To the Reader.
CHristian Reader, I here present thee with Truth Triumphing over Falshood, Antiquity over Novelty; to settle both thy Judgement and Practice, in these unsetled times, wherein the very Foundations of Parliaments, States, Churches, Go∣vernment, are shaken and subverted, by some of our owne dear Friends, from whom wee least expected it.
For my part, I take no pleasure in detecting my Brethrens nakednesse, Errors, Over-sights; nor in disparaging their Worth or Writings; yet I must needs acquaint thee, for thine owne good, to preserve thee from seducement, with some materiall Observations touching their Independent Treatises; for which thou maist chance to give me thanks.
First, That they all generally take that for granted, which they should prove and demonstrate to us: viz. That there is an exact and most abso∣lute forme of Church-Government prescribed to all Churches in the Scripture; from which no man must vary in the least title: And that the Independent Way it is, and no other. But when wee demand of them how they prove it? or what that Way, Government, and Discipline is they contend for? or in what plaine Scripture Texts they find it instituted and universally prescribed to all Nations, Churches? or how they make good all their transcendent Encomiums of their New Way? wee find them altoge∣ther silent or unsatisfactory: telling us onely a large story of the Patterne of the Tabernacle shewed to Moses in the Mount; of the exact forme of the Temple shewed to David by the Spirit; and of Ezekiels vision, and his and the Angels measuring of the Temple: Which are nothing to the point; and meere impertinencies, fit to delude the ignorant injudicious vulgar; who take their weake inferences thence for divine Oracles.
Secondly, That they are extraordinary bold, confident, peremptory, copi∣ous in their affirmations and positions concerning their Way; but very poore, Page [unnumbered] lame, impotent, deficient in their proofes thereof: You must take their bare As∣sertions for undeniable Arguments, Proofes.
Thirdly, That their whole Independent Fabricke is built either upon false Principles; As, that every Church is a complete, absolute, indepen∣dent body of it selfe; subject onely unto Christ: That no humane Power upon earth hath any Right or Authority to prescribe any Rules or Orders to any particular Congregation: That just humane Lawes binde not the Conscience, in point of obedience: and the like. Or else upon false, or absurd Inferences from true Principles: As, that Christ is the King, Lord, Head, and Law-giver of his Church: Ergo, No man or humane Power may make Lawes or Canons, to regulate and order it, or any thing in it, but Christ alone.
Fourthly, That to maintaine their New Way of Government, they are enforced to deny the undoubted Power and Jurisdiction of Parliaments, Coun∣cells, Synods, Kings, and Civill Magistrates, in Ecclesiasticall affaires; and to maintaine such Paradoxes, Passages against their lawfull Authority, as, if duly pondered, may justly induce all Wel-affected persons to mistrust and abhorre their Way, as Anarchicall, and destructive to all Christian and hu∣mane Society.
Fifthly, That they are constrained publikely to deny, that there is any*Na∣tionall Church under the New Testament; though they acknowledge one in the Old: Upon which ground they must of necessity likewise deny one Ar∣ticle of the Creed; That there is a Catholike Church; and themselves members of it, or of the Nationall Church of England. They pluck up the bounds and orderly distribution of all Parish Churches; absolutely ne∣cessary to avoyd confusion; to provide competent maintenance for Ministers; to bring all to frequent the publike Ordinances: Warranted by Scripture; where∣in wee read not onely of distinct Synagogues, and Tribes under the Law, but Churches under the Gospel. Approved by the practice of all Christian Churches, ever since there were Christian Emperors, Princes; and as necessary as distinct Families, Villages, Cities, Societies of men in civill respects; yea observed in New-England it selfe, though now disliked in Old: and thereby bring in meere Ataxy and Confusion among us.
Sixthly, They are constrained to wrest Scriptures against their meaning; to invent many strange Apocryphall new shifts, Interpretations, Distinctions, to evade direct Scriptures and fundamentall Truths, never formerly questioned: They nullifie and slight Examples of the Old Testament, in all things that make against them; and yet cry them up againe, when they make for them; especially in the point of their*Church Covenant; which they confesse, hath no ground at all in the New Testament, but onely in the Jewish Church Page [unnumbered] under the Old. Which yet they will not admit a sufficient Proofe of a Na∣tionall Church.
Seventhly, They intricate, gain-say things which are cleare; take things for granted, that are either false, or doubtfull; confound things in generali∣ties, which they should distinguish; deny things that are apparently true; yea, which is worst of any, not only affirming, but beleeving most things* with a re∣serve; according to their present light; to the posture of their present Judgement; as they are yet informed; with a liberty of altering or va∣rying to morrow, from what they affirme or beleeve to day, upon new light discovered; Which is in truth to bring a meere Skepticisme into Religi∣on; to play fast and loose with God and our owne Consciences; to doubt all things; firmely beleeve nothing; to set up Opinion in the Throne and Place of Faith; and in conclusion to introduce flat Atheisme.
Eightly, They refuse Church-Communion with those who are not of their Way and Churches, excluding them from the Lords Table, and their very Children from Baptisme in their Churches, if they submit not to their Covenant and Way; judging them all professed Enemies to the Kingdome and Government of Christ; and so visibly without the Co∣venant of Grace: though never so Pious or Religious.
Ninthly, Their very Principles teach disobedience to Parliaments, Sy∣nods, Princes, Magistrates, and all other Superiors, in all their just Lawes and Commands which concerne the Church or Religion; dissolve all Re∣lations, all Subordinations, and humane Society it selfe, as I have here fully manifested.
Tenthly, They exceedingly magnifie their owne Way, Ministers, Writers, Opi∣nions, Conceits; despising and under-valuing all others, in a kind of Pharisai∣call manner, not deeming them worthy their Church-Communion.
Eleventhly, They have high conceits of their owne transcendent holinesse; and under pretext of being more pious, pure, living more holily, and serving God more exactly than others, they doe (without sufficient Grounds) quite sever from all other Churches; just like Popish Monkes, Hermites, Anchorites, Nunnes, Jesuites, and other Religious Orders, who separate themselves from others, under this very pretence of being more holy, and living more devout than others.
Twelfthly, They pretend themselves the greatest Enemies of all others to Pa∣pists, Arminians, Anabaptists, Socinians, Sectaries, and yet concurre with them in their Opinions, Practices, Policies; fighting against us with their very weapons.
Of all which I thought good to advertise thee (kind Reader) lest thy good opinion of the Piety, and dignity of their Persons, (worthy all due honour Page [unnumbered] and respect) should make thee swallow downe their dangerous Principles and Opinions without strict examination: Whereas, good mens Errors are most infectious, pernicious; and so more carefully to be observed, avoyded.
How farre they have swerved from Verity and Antiquity in sundry Par∣ticulars; how fallacious and weake their principle Proofes and Argu∣ments are, I have*here in part discovered; and shall in due time (if God say Amen) put a Period to the other Part which is yet behinde. In the mean time, be∣seeching God to prosper these my impotent Endeavours to thine and the pub∣like good, (which I have principally published for the satisfaction of the Lear∣ned, and such who most seduce the Ignorant) I shall dismisse thee with this wholesome Councell of God himselfe, Ephes. 4. 14, 15, 16. Henceforth be no more Children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of Doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftinesse, whereby they lye in wait to deceive: But speaking the truth in love, grow up into him in all things which is the Head, even Christ. From whom the whole Body fitly joyned together, and compacted by that which eve∣ry joynt supplieth, according to the effectuall working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the Body, unto the edifying of it selfe in love.