THE SPIRIT of POPERY TRYED, Whether it be of GOD.
A SERMON Preached before the KING at WHITEHALL, upon the Fifth of November, 1699.
By the Right Reverend Father in God WILLIAM, Lord Bishop of OXON.
Published by His Majesty's Special Command.
LONDON, Printed for Tho. Bennet, at the Half-Moon in St. Paul's Church-yard, 1699.
PAge 7. del. the first Line, and to the word Faith in the 2d Line. p. 8. l. 17. for Burnings, r. Fumings. l. 26. for Zeal, r. real. p. 14. l. 28. after enjoy'd, add who suffered. p. 17. l. 3. r. Campanella's.Page 1
THE Spirit of Popery tryed, Whether it be of GOD.
1 John iv. 1.
THat by this Caution, Believe not every Spirit, but try the Spirits whether they be of God, is meant, give not up your Faith to the Doctrine, nor your selves to the Conduct of every Teacher and Guide, that shall pre∣tend to instruct and govern you, till you have examined and proved, whether his Commission and Doctrine be of God, is evident from the Reason wherewith the Apostle in∣forces this Advice, in the latter part of the Verse, viz. because many false Prophets are gone out into the World. And truly if this Reason could justify the pertinency and usefulness of our Apostle's Exhortation at that time, the pressing of the same Advice will appear, upon the same Grounds, to be no less seasonable and necessary in this Age, wherein the great Author of Lies and Divisions has shewed himself Page 2such a Master in his Art, so successfully imploy'd all his Stratagems and Instruments to corrupt the Faith, and break the Unity of the Church; that not only ancient Heresies are revived and improved, but new ones broach'd, and the seamless Coat of Christ torn into so many Shreds, his mystical Body broken into so many Sects and Parties, that it is almost as easy to reconcile, as to number them: And each of the different Parties (all of which cannot be in the right) would engross Truth to themselves, confine it to their own Division, and exclude those that differ from them from any title to it.
It might be of good use to bring these several Preten∣ders to the Test laid down in the Text, to try the Spirits whether they be of God: But to examine them all, would be the Work not of a piece of an Hour, but of a whole Year. The Time usually allotted for such Exercises as this, will not allow me to try more than one of them; and the Day points out which I should pitch on. That bold Monopo∣lizer of Christianity, which unchristians all the World be∣sides her own Communion; anathematizes, excludes from Heaven, and damns to Hell, all that will not renounce their Reason and Senses, and blindly submit to her Usurpation; who sticks at no Methods for the ex∣tending of her Tyranny, whether of Fraud and Treachery, or Violence and Cruelty: Witness that fatal Design, (fatal in the Event to the Authors of it, but intended so to this Church and Nation,) which was as on this Day to have been put in execution, the never to be forgotten Powder-Plot: A Plot, which, say some of the Soberer of their own Authors, Posterity will not believe for the Horrour of it. Horrour indeed! if there must have been so many Thou∣sand of Men, Women and Children, as one of them says it was computed, cut off at one Blow, had it taken ef∣fect. A Plot surely hatch'd in Hell, that Lake of Sulphur, Page 3and form'd in the dark Parts of the Earth, and discover'd by him only to whom the darkness is no darkness, and whose hand can find out those that dig down into Hell. And so much (though Faux when he was taken, cry'd out, that the De∣vil, and not God, was the Discoverer) is own'd by some of their own Party, who have acknowledged the Discovery to have been from God.
To express our grateful Sentiments of which miraculous Deliverance, as also of another from the Designs of the same Enemies which we have more lately received on the same day, and to pay our Just Tribute of Thanks and Praise to the Great God for them, is the end of our present Meeting, to which, I hope, I shall do Justice; and that my Discourse shall not labour of Impertinence, or Unsuitableness to the Text or Day, if instead of relating the Story, (of which, after so many Annual Returns of this Day, no one can be supposed to be ignorant or forgetful) or proving the Truth of the Facts, which is as unnecessary, habemus confitentes reos, I rather chuse to bring that Religion, which by these, and other such ever to be abhorr'd Methods, they restlesly labour to propagate, to the Trial, advised to in the Words I have read.
And if, upon Examination, it appears to be not of God; as,
I. Imposing Doctrines and Practices, that derogate from, and undermine the Great and Fundamental Article of the Christian Religion.
II. As being in a great measure contrary to the Nature and Design of the Christian Religion.
III. As having bid very fair for the weakening those Grounds and Motives of Credibility, whereby the Divinity of the Christian Religion was asserted, and it recommen∣ded to the World. And,
Page 4IV. As supporting and spreading it self by Methods di∣rectly opposite to those by which the Christian Religion was propagated, and even to the Dictates of Morality and Nature.
I suppose I may, with good reason, endeavour in my Application to excite in you,
1. A due Aversion to, and just Abhorrence of, that Re∣ligion.
2. Gratitude to God, who has so often discovered and defeated the Designs of our Adversaries, and rendred their Attempts for the introducing and establishing that Religion among us hitherto insuccessful. And,
3. A willingness and readiness to comply with those means which may most effectually secure us against them for the future.
I am then to try the Religion taught and professed in the Church of Rome, whether it be of God; and it will appear not to be so, for these Reasons.
1. Because it imposes Doctrines and Practices, that dero∣gate from, and undermine the great Fundamental Article of the Christian Religion; which is this, that Jesus is the Christ. This our Apostle does in several Places of his Wri∣tings make the distinguishing mark to try the Spirits by, by confessing of which they would appear to be of God, and by denying it of Antichrist. Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God, cap. 5. v. 1. But cap. 2. v. 22. Who is a Liar, but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is Antichrist denying the Father and the Son. And in the Verses immediately following my Text: Hereby know we the Spirit of God: Every Spirit that confesses Jesus that is come in the Flesh to be the Christ, is of God. And every Spirit Page 5that confesses not Jesus that is come in the Flesh, to be the Christ, is not of God, but is that Spirit of Antichrist.
So I construe that Proposition, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, making the Predicate to refer to his Offices as the Messias, and not to his Incarnation, which is supposed in the Subject. And this Interpretation is not only agreeable to the Origi∣nal, but to many parallel Places, where St. John expresly makes the Predicate the Christ, and to the general Sense of Commentators upon this Place.
Now it's known that Christ signifies Anointed, and that Jesus is so called with relation to his Offices.
The Ceremony of Anointing with material Oil has been anciently very usual in the designation of Persons to the Offices of Prophet, Priest, and King. And our Lord Jesus being to take upon him those three great Offices: (For Moses foretold of him, A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up, Deut. 18.16. And the Psalmist, Thou art a Priest for ever after the Order of Melchizedek, Bsal. 110.4. I have set my King upon my Holy Hill of Sion, Psal. 2.6. He being to execute those Offices, was Anointed thereto with the Holy Ghost, and with Power; and, for that reason, is called The Christ: Or, The Anointed.
By virtue of his first, his Prophetical Office, he was to reveal to us, and instruct us in the whole Will of his Fa∣ther; so Moses predicted of him, in the forecited Place, he shall be like unto me, and him shall ye hear in all things. And we read in Heb. 3.2. that he was faithful as Moses was, faith∣ful in all his House. And he himself tells his Father, Joh. 17. that he had finished the Work he gave him to do, had mani∣fested his Name to Men, 4, and 6, and in the 8th Verse; the Words which thou gavest me, I have given them, and they have received them.
By virtue of his second, his Priestly Office, he was to offer Sacrifice, and intercede for us: The former of which he Page 6did upon the Cross; when as the Apostle in Heb. 9.14. says, he offered himself through the Eternal Spirit without spot to God: And that Offering he tells us was to be but once made, in several places of that and the following Chapter, and gives Reasons for it; First, because it could not be oftner made; for then he must often have suffered, Chap. 9.26. And, secondly, because it was needless to be repeated; for he had by that one Offering perfected for ever them that were sanctified, Chap. 10.14.
As to the other part of his Priestly Office, that of inter∣ceeding for us, the same holy Pen-man tells us, Chap. 7.25. that he ever lives to make Intercession for us. And Rom. 8.24. Christ is at the right hand of God, and maketh Intercession for us; and there is but one Mediator between God and Man, the Man Christ Jesus, 1 Tim. 2.5.
By virtue of his third, his Kingly Office, he was to rule and govern his Church as Head thereof, to prescribe and give Laws to her: So St. Paul, Eph. 5.23, 24. Christ is the Head of the Church, and the Church is subject unto Christ. And Col. 1.18. He is the head of the Body the Church, that in all things he might have the pre-eminence. And St. James tells us, in his fourth Chapter, that he is that one Law-giver who is able to save and to destroy.
We have now seen why Jesus is called the Christ, or the Anointed, and what he does in virtue of those Offices he was anointed to. Let us than examine how the Doctrines and Practices, imposed by the Church of Rome, comport with this Account which the Scriptures give of Christ and his Offices.
And here it is obvious, at the first View, that his first, his Prophetical Office, by which he was to reveal to us the whole Will of God is struck at by those Doctrines of theirs, which assert that the Holy Scriptures in which he has dis∣covered that Will, are not a perfect Rule of Faith; that Page 7the Holy Scriptures in which he has discovered that Will, are not a perfect Rule of Faith; that the sense of them is not clear and perspicuous, but dark and uncertain; that they are like a Nose of Wax, or leaden Rule, liable to be turn'd and bent any way, and therefore are to be pieced out with the addition of Traditions, and not to be read or received without the Expositions of the Church; for what kind of a Prophet or Teacher is that, who hath neither re∣veal'd to us all that it was necessary for us to know, nor clearly explain'd what he has reveal'd?
And as to his second, his Priestly Office, by which he was to sacrifice and interceed for us, how is that affronted by their frequent Sacrifices of the Mass, which they assert to be true, proper, propitiatory Sacrifices for the sins and wants of the Dead, and of the Living; and by those multitudes of Intercessors, the Virgin Mary, and other Saints, whom they join with, or, as one would be tempted by their Practice to judge, preferr before him? Which must necessarily argue that he has neither fully satisfied, nor does effectually inter∣cede for us; for if he had compleatly satisfied, or did suffici∣ently intercede, what need of other Sacrifices, or other In∣tercessors, to be added to him? but if he has not fully satis∣fied, nor does effectually intercede, what sort of a Priest or Mediator will they make of him?
Touching his third, his Kingly Office, by which he was to rule his Church, as Head thereof, and to give Laws to her: We know who he is that assumes to himself the Title of Head of his Church, and who they are that have pretended to a Power of dispensing with his Laws, their own Coun∣cil of Constance will inform us; which tho' it freely confesses that our Saviour and King instituted the Sacrament in both kinds, has yet, with a non obstante to the Institution, decla∣red it should be given to the Laity but in one. And then since they have in all these Instances given too plain proof Page 8that they believe our Lord Jesus has not sufficiently dis∣charged those Offices which belong to the Christ, they must not blame me, but St. John, if I conclude that their Spirits, their Religion, is not of God; for it is his Assertion, that e∣very Spirit that confesses not that Jesus is the Christ, is not of God.
2. The Religion taught and profess'd in the Church of Rome is in a great measure contrary to the Nature and De∣sign of the Christian Religion. As for the Nature of the Christian Religion, it was manly, spiritual, plain, not made up of those Rudiments and beggarly Elements, by which as by a School-Master the Jew, being but a Child, was to be tu∣tor'd and led to Christ; not clothed with that multitude of outward Observances, nor adorn'd with that gaudy Page∣antry and Shew, with which the Mosaical Dispensation was. But now let any one look into the Church of Rome, view 〈…〉•ultiplicity of Ceremonies and Shadows, the variety of 〈…〉, their frequent Crosses, Burnings, Sprinklings, &c.〈…〉•ord, how their Religion is almost wholly made of onew and Pageantry; and let him tell me whether the out∣ward Circumstances have not eaten up the inward Sub∣stance, and whether the Complaint may not justly be ap∣ply'd to them, that the Yoke of Jewish Ceremonies was more tolerable than theirs?
And then for the Design of the Christian Religion, which was to advance Vertue and Piety, to make Men truly good, and to lead them to Happiness by the Paths of Zeal and sincere Holiness; how well the tendency of that Religion answers those ends, we need look no farther to be informed, than into their Doctrines of Penance, Indulgences, Purgatory, &c. which must necessarily encourage Men to be wicked? For why should a Man fear to indulge himself in all manner of sinful Enjoyments, when he has no more to do to obtain an Absolution, than to confess himself to a Priest, and be sorry that he has exposed himself to Sufferings? At worst, it is but Page 9giving some of his Money for his Transgression, and some of the Product of his Estate for the Sin of his Soul; and why should a Man doubt to defer his Repentance and Amend∣ment in present, as long as he has hopes of an after-Game in Purgatory? And then let any judge whether a Religion that abounds with such ungodly Doctrines, can be of God, can lay any claim to that Character which St. Paul gives the Christian Religion in his first Epistle to the Thessalonians, where he calls it a Mystery of Godliness, and whether it has not a juster Title to that other which he gives the corrupt Doctrines of Antichrist, in his second Epistle to the Thessalo∣nians, where he terms them a Mystery of Iniquity.
3. The Church of Rome has bid very fair for the weak'ning those grounds or motives of Credibility, by which the Chri∣stian Religion was attested and recommended to the World. The chief of those grounds or motives of Credibility, were the Miracles which Christ and his Apostles wrought; by these he was as St. Peter speaks, Acts 2. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, pointed out, declared by God to be the Christ, they were the Credentials he brought from Heaven. This is plain from his own frequent urging of them to beget Faith in his Hearers, Believe me for the Works sake; and I have grea∣ter Testimony than that of John, the Works I do, bear witness of me; from the Effects they had upon many that became his Converts, who seeing the Works that Jesus did, believed on him; and from the Testimony of his very Enemies, who when they saw how his Miracles wrought upon the People, cried, if we let him alone, do not something to hinder or dis∣credit these Works of his, all Men will believe on him; and therefore they endeavour'd to possess the People, that he did them by the assistance of Beelzebub the Prince of Devils: So that it is clear the Miracles which Christ wrought, were a main Me∣thod which he used to affert the Truth and Divinity of his Doctrine, and gain Proselytes to his Religion.Page 10
And 'tis no less clear, that nothing can tend more to blast the Reputation, or weaken the Authority of these Mira∣cles, than a Society of Christians receiving with these multi∣tudes of other Miracles, which are false, or at best, suspected.
Now to make good the Fact in this Charge against the Church of Rome, I appeal not only to those little piae Fraudes, which if we will believe Eye-witnesses, are to this time made use of to amuse the Ignorant, and impose upon the Credulous; but to those strange Miracles which have been seriously urged to establish or justifie some of their Doctrines and Worship, as Purgatory, Invocation of Saints, Worship of Images, and Relicts, &c. and solemnly own'd in their Pub∣lick Service; few of which are so attested as to gain Credit from any unbiass'd and thinking Man, and of some they themselves have been ashamed: 'Tis easie to see what Ad∣vantage the Romanist has hereby given the Deist, what an Argument ad hominem he has furnished him with. Indeed a Protestant may fairly and truly reply to it, that there is no just arguing from the Falshood of these Romish Miracles a∣gainst the Truth of the Christian, as I could easily shew had I time, and were it my present husiness; but here is too plain and plausible a Pretence given to the Enemies of our Holy Religion, to be over look'd or neglected by them: And however we may in Charity believe that Church did not design, it may be foresee the Consequences of such a Con∣duct; yet since she has eventally contributed to the weak∣ning of the Force of the Christian Miracles, and that by pretending false ones of her own, she has come too near to another Character of Antichrist, whose coming was foretold to be, after the working of Satan, with all Power, and Signs, and lying Wonders.
4. Lastly, The Religion of the Church of Rome is suppor∣ted and spread by the methods quite opposite to those by which the Christian Religion was propagated, and the di∣ctates Page 11of Morality and Nature. The Methods by which the Christian Religion was propagated were, like the Au∣thor of it, meek and gentle, charitable and loving: The first Planters of it water'd it with no other Blood but their own: The Gospel had no consuming Heats, but kindly cherishing Warmths; the Preachers of it did not make Converts with Sword and Pistol, but by conclusive Argu∣ments, and moving Perswasions; they did not enlighten Mens Understandings with Fire and Fagot, but with bright and evident Reason. Our Lord severely rebuked those Disciples, who, out of zeal to their Master, whom the Samaritans would not receive, would after the Example of Elijah have called for Fire from Heaven upon them, with ye know not what Spirit ye are of; not of mine, not of the Gospel Temper. What Spirits then are they of, that fetch Fire not from Heaven but Hell, to destroy not Samaritans but Chri∣stians; and that not for refusing to receive Christ, but his aspiring Adversary, that is rivalling and justling him out of his Throne; who, being of a much more furious Spirit than Elijah, would have sent the King, Lords, and whole representative Body of this Nation, as he went in a fiery Chariot, but not to Heaven, but as they must believe of them being Hereticks, to Hell; who, for the propagation of their Religion, can put a Corban upon the most sacred Duties Men owe to their several Relations, disturb Socie∣ties, unhinge Governments, ruin Families and Kingdoms, form hellish Plots, set up merciless Inquisitions, encourage bloody Massacres, make Converts by Plunders, Rapes, Pri∣sons, Galleys, Gibbets, and unheard of Torments, to which Death would be preferable. Blessed Jesu! thou meek, gentle Lamb of God! thou that didst never strive nor cry, but wert all Love and Compassion even to thy very Ene∣mies, dost thou own these Proceedings, or these wretched Murtherers of thy Saints and Servants, who have so dipped Page 12thy Coat in the Blood, not of wild Beasts, but thy dear Martyrs, that it can scarcely be known to be Joseph's Coat? No, sure∣ly, they have a nearer Relation to the Woman described in the 17th. of Revel. who was arrayed in Purple and Scarlet colour, whose Garments were tinged with the Gore, and who was drunk with the Blood of the Saints, and with the Blood of the Martyrs of Jesus.
But it is time to divert from this ungrateful, though ne∣cessary Task, to take my leave of these Persons, and apply my self to you. From the Particulars which I have very briefly toucht upon, time not permitting me to enlarge, it does but too plainly appear, that the Religion of the Church of Rome cannot bear the Tryal of the Text, that it is not of God.
By way of Inference then.
1. What a just Aversion should this give us to it, and at what a Distance should it keep us from it? Can we, without Resentment, behold that Church, with bold and daring Doctrines, affronting our Blessed Messias, and reflect∣ing upon him, as not having made good that Character, by sufficiently discharging the Offices belonging to it, as we observed in the first particular?
Can we, without Resentment, behold her changing the Substance of the Religion he taught into Shadows, and contradicting the Designs of it, exposingt he holy Author of it, as if he were a Saviour, to save Men in and not from their Sins, by giving Men too great encouragement to indulge themselves in all loose Conversation, as we observed in the second particular?
Can we, without Resentment, behold her shaking the Grounds upon which he asserted the Divinity of it, and furnishing the Enemies of it with Arguments against it, as we observed in the third particular?Page 13
Can we, without Resentment, behold her Persecuting, Banishing, Tormenting, Killing our Brethren, as in the fourth particular?
How long, Lord, holy and true, dost not thou avenge the Blood of thy Saints?
But let not our Resentments carry us to take any Re∣venge our selves, to any of those Practices which we so justly condemn in them: God forbid that any of their Pro∣vocations, even their late base and notorious Misrepresen∣tations of their Treatment in Protestant Countries, should ever prevail with us to change our Christian Conduct to∣wards them; or that any of them should suffer in Person or Estate meerly upon the account of their Religion.
No; may we rather be in the State of our Suffering Bre∣thren, than in the Condition of their Persecutors; we are assured, that Blessed are they that are persecuted for Righteous∣ness sake, but read of no blessing for those that persecute.
Let us overcome their evil with good, and as we have op∣portunity return to those of that Religion all kind and Christian Offices, for their Persecutions and despiteful Usage of those of ours; and for their Anathema's and Curses, Blessings and Prayers to our merciful God, That he would bring into the way of truth all such as have erred and are de∣ceived; That to those of them that see not the Errors and Dangers they are in, he would vouchsafe Light to discover them to them; and to those that are sensible of them, the Honesty and Courage to acknowledge their Conviction, and come out of that Communion.
Yet sure it is no breach of Charity to be upon the defen∣sive, to guard our selves against their Attempts; for the Civil Power to check the Boldness of their numerous Priests in this Town, and restrain them from that Liberty they take to invade in many Instances our Ministers Office; and on all Occasions to attempt the perverting of their People, or Page 14for us, who minister in holy Things, to arm our Hearers against their Seduction.
And no other Weapon do we desire, or need we to put into their hands, than the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, which, if rightly applied, will make them proof against all their Assaults; for since by that Word it appears, that their Religion is not of God, what Methods of allurement or terror can be of force to draw or drive those to it, who make that Word their Rule?
What Allurement can be presented, that that Question of our Saviour, Matt. 11.26. will not answer, What shall a Man be profited if he shall gain the whole World, and lose his own Soul?
What Terrors and Affrightments can be offer'd that his Promise in the 19th. of this Gospel, ver. 29. will not sup∣port Man under; Every one that hath forsaken Houses, or Brethren, or Sisters, or Father, or Mother, or Wife, or Children, or Lands, for my Name's sake, shall receive an hundred-fold, and inherit everlasting life?
I shall conclude this Head with the Words of a Romish Writer in the late Reign; which, though used by him in ri∣dicule, shall be applied by me in very good earnest; That the Martyrs recorded by Fox, that past the fiery Tryal in Q. Mary's Days, and I will add all others that shall suffer the like upon the same Account, had, and shall have, a glorious Cause on't; and I doubt not, as he continues, but the Crowns of Glory which attend such in Heaven, are not inferior to those which they enjoy'd under Decius and Dioclesian.
2. What Obligations of gratitude do we lye under to our most gracious God, for not only raising up our holy Re∣formers, who cast off that insupportable Yoke, which neither they nor their Fathers were able to bear, rescued this Church from the tyranny of the Bishop of Rome, and purged it from the Idolatry and Superstition of that Church; but has also Page 15preserved it hitherto from being again corrupted and brought into Bondage, has defended the House swept and garnished, notwithstanding all his Atempts, from the return of the evil Spirit.
Whoever reflects upon the Strength and Riches of the Church of Rome, the Number of her Members, her Interest with, or rather Authority over too many of the Princes of Christendom, whom she has made drunk with the Wine of her Fornication, and bewitcht with her Philters, to lay their Heads in her Lap, and give up their Power to her.
How her Principles will give her leave to do any Evil, that so great a Good may come of it, as extending her Ty∣ranny, and bringing heretical Nations into subjection to her.
How she truly looks upon this Church to be the greatest Obstacle in her way, that hinders her extirpating the Nor∣thern Heresy.
How often, being thus provided with Power and Prin∣ciple, and strong Inclination to destroy this Church, she has attempted it every Reign since the Reformation.
Whoever reflects upon all this, and adds, that we have not always been so strictly upon our Guard against her as we ought to have been; but have always had a treacherous Party within us, ready to betray us to her, must acknow∣it to be Of the Lord's mercy that we have not been long since consumed by them; and that, If the Lord himself had not been on our side, when Men conspired and rose up against us, they had swallowed us up quick when they were so wrathfully displeased at us: And how ought we then to add, Praised be the Lord, who has not given us over as a Prey unto their Teeth.
How should we say of this Day in particular, That this is the Day which the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it: How memorable ought is to be to us, as I hope it will be to our latest Posterity, on which God has twice Page 16appeared so wonderfully for us; once in the timely and strange Discovery of the Powder Plot in King James the First's Time; and again, in that great Deliverance from the no less dangerous Designs of the same Enemies in the Reign of King James the Second, which I must date from this Day, on which the happy Instrument of it Landed in this Kingdom; of which Deliverance I would not desire to raise any one's grateful Sense higher, than in proportion to those Apprehensions of our danger; which however some are willing to forget now, every thinking Man had then.
Adored be the Majesty of Heaven, who has so often commanded Deliverance for us, blasted the Designs and Attempts of our Enemies, that had evil will to our Sion, and not yet suffered them to devour Jacob, or lay waste his dwelling place.
3. How ready and willing should we be to comply with, and pursue these Methods, which will effectually secure us against their Attempts for the future? There is a re∣markable Prophecy in the Mss. of a great Antiquary of our own, That Popery should decay about the Year 1500, and be re∣stored about 1700, and that most likely by means of our Divi∣sions, which threaten the Reformation, &c.
What credit soever this Prediction may deserve, as to the Thing it foretells, the Restitution of Popery, and the Time it prefixes for it, yet the Methods by which it says it will most likely be brought about, are so reasonable and probable, That, I think, without pretending to the Spirit of Prophecy, a Man may venture to say, that if ever Po∣pery (humanly speaking) comes in upon us, it must be at those Breaches which we our selves make.
'Tis known who they are that first caused, and are still somenting our unhappy Divisions; and sure we have been Page 17long enough Tools in their Hands, for the working their Ends, and our own Ruin.
Whoever looks into Campanella•'s Treatise of the Spanish Monarchy, the Scheme he has there drawn, for the subject∣ing of this Nation and Church to the Power of Spain, and Tyranny of Rome, will find that the Method he proposes are the embroiling of Scotland, the dividing of England, and the instigating the Bishops and Calvinists, as he calls them, against one another; and whoever compares this Project with the Practices of Rome, in relation to us, which our Chronicles or Memories may inform us of, will be sa∣tisfied that the latter have been an exact Comment upon the former.
But this Maxim, Divide & Impera, they might have lear∣ned from the old Romans; would to God we could learn from them one Principle too, which Nature taught them, and Revelation has more forcibly recommended to us, that of a publick Spirit, and a hearty Concern for the publick Welfare, which would beat down and triumph over all little private Interests, and private Piques, and dispose and engage us to that Peace and Union, both Civil and Eccle∣siastical, which would be under God our securest Guard against all the Designs and Attacks of our Enemies.
As to the former; would we lay aside our Passions for a while, and suffer our cooler Reason to advise, it would tell us, That a Kingdom divided against it self is brought to desolation, that every particular must suffer in the publick Destruction.
That in our Case 'tis evident to a Domonstration, That if ever our Enemies prevail over us, there is no quarter to be expected by any; that even those who shall have ser∣ved them most faithfully, by being unfaithful to their Country, cannot look for better Treatment than what they will have highly deserved.Page 18
That it is the height of Phrensy and Madness, for the gratifying an angry, or serving a covetous Passion; for the reaking our Spleen against any we dislike at the Helm, or for the promoting a private mistaken Interest of our own, to contribute to the sinking of that Vessel on which we our selves are embarqued, and must with it go down to the Bottom.
And as to the other, Union in Religious Affairs; I would, in the Spirit of Meekness, desire such as scruple, fixed and constant Communion with our Church, for a time calmly to lay aside their Prejudices, and to suppose that it is pos∣sible for them to have mistaken, or been misled; and therefore to resolve to examine Matters carefully them∣selves, not to take Things upon trust, or think it a suffi∣cient Reason for their Separation from us, that they have been educated another way.
Let them impartially consider, Whether the established Church be not the only Communion in which there is any likelihood, or indeed possibility, for us generally to unite against the common Enemy: Whether she did not appear to be the only Bulwark against Popery in the late times of Danger and Tryal: Whether her Members did not bravely defend the Protestant Cause, when some that that had reflected upon them, as Popishly affected, did not venture to appear publickly in vindication of it: Whether they did not boldly oppose the Methods that were then used to introduce Popery, while the others did too easily comply with them.
Let them consider, Whether there be any Dangers they can run by joyning with this Church, which can balance that apparent one, which the whole Protestant Interest is in, by their Division from her.
Let them examin her as nicely as they please; let them bring her to the Test, she refuses not, she has no Reason Page 19to be afraid of it, she can bear the Test of the Text: Let them try whether she be of God, or not; Let them examine her by his Word, and see if she wants any thing to make her a true Church; or abounds with any Thing that may make her a corrupt one: Let them try if she has not Bishops and Pastors duly commission'd for their respective Offices; if the whole Doctrine of Christianity be not profess'd and taught in her, if the Sacraments of Christ's Institution be not administred and received, and if she have not a publick Worship for us to offer up our joint Homage and Prayers to God in.
Let them try whether she suffers those that Minister in Holy Things to be Masters of Mens Faith and Consciences, or to exercise any Superiority more than the Holy Ghost, who has made them Overseers, has committed to them; whether she allows them to deprive their Flocks of the sincere Milk of the Word, and to feed them with lying Legends instead of it; whether she does not require them to preach the Gospel, to be instant in season, and out of season, and to do the work of Evan∣gelists, that they make full proof of their Ministry.
Let them try whether she corrupts her Faith by receiving humane Traditions into it, or Articles destructive of true Piety; whether she teaches any Doctrines that may encou∣rage Men to sin, in hopes of pardon upon easie Terms, or to defer their Repentance in present, in prospect of any after-Game; or any but such as lay the most forcible Obligations upon all to live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present World.
Let them try whether she adds to, or diminishes from Christ's Institutions; whether she makes any thing to be a Sacrament which he has not made so, or mutilates and halves any that he has.
Let them try whether she veils her Worship in a strange Tongue, which the Ignorant cannot say Amen to; whether she choaks it with Ceremony and Shew, or makes it consist Page 20in external frivolous Observances, and not in weighty sub∣stantial Acts of Devotion.
Let them try whether she divides her Service betwixt God and the Creature, and does not confine it to him alone to whom it is due.
In short, let them try whether there be any Term of Com∣munion which she imposes upon her Members, either as to Belief or Practice, which can be proved to be sinful by the Scriptures; and if they can find nothing enjoin'd by her which can make it a sin to communicate with her, let them examine whether it be not a sin to divide from her?
These things let them examine with that impartiality and sincerity, that becomes Men that are truly conscientious and afraid of offending God; (they that are such will be as fear∣ful of sinning on one hand as on the other) and then we may hope that we may go up together to the House of God, and with one heart, and one mouth, glorifie him in the great Congregation.
But after all, if any cannot satisfie all their Scruples, at least let them unite as far as they can, whereunto they have at∣tained, let them walk by the same Rule with us, and mind the same things; and for those Particulars wherein they shall be differently minded, let them maintain a Spirit of Christian Charity towards us, not censuring us, not endeavouring to possess others with their Scruples, or to harden themselves in them, but disposing themselves to receive and submit to a Conviction when it shall be offered; and may God, in his due time, reveal even those things unto them.
I am sure this which I have been now pressing upon them, is no more than what the Protestant Interest, not only in this Kingdom but all over Europe, calls for from them.
As for us who have the happiness to be Members of this Church, let us walk inoffensively and charitably towards those that are yet without, pitying and praying for them, bear∣ing with, condescending as far as we may to their Infir∣mities, Page 21and endeavouring to restore them in the Spirit of Meek∣ness.
Let all bitterness, and clamour, and evil speaking, be far from us: Let us labour to work upon their Affections by all In∣stances of Love and Kindness, and upon their Understandings by good Reason and Argument.
Let all of us consider that we are Brethren, have one God for our Father, own one Lord Jesus Christ, profess the same Reform'd Religion as to substance, why then should circum∣stances hinder us but that we unite together for our com∣mon defence against our common Enemies?
But if we would effectually secure our selves against them, we must further engage God on our side: He has frequently delivered, and hitherto preserved us from them; but how should we expect he should go on to do so, unless we live like a People saved by the Lord, and in some measure an∣swer the Ends for which he has spared us.
He has wonderfully secured to us a Reform'd Church and Religion, but surely he thereby calls upon us to adorn that Holy Religion with reform'd Lives; A Religion free from those Corruptions in Doctrine and Worship which that of Rome labours under, but certainly he with good reason ex∣pects that we also should be free from their Corruptions in Life and Manners; A Church pure in all her Administra∣tions, but sure at the same time he requires us to be pure and holy in all manner of Conversation.
Labour we then after Peace and Holiness, after Union with one another, by Love and Charity, and with our God, by Repentance and Newness of Life.
Let there be no other Strife among us, but who shall be most zealous in promoting the Glory of God, and the Publick Good: Let us consider one another to provoke unto Love, and unto good Works, not forsuking the assembling of our selves together, but endeavouring to keep the Ʋnity of the Spirit in the bond of Peace.Page 22
And may the God of Patience and Consolation grant us to be •ike minded, according to Christ Jesus, may his Peace rule in our hearts, conquering and subduing all Malice and Envy, all Prejudice and Partiality, all private Interest and corrupt De∣signs, and whatever may hinder us from godly Union and Concord; inclining us to be kind and tender-hearted one towards another, and disposing us to lay aside all Disputes among our selves about lesser Matters, and to contend earnestly for the Faith that was once delivered to the Saints.
If thus our Jerusalem were as a City that is at unity in it self, if the Tribes went up together to worship to the House of the Lord, if we heartily join'd in praying and labouring for the Peace thereof, she would be terrible to her Enemies as an Army with Banners.
If there were among us a Spirit of Reformation, of Sin∣cerity and Honesty, of true Holiness, and the Fear of the Lord, we might hope to invite him to dwell among us, and to rejoice over us to do us good.
We might then reasonably expect that he will go on to defend us from the destruction that wasteth at noon-day, and from the evil that walketh in darkness, from all the open Attempts and secret Plots of our Enemies; that he will continue to us the Blessings of our great Deliverance, and preserve that sacred Life in which they are so much concern'd; that he will bless him, and us in him, with a long and prosperous Reign over us, till he shall have so establish'd the thing he hath wrought for us by him, that the happiness of our present ex∣cellent Constitution in Church and State, may be transmit∣ted to our Childrens children, and all the Generations that are yet for to come.