IF any one ask, who is He presumes to Publish the Papers of that Learned, Pious, and peacable Prelate (worthy of eternal Memory,) without appro∣bation first had, of such as hold the Chair in the several Parts of controver∣ted Discipline? I Answer, The Learn∣ed men of each Party are not yet agreed, nor do I know when they will be: and the times require that some means be used to advance the Peace of the Church, and preserve the Nation. That Peace I mean, whereby the minds of men may be disposed to lay aside all old ani∣mosities, and upon a common Principle of Union, become charitable, and so perpetual Friends.
The Faithfull and true Ministers of the Gospel of Peace, will (I hope,) give their allowance to this attempt, Pious and Cha∣ritable in its intention. For the contrary minded who would have Fire come from Heaven to consume all those, who receive not their Dictates, I shall only rebuke them with that of our Saviour to his Disciples, ye know not of what manner of Spirit ye are? *
Peace therefore and Christian Concord, is not the matter these men seek, but perpetual Parties and Sidings, wherein per∣haps they hope to appear Somebody; which temper (even in the minds where it ought least to be,) hath embroyl'd the world in miserable Feuds. And this being perceiv'd by men experienced in Publick business, hath produced variety of complaints. Sir Edwyn Sandys discoursing of the division of Protestants* abroad into Lutherans and Calvinists, complains. That the Ministers of each side have so far bestirr'd themselves, that thePage 4Coal which a wise man, with a little moisture of his mouth would soon have quenched, they with the wind of their breath have contrariwise so enflamed, that it threatneth a great ruine and Calamity on both sides. And a little after, reprehending the heat and extremity of contention. They make more account (says he) of some empty Syllogism than of the Peace of the Church, and happiness of the World. The most Learn∣ed and Pious Hugo Grotius, bemoaning the Discords of Christian * Leaders, Says, Si in eorum Bellorum quibus tam diu vastatur Eu∣ropa causas inquirimus, inveniemus hoc incendium, maximè ab ijs quos pacis praecones esse debuerunt excitatum. And Mr. Dury, after all his Travells in the matter of Ecclesiastical Peace, found at last the difficulty to lie at home, among those of his own Profession: which caused him to lay down this Maxim. That*neither can a Civil Confederation be truly framed among Pro∣testants, nor when it is framed can it be faithfully maintained, except the foundation thereof be laid in the minds of the Clergy.
The expedient here proposed by this Learned and Pious Prelate, for Composing the Controversies and contentions about Eccle∣siastical Government, will not make the wounds wider I hope, I do not see how it can. And if it bring with it a healing vir∣tue to unite and consolidate Parties discontinued, in any mea∣sure, I shall not repent me of acting the Empyrick in applying this Sovereign Receipt, (which came fortunately to my hands) to the curing all those fretting ailments have so long troubled the Church.
Nor will this attempt of mine be insecure, if the Learned and Pious Guides of either Party be consulted. It is Dr. Ham∣mond's judgment, That a moderate Episcopacy, with a stand∣ing*assistant Presbytery, as it will certainly satisfie the desires of those whose pretensions are regular and moderate, (crav∣ing nothing more, and in some things less than the Laws of the Land,) so it will appear to be that, which all Parties can best Tolerate: and which next himself, both Presby∣terian, Independant and Erastian, will make no question to choose and prefer, before any of the other Pretenders. And Mr. Baxter, (no friend to modern Episcopacy) earnestly in∣cultating *Page 5 the Pastoral care and oversight of Souls: I speak not this, says he, against any Bishops, that acknowledge the Presbyters to be true Pastors to Rule and Teach the Flock, and take themselves only to be the Chief, and Presidents among Pres∣byters, yea, or the Rulers of Presbyters that are Rulers of the Flock. But of them that Null the Presbyters Office, and the Churches Government and Discipline, by undertaking it alone as their sole Prerogative. Me thinks, (as Agrippa said * to Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian,) I might here step in, and tell these Learned and Pious Controvertists, That, almost they may be persuaded to be Friends.
But the Principal defence I intend my self against the censures of my Publishing those Papers, Is, the sense of the late King himself, in his Posthumous admired Book. Not (says he) *that I am against the managing of this Presidency and Authority in one man by the joynt Counsel and Consent of many Pres∣byters; I have offered to restore that. And again, I was*willing to grant or restore to Presbytery, what with reason or discretion it can pretend to; in a conjuncture with Episco∣pacy. So that, the purpose the late King had, of uniting his divided People, (If God had so permitted, whose judgments * are wonderfull, and his ways past finding out,) was upon Grounds agreeable to the design of this Paper. And therefore what was by Him so Piously and Prudently intended, for resto∣ring Peace and Unity to the Church, is so much the more neces∣sary now, by how much we understand That intention of the said King: and that the same Parties remain still estranged in conuntenance and conversation.
And yet it would not be so, if some instrument or medium could be used to bring them to debate (with an humble Christian Spirit,) on terms of reconcilement and unīty. Which, when∣soever it shall, by Gods gracious Dispensation and Providence over us be granted: so much of our passions and interest must be laid aside, as not to think it imaginable, in the traverse of such long and sharp disputes and diffirences, That one Party should be totally guilty, and the other altogether innocent.
When I consider a Presbyterian, will it be well to fetch a Character, from all the frailties and failings of men of that Page 6 Persuasion? If one Preached, It would never be well till twice*7. Prelates be hanged up, as the 7. Sons of Saul were hanged up in Gibeon. And another, That the bloodiest and sharpest War was to be endured, rather than the least error in Doctrine and Discipline. And another, Wishing that all the Prelates in the Kingdom and himself were together in a bottomless Boat at Sea, for he would be content to loose his life, so the Bishops might loose theirs.
Will not all these seem strong and tearing winds, rending the rocks of all Order and good Government, in which God was * not. Rather than the small and still voice, which walked in the Garden in the cool of the day, when God came to enquire calmly after Adams sin? Or will they not seem rather so many Pre∣dictions, which we have seen fulfilled sadly upon that place, and those persons, whoyet were as ignorant of the Prophetick import of their own expressions, as Caiphas was of Christs offering him∣self for the world, when he counselled the Jews, That it was*expedient that one man should die for the People, And yet knew not the import of Christ dying for the People.
When men pass sentence upon themselves, God often sees it executed: The Israelites no sooner wish they had died in the Land of Egypt, or in the Wilderness: But the Answer is re∣turned, *As I live saith the Lord, as you have spoken in mine*Ears, so will I do to you. And the Heathen Poet could teach us the same lesson. Evertere domos totas optantibus ipsis,*Dii faciles. I do not like raking Fire out of Embers, by search∣ing for the faults of men, who Perished in their own Flames, and are objects of our Pitty more than Passion. Otherwise no Nation under Heaven could afford examples equal to that of Scotland, for the proof of rigid Presbyterian Discipline. Of which how much is settled after more then 100 years are run out since the Nobles, Gentry and People, have been vehemently. sollicited to kill and slay each other, or any body else rather than be, without it, the present state of Affairs there may bear us witness.
Would it be a good course of judging of Episcopal Government, to rake into the Records and Histories of 1600. Years, for the errors of all Bishops, whòm worldly Interest, or Passion, or Page 7 other human frailties have carried beyond the gravity, austerity, humility and Apostolical Piety of their Primitive institution. And will this serve to level imparity, the principle of all Order and Government? and secure the modern Presbytery from the like irregularities or excesses? Certainly those accusations and calum∣nies, which Politicians say secure other States, subvert the foundations of the Churches peace: which are laid in Charity, the Characteristick note of a Christian. By this ye know if ye be my Disciples, (says Christ) If ye love one another. And * in ancient times the common saying was, Ecce quam diligunt Christiani? That execrable delight and joy, which any one takes to accuse, or to find faults in others, he hath from the Devil, Who is the great accuser of the Brethren.*
It is evident to what a miserable extremity the divisions about Church-Government, had brought a great Nation. From disputing and fighting for this and that Form, we at last knew no Form at all: Every one doing what seemed good in his own eyes. God having justly taken away from Both, what was so intemperately desired, and contended for on either side.
Both Episcopacy and Presbytery that strive for it, Do it surely for this common end, That the people, being taught to know God aright, might glorifie him in their Lives and Conversations. The People, I say, who are more easily disposed to Innovations and Disobedience many times, by the artifice and insinuations of a few; than can be reclaimed again by the Authority, Eloquence and Wisdom of many. They are therefore a commiserable body, and being commonly the Masters of error (the weakest part of whom being their mind and meer servants to the Ambition of others) How much doth it most truly import the Sacred Function, to be wholly employ'd in saving the Souls of these men, from perishing in a Famine of Spiritual food and nourishment.
But while both strive for the Rule and Form of doing this (without imputation of Ambition or Usurpation) Is it not pitty to think the matter should ever come to that pass that one half of the Nation must be first destroyed. And instead of settling Christs Discipline, that no body at this rate, should be left to become Christs Disciples, whom Error or the Sword had not devoured.
That both may Rule and yet not strive, is proposed here by our Page 8 Pious and Learned Prelate. By which Charity and Brotherly Love may be restored, (almost wholly extingushed out of the hearts of men,) and the grain of evil Seed sown in place there∣of destroy'd; which hath brought forth ungodliness to this*very time.
In the mean time it is a work worth propounding, and worthy of the Office and industry of all men, in whom is the true fear of God, (the principle of honour as well as wisdom) who * are followers of either Party: That they soften the minds of the tenacious and refractory, and sweeten the Spirits of the sowre and morose, That they may say one to another as Abraham did to Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee between me and thee, and between my Herdmen and thy Herdmen, for we be*Brethren. And let every Pious, Humble and peaceable Overseer and Bishop, Presbyter and Ruler of Christs Flock, and Watch∣man over the pretious Souls of men, so labour at the Throne of Grace for this weatherbeaten Ship of Gods Church, (hardly escaping yet the waves of confusion and disorder,) that she may at last hear an Angell from God speaking to her as once to St. Paul. Fear not beloved, Thou must be brought before Caesar, *and God hath given thee all those that Sail with thee.