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Eikon Basilike: Ch. 17

Of the differences between the KING and the two Houses, in point of Church-Government.

TOUCHING the GOVERNMENT of the Church by Bishops, the common Jealousie hath been that I am earnest and resolute to maintaine it, not so much out of piety, as policy, and reason of State.

Wherein so far indeed reason of State doth induce Me to approve that Government above any other, as I find it impossible for a Prince to preserve the State in quiet, unlesse he hath such an influence upon Church-men; and they such a dependance on Him, as may best restraine the seditious exorbitancies of Ministers tongues; who with the Keyes of Heaven have so farre the Keys of the Peoples hearts, as they prevaile much by their Oratory to let in, or shut out, both Peace and Loyalty.

So that I being (as KING) intrusted by God, and the Lawes, with the good both of Church and State; I see no Reason I should give up, or weaken by any change, that power and influence which in right and reason I ought to have over both.

The moving Bishops out of the House of Peers (of which I have elswhere given an account) was sufficient to take off any suspicion, that I encline to them for any use to be made of their Votes in State affaires: though indeed I never thought any Bishop worthy to sit in that House, who would not Vote according to his Conscience.

I must now in Charity be thought desirous to preserve that Government in its right constitutionA body of fundamental principles and established precedents by which a state governs itself; or the composition of something., as a matter of Religion; wherein both My judgment is fully satisfied, that it hath of all other the fullest Scripture grounds, and also the constant practise of all Christian Churches; till of late yeares, the tumultuarinesse of People, or the factiousnesse and pride of Presbyters, or the covetousnesse of some States and Princes, gave occasion to some mens wits to invent new models, and propose them under specious titles of Christs Government, Scepter, and Kingdome; the better to serve their turns, to whom the change was beneficiall.

They must give Me leave, having none of their temptations to invite Me to alter the Government of Bishops, (that I may have a title to their Estates) not to believe their pretended grounds to any new waies: contrary to the full, and constant testimony of all Histories, sufficiently convincing unbiased men; that as the Primitive Churches were undoubtedly governed by the Apostles and their immediate Successours the first and best Bishops; so it cannot in reason or charity be supposed, that all Churches in the world should either be ignorant of the rule by them prescribed, or so soon deviate from their divine and holy patterne: that since the first Age, for 1500 years not one example can be produced of any setled Church, wherein were many Ministers and Congregations, which had not some Bishop above them, under whose jurisdiction and government they were.

Whose constant and universall practise agreeing with so large, and evident Scripture-directions and examples, are set down in the Epistles to Timothy and Titus, for the setting of that Government, not in the persons onely of Timothy and Titus, but in the succession; (the want of Government being that, which the Church can no more dispense with, in point of wel-being, than the want of the word and Sacraments, in point of being.)

I wonder how men came to looke with so envious an eye upon Bishops power and authority, as to oversee both the Ecclesiasticall use of them, and Apostolicall constitution: which to Me seems no lesse evidently set forth as to the maine scope and designe of those Epistles, for the setting of a peculiar Office, Power, and Authority, in them as President-Bishops above others, in point of Ordination, Censures, and other acts of Ecclesiastical! discipline; then those shorter characters of the qualities and duties of Presbyter-Bishops, and Deacons, are described in some parts of the same Epistles; who in the latitude and community of the name were then, and may now not improperly be call'd Bishops; as to the oversight and care of single Congregations, committed to them by the Apostles, or those Apostolicall Bishops, who (as Timothy and Titus) succeeded them in that ordinary power, there assigned over larger divisions, in which were many Presbyters.

The humility of those first Bishops avoiding the eminent title of Apostles, as a name in the Churches stile appropriated from its common notion (of a Messenger, or one sent) to that speciall dignity which had extraordinary call, mission, gifts, and power immediately from Christ: they contented themselves with the ordinary titles of Bishops and Presbyters, untill use, (the great arbitrator of words, and master of language) finding reason to distinguish by a peculiar name those persons, whose power and office were indeed distinct from, and above all other in the Church, as succeeding the Apostles in the ordinary and constant power of governing the Churches, the honour of (whose name they moderately, yet commendably declined) all Christian Churches (submitting to that speciall authority) appropriated also the name of Bishop, without any suspicion or reproach of arrogancy, to those, who were by Apostolicall propagation rightly descended & invested into that highest and largest power of governing even the most pure and Primitive Churches: which, without all doubt had many such holy Bishops, after the pattern of Timothy and Titus; whose speciall power is not more clearly set down in those Epistles (the chief grounds and limits of all Episcopall claime, as from divine right) then are the characters of these perilous times, and those men that make them such; who not enduring sound doctrineThe set of beliefs upheld by a religion or political party., and cleare testimonies of all Churches practise, are most perverse Disputers, and proud Usurpers, against true EpiscopacyThe government of a church by bishops, or the office of a bishop.: who, if they be not Traytours and Boasters, yet they seem to be very covetous, heady, high-minded; inordinate and fierce, lovers of themselves, having much of the forme, little of the power of godlinesse.

Who, by popular heaps of weak, light, and unlearned Teachers, seek to over-lay and smother the pregnancy & authority of that power of Episcopall Government, which, beyond all equivocation and vulgar fallacy of names, is most convincingly set forth, both by Scripture, and all after Histories of the Church.

This I write rather like a Divine, than a Prince, that Posterity may see (if ever these Papers be publique) that I had faire grounds both from Scripture-Canons1. Clerics who live a semi-monastic life, but who are also involved in the community; 2. General rules or principles by which something is judged; 3. A collection or list of sacred books accepted as genuine., & Ecclesiastical examples, whereon My judgement was stated for Episcopall Government.

Nor was it any policy of State, or obstinacy of will, or partiality of affection, either to the men, or their Function which fixed Me: who cannot in point of worldly respects be so considerable to Me as to re-compence the injuries and losses I, and My dearest relations with My Kingdomes have sustained, and hazarded, chiefly at first upon this quarrell.

And not onely in Religion, of which, Scripture is the best rule, and the Churches Universall practise the best commentary, but also in right reason, and the true nature of Government, it cannot be thought that an orderly Subordination among Presbyters, or Ministers, should be any more against Christianity, then it is in all secularNot connected with religious matters. and civill Governments, where parity breeds Confusion and Faction.

I can no more beleeve, that such order is inconsistent with true Religion, then good features are with beauty, or numbers with harmony.

Not is it likely that God, who appointed severall orders, & a Prelacie, in the Government of his Church, among the Jewish Priests, should abhor or forbid them among Christian Ministers; who have as much of the principles of schisme and division as other men; for preventing and suppressing of which, the Apostolicall wisdome (which was divine) after that Christians were multiplied so many Congregations, and Presbyters with them, appointed this way of Government, which might best preserve order and union with Authority.

So that I conceive it was not the favour of Princes or ambition of Presbyters, but the wisdome and piety of the Apostles, that first setled Bishops in the Church; which Authority they constantly used, and injoyed in those times, which were purest for Religion, though sharpest for Persecution.

Not that I am against the managing of this Presidency and Authority in one man, by the joynt Counsell and consent of many Presbyters: I have offered to restore that, as a fit meanes to avoid those Errours, Corruptions, and Partialities, which are incident to any one man; also to avoid TyrannyCruel and oppressive rule or use of power., which becomes no Christians, least of all Churchmen; besides, it will be a nieanes to take away that burden, and odium of affaires, which may lie too heavy on one mans shoulders, as indeed I think it formerly did on the Bishops here.

Nor can I see what can be more agreeable both to Reason and Religion, then such a frame of Government which is paternall, not Magisteriall; and wherein not only the necessity of avoiding Faction and Confusion, Emulations and Contempts, which are prone to arise among equals in power and function; but also the differences of some Ministers gifts, and aptitudes for Government above others, doth invite to imploy them, in reference to those Abilities, wherein they are Eminent.

Nor is this judgement of Mine touching Episcopacy, any pre-occupation of opinion, which will not admit any oppositions against it: it is well known I have endeavoured to satisfie My self in what the chief Patrons for other wayes can say against this, or for theirs: and I find they have, as farre lesse of Scripture grounds, and of Reason; so for examples, and practice of the Church, or testimonies of Histories, they are wholly destitute, wherein the whole stream runs so for Episcopacy, that there is not the least rivulet for any others.

As for those obtruded examples of some late reformed Churches, (for many retain Bishops still) whom necessity of times and affaires rather excuseth, then commendeth for their inconformity to all Antiquity; I could never see any reason why Churches orderly reformed and governed by Bishops should be forced to conform to those few, rather then to the Catholick example of all Ancient Churches, which needed no Reformation: and to those Churches at this day, who Governed by Bishops in all the Christian world, are many more then Presbyterians or Independents can pretend to be; all whom the Churches in My three Kingdomes lately Governed by Bishops, would equalize (I think) if not exceed.

Nor is it any point of wisdom or charity, where Christians differ, (as many do in some points) there to widen the differences, and at once to give all the Christian world (except a handfull of some Protestants) so great a scandall in point of Church-government; whom, though you may convince of their Errours in some points of DoctrineThe set of beliefs upheld by a religion or political party., yet you shall never perswade them, that to compleat their Reformation, they must necessarily desert, and wholly cast off that Government, which they, and all before them have ever owned as Catholick, Primitive, and Apostolicall.

So far, that never Schismaticks, nor Hereticks (except those Arians) have strayed from the Unity, and Conformity of the Church in that point; ever having Bishops above Presbyters.

Besides, the late general! approbation and submission to this Government of Bishops, by the ClergyThe people ordained for religious duties, especially in the Christian Church., as well as the LaityPeople not belonging to the clergy. of these Kingdomes, is a great confirmation of My Judgment; and their inconstancy is a great prejudice against their novelty; I cannot in charity so far doubt of their learning or integrity, as if they understood not what heretofore they did; or that they did conform contrary to their Consciences; so that their facility and levity is never to be excused, who, before ever the point of Church-government had any free & impartiall debate, contrary to their former Oathes and practice, against their obedience to the Lawes in force, and against My consent, have not only quite cryed down the Government by Bishops; but have approved and incouraged the violent and most illegall stripping all the Bishops, and many other Church-men, of all their due Authority and Revenues, even to the selling away, and utter alienation of those Church-lands from any Ecclesi-asticall uses: so great a power hath the stream of times, and the prevalency of parties over some mens judgements; of whose so sudden and so to tall change, little reason can be given, besides the Scots Army comming into England.

But the folly of these men will at last punish it self, and the Deserters of Episcopacy will appeare the greatest Enemies to, and Betrayers of their owne interest; for Presbytery is never so considerable or effectuall, as when it is joyned to, and crowned with Episcopacy. All Ministers wil find as great a difference in point of thriving, between the favour of the People, and of Princes, as plants doe between being watered by hand, or by the sweet and liberall dews of Heaven.

The tenuity and contempt of Clegymen will soone let them see, what a poore carcasse they are, when parted from the influence of that Head, to whose SupremacyThe state of being superior to all others in authority, power, or status they have been sworne.

A little moderation might have prevented great mischiefs; I am firme to Primitive Episcopacy, not to have it extirpated, (if I can hinder it.) Discretion without passion might easily reforme, whatever the rust of times, or indulgence of Laws, or corruption of manners have brought upon it. It being a grosse vulgar errour to impute to, or revenge upon the Function, the faults of times, or persons; which seditious and popular principle, and practise, all wise men abhorre.

For those secular additaments and ornaments of Authority, Civill Honour and Estate, which My Predecessours, and Christian Princes in all Countries have annexed to Bishops and Church-men; I look upon them, but as just rewards of their learning, and piety, who are fit to be in any degree of Church-Government; also enablements to works of Charity, & Hospitality, meet strengthenings of their Authority in point of respect, and observance; which in peacefull times is hardly payed to any Governours by the measure of their vertues, so much, as by that of their Estates; Poverty and meannesse exposing them and their Authority to the contempt of licentious minds, and manners, which persecuting Times much restrained.

I would have such men Bishops, as are most worthy of those incouragements, and best able to use them: if at any time My judgment of men failed My good intention made My errour veniall: and some Bishops, I am sure, I had, whose learning, gravity, and piety, no men of any worth or forehead can deny: but, of all men, I would have Churchmen, especially the Governours to be redeemed from that vulgar neglect; which (besides an innate principle of vitious opposition, which is in all men against those that seem to reprove, or restraine them) will necessarily follow both the PresbyterianRelating to a style of church governance that uses church elders rather than bishops, or people who belong to a presbyterian church. parity, which makes all Ministers equall; and the Independent inferiority, which sets their Pastors below the People.

This for My judgment touching Episcopacy, wherein (God knows) I doe not gratifie any designe or passion with the least perverting of Truth.

And now I appeale to God above, and all the Christian world, whether it be just for Subjects, or pious for Christians, by violence, and infinite indignities, with servile restraints to seek to force Me their KING and Soveraigne, as some men have endeavoured to doe, against all these grounds of My Judgment, to consent to their weak and divided novelties.

The greatest Pretender of them desires not more than I doe, that the Church should be governed, as Christ hath appointed, in true Reason, and in Scripture; of which, I could never see any probable shew for any other waies: who either content themselves with the examples of some Churches in their infancy & solitude; when one Presbyter might serve one Congregation, in a City or Countrey; or else they deny these most evident Truths, that the Apostles were Bishops over those Presbyters they ordained, as well as over the Churches they planted; and that, Government being necessary for the Churches wel-being, when multiplied and sociated, must also necessarily descend from the Apostles to others, after the example of that power and superiority, they had above others; which could not end with their persons; since the use and ends of such Government still continue.

It is most sure, that the purest Primitive and best Churches flourished under Episcopacy; and may so still, if ignorance, superstition, avarice, revenge, and other disorderly and disloyall passions had not so blowne up some mens minds against it, that what they want of Reasons or Primitive Patterns, they supply with violence and oppression; wherein some mens zeale for Bishops Lands, Houses, and Revenues hath set them on worke to eate up Episcopacy: which (however other men esteem) to Me is no lesse sin, than Sacriledge; or a robbery of GOD (the giver of all we have) of that portion which devout mindes have thankfully given againe to him, in giving it to his Church and Prophets; through whose hands he graciously accepts even a cup of cold water, as a libation offered to himselfe.

Furthermore, as to My particular engagement above other men, by an Oath agreeable to My judgement, I am solemnly obliged to preserve that Government, and the Rights of the Church.

Were I convinced of the unlawfullnesse of the Function, as Antichristian, (which some men boldly, but weakly calumniate) I could soone, with Judgment, break that Oath, which erroneously was taken by Me.

But being daily by the best disquisition of truth, more confirmed in the Reason and Religion of that, to which I am Sworn; how can any man that wisheth not My damnation, perswade Me at once to so notorious and combined sins, of Sacriledge and Perjury? Besides the many personall Injustices, I must doe to many worthy men, who are as legally invested in their Estates, as any, who seek to deprive them; and they have by no Law, been convicted of those crimes, which might forfeit their Estates and Lively-hoods.

I have oft wondred how men pretending to tender-nesse of Conscience, and Reformation, can at once tell Me, that My CoronationThe ceremony of crowning a king or queen (and their consort). Oath binds Me to Consent to whatsoever they shall propound to Me, (which they urge with such violence) though contrary to ail that Rationall and Religious freedome which every man ought to preserve; & of which they seem so tender in their own Votes, yet at the same time these men will needs perswade Me, that I must, and ought to dispence with, and roundly break that part of My Oath, which binds Me (agreeable to the best light of Reason and Religion I have) to maintain the Government, and legall Rights of the Church. 'Tis strange My lot should be valid in that part, which both My self, and all men in their own case, esteem injurious & unreasonable, as being against the very naturall and essentiall liberty of our soules; yet it should be invalid, and to be broken in another clause, wherein I think My selfe justly obliged, both to God and Man.

Yet upon this Rack chiefly have I been held so long, by some mens ambitious Covetousnesse, and sacrilegious Cruelty; torturing (with Me) both Church and State, in Civill dissentions; till I shall be forced to consent, and declare that I doe approve, what (God knowes) I utterly dislike, and in My Soul abhor; as many wayes highly against Reason, Justice, and Religion: and whereto, if I should shamefully, and dishonourably give My consent; yet should I not by so doing, satisfie the divided Interests and Opinions of those Parties, which contend with each other, as well as both against Me and Episcopacy.

Nor can My late condescending to the Scots in point of Church-government, be rightly objected against Me, as an inducement for Me, to consent to the like in My other Kingdoms, for it should be considered that Episcopacy was not so rooted and setled there, as 'tis here; nor I (in that respect) so strictly bound to continue it in that Kingdom as in this; for what I think in My judgment best, I may not think so absolutely necessary for all places, & at all times.

If any shall impute My yeilding to them, as My failing and sin, I can easily acknowledge it; but that is no argument to do so again, or much worse; I being now more convinced in that point: nor indeed hath My yeilding to them been so happy and successefull as to incourage Me to grant the like to others.

Did I see any thing more of Christ, as to Meeknesse, Justice, Order, Charity, and Loyalty in those that pretend to other modes of Government, I might suspect My judgment to be biassed, or fore-stalled with some prejudice and wontednesse of opinion; but I have hitherto so much cause to suspect the contrary in the manners of many of those men, that I cannot from them gain the least reputation for their new wayes of Government.

Nor can I find that in any Reformed Churches (whose paternes are so cryed up, and obtruded upon the Churches under My Dominion) that either Learning, or Religion, workes of Piety or Charity have so flourished beyond what they have done in, My Kingdomes (by Gods blessing) which might make Me believe either Presbytery or Independency have a more benigne influence upon the Church and mens hearts and lives, than Episcopacy in its right constitution.

The abuses of which, deserve to be extirpated, as much as the use retained; for I think it farre better to hold to primitive and uniforme Antiquity, than to comply with divided novelty.

A right Episcopacy would at once satisfie all just desires and interests of good Bishops, humble Presbyters, and sober People; so as Church affaires should be managed neither with tyrannic, parity, nor popularity; neither Bishops ejected, nor Presbyters despised, nor People oppressed.

And in this integrity both of My Judgment and Conscience, I hope God will preserve Me.

For Thou, O Lord, knowest my uprightnesse, and tendernesse, as thou hast set me to be a Defender of the Faith, and a Protectour of thy Church, so suffer me not by any violence, to be overborne against my Conscience.

Arise, O Lord, maintaine thine owne Cause, let not thy Church be deformed, as to that Government, which derived from thy Apostles, hath been retained in purest and primitive times, till the Revenues of the Church became the object of secular envy; which seeks to rob it of all the incouragements of Learning and Religion.

Make me, as the good Samaritan, compassionate, and helpfull to thy afflicted Church; which some men have wounded and robbed; others passe by without regard, either to pity, or relieve.

As my power is from thee, so give me grace to use it for thee.

And though I am not suffered to be Master of my other Rights as a KING, yet preserve me in that liberty of Reason, love of Religion, and thy Churches welfare, which are fixed in my Conscience as a Christian.

Preserve, from Sacrilegious invasions, those tem-porall blessings, which thy providenceGod or another spiritual entity's protective care and direction. hath bestowed on thy Church for thy glory.

Forgive their sinnes and errours, who have deserved thy just permission, thus to let in the wild Boare, and subtill Foxes, to wast and deform thy Vineyard, which thy right hand hath planted, and the dew of Heaven so long watered to a happy and flourishing estate.

O let me not beare the infamous brand to all Posterity of being the first Christian KING in this Kingdome, who should consent to the oppression of thy Church, and the Fathers of it; whose errours I would rather, with Constantine, cover with silence, and reforme with meeknesse, than expose their persons, and sacred Functions, to vulgar contempt.

Thou, O Lord, seest how much I have suffered with, and for thy Church; make no long tarrying O my God, to deliver both me, and it, from unreasonable men; whose counsels have brought forth, and continue such violent confusions, by a precipitant destroying the ancient boundaries of thy Churches peace; thereby letting in all manner of errours, schismes, and disorders.

O thou God, of order, and of truth, in thy good time, abate the malice, aswage the rage, and confound all the mischievous devices of thine, mine, and thy Churches enemies.

That I, and all that love thy Church, may sing praises to thee, and ever magnifie thy salvation, even before the sons of men.