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cruel burdens, imposed not by necessity, as other tyrants are wont, for the safeguard of their lives, but laid upon our necks by the strange wilfulness and wantonness of a needless and jolly persecutor, called Indifference. Lastly, some of those ancient deliverers have had immortal praises for preserving their citizens from a famine of corn. But these, by this only repulse of an unholy hierarchy, almost in a moment, replenished with saving knowledge their country, nigh famished for want of that which should feed their souls. All this being done while two armies in the field stood gazing on the one in reverence of such nobleness quietly gave back and dislodged; the other, spite of the unruliness and doubted fidelity in some regiments, was either persuaded or compelled to disband and retire home.
With such a majesty had their wisdom begirt itself, that whereas others had levied war to subdue a nation that sought for peace, they, sitting here in peace, could so many miles extend the force of their single words as to overawe the dissolute stoutness of an armed power, secretly stirred up and almost hired against them. And having by a solemn protestation vowed themselves and the kingdom anew to God and his service, and by a prudent foresight above what their fathers thought on, prevented the dissolution and frustrating of their designs by an untimely breaking up; notwithstanding all the treasonous plots against
them, all the rumors either of rebellion or invasion, they have not been yet brought to change their constant resolution, ever to think fearlessly of their own safeties, and hopefully of the commonwealth which hath gained them such an admiration from all good men that now they hear it as their ordinary surname, to be saluted the fathers of their country, and sit as gods among daily petitions and public thanks flowing in upon them. Which doth so little yet exalt them in their own thoughts, that, with all gentle affability and courteous acceptance, they both receive and return that tribute of thanks which is tendered them; testifying their zeal and desire to spend themselves as it were piecemeal upon the grievances and wrongs of their distressed nation; insomuch that the meanest artisans and laborers, at other times also women, and often the younger sort of servants assembling with their complaints, and that sometimes in a less humble guise than for petitioners, have gone with confidence, that neither their meanness would be rejected, nor their simplicity contemned; nor yet their urgency distasted either by the dignity, wisdom, or moderation of that supreme senate; nor did they depart unsatisfied.
And, indeed, if we consider the general concourse of suppliants, the free and ready admittance, the willing and speedy redress in what is possible, it will not seem much otherwise, than as if some divine commission from heaven were descended to
take into hearing and commiseration the long and remediless afflictions of this kingdom, were it not that none more than themselves labor to remove and divert such thoughts, lest men should place too much confidence in their persons, still referring us and our prayers to Him that can grant all, and appointing the monthly return of public fasts and supplications. Therefore the more they seek to humble themselves, the more does God, by manifest signs and testimonies, visibly honor their proceedings; and sets them as the mediators of this his covenant, which he offers us to renew. Wicked men daily conspire their hurt, and it comes to nothing; rebellion rages in our Irish province, but with miraculous and lossless victories of few against many, is daily discomfited and broken; if we neglect not this early pledge of God's inclining towards us, by the slackness of our needful aids. And whereas at other times we count it ample honor when God vouchsafes to make man the instrument and subordinate worker of His gracious will, such acceptation have their prayers found with him, that to them he hath been pleased to make himself the agent and immediate performer of their desires; dissolving their difficulties when they are thought inexplicable, cutting out ways for them where no passage could be seen; as who is there so regardless of divine Providence, that from late occurrences will not confess? If, therefore, it be so high a grace
when men are preferred to be but the inferior officers of good things from God, what is it when God himself condescends, and works with his own hands to fulfil the requests of men? Which I leave with them as the greatest praise that can belong to human nature: not that we should think they are at the end of their glorious progress, but that they will go on to follow his Almighty leading, who seems to have thus covenanted with them; that if the will and the endeavor shall be theirs, the performance and the perfecting shall be his. Whence only it is that I have not feared, though many wise men have miscarried in praising great designs before the utmost event, because I see who is their assistant, who is their confederate, who hath engaged his omnipotent arm to support and crown with success their faith, their fortitude, their just and magnanimous actions, till he have brought to pass all that expected good which, his servants trust, is in his thoughts to bring upon this land in the full and perfect reformation of his Church.
I shall not decline to speak my opinion in the controversy next moved, "whether the people may be allowed for competent judges of a minister's ability." For how else can be fulfilled that which God hath promised, to pour out such abundance of knowledge upon all sorts of men in the times of the Gospel? How should the people examine the doctrine which is taught them, as Christ and his
apostles continually bid them do? How should they "discern and beware of false prophets, and try every spirit," if they must be thought unfit to judge of the minister's abilities? The apostles ever labored to persuade the Christian flock that they "were called in Christ to all perfectness in spiritual knowledge, and full assurance of understanding in the mystery of God."
We need not the authority of Pliny brought to tell us, the people cannot judge of a minister: yet that hurts not. For as none can judge of a painter or statuary but he who is an artist, that is, either in the practice or theory, which is often separated from the practice, and judges learnedly without it; so none can judge of a Christian teacher but he who hath either the practice or the knowledge of Christian religion, though not so artfully digested in him. And who almost of the meanest Christians hath not heard the Scriptures often read from his childhood, besides so many sermons and lectures, more in number than any student hath heard in philosophy, whereby he may easily attain to know when he is wisely taught, and when weakly? whereof, three ways I remember are set down in Scripture; the one is to read often that best of books written to this purpose, that not the wise only, but the simple and ignorant, may learn by them; the other way to know of a minister is, by the life he leads, whereof the