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To the Parlament of ENGLAND,

with the Assembly.

F it were seriously askt, and it would be no untimely question, Renowned Parlament, select Assembly, who of all Teachers and Maf

ters that ever have taught, hath drawn the most Disciples after him, both in Religion, and in manners, it might be not untruly answer'd, Custome. Though vertue be commended for the most perfwahve in her Theory; and Conscience in the plain demonstration of the spirit, finds most evincing, yet whether it be the secret of divine wil, or the originall blindnesse we are born in, so it happ'ns for the most part, that Custome still is filently receiv'd for the best instructer. Except it be, because her method is so glib and ease, in some manner like to that vijon of Ezekiel, rowling up her sudden book of implicit knowledge, for him that will, to take and swallow down at pleasure ; which proving but of bad nourishment in the concoction, as it was heedlese in the devouring, puffs up unhealthily, a certain big face of pretended learning, mistaken among credulous men, for the wholsome habit of foundnesse and good constitution ; but is indeed no other, then that swoln visage of counterfeit knowledge and literature, which not onely in private marrs our education, but also in publick is the common climer into every chaire, where either Religion is preach't, or Law reported: filling each estate of life and profession, with abject and servil principles ; de

pressing the high and Heaven-born Spirit of Man, far beneath the condition wherin either God created him, or fin hath Junke him. To persue the Allegory, Custome being but a meer face, as Eccho is a meer voice, rests not in her unaccomplissment, untill by secret inclination, she accorporat her self with error, who being a blind and Serpentine body without a head, willingly accepts what he wants, and supplies what her incompleatnesse went seeking. Hence it is, that Error supports Cuftome, Custome count'nances Error. And these two between them would persecute and chase away all truth and solid wisdome out of humane life, were it not that God, rather then man, once in many ages, cals together the prudent and Religious counfels of Men, deputed to represse the encroachments, and to work off the inveterate blots and obscurities wrought upon our minds by the futtle insinuating of Error and Custome : Who with the numerous and vulgar train of their followers, make it their chief designe to envie and cry-down the industry of free reasoning, under the terms of humor, and innovation; as if the womb of teeming Truth were to be clos'd up, if he presume to bring forth ought, that forts not with their unchew'd notions and suppositions. Against which notorious injury and abuse of mans free soul to testifie and oppose the utmost that study and true labour can attain, heretofore the incitement of men reputed grave hath led me among others; and now the duty and the right of an instructed Christian cals me through the chance of good or evill report, to be the sole advocate of a discount'nanc't truth: a high enterprise Lords and Commons, a high enterprise and a hard, and such as every seventh Son of a seventh Son does not venture on. Nor have I amidt the clamor of so much envie and impertinence, whether to appeal, but to the concourse of l much piety and wisdom heer assembld. Bringing in my hands an ancient and most necessary, most charitable, and yet moft injur'd Statute of Moses: not repeald ever by him who only had the authority, but thrown aside with much inconßderat neglect, under the rubbish of Canonicall ignorance : as once the whole law was by Some such like conveyance in Jopiahs time. And he who Jhall indeavour the amendment of any old neglected

grievance in Church or State, or in the daily course of life, if he be gifted with abilities of mind that may raise him to so high an undertaking, I grant he hath already much wherof not to repent him ; yet let me arreed him, not to be the foreman of any mis-judg’d opinion, unlesse his resolutions be firmly seated in a Square and constant mind, not conscious to it self of any deserved blame, and regardlese of ungrounded suspicions. For this let him be sure he shall be boorded presently by the ruder fort, but not by discreet and well nurtur’d men, with a thousand idle descants and surmises. Who when they cannot confute the least joynt or finew of any pasage in the book; yet God forbid that truth should be truth, because they have a boistrous conceit of some pretences in the Writer. But were they not more buße and inquisitive then the Apostle commends, they would hear him at least, rejoycing, so the truth be preacht, whether of envie or other pretence whatsoever : For Truth is as imposible to be foild by any outward touch, as the Sun beam. Though this ill hap wait on her nativity, that he never comes into the world, but like a Bastard, to the ignominy of him that brought her forth is till Time the Midwife rather then the mother of Truth, have washt and salted the Infant, declar'd ber legitimat, and Churcht the father of his

young Minerva, from the needlesje causes of his purgation. Your selves can best witnesse this, worthy Patriots, and better will, no doubt, hereafter : for who among ye of the

formoft that have travaild in her behalf to the good of Church, or State, hath not been often traduc't to be the agent of his own by-ends, under pretext of Reformation. So much the more I shall not be unjust to hope, that however Infamy, or Envy may work in

other men to do her fretfull will against this discourse, yet that the experience of your own uprightnes mis-interpreted, will put ye in mind to give it free audience and

generous construction. What though the brood of Belial, the draffe of men, to whom no liberty is pleasing, but unbridld and vagabond lust without pale or partition, will laugh broad perhaps, to see so great a strength of Scripture mustering up in favour, as they suppose, of their debausheries; they will know better, when they Shall hence learn, that honest liberty is the greatest foe to dishonest licence. And what though others out of a waterish and queasy conscience because ever crasy and never yet found, will rail and fancy to themselves, that injury and licence is the best of this Book? Did not the distemper of their own stomacks affe&t them with a dizzy megrim, they would

soon tie up their tongues, and discern themselves like that Assyrian blasphemer all this while reproaching not man but the Almighty, the holy one of Israel, whom they do not deny to have belawgiv'n his own sacred people with this

allowance, which they now call injury and licence, and dare cry same on, and will do yet a while, till they get a little cordiall fobriety to settle their qualming zeal. But this question concerns not us perhaps: Indeed mans disposition though prone to search after vain curiofties, yet when points of difficulty are to be discusst, appertaining to the removal of unreasonable wrong and burden from the perplext life of our brother, it is incredible how cold, how dull, and far from all fellow feeling we are, without the Spur of self-concernment. Yet if the wisdome, the juftice, the purity of God be to be cleer'd from fouleft imputations which are not yet avoided, if charity be not to be degraded and trodd'n down under a civill Ordinance, if Matrimony be not to be advanc't like that exalted perdition, writt'n of to the Thessalonians, above all that is called God, or goodnesse, nay, against them both, then

very

true.

I dare affirm there will be found in the Contents of this Book, that which may concern us all.

You it concerns chiefly, Worthies in Parlament, on whom, as on our deliverers, all our grievances and cares, by the merit of your eminence and fortitude are devolv'd: Me it concerns next, having with much labour and faithfull diligence first found

out, or at least with a fearlesse and communicative candor first publisht to the manifest good of Christendome, that which calling to witnese every thing mortall and immortall, I beleeve unfainedly to be

Let not other men think their conscience bound to search continually after truth, to pray for enlightning from above, to publish what they think they have so obtain'd, and debar me from conceiving my self tyd by the same duties. Ye have now, doubtlesje by the favour and appointment of God, ye have now in your hands a great and populous Nation to Reform ; from what corruption, what blindnes in Religion ye know well; in what a degenerat and faln spirit from the apprehenfion of native liberty, and true manlines, I am sure ye find: with what unbounded licence rushing to whordoms and adulteries needs not long enquiry : infomuch that the fears which men have of too ftri&t a discipline, perhaps exceed the hopes that can be in others, of ever introducing it with any great successe. What if I should tell ye now of dispensations and indulgences, to give a little the rains, to let them play and nibble with the bait a while ; a people as hard of heart as that Egyptian Colony that went to Canaan. This is the common doctrine that adulterous and injurious divorces were not conniv’d only, but with eye open allow'd of old for hardnese of heart. But that opinion, I trust, by then this following argument hath been well read, will be left for one of the mysteries of an indulgent Antichrift, to farm out incest by, and those his other tributary pollutions. What middle way can be tak’n then, may some interrupt, if we must neither

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