Page images
PDF
EPUB

Ca

To the PARLAMENT of ENGLAND,
with the ASSEMBLY.

F it were feriously afkt, and it would be no untimely question, Renowned Parlament, felect Affembly, who of all Teachers and Mafters that ever have taught, hath drawn the moft Difciples after him, both in Religion, and in manners, it might be not untruly anfwer'd, Cuftome. Though vertue be commended for the most perfwafive in her Theory; and Confcience in the plain demonftration of the fpirit, finds most evincing, yet whether it be the fecret of divine wil, or the originall blindnesse we are born in, fo it happ'ns for the most part, that Cuftome ftill is filently receiv'd for the best inftructer. Except it be, becaufe her method is fo glib and eafie, in fome manner like to that vifion of Ezekiel, rowling up her fudden book of implicit knowledge, for him that will, to take and fwallow down at pleasure; which proving but of bad nourishment in the concoction, as it was heedleffe in the devouring, puffs up unhealthily, a certain big face of pretended learning, miftaken among credulous men, for the wholfome habit of foundnesse and good conftitution; but is indeed no other, then that fwoln 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 eftate of life and profeffion, with abject and fervil principles; de

preffing the high and Heaven-born fpirit of Man, far beneath the condition wherin either God created him, or fin hath funke him. To perfue the Allegory, Custome being but a meer face, as Eccho is a meer voice, refts not in her unaccomplishment, untill by fecret inclination, She accorporat her felf with error, who being a blind and Serpentine body without a head, willingly accepts what he wants, and fupplies what her incompleatnesse went feeking. Hence it is, that Error fupports Cuftome, Cuftome count'nances Error. And these two between them would perfecute and chafe away all truth and folid wifdome 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 repreffe the encroachments, and to work off the inveterate blots and obfcurities wrought upon our minds by the futtle infinuating of Error and Custome: Who with the numerous and vulgar train of their followers, make it their chief defigne to envie and cry-down the industry of free reafoning, under the terms of humor, and innovation; as if the womb of teeming Truth were to be clos'd up, if he prefume to bring forth ought, that forts not with their unchew'd notions and fuppofitions. Against which notorious injury and abuse of mans free foul to teftifie 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 inftructed Chriftian cals me through the chance of good or evill report, to be the fole advocate of a discount'nanc't truth: a high enterprise Lords and Commons, a high enterprife and a hard, and fuch as every feventh Son of a feventh Son does not venture on. Nor have I amidst the clamor of fo much envie and impertinence, whether to appeal, but to the concourfe of fo much piety and wisdom heer assembld. Bringing in my hands an ancient and most necessary, most charitable, yet most injur'd Statute of Mofes not repeal'd

and

[ocr errors]

ever by him who only had the authority, but thrown afide with much inconfiderat neglect, under the rubbish of Canonicall ignorance: as once the whole law was by Some fuch like conveyance in Jofiahs time. And he who Shall indeavour the amendment of any old neglected grievance in Church or State, or in the daily courfe of life, if he be gifted with abilities of mind that may raise him to fo 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 mif-judg'd opinion, unlesse his refolutions be firmly feated in a fquare and conftant mind, not confcious to it self of any deferved blame, and regardleffe of ungrounded fufpicions. For this let him be fure he fhall be boorded presently by the ruder fort, but not by difcreet and well nurtur'd men, with a thousand idle defcants and furmifes. Who when they cannot confute the leaft joynt or finew of any paffage in the book; yet God forbid that truth fhould be truth, because they have a boiftrous conceit of fome pretences in the Writer. But were they not more bufie and inquifitive then the Apoftle commends, they would hear him at leaft, rejoycing, fo the truth be preacht, whether of envie or other pretence whatsoever: For Truth is as impoffible to be foil'd by any outward touch, as the Sun beam. Though this ill hap wait on her nativity, that she never comes into the world, but like a Baftard, to the ignominy of him that brought her forth, till Time the Midwife rather then the mother of Truth, have wafht and falted the Infant, declar'd her legitimat, and Churcht the father of his young Minerva, from the needleffe caufes of his purgation. Your felves can beft witnesse this, worthy Patriots, and better will, no doubt, hereafter: for who among ye of the formoft that have travail'd 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 difcourfe, yet that the experience of your own uprightnes mif-interpreted, will put ye in mind to give it free audience and generous conftruction. What though the brood of Belial, the draffe of men, to whom no liberty is pleafing, but unbridl'd and vagabond luft without pale or partition, will laugh broad perhaps, to fee fo great a ftrength of Scripture muftering up in favour, as they fuppofe, of their debaufberies; they will know better, when they fhall hence learn, that honeft liberty is the greatest foe to dishoneft licence. And what though others out of a waterish and queafy confcience because ever crafy and never yet found, will rail and fancy to themfelves, that injury and licence is the best of this Book? Did not the distemper of their own ftomacks affect them with a dizzy megrim, they would foon tie up their tongues, and difcern themselves like that Affyrian blafphemer all this while reproaching not man but the Almighty, the holy one of Ifrael, whom they do not deny to have belawgiv'n his own facred people with this very allowance, which they now call injury and licence, and dare cry fhame on, and will do yet a while, till they get a little cordiall fobriety to fettle their qualming zeal. But this question concerns not us perhaps : Indeed mans difpofition though prone to fearch after vain curiofities, yet when points of difficulty are to be difcufft, 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 felf-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 Theffalonians, above all that is called God, or goodnesse, nay, against them both, then

[ocr errors]

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 manifeft good of Christendome, that which calling to witneffe every thing mortall and immortall, I beleeve unfainedly to be true. Let not other men think their confcience bound to fearch continually after truth, to pray for enlightning from above, to publish what they think they have fo obtain'd, and debar me from conceiving my felf ty'd by the fame duties. Ye have now, doubtleffe 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 fal'n Spirit from the apprehenfion of native liberty, and true manlines, I am fure ye find: with what unbounded licence rushing to whordoms and adulteries needs not long enquiry: infomuch that the fears which men have of too strict a discipline, perhaps exceed the hopes that can be in others, of ever introducing it with any great fucceffe. What if I should tell ye now of difpenfations 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 hardnesse 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 thofe his other tributary pollutions. What middle way can be takʼn then, may some interrupt, if we must neither

« PreviousContinue »