« AnteriorContinuar »
strength and numbers," need no other pattern than episcopacy and himself, to “ set up their ways by the like method of violence.”
225. Nor is there any thing that hath more marks of schism and sectarism than English episcopacy; whether we look at apostolic times, or at reformed churches; for “the universal way of church-government before,” may as soon lead us into gross error, as their universally corrupted doctrine. And government, by reason of ambition, was likeliest to be corrupted much the sooner of the two. However, nothing can be to us catholic or universal in religion, but what the Scripture teaches; whatsoever without Scripture pleads to be universal in the church, in being universal is but the more schismatical. Much less can particular laws and constitutions impart to the church of England any power of consistory or tribunal above other churches, to be the sole judge of what is sect or schism, as with much rigour, and without Scripture, they took upon them. Yet these the king resolves here to defend and maintain to his last, pretending, after all those conferences offered, or had with him, “ not to see more rational and religious motives than soldiers carry in their knapsacks.” With one thus resolved, it was but folly to stand disputing.
226. He imagines his “ own judicious zeal to be most concerned in his tuition of the church.” So thought Saul when he presumed to offer sacrifice, for which he lost his kingdom; so thought Uzziah when he went into the temple, but was thrust out with a leprosy for his opinioned zeal, which he thought judicious. It is not the part of a king, because he ought to defend the church, therefore to set himself supreme head over the church, or to meddle with ecclesial government, or to defend the church, otherwise than the church would be defended; for such defence is bondage : nor to defend abuses, and stop all reformation, under the name of “ new moulds fancied and fashioned to private designs.”
227. The holy things of church are in the power of other keys than were delivered to his keeping. Christian liberty, purchased with the death of our Redeemer, and established by the sending of his free Spirit to inhabit in us, is not now to depend upon the doubtful consent of any earthly monarch ; nor to be again fettered with a presumptuous negative voice, tyrannical to the parliament, but much more tyrannical to the church of God; which was compelled to implore the aid of parliament, to remove his force and heavy hands from off our consciences, who therefore complains now of that most just defensive force, because only it removed his violence and persecution. If this be a violation to his conscience, that it was hindered by the parliament from violating the more tender consciences of so many thousand good Christians, let the usurping conscience of all tyrants be ever so violated !
228. He wonders, (fox wonder!) how we could so much “ distrust God's assistance," as to call in the Protestant aid of our brethren in Scotland. Why then did he, if his trust were in God and the justice of his cause, not scruple to solicit and invite earnestly the assistance both of papists and of Irish rebels? If the Scots were by us at length sent bome, they were not called to stay here always ; neither was it for the people's ease to feed so many legions longer than their help was needful.
229. “The government of their kirk we despised” not, but their imposing of that government upon us; not presbytery, but archpresbytery, classical, provincial, and diocesan presbytery, claiming to itself a lordly power and superintendency both over flocks and pastors, over persons and congregations no way their own. But these debates, in his judgment, would bave been ended better “ by the best divines in Christendom in a full and free synod.” A most improbable way, and such as never yet was used, at least with good success, by any Protestant kingdom or state since the reformation: every true church having wherewithal from heaven, and the assisting Spirit of Christ implored, to be complete and perfect within itself. And the whole nation is not easily to be thought so raw, and so perpetually a novice, after all this light, as to need the help and direction of other nations, more than what they write in public of their opinion, in a matter so familiar as churchgovernment.
230. In fine, he accuses piety with the want of loyalty, and religion with the breach of allegiance, as if God and he were one master, whose commands were so often contrary to the commands of God. He would persuade the Scots, that their
" chief interest consists in their fidelity to the crown." But true policy will teach them, to find a safer interest in the common friendship of England, than in the ruins of one ejected family.
Upon the Covenant.
231. Upon this theme his discourse is long, his matter little but repetition, and therefore soon answered. First, after an abusive and strange apprehension of covenants, as if men “pawned their souls” to them with whom they covenant, he digresses to plead for bishops; first from the antiquity of their “possession here, since the first plantation of Christianity in this island;" next from “ a universal prescription since the apostles, till this last century.” But what avails the most primitive antiquity against the plain sense of Scripture? which, if the last century have best followed, it ought in our esteem to be the first. And yet it hath been often proved by learned men, from the writings and epistles of most ancient Christians, that episcopacy crept not up into an order above the presbyters, till many years after that the apostles were deceased.
232. He next “is unsatisfied with the covenant,"
not only for “some passages in it referring to himself,” as he supposes, “with very dubious and dangerous limitations,” but for binding men" by oath and covenant” to the reformation of church discipline. First, those limitations were not more dangerous to him, than he to our liberty and religion; next, that which was there vowed, to cast out of the church an antichristian hierarchy which God had not planted, but ambition and corruption had brought in, and fostered to the church's great damage and oppression, was no point of controversy to be argued without end, but a thing of clear moral necessity to be forthwith done. Neither was the “covenant superfluous, though former engagements, both religious and legal, bound us before;" but was the practice of all churches heretofore intending reformation. All Israel, though bound enough before by the law of Moses “to all necessary duties;" yet with Asa their king entered into a new covenant at the beginning of a reformation: and the Jews, after captivity, without consent demanded of that king who was their master, took solemn oath to walk in the commandments of God.
233. All Protestant churches have done the like, notwithstanding former engagements to their several duties. And although his aim were to sow variance between the protestation and the covenant, to reconcile them is not difficult. The protestation was but one step, extending only to the doctrine of the church of England, as it was distinct from church discipline; the covenant went further, as it