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On the Martyrdom of King Charles I.
PREACHED AT COURT ON THE 30th OF JANUARY.
And it was so, that all that saw it said, There was no such thing done or seen from the day that the children of Israel came up from the land of Egypt unto this day: consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds.
THERE is a certain fatal pertinency in the very phrase of the text; for when there were judges, there was no king in Israel, though, as to the present purpose, they were judges of another nature that removed ours. We have an account of this prodigious and horrid action, clothed with all the circumstances of wonder and detestation, but yet well timed for its commission, it being done when, upon the want of the regal power, Judges xxi. 25, every man did what was right in his own eyes; or, in another dialect, as the Spirit moved him. And as for the authors of this execrable fact, we have them defending themselves with their swords, and for some time asserting their villainy, with their success and victory against their brethren, twice beaten and massacred before them in a righteous cause, as you may see in the next chapter.466
I do not profess myself either delighted or skilled in mystical interpretations, and to wiredraw the sense of the place, so as to make it speak the death of the king; as some who can interpret scripture, as if the whole book of God was only to tell things transacted in England and Scotland; so that there cannot be so much as an house fired, or a leg broken, but they can find it in Daniel or the Revelations. No, I pretend to no such skill; it is enough for me if I bring the present business and the text together, not by design, but accommodation: and as the phrase runs full and high, so I doubt not but to find such a parallel in the things themselves, that it may be a question whether of the two may have a better claim to the expression. The cause here, which was worded with so high aggravations, was an injury done to one single Levite, in the villainous rape of his concubine; the resentment of which was so great, that it engaged the rest of the tribes to revenge his quarrel with a civil war, in which the preeminence and conduct was given by God’s appointment to the royal tribe of Judah: the sceptre being most concerned to assert the privileges and revenge the injuries of the crosier. We have the Benjamites sturdily abetting what they had impiously done, and for a while victorious in villainy, by the help of God’s providence, trampling on those that fought by the warrant of his precept.
Let us now see the counterpart: he that dates the king’s murder from the fatal blow given on the scaffold, judges like him that thinks it is the last stroke that fells the tree; the killing of his person was only the consummation of his murder, first begun in his prerogative. We have heard the knack of 467a double capacity, personal and politic, and I suppose they distinguish the king into two, that each party might murder him under one. And for those whose loyalty does only consist in designing that action which was taken out of their hands, and having laid the premises, they protest against the conclusion; they cover their prevarication with a fig-leaf, and only differ from the other party in this, that these endeavour to disguise the author of the fact, those only the executioner. Well then; when a long sunshine of mercy had ripened the sins of the nation, so that it was now ready for the shatterings of divine vengeance: the seed of faction and rebellion having been for a long time studiously sown by schismatical doctrines, and well watered by seditious lectures, the first assault was made against the tribe of Levi, by some implacable enemies of the church, the fury of whose lust and ambition nothing could allay, till they had full scope to prostitute her honour, and ravish her revenues; till at length, cut, divided, torn in pieces, as she was, she lay a ghastly spectacle to all beholders, to all the Israel of God.
And as this was done to our English Levites, so it was acted by Benjamites; by so many Benjamites as raven like wolves, till by their rapine and sacrilege they had their mess five times bigger than their brethren’s. The prosecution of which quarrel was armed by the royal standard, and the defence of the church managed by the defender of the faith; in which it pleased the all-wise God to cause Judah to fall before Benjamin, the lion to be a prey to the wolf; by which fatal trace of Providence the king being killed long before forty-five, by natural and immediate sequel to complete the action, Charles 468was murdered in forty-eight. And this is the black subject of this day’s solemnity. In my reflections upon which, if detestation, (that is, a due apprehension of the blackest fact that ever the sun saw, since he withdrew upon the suffering of our Saviour,) chance to give an edge to some of my expressions, let those know, (the nature of whose actions has made truth look like a sarcasm, and descriptions sharper than invectives,) I say, let these censurers know, (whose innocency lies only in the Act of Indemnity,) that to drop the blackest ink and the bitterest gall upon this fact, is not satire, but propriety.
Now since the text says, There was no such thing ever done or seen, the proper prosecution of the words, all applied to this occasion, must be to shew wherein the strangeness of this deed consists; and since the nature of every particular action is to be learnt by reflecting upon the agent and the object, with all the retinue of circumstances that attend it, under a certain determination, I shall accordingly distribute my following discourse into these materials: I shall,
I. Consider the person who suffered.
II. Shew the preparation or introduction to his suffering.
III. Shew you the qualities of the agents who acted in it.
IV. Describe the circumstances and manner of the fact.
Lastly, Point out the destruction and grim consequences of it.
Of all which in their order.
I. He that suffered was a king, and, what is more, 469such a king as was not chosen, but born to it; owing his kingdom, not to the voice of popularity, but the suffrage of nature; he was a David, a saint, a king, but never a shepherd: all the royal blood in Christendom ran in his veins, i. e. many kings went to the making up of him, and his improvement and education fell in ways not below his extraction. He was accurate in all the commending excellencies of human accomplishments, able to deserve, had he not inherited, a kingdom: of so controlling a genius, that in every science he did not so much study as reign, he appeared not only a proficient, but a prince; and, to go no further for a testimony, let his own writings serve for a witness, which speak him no less an author than a monarch, composed with such an unfailing accuracy, such a commanding, majestic pathos, as if they had been written not with a pen, but a sceptre: and as for those whose virulent and ridiculous calumnies ascribe that incomparable work to others, it is a sufficient argument that those did not, because they could not write it. It is hard to counterfeit the spirit of majesty and the inimitable peculiarities of an incommunicable genius. At the council-table he had ability enough to give himself the best counsel, but the unhappy modesty to diffide in it, indeed his only fault; for modesty is a paradox in majesty, and humility is a solecism in supremacy.
Look we next on his piety and incomparable virtues, though, without any absurdity, I may say, that his very endowments of nature were supernatural; so pious was he, that if others had measured their obedience to him by his to God, he had been the most absolute monarch in the world. As eminent for frequenting the temple, as Solomon for building 470one: no occasions ever interfered with his devotion, nor business outdated his time of attendance in the church. [And here I should not pay a due tribute to his memory, did I forget that remarkable instance of constancy of soul, (not to be shocked by the severest strokes of ill fortune,) with which he received the surprising news of the sudden loss of a dear friend and faithful servant, sacrificed by a vile assassin to the unjustifiable and groundless clamours of an ill-informed people, as well as to private spleen. How gallantly in this affair did he suppress human nature, and restrain that flood of tears due to the memory of his friend, till he had finished his duty towards God.] So firm was he in the protestant cause, though he lay in the midst of temptation, in the very bosom of Spain, and though France lay in his, yet nothing could alter him, but he espoused the cause of his religion more than his beloved queen. He ever filled the title under which we prayed for him. He could defend religion as a king, dispute for it as a divine, and die for it as a martyr. I think I shall speak a great truth in saying, that the only thing that makes protestantism considerable in Christendom is the church of England, and the only thing that does now cement and confirm the church of England is the blood of that blessed martyr. He was so well skilled in all controversies, that we may well style him in all causes ecclesiastical, not only supreme governor, but moderator, nor more fit to fill the throne than the chair; and withal, so exact an observer and royal rewarder of all such performances, that it was an encouragement for a man to be a divine under such a prince. Which piety of his was set off with a whole train of moral virtues. His 471temperance was so great and impregnable amidst all those allurements with which the courts of kings are apt to melt the most stoical and resolved minds, that he did at the same time both teach and upbraid the court; so that it was not so much their own vices, as his virtue, that rendered their debauchery inexcusable. Look over the whole race of our kings, and take in the kings of Israel to boot, and who ever kept the bonds of conjugal affection so inviolate? David was chiefly eminent for repenting in this matter; Charles for not needing repentance. None ever of greater fortitude of mind, which was more resplendent in the conquest of himself, and in those miraculous instances of his passive valour, than if he had strewn the field with the rebels’ arms, and to the suffrage of his own cause joined the success of theirs; and yet, withal, so meek, so gentle, so merciful, and that even to cruelty to himself, that if ever the lion dwelt with the lamb, if ever courage and meekness were united, it was in the breast of this royal person; and, which makes the rebellion more ugly and intolerable, there was scarce any person of note among his enemies who did not wear his colours, and carry some particular mark of his favour and obligations; some were his own menial servants, and eat bread at his table, before they lifted up their heel against him; some received from him honours, some offices and employments. I could mention particulars of each kind, did I think their names fit to be heard in a church or from a pulpit. In short, he so behaved himself toward them, that their rebellion might be malice indeed, but could not be revenge.
And these his personal virtues shed a suitable influence upon his government for the space of seventeen 472years; the peace, plenty, and honour of the English nation spread itself even to the envy of all neighbouring countries; and when that plenty had pampered them into unruliness and rebellion, yet still the justice of his government left them at a loss for an occasion to rebel, till at last ship-money was pitched upon as fit to be reformed by excise and taxes, and the burden of the subjects took off by plunderings and sequestrations. The king now, to scatter that cloud which began to gather and look black upon the church and state, made those condescensions to their impudent petitions, that they had scarce any thing to make war for, but what was granted them already; and having thus stript himself of his prerogative, he left it clear to the world, that there was nothing left for them to fight for, but only his life. Afterward, in the prosecution of this unnatural war, what overtures did he make for peace! Nay, when he had his sword in his hand, his armies about him, and a cause to justify him before God and man, how did he choose to compound himself into nothing! to depose and unking himself by their hard and inhuman conditions! But all was nothing: he might as well compliment a mastiff, or court a tiger, as think to win those who were now hardened in blood, and thoroughpaced in rebellion. Yet the truth is, his conscience uncrowned him, as having a mind too pure and delicate to admit of those maxims and practices of state that usually make princes great and successful.
Having thus, with an unheard of loyalty, fought against him and conquered him, they commit him to prison; and the king himself notes, that it has always been observed, that there is but little distance between 473the prisons of kings and their graves: to which I subjoin, that where the observation is constant, there must be some standing cause of the connection of the thing observed; and indeed, it is a direct translation from the prison to the grave; the difference between them being only this; that he who is buried is imprisoned under ground, and he that is imprisoned is buried above ground: and I could wish, that as they slew and buried his body, so we had not also buried his funeral.
But, to finish this poor and imperfect description, though it is of a person so renowned, that he neither needs the best, nor can be injured by the worst; yet, in short, he was a prince whose virtues were as prodigious as his sufferings; a true father of his country, if but for this only, that he was father of such a son. And yet the most innocent of men, and best of kings, so pious and virtuous, so learned and judicious, so merciful and obliging, was rebelled against, drove out of his own house, pursued as a partridge on the mountains, like an eagle in his own dominions, inhumanly imprisoned, and for a catastrophe of all, most barbarously murdered; though in this his murder was the less woful, in that his death released him from his prison.
II. Having thus seen the person suffering, let us in the next place see the preparations of this bloody fact; and indeed, it would be but a preposterous course, to insist only on the consequent, without taking notice of the antecedent. It were too long to dig to the spring of this rebellion, and to lead up to the secrecies of its first contrivance; but as David’s phrase is, upon another occasion, it was framed and fashioned in the lowest parts of the earth, and 474 there it was fearfully and wonderfully made, a work of darkness and retirement, removed from the eye of witnesses, even that of conscience also; for conscience was not admitted into their council. But their first aim was to procure a Levite to consecrate their design, and a factious ministry to christen it the cause of God: they still own their party for God’s own Israel, and being so, it must needs be their duty to come out of Egypt, though they provide themselves a Red sea for their passage.
For their assistance they repair to the northern steel, and bring in an unnatural, mercenary crew, that like a shoal of locusts covered the land, such as inherited the description of those, which God brought upon his people the Jews; a nation fierce, peeled, and scattered: and still we shall read that God punished his people from the north; as Jer. 1. 3, Out of the north comes destruction, which shall make the land desolate. Jer. iv. 6, I will bring evil from the north, and great destruction. Now to endear and unite these into one interest, they invented a covenant, much like to that which some are said to make with hell, and an agreement with death. It was the most solemn piece of perjury, the most fatal engine against the church, and bane of monarchy, the greatest snare of souls, and mystery of iniquity, that ever was hammered out by the wit and wickedness of man. I shall not, as they do, abuse scripture language, and call it the blood of the covenant, but give it its proper title, the covenant of blood; such an one as the brethren, Simeon and Levi, made, when they were going about the like designs; their very posture of taking it was an ominous mark of its intent; and their holding up 475their hands was a sign they were going to strike. It was such an olio of treason and tyranny, that one of the assembly of their own prophets gives this testimony of it, in his narration upon it, (and his testimony is true;) “that it was such a covenant, that whether you respect the subject-matter of it, or the occasion of it, or the persons engaged in it, or lastly the manner of imposing it, the like was never read, seen, or heard of.” The truth is, it bears no other likeness to other ancient covenants, than as at the making of them, they slew beasts and divided them, so this was solemnized with blood, slaughter, and division. But that I may not accuse in general, without a particular charge; read it over as it stands prefixed to their catechisms (as if without it their system of divinity was not complete, nor their children like to become Christians, unless they were schooled to treason, and catechised to rebellion,) I say, in the covenant as it stands here, in the third article of it, after they had first promised to defend the privileges of parliament, and the liberties of the kingdom; at length they also promised to defend the person of the king, viz. in the preservation and defence of the true religion, and the liberties of the kingdom; so that their promise of loyalty to him was not absolute, but conditional, bound hand and foot with this stipulation, so far as he preserveth the true religion and liberties of the kingdom. Now those very persons who covenanted thus, had already from pulpit and press declared, the religion and way of worship established in the church of England, and then maintained by the king, to be false, popish, and idolatrous; and withal, that the king had invaded their liberties. Now for men to suspend their 476obedience upon certain conditions, which very conditions they declared at the same time not performed, was not to profess obedience, but remonstrate the reasons of intended disobedience. We have seen the doctrine of the covenant; see now the use of this doctrine, as it was charged home with a suitable application, in a war raised against the king, in the cruel usage and imprisonment, killing, sequestering and undoing of all that adhered to him. All which home-proceedings, though his majesty now stupendously forgives, yet the world will not, cannot yet forget; his indemnity is not an oblivion: and for those persons who now clamour and cry out, they are persecuted, because they are no longer permitted to persecute, and who choose rather to quit the ministry, than disown the obligation of the covenant, I leave to all impartial and understanding minds to judge, whether they do not by this openly declare to the world, that they hold themselves obliged by oath, as they are able, to act over again all that hath hitherto been done by virtue of the covenant, and consequently that they left not places for being nonconformists to the church, but for being virtually rebels to the crown; which makes them just as worthy to be indulged as a dropsy or a malignant fever, which is exasperated by mitigations, and inflamed by every cooling infusion.
But to draw the premises closer to the purpose, I argue: that which was the proper means to enable the king’s enemies to make war against him, and upon that war to conquer, and upon that conquest to imprison, and inevitably to put the power in the hands of those, who by that power in the end did 477murder him; that, according to the genuine consequence of reason, was the natural cause of his murder. This is the proposition that I assert, but I shall not trouble myself to make the assumption: and indeed those who wipe their mouths, and lick themselves innocent by clapping this act upon the army, make just the same plea that Pilate did for his innocency in the death of Christ, because he left the execution to the soldiers; or what the soldiers may make for clearing themselves of all this blood that they have spilt, by charging it upon their swords. I conclude therefore, that this was the gradual process to this horrid act, this the train laid to blow up monarchy, this the step by which the king ascended the scaffold.
III. Come we now, in the third place, to shew who were the actors in this tragic scene. When through the anger of Providence, the thriving army of rebels had worsted justice, cleared the field, subdued all oppositions and risings, even to the very insurrections of conscience itself; so that impunity at length grew into reputation of piety, and success gave rebellion the varnish of religion; that they might consummate their villainy, the gown was called in to complete the execution of the sword; and to make Westminster-hall a place to take away lives as well as estates, a new court was set up, and judges packed, who had no more to do with justice, than so far forth as they deserved to be the objects of it: in which they first begin with a confutation of the civilians’ notion of justice and jurisdiction, it being with them no longer an act of the supreme power. Such an inferior crew, such a mechanic rabble were they, having not so much as any arms to shew the world, 478but what they used in rebellion; that when I survey the list of the king’s judges, and the witnesses against him, I seem to have before me a catalogue of all trades, and such as might have better filled the shops of Westminster-hall, than sat on the benches; some of which came to be possessors of the king’s houses, who before had no certain dwelling but the king’s highway; and some might have continued tradesmen still, had not want and inability to trade sent them to the war. Now that a king, such a king, should be murdered by such, the basest of his subjects, and not like a Nimrod, (as some sanctified preachers have called him,) but like Actaeon torn by a pack of bloodhounds; that the steam of a dunghill should thus obscure the sun; this so much enhanceth the calamity of this royal person, and makes his death as different from his, who is conquered and slain by another king, as it is between being torn by a lion, and being eaten up by vermin; pardon the expression, for it came into my mind by speaking of those, many of whom were some time beggars. For the feet to trample upon, yea kick at the head, would it not look like a monster? But indeed, these of all others were the fittest instruments for such a work; for base descent and poor education disposeth the mind to impiousness and cruelty; as of beasts those are the most savage, which are bred in dens, and have their extraction from under ground: these therefore were the worthy judges and condemners of that great king; even the refuse of the people, and the very scum of the nation, that was at that time both the uppermost and basest part of it.
IV. Pass we now, in the fourth place, to the circumstances 479and manner of proceeding in this ugly fact. And the circumstances, we know, have the greatest cast in determining the nature of all actions, as we judge of any one’s parts or qualities by the nature of his attendants. First, then, it was not done like other works of darkness, in secret, nor (as they use to preach) in a corner, but publicly, coloured with the face of justice, managed with openness and solemnity, as solemn as the league and covenant itself. History indeed affords us many examples of princes clandestinely murdered, which though it be villainous, is in itself more excusable; for he that doeth such a thing in secret, by the manner of doing confesseth himself ashamed of the thing he does: but he that acts in the face of the sun, vouches his work for laudable, glorious, and heroic. Having brought him to the high court of justice, (so called, I conceive, because justice was there arraigned and condemned, or perhaps because it never shewed mercy) by a way of trial as unheard of as the court, he was not permitted so much as to speak in his own defence, but, with the innocence and silence of a lamb, condemned to slaughter; and it would have been well for them if they could as easily have imposed silence on his blood. Being condemned, they spit in his face, and delivered him to the mockery and affronts of the soldiers; so that I wonder where the blasphemy lies, which some charge upon those who make the king’s suffering something to resemble our Saviour’s: but is it blasphemy to compare the king to Christ in that respect, in which Christ himself was made like a servant? For can he be like us in all things, and we not like him? Certainly there was something in that Providence, that appointed so 480long ago the chapter to be read on the day of our Saviour’s passion, to be read likewise on the day of our king’s; and I am sure that the resemblance is so near, that had he lived before him, he had been a type of him. I confess there is some disparity in the case, for they shewed themselves worse than the Jews. But however, since they object that we make the king like Christ, I am willing it should be their commendation to be as unlike Christ as they please.
Let us now follow him from their mock-tribunal to the place of his residence till his execution. Nothing remains for a man condemned, and presently to leave the world, but these two things; 1st, To take leave of his friends, a thing not denied to the vilest malefactor, which is sufficiently apparent in that it hath not been denied to themselves: yet no entreaties from him or his royal consort could prevail with these murderers to let her take the last farewell and commands of her dying husband. He was permitted to take no farewell but to the world. Thus was he stript of all, even from the prerogative of a prince, to the privilege of a malefactor. The next thing desired by all dying Christians, is freedom to converse with God, and to prepare themselves to meet him at his dreadful tribunal; but with an Italian cruelty to the soul as well as the body, they debar him of this freedom also, and even solitude, his former punishment, is now too great an enjoyment. But that they might shew themselves no less enemies to private, than they had been to public prayers, they disturb his retirements, and with scoffs and continual calumnies upbraid those devotions which were then interceding for them; and I question not but fanatic fury was at that 481height, that they would have laughed at Christ himself, had he used his own prayer.
With these preludiums is he brought to the last scene of mockeries and cruelty, to a stage erected before his own palace; and for a greater affront to majesty, before that part of it in which he was wont to display his royalty, and to give audience to ambassadors, where now he could not obtain audience for himself, in his last addresses to his abused subjects. There he receives the fatal blow; there he dies, conquering and pardoning his enemies; and at length finds that faithfully performed on the scaffold, which was at first promised in the parliament, and perhaps in the same sense, that he should be a glorious king. And even this death was the mercy of the murderers, considering what kind of death several proposed, when they sat in council about the manner of it, even no less than to execute him in his robes, and afterwards to drive a stake through his head and body, to stand as a monument on his grave. In short, all kinds of death were proposed, that either their malice could suggest, or their own guilt deserve. And would these then now find in their hearts, or have the face to desire to live? And to plead a pardon from the son, who thus murdered the father? I speak not only of those wretches who openly embrued their hands in the bloody sentence, but of those more considerable traitors who had the villainy to manage the contrivance, and yet the cunning to disappear at the execution, and perhaps the good luck to be preferred after it. And for those who now survive, by a mercy as incredible as their crimes, which has left them to the soft expiation of solitude and repentance; though usually all the professions 482that such make of repentance are nothing else but the faint resentments of a guilty horror, the convulsions and last breathings of a gasping conscience: as the mercy by which they live is made a visible defiance to government, and a standing encouragement to these alarms of plots and conspiracies: so I beseech God, that even their supposed repentance be not such, as both themselves and the kingdom hereafter may have bitter cause too late to repent of. And if indeed they should prove such as have no conscience but horror, who by the same crimes will be made irreconcileable, for which they deserve to be unpardonable; who would resume those repentings upon opportunities, which they made upon extremity; and being saved from the gallows, make the usual requital that is made for that kind of deliverance: I say, if such persons should only for a time be chained, and tied up, like so many lions in the tower, that they may gain more fierceness, and run again at majesty, religion, laws, churches, and the universities; whether God intends by this a repetition of our former confusions, or a general massacre of our persons, (which is most likely,) the Lord in his mercy fit and enable us to endure the smart of a misimproved providence, and the infatuated frustration of such a miraculous deliverance.
But to return to this blessed martyr. We have seen him murdered; and is there any other scene of cruelty to act? Is not death the end of the murderer’s malice, as well as of the life of him that is murdered? No, there is another and viler instance of their implacable cruelty; in the very embalming of his body, and taking out of his bowels, (which, had 483they not relented to his enemies, had not been so handled,) they gave order to those to whom that work was committed, diligently to search and see, (I speak it with shame and indignation) whether his body was not infected with some loathsome disease; I suppose, that which some of his judges were so much troubled with. Now any one may see, that further to intimate an inquiry was in effect to enjoin the report. And here let any one judge, whether the remorseless malice of imbittered rebels ever rose to such an height of tyranny; the very embalming his body must be made a means of corrupting his name: as if his murder was not complete, if, together with his life, they did not assassinate his fame, and butcher his reputation. But the body of that prince, innocent and virtuous even to a miracle, had none of the ruins and genteel rottenness of our modern debauchery; it was firm and clear like his conscience: he fell like a cedar, no less fragrant than tall and stately. Rottenness of heart and bone belong to his murderers, the noisomeness of whose carcasses, caused by the noisomeness of their lives, might even retaliate and revenge their sufferings, and while they are under the execution, poison the executioner. But the last grand comprehensive circumstance, which is as it were the very form and spirit that did actuate and run through all the rest, is, that it was done with the pretence of conscience, and the protestations of religion, with eyes lift up to, heaven, expostulating with God with pleas of Providence, and inward instigations, till at last, with much labour and many groans, they were delivered of their conceived mischief. And certainly we have cause to deplore this murder with fasting, if it were 484but for this reason, that it was contrived and committed with fasting; every fast portended some villainy, as still a famine ushers in a plague: but as hunger serves only for appetite, so they never ordained an humiliation, but for doing something, which, being done, might find them matter of a thanksgiving; and such a fury did abused piety inspire into the church militant, upon these exercises, that we might as safely meet an hungry boar as a preaching colonel after a fast, whose murderous humiliations strangely verify that prophecy in Isaiah viii. 21. When they shall be hungry, they shall curse their king and their God, and look upwards; that is, they should rebel and blaspheme devoutly. Though by the way, he that is always looking upwards, can little regard how he walks below.
But was there any thing in the whole book of God to warrant this rebellion? Instead of obedience, will they sacrifice him whom they ought to obey? Why yes: Daniel dreamed a dream, and there is also something in the Revelations concerning a beast, and a little horn, and a fifth vial, and therefore the king ought undoubtedly to die: but if neither you nor I can gather so much from these places, they will tell us, it is because we are not inwardly enlightened. But others, more knowing, but not less wicked, insist not so much on the warrant of it from scripture, but plead providential dispensations; God’s works, it seems, must be regarded before his words; and their Latin advocate, Mr. Milton, who, like a blind adder, has spit so much poison on the king’s person and cause, speaks to this roundly: Deum secuti ducem, et impressa passim divina vestigia venerantes, viam haud obscurant, sed illustrem, 485et illius auspiciis commonstratam et patefactam ingressi sumus.
But must we read God’s mind in his footsteps, or in his words? This is as if, when we have a man’s handwriting, we should endeavour to take his meaning by the measure of his foot. But still, is pleading conscience a covering for all enormities, and an answer to all questions and accusations also? What made them fight against, imprison, and murder their lawful sovereign? Why, conscience. What made them extirpate the government, and pocket up the revenues of the church? Conscience. What made them perjure themselves with contrary oaths? what made swearing a sin, and forswearing none? what made them lay hold on God’s promises, and break their own? Conscience. What made them sequester, persecute, and undo their brethren, ravin their estates, and ruin their families, get into their places, and then say they only rob the Egyptians? Why still this large capacious thing is conscience. The poet says, Vis fieri dives, Bithynice? conscius esto; which I think may be properly construed thus: If you would be rich, be (in their sense) conscientious. We have lived under that model of religion, in which nothing has been counted impious but loyalty, nor absurd but restitution. But, O blessed God, to what an height can prosperous, audacious impiety rise! Was it not enough that men once crucified Christ, but that there must be a generation of men who would crucify Christianity? Must he who taught no defence but patience, allowed no armour but submission, and never warranted the shedding any blood but his own, be now again mocked with soldiers, and vouched the author and 486patron of all those hideous and rebellious acts, which an ordinary impiety would stand amazed at, and which in this world he has so plainly condemned in his word, and will hereafter severely sentence in his own person? Certainly, these monsters are not only spots in Christianity, but so many standing exceptions from humanity and nature.
V. In the fifth and last place, let us view the horridness of the fact in the fatal consequences that did attend it. Every villainy is like a great absurdity, drawing after it a numerous train of homogeneous consequences; and none ever spread itself into more than this. But I shall endeavour to reduce them all into two sorts; such as were of a civil, and such as were of a religious concern.
And first for the civil, political consequences of it; there immediately followed a change of that government, whose praise had been proclaimed even by its enemies. It was now shred into democracy; and the stream of government being cut into many channels, ran thin and shallow: whereupon the subjects had many masters, and every servant so many distinct services. But the wheel of Providence, which they only looked at, and that even to giddiness, did not stop here; but by a fatal vicissitude, the power and wickedness of those many were again compacted into one, and from that one returning again into many, with several attending variations, till at length we pitched upon one again, one beyond whom they could not go, the ne plus ultra of all regal excellencies, as all change tends to, and at last ceases upon its acquired perfection. Nor was the government only, but the glory of our nation also changed; distinctions of orders confounded, the 487gentry and nobility, who voted the bishops out of their dignities in parliament, by the just judgment of God were thrust out themselves, and brought under the lash of an imperious beggar on horseback. Learning was discountenanced, and the universities threatened; the law to be reformed; the model of the nation to be burnt: such an inundation and deluge of ruin, reformation, and confusion, had spread itself upon the whole nation, that it seemed a kind of resemblance of Noah’s flood, in which a few men survived among beasts.
The second sort of consequences were of religious concern. I speak not of the contempts and rebukes lying upon the preachers of those days; for they brought their miseries upon themselves, and had a great deal more cause to curse their own seditious sermons, than to curse Meroz. They sounded the first trumpet to rebellion, and like the saints, had grace to persevere in what they first began; courting an usurper, and calling themselves his loyal and obedient subjects, never endeavouring [enduring] so much as to think of their lawful sovereign. I speak not therefore of these; but the great destructive consequence of this fact was, that it left a lasting slur upon the protestant religion: Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon, lest the daughters of the Philistines triumph, lest the papacy laugh us to scorn. I confess the seditious writings of some who call themselves protestants have sufficiently bespattered their religion. See Calvin warranting the three estates to oppose their prince, 4 Instit. ch. 20. sect. 81. See Mr. Knox’s Appeal, and in that, arguments for resisting the civil magistrate. Read Mr. Buchanan’s discourse de jure 488regni apud Scotos. Read Vindiciae contra Tyrannos, under the name of Junius Brutus, writ by Ottoman the civilian. See Pareus on the 13th to the Romans, where he states a large term, atrocem aliquam injuriam, and a very easy application, to be sufficient reason for the taking up arms against the king. But this is rather a comment on the covenant, than on the 13th to the Romans. Both of which, as they teach the same doctrine, so they deserved and had justly the same confutation. But these principles, like sleeping lions, lay still a great while, and never were completely awaked, nor appeared in the field, till the French holy league and the English rebellion. Let the powder-plot be as bad as it will, yet still there is as much difference between that and the king’s murder, as between an action and an attempt: what bulls and anathemas could not do, seditious sermons have brought about. What was then contrived against the parliament, has since been done by it: what the papists’ powder intended, the soldiers’ matches have effected. I say, let the powder-plot be looked upon, as indeed it is, the product of hell, as black as the souls and principles that hatched it; yet still this reformation-murder will preponderate, and January always have the precedency of November.
And thus I have traced this accursed fact through all the parts and ingredients of it: and now, if we reflect upon the quality of the person upon whom it was done, the condition of the persons that did it, the means, manner, and circumstances of its transaction; I suppose it will fill up the measure and reach the heights of the words in the text, that there was never such a thing done or seen since 489the day that the children of Israel came out of the land of Egypt until this day. For my part, my apprehensions of it overcharge my expressions; and how to set it off, I know not; for black receives no other colour: but when I call to mind all the ideas of horror, and all the records of the Grecian and barbarian murders, together with new-fancied instances, and unheard of possibilities, yet I find none parallel, and therefore have this only to say of the king’s murder; that it is a thing, than which nothing can be imagined more strange, and amazing, and astonishing, except its pardon.
And now, having done with the first part of my text, does it not naturally engage me in the second? Must such a deed, as was never seen nor heard of, never be spoken of? or must it be stroked with smooth, mollifying expressions? Is this the way to cure the wound, by pouring oil upon those that made it? And must Absalom be therefore dealt gently with, because he was a sturdy rebel? If, as the text bids us, we consider the fact, and take advice with reason and conscience, we cannot but obey it in the following words, and speak our minds. For could Croesus’s dumb son speak upon the very attempting a murder upon his prince and father, and shall a preacher be dumb, when such an action is committed? Therefore having not yet finished my text, nor, according to the command of it, spoken all my mind, I have one thing more to propose, and with that to conclude.
Would you be willing to see this scene acted over again? To see that restless plotting humour, that now boils and ferments in many traitors’ breasts, once more display itself in the dismal effects of war 490and desolation? Would you see the rascality of the nation in troops and tumults beleaguer the royal palace? Would you hear the ministers absolving their congregations from their sacred oath of allegiance, and sending them into the field to lose their lives and souls, in a professed rebellion against their sovereign? Would you see an insolent, overturning army, in the heart and bowels of the nation, moving to and fro, to the terror of every thing that is noble, generous, and religious? Would you see the loyal gentry harassed, starved, and undone, by the oppression of base, insulting committees? Would you see the clergy torn in pieces, and sacrificed by the inquisition of synods, triers, and commissioners? And to mention the greatest last; would you have the king, with his father’s kingdoms, inherit also his fortunes? Would you see the crown trampled upon, majesty haled from prison to prison, and at length, with the vilest circumstances of spite and cruelty, bleeding and dying at the feet of bloody, inhuman miscreants? Would you, now Providence has cast the destructive interest from the parliament, and the house is pretty well swept and cleansed, have the old unclean spirit return, and take to itself seven other spirits, seven other interests, worse than itself, and dwell there, and so make our latter end worse than our beginning? We hear of plots and combinations, parties joining and agreeing; let us not trust too much in their oppositions among themselves. The elements can fight with each other, and yet unite into one body; Ephraim against Manasses, and Manasses against Ephraim, and both equally against the royal tribe of Judah. Now if we fear the letting loose these furies again upon us, let 491us fear the returns of our former provocations: if we would keep off the axe from our princes and nobles, let us lay it to our sins; if we would preserve their lives, let us mend our own. We have complained of armies, committees, sequestrations; but our sins are those that have sucked the blood of this nation. These have purpled the scaffold with royal blood; these have blown up so many noble families, have made so many widows, have snatched the bread out of the mouths of so many poor orphans. It is our not fearing God, hath made others not honour the king; our not benefiting by the ordinances of the church, that hath enriched others with her spoils. And how is our church (the only church in Christendom we read of, whose avowed principles and practices disown all resistance of the civil power) struck and laid at, at this time! But when I hear of conspiracies, seditions, designs, covenants, or plots, they do not much move or affright me: but when I see the same covetousness, the same drunkenness and profaneness, that was first punished in ourselves, and then in our sanctified enemies; when I see joy turned into revelling, and debauchery proclaimed louder than it can be proclaimed against: these, I confess, stagger and astonish me; nor can I persuade myself we were delivered to do all these abominations. But if we have not the grace of Christians, yet have we not the hearts of men? have we no bowels nor relentings? If the blood and banishment of our kings, if the miseries of our common mother the church, ready to fall back into the jaws of purchasers and reformers, cannot move us, yet shall we not at least pity our posterity? Shall we commit sins, and breed 492up our children to inherit the curse? Shall the infants now unborn have cause to say hereafter in the bitterness of their souls, Our fathers have eaten sour grapes of disobedience, and our teeth are set on edge with rebellions and confusions? How doth any one know, but the oath that he is now swearing, the very lewdness he is now committing, may be scored up by God as an item for a new rebellion? We may be rebels, and yet not vote in parliament, nor sit in committees, nor fight in armies: every sin is virtually treason; and we may be guilty of murder in breaking other commandments besides the sixth. But at present we are made whole: God hath by a miracle healed our breaches, cured the maladies, and bound up the wounds of a bleeding nation. What remains now, but that we take the counsel that seconded the like miraculous cure, go our ways, sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon us. But since our calamities have reached that height, that they give us rather cause to fear a repetition, than a possibility of gradation; I shall dismiss you with the same advice upon a different motive, Go, sin no more, lest the same evil befall you. Which God of his infinite mercy prevent; even that God, by whom kings reign and princes decree justice, by whom their thrones are established, and by whom their blood will be revenged. To whom, &c. Amen.493
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