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lated. But that they should be contemners of public prayer, and churches used without superstition, I trust God will manifest it ere long to be as false a slander as your former slanders against the Scots. Noise it till ye be hoarse, that a rabble of sects will come in ; it will be answered ye, No rabble, sir priest; but an unanimous multitude of good protestants will then join to the church, which now, because of you, stand separated. This will be the dreadful consequence of your removal. As for those terrible names of sectaries and schismatics, which ye have got together, we know your manner of fight, when the quiver of your arguments, which is ever thin, and weakly stored, after the first brunt is quite empty, your course is to betake ye to your other quiver of slander, wherein lies your best archery. And whom you could not move by sophistical arguing, them you think to confute by scandalous misnaming; thereby inciting the blinder sort of people to mislike and deride sound doctrine and good Christianity, under two or three vile and hateful terms. But if we could easily endure and dissolve your doughtiest reasons in argument, we shall more easily bear the worst of your unreasonableness in calumny and false report: especially being foretold by Christ, that if he our master were by your predecessors called Samaritan and Beelzebub, we must not think it strange if his best disciples in the reformation, as at first by those of your tribe they were called Lollards and Hussites, so now by you be termed Puritans and Brownists. But my hope is, that the people of England will not suffer themselves to be juggled thus out of their faith and religion by a mist of names cast before their eyes, but will 'search wisely by the scriptures, and look quite through this fraudulent aspersion of a disgraceful name into the things themselves: knowing that the primitive Christians in their times were accounted such as are now called Familists and Adamites, or worse. And many on the prelatic side, like the church of Sardis, have a name to live, and yet are dead; to be protestants, and are indeed papists in most of their principles. Thus persuaded, this your old fallacy we shall soon unmask, and quickly apprehend how you prevent schism, and who are your schismatics. But what if we prevent and hinder all good means of preventing schism ? That way which the apostles used, was to call a council: from which, by anything that can be learned from the fifteenth of
the Acts, no faithful Christian was debarred, to whom knowledge and piety might give entrance. Of such a council as this every parochial consistory is a right homogeneous and constituting part, being in itself, as it were, a little synod, and towards a general assembly moving upon her own basis in an even and firm progression, as those smaller squares in battle unite in one great cube, the main phalanx, an emblem of truth and steadfastness. Whereas, on the other side, prelaty ascending by a gradual monarchy from bishop to archbishop, from thence to primate, and from thence, for there can be no reason yielded neither in nature nor in religion, wherefore, if it have lawfully mounted thus high, it should not be a lordly ascendant in the horoscope of the church, from primate to patriarch, and so to pope: I say, prelaty thus ascending in a continual pyramid upon pretence to perfect the church's unity, if notwithstanding it be found most needful, yea, the utmost help to darn up the rents of schism by calling a council, what does it but teach us that prelaty is of no force to effect this work, which she boasts to be her masterpiece; and that her pyramid aspires and sharpens to ambition, not to perfection or unity? This we know, that as often as any great schism disparts the church, and synods be proclaimed, the presbyters have as great right there, and as free vote of old, as the bishops, which the canon law conceals not. So that prelaty, if she will seek to close up divisions in the church, must be forced to dissolve and unmake her own pyramidal figure, which she affirms to be of such uniting power, whenas indeed it is the most dividing and schismatical form that geometricians know of, and must be fain to inglobe or incube herself among the presbyters; which she hating to do, sends her haughty prelates from all parts with their forked mitres, the badge of schism, or the stamp of his cloven foot whom they serve, I think, who, according to their hierarchies acuminating still higher and higher in a cone of prelaty, instead of healing up the gashes of the church, as it happens in such pointed bodies ineeting, fall to gore one another with their sharp spires for upper place and precedence, till the council itself proves the greatest schism of all. And thus they are so far from hindering dissension, that they have made unprofitable, and even noisome, the chiefest remedy we have to keep Christendom at one, which is by councils: and these, if we rightly VOL. II.
consider apostolic example, are nothing else but general presbyteries. This seemed so far from the apostles to think much of, as if hereby their dignity were impaired, that, as we may gather by those epistles of Peter and John, which are likely to be latest written, when the church grew to a settling, like those heroic patricians of Rome (if we may use such comparison) hastening to lay down their dictatorship, they rejoiced to call themselves, and to be as fellow-elders among their brethren; knowing that their high office was but as the scaffolding of the church yet unbuilt, and would be but a troublesome disfigurement, so soon as the building was finished. But the lofty minds of an age or two after, such was their small discerning, thought it a poor indignity, that the high-reared government of the church should so on a sudden, as it seemed to them, squat into a presbytery. Next, or rather, before councils, the timeliest prevention of schism is to preach the gospel abundantly and powerfully throughout all the land, to instruct the youth religiously, to endeavour how the scriptures may be easiest understood by all men; to all which the proceedings of these men have been on set purpose contrary. But how, O prelates, should you remove schism ? and how should you not remove and oppose all the means of removing schism ? when prelaty is a schism itself from the most reformed and most flourishing of our neighbour churches abroad, and a sad subject of discord and offence to the whole nation at home. The remedy which you allege, is the very disease we groan under; and never can be to us a remedy but by removing itself. Your predecessors were believed to assume this preeminence above their brethren, only that they might appease dissension. Now God and the church call upon you, for the same reason, to lay it down, as being to thousands of good men offensive, burdensome, intolerable. Surrender that pledge, which, unless you foully usurped it, the church gave you, and now claims it again, for the reason she first lent it. Discharge the trust committed to you, prevent schism; and that ye can never do, but by discharging yourselves. That government which ye hold, we confess, prevents much, hinders much, removes much: but what ? the schisms and grievances of the church? no, but all the peace and unity, all the welfare not of the church alone, but of the whole kingdom. And if it be still permitted ye to hold, will cause the most sad, I know not whether separation be enough to say, but such a wide gulf of distraction in this land, as will never close her dismal gap until ye be forced, (for of yourselves you will never do as that Roman, Curtius, nobly did,) for the church's peace and your country's, to leap into the midst, and be no more seen. By this we shall know whether yours be that ancient prelaty, which you say was first constituted for the reducement of quiet and unanimity into the church, for then you will not delay to prefer that above your own preferment. If otherwise, we must be confident that your prelaty is nothing else but your ambition, an insolent preferring of yourselves above your brethren ; and all your learned scraping in antiquity, even to disturb the bones of old Aaron and his sons in their graves, is but to maintain and set upon our necks a stately and severe dignity, which you call sacred, and is nothing in very deed but a grave and reverend gluttony, a sanctimonious avarice; in comparison of which, all the duties and dearnesses which ye owe to God or to his church, to law, custom, or nature, ye have resolved to set at nought. I could put you in mind what counsel Clement, a fellow-labourer with the apostles, gave to the presbyters of Corinth, whom the people, though unjustly, sought to remove. “Who among you," saith he, “is nobleminded, who is pitiful, who is charitable ? let him say thus, If for me this sedition, this enmity, these differences be, I willingly depart, I go my ways; only let the flock of Christ be at peace with the presbyters that are set over it. He that shall do this,” saith he, “ shall get him great honour in the Lord, and all places will receive himn.” This was Clement's counsel to good and holy men, that they should depart rather from their just office, than by their stay to ravel out the seamless garment of concord in the church. But I have better counsel to give the prelates, and far more acceptable to their ears; this advice in my opinion is fitter for them : Cling fast to your pontifical sees, bate not, quit yourselves like barons, stand to the utmost for your haughty courts and votes in parliament. Still tell us, that you prevent schism, though schism and combustion be the very issue of your bodies, your first-born; and set your country a bleeding in a prelatical mutiny, to fight for your pomp, and that ill-favoured weed of temporal
lionour, that sits dishonourably upon your laic shoulders ; that ye may be fat and fleshy, swoln with high thoughts and big with mischievous designs, when God comes to visit upon you all this fourscore years' vexation of his church under your Egyptian tyranny. For certainly of all those blessed souls which you have persecuted, and those miserable ones which you have lost, the just vengeance does not sleep.
CHAPTER VII. That those many Sects and Schisms by some supposed to be
among us, and that Rebellion in Ireland, ought not to be a Hinderance, but a Hastening of Reformation.
As for those many sects and divisions rumoured abroad to be amongst us, it is not hard to perceive, that they are partly the mere fictions and false alarms of the prelates, thereby to cast amazements and panic terrors into the hearts of weaker Christians, that they should not venture to change the present deformity of the church, for fear of I know not what worse inconveniencies. With the same objected fears and suspicions, we know that subtle prelate Gardner sought to divert the Reformation. It may suffice us to be taught by St. Paul, that there must be sects for the manifesting of those that are sound-hearted. These are but winds and flaws to try the floating vessel of our faith, whether it be stanch and sail well, whether our ballast be just, our anchorage and cable strong. By this is seen who lives by faith and certain knowledge, and who by credulity and the prevailing opinion of the age; whose virtue is of an unchangeable grain, and whose of a slight wash. If God come to try our constancy, we ought not to shrink or stand the less firmly for that, but pass on with more steadfast resolution to establish the truth, though it were through a lane of sects and heresies on each side. Other things men do to the glory of God: but sects and errors, it seems, God suffers to be for the glory of good men, that the world may know and reverence their true fortitude and undaunted constancy in the truth. Let us not therefore make these things an incumbrance, or an excuse of our delay in reforming, which God sends us as an incitement to proceed