Page images

point the highest that human capacity can foar to. Therefore the ftudies of learning in her deepest sciences have been fo ancient, and fo eminent among us, that writers of good antiquity and able judgment have been perfuaded, that even the fchool of Pythagoras, and the Perfian wisdom, took beginning from the old philofophy of this ifland. And that wife and civil Roman, Julius Agricola, who governed once here for Cæfar, preferred the natural wits of Britain, before the laboured ftudies of the French. Nor is it for nothing that the grave and frugal Tranfilvanian fends out yearly from as far as the mountainous borders of Ruffia, and beyond the Hercynian wilderness, not their youth, but their ftaid men, to learn our language, and our theologic arts. Yet that which is above all this, the favour and the love of Heaven, we have great argument to think in a peculiar. manner propitious and propending towards us. Why elfe was this nation chosen before any other, that out of her, as out of Sion, should be proclaimed and founded forth the first tidings and trumpet of reformation to all Europe? And had it not been the obftinate perverseness of our prelates against the divine and admirable spirit of Wickliff, to fupprefs him as a fchifmatic and innovator, perhaps, neither the Bohemian Huffe and Jerom, no nor the name of Luther or of Calvin, had been ever known: the glory of reforming all our neighbours had been completely ours. But now, as our obdurate clergy have with violence demeaned the matter, we are become hitherto the latest and the backwardeft scholars, of whom God offered to have made us the teachers. Now once again by all concurrence of figns, and by the general instinct of holy and devout men, as they daily and folemnly exprefs their thoughts, God is decreeing to begin fome new and great period in his church, even to the reforming of reformation itfelf; what does he then but reveal himself to his fervants, and as his manner is, first to his Englishmen? I fay as his manner is, first to us, though we mark not the method of his counfels, and are unworthy. Behold now this vaft city; a city of refuge, the manfion-house of liberty, encompaffed and furrounded with his protection; the fhop of war hath VOL. I. Y


not there more anvils and hammers waking, to fashion out the plates and inftruments of armed juftice in defence of beleagured truth, than there be pens and heads there, fitting by their ftudious lamps, mufing, fearching, revolving new notions and ideas wherewith to prefent, as with their homage and their fealty, the approaching reformation: others as faft reading, trying all things, affenting to the force of reafon and convincement. What could a man require more from a nation fo pliant and fo prone to feck after knowledge? What wants there to fuch a towardly and pregnant foil, but wife and faithful labourers, to make a knowing people, a nation of prophets, of fages, and of worthies? We reckon more than five months yet to harvest; there need not be five weeks, had we but eyes to lift up, the fields are white already. Where there is much defire to learn, there of neceffity will be much arguing, much writing, many opinions; for opinion in good men is but knowledge in the making. Under these fantastic terrours of fect and fchifm, we wrong the earnest and zealous thirst after knowledge and understanding, which God hath ftirred up in this city. What fome lament of, we rather fhould rejoice at, fhould rather praise this pious forwardness among men, to reaffume the ill-deputed care of their religion into their own hands again. A little generous prudence, a little forbearance of one another, and fome grain of charity might win all these diligencies to join and unite into one general and brotherly fearch after truth; could we but forego this prelatical tradition of crowding free confciences and chriftian liberties into canons and precepts of men. I doubt not, if fome great and worthy ftranger fhould come among us, wife to discern the mould and temper of a people, and how to govern it, observing the high hopes and aims, the diligent alacrity of our extended thoughts and reasonings in the purfuance of truth and freedom, but that he would cry out as Pyrrhus did, admiring the Roman docility and courage; if fuch were my Epirots, I would not defpair the greatest design that could be attempted to make a church or kingdom happy. Yet these are the men cried out against for fchifmatics and fectaries, as if, while the temple of the Lord was building,


fome cutting, fome fquaring the marble, others hewing the cedars, there fhould be a fort of irrational men, who could not confider there must be many fchifms and many diffections made in the quarry and in the timber, ere the houfe of God can be built. And when every ftone is laid artfully together, it cannot be united into a continuity, it can but be contiguous in this world: neither can every piece of the building be of one form; nay rather the perfection confifts in this, that out of many moderate varieties and brotherly diffimilitudes that are not vastly difproportional, arifes the goodly and the graceful fymmetry that commends the whole pile and ftructure. Let us therefore be more confiderate builders, more wife in fpiritual architecture, when great reformation is expected. For now the time feems come, wherein Mofes the great prophet may fit in Heaven rejoicing to fee that memorable and glorious wish of his fulfilled, when not only our feventy elders, but all the Lord's people are become prophets. No marvel then though fome men, and fome good men too perhaps, but young in goodness, as Joshua then was, envy them. They fret and out of their own weakness are in agony, left thefe divifions and fubdivifions will undo us. The adversary again applauds, and waits the hour; when they have branched themselves out, faith he, small enough into parties and partitions, then will be our time. Fool! he fees not the firm root, out of which we all grow, though into branches; nor will beware until he fee our small divided maniples cutting through at every angle of his ill-united and unwieldy brigade. And that we are to hope better of all these suppofed fects and fchifms, and that we fhall not need that folicitude, honeft perhaps, though overtimorous, of them that vex in this behalf, but fhall laugh in the end at those malicious applauders of our differences, I have these reasons to perfuade me.

Firit, when a city fhall be as it were befieged and blocked about, her navigable river infefted, inroads and incurfions round, defiance and battle oft rumoured to be marching up, even to her walls and fuburb trenches; that then the people, or the greater part, more than at other times, wholly taken up with the ftudy of highest

[blocks in formation]

and most important matters to be reformed, fhould be difputing, reasoning, reading, inventing, difcourfing, even to a rarity and admiration, things not before difcourfed or written of, argues firft a fingular good will, contentednefs and confidence in your prudent forefight, and fafe government, lords and commons; and from thence derives itself to a gallant bravery and well grounded contempt of their enemies, as if there were no small number of as great fpirits among us, as his was who when Rome was nigh befieged by Hannibal, being in the city, bought that piece of ground at no cheap rate, whereon Hannibal himfelf encamped his own regiment. Next, it is a lively and cheerful prefage of our happy fuccefs and victory. For as in a body when the blood is fresh, the fpirits pure and vigorous, not only to vital, but to rational faculties, and thofe in the acutelt, and the pertest operations of wit and fubtlety, it argues in what good plight and conftitution the body is; fo when the cheerfulness of the people is fo fprightly up, as that it has not only wherewith to guard well its own freedom and fafety, but to fpare, and to beftow upon the folideft and fublimeft points of controversy and new invention, it betokens us not degenerated, nor drooping to a fatal decay, by cafting off the old and wrinkled skin of corruption to outlive thefe pangs, and wax young again, entering the glorious ways of truth and profperous virtue, deftined to become great and honourable in these latter ages. Methinks I fee in my mind a noble and puiffant nation roufing herself like a ftrong man after fleep, and shaking her invincible locks: methinks I fee her as an eagle muing her mighty youth, and kindling her undazzled eyes at the full midday beam; purging and unfcaling her long abused fight at the fountain itself of heavenly radiance; while the whole noife of timorous and flocking birds, with those also that love the twilight, flutter about, amazed at what the means, and in their envious gabble would prognosticate a year of fects and fchifms.

What should ye do then, fhould ye fupprefs all this flowery crop of knowledge and new light fprung up and yet fpringing daily in this city? Should ye fet an oli


garchy of twenty engroffers over it, to bring a famine. upon our minds again, when we fhall know nothing but what is measured to us by their bufhel? Believe it, lords and commons! they who counsel ye to fuch a fuppreffing, do as good as bid ye fupprefs yourselves; and I will foon fhow how. If it be defired to know the immediate caufe of all this free writing and free speaking, there cannot be affigned a truer than your own mild, and free, and humane government; it is the liberty, lords and commons, which your own valorous and happy counfels have purchased us; liberty which is the nurse of all great wits: this is that which hath rarified and enlightened our fpirits like the influence of Heaven; this is that which hath enfranchifed, enlarged, and lifted up our apprehenfions degrees above themselves. Ye cannot make us now lefs capable, lefs knowing, lefs eagerly pursuing of the truth, unless ye firft make yourselves, that made us fo, less the lovers, lefs the founders of our true liberty. We can grow ignorant again, brutish, formal, and flavish, as ye found us; but you then must first become that which ye cannot be, oppreffive, arbitrary and tyrannous, as they were from whom ye have freed us. That our hearts are now more capacious, our thoughts more erected to the fearch and expectation of greatest and exacteft things, is the iffue of your own virtue propagated in us; ye cannot suppress that, unless reinforce an abrogated and merciless law, that fathers may dispatch at will their own children. And who fhall then stick clofeft to ye and excite others? Not he who takes up arms for coat and conduct, and his four nobles of Danegelt. Although I difpraise not the defence of just immunities, yet love my peace better, if that were all. Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to confcience, above all liberties.


What would be beft advised then, if it be found fo hurtful and fo unequal to fupprefs opinions for the newness or the unfuitableness to a cuftomary acceptance, will not be my task to fay; I fhall only repeat what I have learned from one of your own honourable number, a right noble and pious lord, who had he not facrificed his life and fortunes to the church and commonwealth,

« PreviousContinue »