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Shewing the first grand instance of the fatal influence of words and
names falsely applied, in the late subversion of the church of
England by the malicious calumnies of the fanatic party,
charging her with Popery and Superstition.
Wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil, &c.
I FORMERLY made an entrance upon this text in a discourse by itself; and after some short explication of the terms, and something premised by way of introduction to the main design and further drift of the words, I cast the whole prosecution of them under these three heads.
First, To give some general account of the nature of good and evil, and of the reason upon which they are founded.
Secondly, To shew that the way by which good and evil commonly operate upon the mind of man, is by those respective names and appellations by which they are notified and conveyed to the mind.
Thirdly, To shew the mischief which directly, naturally, and unavoidably follows from the misapplication and confusion of these names.204
These three things, I say, I prosecuted and des patched in my first and general discourse upon this text and subject: and in this my second and following discourses upon the same, I shall endeavour to assign the several instances, in which the mischievous effects then mentioned do actually shew themselves, and by sad experience are but too commonly found and felt in most of the affairs of human life. And here we are to strike out into a very large field indeed; for could all of them be recounted in their utmost compass and comprehension, they would spread as far and wide as even the world itself, and grasp in the concerns of all mankind put together. For is it not the first and most universal voice of human nature, “Who will shew us any good?” and the next to it, “Who shall deliver us from evil?” Is it not the sole project and business of all the powers and faculties both of soul and body, how to procure us those things that may help, and to ward off those that may hurt us? Is it not the great end of a rational being to compass and acquire to itself the happiness of this world by what it enjoys, and to secure to itself the enjoyment of the next world by what it does? And is there any third thing allegeable in which a man can be concerned, besides what he is to do, and what he is to enjoy? and must not the adequate object of both these be good?
But then, as the shadow still attends the body, so there is no one thing, relating either to the actions or enjoyments of man, in which he is not liable to deception; no good, but what, looking upon its dark side, he may misjudge to be evil; and no evil, but what, by a false light, he may imagine to be good: the consequence of which will be sure to reach him 205by an effect as good or evil as its cause. So that the subject here before us is as large as good and evil, as comprehensive as right judgment and mistake, and the effects of both are as infinite, numberless, and in conceivable, as all the particular ways and means, by which a man is capable of being deceived and made miserable.
But since to rest here, and to take up only in universals, would be useless and unprofitable; as, on the other side, to reckon up all particulars would be end less and impossible, we will endeavour to reduce the forementioned fatal effects of the misapplication of those great governing names of good and evil to certain heads, and those such as shall take in the principal things which the happiness or misery of human societies depends upon; which I conceive to be these three.
1st, Religion. 2dly, Civil government. And 3dly, The private interests of particular persons.
In all which, if we find the scene of these unhappy effects no where so full and lively set forth as here amongst ourselves, I hope, as the truth will be al together as great, as if drawn from all the kingdoms and nations round about us; so the edification will be greater, by how much the concern is nearer, and the application more particular.
1. And first for religion. Religion is certainly in itself the best thing in the world; and it is as certain, that, as it has been managed by some, it has had the worst effects: such being the nature, or rather the fate of the best things, to be transcendently the worst upon corruption. Forasmuch as the operative strength of a thing may continue the same, when the quality that should direct the operation is 206 changed: as a man may have as strong an arm and as sharp a sword to fight with in a bad cause as in a good. And surely a sadder consideration can hardly enter into the heart of man, than that religion, the great means appointed by God himself for the saving of souls, should be so often made by men as efficacious an instrument of their destruction.
Now the direful and mischievous effects of calling good evil, and evil good, both with respect to the general interest of religion, and to the particular state of it amongst ourselves, will appear from these following instances.
1. Some men’s villainous and malicious calling of the religion of the church of England, popery.
2. Their calling such as have schismatically deserted its communion, true protestants.
3. Their calling the late subversion of the church, and the whole government of it, reformation.
4. Their calling the execution of the laws in be half of the church, persecution. And,
5thly and lastly, Their calling a betraying of the constitutions of the church by base compliances and half conformity, moderation.
In all which you have the shallow, brutish, unthinking multitude worded out of their religion by the worst and most detested appellations fastened upon the best of things, and the best and most plausible names applied to the very worst.
And this I shall demonstrate, by going over every one of these as distinctly and as briefly as I can.
1 . And first for that masterpiece of falsehood and impudence, their calling and traducing the reformed, primitive, and apostolical religion of the church of England by the name of popery, an application of 207the word popery more irrational and absurd, if possible, than the thing itself. But what do I talk of the thing itself? when scarce one in five thousand of the loudest and fiercest exclaimers against popery knows so much as what popery means. Only that it is a certain word made up of six letters; that has been ringing in their ears ever since their infancy, and that strangely inflames, and transports, and sets them a madding they know not why nor wherefore. A word that sounds big and high in the mouths of carmen, broommen, scavengers, and watermen, on a 5th or 17th of November, when extortion and perjury, in place and power, thinks fit to authorize and let loose the rabble to try what metal the government is made of, under a plausible pretence of burning the pope, together with a fair intimation of what they long to be doing to some others, whom they hate much worse. Concerning which, by the way, I think that there never was so great a compliment passed upon the pope in this kingdom, since the reformation, as when the pope’s picture and our Saviour’s picture were so frequently burnt by the same hands, and upon the same account. We very well know the design of these men in both, but cannot so well tell how they will be able to excuse either the sedition of the one, or the scandal of the other; though, as for the pope, I dare undertake, that all the hurt that these fellows either can or will do him, shall never reach him any further than in his picture.
But to return to the charge of popery made against the church of England. It is certainly the most frontless, barefaced lie, and the most senseless calumny, that ever was dictated by the father of 208 lies, or uttered by any of his sons. And I could wish myself but as sure of my own salvation, as I am that those wretches stand condemned in their own hearts and consciences while they are charging this upon us. Nevertheless, since the world is witness that they have made the charge, and thereby drawn and abused a great part of these kingdoms into a cursed, soul-ruining schism, let us take an estimate of the villainy of it by these two considerations.
1st, Of the mind and carriage of the church of Rome, both towards the beginners and the supporters of the reformation of the church of England.
2dly, Of the several articles of the Romish belief, compared with the belief owned and professed by our church.
And I hope by these two we shall be able to discover what is popery, and what is not.
1. And first for the behaviour or carriage of the church of Rome towards us. Surely had she took us either for her sons or her friends, she would not have used us as she has done. For she is too wise to think to support her kingdom by dividing against herself. And as the apostle assures us that no man hateth his own flesh, so neither does any church anathematize, curse, burn, and destroy its faithfullest and most beloved members. Fire and fagot, racks and gibbets, are but a strange sort of love-tokens, yet such as the church of Rome has still followed the English reformers with. We stand excommunicated by her as heretics and schismatics; and there has not a minute passed since the reformation, in which she has not been endeavouring our 209destruction. The authors and compilers of our Liturgy and book of Homilies paid down their lives for these books at the stake; and will the virulent, unconscionable fanatics charge and reproach these books as popish, when the makers and assertors of them were butchered by the papists for their being so? The fanatics burnt the books, and the papists burnt the authors. By the former I hope you will take notice how much the fanatics abhor popery, and by the latter how much the papists love us. Love indeed is usually compared to a fire, but I never yet knew that the party beloved was consumed by it. The papists would burn us for being protestants, and the fanatics would cut our throats for being papists. And now if you would learn from hence which of the two we really are, I suppose, when you consider the judging abilities of both parties, you will easily allow the papists to understand what they do and say much better than the fanatics. But let us now, 2dly, in the next place consider the several articles of the Romish belief, as compared with the belief owned and professed by our church. And here,
First of all; Does the church of England own that prime and leading article of all popery, the pope’s supremacy, an article so essential to the grandeur of the papacy, that without it the pope himself would not care a rush for all the rest? No, the very corner-stone of the English reformation was laid in an utter denial and disavowance of this point, for which our kings have lain under the papal curse, and the kingdoms been exposed to the ambition and rage of foreigners. And as we begun, so we have continued the reformation, by placing the English 210 crown and the English church-supremacy upon the same head; and it is much if our oath of supremacy to the king should consist with an allegiance to the pope, such as the sottish, senseless fanatics are still charging us with.
2. In the second place; Do we of the church of England admit of the pope’s infallibility? No, we look upon it as a sacrilegious invasion of an attribute too great and high for any but God himself. And so far are we from looking upon him as infallible, that we do not own him so much as a judge appointed by Christ to receive the last appeals of the catholic church in matters of faith, discipline, or any thing else; and we are as little concerned whether he makes his decrees and pronounces his decisions in cathedra or extra cathedram. As no man has any other or better thoughts of a fox while he is in his hole than when he is out of it.
3. In the third place; Does the church of England own a transubstantiation of the elements in the sacrament into the natural body and blood of Christ, all the accidents of those elements continuing still the same? No, she rejects it as the greatest defiance of reason, and depravation of religion, that ever was obtruded upon the belief and consciences of men, and as a paradox, that, by destroying the judgment of some about sensible objects, undermines the very belief of the gospel, and the certainty of faith itself, the object of which must be first taken in by sense; and withal as a direct cause of the greatest impiety in practice, which is idolatry, and that of the very worst and meanest kind, in giving divine worship to a piece of bread, a thing so infinitely contrary to all the principles that the mind 211of man is capable of judging by, that if it could be made appear that the gospel did really affirm and declare this article in the very same sense in which the church of Rome holds it since the fourth Lateran council under Innocent III. I should be so far from believing it therefore, that I should look upon it as a sufficient reason for any rational man to demur to the divine authority of the gospel itself. For no thing can come from God that involves in it a contradiction. But as to this matter, our church has sufficiently declared her sense, both in her Articles and in her Liturgy.
4. In the fourth place; Does the church of England hold the divine authority of unwritten traditions equal to that of the scriptures, or written word of God, making them, together with, and as much as, the scriptures, part of the rule of faith? The church of Rome in the council of Trent positively and expressly affirms this. But the church of England explodes it as an insufferable derogation from the perfection of the holy scriptures, and withal as a wide and open door, through which the church of Rome has let in so many superstitious fopperies and groundless innovations into religion, and through which (claiming, as she does, the sole power of declaring traditions) she may, as her occasions serve, let in as many more as she pleases.
5. In the 5th place; Does the church of England hold auricular or private confession to the priest, as an integral part of repentance, and necessary condition of absolution? No; the church of England denies such confession to be necessary; either necessitate praecepti, as enjoined by any law or command of God; or necessitate medii, as a necessary 212 means of pardon or remission of sins: and consequently rejects it as a snare and a burden groundlessly and tyrannically imposed upon the church; and too often and easily abused in the Romish communion to the basest and most flagitious purposes.
But so much of private confession as may be of spiritual use for the disburdening of a troubled conscience, unable of itself to master or grapple with its own doubts, by imparting them to some knowing, discreet, spiritual person for his advice and resolution about them; so much, I confess, the church of England does approve, advise, and allow of. I say, it does advise it, and that as a sovereign expedient, proper in the nature and reason of the thing, for the satisfaction of persons otherwise unable to satisfy themselves, but by no means does it enjoin it as a duty equally and universally required of all.
6. In the sixth place; Does the church of England hold purgatory, together with its appendant doctrine, of the pope’s power to release souls out of it, and without which the pope would be little or nothing concerned for it? No, our church rejects it as a fable, and has quite put out this fire, by with drawing the fuel that only can keep it alive; to wit, the doctrine of venial sins, with that other of merit, and of works of supererogation.
7. In the seventh and last place; Does the church of England, either by its belief or practice, own that article about the invocation of saints, and the addressing our prayers immediately to them, that so by their mediation they may be tendered and made acceptable to God? No, our church cashiers the whole article, as contumelious to and inconsistent with the infinitely perfect mediatorship and intercession 213of Christ, so fully declared in 1 Tim. ii. 5. There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus: a mediator too great to need either deputies or copartners in the discharge of that high office. Besides that such addresses or prayers to the saints cannot possibly be made by us in faith, (which yet without faith cannot possibly please God,) since we have no assurance that they hear those prayers, or have any certain and distinct knowledge of what particularly occurs and falls out here below; though indeed a general knowledge of the common constant concerns of the church, by reason of their having lived in the world, ought with great reason to be allowed them. But that is not sufficient to warrant a rational invocation of them upon our personal and particular occasions, since a particular knowledge of these can by no means be inferred or argued from a general know ledge of the other.
And thus I have gone over seven notable branches of the Romish faith, and there are many more of the like nature belonging to the same rotten stock; but these I am sure are the principal, it being impossible for a man to be a papist without holding these, or to hold these without being a papist. But now which of all these do our learned mouthing friends of the fanatic party prove to be held by our popish church of England, as they call it? I confess my thus going over these particulars in our church’s vindication, cannot but have been a need less trouble to most of my hearers, as well as to my self; it being but little better than bringing so many arguments, to prove that it is not midnight, while the sun shines full in a man’s face. But being to 214 deal with the height of impudence and ignorance in conjunction, and with a sort of men, who abound with ignoramus’s in the trial of spiritual as well as temporal matters, I thought fit for their sake to come to particulars, and, by a kind of an inductive demonstration, to prove to their wonderful and profound understandings, that two and two do not make six: and that what contradicts, overthrows, and destroys every article of popery, is not, cannot be popery. No; though the whole faction should, with a nemine contradicente, vote it to be so.
And perhaps those wretches never did real popery so great a service, nor gave their popish plot so mortal a wound, as when, tripping up the heels of their own narratives, by the advice of some half witted Ahitophels, they began to stretch the imputation of popery even to the church of England too, calling all of its communion papists in masquerade. But thanks be to God, that the mask they provided for us has pretty well took off the mask from themselves, and that their wisdom has not been altogether so great as their malice; for it is manifest that they have not acted as the wisest men in the world, the merciful and good providence of God very frequently ordering things so, that in great villainies there is often such a mixture of the fool, as quite spoils the whole project of the knave.
In the mean time let popery be as bad as any one would have it, yet for all that let us not be deceived with words. We are men, and let us not sell our lives and our estates, our reason and religion, for wind and noise. For where the thing exclaimed against is extremely bad, yet if the persons that exclaim against it are certainly much worse, worse in 215their principles, worse in their practices, you may rest assured that there is roguery at the bottom, and that, how plausibly soever things may pass as they are heard, they would look very scurvily if they were seen. Something no doubt is designed that is not declared, but what that is, I will not presume to determine from an inspection of men’s hearts. Only it having been always accounted a very rational and allowed way, to judge what may be by what has been, you may remember that about forty years since this word popery served such as brandish it about the ears of the government now, as an effectual engine to pull down the monarchy to the ground, to destroy episcopacy root and branch, and to rob the church, and almost all honest men, to the last farthing. From which it appears to be a very easy, natural, and hardly to be avoided inference, that the very same means, used by the very same sort of men, are and must be intended to compass and bring about the very same ends once again. And if so, it is left to you to consider, whether it can become sober and wise men (especially in such great concerns) to be deceived by the same cheat. And thus I have given you both the short and the long, the top and the bottom of all these enormous out cries against popery, together with an account how the church of England comes to be part of the church of Rome, while it stands excommunicated by it, and actually cut off from it.
2. And now in the second place to shew, that the men whom we have been dealing with are no less artists in calling evil good, than in surnaming good evil; as they have imposed the name of papists upon us, so they have bestowed that of true protestants 216 upon themselves, both of them certainly with equal truth and propriety. But they must not think to carry it off so. For how popular and plausible soever the name of protestant may sound, it is not that which can or will credit or commend fanaticism; but fanaticism will be sure to embase and discredit that. For names neither do nor can alter things, but ill things will in the issue certainly foul and disgrace the best names. But are these men (who have thus dubbed themselves true protestants) in good earnest such mortal enemies to popery and the popish interest, as they pretend themselves to be? If they are, they will do well to satisfy many wise and considering men in the world about some things that they cannot so well satisfy themselves in, nor reconcile the reality of such pretences to.
1. As first, how came the old puritans and fanatics all on the sudden to be so more than ordinarily troublesome to the government, when the Spanish armada in 88, breathing nothing but popery and destruction to England, was hovering over our coasts, ready to grasp us as a certain prey? And in like manner how came they to grow so extremely crank and confident, and importune both upon church and state, just before and about the time of the powder-treason? Both which remarkable pas sages (with some more of the like nature) have been particularly taken notice of by such as have wrote of the affairs of those times. Now that while the papists were attacking the government on the one side, the puritans should fall upon it on the other, and that both these parties should so exactly keep time together in troubling it, if there were not some thing of peculiar harmony, or rather a kind of unison 217correspondence between them, requires (in my poor judgment) a more than ordinary reach of understanding to conceive.
2. If the papists and the fanatics are really so opposite to one another, how came it to pass, that while they sat together in parliament, they constantly also voted together in all things that might tend to the weakening and undermining of our church? both of them with one heart and voice promoting indulgences and comprehensions, and such other arts and methods of destroying us? So that in all such cases our church was sure to find an equally spiteful attack from both sides.
3dly, If these two parties are so extremely contrary as they pretend to be, what is the cause nowadays that none associate, accompany, and visit one another with that peculiar friendliness, intimacy, and familiarity, with which the Romanists visit the nonconformists, and the nonconformists them? So that it is generally observed in the country, that none are so gracious and so sweet upon one another, as the rankest papists and the most noted fanatics: of which I will not pretend to know the reason, though I doubt not but they do.
4thly, I would gladly know, what can be alleged why the papists never write against the nonconformists, though they are never so much reviled, and sometimes written against by them, unless it be, that the papists know their friends under any disguise, and can easily pardon a few rude words spoken against them, in consideration of many real services done for them? However, their great silence towards them in such cases must needs proceed from one of these two things, either from love 218 or from contempt; if from the first, then it is evident that the papists look upon them as their friends; if from the latter, then they look upon them as very contemptible adversaries. And they are free (for me) to pass under which of these two characters they please.
5thly, If popery and fanaticism are so irreconcileable, as our true protestants would bear us in hand that they are, how come we by that extraordinary discovery, made by them of late years, that the late blessed king Charles I. was murdered by the papists? For all that visibly acted in that hellish tragedy were that traitorous packed remainder of the house of commons, together with their high court of justice, and the officers of their rebel army. The names of all which are known, and stand upon record. So that if the king was murdered by papists, it is evident that these men were the papists. For we all know who they were who cut off the king. And we are now at length beholden to the faction for telling us also what they were. However, it seems many were engaged in this murder under masks and vizards, besides the executioner.
These things I thought fit to remark to you; from which yet I will not positively affirm, that such as call themselves true protestants are either indeed papists themselves, or by a very close confederacy united to them. I say, I will not positively affirm it; only the forementioned objections being all of them founded upon known matter of fact, I shall here leave these with them; and they may, if they please, and can, at their leisure, answer them.
In the mean time, there is one thing, which I can not but observe upon them, as very material, and fit 219to be laid in their dish for ever; which is this: that if any branch of the royal family has unhappily drank in any thing of the popish contagion, these who call themselves true protestants are of all men breathing the most improper to decry, or so much as to open their mouths against, any such person upon that account. For they must thank themselves for it, who forcibly plucked the children out of the bosom of the best father and the firmest protestant in the world, and sent them into foreign countries, there to converse with snares and traps, and to support their lives with the hazard of their faith, flying from such protestants for safety and shelter amongst the papists; a staggering consideration, let me tell you, to persons of such tender years.
But had that blessed prince been suffered to spin out the full thread of his innocent life in peace and prosperity, none had issued from his royal loins but what he himself would have tutored and bred up to such a knowledge of, and adherence to, the church of England, that it should not have been in the power of all the Papists and Jesuits under heaven to have shook them in their religion.
So that the great seducers were Cromwell and his fellow-rebels, who, by banishing the royal family, cast them into the very jaws of popery and seduction, and not only led, but drove them into temptation. And now will these fellows plunge men over head and ears in a ditch, and then knock out their brains for having a spot upon their clothes? kindle a flame round about them, and then with tragical out cries reproach them for being singed? do all that they can, compassing even sea and land, to make a proselyte to popery, and then strip him of his inheritance 220 for being so? O the equity, reason, and humanity of a true protestant fanatic zeal! much according to the Devil’s method, first to draw men to sin, and then to damn and destroy them for it.
Upon the whole matter, we are eternally bound to thank our good God for all of the royal family that have not been perverted to popery, and to thank the rebels and fanatics, if any have. And so I leave these zealots to make good their claim to this new distinguishing title, and to prove themselves true protestants, if they can, without either truth or protestantism belonging to them.
3dly, A third misapplied word, by which these men have done no small mischief to religion, is, their calling the late sacrilegious subversion of the discipline, orders, and whole frame of our church, by the name of reformation; a word which (as taking as it is to the ear) has yet some years since raised such a war in the state, and caused such a schism in the church, as hardly any place or age can parallel; a word which has cost this kingdom above a hundred thousand lives; which has pulled down the sovereignty, levelled the nobility, and destroyed the hierarchy; and, filling all with blood, rapine, and confusion, reformed the best of monarchies into an anarchy, and the happiest of islands into an aceldama: and doubtless that must needs be a blessed seed, that can thrive in no soil, till it be ploughed up with war and desolation, and watered with the blood of its inhabitants.
But if we will needs be at this reforming work once more, it will concern us to consider first, what we are to reform from; but that is quickly answered, that the old plea must proceed upon the old pretence, 221and that we must reform from popery and superstition: but for this we have already shewn, by going over the principal parts of popery, that not one of them all can be found in our church; and if so, where and how then shall we be furnished with popery for reformation-work? Why, I will tell you: there are certain lands and revenues which the church is yet possessed of, and that with as full right as any man does or can hold his temporal estate by, which an old, surfeited avarice, not well able to gorge any more, either for shame or satiety, thought fit to leave remaining in the church still. And this is the popery that with men of a large and sanctified swallow we stand guilty of, and ought by all means to be reformed from. For with a certain sort of men there can be no such thing as a thorough reformation, till the clergy are all clothed in primitive rags, and brought to lick salt at the end of their table, who think the crumbs that fall from it much too good for them. But thanks be to God, it is not come to this pass yet, nor, till the government falls into such hands as grasped at it some years since, (which God forbid,) is it ever like to do.
Well, but if we are thus at a loss to find any thing like popery, besides the popery of church lands, for us to be reformed from, let us in the next place consider who are to be our reformers. And for this, such as appear foremost, and cry loudest for reformation, are a sort of men greatly branded with the in famous note of atheism and irreligion, debauchery and sensuality, lust and uncleanness; so that al though we cannot see what we are to be reformed from, yet we may fairly perceive what we are like to be reformed to. A reformation proceeding in 222 such hands being in all probability likely to prove much after the same rate, as if, upon those disorders and abuses mentioned to have been in the church of Corinth, St. Paul should of all others have singled out and wrote to the incestuous Corinthian to reform them.
But to give you a remarkable instance of what kind of sense of religion these reformers of it have had from first to last. When that reproach and scandal to Christianity, Hugh Peters, held a discourse with the arch-rebel his master upon the mutinying of the army about St. Albans, and things then seemed to be in a scurvy, doubtful posture, this wretch encouraged him not to be dismayed with the discontents of the soldiery, but accosting them resolutely to go on, as he had done all along, and to fox them a little more with religion, and on doubt he should be able to carry his point at last. A blessed expression this, Fox them with religion! and fit to come from the mouth of a noted preacher of religion, and a prime reformer of it also, but, how ever, very suitable to the person that uttered it, who died as he lived, with a stupified, seared conscience, and went out of the world foxed with something else beside religion.
4thly, A fourth abused name or word, by which the faction is every day practising upon the church, and the government of it, is their miscalling the execution of the laws made in behalf of the church, persecution. Now since the ten persecutions of the primitive Christians by the heathen emperors, in the first ages of Christianity, the word persecution is deservedly become of a very odious and ill import. And therefore, without any more ado, our fanatics 223(who are no small artists at disguising things with names which belong not to them) presently clap this vile word, like a fireship, upon the government and the laws, and doubt not by this to blow them up or burn them down in a little time. And indeed with the brutish rabble, who take words not as they signify, but as they sound, the artifice has gone very far, the great disturbers of the church by this sophistry passing for innocent, and the laws themselves being made the only malefactors.
But setting aside noise and partiality, I would gladly know why such as suffer capitally by the hand of justice at Tyburn, should not be as high and loud in their clamours against persecution as these men? If you say that those persons suffer for felony, but these for their conscience, I answer, that there is as much reason for a man to plead conscience for the breach of one law as for the breach of another, where the matter of the law is either good or indifferent, and both one and the other stand enforced by sufficient authority.
And possibly the highwayman will tell you, that he cannot in conscience suffer himself to starve, and that without taking a purse now and then he must starve, since dig he cannot, and to beg he is ashamed. But now, if you will look upon this as a very unsatisfactory plea to the judge, the jury, and the law, as no doubt it is a very insolent and a very senseless one, I am sure, upon the same grounds, all the pleas and apologies for the nonconformists (though made by some conformists themselves) are every whit as senseless and irrational.
But as to the plea of conscience, I shall only say this, that I will undertake to demonstrate to any 224 one possessed of the least grain of sense and reason, that there neither is nor can be any such thing as government in the world, where the subject is allowed to plead his private conscience in bar of the execution of the laws. For if, while the prince is to govern by law, the law is to be governed by the subject’s conscience, wheresoever the name and title of sovereignty may be lodged, the power is undoubtedly in those who overrule the law.
And now, if this pitiful sham and term of art, persecution, shall be able to screen those spiritual riots and seditious meetings, that look so terribly upon the government, from the justice of it, how can it possibly be safe? For the design of conventicles is not to worship God in another and a purer way, (as they cant it,) but to adjust the numbers, to learn the strength, and to fix the correspondence of the party, and thereby to prepare and muster them for a new rebellion; and the design of a rebellion is, for those that have not estates to serve themselves upon those that have. This is the sum total of the business. And thus much for this other trick that the faction would trump upon the government of the church, by loading the execution of its laws (which is the vital support of all governments) with the abhorred name of persecution. But now in the
Fifth and last place, let us come to the principal engine of all, which is their prosecuting the worst of designs against the best of churches, under the harm less gilded name of moderation, than which can any thing look milder or sound better? For as justice is the support of government, so moderation and equity is the very beauty and ornament of justice itself. And what is all virtue but a moderation of excesses, 225a mean that keeps the balance of the soul even, neither suffering it to rise too high on one side, nor to fall too low on the other? And does not Solomon, the wisest of men, commend it, by condemning the contrary quality, in being righteous overmuch? Eccles. vii. 16. And is not also one of the best of men, and one of the greatest of the apostles, St. Paul himself, alleged in praise of the same? Philip, iv. 5. Let your moderation be known unto all men. And possibly some Bibles, of a later and more correct edition, may by this time have improved the text, by putting trimming into the margin. So that you see that there could not be a more plausible nor a more authentic word to gull and manage the rabble, and to carry on a design by, than this of moderation.
But have we never yet heard of a wolf in sheep’s clothing? nor of a sort of men who can smile in your face, while they are about to cut your throat? And for these fellows, who have all along hitherto handled our church with the hands of Esau, how come they now all on a sudden to bespeak it with the voice of Jacob? Certainly therefore there is something more than ordinary couched under this beloved word of theirs, moderation. And if you would have a true and short account of it, as by persecution they mean the execution of those laws that would suppress nonconformity, so by moderation they mean neither more nor less than the encouraging and supporting of nonconformity by the suppression of those laws. This is the thing which is meant and driven at by them.
But then you are still to understand, that this is to be done dexterously and decently, and in a creeping, whining, sanctified dialect, and such as may not 226 too much alarm the government, by telling it plainly and roundly what they would be at; for that would be more haste than good speed. As for instance, to break in rudely and downright upon the church, and to cry out, “Away with your superstitious liturgy, we will have no stinting of the spirit: away with your popish canons, we are a freeborn people, and must have our liberty, both as men and as Christians: away with your gowns, hoods, and surplices, and other such rags and trumpery of the whore of Babylon: down with bishops and archbishops, deans and chapters, we will have nothing of them but their lands: repeal, abrogate, and take away all laws for conformity, and against conventicles, which are held as a rod over the good people of God, the sober, industrious, trading part of the nation.” Now I say, though a gracious heart (as they call their own) is big with all and every one of these designs, yet it is not time nor prudence to cry out, till there be strength to bring forth: and therefore, instead of all these boisterous assaults, the same thing is much better and more hopefully carried on in a lower strain and a softer expression. As, “Pray use moderation, gentlemen. Moderation is the virtue of virtues. Moderation bids fair to be a mark of regeneration, it is an healing, uniting, protestant-reconciling grace; and therefore since by our good will we would neither obey the laws, nor suffer for disobeying them, be sure above all things that you use moderation.” Well, the advice, you see, is good, especially for those that give it; but how is this to be done? Why thus: suppose one, in the first place, a church-governor, and that he comes to understand that such and such of 227his clergy exercise their ministry in a constant neglect of the rules, rites, and orders of the church? why, with great prudence and gravity he is to take no notice of it. Is the surplice and the ecclesiastical habit laid aside? why, still he is to practise the grace of connivance, and to wink hard at this too. Is the service of the church read brokenly, slovenly, imperfectly, and by halves? why, he is to suffer this also, and to make no words of it. Does any one presume to preach doctrines quite contrary to some of the articles of the church? why, in this case, if the preacher offends, the bishop is to silence only himself. And if at any time there happens a contest between a clergyman and some potent neighbour about the rights and dues of his living, he is presently to cajole and side with that potent oppressing neighbour, and to snub and discountenance the poor clergyman for not suffering himself to be op pressed, defrauded, and undone quietly, and without complaint. And this is some (though not all) of that moderation which some nowadays require in a church-governor, and which in due time cannot fail to have the very same effect upon the church, which the continual hewing and hacking at a tree must naturally have towards the felling it down.
Well, but in the next place we will suppose another man a justice of peace. And if so, let him not concern himself to lay this or that factious conventicle-preacher by the heels, as the law and his office require him to do. But if he must needs, for shame or fear, sometimes make a shew at least of searching after this precious man, let him however send him timely notice thereof underhand, that so the justice 228 may fairly and judiciously search for that which he is sure not to find; according to that of the poet, Istud quaero, quod invenire nolo. Moreover, if there chance to be a conventicle or unlawful meeting just under his nose, let him not disturb or break it up; for, alas! those that are of it are a sort of peaceable, well-meaning people, who meet only to serve God according to their consciences. Possibly indeed some of the chief of them may have fought their king heretofore at Edgehill, Marston-Moor, Naseby, or Worcester; but that is past long since, and they are resolved never to do so again till they are better able than at present (to their sorrow) they find themselves to be. And this is some of the moderation which is required of a magistrate or justice of peace; so called, I conceive, for sitting still, holding his peace, and doing nothing.
But then, lastly, if a parliament be sitting, O! that above all others is the proper time for such as are men of sobriety and zeal, and understand the true interest of the nation, (forsooth,) to manifest a fellow-feeling of the sufferings of the brotherhood, and in the behalf of their old puritan friends to pimp for bills of union, comprehension, or toleration. And this you are to know is a principal branch of that moderation which has been practised by several worthy and grave men of the church of England, as they are pleased (little to the church’s honour, I am sure) to style themselves; and, which is more, it was practised by them at a certain critical juncture of affairs, not many years since, when a clergyman could hardly pass the city streets without being reviled, nay spit upon, as several (to my knowledge) actually were. 229And I hope, though we churchmen had been blind before, so much dirt and spittle so bestowed might (without a miracle) have opened our eyes then.
And now, when both sense and experience as broad as daylight has shewn us what the party means by popery, what by true protestantism, and what by reformation, and the like, is this a time of day for any who profess and own themselves of the church of England to play fast and loose, to trim it and trick it, and prevaricate with the church by new schemes and models, new amendments and abatements of its orders and discipline, in favour of a rest less implacable faction, which breathes nothing less than its utter destruction? Has not the church of England cause above all other churches in the world to complain and cry out, “These are the wounds, which I have received in the house of my friends? My constitution is undermined and weakened, my laws broken, my liturgy despised, my doctrine impugned, and a kind of new gospel brought in, and millions of souls drawn from my communion; and all this dishonour done me, not only by my open avowed enemies, but chiefly and most effectually by such as have subscribed my articles and canons, such as have eat my bread and worn my preferments; these are the men who have brought me to this low, languishing, and consumptive condition, by their treacherous compliances and their false expedients, while I was still calling for their help and support, by that which only, under God, could or can preserve me a strict, thorough, and impartial observation of my laws.” For this I say, and will maintain, that the church of England, as to its external state and condition in this world, stands 230 upon no other bottom, and can be upheld by no other methods, but a vigorous execution of her laws on the one side, and a constant, uniform, unreserved conformity to them on the other. And all other ways are but the palliated remedies and the fallacious prescriptions of quacks, and mountebanks, and spiritual Pontaeus’s, such as wise men would never advise, nor good men approve of, and such as, by skinning over her wounds for the present, (though probably not so much as that neither,) will be sure to cure them into an after rottenness and suppuration, and infallibly thereby at length procure her dissolution. And for my own part, I fully believe that this was the very thing designed by these men all along. For I dare aver, that if that one project of union, as it was laid, had took place, it would have done more to the breaking our church in pieces, and to the bringing in of popery by those breaches, than the papists themselves have been able to do to wards it since the reformation. So that whatsoever the danger may have been to our church heretofore from church papists, I am sure the great danger that threatens it now is from church fanatics.
And thus I have at length done with the first grand instance of the three, in which the abuse and confusion of those great controlling names of good and evil has such a pernicious effect; and that is, in the business of religion and the affairs of the church, and particularly as they stand here amongst our selves, where both have infinitely suffered by the malicious artifice of a few misapplied words. But wo to those villainous artists by whom they have been so misapplied; good had it been for the church of England, and perhaps for themselves too, that 231they had never been born: and may the great, the just, and the eternal God, judge between the church of England and those men who have charged it with popery, who have called the nearest and truest copy of primitive Christianity superstition, and the most detestable instances of schism and sacrilege reformation; and in a word, done all that they could, both from pulpit and press, to divide, shatter, and confound the purest and most apostolically reformed church in the Christian world, and all this by the venomous gibberish of a few paltry phrases instilled into the minds of the furious, whimsical, ungoverned multitude, who have ears to hear, without either heads or hearts to understand.
For I tell you again, that it was the treacherous cant and misapplication of those words, popery, superstition, reformation, tender conscience, persecution, moderation, and the like, as they have been used by a pack of designing hypocrites, (who believed not one word of what they said, and laughed within themselves at all who did,) that put this poor church into such a flame heretofore as burnt it down to the ground, and will infallibly do the same to it again, if the providence of God and the prudence of man does not timely interpose between her and the villainous arts of such incendiaries. For we may and must pronounce of this vile cant, what a great and learned man said of common prophecies and predictions, usually vented and carried about to amuse the minds of the vulgar, to wit, that in point of any credence to be given to them, in respect of their truth or credibility, they are utterly to be despised and slighted; but in point of the influence they may have upon the public, by perverting the 232 minds of the people, no caution can be too great to be used against them, no diligence too strict, no penalties too severe, to discourage and suppress them. For even the silliest and most senseless things may sometimes conjure up more mischief to a government, than the wisest and the ablest statesmen in the world can conjure down again.
And to give you one terrible instance, how far the minds of men are capable of being canted and seduced into the most violent and outrageous courses, as they are managed by some pulpit impostors, you may all remember that the great engine of battery, which broke and beat down our church, was the Scotch covenant. But how did it do this execution? Why, by those spiritual boutcfeus calling this wretched thing from the pulpit to the deceived rabble the covenant of God. And so strangely had they beat this notion into their addle heads, that there was not one text in the whole book of God about the covenant between God and the Israelites, in which the brainless rout did not immediately, upon the bare clink of the words, conclude the Scotch covenant to be meant and pointed at there by. Such were all the texts in which God calls upon the Israelites to keep his covenant, and all the texts in which he reproaches and expostulates with them for having broke and been false to his covenant. In all which the stupid, schismatical herd, by the help of those hypocrites, those perverters of scripture, and murderers of souls, (if ever there were any such upon the face of the earth,) I say, by the fraudulent and fallacious infusions of those seducers, the abused vulgar reckoned the Scotch covenant, by clear and irrefragable evidence of scripture, bound 233inviolably fast upon their consciences. And can any thing in nature be imagined more profane and impious, more absurd, and indeed romantic, than such a persuasion; and yet, as impious and absurd as it was, it bore down all before it, and overturned the equallest and best framed government in the world. So that it was not for nothing that a sanctified dunce of the faction compared the covenant to the ark of God, brought into the temple of Dagon, and Dagon thereupon falling prostrate upon his face before it. For thus says he: “Nothing wicked or superstitious could stand before this other ark of God, the covenant, but presently upon the bringing of it into England, popery fell down before it, arbitrary power fell down before it; prelacy fell down and gave up the ghost at the feet of it.” And why did not the man of allusion, while his head was hot, and his hand was in, add also, that sense and reason, law and religion, justice and common honesty, and, in a word, all that was enjoined by God or approved by man, fell down and gave up the ghost before it? For it is certain that wheresoever the very breath of the covenant came, it blasted and consumed all these.
And now, was it not high time, think you, to tie up the tongues of those seducers, who could arm mere cant and nonsense to such a formidable opposition to the government, as to make one despicable word, villainously misapplied, and sottishly misunderstood, a fatal besom of destruction, to sweep away all before it, civil or sacred, legal or established, both in church and state?
Certainly there can be no truly pious, or indeed so much as truly English heart, but must bleed, 234 when it looks back upon that abomination of desolation, which was seen in all our holy places in those days, and consider, both by whom all this was brought upon them, and how. That the best and surest bulwark of protestantism, the glory of the reformation, and the express image of the purest anti quity, should be run down and laid in the dust by the meanest of cheats, managed by the worst of men. This has been done once, and God grant that we may never see it done again.
To which God, the great loner of truth, peace, and order in his church, be rendered and ascribed, as is most due, all praise, might, majesty, and dominion, both now and for evermore. Amen.235
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