To the Reader.
CHristian reader, I will take it as a great favour from thee, if in reading this my Answer thou wilt judge me to be, as indeed, and in truth I am, an adversary of the cause, and not of the person. He who is com∣monly reported to be the Author of the foure questions in hand, is one whose person I have, from my first knowledge of him, dearly loved, ho∣noured, and admired, for his excellent parts, profitable paines for the publike good, and his unwearied labours, and patient sufferings in the cause of Christ. If he hath but once in all his life stumbled upon a bad cause, and pleaded for it, (which is a common, and in some sort a necessary evil, hardly to be avoided by men of his vo∣cation:) let not this blemish his great learning, nor his judgement, sound in all other points, and least of all his approved piety and zeale for true religion. His name, which was happily concealed, and not annexed to these foure questions, shall ever be precious with me, and I hope with all Gods people also, who truly feare the Lord, long for the peace of Zion, and unfeignedly seek the reformation of Christs Church, in all these three Kingdomes. It is no small griefe to me, that I am compelled to move my pen in wri∣ting against any paper, published by an hand so deare to me: But in the cause of Christ, and in a point so prejudiciall to the peace and pure reformation of the Church, Who can be silent? The nearest relations of love which one Christian can have to another in this world, must not hinder us, nor stay our hands, tongues or pens from performance of any duty, in which we all stand obliged to the Lord Christ our Redeemer, and to his Church our deare mother. And wherein can we be more necessitated to shew our duty to both, then in resisting with all our power whatsoever tends to the common and continuall pro∣phanation of the holy Sacrament of Christs body and blood? which cannot possibly be avoid∣ed, if the power of the keys, which Christ hath given to his Apostles and their successors, with a promise to be with them to the end of the world, be taken, under any pretence, out of the hands of the Pastors and Presbyters of the Church, and no power left unto them to put by any sinners, openly scandalous and impenitent, from the holy Communion nor to exclude such spirituall lepers, most loathsome and infections, from the sacred meeting at the Lords holy Table. Who doth not see that the maine cause of the Schismes and separations of divers godly and zealous Christians from our Communion, is the mix∣ture of the prophane among the pious and godly, and the admission of persons openly scan∣dalous to the holy Sacrament? This is that which hath moved many out of their blinde zeale to proclaime our Church, a whore a strumpet, a Synagogue of Antichrist; and our faithfull Ministers, Baals Priests, and limmes of the beast. All true Christians, and most of all the Ministers of the Word, are bound to put to their hands and shoulders for the removing of this stumbling-block and rock of offence out of the way: And I e∣specially more then others, by reason of that singular love I bear to this deare brother er∣ring in this point, and least I should offend against that commandement, Lev. 19. 17. Thou shalt not have thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neigh∣bour, and not suffer sin upon him, or bear sin for him. His paper is gone forth in pub∣like, private rebuke will not hinder the hurt which it may doe: It hath given such pub∣like wounds, as cannot be cured but by a publike remedy. The Lord, the great healer of soules, give a speedy cure to the maladies of his Church, and all our soule-sicknesses: to him be praise for ever and ever.