Page images
[ocr errors]

are the things that rendered the lives of Cyrus, Auguftus Cafar, and Conftantine the Great in former times, and of Charles the Fifth, and some other modern princes in these last ages, so confiderable.

But among all the tranfactions which it hath pleafed God to permit, for the glory of his power, and the manifeftation of his wifdom and providence, no age furnisheth us with things fo ftrange and marvellous, whether with refpect to matters civil or religious, as thefe that have fallen out within the compafs of thy time; who, though thou be not yet arrived at the fiftieth year of thy age, haft yet been a witness of ftranger things than many ages before produced. So that whether we refpect thofe various troubles wherein thou foundeft thyself engaged while fcarce got out of thy infancy; the many different afflictions wherewith men of thy circumstances are often unacquainted; the strange and unparalleled fortune that befel thy father; thy own narrow efcape, and banishment following thereupon, with the great improbability of thy ever returning, at least without very much pains and tedious combatings; or finally the incapacity thou wert under to accomplish fuch a defign, confidering the ftrength of those that had poffeffed themselves of thy throne, and the terror they had inflicted upon foreign states; and yet that, after all this, thou fhouldeft be reftored without ftroke of fword, the help or affiftance of foreign ftates, or the contrivance and work of human policy; all these do suf


ficiently declare that it is the Lord's doing; which, as it is marvellous in our eyes, so it will justly be a matter of wonder and astonishment to generations to come; and may fufficiently ferve, if rightly obferved, to confute and confound that Atheism wherewith this age doth fo much abound.

As the vindication of the liberty of confcience (which thy father, by giving way to the importunate clamours of the clergy, the answering and fulfilling of whofe unrighteous wills has often proved hurtful and pernicious to princes, fought in fome part to reftrain) was a great occafion of thofe troubles and revolutions; fo the pretence of confcience was that which carried it on, and brought it to that pitch it came And though no doubt fome that were engaged in that work defigned good things, at leaft in the beginning, albeit always wrong in the manner they took to accomplish it, viz. by carnal weapons; yet fo foon as they had tafted the sweets of the poffeffions of them they had turned out, they quickly began to do thofe things themselves for which they had accufed others. For their hands were found full of oppreffion, and they hated the reproof of inftruction, which is the way of life; and they evilly entreated the meffengers of the Lord, and caufed his prophets to be beaten and imprisoned, and perfecuted his people, whom he had called and gathered out from among them, whom he had made to beat their fwords into plough-fhares, and their pears into pruning-books, and not to learn carnal war any more: but he raised them.



A 3

up, and armed them with Spiritual weapons, even with his own Spirit and power, whereby they teftified in the streets and highways, and publick markets and fynagogues, against the pride, vanity, lufts, and hypocrify of that generation, who were righteous in their own eyes, though often cruelly entreated therefore: and they faithfully prophefied and foretold them of their judgment and downfal, which came upon them, as by feveral warnings and epiftles delivered to Oliver and Richard Cromwell, the parliament, and other then powers, yet upon record, doth appear.

And after it pleafed God to restore thee, what oppreffions, what banishments, and evil entreatings they have met with, by men pretending thy authority, and cloaking their mischief with thy name, is known to moft men in this island; especially in England, where there is fcarce a prifon that hath not been filled with them, nor a judge before whom they have not been haled; though they could never yet be found guilty of any thing that might deferve that ufage. Therefore the fenfe of their innocency did no doubt greatly contribute to move thee, three years ago, to caufe fome hundreds of them to be fet at liberty: for indeed their fufferings are fingular, and obviously distinguishable from all the reft of fuch as live under thee, in these two refpects.

First, In that among all the plots contrived by others against thee fince thy return into Britain, there was never any, owned of that people, found or known to be guilty (though many of them

have been taken and imprisoned upon fuch kind of jealoufies) but were always found innocent and barmless, as became the followers of Christ; not coveting after, nor contending for, the kingdoms of this world, but fubject to every ordinance of man, for confcience fake.

Secondly, In that in the hottest times of perfecution, and the most violent profecution of thofe laws made against meetings, being cloathed with innocency, they have boldly flood to their teftimony for God, without creeping into holes or corners, or once biding themselves, as all other Diffenters have done; but daily met, according to their cuftom, in the publick places appointed for that end; fo that none of thy officers can fay of them, that they have furprized them in a corner, overtaken them in a private conventicle, or catched them lurking in their fecret chambers; nor needed they to fend out fpies to get them, whom they were fure daily to find in their open affemblies, testifying for God and his truth.

By which those who have an eye to fee, may obferve their Chriftian patience and courage, conftancy and fuffering joined in one, more than in any other people that differ from them, or oppofe them. And yet, in the midft of thofe troubles, thou canst bear witness, that as on the one part they never fought to detract from thee, or to render thee and thy government odious to the people, by namelefs and fcandalous pamphlets and libels; fo on the other hand they have not fpared to admonish, exhort, and reprove thee; and have faithfully discharged their confciences towards thee, withA 4


out flattering words, as ever the true prophets in ancient times ufed to do to thofe kings and princes, under whofe power violence and oppreffion was acted.

And although it is evident by experience to be most agreeable both to divine truth and human policy to allow every one to serve God according to their confciences, nevertheless those other fects, who for the moft part durft not peep out in the times of perfecution, while these innocent people stood bold and faithful, do now combine in a joint confederacy, notwithstanding all the former janglings and contentions among themselves, to render us odious; feeking unjustly to wreft our doctrine and words, as if they were both inconfiftent with Christianity and civil fociety: fo that to effectuate this their work of malice against us, they have not been afhamed to take the help, and commend the labours, of fome invidious Socinians against us. So do Herod and Pontius Pilate agree to crucify Christ.

But our practice, known to thee by good experience to be more confiftent with Chriftianity and civil fociety, and the peace and welfare of this ifland, than that of those who thus accuse us, doth fufficiently guard us against this calumny; and we may indeed appeal to the testimony of thy confcience, as a witness for us in the face of the nations.

These things moved me to prefent the world with a brief, but true account of this people's principles, in fome short theological propofitions; which, according to the will of God,


« PreviousContinue »