Page images

of the Presbyterians after they had obtained the chief power in church and state:

"As for the party called Presbyterian," he says, "of whom I believe many to be good and faithful Christians, though misled by some of turbulent spirit, I wish them earnestly and calmly not to fall off from their first principles, nor to affect rigor and superiority over men not under them; not to condemn unforcible things in religion especially, which, if not voluntary, becomes a sin; nor to assist the clamour and malicious. drifts of those whom they themselves have judged to be the worst of men, the obdurate enemies of God and his church; nor to dart against the actions of their brethren, for want of other argument than those wrested laws and Scriptures, thrown by prelates and malignants against their own sides, which, though they hurt not otherwise, are taken up by them to the condemnation of their own doings, give scandal to all men, and discover in themselves either extreme passion or apostacy. Let them not oppress their best friends and associates, who molest them not at all, infringe not the least of their liberties, unless they call it their liberty to bind other men's consciences, but are still seeking to live at peace with them, and brotherly accord. Let them beware of an old and perfect enemy, who, though he hopes, by sowing discord, to make them his

instruments, yet cannot forbear a minute the open throwing of his open revenge upon them, where they have served his purposes. Let them fear, therefore, if they be wise, rather what they have done already, than what remains to do; and be warned in time, that they put no confidence in Princes, whom they have provoked; lest they be added to the examples of those who have miserably tasted of that event."

It is a pity that these Presbyterian magistrates and legislators had not felt, and listened to these cutting reproofs and significant warnings. It might have saved them, and the religious part of the nation, that bitter draught, that cup of trembling, which, in less than twelve years, they had put into their hands, and which, with all its dregs, they were compelled to drink.

This faithful Baptist thus proceeds: "I have something also to the Divines, though brief to what were needful: not to be disturbers of the civil affairs, being in hands better able, and to whom it more belongs to manage them; but to study harder, and to attend the office of good pastors; not performed by mounting twice into the chair, with a formal preachment, huddled up at the odd hours of a whole lazy week, but by incessant pains and watching; which if they well considered, how little leisure would they find, to be the most pragmatical sidesmen of every popu

lar tumult and sedition! And all this while they are to learn what the true end and reason is, of the gospel which they teach, and what a world it differs from the censorious lording over conscience. It would be good also, they lived so as might persuade the people they hated covetousness, which, worse than heresy, is idolatry; hated pluralities and all kind of simony; left rambling from benefice to benefice, like ravening wolves, seeking where they may devour the biggest. Let them be sorry, that, being called to assemble about reforming the church, they fell to praying and soliciting the Parliament, (though they had renounced the name of Priests,) for a new settlement of their tithes and oblations, and doublelined themselves with spiritual places of commodity beyond the possible charge of their duty. Let them assemble a Consistory, with their Elders and Deacons, to the preserving of church discipline, each in his several charge; and not a pack of clergymen, by themselves, to belly-cheer in their presumptuous Sion,* or to promote designs to abuse and gull the simple laity; to stir up tumults, as the Prelates did before them, for the

* The fifth Provincial Assembly of London met at Sion College, the beginning of May, 1649, the Reverend Mr. Jackson, of St. Michael, Wood Street, Moderator. A Committee was appointed to prepare materials for proof of Divine Right of Presbyterian Church government.-Neale, vol. ii. 13.

maintenance of their pride and avarice. On this occasion I must remark, that, by reason of the Presbyterians warmly uniting with others in the last Parliament, to promote penal laws against the Socinians, I find few people will believe that those in England differ from their brethren in Scotland about persecutions, nor that their own sufferings of late have made 'em more tender of the consciences of others.

"This naturally leads men to think that they have not repented of their rigour in the civil wars; and that, should the Dissenters once more get the secular sword into their hands, they would press uniformity of sentiments in religion, as far as any other Protestants and Papists ever yet have done. But what makes them most suspected of affecting dominion, is the prospect of a comprehension, now on foot, whereof some men of figure among 'em seem to be so fond; whereby the rest are easily deceived, and like to be left in the lurch, by entertaining persons, who for several years past, made the Hierarchy and Liturgy such strange bugbears; though if the church will please to become a blind mother to themselves, and show a little complaisance for their old friends, they are ready to pronounce her orders, her prayers, her ceremonies, to be very innocent and harmless things; but mistaken formerly for pillars of Antichrist, the symbols of idola

[ocr errors]

try, the dress of popery, the rags of superstition and protestant paint, to hide the deformities of the old Babylonish whore. And after all, whatever ours may be, comprehension in all other places of the world has never been any thing else, but the combination of a few parties, to fortify themselves, and to oppress all others by their united force, or by an absolute exclusion from preferment and other advantages, to which, by nature and personal merit, they had an equal claim with the rest of their fellow-citizens. Tho' to be persecuted in their turn is the just judgment of God upon persecutors, yet vengeance must be left to heaven; and the wishes of all good men are, that the national church, being secured in her worship and emoluments, may not be allowed to force others to her communion; and that all dissenters from it, being secured in their liberty of conscience, may not be permitted to meddle with the riches or power of the national church."

The first edition thus concludes:-"These things, if they observe and wait with patience, no doubt but all things will go well, without their importunities or exclamations; and the printed letters which they send, subscribed with the ostentation of great characters, and little moment, would be more considerable than now they are. But if they be the ministers of mammon instead

« PreviousContinue »