To the Right Honourable the House of LORDS: AND The Honourable House of COMMONS, Assem∣bled in PARLIAMENT: AND To the Learned and Religious DIVINES called by them, and now assembled to consult about matters of RELIGION.
Right honourable and most worthy,
OVt of your vigilant care for the common good you have found out a way amidst your many distractions to convene an Assembly of grave and learned Di∣vines, with whom you might advise concerning the settling of Doctrine, Worship, and Church Government.
You saw cause which might move you so to doe in respect; first, of those licentious spirits, who took occa∣sion, as to vent their own fancies, so to attempt any thing in matter of Doctrine and Worship; secondly, in that for want of an established Church-government, we were and still are in danger to fall from a Tyranny to an Anarchy; thirdly, In that evill minded men, seeing no effectuall Page [unnumbered]meanes provided to suppresse such variety of Sects as did start up, were ready to censure you, as the fautors of such opinions. What you have done, hath been done with much prudence in that you have given way for the ad∣mittance of Divines of different Iudgements to be cho∣sen, to whom a liberty is not denied to plead every one for his own party: And not only so, but you have fur∣ther embodied divers of your worthy Ones of both Houses, as Members of our Assembly: by which priviledge, we have many and singular advantages. When this Assembly, for the greater part, was by your summons gathered toge∣ther, you were pleased, out of a due consideration of the weighty affaires to be transacted, to appoint a solemne Fast to be kept (chiefly) by the Members of the Assembly: And when you had so done, your pleasure was to lay your command upon my selfe, though the unworthiest of many, to bee employed in the service of that day. Surely, it was not but that you had your choyce of many other most able and worthy Divines, only it was your pleasure, that dayes and multitudes of years should speak.*
The Grace I chose as most meet to treat of, was that of Zeale, as conversant about Gods House; first, for that it doth directly oppose Lukewarmnesse, the most dange∣rous and yet the Epidemicall disease of our time; secondly, for that no one grace doth more promote the work of Reformation, (as will appeare in the subsequent discourse;) thirdly, for that among all other ornaments, there is none that doth more beautifie a Reformer in the eyes of God and man. * There are many creatures, said the wise man, that are comely in there going; but none so comely as a Zealous Reformer. Accordingly then (you Parliamentary Page [unnumbered]Worthies) goe on and prosper, cease not to carry on your Work, which is Gods work, with Zeale and Courage. It is Perseverance alone that will both crowne you, and perfect your endeavours. What encouragement have you had, in that the Lord, amidst your greatest dangers, hath beene mightily seene in the protection of your persons! No wea∣pons of warre that have beene formed against you, have prospered; the tongues of men that have risen up in judgement against you, hath he condemned. Hath not the same God assisted you to doe many glorious works, whereby his name hath beene honoured, his people unspeakably benefitted? How hath the Lord kept you together untill this day! notwithstanding the endeavours of all the De∣vills in hell, and wicked men on earth, to scatter you, to divide you! What a foundation hath the Lord laid of your continuance together till your work be done! Surely, it is for that hee hath yet some great things for you to doe. If you (which God forbid) shall faint, and out of by respects withdraw your selves from the service, bee sure God without you will accomplish his work, but tremble to think what will become of you and yours. How would it bee a thing much to be bewailed that you (Noble and brave spirited Patriots; who have hitherto borne the heat of the day, the brunt of the businesse, so farre de∣nied your selves, as to runne the hazard of all that you are, have, or might expect) should now by failing in your last act, loose your crown, forfeit your reward from God and man!
And now for you (my Reverend and much Ho∣noured Brethren in the common work of the Ministry,) Page [unnumbered]Who can but blesse the Lord, for that degree of his spi∣rit, (no doubt, it is the effect, as of your own prayers in the day of your solemn humiliation, so of many of the prayers of his people) which hee hath showred down upon you! Not only do your learned debates, your exact and judicious Scripture-discussions, your Scholasticall disputes, the dis∣covery many of you have made of your exact knowledge in Antiquity, shew that God is among you, as he that hath fitted you for the work: but further your sweet ami∣cable converse, your following of the truth in love, your differences in judgement carried on without alienation of affection, doe not they all say that God is with you? God forbid, that either the Devill, or wicked men, should break asunder that sweet bond of Amity, wherewith God hath lincked you in one. Bee incouraged then (dearely beloved in the Lord) from one whom God was pleased, though the unworthiest among you, yet to make his mouth to you, to goe on as carried along with a Spirit of indefatigable zeale in the pursuance of the work you are called unto. Behold it is soule-work, and that of neerest concernment, that God hath put into your hands to bee transacted. Is not your work a Counter-work to that great and long plotted designe, whereby Popery should have been re-advanced, Gods saving truth been suppressed, his worship substantially corrupted, and ut∣terly destroyed? Is it not a work of the largest extent, as that which concernes all other Reformed Churches, whose happinesse or misery will bee involved in ours? Yea, ages to come will either blesse or curse you, as you shall follow or neglect the opportunity.Page [unnumbered]
And now for my self, be pleased to take notice that my strength and voice failing me by reason of my weaknesse, I have made bold to make a supply of that which at the time of the delivery I could not inlarge: Further, (this being a fixed rule to me, * That Gods Word should in preaching have the pre∣eminence,) wonder not, that I alledge Authors, in such cases wherein the al•egation of them does not prejudice Scripture: As first, when an Historicall truth is to be made good; for though the Scriptures do only determine, Quid verum, quid falsum, What is true and what false; yet for the infor∣mation of our selves, Quid novum, quid antiquum, we must have recourse to the writings of men: Secondly, if God himselfe, when hee would shame men for their evils, sends them to learne from the creatures, * why may not wee send men living in the dayes of light to learn of darker times? Thirdly, when being to reprove the evils of the time, for removing of prejudice, wee deliver our reproofes rather in the words of Antiquity than in our own. Facilè patimur reprehensores qui remotiori feculo vixêre. So the Papists did embrace many things in the writings of the fathers as Catholike, which they con∣demned in Luther as Hereticall.
And now what remaines but that wee all humbly pray the God of all truth and peace, who alone is able to facilitate all difficulties, to direct and guide you, Ho∣nourable Senatours, to poure upon you that spirit of wise∣dome and courage, that you may goe with a settled resolu∣tion, never to give over, till you have established truth and peace in our borders; and the same God magnifie his power in our weaknesse, and multiply the gifts of his Page [unnumbered]Spirit upon us, whom you have been pleased to call toge∣ther, to advise with in the great affaires of the Church, that we may so discharge our duties, that God may have glory, and his people the good that they expect and pray for, and your and all our enemies may have their faces covered with shame,
So prayes Your servant in the Lord Oliver Bowles.