« PreviousContinue »
and especially to this of England, thrones and unthrones kings, and absolves the people from their obedience to them; sometimes interdicts to whole nations the public worship of God, shutting up their churches : and was wont to drain away greatest part of the wealth of this then miserable land, as part of his patrimony, to maintain the pride and luxury of his court and prelates ; and now, since, through the infinite mercy and favour of God, we have shaken off his Babylonish yoke, hath not ceased by his spies and agents, bulls and emissaries, once to destroy both king and parliament; perpetually to seduce, corrupt, and pervert as many as they can of the peo ple. Whether therefore it be fit or reasonable to tolerate men thus principled in religion towards the state, I submit it to the consideration of all magistrates, who are best able to provide for their own and the public safety. As for tolerating the exercise of their religion, supposing their state-activities not to be dangerous, I answer, that toleration is either public or private; and the exercise of their religion, as far as it is idola. trous, can be tolerated neither way: not publicly, without grievous and unsufferable scandal given to all conscientious beholders; not privately, without great offence to God, declared against all kind of idolatry, though secret. Ezek. viii. 7, 8: “ And he brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, behold, a hole in the wall. Then said he unto me, Son of man, dig now in the wall: and when I had digged, behold a door; and he said unto me, Go in, and behold the wicked abominations that they do here.” And ver. 12: “ Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark ?” &c. And it appears by the whole chapter, that God was no less offended with these secret idolatries than with those in public; and no less provoked, than to bring on and hasten his judgments on the whole land for these also.
Having shown thus, that popery, as being idolatrous, is not to be tolerated either in public or in private; it must be now thought how to remove it, and hinder the growth thereof, I mean in our natives, and not foreigners, privileged by the law of nations. Are we to punish them by corporal punishment, or fines in their estates, upon account of their religion? I suppose it stands not with the clemency of the gospel, more than what appertains to the security of the state : but first we must remove their idolatry, and all the furniture thereof, whether idols or the mass wherein they adore their God under bread and wine: for the commandment forbids to adore, not only “any graven image, but the likeness of anything in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth; thou shalt not bow down to them nor worship them, for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God.” If they say, that by removing their idols we violate their consciences, we have no warrant to regard conscience which is not grounded on scripture: and they themselves confess in their late defences, that they hold not their images necessary to salvation, but only as they are enjoined them by tradition.
Shall we condescend to dispute with them? The scripture is our only principle in religion; and by that only they will not be judged, but will add other principles of their own, which, forbidden by the word of God, we cannot assent to. And [in several places of the gospel] the common maxim also in logic is, “ against them who deny principles, we are not to dispute.” Let them bound their disputations on the scripture only, and an ordinary protestant, well read in the Bible, may turn and wind their doctors. They will not go about to prove their idolatries by the word of God, but turn to shifts and evasions, and frivolous distinctions; idols they say are laymen's books, and a great means to stir up pious thoughts and devotion in the learnedest. I say, they are no means of God's appointing, but plainly the contrary : let them hear the prophets. Jer. x. 8: « The stock is a doctrine of vanities.” Hab. ii. 18: “What profiteth the graven image, that the maker thereof hath graven it; the molten image and a teacher of lies ?” But they allege in their late answers, that the laws of Moses, given only to the Jews, concern not us under the gospel; and remember not that idolatry is forbidden as expressly : but with these wiles and fallacies “compassing sea and land, like the pharisees of old, to make one proselyte,” they lead away privily many simple and ignorant souls, men and women, “and make them twofold more the children of hell than themselves," Matt. xxiii. 15. But the apostle hath well warned us, I may say, from such deceivers as these, for their mystery was then working. “I beseech you, brethren,” saith he, “mark them which cause divisions and offences, contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them; for they that are such, serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by good words and fair speeches deceive the heart of the simple.” Rom. xvi. 17, 18.
The next means to hinder the growth of popery will be, to read duly and diligently the holy scriptures, which, as St. Paul şaith to Timothy, who had known them from a child, “ are able to make wise unto salvation.” And to the whole church of Colossi : “ Let the word of Christ dwell in you plentifully, with all wisdom,” Col. iii. 16. The papal antichristian church permits not her laity to read the Bible in their own tongue: our church, on the contrary, hath proposed it to all men, and to this end translated it into English, with profitable notes on what is met with obscure, though what is most necessary to be known be still plainest ; that all sorts and degrees of men, not understanding the original, may read it in their mother tongue. Neither let the countryman, the tradesman, the lawyer, the physician, the statesman, excuse himself by his much business from the studious reading thereof. Our Saviour saith, Luke x. 41, 42, “ Thou art careful and troubled about many things; but one thing is needful.” If they were asked, they would be loath to set earthly things, wealth or honour, before the wisdom of salvation. Yet most men in the course and practice of their lives are found to do so; and through unwillingness to take the pains of understanding their religion by their own diligent study, would fain be saved by a deputy. Hence comes implicit faith, ever learning and never taught, much hearing and small proficience, till want of fundamental knowledge easily turns to superstition or popery: therefore the apostle admonishes, Eph. iv. 14, “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” Every member of the church, at least of any breeding or capacity, so well ought to be grounded in spiritual knowledge, as, if need be, to examine their teachers themselves. Acts xvii.11: “They searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so." Rev. ii. 2: “ Thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not.” How should any private Christian try his teachers, unless he be well grounded himself in the rule of scripture, by which he is taught ? As therefore among papists their ignorance in scripture chiefly uphoids popery; so among protestant people, the frequent and serious reading thereof will soonest pull popery down.
Another means to abate popery arises from the constant reading of scripture, wherein believers, who agree in the main, are everywhere exhorted to mutual forbearance and charity one towards the other, though dissenting in some opinions. It is written, that the coat of our Saviour was without seam; whence some would infer that there should be no division in the church of Christ. It should be so indeed; yet seams in the same cloth neither hurt the garment nor misbecome it; and not only seams, but schisms will be while men are fallible: but if they who dissent in matters not essential to belief, while the common adversary is in the field, shall stand jarring and pelting at one another, they will be soon routed and subdued. The papist with open mouth makes much advantage of our several opinions; not that he is able to confute the worst of them, but that we by our continual jangle among ourselves make them worse than they are indeed. To save ourselves, therefore, and resist the common enemy, it concerns us mainly to agree within ourselves, that with joint forces we may not only hold our own, but get ground: and why should we not? The gospel commands us to tolerate one another, though of various opinions, and hath promised a good and happy event thereof. Phil. iii. 15: “Let us therefore, as piany as be perfect, be thus minded ; and if in anything ve be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.” And we are bid, 1 Thess. v. 21, “ Prove all things, hold fast that which is good.” St. Paul judged, that not only to tolerate, but to examine and prove all things, was no danger to our holding fast that which is good. How shall we prove all things, which includes all opinions at least founded on scripture, unless we not only tolerate them, but patiently hear them, and seriously read them? If he who thinks himself in the truth professes to have learnt it, not by implicit faith, but by attentive study of the scriptures, and full persuasion of heart, with what équity can he refuse to hear or read hinn who demonstrates to have gained his knowledge by the same way? Is it a fair course to assert truth, by arrogating to himself the only freedom of speech, and stopping the months of others equally gifted? This is the direct way to bring in that papistical implicit faith, which we all disclaim. They
pretend it would unsettle the weaker sort; the same groundless fear is pretended by the Romish clergy. At least, then, let them have leave to write in Latin, which the common people understand not; that what they hold may be discussed among the learned only. We suffer the idolatrous books of papists, without this fear, to be sold and read as common as our own: why not much rather of Anabaptists, Arians, Arininians, and Socinians? There is no learned man but will confess he hath much profited by reading controversies, his senses awakened, his judgment sharpened, and the truth which he holds more firmly established. If then it be profitable for him to read, why should it not at least be tolerable and free for his adversary to write? In logic they teach, that contraries laid together more evidently appear : it follows, then, that all controversy being permitted, falsehood will appear more false, and truth the more true; which must needs conduce much, not only to the confounding of popery, but to the general confirmation of unimplicit truth.
The last means to avoid popery is, to amend our lives. It is a general complaint, that this nation of late years is grown more numerously and excessively vicious than heretofore; pride, luxury, drunkenness, whoredom, cursing, swearing, bold and open atheism everywhere abounding: where these grow, no wonder if popery also grow apace. There is no man so wicked but at sometimes his conscience will wring him with thoughts of another world, and the peril of his soul; the trouble and melancholy, which he conceives of crue repentance and amendment, he endures not, but inclines rather to some carnal superstition, which may pacify and lull his conscience with some more pleasing doctrine. None more ready and officious to offer herself than the Romish, and opens wide her office, with all her faculties, to receive him ; easy confession, easy absolution, pardons, indulgences, masses for him both quick and dead, Agnus Deis, relics, and the like: and he, instead of working out his salvation with fear and trembling," straight thinks in his heart, (like another kind of fool than he in the Psalms,) to bribe God as a corrupt judge; and by his proctor, some priest, or friar, to buy out his peace with inoney, which he cannot with his repentance. For God, when men sin outrageously, and will not be admonished, gives over chastising them, perhaps by pestilence, fire, sword, or famine,