« PreviousContinue »
ing of God? ' Oh that we would remember from whence we are fallen!
“(5.) Yet it were somewhat tolerable, if there were such a declining only among the generality of England, if it were only among the riff-raffs of the people. But alas ! how are England's professors fallen from hot to cold, from better to worse! They are not like the people they were. Do they not neglect Sabbaths, slight sermons, grow weary of Manna? Is not their love to Christ, to Christians, grown cold? Do they not love the world better than they were wont? Are they not grown more foolish and fashionable, more contentious and complimental than formerly? You cannot know a professor from a prodigal, a christian from a carouser, now a-days. Oh how are England's professors fallen! Oh that England, that the people of England, both high and low, rich and poor, one and other, from Dan to Beersheba, would this day begin, to remember from whence they are fallen, and
Evidence sufficient has now been adduced to prove, from the men themselves, the erroneousness of Mr. Scott's assertion, and that the most active “ leaders in those tragical scenes” were, in reality, the Predestinarian Divines. 3. The Puritans who embraced Presbyterianism, were not favourable
to Civil or Religious Liberty. But it is gravely asserted, by some of our most popular historians, that these “ Puritans were the renowned fathers of English Liberty.” This proposition is true in the same sense as, that the devil was the cause of Job's final earthly prosperity ; but in no other acceptation can it be deemed correct, either in regard to the Presbyterians or Independents as a body. ". The ideas entertained, by the leading Puritans, on the subject of TOLERATION, shall be expressed in the very language which they employed in their discourses before the Long Parliament:
In a sermon before the House of Peers, Feb. 24, 1646, Nathaniel HARDY made the following improvement upon the Solemn League and Covenant into which their Lordships and all the Revolutionists had entered: “ Remember, I beseech you, you are within the bounds of a Covenant; for what? for a Toleration ? No, for an extirpation of all heresies, schisms, and profaneness. What, if, while the Ark was floating on the waters of strife, you were enforced to entertain wolves and lambs together, yet now that the waters are abated and the ark in some measure settled, send out the wolves from the fold. Oh, let your thankfulness to God, for. preserving the bounds of your possessions, appear, by your maintaining the bounds of his worship! Suffer not yourselves, I beseech you, by self-respects and politic prin. ciples, to be withdrawn from this work. He that pieceth God's Providence with carnal policy, is like a greedy gamester, who, having got all his game in his own hand, steals a needless card
to assure himself of winning, and thereby loseth all. It is a hard question, Whether is greater idolatry-to prefer reasons of state before principles of piety,_or to worship a golden calf ?'. O let policy ever give place to piety, your private affections be swallowed up in the common cause, as small rivers lose their name in the ocean.
“ But as you take with you WORDS, so take to you the SWORD, and think God saith to you as he did to Joshua, Wherefore lie on your faces ? Up and be doing; take away the accursed errors from among you! That of St. Bernard is true, if taken cum grano salis, • Faith is wrought by persuasions, not by compulsions: Yet that of Tertullian is as true, • Obstinacy must be forced, not wooed.' It was a divine speech of Seneca, · Divers nations appoint various punishments, all some for those that violate religion.'—I have learned so much state-divinity as to distinguish between voluntas signi et beneplaciti: [ well know, the biassed Bowls may fetch a compass to touch the Jack. Dumb Zachary begat him [the Baptist who was the voice of a crier: Neither doubt I but your former silence will end in a loud decrying of all heterodox opinions and practices. My only aim is to add spurs to your pious intentions, that they may appear by such peremptory actions, as the people may not deceive themselves with vain hopes of unsufferable liberties. It is to be supposed, that, as in the sweating-sickness in England, the sick persons, when beaten on the face with sprigs of Rosemary by their friends, would cry out, Oh you kill me! you kill me !, whereas indeed they had killed them in not doing it, for had they slept they had died, so those whom the sickness of error hath surprised, being suppressed, will exclaim and say, Oh you persecute them! you persecute them!, whereas indeed it is not a persecution that lets out the life-blood, but a prosecution that lets out the corrupt blood. Oh happy violence, which pulls men out of the fire! Blessed bonds, that tie men to Christ! Comfortable fetters, which keep our feet in the way of peace !"
On the afternoon of the same day, Dr. John Lightfoot thus pursued the same argument: “ It is not yet four years since we: entered into as solemn a Covenant as ever did nation: And will it be believed in the next generation, if our guilt upon it do not make it too evident,-or would it be believed in any remote parts of the world, but that the fame of it is blown through all nations,—that, in so short a time, after so solemn an obligation, and the Parliament that brought on the Covenant sitting, the Covenant should be so forgot as we dolefully see daily that it is?_We vowed against Error, Heresy, and Schism, and swore to the God of Truth and Peace, to the utmost of our power to extirpate them, and to root thein out. These stones, and walls, and pillars, were witnesses of our solemn engagement. And now, if the Lord should come to enquire what we have done according to this vow and
covenant, I am amazed to think what the Lord would find amongst us. Would he not find ten schisms now for one then, twenty heresies now for one at that time, and forty errors non for one when we swore against them? Was there ever more palpable walking contrary to God, or more desperate crossing of a covenant ? If we had sworn, to the utmost of our power, to have promoted and advanced error, heresy, and schism, could these then have grown and come forward more, than now they have done, though we swore against them?--And so we entered in as solemn an engagement for Reformation in matters of Religion ; and this was the joyful sound that stirred up the hearts of the people, and this was their hopes. Five or six years ago it was proclaimed, and between three and four years ago it was covenanted, and our hearts danced within us for the hopes we had in this particular. But what hath been done? I looked, saith God, for grapes, and behold sour grapes, and nothing else! When Reformation was first spoken of, we had order and ordinances; but now, how is the one lost and the other slighted! We had then Sacraments, full congregations, a followed ministry, and fre. quented churches; but now sacraments laid aside,-congregations scattered,—the ministry cried down, ---churches empty, church-doors shut up, equestres Samnitum in ipso Samnio! If you look for Reformation upon our Covenanting for Reformation, how little to be found, and how much clean contrary !" · Richard Vines, in his sermon before the House of Commons, March 10, 1646, inveighs most vehemently against a Toleration, and informs his honourable audience, that such a measure would produce the restoration of Episcopacy. Alluding to the interference of King James, in the case of Vorstius, who had been chosen to the Divinity Professorship at Leyden, the preacher says: “He bears himself upon that common rule, when a neighbour's house is on fire, it concerns all in the neighbourhood to look about them. This vigilancy condemns our (I know not what to call it, I wish no worse might be said than) insensibleness and security. For, what were those sparks at that time smoking in a remote corner, in comparison of that fire which now flames forth at every corner of our house, blown up by that liberly of all religions which may justly be called the Golden Calf of these times! Whereunto many are not unwilling to contribute their strength and policy, and whose birth-day they would not fear to call Festum Jehovce, an acceptable day unto the Lord. Are not the errors which are rife amongst us, either by infecting persons of place and quality, grown into that boldness ?* or, by carrying?
• The patronage of TOLERATION by “ persons of place and quality” is alluded to, in a subsequent part of this Introduction, as one of the grand causes which prevented the persecution of one Calvinistic sect by another. Though all these sects combined to crush Episcopacy and Arminianism when they could, yet the interest of the Statesmen was frequently exerted to screen the sufferers.
away BARNABAS* also, crept into that credit? or, by spreading far and wide, risen to that strength ? that they do face, if not seem able to put into danger of routing, our common faith, public worship, authorized ministry, long and much expected and promised Reformation! This, to the common enemy, is the Cape of Good Hope. The sound part are afraid lest the truth should come to beg for poor quarter, and be led captive, following the chariot of triumphant liberty. Some think, that Episcopacy in his Pontificalibus may by this means be retrieved, and recalled from exile, to which it was sentenced by the Covenant. Many that are as distant as the two poles, yet, moving upon one axle-tree, or tied together by the tails of common interest, doubt not but, by laying their stocks together, they shall be able to bid fair for a TOLERATION. And, that we might not be left alone to wonder at ourselves, our sympathizing brethren abroad do wonder also, that we should be made the common sewer to receive the garbage of other churches, and their stinking snuff's should be allowed can. dlesticks here in England.--I wish that our military men had not transfused error into the several parts of our body. If it be said, that many of those who are charged with teaching of errors or heresy are holy men,t I answer, that a holy man cannot easily be a
• The “ Barnabas," of whom mention is here made, was, I think, Dr. John Owen, whose name certainly gave “ credit” to such " a liberty of all religions,"; as his rigid Calvinism would allow him to indulge. Tolerant principles, it is seen, were “ spread far and wide," and those who patronized them became in consequence very popular preachers. (See page 448.) The “ military men” are also here blamed, for “ having transfused error into the several parts of the body." See page
+ What a remarkable difference between this uncharitable sentiment, and that of the ever-memorable Hales," quoted in a succeeding page : “ He would often " say, that he would renounce the religion of the Church of England to-morrow, if “it obliged him to believe that any other CHRISTIANS should be damned,” &c.
Still greater is the contrast between the unhallowed zeal of these tyrannizing Calvinists, and “the heavenly flame' which is beautifully described in the only Arminian sermon preached before the Long Parliament. After an eloquent apostrophe to Divine Love, Dr. Ralph Cudworth, on March 31, 1647, made the following just remarks :
" Let us express this sweet harmonious affection, in these jarring times ; that So, if it be possible, we may tune the world, at last, into better music. Especi. ally, in matters of religion, let us strive with all meckness to instruct and convince one another The Gospel at first came down upon the world gently and softly, like the dew upon Gideon's fleece; and yet it quickly soaked quite through it : And, doubtless, this is still the most effectual way to promote it further. Sweetness and ingenuity will more powerfully command men's minds, than passion, sourness, and severity; as the soft pillow sooner breaks the flint, than the hardest marble. Let us follow truth in love ;' and, of the two, indeed, be contented rather to miss of the conveying of a speculative truth, than to part with love. When we would convince men of any error by the strength of truth, let us withal pour the sweet balm of love upon their heads. TRUTH and LOVE are two the most powerful things in the world ; and when they both go together, they cannot easily be withstood. The golden beams of Truth, and the silken cords of Love, twisted together, will draw men on with a sweet violence, whether
heretic; nor are all the errors of holy men to be called heresy, though they may be hay and stubble upon the foundation. But it hath been observed of old, that some Heresiarchs, or heads of heresy, have been well reputed for strictness and unblameableness of life: We learn out of Austin, that Pelagius had a very good testimony; and scripture tells us, they come in sheep's cloth. ing and speak lies in hypocrisy. Lies would not take, if they were not commended by the holiness of the person, and gilded over, as a rotten nutmeg, with gold. There is a transformation of
they will or no. Let us take heed, we do not sometimes call that zeal for God and his Gospel, which is nothing else but our own tempestuous and stormy passion. True zeal is a sweet, heavenly, and gentle flame, which maketh us active for God, but always within the sphere of love. It never calls for fire from heaven,' to consume those that differ a little from us in their apprehens sions. It is like that kind of lightning, (which the Philosophers speak of,) that melts the sword within, but singeth not the scabbard : It strives to save the soul, but hurteth not the body. True zeal is a loving thing, and makes us always active to edification, and not to destruction. If we keep the fire of zeal within the chimney, in its own proper place, it never doth any hurt; it only warmeth, quickeneth, and enliveneth us: But if once we let it break out, and catch hold of the thatch of our flesh, and kindle our corrupt nature, and set the house of our body on fire, it is no longer zeal, it is no heavenly fire, it is a most destructive and devouring thing. True zeal is an ignis lambens, a soft and gentle flame, that will not scorch one's hand; it is no predatory or voracious thing : But carnal and fleshly zeal is like the spirit of gunpowder set on fire, that tears and blows up all that stands before it. True zeal is like the vital heat in us, that we live upon, which we never feel to be angry or troublesome ; but though it gently feed upon the radical oil within us, that sweet balsam of our natural moisture, yet it lives lovingly with it, and maintains that by which it is fed : But that other furious and distempered zeal, is nothing but a fever in the soul. Our zeal, if it be heavenly, if it be true vestal fire kindled from above, will not delight to tarry here below, burning up straw and stubble and such combustible things, and sending up nothing but gross earthy fumes to heaven ; but it will rise up, and return back pure as it came down, and will be ever striving to carry up men's hearts to God along with it. It will be only occupied about the promoting of those things which are unquestionably good; and when it moves in the irascible way, it will quarrel with nothing but sin. Here let our zeal busy and exercise itself, every one of us beginning first at our own hearts. Let us be more zealous than ever. we have yet been, in fighting against our lusts, in pulling down thosę strong holds of sin and Satan in our hearts. Here let us exercise all our courage and resolution, our manhood and magnanimity,
“ There is a straitness, slavery, and narrowness in all sin. Sin crowds and crumples up our souls, which, if they were freely spread abroad, would be as wide and as large as the whole universe. No man is truly free, but he that hath his will enlarged to the extent of God's own will, by loving whatsoever God loves, and nothing else. Such an one doth not fondly hug this and that particular created good thing, and envassal himself unto it; but he loveth every thing that is lovely, beginning at God, and descending down to all his creatures, according to the several degrees of perfection in them. He enjoys a boundless liberty, and a boundless sweetness, according to his boundless love. Ile inclaspeth the whole world within his outstretched arms; his soul is as wide as the whole universe, as big as yesterday, to-day, and for ever. Whosoever is once acquainted with this disposition of spirit, he never desires any thing else ; and be loves the life of God in himself, dearer than his own life.”