« ForrigeFortsett »
to their covetous incredulity. Doubtless, if God only be he who gives ministers to his church till the world's end; and through the whole gospel never sent us for ministers to the schools of philosophy, but rather bids us beware of such“ vain deceit,” Col. ii. 8, (which the primitive church, after two or three ages not remembering, brought herself quickly to confusion,) if all the faithful be now “a holy and a royal priesthood," 1 Pet. ii. 5, 9, not excluded from the dispensation of things holiest, after free election of the church, and imposition of hands, there will not want ministers elected out of all sorts and orders of men, for the gospel makes no difference from the magistrate himself to the meanest artificer, if God evidently favour him with spiritual gifts, as he can easily, and oft hath done, while those bachelor divines and doctors of the tippet have been passed by.
Heretofore in the first evangelic times, (and it were happy for Christendom if it were so again,) ministers of the gospel were by nothing else distinguished from other Christians, but by their spiritual knowledge and sanctity of life, for which the church elected them to be her teachers and overseers, though not thereby to separate them from whatever calling she then found them following besides; as the example of St. Paul declares, and the first times of Christianity. When once they affected to be called a clergy, and became, as it were, a peculiar tribe of Levites, a party, a distinct order in the commonwealth, bred up for divines in babbling schools, and fed at the public cost, good for nothing else but what was good for nothing, they soon grew idle: that idleness, with fulness of bread, begat pride and perpetual contention with their feeders the despised laity, through all ages ever since; to the perverting of religion, and the disturbance of all Christendom. And we may confidently conclude, it never will be otherwise while they are thus upheld undepending on the church, on which alone they anciently depended, and are by the magistrate publicly maintained a numerous faction of indigent persons, crept for the most part out of extreme want and bad nurture, claiming by divine right and freehold the tenth of our estates, to monopolize the ministry as their peculiar, which is free and open to all able Christians, elected by any church. Under this pretence exempt from all other employment, and enriching themselves on the public, they last of all prove common incendiaries, and exalt their horns against the magistrate himself that maintains them, as the priest of Rome did soon after against his benefactor the emperor, and the presbyters of late in Scotland. Of which hireling crew, together with all the mischiefs, dissensions, troubles, wars merely of their kindling, Christendom might soon rid herself and be happy, if Christians would but know their own dignity, their liberty, their adoption, and let it not be wondered if I say, their spiritual priesthood, whereby they have all equally access to any ministerial function, whenever called by their own abilities, and the church, though they never came near commencement or university. But while protestants, to avoid the due labour of understanding their own religion, are content to lodge it in the breast, or rather in the books, of a clergyman, and to take it thence by scraps and mammocks, as he dispenses it in his Sunday's dole; they will be always learning and never knowing; always infants; always either bis vassals, as lay papists are to their priests; or at odds with him, as reformed principles give them some light to be not wholly conformable ; whence infinite disturbances in the state, as they do, must needs follow. Thus much I had to say; and, I suppose, what may be enough to them who are not avariciously bent otherwise, touching the likeliest means to remove hirelings out of the church ; than which nothing can more conduce VOL. II.
to truth, to peace and all happiness both in church and state. If I be not heard nor believed, the event will bear me witness to have spoken truth ; and I in the meanwhile, have borne my witness, not out of season, to the church and to my country.
A LETTER TO A FRIEND
THE RUPTURES OF THE COMMONWEALTH.
PUBLISHED FROM THE MANUSCRIPT.
SIR,-UPON the sad and serious discourse which we fell into last night, concerning these dangerous ruptures of the Commonwealth, scarce yet in her infancy, which cannot be without some inward flaw in her bowels; I began to consider more intensely thereon than hitherto I have been wont, resigning myself to the wisdom and care of those who had the government; and not finding that either God or the public required more of me, than my prayers for them that govern. And since you have not only stirred up my Thoughts, by acquainting me with the state of affairs, more inwardly than I knew before ; but also have desired me to set down my opinion thereof, trusting to your ingenuity, I shall give you freely my apprehension, both of our present evils, and what expedients, if God in mercy regard us, may remove them. I will begin with telling you how I was overjoyed, when I heard that the army, under the working of God's Holy Spirit, as I thought, and still hope well, had been so far wrought to Christian humility, and selfdenial, as to confess in public their backsliding from the good old cause, and to show the fruits of their repentance, in the righteousness of their restoring the old famous parliament, which they had without just authority dissolved : I call it the famous parliament, though not the harınless, since none well-affected, but will confess, they have deserved much more of these nations, than they have undeserved. And I persuade me, that God was pleased with their restitution, signing it, as he did, with such a signal victory, when so great a part of the nation were desperately conspired to call back again their Ægyptian bondage. So much the more it now amazes me, that they, whose lips were yet scarce closed from ving thanks for that great deliverance, should be now relapsing, and so soon again backsliding into the same fault, which they confessed so lately and so solemnly to God and the world, and more lately punished in those Cheshire rebels ; that they should now dissolve that parliament, which they themselves re-established, and acknowledged for their supreme power in their other day's humble representation : and all this, for no apparent cause of public concernment to the church or commonwealth, but only for discommissioning nine great officers in the army; which had not been done, as is reported, but upon notice of their intentions against the parliament. I presume not to give my censure on this action, not knowing, as yet I do not, the bottom of it. I speak only what it appears to us without doors, till better cause be declared, and I am sure to all other nations inost illegal and scandalous, I fear me barbarous, or rather scarce to be exampled among any barbarians, that a paid army should, for no other cause, thus subdue the supreme power that set them up. This, I say, other nations will judge to the sad dishonour of that army, lately so renowned for the civilest and best ordered in the world, and by us here at home, for the most conscientious. Certainly, if the great officers and soldiers of the Holland, French, or Venetian forces, should thus sit in council, and write from garrison to garrison against their superiors, they might as easily reduce the king of France, or duke of Venice, and put the United Provinces in like disorder and confusion. Why do they not, being most of them held ignorant of true religion ? because the light of nature, the laws of human society, the reverence of their magistrates, covenants, engagements, loyalty, allegiance, keeps them in awe. How grievous will it then be! how infamous to the true religion which we profess! how dishonourable to the name of God, that his fear and the power of his knowledge in an army professing to be his, should not work that obedience, that fidelity to their supreme magistrates, that levied them and paid them; when the light of nature, the laws of human society, covenants and contracts, yea common shame, works in other armies, among the worst of them! Which will undoubtedly pull down the heavy judgment of God among us, who cannot but avenge these hypocrisies, violations of truth and holiness; if they be indeed so as they yet seem. For neither do I speak this in reproach to the army, but as jealous of their honour, inciting them to manifest and publish with all speed, some better cause of these their late actions, than hath hitherto appeared, and to find out the Achan amongst them, whose close ambition in all likelihood abuses their honest natures against their meaning to these disorders; their readiest way to bring in again the common enemy, and with him the destruction of true religion, and civil liberty.
But, because our evils are now grown more dangerous and extreme, than to be remedied by complaints, it concerns us now to find out what remedies may be likeliest to save us from approaching ruin. Being now in anarchy, without a counselling and governing power; and the army, I suppose, finding themselves insufficient to discharge at once both military and civil affairs, the first thing to be found out with all speed, without which no commonwealth can subsist, must be a senate or general council of state, in whom must be the power, first, to preserve the public peace; next, the commerce with foreign nations; and lastly, to raise moneys for the management of these affairs : this must either be the parliament re-admitted to sit, or a council of state allowed of by the army, since they only now have the power. The terms to be stood on are, liberty of conscience to all professing Scripture to be the rule of their faith and worship; and the abjuration of a single person. If the parliament be again thought on, to salve honour on both sides, the well-affected part of the city, and the congregated churches, may be induced to mediate by public addresses, and brotherly beseechings; which, if there be that saintship among us which is talked of, ought to be of highest and undeniable persuasion to reconcilement. If the parliament be thought well dissolved, as not complying fully to grant liberty of conscience, and the necessary consequence thereof, the removal of a forced maintenance from ministers, then must the army forth with choose a council of state, whereof as many to be of the parliament, as are undoubtedly affected to these two conditions proposed. That which I conceive only able to cement, and unite for ever the army, either to the parliament recalled, or this chosen council, inust be a mutual league and oath, private or public, not to desert one another till death: that is to say, that the army be kept up, and all these officers in their places during life, and so likewise the parliament or counsellors of state ; which will be no way unjust, considering their known merits on either side, in council or in field, unless any be found false to any of these two principles, or otherwise personally criminous in the judgment of both parties. If such a union as this be not accepted on the army's part, be confident there is a single person underneath. That the army be upheld, the necessity of our affairs and factions will constrain long enough perhaps, to content the longest liver in the army. And whether the civil government be an annual democracy, or a perpetual aristocracy, is not to me a consideration for the extremities wherein we are, and the hazard of our safety from our common enemy, gaping at present to devour us. That it be not an oligarchy, or the faction of a few, may be easily prevented by the numbers of their own choosing, who may be found infallibly constant to those conditions fore-named, full liberty of conscience, and the abjuration of monarchy proposed : and the well-ordered committees of their faithfullest adherents in every county, may give this government the resemblance and effects of a perfect democracy. As for the reformation of laws, and the places of judicature, whether to be here, as at present, or in every county, as hath been long aimed at, and many such proposals, tending no doubt to public good, they may be considered in due time, when we are past these pernicious pangs, in a hopeful way of health, and firm constitution. But unless these things, which I have above proposed, one way or other, be once settled, in my fear, which God avert, we instantly ruin ; or at best become the servants of one or other single person, the secret author and fomenter of these disturbances. You have the sum of my present thoughts, as much as I understand of these affairs, freely imparted; at your request, and the persuasion you wrought in me, that I might chance hereby to be some way serviceable to the Commonwealth, in a time when all ought to be endeavouring what good they can, whether much or but little.
With this you may do what you please, put out, put in, communicate, or suppress: you offend not me, who only have obeyed your opinion, that in doing what I have done, I might happen to offer something which might be of some use in this great time of need. However, I have not been wanting to the opportunity which you presented before me, of showing the readiness which I have in the midst of my unfitness, to whatever may be required of me, as a public duty.
October 20, 1659.
EASY TO BE PUT IN PRACTICE, AND WITHOUT DELAY.
IN A LETTER TO GENERAL MONK.
PUBLISHED FROM THE MANUSCRIPT.
First, All endeavours speedily to be used, that the ensuing election be of such as are already firm, or inclinable to constitute a free commonwealth, (according to the former qualifications decreed in parliament, and not yet repealed, as I hear,) without single person, or house of lords. If these be not such, but the contrary, who foresees not, that our liberties will be utterly lost in this next parliament, without some powerful course taken, of speediest prevention. The speediest way will be to call up forth with the chief gentlemen out of every county; to lay before them (as your excellency hath already, both in your published letters to the army, and your declaration recited to the members of parliament) the danger and confusion of readmitting kingship in this land; especially against the rules of all prudence and example, in a family once ejected, and thereby not to be trusted with the power of revenge: that you will not longer delay them with vain expectation, but will put into their hands forth with the possession of a free commonwealth ; if they will first return immediately and elect them, by such at least of the people as are rightly qualified, a standing council in every city and great town, which may then be dignified with the name of city, continually to consult the good and flourishing state of that place, with a competent territory adjoined ; to assume the judicial laws, either those that are, or such as they themselves shall new make severally, in each commonalty, and all judicatures, all magistracies, to the administration of all justice between man and man, and all the ornaments of public civility, academies, and such like, in their own hands. Matters appertaining to men of several counties or territories, may be determined, as they are here at London, or in some more convenient place, under equal judges.
Next, That in every such capital place, they will choose them the usual number of ablest knights and burgesses, engaged for a commonwealth, to make up the parliament, or (as it will from henceforth be better called the Grand or General Council of the Nation : whose office must be, with due caution, to dispose of forces, both by sea and land, under the conduct of your excellency, for the preservation of peace, both at home and abroad; must raise and manage the public revenue, but with provident inspection of their accompts ; must administer all foreign affairs, make all general laws, peace or war, but not without assent of the standing council in each city, or such other general assembly as may be called on such occasion, from the whole territory, where they may, without much trouble, deliberate on all things fully, and send up their suffrages within a set time, by deputies appointed. Though this grand council be perpetual, (as in that book I