« PreviousContinue »
that Moses gave to young Joshua, nor the countermand which our Saviour gave to young John, who was so ready to prohibit those whom he thought unlicensed, be not enough to admonish 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 let of licensing, and what good they themselves have begun by transgressing it, be not enough, but that they will persuade, and execute the most Dominican part of the Inquisition over us, and are already with one foot in the stirrup, so active at suppressing, it would be no unequal distribution in the first place to suppress the suppressors themselves, whom the change of their condition hath puffed up, more than their late experience of harder times hath made wise.
And as for regulating the press, let no man think to have the honor of advising 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 otherwise come forth, if they be found mischievous and libellous, the fire and the executioner will be the timeliest and the most effectual remedy that man's prevention can use. For this authentic Spanish policy of licensing books, if I have said aught, will prove the most unlicensed book itself within a short while, and was the immediate image of a Star-chamber decree to that purpose made in those very times when that court did the rest of those her pious works, for which she is now fallen from the stars with Lucifer; whereby ye may guess what kind of state prudence, what love of the people, what care of religion, or good manners there was at the contriving, although with singular hypocrisy it pretended to bind books to their good behaviour. And how
it got the upper hand of your precedent order so well constituted before, if we may believe those men whose profession gives them cause to inquire most, it may be doubted there was in it the fraud of some old patentees and monopolizers in the trade of bookselling, who, under pretence of the poor in their company not to be defrauded, and the just retaining of each man his several copy, which God forbid should be gainsaid ! brought divers glossing colors to the house, which were indeed but colors, and serving to no end except it be to exercise a superiority over their neighbours; men who do not therefore labor in an honest profession, to which learning is indebted, that they should be made other men's vassals.
Another end is thought was aimed at by some of them in procuring by petition this order; that having power in their hands, malignant books might the easier escape abroad, as the event shows. But of these sophisms and elenchs of merchandise I skill not. This I know, that errors in a good government and in a bad, are equally almost incident ; for what magistrate may not be misinformed, and much the sooner, if liberty of printing be reduced into the power of a few? But to redress willingly and speedily what hath been erred, and in highest authority to esteem a plain advertisement more than others have done a sumptuous bribe, is a virtue, honored lords and commons! answerable to your highest actions, and whereof none can participate, but greatest and wisest men.
DOCTRINE AND DISCIPLINE
RESTORED TO THE GOOD OF BOTH SEXES, FROM THE
BONDAGE OF CANON LAW, AND OTHER MISTAKES, TO THE TRUE MEANING OF SCRIPTURE IN THE LAW AND
GOSPEL COMPARED. WHEREIN ALSO ARE SET DOWN THE BAD CONSEQUENCES
OF ABOLISHING, OR CONDEMNING OF SIN, THAT WHICH THE LAW OF GOD ALLOWS, AND CHRIST ABOLISHED
NOT. Now the second time Revised, and much Augmented, in
Two Books ; to the Parliament of England, with the As
sembly. Matthew xiii. 52. • Every scribe instructed in the kingdom of hea. ven, is like the master of a house which bringeth out of his treasury things new and old.' Proverbs xviii. 13. He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.'
TO THE PARLIAMENT OF ENGLAND, WITH THE ASSEMBLI.
If it were seriously asked, and it would be no untimely question, renowned parliament, select assembly! who of all teachers and masters that have ever taught, hath drawn the most disciples after him, both in religion and in manners, it might be not untruly
answered, Custom. Though Virtue be commended for the most persuasive in her theory, and Conscience in the plain dernonstration of the spirit finds most evincing, yet whether it be the secret of Divine will, or the original blindness we are born in, so it happens for the most part, that Custom still is silently received for the best instructer. Except it be, because her method is so glib and easy, in some manner like to that vision of Ezekiel, rolling 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 heedless in the devouring, puffs up unhealthily a certain big face of pretended learning, mistaken among credulous men for the wholesome habit of soundness and good constitution, but is indeed no other than that swoln visage 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 estate of life and profession with abject and servile principles, depressing the high and heavenborn spirit of man far beneath the condition wherein either God created him, or sin hath sunk him.
To pursue the allegory, Custom being but a mere face, as Echo is a mere voice, rests not in her unaccomplishment, until by secret inclination she accorporate herself with Error, who, being a blind and serpentine body without a head, willingly accepts what he wants, and supplies what her incompleteness went seeking. Hence it is, that Error supports Custom, Custom countenances Error; and these two between them would persecute and chase away all truth and solid wisdom out of human life, were it not that God, rather than man, once in many ages, calls together the prudent and religious counsels of men, deputed to
repress the encroachments, and to work off the inveterate blots and obscurities wrought upon our minds by the subtle insinuating of Error and Custom, who, with the numerous and vulgar train of their followers, make it their chief design to envy and cry down the industry of free reasoning, under the terms of humor and innovation; as if the womb of teeming Truth to be closed up, if she presume to bring forth aught that sorts not with their unchewed notions and suppositions. Against which notorious injury and abuse of man's free soul, to testify and oppose the utmost that study and true labor 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 calls me through the chance of good or evil report, to be the sole advocate of a discountenanced truth ; a high enterprise, lords and comnions ! a high enterprise and a hard, and such as every seventh son of a seventh son does not venture on. Nor have I amidst the clamor of so much
and impertinence, whither to appeal, but to the concourse of so much piety and wisdom here assembled, bringing in my hands an ancient and most necessary, most charitable, and yet most injured statute of Moses, not repealed ever by him who only had the authority, but thrown aside with much inconsiderate neglect, under the rubbish of canonical ignorance; as once the whole law was by some such like conveyance in Josiah's time. And he who shall endeavour 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 whereof not to repent him; yet let me areed him, pot to be the foreman of any misjudged opinion, unless his resolutions be firmly seated in a square and