were offered him to a bad end." So they prove to the prelates, who, after their preferment, moft ufually change the teaching labour of the word, into the unteaching ease of lordship over confciences and purses. But he proceeds, "God enticed the Ifraelites with the promife of Canaan;" did not the prelates bring as flavish minds with them, as the Jews brought out of Egypt? they had left out that inftance. Befides that it was then the time, whenas the best of them, as St. Paul faith, "was fhut up unto the faith under the law their schoolmaster," who was forced to entice them as children with childish enticements. But the gospel is our manhood, and the miniftry should be the manhood of the gofpel, not to look after, much lefs fo bafely to plead for earthly rewards. But God incited the wifeft man Solomon with thefe means." Ah, confuter of thyfelf, this example hath undone thee; Solomon asked an understanding heart, which the prelates have little care to afk. He afked no riches, which is their chief care; therefore was the prayer of Solomon pleafing to God; he gave him wifdom at his requeft, and riches without asking, as now he gives the prelates riches at their seeking, and no wifdom because of their perverse asking. But he gives not over yet, "Mofes had an eye to the reward." To what reward, thou man that lookeft with Balaam's eyes? To what reward had the faith of Mofes an eye? He that had forfaken all the greatness of Egypt, and chofe a troublesome journey in his old age through the wildernefs, and yet arrived not at his journey's end. His faithful eyes were fixed upon that incorruptible reward, promised to Abraham and his feed in the Meffiah; he fought a heavenly reward, which could make him happy, and never hurt him, and to fuch a reward every good man may have a respect; but the prelates are eager of such rewards as cannot make them happy, but can only make them worse. Jacob, a prince born, vowed that if God

would

would "but give him bread to eat and raiment to put on, then the Lord fhould be his God." But the prelates of mean birth, and ofttimes of lowest, making show as if they were called to the spiritual and humble ministry of the gofpel, yet murmur, and think it a hard service, unlefs, contrary to the tenour of their profeffion, they may eat the bread and wear the honours of princes: fo much more covetous and base they are than Simon Magus, for he profered a reward to be admitted to that work, which they will not be meanly hired to. But, faith he, "Are not the clergy members of Chrift, why should not each member thrive alike?" Carnal textman! as if worldly thriving were one of the privileges we have by being in Chrift, and were not a providence ofttimes extended more liberally to the infidel than to the chriftian. Therefore muft the minifters of Chrift not be over rich or great in the world, because their calling is fpiritual, not fecular; because they have a special warfare, which is not to be entangled with many impediments; because their master Chrift gave them this precept, and fet them this example, told them this was the mystery of his coming, by mean things and perfons to fubdue mighty ones and lastly, becaufe a middle eftate is most proper to the office of teaching, whereas higher dignity teaches far lefs, and blinds the teacher. Nay, faith the confuter, fetching his laft endeavour, "the prelates will be very loth to let go their baronies, and votes in parliament," and calls it "God's caufe," with an infufferable impudence. "Not that they love the honours and the means," good men and generous! "but that they would not have their country made guilty of fuch a facrilege and injustice!" A worthy patriot for his own corrupt ends. That which he imputes as facrilege to his country, is the only way left them to purge that abominable facrilege out of the land, which none but the prelates are guilty of; who, for the difcharge of one fingle duty, receive and keep that which might be enough to fatisfy the labours of many painful minifters better deferving than themfelves; who poffefs huge benefices for lazy performances, great promotions only for the execution

of

« PreviousContinue »