Upon the Covenant.
THE PresbyterianRelating to a style of church governance that uses church elders rather than bishops, or people who belong to a presbyterian church. Scots are not to be hired at the ordinary rate of Auxiliaries; nothing will induce them to engage, till those that call them in, have pawned their Soules to them, by a Solemne League and Covenant:
Where many engines of religious and faire pretensions are brought chiefly to batter, or rase EpiscopacyThe government of a church by bishops, or the office of a bishop.; this they make the grand evill Spirit, which, with some other Imps purposely added, to make it more odious, and terrible to the Vulgar, must by so solemne a charm & exorcism be cast out of this Church, after more than a thousand yeares possession here, from the first plantation of Christianity in this Island, and an universall prescription of time and practise in all other Churches since the Apostles times till this last Century.
But no Antiquity must plead for it, Presbytery, like a young Heyre, thinks the Father hath lived long enough, and impatient not to be in the Bishops Chaire & Authority (though Lay-men go away with the Revenues) all art is used to sink Episcopacy, and lanch Presbytery in England; which was lately boyed up in Scotland by the like artifice of a Covenant.
Although I am unsatisfied with many passages in that Covenant (some referring to My selfe with very dubious and dangerous limitations) yet I chiefly wonder at the designe and drift touching the Discipline and Government of the Church; and such a manner of carrying them on to new waies, by Oaths & Covenants, where it is hard for men to be engaged by no lesse, then swearing for, or against those things, which are of no cleare morall necessity; but very disputable, and controverted among learned and godly men: whereto the application of Oaths can hardly be made and enjoyned with that judgment, and certainty in ones selfe, or that charity and candour to others of different opinion, as I think Religion requires, which never refuses faire and equable deliberations; yea, and dissentings too, in matters onely probable.
The enjoyning of Oaths upon People must needs in things doubtfull be dangerous, as in things unlawfull, damnable; and no lesse superfluous, where former religious and legall Engagements, bound men sufficiently, to all necessary duties. Nor can I see how they will reconcile such an Innovating Oath and Covenant, with that former Protestation which was so lately taken, to maintaine the Religion established in the Church of England: since they count Discipline so great a part of Religion.
But ambitious minds never think they have laid snares and ginnes enough to catch and hold the Vulgar credulity: for by such politicke and seemingly pious stratagems, they think to keep the popularity fast to their Parties under the terrour of perjury: whereas certainly all honest and wise men ever thought themselves sufficiently bound by former ties of Religion, Allegiance, and Lawes, to God and man.
Nor can such after-Contracts, devised and imposed by a few men in a declared Party, without My consent, and without any like power or president from Gods or mans laws, be ever thought by judicious men sufficient either to absolve or slacken those morall and eternall bonds of duty which lie upon all My Subjects consciences both to God and Me.
Yet as things now stand, good men shall least offend God or Me, by keeping their Covenant in honest and lawfull waies; since I have the charity to think, that the chief end of the Covenant in such mens intentions, was, to preserve Religion in purity, and the Kingdoms in peace: to other then such ends and meanes they cannot think themselves engaged; nor will those, that have any true touches of Conscience endeavour to carry on the best designes, (much lesse such as are, and will be daily more apparently factious and ambitious) by any unlawfull meanes, under that title of the Covenant: unlesse they dare preferre ambiguous, dangerous and un-authorized novelties, before their knowne and sworne duties, which are indispensable, both to God and My selfe.
I am prone to believe and hope, that many who took the Covenant, are yet firme to this judgment, that such later Vowes, Oaths, or Leagues, can never blot out those former gravings, and characters, which by just and lawfull Oaths were made upon their Soules.
That which makes such Confederations by way of solemn Leagues & Covenants more to be suspected, is, that they are the comon road, used in all factious & powerfull perturbations of State or Church: when formalities of extraordinary zeal and piety are never more studied and elaborate, then, when Politicians most agitate desperate designes against all that is setled, or sacred in Religion, and Laws, which by such scrues are cunningly, yet forcibly wrested by secret steps, and lesse sensible degrees, from their known rule and wonted practise, to comply with the humours of those men, who ayme to subdue all to their owne will and power, under the disguises of Holy Combinations.
Which cords and wythes will hold mens Consciences no longer, then force attends and twists them: for every man soone growes his owne Pope, and easily absolves himselfe of those ties, which, not the commands of Gods word, or the Lawes of the Land, but onely the subtilty and terrour of a Party casts upon him; either superfluous and vaine, when they were sufficiently tied before; or fraudulent and injurious, if by such after-ligaments they find the Imposers really ayming to dissolve, or suspend their former, just, and necessary obligations.
Indeed, such illegall waies seldome, or never, intend the engaging men more to duties, but onely to Parties; therefore it is not regarded how they keep their Covenants in point of piety pretended, provided they adhere firmly to the Party and Designe intended.
I see the Imposers of it are content to make their Covenant like Manna (not that it came from Heaven, as this did) agreeable to every mans palate and relish, who will but swallow it: they admit any mens senses of it, the diverse or contrary; with any salvoes, cautions, and reservations, so as they crosse not though chiefe Designe which is laid against the Church, and Me.
It is enough if they get but the reputation of a seeming encrease to their Party; so little doe men remember that God is not mocked.
In such latitudes of sense, I believe many that love Me, and the Church well, may have taken the Covenant, who yet are not so fondly and superstitiously taken by it, as now to act clearly against both all piety and loyalty: who first yeilded to it, more to prevent that imminent violence and ruine, which hung over their heads in case they wholly refused it, than for any value of it, or devotion to it.
Wherein, the latitude of some generall Clauses may (perhaps) serve somewhat to relieve them, as of Doing and endeavouring what lawfully they may, in their Places and Callings, and according to the Word of God: for, these (indeed) carry no man beyond those bounds of good Conscience, which are certaine and fixed, either in Gods Lawes, as to the generall; or the Lawes of the State and Kingdome, as to the particular regulation and exercise of mens duties.
I would to God such as glory most in the name of Covenanters, would keep themselves within those lawfull bounds, to which God hath called them: surely it were the best way to expiate the rashnesse of taking it: which must needs then appeare, when besides the want of a full and lawfull Authority at first to enjoyne it, it shall actually be carried on beyond and against those ends which were in it specified and pretended. I willingly forgive such mens taking the Covenant, who keep it within such bounds of Piety, Law, and Loyalty, as can never hurt either the Church, My self, or the Publique Peace: against which, no mans lawfull Calling can engage him.
As for that Reformation of the Church, which the Covenant pretends, I cannot think it just or comely, that by the partiall advise of a few Divines, (of so soft and servile tempers, as disposed them to so sudden acting and compliance, contrary to their former judgments, profession, and practise) such foule scandals and suspitions should be cast upon the DoctrineThe set of beliefs upheld by a religion or political party. and Government of the Church of England, as was never done (that I have heard) by any that deserved the name of Reformed Churches abroad, nor by any men of learning and candour at home: all whose judgments I cannot but prefer before any mens now factiously engaged.
No man can be more forward than My self to carry on all due Reformations, with mature judgement, and a good Conscience, in what things I shall (after im-partiall advise) be, by Gods Word, and right reason, convinced to be amisse, I have offered more than ever the fullest, freest, and wisest Parliaments did desire.
But the sequele of some mens actions makes it evident, that the maine Reformation intended, is the abasing of Episcopacy into Presbytery, and the robbing the Church of its Lands and Revenues: for, no men have been more injuriously used, as to their legall Rights than the Bishops, and Church-men. These, as the fattest Deare, must be destroyed; the other Rascal-herd of Schismes, Heresies, &c. being leane, may enjoy the benefit of a Toleration: thus Naboth's Vineyard made him the onely Blasphemer of his City, and fit to die. Still I see, while the breath of Religion fills the Sailes, Profit is the Compasse, by which Factious men steer their course in all seditious Commotions.
I thank God, as no men lay more open to the sacrilegious temptation of usurping the Churches Lands, and Revenues, (which issuing chiefly from the Crowne, are held of it, and legally can revert onely to the Crowne with My Consent) so I have alwaies had such a perfect abhorrence of it in My Soule, that I never found the least inclination to such sacrilegious Reformings: yet no man hath a greater desire to have Bishops and all Church-men so reformed, that they may best deserve and use, not onely what the pious munificence of My Predecessours hath given to God and the Church, but all other additions of Christian bounty.
But no necessity shall ever, I hope, drive Me or Mine to invade or sell the Priests Lands, which both Pharaoh's divinity, and Joseph's true piety abhorred to doe: so unjust I think it both in the eye of Reason and Religion, to deprive the most sacred employment of all due incouragements; and like that other hardhearted Pharaoh, to withdraw the Straw, and encrease the Taske; so pursuing the oppressed Church, as some have done, to the red sea of a Civill Warre, where nothing but a miracle can save either It, or Him, who esteems it His greatest Title to be called, and His chiefest glory to be The Defender of the Church, both in its true Faith, and its just fruitions; equally abhorring, Sacriledge, and Apostacy.
I had rather live as my Predecessour Henry 3. sometime did, on the Churches Almes, then violently to take the bread out of Bishops and Ministers mouths.
The next work will be Jeroboam's reformation, consecrating the meanest of the People to be Priests in Israel, to serve those Golden Calves who have enriched themselves with the Churches Patrimony & Dowry; which how it thrived both with Prince, Priests, & People, is well enough known: and so it will be here, when from the tuition of Kings and Queens, which have beene nursing Fathers and Mothers of this Church, it shall be at their allowance, who have already discovered, what hard Fathers, and Stepmothers they will be.
If the poverty of Scotland might, yet the plenty of England cannot excuse the envy and rapine of the Churches Rights and Revenues.
I cannot so much as pray God to prevent those sad consequences, which will inevitably follow the parity and poverty of Ministers, both in Church and State; since I think it no lesse than a mocking and tempting of God, to desire him to hinder those mischiefs whose occasions and remedies are in our owne power; it being every mans sinne not to avoid the one, and not to use the other.
There are waies enough to repaire the breaches of the State without the ruines of the Church; as I would be a Restorer of the one, so I would not be an Oppressour of the other, under the pretence of Publique Debts: the occasions contracting them were bad enough, but such a discharging of them would be much worse; I pray God neither I, nor Mine, may be accessary to either.
To thee, O Lord, doe I addresse My prayer, beseeching thee to pardon the rashnesse of My Subjects Swearings, and to quicken their sense and observation of those just, mo rail, and indispensable bonds, which thy Word, and the Lawes of this Kingdome have laid upon their Consciences; from which no pretensions of Piety and Reformation are sufficient to absolve them, or to engage them to any contrary practices. "Make them at length seriously to consider, that nothing violent and injurious can be religious.
Thou allowest no mans committing Sacriledge under the Zeale of abhorring Idols.
Suffer not sacrilegious designes to have the countenance of religious ties.
Thou hast taught us by the wisest of Kings, that it is a snare to take things that are holy, and after Vowes to make enquiry.
Ever keep thy Servant from consenting to per-jurious and sacrilegious rapines, that I may not have the brand and curse to all posterity of robbing Thee and thy Church, of what thy bounty hath given us, and thy clemencyShowing forgiveness and mercy in the act of judging punishment. hath accepted from us, wherewith to encourage Learning and Religion.
Though My Treasures are Exhausted, My Revenues Diminished, and My Debts Encreased, yet never suffer Me to be tempted to use such profane Reparations; lest a coal from thine Altar set such a fire on My Throne and Conscience as wil be hardly quenched.
Let not the Debts and Engagements of the Publique, which some mens folly and prodigality hath contracted, be an occasion to impoverish thy Church.
The State may soone recover, by thy blessing of peace upon us; the Church is never likely, in times, where the Charity of most men is growne so cold, and their Religion so illiberall.
Continue to those that serve Thee and thy Church all those incouragements, which by the will of the pious Donours, and the justice of the Lawes are due unto them; and give them grace to deserve and use them aright to thy glory, and the relief of the poore; that thy Priests may be cloathed with righteousnesse, and the poore may be satisfied with bread.
Let not holy things be given to Swine; nor the Churches bread to Dogs; rather let them go about the City, grin like a Dog, and grudge that they are not satisfied.
Let those sacred morsels, which some men have already by violence devoured never digest with them, nor theirs; let them be as Naboths Vineyard to Ahab, gall in their mouths, rottennesse to their names, a moth to their Families, and a sting to their Consciences.
Break in sunder, O Lord, all violent and sacrilegious Confederations, to doe wickedly and injuriously.
Divide their hearts and tongues who have bandyed together against the Church and State, that the folly of such may be manifest to all men, and proceed no further.
But so favour My righteous dealing, O Lord, that in the mercies of thee, the most High, I may never miscarry.