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spoken! because neither we nor the prelates can abolish widows' houses, which are but an occasion taken of evil without the church, therefore we shall set up within the church a lottery of such prizes as are the direct inviting causes of avarice and ambition, both unnecessary and harmful to he proposed, and most easy, most convenient, and needful to be removed. “Yea, but they are in a wise dispenser's hand.” Let them be in whose hand they will, they are most apt to blind, to puff up, and pervert, the most seeming good. And how they have been kept from vultures, whatever the dispenser's care hath been, we have learned by our miseries.
89. But this which comes next in view, I know not what good vein or humour took him when he let drop into his paper; I that was erewhile the ignorant, the loiterer, on the sudden by his permission am now granted “ to know something.” And that “such a volley of expressions” he hath met withal, “as he would never desire to have them better clothed.” For me, readers, although I cannot say that I am utterly untrained in those rules which best rhetoricians have given, or unacquainted with those examples which the prime authors of eloquence have written in any learned tongue; yet true eloquence I find to be none, but the serious and hearty love of truth : and that whose mind soever is fully possessed with a fervent desire to know good things, and with the dearest charity to infuse the knowledge of them into others, when such a man would speak, his words, (by what I can express) like so many nimble and airy servitors, trip about him at command, and in well-ordered files, as he would wish, fall aptly into their own places.
90. But now to the remainder of our discourse. Christ refused great riches and large honours at the devil's hand. But why ? saith he, “as they were tendered by him from whom it was a sin to receive them.” Timely remembered : why is it not therefore as much a sin to receive a liturgy of the masses' giving, were it for nothing else but for the giver? “ But he could make no use of such a high estate," quoth the confuter, opportunely. For why then should the servant take upon him to use those things which his master had unfitted himself to use, that he might teach his ministers to follow his steps in the same ministry? But “ they were offered him to a bad end.” So they prove to the prelates, who, after their preferment, most usually change the teaching labour of the word, into the unteaching ease of lordship over consciences and purses. But he proceeds: “God enticed the Israelites with the promise of Canaan;" did not the prelates bring as slavish minds with them, as the Jews brought out of Egypt, they had left out that instance. Besides that it was then the time, whenas the best of them, as St. Paul saith, “was shut up unto the faith under the law, their schoolmaster,” who was forced to entice them as children with childish enticements. But the gospel is our manhood, and the ministry should be the manhood of the gospel, not to look
after, much less so basely to plead for earthly rewards.
91. “But God incited the wisest man, Solomon, with these means.” Ah, confuter of thyself, this example hath undone thee; Solomon asked an understanding heart, which the prelates have little care to ask. He asked no riches, which is their chief care; therefore was the prayer of Solomon pleasing to God: he gave him wisdom at his request, and riches without asking, as now he gives the prelates riches at their seeking, and no wisdom because of their perverse asking. But he gives not over yet, “ Moses had an eye to the reward.” To what reward, thou man that lookest with Balaam's eyes ? To what reward had the faith of Moses an eye ? He that had forsaken all the greatness of Egypt, and chose a troublesome journey in his old age through the wilderness, and yet arrived not at his journey's end. His faithful eyes were fixed upon that incorruptible reward, promised to Abraham and his seed in the Messiah; he sought a heavenly reward, which could make him happy, and never hurt him; and to such a reward every good man may have a respect; but the prelates are eager of such rewards as cannot make them happy, but can only make them worse. Jacob, a prince born, vowed that if God would “but give him bread to eat, and raiment to put on, then the Lord should be his God.” But the prelates of mean birth, and ofttimes of lowest, making show as if they were called to the spiritual and humble ministry of the gospel, yet murmur, and think it a hard service, unless, contrary to the tenor of their profession, they may eat the bread and wear the honours of princes : so much more covetous and base they are than Simon Magus, for he proffered a reward to be admitted to that work, which they will not be meanly hired to.
92. But, saith he, “ Are not the clergy members of Christ; why should not each member thrive alike?” Carnal textman! as if worldly thriving were one of the privileges we have by being in Christ, and were not a providence ofttimes extended more liberally to the Infidel than to the Christian. Therefore must the ministers of Christ not be over rich or great in the world, because their calling is spiritual, not secular; because they have a special warfare, which is not to be entangled with many impediments; because their master, Christ, gave them this precept, and set them this example, told them this was the mystery of his coming, by mean things and persons to subdue mighty ones; and lastly, because a middle estate is most proper to the office of teaching, whereas higher dignity teaches far less, and blinds the teacher. Nay, saith the confuter, fetching his last endeavour,“ the prelates will be very loath to let go their baronies, and votes in parliament,” and calls it “ God's cause,” with an insufferable impudence. “Not that they love the honours and the means,” good men and generous ! “ but that they would not have their country made guilty of such a sacrilege and injustice !"
93. A worthy patriot for his own corrupt ends. That which he imputes as sacrilege to his country, is the only way left them to purge that abominable sacrilege out of the land, which none but the prelates are guilty of; who for the discharge of one single duty, receive and keep that which might be enough to satisfy the labours of many painful ministers better deserving than themselves; who possess huge benefices (53) for lazy performances, great promotions only for the execution of a cruel disgospelling jurisdiction; who engross many pluralities under a non-resident and slubbering dispatch of souls; who let hundreds of parishes famish in one diocess, while they, the prelates, are mute, and yet enjoy that wealth that would furnish all those dark places with able supply: and yet they eat, and yet they live at the rate of earls, and yet hoard up; they who chase away all the faithful shepherds of the flock, and bring in a dearth of spiritual food, robbing thereby the church of her dearest treasure, and sending herds of souls starveling to hell, while they feast and riot upon the labours of hireling curates, consuming and purloining even that which by their foundation is allowed, and left to the poor, and to reparations
(53) The love of pluralities descended as an inheritance from the Roman Catholic to the Protestant church. Even in this matter, however, some reformation has been effected; for no clergyman, we believe, can now be reproached with equalling, in ambition and the love of lucre, Mansel, chaplain to Henry III., who is said to have held seven hundred ecclesiastical livings at once. - Hume, Hist. of England, chap. xii.