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The second grand instance of the mischievous influence of words and names falsely applied, in the late overthrow of the English monarchy, compassed chiefly hereby, in the reign of king Charles I. and attempted again in the reign of king Charles II. being the third Discourse from those words in Isaiah v. 20.
Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil, &c.
I FORMERLY discoursed twice upon these words, the whole prosecution of which I cast under these four 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.
Fourthly, and lastly, To shew the grand and principal instances in which the abuse or misapplication of those names has so fatal and pernicious an effect.
The three first of these I despatched in my first discourse, and in my second made some entrance upon the fourth, to wit, the assignation of those in stances, &c. concerning which I shewed, that if we should consider them in their utmost compass and comprehension, they would carry as large a circumference 236 as the world itself, and grasp in the concerns of all mankind put together, being in their full latitude as numberless, various, and unconceivable, as all the particular ways and means by which men are capable of being miserable. And therefore, since to reckon up all particulars would be endless, and to rest only in universals would be equally fruitless, I chose 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 should take in the principal things which the happiness or misery of human societies depends upon.
Now those heads were three.
1st, Religion, and the concerns of the church.
2dly, Civil government. And,
3dly, The private interests of particular persons.
The first of which three, relating to religion and the church, I have fully treated of already in my last discourse, and shall now proceed to the
Second, Which is, to shew the direful and mischievous influence which the abuse or misapplication of those mighty operative names of good and evil has upon civil government, or the political state of the world.
In treating of which I will not be so arrogant and impertinent as to presume to discourse of the rules and arts of government, or to prescribe to those whom I am called to obey, government being the greatest, the noblest, and most mysterious of all arts, and consequently very unfit for those to talk magisterially of, who never bore nor affected to bear any share in it.
For though some have had the face and confidence to be meddling with religion, and reforming the \237church, reversing her canons, and new forming her liturgy, who were much fitter to have been learning their catechism at home, and dealing with their tenants in the country, if they had any; I say, though religion and divinity have the ill luck to be so meanly thought of, that every half-witted corporation blockhead thinks himself a competent judge of the deepest points of its doctrine, and the reason of its discipline, so as to be new modelling of both at his insolent but senseless pleasure; yet the learning which qualifies for the pulpit teaches more sense and better manners.
But though it be above our sphere to teach the rules and arts of governing, and to direct those how to steer who sit at the helm; yet I am sure it is not above us to help and assist them in their government, by declaring the villainy of those practices which would subvert it. Any one may kill wasps and hornets, and other vermin which infest a gar den, without pretending to the skill and art of a gardener; and a watchman may do much towards the defence of a city, though he offers not to govern it. In like manner, for a preacher of the word to denounce the wrath of God against faction and sedition, and by all the spiritual artillery of the word, (as I may so call it) to prosecute and run down those sins which both disturb government and destroy souls, cannot justly or properly be called his meddling with matters of state. And therefore when some very gravely tell us, that the sole or chief business of a preacher is to preach up a good life, and to preach down sin, I heartily assent to them, but withal must tell them, that I take obedience to government to be a principal part of a good life, and 238 faction and rebellion to be some of the worst, the blackest, and most damning sins that men can be guilty of; and consequently, that it is the direct, unquestionable duty and business of a preacher, with all imaginable zeal, to testify against crimes of so high and clamorous a guilt, wheresoever he finds them; since the same divine commission which commands him to instruct, equally empowers him to reprove; and I know no privilege or condition under heaven which can warrant a man to sin without reproof or control. This indeed is the proper post in which every preacher and spiritual person ought to serve the government; and how much soever such men may be despised, I am sure no sort of men are able to serve or disserve it more; the infamous pulpits between the years forty and sixty having been but too convincing a demonstration of the one, and the loyal clergy ever since sixty as effectual a proof of the other.
This I thought fit to note briefly beforehand, to obviate that insolent objection of some irreconcileable haters of the ministry, who still call the preaching of obedience to government, the ripping up of faction and sedition, a meddling with matters of state; as I question not but St. Paul himself would have incurred the very same censure from the same sort of persons, for what he says and teaches in the 13th chapter to the Romans, about the necessity of every soul’s being subject to the higher powers, and that there is no power but from God, and that such as resist shall receive to themselves damnation. Would not such as we have to deal with nowadays have cried out against him, What ails this pragmatical pulpiteer, thus to talk of government 239and obedience? Shall he presume to teach the commons of Rome how to behave themselves to their prince? Does he understand their privileges, which pass all understanding but their own? Trounce him, gaol him, and bring him upon his knees, and declare him a reproach and scandal to his profession, that so he may learn for the future (as one wisely advised upon the like occasion) to preach and to say nothing. For what has he to do to lay the law of subjection and loyalty to the freeborn people of Rome, when, for reason of state, the wisdom of the nation shall think fit to take their prince by the throat with one hand, and to wrest his sceptre from him with the other?
Nor is St. Paul the only troublesome person in this case, but we shall find that St. Peter also will needs be meddling with matters of state, 1 Pet. ii. 13, 14, 15, where he presses all, without exception, to submit themselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him, &c. together with an earnest exhortation, in five or six verses together, to the now antiquated duty of passive obedience. For though the duty of patience and subjection, where men suffer wrong fully, might possibly be of some force in those times of primitive darkness and imperfection, yet in times of light and revelation those beggarly elements of loyalty and subjection vanish; and Buchanan’s modern and more improved Christianity teaches, that then only men are bound to suffer, when they are not able to resist: a worthy doctrine, no doubt, and such as none but rebels were ever the better for, and none but such as love rebellion ever approved of.240
But must not that government, think you, be all this time in a very hopeful case, where a company of popular demagogues are let loose to poison and inflame the minds of the people with the rankest principles of rebellion; and those whose proper office, duty, and calling is to teach and to inform, to undeceive and disabuse men, must not, in the behalf of the government, warn them against such persons and principles as would debauch them from their allegiance, for fear of being loaded with the odious imputation of meddling with matters of state? No doubt that flock must needs be in a safe and good condition, where the shepherds must never cry out, nor the dogs bark, but when the wolves shall give them leave.
But I hope no clergyman of the church of England will ever debase and prostitute the dignity of his calling so far, as to want either courage or conscience to serve the government, by testifying against any daring, domineering faction which would disturb it, though never so much in favour with it, no man certainly deserving the protection of the government, who does not in his place contribute to the support of it; as, on the other side, those who at their utmost peril have spoke, and others who have fought for the support of it, surely of all others have least cause to be discouraged or forsook by it, howsoever it has sometimes happened otherwise.
And thus much by way of introduction to our main subject, which is to shew how our old gamesters have been, and still would be playing the same game upon the state, which they had done upon the church, and that by the very same libellous disguise and false representation of things and persons, blazoning 241out the worthiest men and the best actions under the foulest and most odious colours, and the vilest persons and the wickedest designs under the most popular and taking; one of the most pestilent ways certainly of calling good evil, and evil good, that the public can suffer by. For still the prime and most effectual engine to pull down any government, is, to alienate the minds of the subjects from it; it being a never-failing observation, that when a governor comes to be generally hated, he is not many steps from being assuredly ruined: by which old, long-practised, lying, diabolical artifice, as the worst of rebels mounted heretofore into the throne of the best of princes, so no doubt they hope to do the same again; and it is not long since that they bade fair for it.
Now those artificial words, by the misapplication and management of which, these overturners of all above them have done such mighty execution, being much too many for a present rehearsal, as I formerly culled out five of the chief and most venomous, by which those wretches ruined and overthrew the ecclesiastical state amongst us, so I shall now pitch upon four of the principal;, by which they did, and hope to do the same feat again upon the monarchy and civil government; it being the usual fate of that and the church, to be supported and run down by the same methods.
1st, The first is their traducing and exposing the mildest of governments and the best of monarchies by the odious name of arbitrary power.
2dly, Their blackening and misrepresenting the ablest friends and assistants of their prince in his 242 government, with the old infamous character of evil counsellors.
3dly, Their setting off and recommending the greatest enemies both of prince and people, under the plausible, endearing title of public spirits, patriots, and standers up for their country.
4thly, and lastly, Their couching the most malicious, selfish, and ambitious designs, under the glorious cover of zeal for liberty and property, and the rights of the subject.
These four rattling words, I say, arbitrary power, evil counsellors, public spirits, liberty, property, and the rights of the subject, with several more of the like noise and nature, used and applied by some state impostors, (as scripture was once quoted by the Devil,) are the great and powerful tools by which the faction hope to do their business upon the government once more. For since (as I observed in the first discourse upon this subject) the generality of mankind are wholly governed by words and names, having neither strength of judgment to discern, nor leisure to inquire into the right application and drift of them; what can be expected, if a company of bold, crafty, designing villains shall be incessantly buzzing into the rabble’s ears, tyranny and arbitrary power, pensioners and evil counsellors, on the one hand, and pointing out themselves for the only patrons of their country, the only assertors of liberty and property, and redressers of grievances on the other? I say, if the rout be still followed and plied by them with such mouth granadoes as these, can any thing be expected, but that those who look no further than words should take 243such incendiaries at their word, and thereupon presently kindle and flame out, and throw the whole frame of the government into tumult and confusion?
And therefore I shall go over every one of these rabble-charming words, which carry so much wild fire wrapt up in them, and lay open the true meaning and design of them as distinctly as in so short an exercise I can.
1. And first, let us begin with the highest and loudest, and that which leads the van in all clamours against the government, namely, that of arbitrary power, twin to that other great and noted one of popery., treated of by me heretofore; arbitrary power being of much the same import with reference to the state, that popery is with relation to the church; indeed they always go hand in hand, the cry of one still accompanying the other: and as it is hardly possible for a man to spit, but at the same time he must breathe too; so I believe hardly any foul mouth ever opened against the church, in the slander of popery, which did not likewise discharge itself against the monarchy, in the slander of arbitrary power.
But since there has been so much noise made of it, I think it may be no less than requisite for us to see and state what arbitrary power is. And in the true sense of it, it is a prince’s or governor’s ruling his people according to his own absolute will and pleasure, either without law or against it. Such a kind of power was that vested in the Roman emperors by the lex regia, that the sole will of the emperor should in all things obtain the force of a law. And such an one more properly is at this day the power of the grand signior, or Turkish emperor, and 244 generally of all eastern princes. But when was such a power ever claimed by, or where does the least foot step of it appear in the very worst of our kings who have reigned since the conquest? And therefore it is strange that it should be charged upon the very best.
For though every statute-law is the product of the king’s will, it being the royal assent that properly enacts or stamps it a law, yet our kings have consented to such a limitation of the exercise of this their power, as to the matter of all laws, that they claim not now a power to make what laws they please; but still the matter of them, or the thing which is to receive that authorizing sanction from the royal hand, is first to be prepared and tendered to it by the choice and consent of the subjects themselves, acting by their representatives. So that as the king has always a negative upon the sanction, so the subject has still a negative upon the matter of the law.
And can there be a greater privilege enjoyed by any subjects under heaven, than to be the choosers of their own laws? Or did any of our princes, especially those of the present race, ever go about to ravish or extort it from them? And have not those laws been as free and uncontrolled in the execution, as they were benign and wholesome in the composition? And lastly, have not those laws that have made the English government so easy, so equal, and so beneficial to the subject, even to the envy of all nations round about us, been the effects and issue of that princely goodness which induced our kings to pass them into laws, and without which they could never have been laws, but, after all, would have remained an useless caput mortuum, without either life or force in them?245
The truth is, we have been so governed for above these hundred years, that it is hard to decide whether the government or the governor has been the milder of the two. For as to the government itself, can any constitution in nature be imagined gentler, and further from the least shadow of oppression, than that in which, as to all matters of right, the subject stands upon the same ground with his prince, so as to be allowed legally to contest his right with him in his own courts, they being free and open, and judges appointed to umpire the matter in contest between them, and to decide where the right lies? And can there be any thing arbitrary or tyrannical, where justice has so free and uninterrupted a course, and where the king is understood neither to do, nor so much as to command any thing, but what he does or commands by his laws, and those such as for the most part are more in favour of the subject than of the prerogative?
And if so, can we imagine that any one in his wits, who designs to fight, would first suffer, or rather cause his own hands to be tied? Yet this is not a greater absurdity, than to suppose a prince setting up for arbitrary power, just after he himself had passed those laws which make the exercise of such a power in a prince ruling by law utterly impossible. And yet this was eminently the case of the two last kings, with reference to this slander cast upon them by the republican faction, after they had passed more laws to assure the right of the subject, and to the limiting the prerogative, than all their predecessors since the conquest had done before them. And so much was once acknowledged of king Charles I. by that very faction which ruined him. nay even while 246 they were actually ruining him; and we know his son, in such acts of grace, rather outdid than came behind him. Indeed both of them parted with so much of their royal power and prerogative, to gratify and content their people, that many wise men have feared that the crown may have hardly enough left it in all cases to protect them. Which, should it be so, is the chief thing that looks like a grievance to the subject of any that I know; and if it be, they know whom they may thank for it, especially when those laws were made in the reign of two such princes, that though they had never been made, the very temper and disposition of the men had been a superabundant security to the subject against all their fears; princes who had nothing arbitrary or violent either in their nature or their family; princes of such an unparalleled clemency, that I dare confidently aver, that it was solely and wholly owing to their surpassing mildness, that there was so much as one wretch in all their dominions either able or willing to do them hurt.
But there cannot be a greater demonstration that there is no such thing as arbitrary power in this kingdom, than that men have been endured so commonly and so freely to charge the government with it. What a noise was there of arbitrary power in the reign of the two last kings, and scarce any at all during the usurpation of Cromwell! Of which I know no reason in the world that can be given but this; namely, that under those two princes there was no such thing, and under Cromwell there was nothing else. For where arbitrary power is really and indeed used, men feel it, but dare not complain of it, for fear their complaints should be answered, as 247the Egyptians answered those of the Israelites, by increasing their tasks and redoubling their burdens. And besides all this, what an hideous outcry was, not many years since, raised by an insolent, impudent company of men against arbitrary power, while they themselves were practising it upon their fellow-subjects, and that at such a rate, as none of our kings ever so much as pretended to. And yet, if ever it should so please God as to punish the nation with an arbitrary oppression for complaining of it when there was none, surely it would be much more tolerable to groan under the arbitrary will of a noble, royally descended monarch, than under the lawless will and tyranny of a pack of spiteful, mean, merciless republicans; as without question it would be a much nobler death to be torn in pieces by a lion, than to be eaten up by lice.
And thus much for the first groundless, senseless, and shameless calumny upon the government, to wit, that of arbitrary power; a calumny which more than sufficiently contradicts and confutes itself by this one irrefragable argument; that any subject who has presumed to libel and reproach his prince with it, is seen alive and well, nay, rich and thriving, after he has done so. Of which sort of arguments this (it is well known) affords no small plenty and variety.
2dly, The next word of art and malice, by which the faction would undermine the government, is evil counsellors. For sometimes it is not found either so safe or so expedient for popular rage and rudeness to discharge itself immediately upon the person of the king himself, and therefore they choose to make their approaches more artificially, and first to attack 248 those about him. But as in a siege the taking in the outworks is in order to the taking of the main fort at last, so faction never strikes at any of a prince’s ministers, but with a design that the blow should go round, and reach him in the end. When the wolves intended to destroy the sheep by way of parley and making peace with them, it would have been a very impudent and a senseless thing to have told them in plain terms that they had a design to devour them; and therefore they made a more dexterous and politic proposal, and promised to live peaceably and neighbourly with them, upon condition that they would deliver up their dogs. So when the late rebel faction had designed the destruction of the king and monarchy, they were not such sots as to profess and declare so much at first; no, they were only for removing his evil counsellors, that is, for sucking the blood of his best friends, and stripping him of his faithfullest ministers, and such as were most able both to serve and support him, and then let them alone to make him as great and glorious, as in the issue (you all know) they made him.
And in like manner, when the true brood and spawn of the same republican cabal was about to play the same game upon the son which their predecessors had done upon the father, this and that counsellor was to be removed from his counsels, and banished from his royal presence for ever. And then, if he would but part with his guards too, he could not with any reason have doubted of his safety, having cast himself into those hands which had brought him so many dutiful petitions. For no man questions but they (good men) would have done 249all they could to have secured him. Nay, I dare undertake for them, that they would not have thought any castle in the kingdom too good or strong to have bestowed him in. But he should have had all the security that Holdenby-house, or Hampton-court, or Carisbrook, or Hurst, or Windsor-castle, could have afforded him; and it were much if he could not have been secure in all these. But yet if these could not have made him so, they had one way more left, which would have followed of course, and would infallibly have done it.
Only there was indeed this difference in the proceedings of the faction formerly against the father, and lately against his son, that the faction first imprisoned the father, and then addressed to him; whereas the late managers of the same design against the son libelled him with their addresses first, hoping to be able to imprison him afterwards. And this difference, let me tell you, was very material, and (thanks be to God) produced a very different issue and success to the whole proceeding. It being no small favour of Providence to kings and princes, that their enemies had sometimes rather shew their anger than employ their wit.
But however, you see, by reflecting upon what has passed, that the clamour against evil counsellors was an old trusty tool, equally managed both against father and son. And I hope such as have eyes and ears, and common sense to judge by, do by this time sufficiently understand both the engine itself, and the persons who use to manage it; especially since they have been so extremely kind to the world, as, by printing their politics, to inform not only this, 250 but all future ages, how honestly they designed matters, and how wisely they carried them.
Well, but if evil counsellors must needs be removed, what must be done next? Why, that is a needless question. For what should be done, but to take in those in their stead who were so earnest and active to remove them? For do you think that these patriots are so fierce and zealous against ministers of state, and other high officers, for any other reason in the world but to get into their places? Or that they pitch upon this course of crying out against others for any other end, but because they judge it the most likely and effectual to promote themselves? It would indeed be too gross, too fulsome, and too shameless a request, for any one to come to his prince, and say, Sir, I will not be quiet, unless your majesty will make me treasurer or chancellor, chief justice, or secretary of state, attorney general, or the like; and if you will not give me such or such a great office, I will never leave troubling you, never give over petitioning, addressing, and protesting, never cease crying out grievances, popery, pensioners, and evil counsellors, till the whole nation rings of it again; and therefore your majesty will do very prudently, and consult both your ease and safety, by removing such a great officer, and putting me, your worthy petitioner, into his room; and by this you will also wonderfully please and gratify your people, whom in truth I care as much for, as I do for the dirt under my shoes.
These things, I confess, are very gross and scandalous; but as gross as they are, assure yourselves, that whensoever you hear any one clamouring against 251evil counsellors, this is as really and truly his sense and meaning, as if he had wrote his mind upon his forehead, and used every one of the forementioned expressions to a tittle.
3dly, The third battery which the faction plants against the government, is, their recommending the most mortal enemies both of prince and people under the plausible, endearing title of public spirits; that is the word, but private interest is the signification. But pray, what has any private man to do, to concern himself for the public, but in his private station? What has this extortioner or that lace-seller to do, to mistake his prince for his apprentice, and to undertake to instruct him? What has this or that joiner to do, to leave his shop, and to guard the parliament? These and the like matters belong properly to the sovereign prince, and to those whom he shall be pleased to employ under him. For surely none can be so fit to be intrusted with the public weal of the nation, as he who gives the surest pledge of his concern for it, by having the greatest interest and share in it.
And therefore he who sets up for his country against his prince, goes about to make the body thrive by the decay and ruin of the head. Assuredly no man shews his zeal and love for his country so much, as he who does all he can to enable his prince both to govern and protect it; which I am sure cannot be done either by weakening or impoverishing him, by disgracing or misrepresenting him. This indeed has been the course taken by those great factors for sedition, who have shot that odious distinction like a fiery dart at the government, of the court party, and the country party; 252 for which the country may perhaps one day have as little cause to thank them, as they have at present to thank themselves. For I do not find that by all their noise and heat they have made themselves so considerable, as to be thought worthy to be taken off. But whether they succeed this way or no, (as it were much if the same cheat should always find the same success,) they know, however, that to be still mouthing out the interest of the country, the interest of the country, is a sort of plausible, well received cant, and a sweet morsel, which never fails to be readily swallowed by the gaping rout, who always loves those men best who abuse them most.
But for all this, I would have those state-vermin know, that king and country are hardly terms of distinction, (in the forementioned kings I am sure they were not,) and much less of opposition, since no man can serve his country without assisting his king, nor love his king without being concerned for his country. One involves the other, and both together make but one entire, single, undivided interest. God has joined them together, and cursed be that man, or faction of men, which would disjoin, or put them asunder.
And therefore, friends, suffer not yourselves to be imposed upon, but rest assured that all who come to you with those glossing pretences of public spirits and zeal for their country, if they do it with the least reflection upon their prince or his government, are all that time mocking and making a prey of you; they are smiting the shepherd, and that uses to be the way to scatter the flock. Alas! their design is not to preserve their country, but to prefer themselves; nay, they are making all this hectoring 253bustle for the country only to get themselves into the court. They are holding up their heads to see what the government will bid for them; and if their pretences are found too old and stale to be marketable, or worth buying, you shall find them retreat, and sneak away with all that odium and contempt which is justly due to baffled, discovered cheats. And then the public spirit vanishes immediately, and the country, after all this highflown zeal for it, is left to shift for itself.
For we must know, that when this public spirit is once raised, there are but two ways of laying it again, and those the very same which we use to take to rid ourselves of restless, importunate beggars; namely, either to give them what they desire, or resolutely to reject, and give them nothing. Now the first of these is that which beggars and public spirits do most desire. For still you must observe, that the public spirit here spoken of has always this strange property with it, that when it is most boisterous, furious, and troublesome, it is then also most desirous to be conjured down, provided it be done skilfully and privately. For as Solomon says, Prov. xxi. 14. A gift in secret pacifieth anger, and has a wonderful ascendant over all evil spirits, but over the public one especially; which though it has all the poison of the adder, yet has nothing of the deafness of it, forasmuch as it never stops its ear against the charmer, if he does but charm wisely; that is, if he applies the forementioned charm liberally and privately too. This being a rule always to be remembered, that the more public the spirit is, the more private must be the exorcism, for spirits being invisible things, must be dealt with after an invisible 254 manner. So then this is one way of exorcising or conjuring down a public spirit, and recovering those that are possessed with it, which some of late years have called a taking them off. Though some governments have another way of taking such off, which they find much more effectual. For as in the case of beggars before hinted, so here also we must observe, that though this way of gratification, or giving, may rid the government of the importunity of the public spirit for the present, yet the same spirit will be sure to return upon it again, and perhaps with seven more in its company worse than itself, that they also may be exorcised and taken off the same way. As the very same relief which stops a beggar’s mouth, and sends him away, at one time, will certainly bring him, and many more with him, to the same house at another; it being not to be imagined that such customers will forsake a door only because they use to be fed at it. And therefore governors will never find this way of laying the public spirit successful; but just like a man’s drinking in a fever, which may be some refreshment at present, but an increase of torment in reversion.
From whence it follows, that the other way for the government to dispossess and cast out these public spirits is certainly the wisest and most effectual, which is, to give them nothing, but to defy their rage, and to despise their pretences, and to answer them, as a man in place and power would answer the craving and clamour of a restless beggar, with authority and correction. For if men come once to find, that nothing is to be got by being troublesome to the government, they will quickly alter their way 255of traffick, and come to fawn upon it, instead of barking at it; which, though it be not of much worth, I confess is yet the better worthless thing of the two. Let a governor take up such as trouble him and his people with rigour and resolution, and make them know, if he can, that he neither fears nor needs them, and I dare undertake that he shall not be long troubled with them. If an horse grows resty, head strong, and apt to throw his rider, surely to pamper him cannot be the way to tame him; but the discipline of the whip and spur will bring him to hand much sooner and surer than the plenties of the rack and manger.
But now, after all, what is the thing which really lies under the disguise of this plausible word, public spirit? Why, if you would have the whole truth of it, name and thing together, it is faction and sedition rampant; it is a combination of some insolent, unruly minds to snatch the sceptre out of their prince’s hand; it is their thrusting themselves into his peculiar business, and so, in effect, into his throne; it is their confounding the essential bounds and limits of sovereignty and subjection, and consequently a dissolution of all government. For where such up start, aspiring mushrooms assume a right to govern, I am sure it can be no man’s duty to obey.
And thus much for this sham pretence of public spirits, which has proved so troublesome to our public peace; the fatal and malign influence of which, I think, cannot be better expressed, than by telling you, that this pretence of a public spirit has been as hurtful and mischievous to government, as that of the private spirit has been to religion.
4thly. The fourth and last mighty misapplied word 256 which I shall mention, with which the faction has of a long time been fighting against the government, is, liberty, property, and the rights of the subject. And so loud and tragical has the outcry about these been, that a man unacquainted with this sort of people could imagine no less, by what he had heard, than that almost all the houses in the nation were emptied into the gaols, and that there were scarce a foot of land in the kingdom but what was seized on by the crown. And yet, after all this noise, there is not a freer and a richer people upon the face of the earth than the English; nor were they themselves ever so free and so rich before, as they have been in the reigns of those two excellent princes whom they were perpetually baiting with complaints about their liberties and properties; princes so far from wronging the subject upon either of these accounts, that, as to the point of liberty, the crown has almost parted with its power of imprisoning the subject; and as for property, it has been so far from encroaching upon the subjects’ lands, that it has very near the matter parted with all its own. But I hope by this time the crown perceives, that such sturdy beggars are not to be dealt with this way, and that it is neither wisdom, mercy, nor charity, to feed a bottomless pit.
But, to adjust the true and proper measures of liberty, there is no people so free as those who live under a just monarchy; there being no slavery in the world comparable to that of having many masters. And those state mountebanks who would persuade people that there is no such thing as freedom of the subject under a monarchy, let them go seek for it in Holland and Venice, and other republics, 257and there they shall find a free people indeed; that is, free to undergo any penalty which their govern ors shall be pleased to inflict, and free to pay any tax which they shall think fit to impose; and that with out either remedy or redress, be it never so grievous. And as for any other kind of freedom, you must look for it elsewhere, if you would find it; for it is not a commodity of the growth of those countries.
And to shew further, how falsely, how partially, and unjustly this reproach has been cast upon monarchical government, that of England especially, I have heard of a certain sort of men not far off, who, when they had tied up their prince from detaining any dangerous or seditious subject in prison, thought it yet very reasonable for themselves to imprison whom they pleased, and as long as they pleased, according to that unerring rule of equity and right reason, (forsooth,) their own pleasure. So that (it seems) it must pass for slavery for a subject to be kept in prison by his sovereign, but liberty, for the same person to be held in durance by his fellow-subjects. Oh! the tyranny and impudence of some men!
But what is that liberty which they thus cry out for? Why, they would have a liberty to act those things against a prince, which some have took a liberty to write and speak. They would have a liberty to set their insulting feet upon the necks of their fellow-subjects, and those for the most part bet ter men than themselves. They would have a liberty to plunder and fight other men out of their estates, and themselves into them. So that, in short, the liberty and property that these men are so zealous 258 for, is a liberty to invade and seize other men’s properties. For, as it has been appositely and truly observed, none are generally so loud and clamorous for the security of our religion, as atheists and republicans, who have none at all; none such zealous advocates for liberty, as those who, when they are once got into power, prove the arrantest tyrants in nature; and none such mighty champions for property, as those who have neither a groat in their purse, nor an inch of land which they can call their own; but are a company of beggarly, broken, bankrupt malecontents, who have no other considerable property in the world, but never to be satisfied.
And thus I have gone over some of those popular abused words, those sly and maliciously infused slanders, by which an implacable, unruly faction has been perpetually weakening and worrying the civil government; and that with such success, that it has destroyed the very being of it once, and the settlement of it ever since.
And now, by way of consequence and deduction from the foregoing particulars, what can be so naturally inferred as this; that, as the text denounces a curse to those who call evil good, and good evil; so it equally imports it to be a duty, and implies a blessing belonging to it, to call good good, and evil evil? It is the best oblation which we can make to truth, and the greatest charity that we can shew the world. For how can government, and consequently the peace of mankind, fence and guard itself against knaves passing under the guise and character of honest men, when faction and sedition shall be called activity and fitness for business, forsooth; and loyalty 259and conscience be sneered at as softness and in discretion? Never think, that either church or state can thrive upon these measures.
And here give me leave to utter a great truth, whether it please or not please; for my business here is not to please men, but to convince them of what concerns them. And it is this: that there has not been any one thing, since the restitution of our church and monarchy, that has contributed more to the weakening of both, and the strengthening the hands of the faction against both, than the general discouragement and restraint of men upon all occasions, and especially from the pulpit, from giving the late villainous times and practices, and the guilty actors in them, boldly and impartially their own. This only use being made by them of all this tenderness, or rather tameness, towards them, that by never hearing of their guilt, they have forgot that they were ever pardoned. They take heart, and insult, and usurp the confidence which belongs only to the innocent. Nay, they have grown, they have thriven, and become powerful by this usage; it being what above all things in the world they wished for and desired, but could not (I dare say) have been so impudent as to hope for. For what could a thief or robber desire more, than, having seized the prey, and possessed himself of his base booty, to carry it off both safely and quietly too; nay, and to see the person robbed by him, not only with his hands fast tied from recovering his goods, but with his tongue tied also, from so much as crying out “Thief?”
But for all the fallacious state-mists which have been cast before our eyes, men have both seen and felt enough to know, that for persons of honour, 260 power, or place, to caress and soothe up men of dangerous principles and known disaffection to the government with terms and appellations of respect, is manifestly for the government to knock underboard to the faction, to infuse courage into it by courting it, and to make its shrewdest enemies strong and considerable, by seeming to fear those who may be suppressed, but can never be won. Besides, that this must needs grieve the hearts and damp the spirits of those who in its greatest extremities were its best, or rather its only friends, and (if occasion requires) must be so again, or it must have none.
And therefore I will be bold to affirm, that the great long rebellion being, in the whole carriage of it, so very black and foul, so reproachful to religion, so scandalous to the whole nation, and so utterly in capable, not only of excuse, but even of extenuation, especially in that last and hellish scene of it, the king’s murder; I say, upon all these accounts it can not be too frequently, too severely, and too bitterly, upon all public occasions, ripped up and reflected upon. All the pulpits in the king’s dominions ought to ring of it, as long as there is a man alive who lived when the villainy was committed. Preachers, in their sermons to their congregations, and judges, in their charges to the juries and justices of the country, ought to inculcate and lay before them the horrid impiety and scandal of those proceedings, and the execrable mischief of the principles which caused them: especially since we have seen such new rebellions springing out of the ashes of the old; a sufficient demonstration, doubtless, that the fire is not yet put out. And believe it, this, if any, is the likeliest way both to atone the guilt of those crying 261sins, and to prevent the like for the future. And if this course had been vigorously and heartily followed, can you imagine that such devilish, audacious libels, and such seditious coffee-house discourses, could have flown in the face of the government, as have done for above twenty years together? I tell you, that neither men’s courage nor their conscience would have served them to have ventured upon their prince, or attacked his government at such a daring rate. Nay, let this course be but taken yet, and the people all over the kingdom be constantly and warmly plied from the pulpits upon the particulars here spoken of, and I doubt not but in the space of three years the king shall have quite another people, and his people be taught quite another kind of subjection, from what they have practised any time these threescore years.
And therefore let none think that those season able rebukes which I here encourage and plead for, proceed from any hatred of the persons of those wretches, (how much soever they deserve it,) but from a dutiful concern for, and charity to the public, and from a just care and commiseration of posterity, that the contagion may not spread, nor the poison of the example pass any further. For I take reproof, no less than punishment, to be rather for prevention than retribution; rather to warn the innocent, than to reproach the guilty; and by thus warning them while they are innocent, in all probability to preserve and keep them so.
For does not St. Paul himself make this the great ground and end of all reproof? 1 Tim. v. 20, Them that sin, says he, rebuke before all, that others also may fear. And in Titus i. 13, Rebuke them sharply. 262 Where let us suppose now that St. Paul had to do with a pack of miscreants, who had by the most unchristian practices dethroned and murdered their prince, to whom this apostle had so often and so strictly enjoined absolute subjection, plundered and undone their brethren, to whom the said apostle had so often commanded the greatest brotherly love and amity; and lastly, rent, broken, and torn in pieces the church, in which he had so earnestly pressed unity, and so severely prohibited all schismatical divisions; what, I say, do we think now? Would St. Paul have rebuked such new-fashioned extraordinary Christians, or would he not? And if he would, do we imagine that he would have done it in the modern treacherous dialect? Touch not my rebels, and do my fanatics no harm. No moderation-monger under heaven shall ever persuade me that St. Paul would have took such a course with such persons, or have taught Timothy, or Titus, or any other gospel preacher, to do so, for fear of spoiling their promotion, or translation, or offending any powerful faction of men whatsoever.
And pray, do you all consider with yourselves, whether you would be willing to have your children, your dearest friends and relations, grow up into rebels, schismatics, presbyterians, independents, anabaptists, quakers, the blessed offspring of the late reforming times? And if you would not, then leave off daubing and trimming it, and plainly, impartially, and severely declare to your children and families the villainy and detestable hypocrisy of those which are such. And assure yourselves that this is the likeliest way to preserve them untainted with the same infection.263
To all which considerations I shall add this one more, as an unanswerable argument, why the cursed authors of our late sad distractions should not be suffered to carry off their rogueries with the sneaking silence and connivance of all about them; namely, that by this means, about fourscore or an hundred years hence, the faction (if it continues so long, as no doubt with good keeping it may) will, from denying the impiety and the guilt, come to deny also the very history and being of the long great rebellion. This perhaps, at first hearing, may seem something odd and strange to you. But if you consider, that in the space of forty years the faction has had the face to shift off that rebellion and murder of the king from themselves upon the papists, is it at all unlikely, that in the compass of threescore or fourscore years more, they may utterly deny that there was ever any such thing at all? This, I am sure, is not impossible; and considering the boldness and falseness, and brazen confidence of the faction, I cannot think it so much as improbable. But I am sure also, that it is no less than a national concern, that following ages should not be so far ignorant of what has passed in ours, as thereby to want so great and so irrefragable an argument against disloyalty and rebellion.
And therefore, as it is said that the king never dies upon a legal account, so it is vastly the interest of the government, that the murder of the king should never die upon an historical. To which purpose, let strict, naked, and undisguised truth take place in all things; and let not evil be dignified with the title of good, nor good libelled with the name of evil, by a false and fraudulent appellation 264 of things and persons. But as the merit of men’s works must and will follow them into another world, so (in all reason and justice) let the true name of their works accompany and go along with them in this. That so the honest and the loyal may not be degraded to the same level with knaves and rebels, nor knaves usurp the rewards and reputation which none but the honest and the loyal have a claim to.
Which God, the eternal Fountain of truth, and great Judge of all things, vouchsafe to grant; to whom be rendered and ascribed, as is most due, all praise, might, majesty, and dominion, both now and for evermore. Amen.265
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