« ForrigeFortsett »
have weak and tender consciences, they are in the state of childhood and minority; but then you
know that a child is never happy by having his own humour; if you choose for him, and make him to use it, he hath but one thing to do; but if you put him to please himself, he is troubled with every thing, and satisfied with nothing. We find that all Christian churches kept this rule; they kept themselves and others close to the rule of faith, and peaceably suffered one another to differ in ceremonies, but suffered no difference amongst their own; they gave liberty to other churches, and gave laws, and no liberty, to their own subjects: and at this day, the churches of Geneva, France, Switzerland, Germany, Low Countries, tie all their people to their own laws, but tie up no man's conscience; if he be not persuaded as they are, let him charitably dissent, and leave that government, and adhere to his own communion : if you be not of their mind, they will be served by them that are; they will not trouble your conscience, and you shall not disturb their government. But when we think they cannot enjoy their conscience unless you give them good livings, and if you prefer them not, you afflict their consciences; they do but too evidently declare, that it is not their consciences, but their profits, they would have secured. Now to these I have only this
to say, that their conscience is to be enjoyed by the measures of God's word, but the rule for their estates is the laws of the kingdom; and · I show you yet a more excellent way;' obedience is the best security for both, because this is the best conservatory of charity, and truth, and peace.
“ Si vis brevi perfectus esse, esto obediens etiam in minimis," was the saying of a saint; and the world uses to look for miracles from them whom they shall esteem saints; but ‘I had rather see a man truly humble and obedient, than to see him raise a man from the dead,' said old Pachomius.
But to conclude: If weak brethren shall still plead for toleration and compliance, I hope my Lords the bishops will consider where it can do good, and do no harm ; where they are permitted, and where themselves are bound up by the laws; and in all things where it is safe and holy, to labour to bring them ease and to give them remedy: but to think of removing the disease by feeding the humour, I confess it is a strange cure to our present distempers. He that took clay and spittle to open the blind eyes, can make any thing be collyrium; but he alone can do it. But whether any human power can bring good from so unlikely an instrument, if any man desires yet to be better informed, I desire him, besides the calling to mind the late
sad effects of schism, to remember that no church in Christendom ever did it. It is neither the way of peace nor government, nor yet a proper remedy for the cure of a weak conscience.
I shall, therefore, pray to God, that these men who separate in simplicity, may, by God's mercy, be brought to understand their own liberty, and that they may not, for ever, be babes and neophytes, and wax old in trifles, and for ever stay at the entrances and outsides of religion ; but that they would pass in interiora domûs,' and seek after peace and righteousness, holiness and justice, the love of God and evangelical perfections; and then they will understand how ill-advised they are, who think religion consists in zeal against ceremonies, and speaking evil of the laws.
My Lords and Gentlemen, what I said in pursuance of public peace and private duty, and some little incidences to both, I now humbly present to you, more to show my own obedience than to remind your duty, which, hitherto, you have so well observed in your amicable and sweet concord of counsels and affections, during this present session. I owe many thanks to you, who heard me patiently, willingly, and kindly; I endeavoured to please God, and I find I did not displease you: but he is the best hearer of a sermon, who first loves the
doctrine, and then practises it; and that you
have hitherto done, very piously and very prosperously. I pray God continue to direct your counsels, so that you, in all things, may please him, and in all things be blessed by him, that all generations
you blessed instruments of a lasting peace, the restorers of the old paths, the patrons of the church, friends of religion, and subjects fitted for your prince, who is just up to the greatest example, and merciful beyond all examples; a prince who hath been nourished, and preserved, and restored, and blessed, by miracles; a prince whose virtues and fortunes are equally the greatest.
PREACHED AT THE
OPENING OF THE PARLIAMENT.
SERMON V. Behold to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the
fat of rams. 1 Sam. xv. latter part of verse 22. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as
iniquity and idolatry. - First part of verse 23. In the world, nothing is more easy than to say our prayers, and to obey our superiors; and yet in the world, there is nothing to which we are so unwilling as to prayer, and nothing seems so intolerable as obedience ; for men esteem all laws to be fetters, and their superiors are their enemies : and when a command is given, we turn into all shapes of excuse, to escape from the imposition: for either the authority is incompetent, or the law itself is statutum non bonum ;' or it is impossible to be kept, or at least very inconvenient, and we are to be relieved in equity ; or there is a secret dispensation, and it does not bind in my particular case, or not now; or it is but the law of a man, and was made for a certain end; or it does not bind the conscience, but it was only for political regards; or, if the worst happen, I will obey passively, and then I am innocent. Thus every man snuffs up the wind, like “ the wild asses in the wilderness," and thinks that authority is an encroachment upon a man's birthright; and in the meantime, never considers, that Christ took upon him our nature, that he might learn us obedience, and in that also make us become like unto God. In his justice and his mercy he was imitable before ; but before the incarnation of Christ we could not, in passive