Good Counſell, to the Petitioners for Presbyterian Government, That they may declare their Faith before they build their Church.omitted
The Saints of God being ſeparated from Idolatry, and joyned togetheer in the fellowſhip of the Goſpel, have ever enjoyed commiſſion from Chriſt to practiſe all the parts of Gods true Religion, and alſo to keep the Ordinances of God from contempt or profanation amongſt themſelves. And this power they have from God though with perſecution, now, in this time of Parliament. Perſecution, I ſay, not from the Parliament, (further then they neglect to preſerve their peace according the Law of God) but perſecution, as it aroſe from the Pope, and Biſhops in former time primarily; ſo would it do now from their ſons, who call themſelves Divines, yea, even in the height of it, if they might have their wils, as appeareth by their late Petition, for which there was a publick calling out for hands.
Well was it with the Kings of Iſrael when they took the counſell of Gods true Prophets though few in number, but ſuch a Clergy which is naturally addicted to perſecution cannot be a bleſſing to any Parliament or Nation, as appeareth by the Scripture. And therefore my deſire is, that the Parliament may ſubmit to God for direction and counſell, even to beware of men, eſpecially of falſe Prophets, or any evill workers what ever they be; And that all perſons fearing God, in the City of London, or elſewhere, may bleſſe God, for fulfilling his promiſes unto them, that their eyes enjoy their Teachers, though in an upper roome, as Chriſt and his Apoſtles met. But for the City of Londons Ministery (which is ſo much commended in the Petition) I think their readineſſe is, as the reſt of that generation in the countreys of the Land: even to find out where their maintenance lieth; And ſo far are they from keeping Gods Ordinances from pollution and contempt, that [to enjoy their pay] they will work contrary to a known rule, and expreſſe command; Caſt not holy things unto dogs: yet theſe men (I ſay) rather then they will want their patrimony, they will conſtrain all men to partake of the Ordinances of God.
They bewail that the children ſhould come ſo neer to the birth, and that there is no ſtrength to bring forth: But I think the children are ſufficiently brought forth unto them. If their means be eſtabliſhed upon them, by the Parliament (as I am informed it is for a certain time:) for I know no other Children they mean, but two: viz: Maintenance and Power: The one they have as Saul had the fat cattell, contrary to Gods commandment. The other they ſhall never have: for God will fight againſt ſuch as fight for them, as it appears at this day: for they by uſurped power ever ſhed the blood of the Saints, and Martyrs of Jeſus, and now God is making inquiſition for the blood which hath been ſpilt, and the more fiercely they go on to build up a Babel with blood; the more ſpeedily will God come down to ſee their wickednes and to confound them.
And though they ſay it is in fervour of ſpirit; for the houſe of their God, and although the Parliament may bear with them, at their entreaty, yet God will (in his own time) deal with ſinners.
They further complain,| that | there are damnable errors broached amongſt them, (that is to ſay, amongſt the Presbyterians;) for amongſt the people of God none can ſo ſoon deliver any point of falſe doctrine but he ſhall be ſeverly dealt with according to the rule of Chriſt;) but the Presbyters practiſe is to preach what they liſt without controll, therefore errors may be broached by them privilegio.
But they ſay, divers are fallen off within theſe few yeers. But me thinks they do not ſpeak pertinently, for men cannot be ſaid to fall off which were never on, or from a government that was never ſetled, and they themſelves ſay, their Government is not yet eſtabliſhed.
And theſe that fly out from amongſt them, ſeparating themſelves from them, and incorporate themſelves into ſeparated Aſſemblies, are not (as they ſay they be) ſuch as hold damnable heresies, but ſuch abide ſtill amongſt the Presbyterians themſelves; and therefore the Lords people are conſtrained (by the power of the Word of truth) to ſeparate themſelves from ſuch perſons, that are (retained in the Church of England) godleſſe in their lives, and blaſphemous in their judgements, yet ſuch perſons notſtwithſtanding are (in matters of worſhip) one with the whole body of the Land; and theſe be the veſſels that the houſes of their Gods are yet filled with all. But it is not ſo with thoſe that ſeparate themſelves from them: for they admit not in their ſocieties any that hold blaſphemous errors, neither do they ſet up illeterate perſons among them for their Paſtors, as the Presbyterians unjuſtly accuſe them. True it is, they manage their meetings with boldneſſe, becauſe they have ſome ground to beleeve that the Parliament will not ſuffer them to be wronged, for performing the true worſhip, to the true God, in a peaceable manner, under their protection (as alſo correction in caſe they ſhould walk as the Presbyterians in their Petition have falſly accuſed them, ſaying they manage their meetings with inſolencie, which is an unjuſt accuſation; And in contempt of all Authority, which is alſo untrue: To the diſturbance of the City: which is another falſhood: Every one doing that which is right in his own eyes: which is an unjnuſt affirmation as the reſt) for they order their walkings according to the rule of Gods Word: But theſe Petitioners accuſe not onely the people, but alſo the Parliament, for they ſay every one doth that which is right in his own eyes, and there is no controll or courſe to reclaim them: whereby it is evident, they render the Parliament very infirm, or careleſſe. And the people of God plead not any ſuch priviledge to be without controll: but alwayes ſubmitted themſelves in duty to the Magiſtrates power, which is ſet up by God, as well for the puniſhment of evill doers, as for the praiſe of thoſe that do well. Therefore all theſe Petitioners inferences againſt the people of God be ſlanders. And the Religion of God doth not breed diviſion, either in Kingdom, City, or family in any civill reſpect: for Religion teacheth men ſubmiſſion to their duty. (But this hath been a falſe accuſation of Mr. T.E. long ago, which hath been diſproved at large.) Religion (I ſay) breeds no difference then what was from the beginning, the wicked envying the godly, that their ſacrifices are accepted, and theirs rejected, and thats the emnity which Chriſt hath put between the two ſeeds, and it ſhall be as Chriſt ſaith, five in a houſe, two againſt three, and three againſt two. But the cauſe is envy, and not Religion. And whereas theſe Presbyterians affirm in their Petition that the Separates ſet up illeterate men to be their Paſtors, let that come to the triall, for we deſire not to be led by blind guides; Therefore I could wiſh it might pleaſe the Parliament to examine the gifts of ſuch whom theſe call illiterate (that ſo it may appear how reaſonable we are) either by diſputation between the Presbyters and them: or by proving them, to give the ſence of any Scripture which they ſhall appoint; and by this it ſhall appear whether theſe Presbyterians are true men: for there is never a Miniſter of the Seperation that feareth to ſet his food againſt any Presbyter whatſoever he be, to diſpute the caſe concerning the matter, miniſtery, worſhip, or government of the Church, or any principle of Faith which it ſhall pleaſe the Parliament to call upon them for the managing of, that ſo it may appear unto all men who are beſt informed in the mind and will of God, and by this it will alſo appear who are the Orthodoxall Preachers, and who are the Preachers of new Goſpels, and conſequently who be the ſetters of diviſion; and who they be upon whom their ſcandalous concluſions fall.
And as for Tolerations of all Religions I cannot conceive to be proper; for there is but one true Religion, and that is it which hath Gods Word for their rule.
And for breaking Sabbaths, we know the Chriſtian Sabbath now under the Goſpel is the firſt day of the week (commonly called Sonday) or the Lords day, which we judge ourſelves bound in conſcience to ſet apart for the worſhip and ſervice of God by the Rules of Scripture both Law and Goſpel; and are alſo free to ſubmit to the Magiſtrates command to humble our ſelves before God in caſe of eminent danger, and to give him publick thanks for all the eminent deliverances, the Magiſtrates command being grounded upon the Word of God.
Therfore the Presbyterians ſlandring the people of God, will make their reformation the more difficult; for no man ever ſet himſelf up honeſtly, by accuſing of others falſly.
And as touching our Brethren the Scots, we honour them for their parts, and ſhall remain thankfull unto God for them, or for any help we have received from them; yet we can never ſubmit our conſciences to be captivated, or made ſubject to mens wils: for God onely hath power in that caſe. Yet I ſpeak freely (for my part) I ſhall not be offended at whatever lawfull Government the Parliament in their wiſdom ſhall ſet up in the Nation for the preaching of the Goſpel, to bring thoſe thouſands, and millions of people, (who yet lie in ignorance) to the knowledge of God, and obedience of the faith, that ſo they may become fit matter, even living ſtones to be built to God a ſpirituall houſe: for there can be no true reformation in a State of generall Apoſtaſie, but by ſeperating the precious from the vile; and not to impoſe the worſhip of God on a people that are not capable, for that will bring a curſe rather then a bleſſing; Therefore the truly godly ought to ariſe and be doing, and God hath promiſed to be with them, and they are not to neglect to worſhip God for want of the command of Authority, as is the manner of many.
Moreover, theſe take notice that God hath rewarded the beginnings of the Parliaments Reformation; And truly all Chriſtians ought to obſerve the ſame; for God uſeth to reward all thoſe that do his will. And I hope God will ſtill be mercifull to them if Juſtice be executed by them. And it is to be deſired that the wicked may be brought to condigne puniſhment, and the innocent ſet free who have lain in priſon a long time for worſhipping the true God after the true manner, as Mr. Turner hath, who is therefore in priſon at Weſtminſter; and others who alſo ſuffer in th e like caſe, ſuch out-breakings of envy (I am ſure) procure no mercy but judgement.
Now that the Parliament may haſten to ſet up Chriſts true diſcipline which he hath left to his Church; that is and ought to be the deſire of all Chriſtians. But that the modell (ſpecified in the Petition) is it, ſtands the Presbyterians upon to prove. And therefore (in my judgement) it were better for them to make their confeſſion of faith and catechiſe firſt, according to the rule of Gods Word, and then ſhape their Church according to that, rather then ſhape their Church according to the modell, and their faith according to their Church. Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thy ſelf in the field: and afterwards build thine houſe. Prov.24.27.