Page images

pelling in, and reduces it to a condition like that which the Britons complain of in our story, driven to and fro between the Picts and the sea. If after excommunion he be found intractable, incurable, and, will not hear the church, he becomes as one never yet within her pale, “ a Heathen or a Publican,” Mat. xviji, 17, not further to be judged, no not by the magistrate, unless for civil causes; but left to the final fentence of that judge, whose coming shall be in flames of fire; that Maranathà, i Cor. xvi, 22, than which to him fo left nothing can be more dreadful, and ofttimes to him particularly nothing more speedy, that is to say, the Lord cometh: in the mean while delivered up to Satan, 1 Cor. v, 5, 1 Tim. i, 20, that is, from the fold of Christ and kingdom of grace to the world again, which is the kingdom of Satan; and as he was received “from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God,” Acts xxvi, 18, fo now delivered up again from light to darkness, and from God to the power of Satan; yet so as is in both places manifested, to the intent of saving him, brought sooner to contrition by spiritual than by any corporal severity. But grant it belonging any way to the magistrate, that prophane and licentious persons omit not the performance of holy duties, which in them were odious to God even under the law, much more now under the gospel ; yet ought his care both as a magistrate and a christian, to be much more that conscience be not inwardly violated, than that licence in these things be made outwardly comformable : fince his part is undoubtedly as a christian, which puts him upon this office much more than as a magistrate, in all respects to have more care of the conscientious than of the prophane; and not for their takes to take away (while they pretend to give) or to diminish the rightful liberty of religious consciences.

On these four scriptural reasons, as on a firm square, this truth, the right of christian and evangelic liberty, will stand immovable against all those pretended confequences of licence and confufion, which for the moft part men most licentious and confused themselves, or such as whose severity would be wifer than divine wisdom, are ever aptest to object against the ways of God: as if God


[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

without them, when he gave us this liberty, knew not of the worst which these men in their arrogance pretend will follow : yet knowing all their worst, be gave us this liberty as by him judged beít. As to tholi magiftrates who think it their work to settle religion, and those minifters or others, who so oft call upon them to do so, I trust, that having well considered what hati b: on here argued, neither they will continue in that intention, nor these in that expectation from them: when they thall find that the settlement of religion belongs only to each particular church by persuasive and spiritual means within itself, and that the defence only of the church belongs to the magistrate. Had he once learnt not further to concern himself with church-affairs, hail his lalo't mit be fpared, and the commonwealth better tended. To wirch end, that which I premised in the beginnt and an ove place treated of more at larve, I defire now confis that they would contider feriouly what religion ! they will find it to be, in fum, both onr belice and our practice depending upon God only. That there can i no place then left for the magilirate or his force in de fettlement of religion, by appointing either what we ti al believe in divine things, or practise in religions, (neither vi which things are in the power of man either to perform himself, or to enable others) I persuade me in the chrman

ingenuity of all religious men, the more they examine teriously, the more they will find clearly to be true : and find how falfe and deviseable that common faying is, which is so much relied upon, that the chriftian magjitrate is “Cuftos, utriufque Tabulæ,” Keeper of both Tables, unless is meant by keeper the detender only: neither can that maxim be maintained by any proof or argument, which hath not in this discoute titt or last been refuted. For the two tables, or ten commandments, teach our duty to God and our neighbour from the love of both; give magiftrates no authority to force either: they seek that from the judicial law, though on falle grounds, especially in the first table, as I have thown; and both in first and second execute that authority for the molt part, not according to God's judicial laws but their own. As for civil crimes, and of the outward man,

which all are not, no not of those against the second table, as that of coveting; in them what power they have, they had from the beginning, long before Mofes or the two tables were in being. And whether they be not now as little in being to be kept by any christian as they are two legal tables, remains yet as undecided, as it is sure they never were yet delivered to the keeping of any christian magistrate. But of these things perliaps more fome other time ; what may serve the present hath been above difcoursed fufficiently out of the scriptures: and to those produced, might be added testimonies, examples, experiences of all succeeding ages to these times, asserting this doctrine: but having herein the scripture so copious and fo plain, we have all that can be properly called true strength and nerve; the rett would be but pomp and encumbrance. Pomp and oftentation of reading is admired among the vulgar: but doubtless in matters of religion he is learnedest who is plainest. The brevity I use, not exceeding a small manual

, will not therefore, I suppose, be thought the less considerable, unless with them perhaps who think that great books only can determine great matters. I rather choose the common rule, not to make much ado, where less may ferve. Which in controversies, and those especially of religion, would make them less tedious, and by consequence read oftener by many more, and with more benefit.


Touching the likeliest Means to remove


Wherein is also discoursed

Of Tithes, Church-Fees, and Church-Revenues ;


Whether any Maintenance of Ministers can be settled

by Law.*

To the Parliament of the Commonwealth of ENGLAND,

with the Dominions thereof.


WING to your protection, supreme senate! this

liberty of writing, which I have used these eighteen years on all occasions to assert the just rights and freedoms both of church and state, and so far approved, as to have been trusted with the representment and defence of your actions to all Christendom against an adversary of no mean repute; to whom should I address what I still publish on the same argument, but to you, whose magnanimous councils first opened and unbound the age from a double bondage under prelatical and regal tyranny: above our own hopes heartening us to look up at last like men and christians from the Navish dejection, wherein from father to fon we were bred up and taught; and thereby deserving of these nations, if they be not barbarously'ingrateful, to be acknowledged, next under God, the authors and best patrons of religious and civil liberty, that ever these islands brought forth? The care and tuition of whose peace and safety, after a short, but scandalous night of interruption, is now again, by a new

[blocks in formation]

ther ye

dawning of God's miraculous Providence among us, revolved upon your shoulders.

And to whoin more appertain these confiderations, which I propound, than to yourselves, and the debate before you, though I trust of no difficulty, yet at present of great expectation, not whe

will gratify, were it no more than fo, but whether ye will hearken to the just petition of many thousands best affected both to religion and to this your return, or whether ye will satisfy, which you never can, the covetous pretences and demands of insatiable hirelings, whose difaffection ye well know both to yourselves and your refolutions ? That I, though among many others in this common concernment, interpose to your deliberations what my thoughts also are; your own judgment and the fuccess thereof hath given me the confidence: which requests but this, that if I have prosperously, God so favouring me, defended the public cause of this commonwealth to foreigners, ye would not think the reason and ability, whereon ye trusted once (and repent not,) your whole reputation to the world, either grown less by more maturity and longer study, or less available in English than in another tongue: but that if it sufficed some years past to convince and satisfy the unengaged of other nations in the justice of your doings, though then held paradoxal, it may as well suffice now against weaker opposition in matters, except here in England with a spirituality of men devoted to their temporal gain, of no controversy else among protestants.

Neither do I doubt, seeing daily the acceptance which they find who in their petitions venture to bring advice also, and new models of a commonwealth, but that you will interpret it much more the duty of a christian to offer what his conscience persuades him may be of moment to the freedom and better conftituting of the church : since it is a deed of highest charity to help undeceive the people, and a work worthiest your authority, in all things elfe authors, affertors and now recoverers of our liberty, to deliver us, the only people of all protestants left still undelivered, from the oppressions of a fimonious decimating clergy, who shame not, against the judgment and practice of all other churches reformed, to maintain, though very weakly, their popish


« PreviousContinue »