A brotherly and free Epistle to the
patrons and friends of pretended
Liberty of Conscience.
By SAMUEL RUTHERFURD Professor of Divinity in
the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.
IT is a question not easily determined whether the Church of Christ suffer more by brethren, her mother’s sons Edom within, or by strangers, Babel without her walls: It is undeniable that thousands of godly people are carried away to Familism, Antinomianism and love to follow strangers because people are floods and seas, and teachers sit upon the waters as fair or stormy and rough winds; I have been long silent, but when I did see not long ago privileges of state, if in a feather violated must be judged bloody and unexpiable by sacrifice, or any way else, and heresies, fundamental blasphemies, foul inventions of men, are thought to be zealous errors, godly fancies, things of the mind not to be spoken against, except M. Tho. Edwards, or any other who out of zeal to God, cry against the New altar, would be charged to sin against the Holy Ghost, therefore I dare not but give a Testimony for the truth. Silence may be a washing of the hands with Pilate, saying, I am innocent of the blood of lost souls, but it washeth away the guilt with waters of ink and blood. And except my heart deceive me, give me leave to borrow an expression of Job, If I lift up my hand, or a bloody pen against the truly godly, or have a pick at holiness, Let mine arm fall from my shoulder blade, and mine arm be broken from the bone. [Job 31.21,22.]
I am not to oil any man’s head who hath been exorbitant in his superpluses or overlashings against personal infirmities of the true godly, as if godly and elect men, and elect Angels were terms reciprocal (I would the Antinomians had not biased too many with such an opinion) for Judas the Traitor, for ought we read, was orthodox in point of doctrine, and Peter not so in playing Satan’s part to dissuade Christ from suffering, and in complying with the masters of out-dated ceremonies, nor should cumin and mint divide us, though there may be a little pearl of truth in these, and I would not willingly side against lower and under-ground truths, that Christ will own, though little and small. But sure it is not Christian, but Ass’s patience, to open the bosom and the heart to lodge Familists, Antinomians, Arminians, Arians, and what not under the notion of the godly party, and to send to hell others sometime judged the godly party, because of two innocent and harmless relations of Scottish and Presbyterial: As touching the former M. Henry Burton [Conformities deformity. p. 17.] is pleased to call the Scots the vilest of men, and if I mistake him not [Preface to the L. Major of London.] partakers with murderers, with rebels, with Traitors, Incendiaries, underminers of Parliament and City, that they may reign, whose violent and fraudulent practices proclaim them to be not friends, but such as in whom to put the least confidence, is to trust in the reed of Egypt, whereon if a man lean, it will pierce him through. And [pages 20,23.] speaking of the General Assembly of the Kirk of Scotland, he saith, Thus in reference to the spirituality or the Church there seems to be set up in their National Assembly the like Supremacy, which the Pope himself claimeth over Kings, States, Kingdoms, Common-wealths, and M. Rutherfurd in his government of the Church of Scotland tells us that though none in this Grand Assembly have decisive voices, save only Commissioners, yet the acts of the Assembly oblige all the absents not present in all their members, and that because, what is by these Commissioners determined and concluded is matter necessary and agreeable to God’s word, as being no less infallible than those decisions of the Apostles, Acts 15.—And whosoever shall not conform in all things to the constitutions of that General Kirk Assembly, when once the horn is blown, then ipso facto imprisonment, confiscation of Goods, banishment, and what not?—What? to set up in the Church an Oracle of infallibility and such a Supremacy, as no true bred English Christian can interpret for other than Antichristian Tyranny—and thereby shall our fundamental Laws, privileges, and power of Parliaments, liberties, and freedom of all true bred English subjects be brought under perpetual bondage—worse than that either of Egypt or Babylon. But that we may speak for our selves. I answer to all these, in the following considerations, without recrimination.
1. If any truths of Christ because holden by the Church of Scotland leave off to be truth than shall we say, these that by divine providence (which casts a measuring line of acres and lands to every Nation) have obtained the warmer side of the Sun in South Britain, and a fatter soil have the more excellent Christ, as if Gods grew in gardens, as they said they did in Egypt.[1.] But as Religion should not wear the shape, fashions & hew of men, so sure England and Scotland differ non specie & natura sed accidentibus meris [not in species & nature but in mere accidents], a little vicinity to, or distance from the Sun is a poor difference, when we come up to our father’s house the higher Jerusalem (which he who bringeth many children to glory, I pray, and hope shall do) I trust we shall not stand in a vicinity to, or a distance from his face who sits on the throne and the Lamb, as English and Scottish, and though Scotland be resembled to Egypt, as M. Burton says, we have not pierced through our brethren, but are the causes under God far more now, why M. Burton and our brethren breath in English air, than when we came first into this land, for M. Burton said himself, to some of our number then, we was then the Kingdom of Judah, helping the Ten tribes their brethren against the Taskmasters of Egypt, and spoilers of Babylon, and our General Assembly in Scotland was then beautiful as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem, terrible as an army with banners. But now the tables are so far turned, that our General Assembly is a Papal throne above Kings and Kesars [Cæsars], and we ourselves are worse than Egypt or Babylon. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? My brethren, these things ought not so to be. But what although Scotland by Egypt and Assyria, Esaias saith, ch. 19.18. And in that day shall five Cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of Canaan and swear by the Lord of hosts. And though we be Assyria (as M. Burton the title page saith) we like that better of the same Prophet, verse 24, In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt, and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land, whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands. But I am afraid, that Familists, Antinomians, Arminians, Socinians, whom M. Burton calleth the Saints, shall not be found the only true Israel of God.
2. We pass not to be judged the vilest of men by M. Burton, or partakers with murderers, with rebels, with Traitors, Incendiaries, underminers of the English Parliament, Antichristian and Papal Tyrannizers over the bodies, estates, consciences of the free born English, under the notion of Presbyterians.
For 1. M. Burton is but a man, and speaketh thus from the flesh, and hath three times changed his mind or profession touching Church-government and other points of tolerating Arminians, Socinians, and the like against which he gave a testimony in his Apology and other writings, he that changeth thrice, may change four times and ten times.
But if we should stand or fall by the Testimony of men, I should rather name Apostolic Calvin, renowned Beza, godly and learned Cartwright, Prophetical Brightman, with other worthies, M. Dod, M. Hildersam, M. Dearing, M. Greenham, M. Perkins, M. Baynes, M. Pemble, D. Ammes, D. Sybs, D. Preston. I speak not of many eminent lights in Scotland, who now shine in another firmament, of M. Knox, M. Bruce, M. Welch, and many the like worthies, if these who are asleep in the Lord, were now living, they would deny you, and your Independency, and separation, your Schisms, Atheistical and Epicurean tenets of toleration of all Sects, Religions, false ways, your Antinomians, Familists, Socinians, Arminians, Arians, Antitrinitarians, Antiscripturians, Seekers, Anabaptists; all which I cannot but judge to be yours, because you are so far from writing against them, or denying them, that in your books, to write against them, is to persecute the Saints of the most high, few or not any of your way wrote ever one jot against them. But you spend all the blood and gall of your pen on Presbyterians, on the Scots, the City of London, the Assembly of Divines, on Sion College, as against Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Antichrist, tyrants over the conscience, persecutors of the Saints, such as would enslave England. You plead for a toleration to them all, they are the Saints, the godly party, the only Anointed ones. I deny not but many carnal men may, and do crowd in amongst Presbyterians, but are they owned by them? plead they for them? do they book them in their accounts as the godly party? But the Presbyterians spread a thousand lies of them: yea to say no more of them then what their Printed books speak, which were never disclaimed by them. They cannot be lies when the Authors and Patrons who plead for toleration to them, are not only silent, but reply and duply in Press and Pulpit for the vindication of their innocency.
But if Antitoleration may go pari passu equal foot and pace with Antinomianism, Arminianism and Socinianism, and such like heresies, and false ways as consistent with godliness and Saintship; why should Presbyterians be blotted out of the Kalender of Saints? and ought ye not also to restore them with the spirit of meekness? to oppress, imprison, fine and confine them, to decourt them out of places, judicatures, offices, societies, is no persecution, why should devouring pens be sharped and inked with gall and venom of Asps against them only as Antichristian, Popish, Tyrannical, profane, bloody persecutors, the sons of Pope and Prelate? you are more debtors to them for your lives, free-holds, estates, victories, free sitting Parliaments, peace, plenty, freedom from grievous Taskmasters of Egypt, ceremonies, will-worship and other toys, which the godliest rather tolerated than approved, than to any sects in England. Your Antinomians, Familists, Socinians, Antiscripturists, the Gideons, and Saviours of the land of whom the maids in their dance sing, they have slain their thousands, and their ten thousands, when both Kingdoms were in the post way toward Babylon were as men buried, and in the congregation of the dead, and as still as salt, we heard nothing then, not one sound, nor the least still whisper of the wars of the Lamb, of a two edged sword in the hands of the Saints. M. Del then to some purpose, as a man in the streets might have said of men of these times, what he most unjustly and calumniously saith of the Reverent Assembly of Divines, if they approve not his Familism. They are the enemies of the truth of Christ, and (he hopes) the last prop of Antichrist in the Kingdom. This is the bloodiest tongue-persecution ever I read of, to lay such a charge on men godlier than himself, because they cannot, and dare not command their conscience to come up to the new light of H. Nicholas, and such blasphemers: yea at that time there were faint and cold counsels and encouragements given to their brethren for the prosecuting the innocent and harmless defensive wars of the Lamb, Gideon’s sword was then among all the sects of England no better than an oaten reed; not one sect then durst face the field against the Antichrist, they were like silly Doves and fainting Does, if I may have leave in humility to say it, desiring that Christ lose not, when Instruments gain, motions owe much to the first mover. And posterity will know to the second coming of Christ, from whence came the first stirring of the wheels of Christ’s Chariot in Britain, and who first sounded the retreat to return back again from Babylon. Partial and lying stories cannot prevail against a truth known to all the Christian world; Europe and the Sun are witnesses of lies, and partial reports made on the contrary. The sects were innocent men of convening of a free Parliament.
Now the worst representation ye can put on our judgment of Antitoleration, is that we maintain that opinion, not out of weakness and want of light as the Saints do all their opinions, which you plead ought to be tolerated, but out of wickedness, and that we would with high hand force upon the consciences of others our opinions, which is the most direful persecution ever was heard of.
But brethren, why do ye break windows in our consciences to charge us with wickedness, in our opinion of Antitoleration, and will have all your own errors (if they be errors) to be veiled with mere weakness, measure out to us some scruples and grains of charity, if you would have pounds and talents of meekness, and forbearance, weighed out to your selves. You will not buy and take in with a little weight, and sell and give out with a great measure? Double weights are abomination to the Lord. Give us but quarter measure, and charge us not with persecution, and slaughtering of the Saints, because we judge a toleration to all, even to such as will not come up to the unity of one faith, and confession thereof, that is, Socinians, Anabaptists, fleshly Familists & Antinomians, Arians, Arminians, Antiscripturians, Enthusiasts, Seekers, and the like, to be right down Atheism, we conceive the godly Magistrate does not persecute the Saints, if he draw the sword against adulteries, murderers, rapes, robberies, even in Saints, and we hope you, at least some of you are of the same mind with us: now spiritual whoredom, perverting of the right ways of the Lord, Socinianism, professed and taught to others, even in Saints, to us is worse and more deserves the sword than adulteries: for false teachers are evil doers, and so to be punished with the sword, Rom. 13.3,4. and called evil workers, Phil. 3.2. such as rub the pest of their evil deeds upon others, and therefore not to be received into any Christian society, house, or Army, 2 John 10. such as the Holy Ghost said, under the Kingdom of the Messiah when the Spirit was to be poured on the family of David, and the fountain opened, should be thrust through, wounded and killed, because they prophecy lies in the name of the Lord, Zach. 13.1-6; 12.10. all the godly think of Antitoleration as a truth of God, they are persuaded of in conscience must stand, when the hay and stubble of Liberty of conscience, Antinomianism, and the like, shall be consumed with fire, so do the godly in the Churches of N. England think with us: refute this opinion of ours, and of these whom you esteem to be Saint-murderers with reasonings, and not railing, nicknaming us Antichristians, Babylonish Lords over the conscience, to shame us out of this opinion which is the truth of Christ with the odious and bloody charge of persecutors of the Saints, sons of Babel, Tyrants over the consciences of the godly; this is the heaviest club-law on the conscience, and the saddest tongue-persecution we know, else the sharp arrows of the mighty, the coals and firebrands of Juniper, with which M. Burtons writings are salted against his sometimes dear brethren the Presbyterians, the sometime Saviours and Redeemers of the oppressed and crushed Saints, are not persecution, contrary to Psalm 52.1-4. Psalm 120.2-4. Jobs friends persecuted him, Job 19.20. sure they lifted neither sword, nor spear against him; whether our Brethren did counsel in private and public to send an Army against their brethren of Scotland to destroy them, who in the sincerity of their hearts did sacrifice their lives for their safety, peace, liberties, and Religion, or no, I leave to their own consciences.
As for the forcing of our opinions upon the consciences of any; It is a calumny refuted by our practice, and whole deportment since we came hither. Our witness is in heaven, it was not in our thoughts or intentions to obtrude by the sword and force of Arms, any Church-government at all on our brethren in England, but we conceive that Master Burton, and the renowned Kingdom of England, are engaged by the oath of God to receive such a Government as is most agreeable to the word of God, and the example of the best reformed Churches, and are obliged sincerely, really, and constantly, through the grace of God to endeavour in their several places and callings, the preservation of the Reformed Religion in the Church of Scotland, in doctrine, worship, discipline, and government against our common enemy. Now if M. Burton have sworn the covenant, he hath engaged himself in the first Article thereof really, sincerely, and constantly, to endeavour in his calling the preservation of the like supremacy which the Pope himself claimeth over Kings, Princes, States, Kingdoms, commonwealths, the preservation of infallible General Assemblies on earth, of that spirit of Antichristian pride and tyranny, of Rebellion and Treason in lifting up a Papal throne above Kings and Kesars, above Kingdoms and Commonwealths, to the enslaving of the whole Nation (of England) in their souls, bodies, and estates,—whereby the fundamental Laws, privileges, and power of Parliaments, liberties, and freedom of all true bred English subjects, are brought under perpetual bondage, worse than that either of Egypt or Babylon. [Confor. defor. pag. 20,21.] Now I desire Burton to awake, and all our brethren of the way of Liberty of conscience in England, who I suppose have sworn the Covenant sincerely and really, if a Preacher of the Gospel, and Saints who preach, cry, print, that the government of the Church of Scotland, and of all the Reformed Churches, is Antichristian, Tyrannical, rebellious, treasonable, destructive to the liberties, laws and freedom of the English subjects, worse than that of Egypt or Babylon, do in their callings of preaching the Gospel professing the truth sincerely, really and constantly endeavour the preservation of the government and discipline of the Church of Scotland? O but they do endeavour its preservation only in their callings against the common enemy. What is this, but they swear to defend Antichrist in the Presbyterial government against Prelates, that is, against Antichrist in Prelacy, and yet black it as Antichristian: and how? in your several callings: Now M. Burton and our brethrens callings is to preach and write for the truth, then must their calling bear them to preach and print to the Prelatical party, and to Cavaliers, that the government of the Church of Scotland is lawful, Apostolic, and of Divine right, otherwise they cannot in their several callings defend it against the common enemy, (for it is not Pastors calling, nor I suppose, a lawful calling in our brethrens mind to defend it with the sword) and must the preaching and printing to Antinomians, Socinians, Arminians, to Saints hold forth an Antichristian, a worse than Egyptian and Babylonish government, exclaim against it as undefendable, and yet defend it against the common enemy the Prelates?
But whether our Brethren did swear the Covenant with a purpose to keep it or no; and whether they have not endeavoured not to preserve but to destroy and extirpate the Reformed Religion, doctrine, worship, discipline, and government in Scotland, and persecuted us because we assert it, or if more can be done than the proposals of the Army and the Parliament hitherto have done (if they do no more) to promote all heresies and errors contrary to sound doctrine, we must remit in silence to the only final determination of the most High. They are stronger than we; but I am confident the earth shall not cover the blood that is shed in Scotland, but it shall stand before the Lord against such of the Kingdom of England (for many generations) who engaged their faithful and well-minded brethren in a blind cause to establish abominable Liberty of conscience, Familism, Antinomianism, Socinianism, Prelacy, Popery, &c. And the righteous Judge of the world knows we never intended any such thing; but we might have believed the words of King Charles, who told us they minded not Religion in that war. But now when we are wasted, ruined, dispeopled, we are not only forsaken by these (whose safety, peace, religion and happiness, we minded with loss of our own lives—I with many others dare appeal to the Sovereign Judge of all the earth, in the sincerity of our hearts) but almost utterly destroyed, yet divers of the Sectaries profess they had rather fight against the Scots as against Turks. O Earth cover not our blood, arise O Judge of the world, and plead the cause of the oppressed, let all the Nations about, and the Reformed Churches, and all the generations not yet born, bear witness to this oppression and violence. For if such as did swear the Covenant, which was the only thing that engaged us, had said ingenuously at that time, “we swear to endeavour the extirpation of Popery, Prelacy, Superstition, Heresy, Schism, Profaneness, and whatsoever shall be found to be contrary to sound doctrine—lest we partake in other men’s sin. But in the mean time we purpose to plead, print, write, preach, and in our places endeavour both in Parliament, and out of it; in the Assembly, and out of it; in our Ministry and Christian walking for toleration and brotherly forbearance of Popery, Prelacy, Superstition, Heresy, separation and gathering of Churches out of true Churches; judging the Presbyterians of Scotland (whom by the oath of God they are to defend) the Schismatics, and indulgence by Law and otherwise to be yielded to Papists, Arminians, Socinians, Arians, Familists, Antinomians, Seekers, Antiscripturists, Enthusiasts, &c. but none to Presbyterians at all: we should have blessed your right down ingenuity, yet have our Brethren really so sworn, and so practiced.
But (saith Burton) the Scots are the vilest of men, p. 17. partakers with murderers, with rebels, with Traitors, Incendiaries, underminers of Parliament and City, &c. Words of butter and oil, soft and sweet, would sooner convince us, and arguments of iron and brass, that are strong, hard, invincible, should more edify and persuade. The truth is fire, but not passion; Burton speaks fire, not always truth. These are not the words of such as war under the banner and colours of love, and fight the battles of the Lamb. Passion is a paperwall to a weak cause: your Brethren stood once in your books for talents and pounds; but now for halfpennies, consider where the change is, we was at that time the same you call Presbyterians now, and professed the same to you. Dear brethren, be humble and lowly to your old friends, be not perjured for ill will to us, we shall mourn to God for that wicked revenge, the Covenant will pursue you, and God in it; dally not with God, they shall all be broken and splitted upon the Covenant of God, who labour to destroy it. Now when you have the sword, the purse, the Army, the Parliament for you, insult not over your brethren.
Quem dies vidit veniens superbum
Hunc dies vidit fugiens jacentem
[Which day saw coming the proud
This day saw fleeing the lying
——the highest refused to
stand up long.]
He was but an Atheist and a misinterpreter of providence who said,
Victrix causa diis placuit, sed victa Catoni. [The victorious cause pleased the gods, but vanquished the lower world.]
Success in an evil cause is not happiness, believe it, Heresy when she is heir to her mistress, is a burden that the earth trembles under: ye know Heresies goeth with broad Peacock wings through the Land, and takes in Towns and Castles, but they had good help from Presbyterians, their Antichristian brethren, as they like to call them. Sects are courted, multitudes take hold of the skirt of a sectary nowadays. But the Court is paved with glass, and to you, all the faithful Ministers of Christ are but Antichrist’s Priests.
The white golden breathings of success may blow you asleep, but cannot secure you: your Brethren have been low in Scotland for your cause; I shall be satisfied without recrimination. The Scots are not the vilest of men, they are not partakers with murderers: but I shall only answer that I judge that in England the Lord hath many names, and a fair company that shall stand at the side of Christ as his conquest in the day, when he shall render up the Kingdom to the Father, and that in that renowned Nation, there be men of all ranks, wise, valorous, generous, noble, heroic, faithful, religious, gracious, learned. And I hope to reap more peace in naming England from the choicest part, then M. Burton can find comfort in his passion, in denominating the Scots or their Army from the worst and vilest part; not to deny but there be too much wickedness, and profaneness in both the Nation and Army: yet shall I desire all the Sects whom M. Burton and his brethren would have tolerated, to look at their brethren as men compassed with infirmities, and let these of such, as thus accuse them that are without sin, cast the first stone at them, which were a good way to try, if Antinomians would not arise and stone to death so many as they were able to master, alleging God cannot see such violence and bloodshed to be sin in them: also we profess, to be orthodox and a strong Presbyterian is but a poor old rotten Coach to carry men to heaven, there is more required of these who shall be heirs of salvation, but this cannot justly impeach the Presbyterian way of Antichristianism.
And wherein is the General Assembly of Scotland, Papal, and set up above Kings and Kesars, and may bring Presbyterians under a premunire? Had M. Burton any arguments to make out this sad charge against his brethren, but the stolen and reprinted, not reasons, but railings of Prelates, and Oxford opposers of Reformation, and particularly out of a lying Treatise called Issachers burden, the father of which was the excommunicated Apostate Jo. Maxwel, sometimes pretended Bishop of Rosse? for M. Burton hath nothing in this passionate Treatise of his own, but is an Echo in grammar and matter to Whitegift, Bancroft, to lying Spotswood, to the flattering timeserving Balaams, who to gratify King James, and Bishop Laud, and these of the Prelatical gang, objected the same with more nerves and blood against the Scottish-Geneva discipline, than M. Burton does. That book of discipline was the Prelates eye-sore, and Mr. Burton must bring the weapons of his indignation out of the Armory of Babylon against Presbyterians.
I love not to compare men with men; only good Reader, pardon me to name that Apostolic, heavenly, and Prophetical man of God, Mr. John Welch, a Pastor of our Church, who for this same very cause was first condemned to death, and then the mercy of King James changed the sentence to him and other six faithful and heroic witnesses of Christ, and Ministers of the Gospel, into banishment to death: this worthy servant of Christ preached everyday, & in France, in his Exile, converted many souls; the King of France gave the same command concerning him, when the Town he preached in, was sacked and taken (as the man of God foretold them publicly it should be razed,) that the King of Babylon gave touching Jeremiah, do him no harm, see well to him, his person, wife, children and servants; from the godly witnesses of his life I have heard say, of every twenty-four hours, he gave eight to prayer, except when the public necessities of his calling did call him to preach, visit, exhort in season and out of season; he spent many nights in prayer to God, interceding for the sufferers for Christ in Scotland, England, France; when he was in prison and condemned, he and his brethren as traitors, he hath these words as a full answer to the Prelatical railings against the meeting of a General Assembly at Aberdene, and all the Erastian party and to M. H. Burtons present words, & his objecting of a poor premunire by the Laws of England against Christ Jesus his free Kingdom: Who am I that he should have called me, and made me a Minister of the glad tidings of the Gospel of salvation, these sixteen years already, and now last of all to be a sufferer for his cause and Kingdom?
To witness that good confession, that Jesus Christ is the King of Saints, and that his Kirk is a most free Kingdom; yea as free as any Kingdom under heaven, not only to convocate, hold and keep her meetings, Conventions and Assemblies, but also to judge of all her affairs in all her meetings and conventions amongst her members and subjects.
These two points, first that Christ is the head of his Kirk; secondly, that she is free in her government from all other jurisdiction except Christ’s. These two points are the special cause of our imprisonment, being now condemned as traitors for the maintenance thereof; we being waiting with joyfulness to give the last testimony of our blood in confirmation thereof, if it would please our God to be so favourable as to honour us with that dignity: yea I do affirm that these two points above written, and all other things that belong to Christ’s Crown, Scepter, and Kingdom, are not subject, nor cannot be, to any other Authority, but to his own altogether, so that I would be most glad to be offered up upon the sacrifice of so glorious a truth. The guilt of our blood shall not only lie upon the Prince, but also upon our own brethren, Bishops, Counsellors and Commissioners: It is they, even they, that have stirred up our Prince (King James of great Britain) against us, we must therefore lay the blame and burden of our blood upon them, especially however the rest above written be also partakers with them of their sins. And as the rest of our brethren, who either by silence approve, or by crying peace, peace, strengthen the arm of the wicked, that they cannot return, in the mean time make the hearts of the righteous sad, they shall all in like manner be guilty of our blood, and of high Treason against the King of Kings, the Lord Jesus Christ his Crown and Kingdom. [A letter of M. John Welsh. An. 1605.]
Now I but propone to the real conscience of M. Burton that speaketh in his dialogue [Confor. Defor.]: 1. If there be not more of Christ in this one letter (if he will read it all) than in all the virulent pieces he hath written against his brethren, who when he suffered, did intercede for him, and lie in the ashes, and behaved themselves as one at his mother’s grave.
2. Whether or not, he and his brethren who did plead against the Assembly of Divines in favours of an Erastian party, do not stir up both Prince and Parliament in both Kingdoms in this very cause, to bring on a National guilt on the land to enslave the free Kingdom of Christ to the powers of the world, and whether in this do they not build the sepulchers of the Prophets, and bring upon their own heads the blood of the slain witnesses of Christ?
3. Whether a distinction will help them at the bar of God’s justice, that they sided in hatred of the Presbyterial government, and of their brethren of Scotland, with Erastians, in opposing truths of Christ in these and the major proposition, against the light of their own conscience, in laying the headship of the Church of Christ on the shoulder of King and Parliament, and then keep in their mind, a mental reserve of the Presbyterial Church only?
Now they knew that the question between Erastians and us, was, whether there be a power of government distinct from the power of the Civil Magistrate in the Church of Christ: but they strike in with Erastus against Christ to reach a blow to the Presbyterians; but since that time God hath brought down the sects lower and lower in the hearts of the godly in this Kingdom, and I hope shall lay their honour in the dust; In the same manner M. Burton saith, the giving of this power to the General Assembly above the Parliament, incurs a premunire against the Laws of England, so saith the Erastian. But M. Burton knows that is not the question, and that his congregational way makes no bones of a far higher premunire.
For 1. The Parliament hath nothing to do at all in Church matters, more to judge of them, or to punish heretics than if they had no souls. For M. Burton saith, p. 14. Confor. Deform. if it be true that Christ hath left such a power to any state then to a Popish state. But I deny your consequence. Christ hath given to no state a power to enact wicked Laws, or to ratify wicked Popish constitutions, ergo, he hath not given to a Christian state a power cumulative to bring their glory to the N. Jerusalem, and to be Christian nurse-fathers to see the bride of Christ suck healthsome milk, it follows just as this doth. God hath not given Kings any power to butcher and destroy the sheep of Christ, ergo he hath not given to Kings power to rule and govern a Christian people in equity and justice.
2. Our Brethren put a stranger premunire on us. For would they speak out the mysteries and bottom of Independency, they acknowledge not this Parliament in any other sense than they would do a Parliament of Pagans or heathen, for there be no Christian Magistrate at all to them, but such as are members of their Congregational Church, that is, such as they conceive to be regenerated; and had they a world at their own will, then not the twentieth man of this present Parliament, nor Judge, nor Justice of peace could be chosen Magistrates, if the congregations of England, were all of the Independent stamp.
But you may say I slander them, they pray for the Parliament as a Parliament, and obey Justices of peace and the King as lawful Magistrates.
I answer, it’s true; so would they pray for Nero, Domitian, and heathen Justices of peace, sent by them as lawful Magistrates, but not as Christian Magistrates, nor such as they would choose to reign over them, because in their apprehension of them, they are no less without the Church than heathens; then let the world be judge of their candor in contending for a power of Premunires, and in voting that heathen Justices of peace and unchristian Parliaments should be above a free General Assembly of England, but they could not endure either Magistrates or Parliaments, or the gang they are now in England, to be above one of their Congregations, though consisting of seven.
3. They are jealous of any supremacy of General Assemblies. But say the Congregations of England were all Independent, they would not baptize the children of the twentieth Parliament man, Judge and Justice of peace, nor of the King or most professors in England as they are now in England, nor admit them or their wives or children to the Ordinances, because they are no Church-members, and no better than Ethiopians or Indians to them; and if Parliament or Justices of peace should take on them to judge or punish them for this; I believe, M. Burton and our brethren, would tell them, these that are without the Church, as you are, have no power to judge the Church of Christ, are to judge of Church administrations, or to whom Ordinances should be dispensed, or not dispensed. Judge, if this be not a supremacy given to seven above the Parliament, and Judges of the Kingdom, which M. Burton so much condemned in a National Assembly of all the godly Ministers and Elders in England.
But its a fault [to him] that the General Assembly hath power to make rules according to the word of God, appertaining to the good behaviour of all the members of the Kirk, and abrogate Statutes and Ordinances about Ecclesiastical matters that are found noisome and unprofitable without the Magistrate: So did the Assembly at Jerusalem appoint such rules as should bind Cæsar, so he had been a good Constantine, and though they cannot abrogate Ordinances and Acts of Parliament by making or unmaking Acts of Parliament (our book of discipline never meant that, as M. Burton, ignorant of the discipline of our Church, saith) yet as the Ministers of Christ, they may juridically declare, yea and preach authoritatively that Acts of Parliament establishing the Mass, are unlawful and godless laws, commanding Idolatry, and denounce a woe against unjust decrees and laws, as Esay 10.1. else when M. Burton preacheth against such laws, he then must incur a premunire, before God, and set himself in a Papal throne above the Parliament, and enslave the English Subjects; for he preaches that Statutes of Parliament that establish Mass, and the burning of heretics, that is, Protestants, are to be abrogated, as well as the General Assembly of Scotland doth; and so M. Burton must set himself above Kings and Kesars.
And when a Synod or Church convened in the name of Christ binds on earth according to the word of God, Matth. 18. there is no lawful appeal from them to any Civil judicature; not because they are not men, but because they are a Court acting in the name of Christ according to his word, and Christ with them binds or looses in heaven, yea there is no reclamation to be made, nor any appeal from one faithful Pastor speaking in the name and authority of Christ, according to that, He that heareth you, heareth me, he that despiseth you, despiseth me, and there is no danger to be feared either of Papal tyranny, or Parliamentary breach, or premunire.
But M. Rutherford saith, The decisive voices of a General Assembly binds the absent as well as present.
Answer. So saith the Holy Ghost, the Churches of Antioch, Syria, and Silicia, were bound to receive and obey the decrees of the Synod so soon as they hear them, Acts 15.22,23,26-28; Acts 16.4; Acts 21.25, as they that despise the doctrine of faithful Pastors dead and buried, despise Christ: so saith that learned and godly man M. Cotton, and all the Churches of N. England, who to M. Burton must set up a Papal throne, as well as the Church of Scotland, if this be Popery; for what need Churches absent (saith Cotton, Keys of the Kingdom p. 26.) send to a Synod for light and direction in ways of truth and peace, if they be resolved aforehand how far they will go? and if they be not obliged to submit thereunto in the Lord.
M. Burton saith further, p. 21. that M. Rutherfurd saith ch. 20.312. Gov. Chur. Scot. The acts of the Assembly oblige all the absents, not present in all their members, and that because whatsoever is by these Commissioners determined and concluded is matter necessary and agreeable to God’s word, as being no less infallible than those decisions of the Apostles, Acts 15.
Answer. I dare appeal to the conscience of M. Burton well informed, and to all the godly, if they conceive any such thing to be my judgment to assert with Bellarmine & Papists, the infallibility of any Counsels, now on earth: yea if he had read, what I have said, ch. 14. p. 209,212. I prove that the Apostles acted not in that Synod as Apostles, but as ordinary Elders, and Doct. Whittaker and M. Cotton say the same, though M. Tho. Goodwin and M. Nye, contradict both M. Cotton, and Whittaker, and Calvin, and all both Papists and Protestants, yea and Independents, who acknowledge Acts 15. to be a pattern for Synods to the end of the world. But the Independents now in England, and Anabaptists side with Bridgesius, Grotius, Socinians, and Arminians, the enemies of Synods; and say that Synod, Acts 15, was an extraordinary Apostolic meeting that obligeth not the Churches now. The Seekers say, there shall never be Synods till Apostles arise again, which they say without all word of Scripture.
2. I speak not one word page 312, of that purpose, but page 322. I speak, and M. Burton both detracteth from, and addeth to, and perverteth my words, which I impute not to malice, as others do, but to his ignorance of the Discipline of the Church of Scotland; my words, ch. 20. page 322. are these: The acts of the Assembly oblige all the absents not present in all their members, as Acts 23.24,28; Acts 15; 16.4; ch. 21.25, not because of the authority of the Church, but because of the matter which is necessary and agreeable to God’s word. Besides that M. Burton leaves out all the Scriptures I cite because he could not answer them, he leaves out these words, not because of the authority of the Church, which cleareth my sense, and directly excludeth all infallible authority of Church or Assembly. For I hold they oblige the consciences not for men, or the Authority of the Church, or because, so saith the Church, as Papists make the testimony of the Church the formal object of our faith, and the Church to be as infallible as the Scripture, which I expressly deny, and law the rationem credendi, all the weight, burden, and warrant of the obligation of conscience, that the decrees or constitutions of an Assembly can lay on, not on the fallible and weak authority of the Church or men, but on the matter of the decrees, because or in so far as it is the necessary matter of the word, or agreeable to the word of God.
Now may not the Reader consider this logic. The Gospel that M. Burton preacheth obligeth all his flock absent or present (for their presence maketh it not to be Gospel) and that not because of the authority of M. Burton, who is but a sinful man, but because of the Gospel he preacheth is necessary truth and agreeable to the Scriptures, ergo, whatsoever M. Burton preacheth is no less infallible than the decisions of the Apostles. The Antecedent is most true, and more I do not say; but the consequence is most blasphemous and false, yet are all the lawful Pastors in Britain to preach the sound word of God, after the example of the Prophets & the Apostles, ergo, whatever all the faithful Pastors in Britain preach, is as infallible as the decisions of the Apostles; the Antecedent I can own as a truth of God, but the consequence is M. Burtons.
2. He adds to my words, and saith, M. Rutherfurd tells us—whatsoever is by these Commissioners determined and concluded, is matter necessary and agreeable to the word of God. This I say not, I never thought whatsoever they say, is matter necessary: find these words under my hand, and I will crave M. Burton and all the Church of England pardon. But I know General Assemblies can reel and err, Every man is a liar. I never say, whatsoever is concluded by them is necessary. I say, what is determined by them is de jure, that is, ought to be agreeable to God’s word, for I shew that General Assemblies have their warrant from Acts 15, and my meaning and words are clear. These are M. Burtons words, not mine, What is determined by them, binds not as, or because its from men, but as agreeable to the word of God. M. Burton expones my is as he pleaseth best, and hath need to crave God pardon for that he rashly and ignorantly (I say no more) fathers untruths on his innocent brother, who writeth and speaketh honourably and respectively of him; for let logic of conscience be judge, if this be a good consequence: What a General Assembly determines, bindeth no farther but as it is necessary, and as it is agreeable to the word, ergo, Whatsoever a General Assembly determines is necessary, and is agreeable to the word of God, it followeth in no sort at all, yea the just contrary followeth, ergo, if it be not necessary, and in so far as it is not agreeable to the word, it obligeth neither these that are present nor absent, and is not infallible at all.
4. I may say without any just ground of offending either M. Burton or any of his way, that write against Synods, that had they rightly understood the state of the question between Protestants and Papists they would not have so inconsiderately clashed with the word of God, and all the Reformed Churches in Christendom, for we deny,
1. All absolute, unlimited, and infallible authority, to Synods. Papists press that Counsels cannot err, and in so doing they make them Lords and Masters of the conscience of the people of God: and Independents and others charging this upon us, cannot before the bar of the alone King and head of the Church, bear out their charge, and the like unlimited and boundless power of Civil and politic ratifying and passing in penal laws, what the Church or Synods determine we deny to any Magistrate on earth. M. Burton 9-12 [Confor. defor.], will not, and cannot make good his bitter, virulent and unchristian challenge he lays on his innocent brethren, who may, and I hope do in humility and confidence claim a Saintship and interest in the Lord Jesus as well as he; That they with Diotrephes, exalt mans power above all that is called God, are Antichrists, Apostates from the truth, do carry on the mystery of iniquity, this he also must answer for, as a slander laid on all our Reformers, Calvin, Luther, Beza, yea on Reynold, Whittaker, Perkins, &c. all the Protestant Churches, all the host of Protestant Divines.
But, 2. All the power and authority of Synods we conceive to be ministerial, not Lordly, limited, regulated by the only word of God in the scripture, and in matters circumstantial, of order, and decency, as time, place, persons (observe I say not in mystical Religions, Ceremonies, called, by unjustly, indifferent, or the like) by the law of nature, rules of piety, charity, and Christian prudency, for the edification of our brethren, and the glory of God, and a lawful Synod, we judge hath power ministerial from Christ, to pass constitutions dogmata decrees, Acts 16.4. (Laws I do not call them, because Christ is the only Law-giver, King, and head of his Church, his Officers are only servants, and Heralds to hold forth his Laws) and these constitutions condemning Arminianism, Socinianism, Familism, Antinomianism, &c. as sometimes Mr. Burton being but one single Pastor by word and writ condemned them; and that in that name, and authority of Christ (as he then said) and commanding in the Lord that they consent to the form of sound doctrine, rebuking all that subvert souls, and trouble the Churches, Acts 15.23,24, are to be obeyed, and the conscience submitted to them, not absolutely, not for the sole will, and mere authority of the Heralds, as if they were infallible, not with blind obedience, not without reclamation, or appeal, if they be either contrary or beside the scriptures, but conditionally in so far as they are agreeable to the Word of God, even as the single Independent Congregation is to be heard in things lawful under pain of excommunication, as our brethren say from Matth. 18. and yet, Matth. 18, sets not up Antichrist, and caries not on the Mystery of iniquity. And we teach that the Magistrate, as the Minister of God, after due examination according to the word, is obliged to add his civil sanction to these constitutions, and to guard the Ministers with his Sword; and to punish Arminians, Socinians, Familists, &c. as Mr. Burton cried against them of old, and appealed to the supreme Magistrate, the Kings Majesty against them: though we judge the Magistrates sword in all this, keeps such a distance from the conscience, that this is so far from being a State Government of the Church, that these constitutions have no power at all over the conscience from the sword, and are alike binding, and were, Acts 15, Though the Magistrate were not on earth, and though he should oppose them, as he did then. And we think Arminians, Socinians, and Familists, who deny all power of Synod, less or more, except only, Sir, if it please you this is Gods mind, if not, Sir, you are where you was, be a Skeptic to Christ’s second coming, and change your faith every New Moon, we have nothing to say, but fare ye well, are the Antichrists in this, not we.
Nor dare we conceal our fear of the sad judgments of God, and his highest displeasure for the breach of the Covenant of God in this Land.
And that, First, since so many victories, and great deliverances bring forth no other fruit, but persecution of the Godly and faithful Ministers of Christ, and more virulent hating of, and railing against the Church and Kingdom of Scotland, these that are most zealous for Reformation, and most conscientious and sincere for the Covenant, and settling of Religion: Above, and beyond all that Prelates or those of their way ever attempted. Yea, and the crushing, and ruining of these that have wrought a greater salvation for the Kingdom than all the sectaries in England, when such are persecuted, impeached, imprisoned, cast out of the Parliament and Kingdom for no cause (if the bottom of the business were examined) but for their adhering to the Presbyterial Government, Covenant of God, their brethren of Scotland, opposing (as the Covenant of God obligeth them) the Heresies and Blasphemies abounding in this Land, when vile and naughty men, because they side with sectaries, such as blaspheme God, deny the deity of the holy Ghost, not only go free, but Familists, Antinomians, Libertines who join in these blasphemies, Arminians & Socinians, the old Courteours and darlings of the late Prelates and popish affected, Seekers, Anabaptists, Separatists, and Independents of another stamp than these of New England, Covenant breakers and the like, are not only connived at against the Covenant, but sit in Parliament, are advanced to highest places in the State and Army, and such Familists as Mr. Del and Saltmarsh are allowed and authorized to be ordinary preachers to the Army. But know (I beseech you) that the Lord will discern between him that feareth an oath, and feareth not an oath.
2. God must reckon with the Land because the Ambassadors of Jesus Christ are despised, hated, and persecuted.
3. The City that have born the weight and burden of the charge of the War, is badly requited, to say no more.
4. When cursed Pamphlets, uncharitable railings against the Covenant, Reformation, Reformed Religion, the godliest in the Parliament, the Church and Kingdom of Scotland, the Assembly of Divines, the razing of the foundation stones and principles of the Gospel, pass Press and Pulpit uncontrolled, whereas even Papists (as Calvin said against Libertines) have not dared, in terminis, to remove such marchstones of Christ Jesus as do disterminate Christian Religion from Judaism, Paganism, Turkism, may not the Lord say to England and to the Parliament, that which he said to the people of old, Jerem. 2.9. Therefore I will yet plead with you, saith the Lord, and with your children’s children will I plead. 10. For pass over the Isles of Chittim and see and send to Kedar, and consider diligently, and see if there be such a thing. 11. Hath a Nation changed their Gods, which are yet no Gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit. 12. Bee astonished O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate. And Esa. 29.21. They make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of nought.
5. And what can we answer to all the Sister-Churches in Christendom, who have heard of so many Declarations, Letters, Ordinances, Remonstrances, promises before God, the world, and the elect Angels, that we came to this Reverend Assembly as willing to join with the professed desires and invitation of the honourable Houses of Parliament to remove not only government by Archbishops, but likewise to settle such a government as is most agreeable to the word of God, most apt to procure and preserve the peace of the Church at home, and a happy union with the Church of Scotland, and other Reformed Churches abroad, in doctrine, worship, government, and one form of Catechism, and to establish the same by Law.[2.] To oppose heresies, errors, schisms, enjoin the National Covenant by Ordinance of Parliament to be taken by all; when now indulgence and more is yielded to all heresies, blasphemies, and sects, and an army pleading for Liberty of conscience to all Religions, Popery not excepted, is owned and authorized by the Houses, whereas other humble and modest petitioners for a government according to the word of God, against the Erastian and unwarrantable government set up but in quarters and pieces, of which the Lord may say, Offer it now to your Governor, will he be pleased with it and accept your persons? have been checked and dismissed without an answer till this day, yea, and censured as guilty of breach of privilege of Parliament, as it faired with the Reverend Assembly of Divines, for a submissive and humble supplication, for the Royal Prerogative of Jesus Christ in his own free Courts and Assemblies.
6. Shall not the Reformed Churches abroad who have hitherto prayed for the sad calamities of the Church of England, when they hear (as they must hear in languages known to them) that the Parliaments of both Kingdoms have made their humble address to the King’s Majesty, and the Ambassadors of Christ, and the godly have lain at the footstool of the throne of Grace, soliciting the Lord, in whose hands is the heart of the King, that he would graciously incline his spirit to take the National Covenant, for the extirpation of Popery, Prelacy, superstition, heresy, schism, profaneness, and whatsoever shall be found contrary to sound doctrine. Wonder and be astonished, when it is reported that the Parliament of England joined in the same Covenant with us! have not only, not pressed the same on the Subjects, which they desire of their Prince, but suffer satires, railings, reproaches to be cast upon the Covenant of God in Press, and Pulpit, highly promote those that are greatest enemies thereof, and countenance an Army, who labour with all their power to render the heart of the Prince averse to the Covenant, and the sincere promoters thereof, and do require the open toleration (not the extirpation) of all heresies, blasphemies, yea of the Kingdom and throne of Antichrist, against which we Covenanted, and to take off all Laws for pressing the Covenant, that so it may be buried in England, though many of the Army, and Independents, Antinomians, Socinians, and others, did solemnly with their hands lifted up to the most High, engage themselves to the Lord, never to suffer themselves directly or indirectly to be divided and withdrawn from that blessed union and conjunction: So that what the Kingdom and Church of Scotland, and the most faithful adherers to the Covenant, labour to build in public, with this underhand dealing is destroyed and casten down.
I do not say this of all, I am confident there be divers in the Honourable Houses, many in the Church and Kingdom, who abhor from their souls the ways of heresy, superstition, schism, Popery, profaneness, treachery, wicked policy, which never did so much prevail in this land as since we did swear to endeavour the extirpation of all these, and that though this Covenant were buried, it must rise from the dead again, and that the Lord must make his Jerusalem in Britain a cup of trembling, a burdensome stone, a hearth of fire among the wood, a torch of fire in a sheaf [Zech. 12.], against all her enemies, both Babylon without, and Edom within, that no weapon formed against them shall prosper, that every tongue that rise against them in judgment shall be condemned, and that the Lord shall clear the judgments of his chosen ones that they shall not finally be seduced, and shall bring the blind by a way that they know not, and return to a people of a poor language that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, and serve him with one shoulder, and the Lord may be one, and his name one, and his going forth, in the three Kingdoms, may be as the morning. O that the Lord who hath founded Zion, and hath chosen Jerusalem would do this in his time.
[1.] Juvanalis. O sanctas Gentes quibus hoc nascuntur in hortis numina—
[2.] Returne from the Parliament of England to the Commissioners of the Generall Assembly. an. 1642.
Ordinance of Parl. an. 1643. Feb. 9.
Declarat. of both Kingdoms. an. 1643.
Declaration to the General Assembly of the Kirke of Scotland. an. 1642.
Declarat. to the Parl. of Scotland. 1642.
Declarat. given to the Commissioners. August. 1643.
Ordinance 1645. Oct. 20.
Ordinance 1645. Mar. 14.
Ordinance 1645. Nov. 9.
Ordinance 1646. Feb. 4.
Ordinan. for Oxford. 1647. May 1.
Treaties between the Kingdoms. Ordin. 1643. Sep. 18.
Declarat. of the House of Com. an. 1646. April 18.
Letters of the Assembly to the Reformed Churches. an. 1644.
Ordin. 1644. Iun 3.