CHAP. XXI. A Conclusion of my Discourse with N. N. with a friendly Admonition to him.
SR. if the severe Decree of your Church prohibiting to the common sort the reading of Controversial writings, doth not comprehend you also, I hope you will bestow an attentive reading upon this Book for our old friendships sake, but more for the love of Truth: and if you have not made a firm inflexible resolution of not yielding to any evidences, be they never so clear, that may justify the way I took, or discover the errors of that which you are in, I may expect that by reading this Treatise, you shall find that I am not in that deplorable con∣dition by my change which you seem to imagin. That by it I have not forsaken the whole house of God, as you say, but removed to the soundest and safest part of it; that I have not deserted the Society of the holy Fathers of the Church, nor am become an associat of Heretics, having come to a Church where I find as much veneration and study of those Fathers, and as much aver∣sion to the Heresies you mention, as ever I saw among you.
And if you read further the second Part now to follow of this same Book, you shall find that I did not forsake the Communion of the Roman Page 172Church without grave and urgent reasons for∣cing me to it. Those reasons I have laid open in my first Sermon preached at Dublin and printed; great labor and study hath bin emploied in an∣swering them: yet if you bring indifference with you to read my reply to that answer, you shall find that my reasons alledged do still remain in their force, and that the errors I refuted are further discovered, and cleared by occasion of the defence made of them. But if you resolve either not to read my Book, or bring to the reading of it a firm purpose of not yielding to any reason that may oppose those sentiments you are prepossest with, then my labor is lost as to you: but I hope not so as to others more rationally disposed. The word of God is a grain of seed, and brings forth its fruit in time diffe∣rently according to the different disposition of the subjects it meets with: but especially I hope that my endeavors will avail me with God; in whose presence I write with sincerity what I un∣derstand to be conformable to his holy Word & Will, and with a constant desire in all these scrutinies to satisfy my own conscience prin∣cipally of the righteousness of the way I took, and to help others also to the knowledg of the same truth.
When St. Paul was brought before King A∣grippa, and the Governor of Judaea, Porcius Fe∣stus, to give account of himself and his Religion, he gave it so full, that Agrippa said, almost thou perswadest me to be a Christian: To which the great Apostle replied, I would to God that not only thou, but all that hear me were such as I am, except these Page 173bonds, Act. XXVI. 29. If you read with indiffe∣rency and attention, the account I give of my resolution, and of the Religion I embraced, I am perswaded (whatsoever your outward expres∣sion may be) it will work upon your mind a mo∣tion like that of Agrippa. And if you ask whe∣ther I would have you do what I did in this point, I say freely (as St. Paul did say to Agrip∣pa) that I would to God that both you and your brethren did take the like resolution; but that it may be with less difficulty and reluctancy then I had, and with less crosses and dangers for do∣ing it.
You tell me I am old; and I have many reasons to believe it by my long continued infirmity of body, but I remember the time, when you cal∣led me a young man, and your self an old man: then I being now old, you must be very old; and therefore both of us ought to measure our resolutions and doctrine with the rules of Reli∣gion, and the interest of Eternity, rather then with those of earthly policy and temporal Ad∣vantages, in which we can have but a little share, and a short enjoyment. How then come you to speak to me of the loss of Friends, and of infamy got by my change? If it hath bin for the best in the presence of God, and I am certainly perswa∣ded it was, I have got by it the grace and favor of God, and given joy to his Angels; and this ap∣plause is to be preferred before that of the earthly friends you speak of. I am much afraid that the fear of temporal shame and dammages is too strong with you, and many others of your party to keep you from following truth, and Page 174from searching after it with due care: I found it to be so in my self (I confess my weakness here∣in with sorrow, humbly craving pardon of God for it.) The fear of shame and loss among men, more then any superior consideration, made me struggle along time against the inward callings of God from my former errors, and to use all means possible to silence the cries of conscience; but the more I laboured and studied to allay them, the more force they got; and when I saw clearly by a strict inquiry, that they were indeed from God, I yielded to them, notwithstanding my natural reluctancies, and the heap of shames, crosses, and dangers which I saw in the way, looking upon Jesus the Author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross despising the shame, Heb. XII. 2.
In the life and doctrine of Christ we shall find Lessons of this kind, but never in the dictats of nature. How would you imagine it should be a natural inclination, that a man in his declining Age, should change a state of quiet, honor, and plenty of all things necessary for humane life, in∣to another of troubles, crosses, affronts, no cer∣tainty of a competent lively-hood, and a certain and continual danger of losing his life. This was my condition at my change of Religion, and I may better declare it to you then to many o∣thers. You can remember in what degree of ho∣nour, applause and commodity I was where you knew me, plentifully assisted with all things necessary, without any care or trouble in pro∣curing them. Of temporal blessings I could de∣sire no more. Neither would I at any time, Page 175tho I had a choise of fortune given to me.
To this condition I might at that time have returned with some special assurances of good reception, when I came over to the Protestant Church, without any bargain made or promise had of a livelyhood, relying solely upon Di∣vine providence, that is never wanting, to such as truly confide in it; and with certain know∣ledge that I was to suffer crosses, calumnies, curses, affronts, false testimonies and conspiracies against my life and credit, of all which I found a plen∣tiful store as I expected: and you tell me that my change was a work of Nature not of grace, one of your very ill grounded asserti∣ons. I pray consult the case with your own natural inclination, and be ingenuous. Do but imagine your self a little while make∣ing such a change as I did, and undergo∣ing for it the like danger and dammages, (as probably you should, if the case did possibly happen,) certain I am that your nature would represent to you such horrors in the case, that if all the Angels in Heaven did come down furnished with the most divine reasons to per∣swade you to it, you would take them all for so many Devills, and their reasons for absolute Madness.
Thus much I can tell you of your own nature: but what grace may work upon you, God the author of it only can tell: and whilst you do not feel this motion upon you so strong as to forsake errors (tho known) upon the hard terms now mentioned, I pray spare your ill grounded severe censures against others, that Page 176God moves to undergo those difficulties for the truths sake. Moderate your inconsiderate Zeal, and if you will govern it well, read unpassionately what is written here, and is to follow in this Book, whereby you shall per∣ceive how far mistaken you are in many things about your self and others. And whereas you acknowledg your self to be neer the end of this mortal life (as a man of your age must needs be) leave to your Friends and Brethren that Legacy, which your good Saviour Jesus left, and with repeated earnestness commend∣ed to his Disciples, saying *Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. Endeavour first to make peace with God by due acknowledg∣ment and repentance of your sins and errors, and then endeavour to sow peace in the hearts of your hearers. Make it your business to quench, rather then to blow up the fire of dissentions and animosities: have a real pitty for your poor Country bleeding and groaning under wounds received in barbarous wars and broiles, stirred up by blind fiery Zelots. Pour into those wounds the sweet oil of peace; breed in the people by all the means you may, charity with their Neighbours and Loialty to their Soveraign: thus will they recover those blessings, which the bitter Spirit of hatred, envie, revenge, and ambition hath robbed them off in former times; and thus will you and other inspirers of peace and charity, com∣pass that great blessing reserved for peace ma∣kers, Page 177that they shall be called the Children of God a. And now the God of peace be with youb whilst I turn my face to a scold, and after to a Sophister, to vindicate truth from the as∣saults of both.