HITHERTO the Negative Heads of Sufferings have been vindicated: now follow the Positive, founded upon Positive duties, for doing, and not denying, and not promising & engaging to relinquish which, many have suffered severely. The first both in order of nature and of time, that which was first and last, and most frequently, most constantly, most universally, and most signally sealed by Sufferings, was that which is the clearest of all, being in some respect the Testimony of all Ages, and which clears all the rest, being the Rise & Root, Cause & Occasion of all the rest; to wit, the Necessary duty of hearing the Gospel, & following the pure & powerful faithfully dispensed Ordinances of Christ, banished out of the Churches to private houses, and persecuted out of houses to the Open Fields, and there pursued & opposed, and sought to be suppressed, by all the fury & force, rigour & rage, Cruelty & Craft, policy & power, that ever wicked men, maddened into a Monstrous Malice against the Mediator Christ and the Coming of His Kingdom, could contrive or exert: yet still followed & frequented, owned & adhered to, by the Lovers of Christ & serious seekers of God, even when for the same they were killed all day long, and counted as sheep for the slaughter, and continually oppressed, harassed, hunted, and cruelly handled, dragged to Prisons, banished & sold for slaves, tortured, & Murdered. And after, by their fraudulent favours of ensnaring Indulgences & Indemnities, and a Continued tract of Impositions & Exactions, and many Oaths & Bonds, they had prevailed with many, and even the most part both of Ministers & Professors, to abandon that necessary duty; And even when it was declared Criminal by Act of Parliament, and interdicted under pain of death, to be found at any Field Meetings; they nevertheless persisted in an undaunted endeavour, to keep up the Standard of Christ, in following the Word of the Lord wherever they could have it faithfully preached, though at the greatest of hazards: And so much the more, that it was prosecuted by the rage of enemies, and the reproach & obloquies of pretended friends, that had turned their back on the Testimony, and preferred their own ease & Interests to the cause of Christ; and with the greater fervor, that the Labourers in that Work were few, and like to faint under so many difficulties. What the first Occasion was that constrained them to go to the fields, is declared at length in the Historical Deduction of the Testimony of the Sixth Period; to wit, finding themselves bound in duty, to Testify their Adherence to & Continuance in their Covenanted profession, their Abhorrence of Abjured Prelacy, and their Love & Zeal to keep Christ & His Gospel in the Land; after they had undergone & endured many hazards & hardships, oppressions & persecutions, for Meeting in the houses, where they were so easily attrapped [entrapped], and with such difficulty could escape the hands of these Cruel Men; they were forced to take the Fields, though with the unavoidable inconveniences of all Weathers without a shelter: yet proposing the advantages, both of Conveniency for Meeting in greater Numbers, and of Secrecy in the remote recesses of Wild Moors & Mountains, and of Safety in betaking themselves to inaccessible Natural Strengths, safest either for flight or resistance, And withal having occasion there to give a Testimony for the Reformation with greater freedom. And to this very day, though many have a pretended Liberty to meet in houses, under the security of a Man’s promise whose principle is to keep no faith to Heretics, and under the shelter & shadow of an Antichristian Toleration; yet there is a poor people that are out of the Compass of this favour, whom all these forementioned reasons do yet oblige to keep the fields, that is both for Conveniency, Secrecy, and Safety; they dare not trust those who are still thirsting insatiably after their blood, nor give them such advantages as they are seeking to prey upon them, by shutting themselves within houses; And moreover they take themselves to be called indispensably, in the present Circumstances, to be as public, or more than ever, in their Testimony for the Preached Gospel, even in the open Fields. Now this would be a little cleared: And to essay the same, I would offer first, Some Concessions. Secondly some Postulata or Supposed Grounds. Thirdly some more Special Considerations which will conduce to clear the case.
First, That we may more distinctly understand what is the duty here pleaded for, and what is that which these people Suffer for, here Vindicated; let these Concessions be premised.
1. Now under the Evangelical Dispensation, there is no place more Sacred than another, to which the Worship of God is astricted [restricted], and which He hath chosen for His House & Habitation, whither He will have His people to resort and attend, as under the Legal & Typical Dispensation was ordered: there was a place where the Lord caused His Name to dwell Deut. 12. 5, 11. But now, neither in the Mountain nor at Jerusalem the Father will be Worshipped, but everywhere and anywhere in Spirit & in Truth. John. 4. 21, 23, 24. And the Apostle wills that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath & doubting 1 Tim. 2. 8. We abhor therefore the English & Popish Superstition of Consecrated places, and assert that all are alike in this respect, houses or fields.
2. In the Constitute case of the Church, or whenever it can be obtained, Order, Decency & Conveniency doth require that there be appointed places, sequestrate & appropriate for the Meetings of the Lord’s people, according to that General Rule, Let all things be done decently & in order. 1 Cor. 14. ult. And in that case private Conventicles, set up in a Schismatical Competition with Public Churches, are not to be allowed. But even then, Private Meetings for prayer & conference, are necessary, Lawful, & Laudable. But now the Church is broken by a Crew of Schismatical Intruders, who have occupied the places of Public Assemblies, and thrust out the Lord’s Ministers: It is these we scare at, and not the place.
3. Suppose a Magistrate should interdict & Discharge the public place of Worship, and restrain from the Churches, but leave all other places free to meet in; or if he should prohibit the houses, but leave freedom for the fields; or discharge the fields, and give Liberty in houses; in that case we would not contend for the place out of contempt: though it were duty then to witness against such a Sacrilegious Injury done to the Church, in taking away their Meeting places; yet it were inexpedient to stickle & strive for one Spot, if we might have another: then when only excluded out of a place, and not included or concluded and restricted to other places, nor otherwise robbed of the Churches privileges, we might go to houses when shut out of Churches, and go to fields when shut out of houses, and back again to houses when discharged thence. But this is not our case, for we are either interdicted of all places; or if allowed any, it is under such confinements as are inconsistent with the freedom of the Gospel; and besides, we have to do with one from whom we can take no orders to determine our Meetings; nor can we acknowledge our Liberty to depend on his Authority, or favour, which we cannot own nor trust, nor accept of any Protection from him. Neither is it the place of fields or houses, that we contend for; Nor is it that which he mainly opposes: but it is the freedom of the Gospel faithfully preached, that we are seeking to promote & improve, and he is seeking to suppress. The contest betwixt him & us is the Service of God in the Gospel of His Son, that we profess without owning him for the Liberty of its exercise: And therefore as an Enemy to the Matter & Object of these Religious Exercises, which are the eye-sore of Antichrist, he prosecutes with such rage the manner & Circumstances thereof.
4. Even in this case, when we are persecuted in one place we flee unto another, as the Lord allows & directs Math. 10. 23. And if occasionally we find a house, either public, or a Church, or a private dwelling house that may be safe or convenient, or capacious of the numbers gathered, we think it indifferent to meet there or in the Fields: But in the present circumstances, it is more for the conveniency of the people, and more Congruous for the days Testimony, to keep the Fields in their Meetings, even though it irritate the incensed Enemies. Which that it may appear.
Secondly, I shall offer some Postulata or Hypotheses to be considered, or endeavour to make them good, and infer from them the necessity & expediency of Field Meetings at this time in these circumstances: which consequently vindicate the Sufferings that have been thereupon Stated formerly, and are still continued.
1. It is necessary at all times that Christians should meet together, whether they have Ministers or not, and whether the Magistrate allow it or not. The Authority of God, their necessity, duty, & Interest, makes it indispensable in all cases. It is necessary for their Mutual help, two are better than one for if they fall the one will lift up his fellow, Eccles. 4. 9, 10. It is necessary for their Mutual encouragement in an evil day, to speak often one to another, which the Lord hath promised to take special notice of Mal. 3. 16, It is necessary for cherishing Mutual Love, which is the New Commandment, and the badge of all Christ’s Disciples. John. 13. 34, 35. a principle which they are all taught of God. 1 Thess. 4. 9. It is necessary for nourishing Union to communicate together, in order to their being of one mind & of one mouth, and that they receive one another Rom. 15. 5, 6, 7. 1 Cor. 1. 10. standing fast in one Spirit, striving together for the faith of the Gospel Phil. 1. 27. It is necessary for serving one another in Love Gal. 5. 13. bearing one another’s burdens, & so fulfilling the Law of Christ Gal. 6. 2. submitting to one another Eph. 5. 21. 1 Pet, 5. 5. teaching & admonishing one another Col. 3. 16. comforting one another 1 Thess. 4. ult. edifying one another 1 Thess. 5. 11. exhorting one another Heb. 3. 13. It is necessary for considering one another, & provoking unto love & to good works; And for this end, they must not forsake the assembling of themselves together, as the manner of some is, for that were to sin willfully Heb. 10. 24, 25, 26. Must these things depend on the Magistrate’s Allowance? or can they be done without meeting together in private or public? The same reasons do alike conclude, for the necessity of both. If then there must be Meetings for these ends necessary at all times, then when they cannot do it within door, they must do it without.
2. There is a necessity for Meeting for preaching & hearing the Gospel; the enjoyment whereof hath always been the greatest design & desire of Saints, who could not live without it; therefore they loved the place where the Lord’s Honour dwelt. Psal. 26. 8. This was the one thing they desired of the Lord, and that they would seek after, to behold the beauty of the Lord Psal. 27. 4. for this they panted, and their Soul thirsted Psal. 42. 1, 2. without which every Land is but a thirsty Land, where there is no water, where they cannot see the power & the Glory of God as they have seen it in the Sanctuary Psal. 63. 1, 2. O how amiable are His Tabernacles? one day in His Courts is better than a thousand elsewhere Psal. 84. 1, 10. No gladness to them like that of going to the House of the Lord Psal. 122. 1. A Christian cannot possibly live without Gospel Ordinances, no more than Children can want the breasts, or the poor & needy want water when their tongue faileth for thirst; they are promised it in high places, and in the wilderness, when they can get it nowhere else Isai. 41. 17, 18. There is an innate desire in the Saints after it, as new born babes they desire the sincere milk of the Word 1 Pet. 2. 2. So that any that is offended with them for this, must be offended with them for being Christians, for as such they must have the Gospel cost what is will. It is the greatest desire of the Spouse of Christ, to know where He feeds and where to find the Shepherds tents, where they may rest at noon Cant. 1. 7, 8. And not only in their esteem is it necessary; but in itself, the Church cannot bear the want of it, for where there is no vision the people perish Prov. 29. 18. and when there is no open vision, the Word of the Lord is then very precious 1 Sam. 3. 1. No wonder then that the Lord’s people make such adoe for it, in a famine of it, that they go from sea to sea, to seek it Amos 8. 11, 12. and that they are content to have it at any rate, though with the peril of their lives because of the sword of the Wilderness Lam. 5. 9. Seeing they cannot live without it. Would men be hindered by Law, from seeking their natural food? nay they would fight for it before they wanted it, against any that opposed them. If then they cannot get it with peace, they must have it with trouble: And if they cannot get it in houses, they must have it wherever it is to be found, with freedom, & the favour of God.
3. It is necessary that the Meetings be as public, as they can be with Conveniency & Prudence; yea simple hazard should no more hinder their Publicness & Solemnity, than their being at all. Especially in an evil time, when wickedness is encouraged & established, and conformity thereto pressed, Truth banished, and a Witness for Christ suppressed, Corruption in Doctrine, Worship, Discipline, & Government connived at, countenanced, and advanced, the Word of God is become a reproach, and men have no delight in it, Apostasy is become universal, and both Magistrates & Ministers generally turned promoters of it, which is the true Description of our times: Then the Meetings of the Lord’s people, that endeavour to keep clean Garments, should be more frequent, public, & avowed. The reasons are. 1. Then the Call of God, by His Word & Works, is more clamant, for public & solemn humiliation. in order to avert public imminent judgments and impendent strokes from God. It is not enough to reform ourselves privately & personally, and to keep our selves pure from such Courses by an abstraction & withdrawing from them as is proved Head. 1. (where this is improved as an argument against hearing the Curates) Nor is it enough to admonish, exhort, reprove, & testify against such as are involved in these Courses: But it is necessary, for them that would be approven, to adhere to the Truth, and serve God after the right manner, and to mourn, sigh and cry for all the abominations of the time, so as to get the Mark of Mourners on their foreheads Ezek. 9. 4. and they that do so, will be found on the Mountains like doves in the valleys all of them mourning every one for his iniquity Ezek. 7. 16. and not only to by humbled every family apart, but there must be a great Mourning as the Mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon Zech. 12. 11. to the end. That is a Solemn public Mourning there promised. There must be a gathering themselves together, though a Nation not desired, before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, and the fierce anger of the Lord come upon them, if they would have any possibility of their hiding Zeph. 2. 1, 2, 3. The Trumpet then must be blown in Zion, to sanctify a fast, to call a solemn Assembly, Gather the people, Sanctify the Congregation, Assemble the Elders, Gather the Children—Joel. 2. 15, 16. As was exemplified in Ezra’s time, when there were great Congregations of people assembled publicly, weeping very sore, then there was hope in Israel Ezra. 10. 1, 2. and when that Messenger of the Lord came up from Gilgal to the people of Israel, and reproved them for their Defections & Compliance with the Canaanites, they had such a solemn day of humiliation, that the place of their Meeting got a name from it, they called the name of that place Bochim, that is, Weepers Judg. 2. 4, 5. And when the Ark was at Kirjath-jearim all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord—and they gathered together to Mizpeh and drew water & poured it out before the Lord 2 Sam. 7. 2, 6. I shew before, that there is reason to fear that the sins of a few, especially of Magistrates & Ministers, will bring wrath upon the whole body of the people, as is plain from these Scriptures Levit. 10. 6. Isai. 43. 27, 28. Lam. 4, 13. Mic. 3. 11, 21. shewing the sins of Ministers may procure universal Destruction. And 2 Sam. 24. 25. 2 King. 21. 11. Jer. 15, 4. proving the sins of Magistrates may procure it: And Num. 3. 14, 15. Josh. 22. 17, 18. Demonstrating that the sins of a party of the people, may draw wrath upon the whole. Now the only way the Scripture points out to evite & avert such public judgments, is to make our resentment of these indignities done to our God, our Mourning over them, and our witness against them, as public as the sins are, at least as public as we can get them, by a public pleading for Truth Isai. 59. 4. for the defect whereof He hides His face, and wonders that there is no man, no Intercessor, vers. 16. that is none to plead with God, in behalf of His born down Truths: There must be in order to this, a public seeking of Truth, which if there be any found making conscience of, the Lord makes a gracious overture to pardon the City. Jer. 5. 1. we cannot think there were no mourners in secret there, but there was no public Meeting for it, and public owning the duty of that day: There must be valour for the Truth upon the earth. Jer. 9. 3. a public & resolute owning of Truth: There must be a making up the hedge & standing in the Gap for the Land, that the Lord should not destroy it Ezek. 22. 30. a public Testimony in opposition to defection: There must be a pleading with our Mother Hos. 2. 2. which is spoken to private persons in the plural number Commanding all that would consult their own safety, publicly to condemn the sins of the whole Nation, that they may escape the public punishment thereof, as it is expounded in [Matthew] Pool Synops. Critic. in locum. By this means we must endeavour to avert the wrath & anger of God, which must certainly be expected to go out against the Land, which hath all the procuring causes, all the Symptoms, Prognostics, & Evidences of a Land devoted to destruction, that ever a Land had. If then there must be such Public Mourning, and such Solemn Gathering for it, such public pleading for Truth, Seeking of Truth, valour for Truth, making up the hedge, and pleading with our Mother, there must of Necessity be public Meetings for it: for these things cannot be done in private, but must be done by way of Testimony. Which I make a 2. Reason. The Nature & End of Meeting for Gospel Ordinances is for a public Testimony for Christ and His Truths & Interest, against Sin and all dishonours done to the Son of God. So that the only end, is not only to bring to Christ & build up Souls in Christ, but it is to Testify also for the Glory of Christ, whether Souls be brought in & built up or not. The Preached Gospel is not only the Testimony of Christ 1 Cor, 1. 6. but a Testimony for Christ; in which sense, The Testimony of Jesus is said to be the Spirit of Prophesy. Revel. 19. 10. so called, Durham expounds it, for its bearing Witness to Christ, in which respect Ministers are often called Witnesses. It is also the Testimony of Israel (not only given to Israel, but given by Israel) unto which the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord Ps. 122. 4. Whensoever therefore or howsoever the Testimony of the Church is contradicted, that’s not a Lawful Meeting of the tribes of the Lord. It is also the Testimony of the Preachers for Christ, against them that will not receive them, Mark. 6. 11. And a Witness unto all Nations to whom they preach. Math. 24. 14. And of all the Witnesses that hold it & suffer for it Rev. 6. 9. And the same which is the Word of Christ’s Testimony, is the Word of theirs Rev, 12. 11. by which they overcome, & for which they love not their lives. Wherever then the Gospel is preached, it must be a Testimony: But it cannot be a Testimony, except it be Public, at least as public as it can be, as we find all Christ’s Witnesses were in the Old & New Testaments. 3. The Motive or principle prompting the Lord’s people to a frequenting of Gospel Ordinances, is a public Spirit stirring up to a public Generation Work, whereof this is the Scope, to promote the Kingdom of Christ, and not only to obey the Lord’s Command enjoining the duty, to enjoy the Lord the end thereof, or to edify their own Souls; But to partake in & promote this Great Work of the Day, for the Glory of God and the Churches good. For the Gospel is not only a Banner of Love over His Friends, but Christ’s Standard of war against His Enemies Isai. 59. 19. under which, all that countenance it, are called to list themselves as His Soldiers called, & chosen, & faithful: And it is required of His Soldiers, that they be valiant for the Truth upon the earth, Discovering a Gallant greatness & generosity of a Public Spirit, having their designs & desires not limited to their own interests, even Spiritual, but aiming at no less than Christ’s Public Glory, the Church’s public good, the Saints public Comfort, having a public Concern for all Christ’s Interests, Public Sympathy for all Christ’s Friends, and a public declared Opposition to all Christ’s Enemies: This is a Public Spirit, the true Spirit of all Christ’s zealous Lovers & Votaries: Which, when He is a missing, will prompt them to go about the City, in the streets, and in the broad ways, to seek Him whom their Soul loveth Cant. 3. 2. and not only in their beds, or secret corners, but they must go to the streets, and to the fields, and avow their seeking of Christ, even though the Watchmen should smite them, & the keepers of the walls take their vails from them Cant. 5. Which obliges them not only to take Him in to their own Cottages, and entertain Him in their hearts, and give Him a Throne there, but also to endeavour to enlarge His dwelling, and propagate His Courtly residence through the World, that the Kingdoms of the earth may become the Kingdoms of the Lord; and if they cannot get that done, yet that He may have the Throne in their Mother’s house, and take up His abode in the Church, or Nation they belong to, that there His Ordinances be established in purity, peace, plenty, & power, according to His own Order; And if that cannot be, but that their Mother play the harlot, and He be provoked to give up house with her, and by her Children’s treachery the Usurping Enemy be invited in to His place & Habitation, and take violent possession of it, and enact His extrusion & expulsion by Law; yet they will endeavour to secure a place for Him among the Remnant, that He may get a lodging among the afflicted & poor people that trust in the Name of the Lord—that they may feed & Lie down & none make them afraid Zeph. 3. 12, 13. that the poor of the flock that wait on Him may know that it is the Word of the Lord, Zech. 11. 11. they will lay out themselves to strengthen their hands. This is the Work of the public spirited Lovers of the Gospel, which hath been and yet is the great work of this our day, to carry the Gospel, and follow it, and keep it up through the Land, as the Standard of Christ, against all opposition, from mountain to hill, when now Zion hath been Labouring to bring forth as a woman in travel, and made to go forth out of the City, and to dwell in the field Mic. 4. 10. Therefore seeing it is the public Work of the day, and all its followers must have such a public spirit, it follows that the Meetings to promote it must be as public as is possible. 4. The Interest & privilege of the Gospel, to have it in freedom, purity, power, & plenty, is the public Concern of all the Lord’s people, preferable to all other Interests, and therefore more publicly, peremptorily and zealously to be contended for, than any other Interest whatsoever. It is the Glory of the Land 1 Sam. 4. 21. without which, Ichabod may be the name of everything; and every Land, though never so pleasant, will be but a dry & parched Land, where no water is, in the esteem of them that have seen the Lord’s Glory & power in the Sanctuary Psal. 63. 1. Whereas its name is Hephzibah & Beulah Isai. 62. 4. and Jehovah-Shammah Ezek. 48. ult. where God is enjoyed in His Gospel Ordinances; And the want & reproach of the Solemn Assemblies, is a matter of the saddest mourning to the Lord’s people Zeph. 3. 18. Therefore while the Ark abode in Kerjath-jearim the time was thought very Long, and all the house of Israel Lamented after the Lord 1 Sam. 7. 2. then they heard of it at Ephratah and found it in the fields of the Wood Psal. 132. 6. But it hath been longer than twenty years in our fields of the Woods, and therefore we should be Lamenting after it with greater concernedness; especially remembering, how we were privileged with the Gospel, which was sometimes publicly embraced & countenanced by Authority, and ensured to us by Laws, Statutes, Declarations, Proclamations, Oaths, Vows, & Covenant-engagements, whereby the Land was dedicated & devoted unto the Son of God, whose Conquest it was. And now are not all the people of God obliged to do what they can, to hinder the recalling of this dedication, and the giving up of the Land as an offering unto Satan & Antichrist? And how shall this be, but by a public Contending for this privilege, and a resolving they shall sooner bereave us of our hearts blood, than of the Gospel in its freedom & purity? But this we cannot contend for publicly, if our Meetings be not public. 5. The nature & business of the Gospel Ministry is such, that it obliges them that exercise it to endeavour all publicness, without which they cannot discharge the extent of their Instructions: their very names & titles do insinuate so much. They are Witnesses for Christ, and therefore their Testimony should be public, though their Lot oftentimes be to Witness in Sackcloth: They are Heralds, and therefore they should Proclaim their Masters Will, though their Lot be often to be a voice crying in the Wilderness, as John the Baptist was in his field Preachings: They are Ambassadours, and therefore they should maintain their Master’s Majesty, in the Public port of His Ambassadours, and be wholly taken up about their Sovereign’s business: They are Watchmen, and therefore they should keep & maintain their post their Masters hath placed them at: Nay they are Lights & Candles, and therefore cannot be hid Math. 5. 14, 15. The Commands & Instructions given them, infer the necessity of this: They must cry aloud, and not spare, and left up their voice like a Trumpet, and shew the Lord’s People their transgressions & sins Isai. 58. 1. They are Watchmen upon Jerusalem’s walls, which must not hold their peace, day nor night, nor keep silence, nor give the Lord rest, till He establish and till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth Isai. 62. 6, 7. They are Watchmen, that must command all to hearken to the sound of the Trumpet. Jer. 6. 17. They must be valiant for the Truth upon the earth. Jer. 9. 3. They must say, thus saith the Lord even to a rebellious Nation, whether they will hear or forbear, and not be afraid of them Ezek. 2. 5, 6. They must cause the people to know their abominations Ezek. 16. 2. and the abominations of their Fathers Ezek. 20. 4. And what their Master tells them in darkness, that they must speak in the Light, and what they hear in the ear, that they must Preach upon the house tops Math, 10. 27. These things cannot be done in a Clandestine way. And therefore now when there is so much necessity, it is the duty of all faithful Ministers, to be laying out themselves to the utmost in their Pastoral function, for the suppressing of all the evils of the time, notwithstanding of any prohibition to the contrary, in the most public manner, according to the examples of all the faithful servants of the Lord, both in the Old & New Testaments; Though it be most impiously & Tyrannically interdicted, yet the Laws of God stand unrepealed, and therefore all who have a Trumpet & a Mouth should set the Trumpet to their Mouth, and sound a certain sound; not in secret for that will not alarm the people, but in in the most public manner they can have access to. And it is the duty of all to come & hear & obey their Warnings & Witnessings, command who will the contrary. It was for mocking, despising His Words, & misusing His Prophets, that the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, the Jews, until there was no remedy 2 Chron. 36. 16. Therefore from all that is said, it must be Concluded, that Meetings for Gospel Ordinances must be as public as can be: And if so, then that they should be in houses, safety will not permit to us; to go to the streets or Mercat places, neither safety nor prudence will admit: Therefore we must go to the fields with it, cost what it will.
4. Seeing then there must be Meetings, & public Meetings, And seeing we cannot and dare not in Conscience countenance the Curates’ Meetings; we must hear, own, embrace, & follow such faithful Ministers as are clothed with Christ Commission, Righteousness, & salvation, and do keep the Words of the Lord’s patience, and the Testimony of the Church of Scotland in particular. This I think will not, or dare not be denied, by any that own the Authority of Christ (which none can deny or instruct the contrary, but our Ministers that ventured their lives in preaching in the fields have had a certain seal to their Ministry, & is sealed sensibly in the conviction of many, & confession of more) That Christ’s Ministers & Witnesses, employed about the Great Gospel Message, clothed with His Authority, & under the obligation of His Commands lying upon them, must preach, & the people must hear them, not withstanding of all Laws to the contrary. Divines grant that the Magistrate can no more suspend from the exercise, than he can depose from the Office of the Ministry; for the one is a degree unto the other. See Apollon. de jure Majest. circa Sacra. Part. 1. Pag. 334. &c. Rutherf[ord]. Due right of Presb. Pag. 430. &c. For whether it be right in the sight of God, to hearken unto men more than unto God, the Consciences of the greatest enemies may be appealed unto Act. 4. 19. They must not cease, wherever they have a Call & Occasion, to Teach & Preach Jesus Christ Act. 5. ult. Necessity is laid upon them, yea wo unto them if they Preach not the Gospel 1 Cor. 9. 16. In all things they must approve themselves, as the Ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, &c. by honour & dishonour, by evil report & good report, as deceivers and yet true, as unknown & yet well known—2 Cor. 6. 4, 8, 9. They must preach the Word, be instant in season, & out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering & doctrine 2 Tim. 4. 2. Dare any say then, that a Magistrates or Tyrants Laws can exauctorate [expel from office] a Minister? or silence him by his own proper elicited acts, as King or Tyrant, or formally & immediately? Will Mischiefs framed into a Law, warrant such iniquity? or an act of a King of Clay rescind the Mandates of the King of Kings? or exempt people from obedience due thereunto? Or will the Bishops Canons, who have no power from Christ, or the Censures of them, that stand condemned themselves by the Constitutions of the Church & Acts of the General Assemblies, have any weight in the case? And yet these are all that can be alleged, except odious & invidious Calumnies, the ordinary Lot of the most faithful, against the present preachers in the fields, which are sufficiently confuted in their late Informatory Vindication, and need not here be touched. Seeing therefore they have given up themselves unto Christ as His servants, they must resolve to be employed for Him to the outmost of their power, and must not think of laying up their Talent in a Napkin; especially now when there is so great necessity, when Defection is yet growing, covered, countenanced more & more, Division nothing abated, but new oil cast daily into the flames of devouring Contentions; the people generally drowned in the deluge of the times snares & sins, and like to be over whelmed in the inundation of black Popery, now coming in at the opened sluice of this wicked Toleration, with the Congratulations of Addressing Ministers; when now the Harvest is great and the Labourers are few: Great then is the necessity, and double must the woe be that abideth such Ministers, as are silent at such a time: And great & inexcusable is the sin of the people, if they do not come out, and countenance faithful Ministers, the Messengers of the Lord of hosts, from whom they should seek the Law Mal. 2. 7. especially when there are so many, that have palpably betrayed their Trust; and so few that are faithful in the necessary Testimony of the day. Seeing then faithful Ministers must preach, & people must hear, where can they meet with conveniency, & safety, & freedom, except either under the shelter of this wicked Toleration, which they dare not do, or else go to the fields?
5. It must be obtained also, that the Ministers have a right to Preach, in this unfixed manner, wherever they have a Call; their relation now, in this disturbed state of the Church, being to be considered more extensively, than in its settled condition. For understanding which, we must distinguish a three or four-fold relation, that a Minister of the Gospel stands into. First, He is a Minister of Christ, and Steward of the Mysteries of God 1 Cor. 4. 1. having his Commission from Christ as his Master: And this relation he hath universally, wherever he is. Secondly, he is a Minister of the Catholic Church, though not a Catholic Minister of it; which is his primary relation; for that is the Church, in which Ministers are set 1 Cor. 12. 28. and to which they are given Eph. 4. 11, 12. Thirdly, He is a Minister of the particular Church whereof he is a Member; and so in Scotland a Minister is a Minister of the Church of Scotland, and is obliged to lay out himself for the good of that Church. Fourthly; he is a Minister of the particular Congregation, whereunto he hath a fixed relation in a constitute case of the Church: This last is not essential to a Minister of Christ, but is subservient to the former relations: but when separated from such a relation, or when it is impossible to be held, he is still a Minister of Christ, and His Call to preach the Gospel stands & binds. See Mr Durham’s Digression on this particular on Revel. chap. 2. pag. 89. &c. in quarto. For though he be not a Catholic Officer, having an equal relation to all Churches, as the Apostles were; Nevertheless he may exerce [exercise] Ministerial Acts Authoritatively, upon occasions warrantably calling for the same, in other Churches, as Heralds of one King, having Authority to charge in His Name wherever it be; especially in a broken state of the Church, when all the restriction his Ministerial relation is capable of, is only a tie & call to officiate in the service of that Church whereof he is a Member; and so he hath right to preach everywhere, as he is called, for the edification of that Church. The reasons are. 1. He hath power from Christ the Master of the whole Church; and therefore, wherever the Masters Authority is acknowledged, the Servants Ministerial Authority cannot be denied; at least in relation to that Church whereof he is a Member as well as a Minister. 2. He hath Commission from Christ, principally for the edification of Christ’s body, as far as his Ministry can reach, according to the Second relation. 3. His relation to the whole Church is principal, that which is fixed to a part is only subordinate, because it is a part of the whole. 4. His Commission is indefinite to preach the Gospel, which will suit as well in one place as in another. 5. The same great ends of the Churches greater good & edification, which warrants fixing of a Minister to a particular charge in the Churches peaceable state, will warrant his officiating more largely in her disturbed state, 6. Else it would follow that a faithful Minister, standing in that relation to a disturbed & destroyed Church, and all his gifts & graces were useless in that case, which notwithstanding are given for the good of the Church. 7. Yea by this, when his fixed relation cannot be kept, it would follow, that he ceased to be a Minister, and his Commission expired; so that he should stand in no other relation to Christ, than any private person so qualified, which were absurd: for by Commission he is absolutely set apart for the work of the Ministry, so long as Christ hath work for him, if he continue faithful. 8. This hath been the practice of all the Propagators of the Gospel from the beginning, and of our Reformers in particular; without which they could never have propagated it so far: And it was never accounted the Characteristic of Apostles, to preach unfixedly; because in times of persecution, Pastors & Doctors also might have Preached wherever they came, as the Officers of the Church of Jerusalem did, when scattered upon the persecution of Stephen Act. 8. 1. did go everywhere preaching the Word ver. 4. Since therefore they may & must Preach in this unfixed manner, they must in this broken State look upon all the Godly in the Nation, that will own & hear them, to be their Congregation, and embrace them all, and consult their conveniency & universal advantage, in such a way as all equally may be admitted, and none excluded from the benefit of their Ministry. And therefore they must go to the fields with it.
6. The Lord hath so signally owned, successfully countenanced, and singularly sealed Field-Preaching in these unfixed exercises, that both Ministers & people have been much encouraged against all opposition to prosecute them, as having experienced much of the Lord’s power & presence in them, and of the breathings of the enlivening, enlarging, enlightening, and strengthening Influences of the Spirit of God upon them. The people are hereby called, in this case of defection, to seek after those waters that they have been so often refreshed by: For in this case of defection, God being pleased to seal with a palpable Blessing on their Souls, the Word from Ministers adhering to their principles, they may safely look on this as a Call from God to hear them, and follow after them so owned of the Lord. And it being beyond all doubt, that the Assemblies of the Lord’s people to partake of pure Ordinances, with full freedom of Conscience in the fields, hath been signally owned & blessed of the Lord, and hath proven a mean to spread the knowledge of God beyond anything that appeared in our best times; And in despite of this signal Appearance of God, and envy at the good done in these Meetings, all endeavours being used by wicked men to suppress utterly all these Rendezvouses of the Lord’s Militia, both by open force & cunning Midianitish wiles; Ministers cannot but look upon it as their duty, and that the Lord hath been preaching from Heaven, to all who would hear & understand it, that this way of preaching, even this way, was that wherein His Soul took pleasure, and to which He hath been & is calling all who would be co-workers with Him this day, to help forward the Interest of His Crown & Kingdom. Many hundreds of persecuted people can witness this, and all the Martyrs have sealed it with their blood, and remembered it particularly on the Scaffolds, that they found the Lord there, and that He did lead them thither, where He made them to ride upon the high places of the earth, and to eat the increase of the fields, and to suck honey out of the rock, and that in their experience, under the Spirits pouring out from on high, they found the wilderness to be a fruitful field, and in their esteem, their feet were beautiful upon the Mountains that brought good tidings, that published peace, that brought good tidings of good, that published salvation, that said unto Zion, thy God reigneth. And all the Ministers that followed this way, while they were faithful, and had but little strength, and kept His Word, and did not deny His Name, found that verified in their experience, which is said of Philadelphia Revel. 3. 8. that they had an open door which no man could shut. The Characters whereof, as they are expounded by Mr. Durham, were all verified in these Meetings: where 1. The Ministers had a door of utterance upon the one side opened to them; and the people’s ears were opened to welcome the same, in love to edification, simplicity, & diligence, on the other. 2. This had real changes following, many being made humble, serious, tender, fruitful &c. 3. The Devil raged & set himself to oppose, traduce, & some way to blast the Ministry of the most faithful more than any others; just as when Paul had a greater door & effectual opened to him, there were many adversaries 1 Cor. 16. 9. 4. Yet the Lord hath been observably defeating the Devil & Profanity in every place, where the Gospel came, and made him fall like lightening from Heaven, by the preaching of the Word. 5. And the most experimental proof of all was, that hereby ground was gained upon the Kingdom of the Devil, and many Prisoners brought off to Jesus Christ. And therefore seeing it is so, this must certainly be a Call to them who are yet labouring in that Work, which others have left off, to endeavour to keep this door open with all diligence, and reap the corn when it is ripe, and when the Sun shines make hay, and with all watchfulness, lest the wicked one sow his tares, if they should fall remiss.
7. As for the Circumstance of the place, of this unfixed manner of celebrating the Solemn Ordinances of the Worship of God, in a time of persecution: This cannot be quarreled at by any, but such as will quarrel at anything. But even that is better warranted, than to be weakened with their quarrels. For before the Law, Mountain-Worship was the first Worship of the World, as Abram’s Jehovah-jireh Gen. 22. 14. Jacob’s Bethel (or House of God in the open fields) Gen. 28. 17, 19. his Peniel Gen. 32. 30. his El-Elohe-Israel Gen. 33. ult. do witness: Under the Law, they heard of it at Ephratah they found it in the fields of the Wood Psal. 132. 6. After the Law, field-preaching was the first that we read of in the New Testament, both in John his preaching in the wilderness of Judea, being the voice of one crying in the wilderness, and the Master Usher of Christ Math. 3. 1, 3. and in His Ambassadours afterwards, who on the Sabbath sometimes, went out to a river side were prayer was wont to be made, As Lydia was converted at Paul’s field preaching Act. 16. 13, 14. And chiefly the Prince of Preachers, Christ Himself, preached many a time by the sides of the Mountains, and the sea side: That Preaching Math. 5. was on a Mountain vers. 1. And this is the more to be considered, that our Lord had Liberty of the Synagogues to Preach in, yet he frequently left them, and preached either in private houses, or in the fields; because of the opposition of His Doctrine by the Jewish Teachers, who had appointed that any who owned Him should be excommunicate: And therefore in the like case, at it is now, His Servants may imitate their Master: for though all Christ’s Actions are not imitable; such as these of His Divine Power, and the Actions of His Divine Prerogative (as His taking of the ass without the owners liberty) and the Actings of His Mediatory Prerogative, which He did as Mediator; but all His Gracious Actions, and Moral upon Moral grounds, and Relative upon the grounds of Relative Duties, are not only imitable, but the perfect Pattern of imitation. Therefore that superstitious & ridiculous Cavil, that such Meetings in fields or houses are Conventicles, gathering separate Congregations, is not worth the taking notice of: for this would reflect upon Christ’s and His Apostles’ way of preaching, and the constant method of propagating the Gospel in times of persecution, in all ages since, which hath always been by that way which they call keeping of Conventicles. It’s absurd to say, it is a gathering of separate Congregations, it is only a searching or seeking after the Lord’s sheep, that are made to wander through all the Mountains, and upon every high Hill, and His flock which is scattered by corrupt Shepherds and the cruelty of the beasts of the field Ezek. 34. 5, 6. and preaching to all who will come & hear the Word of Truth, in such places where they may get it done most safely, and may be most free from distraction & trouble of their enemies, who are waiting to find them out, that they may hail them to Prisons or kill them.
8. As for the Circumstance of the Time, that is specially alleged to be unseasonable, especially when there is a little breathing, and some relaxation from the heat of Persecution, to break the peace, and awaken sleeping Dogs by such irritating Courses, is thought not consistent with Christian prudence. This is the old pretense of them that were at ease, and preferred that to duty. But as we know no peace at this time, but a peace of Confederacy with the enemies of God, which we desire not to partake of, and know of no relaxation of Persecution against such as continue to witness against them: So let what hath been said above in the 3. Hypothesis, of the necessity of publicness in our Meetings at such a time as this is, be considered; And let the Scripture be consulted, and it will appear, not only that in preaching the Gospel there must be a Witness & Testimony kept up (as is proved above) and not only that Ministers must preach the Word, and be instant in season & out of season 2 Tim. 4. 2. But that such a time as this, is the very Season of a Testimony. For in the Scripture we find, that Testimonies are to be given in these Seasons especially. 1. When the enemies of God, beginning to relent from their stiffness & severity, would compound with His Witnesses, and give them some Liberty, but not total; as Pharaoh would let the Children of Israel go, but stay their flocks: And now our Pharaoh will give some Liberty to serve God, but with a Reservation of that part of the matter of it, that nothing be said to alienate the hearts of the Subjects from his arbitrary Government. But Moses thought it then a season to testify (though the bondage of the people should be thereby continued) that there should not a hoof be left behind; for says he, we know not with what we must serve the Lord, until we come thither. Exod. 10. 24, 25, 26. So must we Testify for every hoof of the Interest of Christ this day. 2. When there is a Toleration of Idolatry, and Confederacy with Idolaters, and suspending the execution of penal Laws against them, or pardoning of those that should be punished: In such a season as this, that Messenger that came from Gilgal gave his Testimony at Bochim against their toleration of Idolatrous Altars, and Confederacy with the Canaanites. Judg. 2. 1, 2. He is called an Angel indeed, but he was only such an one as Ministers are, who are called so Rev. 2. 1. for Heavenly Spirits have brought a Heavenly Message to particular persons, but never to the whole people, the Lord hath committed such a treasure to earthen Vessels. 2 Cor. 4. 7. and this came from Gilgal not from Heaven. So the Man of God testified against Eli, for his toleration of wicked Priests, though they were his own Sons. 1 Sam. 2. 27. &c. So Samuel witnessed against Saul, for his toleration & indemnity granted to Agag. 1 Sam. 15. 23. So the Prophet against Ahab, for sparing Benhadad 1 King. 20. 42. The Angel of Ephesus is commended for this; and he of Pergamus and he of Thyatira is condemned, for omitting this Testimony, and allowing a toleration of the Nicolaitans & Jezebel. Revel. 2. 2, 14, 20. In such a Case of universal Compliance with these things, and the peoples indulging themselves under the shadow of the protection of such a Confederacy, the Servants of the Lord that fear Him must not say a Confederacy, though they should be accounted for signs & wonders in Israel Isai. 8. 12, 13, 18. But now Idolatrous Mass-Altars are set up, none thrown down, penal Statutes against Papists are stopped & disabled, and the Generality of Ministers are Congratulating, & saying a Confederacy in their Addresses for the same. 3. When the Universal Apostasy is come to such a height, that error is prevailing, and few siding themselves in an avowed opposition against it; as Elijah chose that time, when the people were halting between two opinions 1 King. 18. 21. And generally all the Prophets & Servants of Christ, consulted always the peoples necessity for the timing of their Testimonies: And was there ever greater necessity than now, when Popery is coming in like a flood? 4. When wicked men are chief in power; as when Haman was promoted, Mordecai would not give him one bow though all the people of God should be endangered by such a provocation. Esther. 3. 2. And when Tyrants & Usurpers are set up without the Lord’s approbation, then they that have the Lord’s Trumpet should set it to their mouth Hos. 8. 1, 4. Is not this the case now? 5. When upon the account of this their Testimony, the Lord’s people are in greatest danger, and enemies design to Massacre them, then if they altogether hold their peace at such a time, there shall enlargement & deliverance arise another way, but they and their fathers house shall be destroyed, who are silent then, as Mordecai said to Esther Est: 4. 14. And who knows not the cruel designs of the Papists now? 6. When iniquity is Universally abounding, and hypocrisy among Professors, then the Servants of the Lord must cry aloud & not spare Isai. 58. 1. as the case is this day. 7. When the Concern of Truth, and the Glory of God, is not so illustriously vindicated as He gives us to expect it shall be; then the Watchmen must not hold their peace, and they that make mention of the Name of the Lord, must not keep silence Isai. 62. 6, 7. especially when His Name & Glory is blasphemed, baffled, and affronted, as at this day with a Witness. 8. When Ministers generally are involved in a course of defection, and do not give faithful warning, but daub over the peoples and their own defections; then the Prophets must Prophesy against the Prophets Ezek. 13. 2, 10. &c. As alas this day there is a necessity for it. 9. When public Worship is interdicted by Law, as it was by that Edict prohibiting public Prayer for thirty days in Daniel’s time: They could not interdict all Prayer to God; for they could forbid nothing by that Law, but that which they might hinder & punish for contravening; but mental Prayer at least could not be so restrained, And certain it is, they intended only such Prayer should be discharged, as might discover Daniel: But might not the wisdom of Daniel have eluded this interdiction, by praying only secretly or mentally? No: whatever Carnal wisdom might dictate, his honesty did oblige him in that case of Confession, when he knew the writing was signed, to go into his house, and to open his windows, and to kneel upon his knees, three times a day—as he did aforetime Dan. 6. 10. Now what reason can be given for his opening his windows? Was it only to let in the air? or was it to see Jerusalem out at these windows? The Temple he could look toward, as well when they were shut. No other reason can be assigned, but that it was necessary then to avouch the Testimony, for that indispensable Duty then interdicted. And is not public preaching indispensable Duty too? which is declared Criminal, except it be confined to the mode their wicked Law tolerates; which we can no more homologate, than omit the duty. 10. When it is an evil time, the evil of sin is incumbent, and the evil of wrath is impendent over a Land; then the Lyon hath roared who will not fear? the Lord God hath spoken, who can but Prophesy? Amos. 3. 8. There is no contradiction here to that word, which hath been miserably perverted in our day, to palliate sinful silence of time-servers Amos. 5. 13. The prudent shall keep silence in that time for it is an evil time: Whereby we cannot understand a wily withdrawing our witness against the times evils: for there they are commanded to bestir themselves actively, in seeking good, hating the evil, loving the good, and establishing Judgment in the gate. vers. 14, 15. but we understand by it a submissive silence to God, without fretting (according to that Word, Jer. 8. 14. for the Lord our God hath put us to silence—and Mic. 7. 9.) Calvin upon the place expounds it, ‘The prudent shall be affrighted at the terrible vengeance of God; Or they shall be compelled to silence, not willingly (for that were unworthy of men of courage to be silent at such wickedness) but by the force of Tyrants giving them no leave to speak.’ Sure then this is such a time, wherein it is prudence to be silent to God, but not to be silent for God, but to give public witness against the evils of sin abounding, and public warning of the evils of punishment imminent. 11. Then is the Season of it, when worldly wisdom thinks it unseasonable, when men cannot endure sound Doctrine, but after their own lusts they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and turn away their ears from the Truth; then to Preach the Word, and be instant is indeed in itself seasonable, because profitable & necessary; but it is out of season as to the Preachers or Hearers external interest, and in the esteem of Worldly Wiselings. 2 Tim. 4. 2, 3, 4. See Pool Synops. Critic. in Locum. So in our day; men cannot endure free & faithful dealing against the sins of the times, but would have smooth things & deceits spoken unto them; like those Isai. 30. 10. And nothing can be more offensive, than to speak plainly (so as to give everything its own Name) either of the sins of the times, or of the snares of the times, or of the miseries & evils of the times, or of the duties of the times or of the dangers, and the present Crisis of the times: Which no faithful Minister can forbear. Therefore so much the more is it seasonable, that it is generally thought unseasonable. 12. In a word, whenever the Testimony of the Church, or any part of it, is opposed & suppressed; then is the season to keep it, and contend for it, and to hold it fast, as our Crown Revel. 3. 10, 11. It must be then a word spoken in due season, and good & necessary (Prov. 15. 23.) at this time, to give a public Testimony against all wrongs done to our blessed Lord Jesus, all the encroachments upon His prerogatives, all the invasions of the Church’s privileges, all the overturnings of our Covenanted Reformation, and this openly designed introduction of Popery & Slavery. But now how shall this Testimony be given by us conveniently? or how can it be given at all, at this time, in our Circumstances, so as both the matter and manner of it may be a most significant Witness-bearing to the merit of it, except we go to the fields? Who can witness significantly against Popery & Tyranny: and all the evils to be spoken against this day, under the protection of a Papist & Tyrant, as house-Meetings under the Covert of this Toleration are stated? for if these Meetings be private & secret, then the Testimony is not known; if they be public, then they are exposed to a Prey. Now by all these general Hypothesis, it is already in some measure evident, that Field-Meetings are very expedient. But I shall add some more particular Considerations, to inculcate the same more closely.
In the Third Place, besides what is said, to clear the Lawfulness & necessity of a public Testimony against the evils of the present time, Some Considerations may be added to prove the Expediency of this way & manner of giving a Testimony, by maintaining Field-Meetings in our present Circumstances.
1. The keeping of Field-Meetings now, is not only most convenient for Testifying, but a very significant Testimony in itself, against this Popish Toleration; the wickedness of whose Spring & Original, and of its Nature and Terms, Channel & Conveyance, End & design, is shewed in the Historical Narrative thereof, and cannot be denied by any Presbyterian, whose constant principle is that there should be no Toleration of Popery, Idolatry, or Heresy, in this Reformed & Covenanted Church. Reason & Religion both will conclude, that this is to be witnessed against, by all that will adhere to the Cause or Reformation overturned hereby, and resolve to stand in the Gap against Popery to be introduced hereby, and that will approve themselves as honest Patriots in defending the Laws & Liberties of the Country subverted hereby. And besides, if it be considered with respect to the Granter; it is palpable his design is to introduce Popery, and advance Tyranny, which can be hid from none that accept it, the effectuating whereof hath a necessary & inseparable connexion with the acceptance of the Liberty; and is so far from being avertible by the Accepters, that it is chiefly promoted by their acceptance, and the design of it is to lay them by from all opposition thereto. If it be considered with relation to the Accepters, it is plain it must be taken as it is given, and received as it is conveyed, from its fountain of Absolute power, through a channel of an Arbitrary Law-disabling & Religion-dishonouring Toleration, which is semper mali [always evil]; and with consent to the sinful impositions, with which it is tendered; concerning & affecting the Doctrine of Ministers, that they shall Preach nothing which may alienate the subjects from the Government; Against all which there is no access for a Protestation, consistent with the improvement of the Liberty, for it is granted & accepted on these very terms; that there shall be no Protestation; for if there be, that will be found an alienating of the hearts of the subjects from the Government, which by that Protestation will be reflected upon. If it be considered with respect to the Addressers for it, who formally say a Confederacy with, and Congratulate the Tolerator for his Toleration, and all the Mischiefs he is machinating & effectuating thereby; then seeing they have Presumptuously taken upon them to send it in the name of all Presbyterians, it concerns all honest men, zealous Christians, and faithful Ministers of that persuasion & denomination, in honour & Conscience, to declare to the world by some public Testimony, that they are not Consenters to that sinful, shameful, & scandalous Conspiracy, nor of the Corporation of these flattering Addressers who have betrayed the Cause, with which all will be interpreted Consenters, that are not Contradicters. Further this Toleration is sinful as is cleared above Peri[od] 6. And to accept of it is contrary to our Solemn Covenants & Engagements, where we are bound to extirpate Popery, preserve the Reformation, defend our Liberties, and never to accept of a Toleration eversive of all these precious Interests we are sworn to maintain. And it is heinously scandalous, being in effect a succumbing at length and yielding up the Cause, which hath been so long controverted & so long contended for, at least an appearance of ceding & lying by from contending for the Interests of Christ, of condemning our former Wrestlings for the same, of purchasing a Liberty to ourselves at the rate of burying the Testimony in bondage & oblivion, of hardening & confirming open Adversaries in their wicked invasions on our Religion, Laws, & Liberties, of being weary of the Cross of Christ, that we would fain have ease upon any terms, and of weakening the hands yea condemning the Practice & peremptoriness of these that are exempted from the benefit or rather the snare of it, and suffer when others are at ease. It is also attended with many Inconveniences; for either such as Preach under the Covert of it, must forbear declaring some part of the Counsel of God, and give no Testimony seasonable this day; or else if they do, they will soon be discovered and made a prey. Hence seeing there must be a Testimony against this Toleration, it is certainly most expedient to give it there, where the Meeting is without the reach & bounds of it, and interdicted by the same Proclamation that tenders it, and where the very gathering in such places is a Testimony against it: for to Preach in houses constantly & leave the fields, would now be interpreted an Homologating the Toleration that commands Preaching to be so restricted; especially when an Address is made in name of all that accept the benefit of it, from which Odium we could not vindicate ourselves, if we should so make use of it.
2. The keeping of Field Meetings now is a Testimony against that wicked Law that discharges them, and interdicts them as Criminal; yea in some respect a Case of Confession: for if Daniel’s case, when public prayer was discharged under pain of death, was a Case of Confession, as all grant; then must also our case be, when public Preaching is discharged under the some penalty: for it is equivalent to an Universal discharge of all public Preaching, when the manner of it is discharged, which we can only have with freedom & safety in way of public Testimony, which can be none other in our Circumstances but in the fields, Again if the Law be wicked that discharges them, as certainly it is, and is demonstrated from what is said already, then it must be sin to obey it; but it were an obeying of it to quite the fields.
3. The keeping of Field-Meetings now is a Testimony against Tyranny & Usurpation, encroaching upon our Religion, Laws, & Liberties, and presuming to restrict & bound the exercise of the Ministerial function, and discharge it altogether except it be modified according to the Circumstances prescribed by a wicked Law, which cannot be allowed as competent to any man whose Authority is not acknowledged, for reasons given in Head. 2. Therefore though there were no more, this is sufficient to call all Ministers to give Testimony against such an Usurpation, by refusing to obey any such Act. and Preaching where God giveth a Call. For otherwise, to submit to it, would be an acknowledging of his Magistratical power to discharge these Meetings, and to give forth sentences against faithful Ministers.
4. The keeping of Field-Meetings now is a Testimony for the Honour, Headship & Princely Prerogative of Jesus Christ, which hath been the Great Word of His Patience in Scotland, and by an Unparalleled, insolence encroached upon by Usurpers in our day, and in effect denied by such as took a new holding for the exercise of their Ministry from their Usurped power. Now in these Meetings, there is a Practical Declaration of their holding their Ministry and the exercise thereof from Christ alone, without any dependence upon, subordination to, or license & warrant from His Usurping Enemies; and that they may & will Preach in public without Authority from them. If then it be Lawful & expedient to maintain the Interests of a King of Clay, against an Usurper; then much more must it be Lawful & expedient, to maintain the quarrel of the King of Kings, when wicked men would banish Him and His Interests out of the Kingdom by their Tyrannical cruelty, and cruel mercy of a destructive Toleration.
5. The keeping of Field-Meetings now is a Testimony for the Gospel and the Ministry thereof; which is always the dearest & nearest privilege of Christians, and in the present Circumstances, when our Lives and our all are embarked in the same bottom with it, and sought to be destroyed together with it, by a party conspiring against Christ, it is necessary duty to defend both by resisting their unjust violence; especially when Religion and the Gospel is one and the chief of our fundamental Land-rights, and the Cardinal Condition of the established Policy, upon which we can only own men for Magistrates by the Law of the Land: And this Testimony by defense of the Gospel and of our own lives, cannot be given expediently anywhere but in the Fields. It is also a Testimony for the freedom & Authority of the Gospel-Ministry, and for their holding their unremovable Relation to the Church of Scotland, which is infringed by these Tyrannical Acts, and maintained by these exercises: which is a privilege to be contended for, above & beyond all other that can be contended for or defended, especially to be maintained against those that have no power or Authority to take it away. There will no man quite any of his goods upon a sentence coming from an incompetent Judge; And shall Ministers or people be hectored or fooled from such a privilege by them that have no such power?
6. The keeping of Field-Meetings now is a Testimony for our Covenants, the owning whereof is declared Criminal by that same Law that discharges these Meetings; in which we are sworn to preserve the Reformation in Doctrine, Worship, Discipline, & Government, and to defend all the Churches Liberties, and to oppose all their Opposites, and endeavour their extirpation: And in the Solemn Acknowledgment of sins & Engagement to duties, we are sworn, because many have of late laboured to supplant the Liberties of the Kirk, to maintain & defend the Kirk of Scotland, in all her Liberties & Privileges, against all who shall oppose & undermine the same, or encroach thereupon under any pretext whatsoever. Since then the owning of these Meetings and the Covenants are both discharged together, and the owning of the Covenant does oblige to a public opposition against the dischargers, and an avowed Maintenance of the Churches privileges, whereof this is in a manner the only & chief Liberty now left to be maintained, to keep Meetings where we may testify against them, without dependence on their Toleration; it must follow, that these Meetings are to be maintained, which only can be in the fields, with conveniency.
7. To give over these Field-Meetings now, would be an hardening & encouraging of these Enemies in their wicked design of banishing all these Meetings out of the Land; which manifestly would be defeat, by a resolute refusal of all to submit to their discharging of them; and they that do submit, and give them over, do evidently contribute to the effectuating that wicked design, which is certain does not nor will not terminate upon a simple suppression of that sort, but further is intended to extirpate all Meetings for Gospel Ordinances, in which there is any Testimony against them. To Comply therefore with such a forbearance of them at this time, would lay a stone of stumbling before them, to encourage them in these their designs; when they should see their Contrivance so universally complied with, wherein they might boast that at length they had prevailed, to put quite away that eye-sore of theirs Field-Meetings.
8. To give over these Field-Meetings now, were a stumbling to the poor ignorant people; who might think that now it appears that Work was but of men, and so hath come to naught, and would look upon it as an evidence of fainting, & succumbing at last in the matter of the Testimony, as being quite overcome; and that indeed all have embraced & accepted this present Toleration, and were all alike sleeping under the shade, and eating the fruits of such a bramble.
9. Finally, To give over these Field-Meetings now, would be very scandalous to the posterity, and to Strangers, who shall read the History of our Church, to find that as Prelacy came in without a joint Witness, and the monstrous, Blasphemous, & Sacrilegious Supremacy was erected without a Testimony in its season; So black Popery itself and Tyranny was introduced by a Toleration, which laid them all by from a Testimony against these; who formerly had valiantly, resolutely, & faithfully contended against all lesser Corruptions, but at last, when that came, and stricter prohibitions of all public Meetings but under the Covert thereof were emitted, then all were persuaded to comply with that Course. How astonishing would it be to read, that all these Contendings, sealed with so much precious blood, should come to such a pitiful Period! But I hasten to the Next, which is the Second Positive Ground of Suffering.