THE PREFACE; To the Honourable and Reve∣rend Dr. George Morley, late Lord Bishop of Worcester, and now of Winchester: and Dr. Peter Gunning, Lord Bishop of Ely.
IT is now about eighteen years since you and many others were appointed by his Majesties com∣mission with divers of us who desired some Reformation of the Church Discipline and worship, to consi∣der what Alterations of the Liturgy were ne∣cessary Page [unnumbered] and expedient for the satisfaction of ten∣der consciences, and the restoring and continu∣ance of peace and Vnity to the Churches under his Majesties protection and government. His Majesties Gracious Declaration about Ecclesiasti∣cal Affairs, had before shewed so much of his Wisdome and care to attain this Unity, as we thought had almost done the cure; the differences about Church Government and most of the rest being thereby as we hoped fairly ended: As (with the help of the Reverend Dr. Sparrow now Bishop of Nor∣wich, and Dr. Pierson now Bishop of Chester) you maintained that no Alteration was necessa∣ry to these ends, so I with others endeavoured to prove the contrary: But since, the said Declaration being dead, such Alterations were made as greatly increased our Impossi∣bility of Conforming: we never treated with you for Presbyterian Government, or Indepen∣dent, but for Vnity and peace; Nor did we herein offer you any worse than Arch-bishop Vshers Form of the Primitive Episcopal Go∣vernment, (which I had declared my judge∣ment of before in print); And I never heard of the name of Episcopal Presbyterians, or Presbyterian Archbishops till of late. And we thankfully accepted much less than that Form, as granted in his Majesties foresaid Declaration. As I doubt not but you still Page [unnumbered] think that your way was best for the heal∣ing of the Church and Land; so I know that I have greatly incurred both your dis∣pleasures for what I have said and done against your way. One of you shewed it in a Printed Letter long ago, which when I had answered I cast that aside for Peace, (believing that the opening of so many mi∣stakes in matter of fact, would not be ea∣sily born:) The other of you since told me, that he would Petition authority that we might be compelled to give our Reasons; as if we kept up a Schism and would not tell why! I rejoiced at the motion, and offer∣ed to beg leave on my knees to do it. Since then your Mr. Walton in his Life of Bi∣shop Sanderson hath called me by name to remember our debate aforesaid. I know not of any two men living, that I am now more obliged to give an account to of my continued dissent, than unto you. My judgement is not in my own pow∣er nor in yours. Many are dead who were in that consultation: You and I by Gods great mercy are yet alive, and may review our actions before we come to the Bar of God, which is like to be speedily to me, and to you it cannot be far off, espe∣cially to the elder of you; so that I sup∣pose that all three of us are really beyond Page [unnumbered] the motives of any personal worldly inte∣rest: what is this world to us who are taking our farewel of it for ever? All the doubt then remaining is, whether your terms or those desired by us, are the true way of Love and Concord? and which are the true causes of Schisms, and the attendant evils.
I doubt not but you still think that the good which you have done doth far weigh down all the direct and accidental hurt. What that Good is, you know better than I: Dr. Heylin in the Life of Arch-Bishop Laud tells us what some accounted then most desirable; And how much more desirable it is to open the Church doors so wide as that moderate Loyal Romanists may come in, as they did in Queen Elizabeths first years, and to reconcile them by nearer ap∣proaches or concessions, rather than to go further from them to unite with a few in∣considerable Puritans, whose principles are against the Power and Wealth of the Church, we have often heard from others: As also that the ejection of the near two thousand non-conforming Ministers, was the Churches deliverance from them that would have done more hurt within, than they can do without. The converted Priest Mr. Smith, in his Narrative of the Popish Plot, dedicated Page [unnumbered] to the King, nameth more reasons, which I will not name, which some were mo∣ved by.
For my part, as with fear I foresaw, so with grief I see, so many hundred Mini∣sters under the restraints and penalties which you know of, of whom I have better thoughts than you have: believing from my heart, by the acquaintance which I have had with very many, that notwith∣standing the faulty former actions of some few of them, and the unjustifiable scruples of others, you cannot name that Nation under heaven out of our Kings Do∣minions, which hath this day so many Mi∣nisters, more sound in doctrine, heart and life, and liker to further mens salvation, than those that in England have been silen∣ced and cast out. Name that countrey if you can! And I believe that Christ hath given us no supernumeraries of such use∣ful men; but if all faithful Ministers Confor∣mists and Non-conformists were employed and encouraged, they would be still too few to do the work upon the ignorant, un∣godly and vicious which is to be done. And considering how many souls a faith∣ful Minister may hope to edifie and save, I consider then how many thousands are like to be losers where such are lost and Page [unnumbered] wanting. It grieveth my soul to see what advantage Satan hath got in England, against that Christian Love which is the life and character of Christs disciples, and to cause wrath, envy, hatred and strife, when God saith, He that hateth his brother is a murde∣rer, and no murderer hath eternal life in him, 1 Joh. 3. 15. It grieveth me to see preachers against preachers, and Churches against Churches, and in Press and Pulpit, Learn∣ing and Oratory imployed to render bre∣thren odious, and keep up a heart war a∣gainst each other, and all this (O fearful) as in the name of Christ, and as for the safe∣ty of the Church and Kingdome. To see families against families, and father against son, and as Guelphes and Gibelines Cities and Countreys in their ordinary discourses (at the least) accusing, contemning, and re∣proaching one another! It grieveth me to think how much first the honour, and then the success of the Ministry on both sides is hereby hindered, and what temptations some have to further injuries which I am loth to name: And how by all this the wicked and Infidels are hardened, the weak are scandalized, the Papists are encoura∣ged to despise us all, and many turn to them, scandalized by our discord, sects are advan∣taged, the Church and Kingdome by divi∣sions Page [unnumbered] weakened, and the King denyed the comfort which he might have in a loving, united and concordant people.
I believe that you dislike all this as well as I: All the question hath been and still is, which is the true way of Cure. And one would think that 1. the nature of the thing, and 2. the experience of all the Christian world, 3. and our own new experience these seventeen or eighteen years, might resolve men of lower parts than ours! Is there no better way to the Churches con∣cord, than that which must cast out either such men as you or I, and that so many? Can a wise Physicion (a true Peace-ma∣ker) find out no remedy which may bet∣ter avoid the foresaid evils? O what a loss had England in the removal of such heal∣ing men, as Bishop Vsher, Hall, Dave∣nant, Brownrig, &c. Far was I and am I from liking any former injury to such men, by Covenant or abuse. But it hath been ever the just misery of the persecutors of worthy men, to have the stone fly back on their own heads, and to be themselves un∣done by striving to undo others, while they first make, and then stir up a multitude of enemies for their own defence, who else would be friends and live in peace.
Page [unnumbered] I am fully perswaded that in this book I have told you a righter way of Christi∣an Church concord; more divine, sure, harmless, and comprehensive, fitted by Christ himself, to the interest of all good men, yea of the Church and all the world. I offer it first to you, that you and poste∣rity may see what it was that I desired; and that if I here err you will faithfully detect my errour, that I may repent be∣fore I die, and may leave behind me the recantation of this and all my other mi∣stakes and miscarriages, as I intend to do upon just conviction. But do it quickly or else I am not like to see it: And I pur∣pose not to provoke you by any confuta∣tion, but to improve your evidence for my self.
And to answer the earnest demand of our Reasons by you the Lord Bishop of Eli, I have also published an Historical Narra∣tive of our case and judgement in another Book called, The Non-conformists Plea for Peace.
If (much contrary to my expectation) you should be convinced that These Terms of Vnity and Concord, are righter than those which you (above all men that I know) have effectually helpt to bring us under, I humbly crave that you will use as much Page [unnumbered] earnestness and diligence to procure the Churches concord by promoting them, as you did for that which you then thought righter. I have here opened those reasons which made me believe that the fourteenth and fifteenth Chapter to the Romans decideth our contro∣versie; and is to be understood as I then maintained.
If it prove the necessary Truth which is here offered you, I beseech you see that pre∣judice resist it not. It would be a happy work could we procure the reviving of Christian Love, Unity and Concord, that all Christs servants might strive together for the hallowing of Gods name, the promo∣ting of his Kingdome and the doing of his will with Love and Concord as it is done in Hea∣ven. And when instead of worldly wealth and grandure we are contented with our daily bread, and instead of cruelty to the in∣nocent or weak, we bewail our own sins, and forbear and forgive one another, and instead of tempting men to the evil of wrath, and making battering Cannons and tearing engines of Schism, we cease to be over-wise in our own conceits, and to judge, despise and ruine others, then we shall be in a hope∣ful way to this: we shall then receive him that is weak even in the faith, (much more about our lesser matters) even as Page [unnumbered] Christ received us, and not to doubtful disputations; and he that pleaseth God by that in which his Kingdome doth consist, will be also approved by us; and we shall better learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice, and that none of our Church power is given for destruction but for edification; and so we shall not condemn the guiltless, nor smite the Shepherds and scatter the flocks, and then hunt them about as Schismaticks, and see the mote of dissent from a formality, ce∣remony or word, in their eye, while we see not this great beam in our own. How joyfully should we die, might we leave be∣hind us by our endeavours a healed Church and Nation, and see first this desired unity, which would be the strength, ease and joy of Ministers and people, King and Subjects, and a hopeful pattern to the divided Churches a∣broad to imitate. If you will not contri∣bute your help hereto, those will who shall have the honour and comfort of being the blessed instruments of our concord, if God have so much mercy for us.
I once more repeat to you the pacificators old despised words,
Pardon this freedome, and accept this Ac∣count of the reasons of all his former and la∣ter dissent from your judgement, words and way, to
Nov. 15. 1679.
Your unfeigned well-willer, RICHARD BAXTER.