« AnteriorContinuar »
others; and is the chief caufe why fects and fchifms do fo much abound, and true knowledge is kept at diftance from us; befides yet a greater danger which is in it. For when God fhakes a kingdom, with ftrong and healthful commotions, to a general reforming, it is not untrue that many fectaries and falfe teachers are then bufieft in feducing. But yet more true it is, that God then raises to his own work men of rare abilities, and more than common industry, not only to look back and revife what hath been taught heretofore, but to gain further, and to go on fome new enlightened steps in the difcovery of truth. For fuch is the order of God's enlightening his Church, to difpenfe and deal out by degrees his beam, so as our earthly eyes may best sustain it. Neither is God appointed and confined, where and out of what place these his chofen fhall be first heard to speak; for he fees not as man fees, chooses not as man chooses, left we should devote ourselves again to fet places, and affemblies, and outward callings of men; planting our faith one while in the old convocation house, and another while in the chapel at Wefiminfter; when all the faith and religion that fhall be there canonized, is not fufficient without plain convincement, and the charity of patient inftruction, to fupple the leaft bruise of conscience, to edify the meaneft chriftian, who defires to walk in the spirit, and not in the letter of human trust, for all the number of voices that can be there made; no though Harry the feventh himself there, with all his liege tombs about him, fhould lend them voices from the dead to fwell their number. And if the men be erroneous who appear to be the leading fchifmatics, what witholds us but our floth, our felfwill, and distrust in the right cause, that we do not give them gentle meetings and gentle difmiffions, that we debate not and examine the matter thoroughly with liberal and frequent audience; if not for their fakes yet for our own? Seeing no man who hath tafted learning, but will confefs the many ways of profiting by thofe who, not contented with ftale receipts, are able to manage and fet forth new positions to the world. And were they but as the duft and cinders of our feet, fo long as in that notion they may yet ferve
to polish and brighten the armory of truth, even for that refpect they were not utterly to be caft away. But if they be of those whom God hath fitted for the fpecial ufe of these times with eminent and ample gifts, and those perhaps neither among the priests, nor among the Pharifees, and we in the hafte of a precipitant zeal shall make no diftinction, but refolve to ftop their mouths, because we fear they come with new and dangerous opinions, as we commonly forejudge them ere we underftand them; no lefs than wo to us, while, thinking thus to defend the gofpel, we are found the perfecutors!
There have been not a few fince the beginning of this parliament, both of the prefbytery and others, who by their unlicensed books to the contempt of an imprimatur first broke that triple ice clung about our hearts, and taught the people to fee day: I hope that none of those were the perfuaders to renew upon us this bondage, which they themselves have wrought fo much good by contemning. But if neither the check that Mofes gave to young Joshua, nor the countermand which our Saviour gave to young John, who was fo ready to prohibit those whom he thought unlicensed, be not enough to admonifh our elders how unacceptable to God their testy mood of prohibiting is; if neither their own remembrance what evil hath abounded in the church by this lett of licenfing, and what good they themselves have begun by tranfgreffing it, be not enough, but that they will perfuade and execute the moft Dominican part of the inquifition over us, and are already with one foot in the ftirrup fo active at fuppreffing, it would be no unequal diftribution in the first place to fupprefs the fuppreffors themselves; whom the change of their condition hath puffed up, more than their late experience of harder times hath made wife.
And as for regulating the prefs, let no man think to have the honour of advifing ye better than yourselves have done in that order published next before this, "That no book be printed, unless the printer's and the author's name, or at least the printer's be registered." Those which otherwife come forth, if they be found mischievous and libellous, the fire and the executioner will
be the timelieft and the most effectual remedy, that man's prevention can use. For this authentic Spanish policy of licenfing books, if I have faid aught, will prove the most unlicenfed book itlelf within a fhort while; and was the immediate image of a ftar-chamber decree to that purpose made in thofe very times when that court did the reft of thofe her pious works, for which she is now fallen from the ftars with Lucifer. Whereby ye may guess what kind of ftate prudence, what love of the people, what care of religion, or good manners there was at the contriving, although with fingular hypocrify it pretended to bind books to their good behaviour. And how it got the upper hand of your precedent order fo well constituted before, if we may believe those men whose profeffion gives them caufe to inquire most, it may be doubted there was in it the fraud of fome old patentees and monopolizers in the trade of bookfelling; who under pretence of the poor in their company not to be defrauded, and the juft retaining of each man his feveral copy, (which God forbid fhould be gainfaid) brought divers gloffing colours to the house, which were indeed but colours, and ferving to no end except it be to exercise a fuperiority over their neighbours; men who do not therefore labour in an honeft profeffion, to which learning is indebted, that they fhould be made other men's vaffals. Another end is thought was aimed at by fome of them in procuring by petition this order, that having power in their hands, malignant books might the easier escape abroad, as the event fhows. But of these fophifms and elenchs of merchandize I fkill not: This I know, that errours in a good government and in a bad are equally almost incident; for what magiftrate may not be inifinformed, and much the fooner, if liberty of printing be reduced into the power of a few? But to redrefs willingly and fpeedily what hath been erred, and in highest authority to efteem a plain advertisement more than others have done a fumptuous bride, is a virtue (honoured lords and commons!) answerable to your highest actions, and whereof none can participate but greatest and wisest men.
DOCTRINE AND DISCIPLINE
Reftored to the good of both fexes, from the bondage of canon law, and other mistakes, to the true meaning of scripture in the law and gospel compared.
Wherein alfo are fet down the bad confequences of abolishing, or condemning of fin, that which the law of God allows, and CHRIST abolished not,
Now the fecond time revifed, and much augmented, in two bocks: To the parliament of England, with the affembly.
MATTH. xiii, 52. "Every scribe inftructed in the kingdom of Heaven is like the mafter of a house, which bringeth out of his treafury things new and old."
PROV. xviii, 13. "He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and fhame unto him."
To the Parliament of England, with the Affembly.
If it were seriously asked, (and it would be no untimely queftion,) renowned parliament, felect affembly! who of all teachers and mafters, that have ever taught, hath drawn the most disciples after him, both in religion and in manners? it might be not untruly anfwered, Cuftom. Though virtue be commended for the most persuasive in her theory, and confcience in the plain demonftration of the spirit finds moft evincing; yet whether it be the fecret of divine will, or the original blindness we are born in, so it happens for the moft part, that custom ftill is filently received for the beft inftructor. Except it be, because her method is fo glib and easy, in fome manner like to that vifion of Ezekiel rolling up her sudden book
of implicit knowledge, for him that will to take and fwallow down at pleasure; which proving but of bad nourifhment in the concoction, as it was heedlefs in the devouring, puffs up unhealthily a certain big face of pretended learning, mistaken among credulous men for the wholesome habit of foundness and good conftitution, but is indeed no other than that swoln vifage of counterfeit knowledge and literature, which not only in private mars our education, but also in public is the common climber into every chair, where either religion is preached, or law reported: filling each eftate of life and profeffion with abject and fervile principles, depreffing the high and heavenborn spirit of man, far beneath the condition wherein either God created him, or fin hath funk him. To pursue the allegory, cuftom being but a mere face, as echo is a mere voice, refts not in her unaccomplishment, until by fecret inclination fhe accorporate herself with errour, who being a blind and ferpentine body without a head, willingly accepts what he wants, and fupplies what her incompleteness went feeking. Hence it is, that errour fupports cuftom, cuftom countenances errour: and these two between them would perfecute and chafe away all truth and folid wisdom out of human life, were it not that God, rather than man, once in many ages calls together the prudent and religious counfels of men, deputed to reprefs the incroachments, and to work off the inveterate blots and obfcurities wrought upon our minds by the subtle infinuating of errour and cuftom; who, with the numerous and vulgar train of their followers, make it their chief defign to envy and cry down the industry of free reasoning, under the terms of humour and innovation; as if the womb of teeming truth were to be closed up, if the presume to bring forth aught that forts not with their unchewed notions and fuppofitions. Against which notorious injury and abuse of man's free foul, to teftify and oppose the utmost that ftudy 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 inftructed Chriftian calls me through the chance of good or evil report, to be the fole advocate of a discountenanced truth: a