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Satan into an angel of light, of false Apostles into the Apostles of Christ, of Satan's ministers into the ministers of righteousness ; (2 Cor. xi, 13-15.) and therefore we must not measure or judge of Faith by the Person, but of the Person by the Faith. 'Truth may be as a jewel in a dunghill, and error carried (as Hannibal carried his poison) in a gold ring. That horse of superstition and idolatry, upon the back of which the Devil hath in former times made war against the Church, is slain under him; and now he is mounted upon a fresh horse of another colour, called LIBERTY OF OPINION, falsely called Liberty of Conscience. Let us not be ignorant of his devices !-Let not Reformation and Religion be cried up for design and to serve turns : Settle it speedily. Send forth the Confession, that it may testify to the world that you hold the form of sound and wholesome words. Let some government and order be established. Religion is the ball of contention: Many men's hopes lie in our differences, and their interests are served upon them. We have professed enough for Reformation and Purity, and have covenanted to endeavour it. The world is weary of words, they look for fruit. Let this day set an edge upon you : No man take a BREAK-fast of this Fast. Let not our ruin be under your hand! There was a BUT in Naaman's story : He was such and such, but a leper. You have done worthily, covenanted seriously ; but the matter of Reformation lies most of it as yet in the Covenant. It may be, the foolishness of many
opinions on foot makes you slight them,' as Calvin said of Servetus's first onset, securum me reddidit ipsa dogmatum fatuitas. But be not secure; a great fire may rise out of a small spark. Let the souls of so many thousands of people be precious in your eyes; and the Lord make your name like the name of those who have built the house of God !-I pray you, let me not be understood to ship, in one and the same bottom, every error or mis take with damnable heresies. “Some differences of opinions, as one (Lord Verulam) elegantly saith, are as the strivings of one • Israelite with another : And these Moses quiets, and parts them • fairly. And some are like the Egyptian striving with the Israel• ite, whom Moses smites down. There must be differences made between Error and Heresy, Erroneous and Heretics, Seducers and Seduced. I would I might entreat, nay, press it upon, those that are called PURE INDEPENDENTS, that thcy would zealously and seriously declare against the doctrinal errors and heresies of these days; that such pernicious errors may not shelter themselves under their name or wing, nor ever any INDULGENCE or TOLERATION be either desired or granted upon such a reason, as all may come in at the same breach or port: For that would be but a selling of the Church into a LIBERTY of being in captivity to destructive confusions and errors."
At the subsequent monthly Fast, April 28, 1646, SIMEON Asil spoke thus to the House of Commons: “ Lately you appointed
a solemn general Fast, that we might be humbled before God, and pray, in regard of the inundations of errors and heresies. Give me leave to ask you, whether you only intended to speak to God, and to act nothing? If you do not act according to your orders and prayers, God will judge you as hypocritical abusers of his name and ordinances. Doubtless, proportionable to your sincerity in appointing that Fast, will be your zeal to suppress that for which you professed humiliation before God.”
On the same day, and to the same Honourable audience, WilLIAM STRONG uttered many similar sentiments. But the most amusing parts of his Discourse are those in which he employs scriptural threats. One of them is thus expressed : “ God doth commonly put men out of their stewardship, secondly, by the tumults of the people; there is a particular curse of God upon the magistracy, in taking off the hearts of the people from them: -(1.) Either openly and at once, as in the case of Rehoboam and Nebuchadnezzar, for their cruelty and oppression, destroying their land and slaying their people; God giving them up unto such cursed ways, that their own subjects cast them out of their own dominions.-(2.) Or, secretly and by degrees. For God is not always a Lion to a State, but sometimes a Moth; and the prophet Zechariah, (xi. 16,) speaks of the 'withering of the Shepherd's right arm, which is the decay of his authority and ruling power by degrees. Some seditious libels, you know, have been scattered abroad, of the people's re-assuming their power, which doubtless is wicked ;* for God never put the sword into
• These Calvinistic pastors delivered political doctrines in their sermons, to suit different periods ; thus, Richard HEYRICKE, before the Commons, May 27, 1646, preaching from Queen Esther's expression, And if I perish, I perish!, said: 16 The poorest subject may have liberty to prefer his petition, a privilege that Esther, though a Queen, could not have ; but if she would go uncalled to the King, she must run the hazard of the law, for it was not according to the law. How far such laws do bind, I cannot determine: "He is no transgressor,' saith the Civil Law, that crosseth not the mind of the Law-giver,' though he break the letter of the law : And a reasonable cause, as the Casuists and Schoolmen agree, ever excuseth the breaking of a human law. I heard it very lately from the Authority of the Honourable House of Commons, What laws, ordinances, or orders soever, that are against the aw of God, are, by the laws of this land, nulled. The observation of laws is very commendable ; but when exigencies are so violent, when confusion hath turned all upside-down, when the State is disturbed, when wicked men are combined, when all order is perverted, then men are to look to the main chance, then to solicit the principal business ; and so much the more zealously, as Esther did, by how much there is less possibility of compassing it the ordinary way. When necessity is so urgent, that it makes the observing of the laws impossible, Nature, Reason, Laws, Religion, all instruct us to betake ourselves to that which is most necessary. Prerogative, Privilege, Liberty, all must be laid aside. It was a reproach unto Cato, he would rather suffer the Commonwealth to run into all extremity, when he might have succoured it would he have a little transgressed the laws : And contrary wise, Epaminondas is commended, that in case of necessity he continued his charge beyond his time, though the law, upon pain of life, did prohibit it. The Parliament shall ever be
the people's hands. But yet, though it may be the sin of the people, it may be the punishment of the magistrate, and the judgment of the kingdom.”
At the next monthly Fast, May 26, 1646, Thomas Case delivered a Discourse before the House of Commons, and gave it the title of “ Spiritual Whoredom.” In his application of the doctrine, he says: “ To you, honourable and noble patriots, I would humbly move, that you would exert that power and authority which God hath given you, to the punishing and suppressing of the adulteries and whoredoms of the land, which do stare heaven and earth in the face, and do provoke the jealousy of God, even to give England a bill of divorce, and to put uz away. Arise, I say, Oh ye rulers and governors of England ! • Gird your sword upon your thigh, and ride on prosperously because of truth and righteousness, and let your right hand teach you ters, rible things !' (Psalm xlv. 4.) You know what Phineas did, in the case of corporal whoredom, committed in the face of God and the congregation. Then stood up Phincas, and executed vengeance, or judgment : And you remember how well the Lord took it at his hands, · The plague was slayed, and it was impuled to him for righteousness.' (Psalm cvi. 31.) Oh that the spirit of Phineas may come upon you, that you may sheath your sword in the bowels of these monstrous whoredoms of all sorts, corporal and spiritual, which are committed in the sight of all Israel, yea in the sight of all the Churches round about us, that the blesse ing of Phineas may come upon you, and the plague may be stayed! Doth not indeed the punishing and suppressing of spiritual whoredoms against God,-idolatry, heresy, blasphemy, and the rest,-cloth it not belong unto you, as well as the punishing of bodily whoredoms, theft, murder, &c. ? Doth it indeed belong to you, only to look to the Civil Peace, and to let Religion, and Truth, and the Worship of God, stand or fall to their own master? Fight God, fight devil, fight Christ, fight Antichrist ! Catch, that catch can! You have nothing to do, but to stand by and look on! Say so, then ; speak out; publish it in your Declarations to the world, and let the people of England know,
that it is the right and liberty, to which the subjects of England ' are born, that every man hold what he please, and publish and preach what he holds; that it is the birth-right (as some would have it) of the free-born people of England, every man to wor
ship God according to his own conscience, and to be of what • religion his own conscience shall dictate ! Do so, and see, fathers and brethren, how long your Civil PEACE will secure you when Religion is destroyed, how long it will be ere your Civil
famous ; they have not only followed precedents, but made them.”—This soothing doctrine might suit the Long Parliament; but the private interpretation of NECESSITY must always, on these principles, be dangerous to the coinmunity.
Peace be turned into Civil War! For, no doubt, if this once be granted them, but they may in good time come to know also, (there be them that are instructing them even in these principles too,) that it is their birth-right to be freed from the power of • Parliaments and from the power of Kings; and to take up arms • against both when they shall not vote and act according to their • humours !' Liberty of conscience (falsely so called) may in good time improve itself into liberty of estates, and liberty of houses, and liberty of wives, and, in a word, liberty of perdition of souls and bodies l_Prevent the further departure of the land from God, by keeping out seducers,—those seducing, malignant, Popish, Prelatical priests, whom you have cast out, who have been one great cause of the apostacy of England. The sins of the teachers have been the teachers of sin : They are the men, who; with Hananiah and Zedekiah, have laught rebellion against the Lord. Certainly, if ye did well in putting of them out, ye will do extremely ill in taking of them in again. Hath the King's army bettered them? Hath Oxford changed their principles ? I call heaven and earth to witness this day, that if ye suffer them to recover their stations again, or whoever of you shall for favour, reward, relation, or any other respects whatsoever, use your interest to re-invest them again into their places, you destroy what ye have builded, and will be found transgressors, and translate the blood of poor souls upon your own heads !" 4.-How far the Independents, as a Body, were favourable to Tole
ration. But these, it will be said, were only “ the absurd ravings of Presbyterian Intolerants." What then were the mature opinions of the liberal Independents on this important subject ? Consisting, as the name imports, of numerous small churches of professing Christians, quite distinct froin each other and completely inde pendent, their very existence as separate religious communities under one denomination implied a mutual and enlarged TOLERATION of varieties in doctrine and discipline. (Page 389.) But the man who entertains such an idea has been deceived by the mere. name; for he will find, that their toleration of varieties in docTRINE extended only to those who held the opinions of Calvin, in common with themselves : and that, with regard to varieties in DISCIPLINE, it was not allowed to reach, in every case, to those of their Predestinarian brethren who were attached to Presbyteri. anism, much less to those who were unfortunate enough to be Episcopalians. In page 449, I have said, “ Cromwell, that wary politician, seems to have acted upon the maxim of King James, in balancing the power of one party by that of its opponent;" (p. 566 ;) and on no matter was the Protector's cunning more warily evinced, than in the futile attempt in which the Inde.
pendents engaged, by his direction, when the delegates of their Churches met at the Savoy, in 1658, to compose “A Declaration of the Faith and Order owned and practised in the Congregational Churches in England, &c.” They had been exceedingly impor. tunate with him, and with the rest of the Republican Statesmen, who generally ranged themselves under the banners of Independency, to grant them the supremacy after which their Presbyterian brethren had been fruitlessly aspiring ; (p. 448 ;) and, " though the Independents had the best preferments left in the Church, and opened and shut the door of preferment to others," (p. 447.) yet they were dissatisfied with this high degree of favour which they enjoyed, because it was not accompanied with powers still more extensive. (Page 444.) Cromwell, therefore, under the pretence of a wish to ascertain what security they could give to the civil magistrate for the integrity and harmlessness of their tenets as a religious body, ordered them to prepare a Confession of Faith in which they could all agree. The arch politician knew, that if they prepared any public instrument of this description, which might be considered binding on the whole denomination, their Churches would immediately cease to be “ Independent,” except in name, and would by that single act assume a mild Presbyterian aspect. The pitiful subserviency of their principal men, in those days,* has in:luced many people to suppose, that a great majority of their Churches would have fallen into the rich snare which the Protector had laid for them, had the latter lived; and that the rest would have preferred their real Independency, though accompanied with secular disadvantages or civil penalties. But Cromwell died prior to the completion of their famous “ Declaration ;" in consequence of which, their hapes being dashed to the ground, no symptom of effective ecclesiastical power appeared in that document, except the very vague appoivtment of “ Messengers of Churches holding communion together,” who were empowered “ to meet in Synod or Council, to consider and give advice [in cases of difficulties or differences] to be reported tu all the Churches concerned.”
Had the Independents succeeded in their wishes under the Procector, there is no doubt the following prophecy concerning them, from one of their Calvinistic brethren, would have been
• The reader will find Dr. Owen's sycophancy to the regicides related in page 382; and, in page 448, shrewd reasons are given for “the pliability of Independency" in that age of changes. Owen's biographer boasts of the rich members of their Churches ; and, we are told by Robert Baylie, (p. 464,) that Philip Nye was “ cried down as impertinent” in the Assembly of Divines, while speaking, against the Presbytery. “ The day following,” says Robert, “ when Philip. *s saw the Assembly full of prime nobles and chief members of both Houses, he * entered on that argument again, and very boldly offered to demonstrate, that 6 our way of drawing a whole kingdom under one National Assembly, is formi. “ dable," &c. Further instances of their politic subserviency will be seen in other parts of this volume.