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KING CHARLES THE SECOND,
CHAPEL IN WHITEHALL,
THIRTIETH DAY OF JANUARY, 1662-3.
BEING THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE EXECRABLE MURDER OF THE LATE KING CHARLES I. OF GLORIOUS MEMORY.
ILLUSTRIOUS, BLESSED, AND NEVER-DYING MEMORY
CHARLES THE FIRST,
KING OF GREAT BRITAIN, FRANCE, AND IRELAND, DEFENDER OF THE FAITH, &c.
Causelessly rebelled against, unhumanly imprisoned, and at length barbarously murdered before the gates of his own palace, by the worst of men, and the most obliged of subjects.
And it was so, that all that saw it said, There was no such deed done nor seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt unto this day: consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds.
THE occasion of these words was a foul and detestable fact, which had happened in one of the tribes of Israel; and the occasion of that fact was (as the text not obscurely intimates) the want of kingly government amongst the Israelites at that 416time: it being noted as a thing of particular remark, in Judges xxi. and the last, that this villainy was committed when there was no king in Israel; and when (as a natural consequent thereof) men resolved to live at large; every one, without check or control, doing, as the text tells us, what was right in his own eyes; or (according to the more sanctified language of our late times) as the Spirit moved him. Such a liberty of conscience, it seems, had they then got, for serving the Devil after his and their own way.
As for the infamous actors in this tragical scene, we have them boldly owning their shameless fact in open field, avowing it with sword in hand, and for some time defending the same with victory and success against their brethren, then the peculiar people and church of God, twice routed and slaughtered before them in a righteous cause; a cause managed by all the rest of the tribes engaged in it, and that not more with the proper arms of war in one hand, than with a commission from God himself in the other. In which and the like respects, so great a resemblance must needs be acknowledged between this and the late civil war amongst ourselves here in England, that the proceedings of forty-one, and some of the following years, may well pass for the Devil’s works in a second edition, or a foul and odious copy, much exceeding the foulness of the original.
I profess not myself either skilled or delighted in mystical interpretations of scripture; nor am I for forcing or wiredrawing the sense of the text, so as to make it designedly foretell the king’s death and murder; nor to make England, Scotland, and Ire land (as some enthusiasts have done) the adequate 417scene for the prophetic spirit to declare future events upon; as if, forsooth, there could not be so much as a few houses fired, a few ships taken, or any other calamitous accident befall this little corner of the world, but that some apocalyptic ignoramus or other must presently find and pick it out of some abused, martyred prophecy of Ezekiel, Daniel, or the Revelation. No; I pretend not to any such illuminations. I am neither prophet nor prophetic prelate, but account it enough for my purpose, if I can bring my present business and the text together, not by design, but accommodation; and as the words themselves are very apposite and expressive, so I doubt not but to find such a parallel in the things expressed by them, that it may be a question, whether the subject of the text, or of this mournful day, may have a better claim to the expression.
The crime here set off with such high aggravations, was an injury done to one single Levite, in the villainous rape of his concubine; a surprising passage, I confess, to us, who have lived in times enlightening men to the utmost hatred and contempt of the ministry, as a principal part (or rather whole) of their religion: nevertheless we see how, even in those dark times of the law, (as our late saints used to call them,) the resentment of the wrong done to this poor Levite rose so high, that it was looked upon as a sufficient ground for a civil war; and accordingly made the concern of all Israel to revenge this quarrel upon the whole tribe of Benjamin, for abetting the villainy. This was the unanimous judgment of the eleven tribes, and a war was hereupon declared; in which the conduct and preeminence was by divine designation appointed to the royal 418tribe of Judah; the sceptre being judged by God himself most concerned to assert the privileges of, and revenge the injuries done the crosier; the crown to support the mitre; and, in a word, the sovereign authority to vindicate and abet the sacerdotal, as well as to be blessed by it.
But now, to come to the counterpart of the story, or the application of it to our present case. He who dates the murder of king Charles the First from the fatal blow given upon the scaffold, judges like him who thinks, that it is only the last stroke which fells the tree. No; the killing of his person was but the consummation of the murder first begun in his prerogative: and Pym, and some like him, did as really give a stroke towards the cutting down this royal oak, as Ireton or Cromwell himself. Few, I believe, but have heard of that superfine, applauded invention of theirs, of a double capacity in the king, personal and politic: and, I suppose, the two noted factions, which then carried all before them, distinguished in him these two, that so, to keep pace with one another, each of them might destroy him under one.
For as for those2222 The presbyterian faction. whose post-dated loyalty now consists only in decrying that action, which had been taken out of their hands by others more cunning, though no less wicked than themselves; who, having laid the premises, afterwards ridiculously protest against the conclusion; they do but cover their prevarication with a fig-leaf, there being no more difference between both parties, but only this, that the former used all their art, skill, and industry to give these infamous contrivers of this murder the 419best colour and disguise they could; whereas their younger brother, the Independent, thought it the safest and surest way to disguise only the executioner.
Well, then, when a long sunshine of mercy had ripened the sins of the nation, so that it was now ready for the shakings of divine vengeance, the seeds of faction and rebellion having for a long time been studiously sowed by seditious libels, and well watered with schismatical lectures; the first assault was made against the clergy, by a pack of inveterate avowed enemies to the church, the fury of whose lust and ambition nothing could allay, but a full power and liberty (which they quickly got) to seize her privileges, prostitute her honours, and ravish her revenues; till at length, being thus mangled, divided, and broke in pieces, (as the Levite’s concubine was before her,) she became a ghastly spectacle to all be holders, to all the Israel of God.
Such, therefore, was then the woful condition of our church and clergy, upon the Puritans invasion of their rights, at the breaking out of the late civil war: in which, as we hinted before in the Levite’s case, so amongst ourselves also, the cause of our oppressed church was owned and sheltered by the royal standard, and the defence of the ministry (as most properly it should be) managed by the defender of the faith. But, alas! the same angry Providence still pursuing the best of kings and causes with defeat after defeat, the lion falling before the wolf, as Judah (the royal tribe) sometimes did before Benjamin, the king himself came to be in effect first unkinged, and all his royalties torn from him, before the year forty-five; and then at last, to complete 420the whole tragedy in his person as well as office, Charles was murdered in forty-eight.
And this is the black subject and occasion of this day’s solemnity. In my reflections upon which, if a just indignation, or indeed even a due apprehension of the blackest fact which the sun ever saw since he hid his face upon the crucifixion of our Saviour, chance to give an edge to some of my expressions, let all such know, the guilt of whose actions has made the very strictest truths look like satires or sarcasms, and bare descriptions sharper than invectives; I say, let such censurers (whose innocence lies only in their indemnity) know, that to drop the blackest ink and the bitterest gall upon this fact, is not satire, but propriety.
And now, since the text here represents the whole matter set forth in it, in these most significant and remarkable words, that there was no such deed done or seen for many ages before; and with which words I shall clothe the sad subject before us; I conceive the most proper prosecution thereof, as ap plied to this occasion, will be to shew wherein the unparalleled strangeness of this deed consists. And for this, since the nature is not to be accounted for, but from a due consideration of the agent, the object, and all that retinue of circumstances which do attend and specify it under a certain denomination, I shall accordingly distribute my discourse into these materials.
I. I shall consider the person that suffered.
II. I shall shew the preparation and introduction to his suffering.
III. Shew the quality of the agents who acted in it.421
V. Describe the circumstances and manner of the fact. And,
V. Point out the dismal and destructive consequences of it.
Of all which in their order; and,
I. For the first of them; the person suffering. He was a king; and, what is more, such a king, not chosen, but born to be so; that is, not owing his kingdom to the vogue of the populace, but to the suffrage of nature. He was a David, a saint, a king, but never a shepherd. Some of all the royal blood in Christendom ran in his veins, that is to say, many kings went to the making of this one.
And his improvements and education fell no ways below his extraction. He was accurate in all the recommending excellencies of human accomplishments, able to deserve, had he not inherited a kingdom; of so controlling a genius, that in every science he attempted, he did not so much study as reign; and appeared not only a proficient, but a prince. And to go no further for a testimony, let his own writings witness so much, which speak him no less an author than a monarch; composed with such an unfailing accuracy, such a commanding majestic pathos, as if they had been writ, not with a pen, but with a sceptre. And for those whose virulent and ridiculous calumnies ascribe that incomparable piece to others, I say, it is a sufficient argument that those did not write it, because they could not write it. It is hard to counterfeit the spirit of majesty, and the unimitable peculiarities of an incommunicable genius and condition.
At the council-board he had the ability still to give himself the best counsel, but the unhappy modesty 422to diffide in it; indeed his only fault; for modesty is a paradox in majesty, and humility a solecism in supremacy.
Look we next upon his piety and unparalleled virtues; though without an absurdity I may affirm, that his very endowments of nature were supernatural. So pious was he, that had others measured their obedience to him by his obedience to God, he had been the most absolute monarch in the world; as eminent for frequenting the temple, as Solomon for building one. No occasions ever interfered with his devotions, nor business of state ate out his times of attendance in the church. So firm to the protestant cause, though he conversed in the midst of temptation, in the very bosom of Spain, and though France lay in his, yet nothing could alter him, but that he espoused the cause of religion even more than his beloved queen.
He every way filled the title under which we prayed for him. He could defend his religion as a king, dispute for it as a divine, and die for it as a martyr. I think I shall speak a great truth, if I say, that the only thing that makes protestantism considerable in Christendom is the church of England; and the great thing that does now cement and confirm the church of England is the blood of this blessed saint.
He was so skilled in all controversies, that we may well style him in all causes ecclesiastical, not only supreme governor, but moderator, nor more fit to fill the throne than the chair; and withal so exact an observer and royal a rewarder of all such performances, that it was an encouragement to a man to be a divine under such a prince.423
Which eminent piety of his was set off with the whole train of moral virtues. His temperance was so great and impregnable, amidst all those allurements with which the courts of kings are apt to melt even the most stoical and resolved minds, that he did at the same time both teach and upbraid the court; so that it was not so much their own vice, as his example, that rendered their debauchery unexcusable. Look over the whole list of our kings, and take in the kings of Israel to boot, and who ever kept the bond of conjugal affection so inviolate? David was chiefly eminent for repenting in this matter, Charles for not needing repentance. None ever of greater fortitude of mind, which was more resplendent in the conquest of himself, and in those miraculous instances of passive valour, than if he had strewed the field with all the rebels armies, and to the justness of his own cause joined the success of theirs. And yet withal so meek, so gentle, so merciful, and that even to a cruelty to himself, that if ever the lion and the lamb dwelt together, if ever courage and meekness united, it was in the breast of this royal person.
And, which makes the rebellion more ugly and intolerable, there was scarce any person of note amongst his enemies, who, even fighting against him, did not wear his colours, i.e. carry some peculiar mark of his former favours and obligations. Some were his own menial servants, and ate bread at his table, before they lifted up their heel against him. Some received from him honours, some offices and employments. I could mention particulars of each kind, did I think their names fit to be heard in a 424church, or from a pulpit. In short, he so behaved himself towards them, that their rebellion might be malice indeed, but it could not be revenge.
And these his personal virtues shed a suitable influence upon his government. For the space of seventeen years, the peace, plenty, and honour of the English, spread itself even to the envy of all neighbour nations. And when that plenty had pampered them into such an unruliness and rebellion as soon followed it, yet still the justness of his government left them at a loss for an occasion; till at length ship-money was pitched upon, as fit to be reformed into excise and taxes, and the burden of the subject to be took off by plunders and sequestrations.
The king, now, to scatter that cloud which began to gather and look black both upon church and state, made those condescensions to their impudent petitions, that they had scarce any thing to make war for, but what was granted them already; and having thus stript himself of his prerogative, he made it clear to the world, that there was nothing left them to fight for, but only his life. Afterwards, in the prosecution of this unnatural war, what overtures did he make for peace! Nay, when he had his sword in his hand, his armies about him, and a cause to justify him before God and man, how did he choose to compound himself into nothing, to depose and unking himself, by their hard, unconscionable, unhuman conditions! But all was nothing; he might as well compliment a mastiff, or court a tiger, as think to win those who were now hardened in blood, and thoroughpaced in rebellion. The truth is, his conscience uncrowned him, as having a mind 425too pure and defecate to admit of those maxims and practices of state, that usually make princes great and successful.
Having thus, with a new, unheard of sort of loyalty, fought against, and conquered him, they commit him to prison; and then the king himself notes, that it has been always observed, that there is but little distance from the prisons of kings to their graves. To which I further subjoin, that where the observation is constant, there must needs be some certain standing cause of the connexion of the things observed. And indeed it is a direct transition from the prison to the grave, a carceribus ad metam, the difference between them being only this; that he who is buried is imprisoned under ground, and he who is imprisoned is buried above it. And I could wish, that as they thus slew and buried his body, so we had not also buried his funeral.
But to finish this poor imperfect description, though it is of a person so renowned, that he neither needs the best, nor can be injured by the worst; yet in short, he was a prince whose virtues were as prodigious as his sufferings, a true pater patriae, a father of his country, if but for this only, that he was the father of such a son.
And yet, this the most innocent of men, and the best of kings, so pious and virtuous, so learned and judicious, so merciful and obliging, was rebelled against, driven out of his own house, pursued like a partridge upon the mountains, and like an exile in his own dominions, unhumanly imprisoned, and at length, for a catastrophe of all, barbarously murdered; though in this his murder was the less of 426the two, in that his death released him from his prison.
II. Having thus seen the quality and condition of the person who suffered, let us in the next place see the engines and preparations by which they gradually ascended to the perpetration of this bloody fact. And indeed it would be but a poor, preposterous discourse, to insist only upon the consequent, without taking notice of the antecedent.
It were too long to dig to the spring of this rebellion, and to lead you to the secrecies of its first contrivance. But, as David’s phrase is upon another occasion, it was framed and fashioned in the lowest parts of the earth, and there it was fearfully and wonderfully made, a work of darkness and retirement, removed from the eye of all witnesses, even that of conscience also; for conscience was not admitted to their councils.
But the first design was to procure a Levite to consecrate their idol, that is to say, a factious ministry to christen it the cause of God. They still owned their party for God’s true Israel; and being so, it must needs be their duty to come out of Egypt, though they provided themselves a red sea for their passage. .
And then for their assistance they repair to the northern steel;2323 This is no reflection upon the Scotch nation, nor intended for such, there having been persons as eminent for their loyalty, piety, and virtue, of that country as of any other: but it reflects upon that Scotch faction, which invaded England with an army, in assistance of the rebels, and together with them made a shift to destroy the monarchy and the church in both kingdoms. and bring in an unnatural, mercenary 427army, which like a shoal of locusts covered the land. Such as inherited the character of those whom God brought as scourges upon his people the Jews. For still we shall read that God punished his people with an army from the north. Jer. l. 3. Out of the north there cometh up a nation which shall make her land desolate. Jer. iv. 6. I will bring evil from the north, and a great destruction.
Now, to endear and unite these into one interest, they invented a covenant, much like those who are said to have made a covenant with hell, and an agreement with death. It was the most solemn piece of perjury, the most fatal engine against the church, and bane of monarchy, the greatest snare of souls, and mystery of iniquity, that ever was hammered by the wit and wickedness of man. I shall not, as they do, abuse scripture language, and call it the blood of the covenant, but give it its proper title, it was the covenant of blood. Such an one as the brethren Simeon and Levi made, when they were going about the like design. Their very posture of taking it was an ominous mark of its intent, and their holding up their hands was a sign that they were ready to strike.
It was such an oglio of treason and tyranny, that one of their assembly,2424 Mr. Philip Nye. of their own prophets, gives this testimony of it, in his narrative upon it, and his testimony is true; “that it was such a covenant, whether you respect the subject-matter or occasion of it, or the persons that engaged in it, or lastly, the manner of imposing it, that was never read nor heard of, nor the world ever saw the like.” The 428truth is, it bears no other likeness to ancient covenants, but that as at the making of them they slew beasts, and divided them, so this also was solemnized with blood, slaughter, and division.
But that I may not accuse in general, without a particular charge, read it over as it stands before their synod’s works, I mean their catechism; to which it is prefixed, as if, without it, their system of divinity were not complete, nor their children like to be well instructed, unless they were schooled to treason, and catechised to rebellion. I say, in the covenant, as it stands there, in the third article of it. After they had first promised to defend the privileges of parliament, and the liberties of the kingdoms, at length they promise also a defence of the king; but only thus, “that they will defend his person in the preservation and defence of the true religion and liberties of the kingdoms.” In which it is evident, that their promise of loyalty to him is not absolute, but conditional; bound hand and foot with this limitation, “so far as he preserved the true religion and liberties of the kingdoms.”
From which I observe these two things.
1. That those who promise obedience to their king, only so far as he preserves the true religion, and the kingdoms liberties; withal reserving to themselves the judgment of what religion is true, what false, and when these liberties are invaded, when not; do by this put it within their power to judge religion false, and liberty invaded, as they think convenient, and then, upon such judgment, to absolve themselves from their allegiance.
2. That those very persons, who thus covenant, had already, from pulpit and press, declared the religion 429and way of worship established in the church of England, and then maintained by the king, to be popish and idolatrous; and withal, that the king had actually invaded their liberties. Now, for men to suspend their obedience upon a certain condition, which condition at the same time they declared not performed, was not to profess obedience, but to remonstrate the reasons of their intended disobedience.
And for a further demonstration of what has been said, read the speech of that worthy knight,2525 Sir Henry Vane. at his execution upon Tower-hill, on the 14th of June last. Where, in the third page, he says, that what the house of commons did in their acting singly, and by themselves, (which was no less than trying and murdering the king, proscribing his son, and voting down monarchy; with much more, which he there says lay yet in the breast of the house,) was but a more refined pursuit of the designs of the covenant. For the testimony of which person in this matter, I have thus much to say; that he who, having been sent commissioner from hence into Scotland, was the first author and contriver of the covenant there, was surely of all others the most likely to know the true meaning of it; and being ready to die, was most likely then, if ever, to speak sincerely what he knew.
We see here the doctrine of the covenant; see the use of this doctrine, as it was charged home with a suitable application in a war raised against the king, in the cruel usage and imprisonment, killing, sequestering, undoing all who adhered to him, voting no addresses to himself; all which horrid 430proceedings, though his majesty now stupendously forgives, yet the world will not, cannot ever forget; for his indemnity is not our oblivion.
And therefore, for those persons who now clamour and cry out that they are persecuted, because they are no longer permitted to persecute; and who choose rather to quit their ministry, than to disown the obligation of the covenant; I leave it to all understanding, impartial minds to judge, whether they do not by this openly declare to the world, that they hold themselves obliged by oath, as they shall be able, to act over again all that has been hitherto acted by virtue of that covenant; and consequently, that they relinquish their places, not for being non conformists to the church, but for being virtually rebels to the crown. Which makes them just as worthy to be indulged, as for a man to indulge a dropsy or a malignant fever, which is exasperated by mitigations, and inflamed by every cooling infusion.
But to draw the premises closer to the purpose. Thus I argue. That which was the proper means, that enabled the king’s mortal enemies to make a war against him, and upon that war to conquer, and upon that conquest to imprison him; and lastly, upon that imprisonment inevitably put the power into the hands of those, who by that power in the end murdered him; that, according to the genuine consequences of reason, was the natural cause of his murder. This is the proposition that I assert, and I shall not trouble myself to make the assumption.
And indeed those who wipe their mouths and lick themselves innocent, by clapping this act upon the army, make just the same plea that Pilate did 431for his innocence in the death of Christ, because he left the execution to the soldiers; or that the soldiers themselves may make, for clearing themselves of all the blood that they have spilt, by charging it upon their swords.
I conclude therefore, that this was the gradual process to this horrid fact; this the train laid, to blow up monarchy; this the step by which the king ascended the scaffold.
III. Come we now in the third place to shew, who were the actors in this tragical scene: when, through the anger of Providence, a thriving army of rebels had worsted justice, cleared the field, subdued all opposition and risings, even to the very insurrections of conscience itself; so that impunity grew at length into the reputation of piety, and success gave rebellion the varnish of religion; that they might consummate their villainy, the gown was called in to complete the execution of the sword; and, to make Westminster-hall a place for taking away lives, as well as estates, a new court was set up, and judges packed, who had nothing to do with justice, but so far as they were fit to be the objects of it. In which, they first of all begin with a confutation of the civilians notion of justice and jurisdiction, it being with them no longer an act of the supreme power, as it was ever before defined to be. Such an inferior crew, such a mechanic rabble were they, having not so much as any arms to shew the world, but what they wore and used in the rebellion, that when I survey the list of the king’s judges, and the witnesses against him, I seem to have before me a catalogue of all trades, and such as might better have filled the shops in Westminster-hall, than sat upon the 432benches. Some of which came to be possessors of the king’s houses, who before had no certain dwelling but the king’s highway. And some might have continued tradesmen still, had not want, and inability to trade, sent them to a quicker and surer way of traffick, the wars.
Now, that a king, that such a king, should be murdered by such, the basest of his subjects, and not like a Nimrod, (as some sanctified, railing preachers have called him,) but, like an Actaeon, be torn by a pack of bloodhounds; that the steam of a dunghill should thus obscure the sun; this so much enhances the calamity of this royal person, and makes his death as different from his who is conquered and slain by another king, as it is between being torn by a lion, and being eaten up with vermin: an expression too proper, I am sure, as coarse as it is; for where we are speaking of beggars, nothing can be more natural than to think of vermin too.
For that the feet should trample upon, nay, kick off the head, who would not look upon it as a monster? But indeed, of all others, these were the fittest instruments for such a work: for base descent and poor education disposes the mind to imperiousness and cruelty; as the most savage beasts are bred in dens, and have their extraction from under ground. These therefore were the worthy judges and condemners of a great king, even the refuse of the people, and the very scum of the nation; that is, at that time both the uppermost and the basest part of it.
4. Pass we now, in the fourth place, to the circumstances and manner of procedure in the management of this ugly fact. And circumstances, we know, 433have the greatest cast in determining the nature of all actions; (as we commonly judge of any man’s port and quality by the nature of his attendants.)
First of all then, it was not done, like other works of darkness, in secret, nor (as they used to preach) in a corner, but publicly, coloured with the face of justice, managed with openness and solemnity, as solemn as the league and covenant itself. History indeed affords us many examples of princes who have been clandestinely murdered; which, though it be villainous, yet is in itself more excusable; for he who does such a thing in secret, by the very manner of his doing it, confesses himself ashamed of the thing he does: but he who acts it in the face of the sun, vouches his action for laudable, glorious, and heroic.
Having thus brought him to their high court of justice, (so called, I conceive, because justice was there arraigned and condemned; or perhaps therefore called a court of justice, because it never shewed any mercy, whether the cause needed it or no,) there, by a way of trial as unheard of as their court, they permit him not so much as to speak in his own defence, but with the innocence and silence of a lamb condemn him to the slaughter. And it had been well for them, if they could as easily have imposed silence upon his blood as upon himself.
Being condemned, they spit in his face, and deliver him to the mockery and affronts of soldiers. So that I wonder where the blasphemy lies, which some charge upon those who make the king’s sufferings something to resemble our Saviour’s. But is it blasphemy to compare the king to Christ in that respect in which Christ himself was made like him? or can he be like us in all things, and we not like him? 434Certainly there was something in that providence which so long ago appointed the chapter of our Saviour’s passion to be read on the day of the king’s. And I am sure the resemblance is so near, that had he lived before him, he might have been a type of him. I confess there is some disparity in the case; for they shew themselves worse than Jews. But however, since they make this their objection, that we make the king like Christ, I am willing it should be the greatest of their commendation to be accounted as unlike Christ as they meritoriously are.
Let us now follow him from their mock tribunal to the place of his residence till execution. Nothing remains to a person condemned, and presently to leave the world, but these two things. 1. To take leave of his friends, a thing not denied to the vilest malefactors; which sufficiently appears, in that it has not been denied to themselves. Yet no entreaties from him or his royal consort could prevail with the murderers to let her take the last farewell and commands of a dying husband; he was permitted to make no farewell, but to the world. Thus was he treated, and stript of all, even from the prerogative of a prince to the privilege of a malefactor. 2. The next thing desired by all dying persons is freedom to converse with God, and to prepare themselves to meet him at his great tribunal: but with an Italian cruelty to the soul as well as the body, they debar him of this freedom also; and even solitude, his former punishment, is now too great an enjoyment. But that they might shew themselves no less enemies to private, than they had been to public prayer, they disturb his retirements, and with scoffs and contumelies upbraid those devotions which were 435then even interceding for them. And I question not but fanatic fury was then at that height, that they would have even laughed at Christ himself in his devotions, had he but used his own prayer.
With these preludiums is he brought to the last scene of mockery and cruelty, to a stage erected before his own palace; and for the greater affront of majesty, before that part of it in which he was wont to display his royalty, and to give audience to ambassadors, where now he could not obtain audience himself in his last addresses to his abused subjects. There he receives the fatal blow, there he dies, conquering and pardoning his enemies; and at length finds that faithfully performed upon the scaffold, which was at first so frequently and solemnly promised him in the parliament, and perhaps in the same sense, that he should be made a glorious king.
But even this death was the mercy of murderers, considering what kinds of death several proposed, when they sat in consultation about the manner of it; even no less than the gibbet and the halter; no less than to execute him in his robes, and afterwards drive a stake through his head and body, to stand as a monument upon his grave. In short, all those kinds of death were proposed, which either their malice could suggest, or their own guilt deserve.
And could these men now find in their hearts, or have the face to desire to live, and to plead a pardon from the son, who had thus murdered the father? I speak not only of those wretches who openly imbrued their hands in the bloody sentence, but of those more considerable traitors who had the villainy to manage the contrivance, and yet the cunning to disappear in the execution, and perhaps the good luck to be preferred 436after it, and (for ought I know) for it too. And as for those who now survive, by a mercy as incredible as their crime, which has left them to the soft expiations of solitude and repentance, (with plenty too attending both;) though usually all the professions such make of repentance are nothing else but the faint resentments of a guilty horror, the convulsions and last breathings of a gasping conscience; and as the mercy by which they live is made a visible defiance to government, and a standing encouragement to these daily alarms of plots and conspiracies; so I beseech God, that even their supposed repentance be not such, that both themselves and the kingdom may hereafter have bitter cause too late to repent of it. But if they should indeed prove such as have no conscience but horror; who by the same crimes will be made irreconcileable, for which they deserved to be impardonable; who would resume those repentings upon opportunity, which they made on extremity; and being saved from the gallows, make the usual requital which is made for that kind of deliverance; I say, if such persons should be only for a time chained and tied up, like so many lions or wolves in the Tower, that they may gather more fierceness to run out at length upon majesty, religion, laws, churches, and the universities; whether God intends by this a repetition of our former confusions, or a general massacre of our persons, (which is the most likely,) the Lord in mercy fit and enable us to endure the smart of a misimproved providence, and the infatuate frustration of such a miraculous deliverance.
But to return to this sacred martyr. We have seen him murdered; and is there now any other scene for cruelty to act? Is not death the end of 437the murderer’s malice, as well as of the life of him who is murdered? No; there is another and a viler instance of their sordid, implacable cruelty.
In the very embalming his body, and taking out those bowels, (which, had they not relented to his enemies, had not been so handled,) they gave order to those to whom that work was committed diligently to search and see (I speak it with horror and indignation) whether his body were not infected with some loathsome disease.2626 Gregory Clement knew what the disease was. I suppose they meant that which some of his judges were so much troubled with, and which stuck so close to them.
Now every one must easily see, that for them to intimate the inquiry was, in effect, to enjoin the report. And here let any one judge, whether the remorseless malice of embittered rebels ever rose to such a height of tyranny, that the very embalming of his body must needs be a means to corrupt his name; as if his murder was not complete, unless, together with his life, they did also assassinate his fame and butcher his reputation.
But the body of that prince, innocent and virtuous to a miracle, had none of the ruins and gentile rottenness of our modern debauchery. It was firm and clear, like his conscience; he fell like a cedar, no less fragrant than tall and stately. Rottenness of heart and rottenness of bones are the badges of some of his2727 Clement, Peters, &c. murderers; the noisomeness of whose carcases, caused by the noisomeness of their lives, might even retaliate and revenge their sufferings, and, while they are under execution, poison the executioner.438
But the last grand, comprehensive circumstance of this fact, which is, as it were, the very form and spirit which did actuate and run through all the rest, is, that it was done with the pretences of conscience and the protestations of religion; with eyes lift up to heaven, and expostulations with God, pleas of providence and inward instigations; till at length, with much labour and many groans, they were delivered of their conceived mischief.
And certainly we have cause to deplore this murder with fasting, if it were but for this reason, that it was contrived and committed with fasting. Every fast portended some villainy, as still a famine ushers in a plague. But as hunger serves only for appetite, so they never ordained an humiliation, but for the doing of something, which, being done, might dine them at a thanksgiving. And such a fury did ab surd piety inspire into this church militant upon these exercises, that we might as well meet an hungry bear as a preaching colonel after a fast; whose murderous humiliations strangely verified that apposite prophecy in Isaiah viii. 21, When they shall be hungry, they shall curse their king and their God, and look upwards; that is, they should rebel and blaspheme devoutly. Though, by the way, he who is always looking upwards can little regard how he walks below.
But was there any thing in the whole book of God to warrant this rebellion? any thing which, instead of obedience, taught them to sacrifice him whom they were to obey? Why yes: Daniel dreamed a dream; and there is also something in the Revelation, concerning a beast, a little horn, and the fifth vial, and therefore the king undoubtedly ought to 439die. But if neither you nor I can gather so much, or any thing like it, from these places, they will tell us, it is because we are not inwardly enlightened.
But others, more knowing, though not less wicked, insist not so much upon the warrant of scripture, but plead providential dispensations: and then God’s works, it seems, must be regarded before his words. And the Latin advocate,2828 Mr. Milton. who, like a blind adder, has spit so much poison upon the king’s person and cause, speaks to the matter roundly: Deum sicuti ducem, et impressa passim divina vestigia venerantes, viam haud obscuram, sed illustrem, el illius auspiciis commonstratam et patefactam ingressi sumus.2929 In Praefat. ad Defensionem pro Populo Anglicano, (as his Latin is.) But must we read God’s mind in his foot steps, or in his word? This is as if, when we have a man’s hand-writing, we should endeavour to take his meaning by the measure of his foot.
But still, conscience, conscience is pleaded as a covering for all enormities, an answer to all questions and accusations. Ask what made them fight against, imprison, and murder their lawful sovereign? Why, conscience. What made them extirpate the government, and pocket the revenue of the church? Conscience. What made them perjure themselves with contrary oaths? what makes swearing a sin, and yet forswearing to be none? what made them lay hold on God’s promises, and break their own? Conscience. What made them sequester, persecute, and undo their brethren, rape their estates, ruin their families, get into their places, and then say, they only robbed the Egyptians? Why still this large capacious thing, their conscience; 440which is always of a much larger compass than their understanding. In a word, we have lived under such a model of religion, as has counted nothing impious but loyalty, nothing absurd but restitution.
But, O blessed God, to what an height can prosperous, audacious impiety arise! Was it not enough that men once crucified Christ, but that there should be a generation of men who should also crucify Christianity itself? Must he who taught no defence but patience, allowed no armour but submission, and never warranted any man to shed any other blood but his own, be now again mocked with soldiers, and vouched the patron and author of all those hideous murders and rebellions, which an ordinary impiety would stand amazed at the hearing of? and which in this world he has so plainly condemned by his word, and will hereafter as severely sentence in his own person? Certainly, these monsters are not only the spots of Christianity, but so many standing exceptions from humanity and nature: and since most of them are Anabaptists, it is pity that, in repeating their baptism, they did not baptize themselves into another religion.
V. For the fifth and last place, let us view the horridness of the fact in the fatal consequences which did attend it. Every great villainy is like a great absurdity, drawing after it a numerous train of homogeneous consequences; and none ever spread itself into more than this. But I shall endeavour to reduce them all to these two sorts.
1. Such as were of a civil,
2. Such as were of a religious concern.
1. And first for the civil, political consequences of it.441
There immediately followed a change of government, of a government whose praise had been proclaimed for many centuries, and enrolled in the large fair characters of the subject’s enjoyment and experience. It was now shred into a democracy; and the stream of government being cut into many channels, ran thin and shallow: whereupon the subject having many masters, every servant had so many distinct servitudes.
But the wheel of Providence, which only they looked upon, and that even to a giddiness, did not stop here; but by a fatal, ridiculous vicissitude, both the power and wickedness of those many was again revolved, and compacted into one: from that one3030 Cromwell. again it returned to many, with several attending variations, till at length we pitched upon one3131 King Charles II. again , one beyond whom they could not go, the ne plus ultra of all regal excellency, as all change tends to, and at last ceases upon its acquired perfection.
Nor was the government only, but also the glory of the English nation changed; distinction of orders confounded, the gentry outbraved, and the nobility, who voted the bishops out of their dignities in parliament, by the just judgment of God thrust out themselves, and brought under the scorn and imperious lash of a beggar on horseback; “learning discountenanced, and the universities threatened, their revenues to be sold, their colleges to be demolished; the law to be reformed after the same model; the records of the nation to be burnt.”3232 All this was Sir Henry Vane’s villainous and monstrous advice. Such an inundation and deluge of ruin, reformation, and confusion 442had spread itself upon the whole land, that it seemed a kind of resemblance of Noah’s deluge, in which only a few men survived amongst many beasts.
2. The other sort of consequences were of a religious concernment. I speak not of the contempt, rebuke, and discouragement lying upon the divines, or rather the preachers3333 Presbyterians and Independents. of those days; for they brought these miseries upon themselves, and had more cause a great deal to curse their own seditious sermons than to curse Meroz. They sounded the first trumpet to rebellion, and, like true saints, had the grace to persevere in what they first began; courting and recognising an usurper, calling themselves his loyal and obedient subjects,3434 Baxter in his book dedicated to Richard Cromwell did so. never enduring so much as to think of their lawful sovereign, till at length the danger of tithes, their unum necessarium, scared them back to their allegiance.
I speak not therefore of these. But the great destructive consequence of this fact was, that it has left a lasting slur upon the protestant religion. Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in Askelon, lest the daughters of the Philistines triumph, lest the Papacy laugh us to scorn: as, if they had no other sort of Protestants to deal with, I am sure they well might.
I confess, the seditious writings of some who called themselves Protestants, have sufficiently bespattered their religion. See Calvin warranting the three estates to oppose their prince, 4 Instit. ch. 20. sect. 31. See master Knox’s Appeal, and in that his arguments for resisting the civil magistrate. Read Mr. Buchanan’s discourse de jure regni apud Scotos. 443Read the Vindiciae contra Tyrannos, under the name of Junius Brutus, writ by Ottoman the civilian. See Pareus upon the thirteenth chapter of the epistle to the Romans, where he states atrocem aliquam injuriam, a large term, and of very easy application, to be a sufficient reason for subjects to take up arms against their king. A book, instead of the author, most deservedly burnt by the hangman. But shall we call this a comment upon the thirteenth chapter of the epistle to the Romans? It is rather a comment upon the covenant. Both of which, as they teach the same doctrine, so they deserved, and justly had the same confutation.3535 Burnt by the common hangman in Oxon, by command of King James the First.
But these principles, like sleeping lions, lay still a great while, and were never completely actuate, nor appeared in the field, till the French holy league and the English rebellion.
Let the powder-plot be as bad as it will or can, yet still there is as much difference between the king’s murder and that, as there is between an action and an attempt. What the papal bulls and anathemas could not do, factious sermons have brought about. What was then contrived against the parliament house, has been since done by it. What the papists powder intended, the soldiers’ match has effected. I say, let the powder-treason be looked upon (as indeed it is) as the product of hell, as black as the souls and principles that hatched it; yet still this reformation-murder will preponderate; and January, in villainy, always have the precedency of November.
And thus I have traced this accursed fact through 444all the parts and ingredients of it. And now, if we reflect upon the quality of the person upon whom it was done, the condition of the persons who did it, the means, circumstances, and manner of its transaction; I suppose it will fill the measure and reach the height of the words of the text: that there was no such deed done nor seen since the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt to this day.
For my own part, my apprehension of it overbears my expression; and how to set it off, I know not; for black receives no other colour. But when I call together all the ideas of horror, rake all the records of the Roman, Grecian, and barbarian wonders, together with new-fancied instances and unheard of possibilities, yet I find no parallel; and therefore have this only to say of the king’s murder, that it is a thing, than which nothing can be imagined more strange, amazing, and astonishing, except its pardon.3636 This was far from being intended as a reflection upon the act of indemnity itself, and much less upon the royal author of it, but only as a rhetorical attempt for expressing the transcendent height of one thing by an equally transcendent height of another; viz. by that of the mercy pardoning, and by that of the crime pardoned; both of them, in their several kinds, superlative.
And now, having done with the first part of the text, does it not naturally engage me in the duty of the second? Must such a deed, as was neither seen nor heard of, be also neither spoken of? or must it be stroked with smooth, mollifying expressions? Is this the way to cure the wound, by pouring oil upon those that made it? And must Absalom be therefore dealt with gently, because he was an unnatural and a sturdy rebel?445
If, as the text bids, we consider of the fact, and take advice, (that is, advise with reason and conscience,) we cannot but obey it in the following words, and speak our minds. For could Croesus’s dumb son speak at the very attempt of a murder upon his prince and father? and shall a preacher be dumb, when such a murder is actually committed?
Or do we think it is enough to make long doleful harangues against murder and cruelty, and concerning the prerogative of kings, without ripping up the particular, mysterious, diabolical arts of its first contrivance? Can things peculiar and unheard of be treated with the toothless generalities of a common place?
I will not be so uncharitable as to charge a consent in this particular wheresoever I find a silence: I will only conclude such to be wiser than others, and to wait for another turn; and from their behaviour rationally collect their expectation. But whosoever is so sage, so prudential, or (to speak more significantly) so much a politicus, as to fit himself for every change, he will find, that if ever another turn befalls the nation, it will be the wrong side outwards, the lowest uppermost. And therefore, for these silent candidates of future preferment, I wish them no other punishment for the treason of their desire, than to be preferred under another change.
But I have not yet finished my text, nor, according to the command of it, spoke all my mind. I have one thing more to propose, and with that to conclude.
Would you be willing to see this scene acted over again? to see that restless, plotting humour, which now boils and ferments in many traitorous breasts, 446once more display itself in the dismal effects of war and desolation? Would you see the rascality of the nation in troops and tumults beleaguer the royal palace? Would you hear ministers absolving their congregations from their sacred oaths of allegiance, and sending them into the field to lose their lives and their souls, in a professed rebellion against their sovereign? Would you see an insolent overturning army, in the heart and bowels of the kingdom, moving to and fro, to the terror of every thing which is noble, generous, or religious? Would you see the loyal gentry harassed, starved, and undone by the oppression of base, insulting, grinding committees? Would you see the clergy torn in pieces, and sacrificed by the inquisition of synods, triers, and commissioners?
And to mention the greatest last; would you have the king, with his father’s kingdoms, inherit also his fortune? Would you see the crown trampled upon, majesty haled from prison to prison; and at length with the vilest circumstances of spite and cruelty, bleeding and dying at the feet of bloody, unhuman miscreants? Would you, now Providence has cast out the destructive interest from the parliament, and the house is pretty well swept and cleansed, have the old unclean spirit return, and take to itself seven spirits, seven other interests worse than itself, and dwell there, and so make our latter end worse than our beginning?
We hear of plots and combinations, parties joining and agreeing; and let us not trust too much in their opposition amongst themselves. The elements can fight, and yet unite into one body. Ephraim against Manasseh, and Manasseh against Ephraim; but both equally against the royal tribe of Judah. Now, if we 447dread these furies again being let loose upon us, oh! let us fear the return of our former provocations. If we would keep off the axe from our princes and nobles, let us lay it to our sins. If we would preserve their lives, let us amend our own. We have complained of armies, committees, sequestrators, triers, and decimators. But our sins, our sins are those that have sucked the blood of this nation; these have purpled the scaffold with the royal gore, these have ploughed up so many noble families, made so many widows, and snatched the bread out of the mouths of so many poor orphans. It is our not fearing God, that has made others not to honour the king; our not benefiting by the ordinances of the church, that has enriched others with her spoils.
And now, since I have slid into a mention of the church of England, which at this time is so much struck and railed at, and in danger (like its first head) to be crucified between two thieves, I shall say thus much of it; that it is the only church in Christendom we read of, whose avowed principles and practices disown all resistance of the civil power; and which the saddest experience and the truest policy and reason will evince to be the only one that is durably consistent with the English monarchy. Let men look both into its doctrine and into its history, and they will find neither the Calvins, the Knoxes, the Junius Brutuses, the synods, nor the holy commonwealths of the one side; nor yet the Bellarmines, the Escobars, nor the Marianas of the other. It has no fault but its revenues; and those too but the remainders of a potent, surfeited sacrilege. And therefore, if God in his anger to this kingdom should suffer it to be run down, either by 448the impious nonsense and idolatry of one party, or the sordid tyranny and fanaticism of the other; yet we will acquiesce in this, that if ever our church falls, it falls neither tainted with the infamy of popish plots, nor of reforming rebellions; and that it was neither her pretended corruption or superstition, but her own lands, and the kingdom’s sins, that destroyed her.
For when I hear of conspiracies, seditious designs, covenants, and plots, they do not much move or affright me. But when I see the same covetousness, the same drunkenness and profaneness, that was first punished in ourselves, and then in our sanctified enemies; when I see joy turned into a revel, and debauchery proclaim itself louder than it can be proclaimed against; these, I must confess, stagger and astonish me; and I cannot persuade myself, that we were delivered to do all these abominations.
But, if we have not the grace of Christians, have we not the hearts of men? Have we no bowels, no relentings? If the blood and banishment of our kings cannot move us, if the miseries of our common mother the church, ready to fall back into the jaws of purchasers and reformers, cannot work upon us, yet shall we not at least pity our posterity? Shall we commit sins, and breed up children to inherit the curse? Shall the infants now unborn have cause to say hereafter, in the bitterness of their souls, Our fathers have eaten the sour grapes of disobedience, and our teeth are set on edge by rebellions and confusions?
How does any man know, but the very oath he is swearing, the lewdness he is committing, may be scored up by God as one item for a new rebellion? 449We may be rebels, and yet neither vote in parliaments, sit in committees, or fight in armies. Every sin is virtually a treason; and we may be guilty of murder, by breaking other commands besides the sixth.
But at present we are made whole: God has by a miracle healed the breaches, cured the maladies, and bound up the wounds of a bleeding nation: what remains now, but that we take the counsel that seconded a like miraculous cure; Go, sin no more, lest a worse evil come unto thee. But since our evil has been so superlative as not to acknowledge a worse; since our calamities, having reached the highest, give us rather cause to fear a repetition, than any possibility of gradation; I shall dismiss you with the like though something altered advice, Go, sin no more, lest the same evil befall you.
Which God of his infinite mercy prevent, even that God by whom kings reign and princes decree justice; by whom their thrones are established, and by whom their blood will assuredly be revenged. To whom therefore be rendered and ascribed, as is most due, all praise, might, majesty, and dominion, both now and for evermore. Amen,450
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