Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

6

constant mind, not conscious to itself of any deserved blame, and regardless of ungrounded suspicions. For this let him be sure he shall be boarded presently by the ruder sort, but not by discreet and well nurtured men, with a thousand idle descants and surmises

; who, when they cannot confute the least joint or sinew of any passage in the book, yet God forbid that truth should be truth, because they have a boisterous conceit of some pretences in the writer. But were they not more busy and inquisitive than the apostle commends, they would hear him at least,

rejoicing so the truth be preached, whether of envy or other pretence whatsoever;' for Truth is as impossible to be soiled by any outward touch, as the sunbeam, though this ill hap wait on her nativity, that she never comes into the world, but like a bastard, to the ignominy of him that brought her forth, till Time, the midwife rather than the mother of Truth, have washed and salted the infant, declared her legitimate, and churched the father of his young Minerva, from the needless causes of his purgation. Yourselves can best witness this, worthy patriots ! and better will, no doubt, hereafter ; for who among ye of the foremost that have travailed in her behalf to the good of church or state, hath not been often traduced to be the agent of his own byends, 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 fretful will against this discourse, yet that the experience of your own uprightness misinterpreted, will put ye in mind to give it free audience and generous construction.

What though the brood of Belial, the draff of men, to whom no liberty is pleasing, but unbridled and vagabond lust without pale or partition, will laugh broad perhaps, to see so great a strength of scripture

mustering up in favor, as they suppose, of their debaucheries. They will know better when they shall hence learn, that honest liberty is the greatest foe to dishonest license. And what though others, out of a waterish and queasy conscience, because ever crazy and never yet sound, will rail and fancy to themselves, that injury and license is the best of this book ? Did not the distemper of their own stomachs affect them with a dizzy megrim, they would soon tie up their tongues, and discern themselves like that Assyrian blasphemer, all this while reproaching, not man, but the Almighty, the Holy One of Israel, whom they do not deny to have belawgiven his own sacred people with this very allowance, which they now call injury and license, and dare cry shame on, and will do yet awhile, till they get a little cordial sobriety to settle their qualming zeal. But this question concerns not us perhaps. Indeed man's disposition, though prone to search after vain curiosities, yet when points of difficulty are to be discussed, appertaining to the removal of unreasonable wrong and burden from the perplexed life of our brother, it is incredible how cold, how dull, and far from all fellow feeling we are, without the spur of self-concernment. Yet if the wisdom, the justice, the purity of God be to be cleared from foulest imputations, which are not yet avoided ; if charity be not to be degraded and trodden down under a civil ordinance; if matrimony be not to be advanced like that exalted perdition written of to the Thessalonians, above all that is called God,' or goodness, nay, against them both, then 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 parliament ! on whom as on our deliverers, all our grievances and cares, by the merit of your eminence and fortitude, are devolved. Me it con

cerns next, having with much labor and faithful diligence first found out, or at least with a fearless and communicative candor first published to the manifest good of Christendom, that which calling to witness every thing mortal and immortal, I believe unfeignedly to be true. Let not other men think their conscience bound to search continually after truth, to pray for enlightening from above, to publish what they think they have so obtained, and debar me from conceiving myself tied by the same duties.

Ye have now, doubtless, by the favor and appointment of God, ye have now in

your hands a great and populous nation to reform ; from what corruption, what blindness in religion, ye know well ; in what a degenerate and fallen spirit, from the apprehension of native liberty, and true manliness, I am sure ye find; with what unbounded license rushing to whoredoms and adulteries, needs not long inquiry ; insomuch 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 success. What if I should tell ye now of dispensations and indulgences, to give a little the reins, 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 connived only, but with eye open allowed of old for hardness 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 antichrist, to farm out incest by, and those his other tributary pollutions. What middle way can be taken then, may some interrupt, if we must neither turn to the right nor the left, and that the people hate to be reformed ? Mark then, judges and lawgivers ! and ye whose office it is to be our teachers,

for I will utter now a doctrine, if ever any other, though neglected or not understood, yet of great and powerful importance to the governing of mankind. He who wisely would restrain the reasonable soul of man within due bounds, must first himself know perfectly, how far the territory and dominion extends of just and honest liberty. As little must he offer to bind that which God hath loosened, as to loosen that which he hath bound. The ignorance and mistake of this high point, hath heaped up one huge half of all the misery that hath been since Adam. In the gospel we shall read a supercilious crew of masters, whose holiness, or rather whose evil eye, grieving that God should be so facile to man, was to set straiter limits to obedience than God had set, to enslave the dignity of man, to put a garrison upon his neck of empty and overdignified precepts; and we shall read our Saviour never more grieved and troubled, than to meet with such a peevish madness among men against their own freedom.

How can we expect him to be less offended with us, when much of the same folly shall be found yet remaining where it least ought, to the perishing of thousands ?

The greatest burden in the world is superstition, not only of ceremonies in the church, but of imaginary and scarecrow sins at home. What greater wakening, what more subtle stratagem against our christian warfare, when, besides the gross body of real transgressions to encounter, we shall be terrified by a vain and shadowy menacing of faults that are not ? When things indifferent shall be set to overfront us under the banners of sin, what wonder if we be routed, and by this art of our adversary, fall into the subjection of worst and deadliest offences ? The superstition of the papist is, .Touch not, taste not,' when God bids both; and ours is, 'Part not, separate not,' when God and

charity both permits and commands. • Let all your things be done with charity,' saith Saint Paul; and his master saith, “She is the fulfilling of the law.' Yet now a civil, an indifferent, a sometime dissuaded law of marriage, must be forced upon us to fulfil, not only without Charity, but against her. No place in heaven or earth, except hell, where Charity may not enter; yet marriage, the ordinance of our solace and contentment, the remedy of our loneliness, will not admit now either of Charity or Mercy, to come in and mediate, or pacify the fierceness of this gentle ordinance, the unremedied loneliness of this remedy. Advise ye well, supreme senate ! if charity be thus excluded and expulsed, how ye will defend the untainted honor of your own actions and proceedings.

He who marries, intends as little to conspire his own ruin, as he that swears allegiance; and as a whole people is in proportion to an ill government, so is one man to an ill marriage. If they, against any authority, covenant, or statute, may, by the sovereign edict of charity, save not only their lives, but honest liberties from unworthy bondage, as well may he against any private covenant, which he never entered to his mischief, redeem himself from unsupportable disturbances to honest peace and just contentment; and much the rather, for that to resist the highest magistrate, though tyrannizing, God never gave us express allowance, only he gave us reason, charity, nature, and good example to bear us out; but in this economical misfortune thus to demean ourselves, besides the warrant of those four great directors, which doth as justly belong hither, we have an express law of God, and such a law, as whereof our Saviour with a solemn threat forbid the abrogating. For no effect of tyranny can sit more heavy on the commonwealth, than this household unhappiness on

« VorigeDoorgaan »