Upon the Reformations of the Times.
NO Glory is more to be envied than that, of due Reforming either Church or State, when deformities are such, that the perturbation and novelty are not like to exceed the benefit of Reforming.
Although God should not honour Me so farre, as to make Me an Instrument of so good a worke, yet I should be glad to see it done.
As I was well pleased with this Parliaments first intentions to reform what the Indulgence of Times, and corruption of manners might have depraved; so I am sorry to see after the freedome of Parliament was by factious Tumults oppressed, how little regard was had to the good Laws established, and the Religion setled; which ought to be the first rule and standard of reforming: with how much partiality, and popular compliance the passions, and opinions of men have been gratified, to the detriment of the Publique, and the infinite scandall of the Reformed Religion.
What dissolutions of all Order, and Government, in the Church; what novelties of Schismes, and corrupt opinions; what undecencies and confusions in sacred administrations; what sacrilegious invasions upon the Rights and Revenues of the Church; what contempt & oppressions of the ClergyThe people ordained for religious duties, especially in the Christian Church.; what injurious diminutions and persecutings of Me, have followed, (as showres do warm gleames) the talke of Reformation, all sober men are Witnesses, and with My self, sad Spectators hitherto.
The great miscarriage I think is, that popular clamours and fury, have been allowed the reputation of Zeale, and the publique sense; so that the study to please some Parties hath indeed injured all.
Freedome, moderation, and impartiality are sure the best tempers of reforming Councels, and endeavours: what is acted by Factions, cannot but offend more, than it pleaseth.
I have offered to put all differences in Church affaires and Religion to the free consultation of a Synod or Convocation rightly chosen; the results of whose Counsels as they would have included the Votes of all, so its like they would have given most satisfaction to all.
The Assembly of Divines, whom the two Houses have applyed (in an unwonted way) to advise of Church Affaires, I dislike not further, then that they are not legally convened and chosen; nor Act in the name of all the Clergy of England; nor with freedome and impartiality can doe any thing, being limited and confined, if not over-awed, to do and declare what they do.
For I cannot think so many men cryed up for learning and piety, who formerly allowed the Liturgy and Government of the Church of England, as to the maine, would have so suddenly agreed quite to abolish both of them, (the last of which, they knew to be of Apostolicall institution, at least; as of Primitive and Universall practice) if they had been left to the liberty of their own suffrages, and if the influence of contrary Factions had not by secret encroachments of hopes, and feares, prevailed upon them, to comply with so great and dangerous Innovations in the Church; without any regard to their own former judgment and practice, or to the common interest and honour of all the Clergy, and in them of Order, Learning, and Religion against examples of all Ancient Churches; the Lawes in force, and My consent; which is never to be gained, against so pregnant light, as in that point shines on My understanding. For I conceive, that where the Scripture is not so clear and punctuall in precepts, there the constant and Universall practice of the Church, in things not contrary to Reason, Faith, good Manners, or any positive Command, is the best Rule that Christians can follow.
I was willing to grant, or restore to Presbitery, what with Reason or Discretion it can pretend to, in a conjuncture with EpiscopacyThe government of a church by bishops, or the office of a bishop.; but for that wholly to invade the Power, and by the Sword to arrogate, and quite abrogate the Authority of that Ancient Order, I think neither just, as to Episcopacy, nor safe for Presbitery nor yet any way convenient for this Church or State.
A due reformation had easily followed moderate Counsells; and such (I believe) as would have given more content, even to the most of those Divines, who have been led on with much Gravity and Formality, to carry on other mens designes: which no doubt many of them by this time discover, though they dare not but smother their frustrations, and discontents.
The specious and popular titles, of Christs Government, Throne, Scepter, and Kingdome, (which certainly is not divided, nor hath two faces, as their parties now have, at least) also the noise of a through Reformation, these may as easily be fined on new models, as fair colours may be put to ill-favoured figures.
The breaking of Church-windowes, which Time had sufficiently defaced; pulling down of Crosses, which were but civill, not Religious marks; defacing of the Monuments, and Inscriptions of the Dead, which served but to put Posterity in mind, to thank God, for that clearer light, wherein they live; the leaving of all Ministers to their liberties, and private abilities, in the Publick service of God, where no Christian can tell to what he may say Amen; nor what adventure he may make, of seeming, at least, to consent to the Errours, Blasphemies, and ridiculous Undecencies, which bold and ignorant men list to vent in their Prayers, Preaching, and other Offices. The setting forth also of old Catechismes, and Confessions of Faith new drest, importing as much, as if there had been no sound or clear DoctrineThe set of beliefs upheld by a religion or political party. of Faith in this Church, before some four or five yeares consultation had matured their thoughts, touching their first Principles of Religion.
All these, and the like are the effects of popular, specious, and deceitfull Reformations, (that they might not seem to have nothing to do) and may give some short flashes of content to the vulgar, (who are taken with novelties, as children with babies, very much, but not very long) But all this amounts not to, nor can in Justice merit the glory of the Churches thorow Reformation; since they leave all things more deformed, disorderly, and discontented, then when they began, in point of Piety, Morality, Charity, and good Order.
Nor can they easily recompense or remedy the inconveniences and mischiefs, which they have purchased so dearly, and which have, and every will necessarily ensue, till due remedies be applied.
I wish they would at last, make it their Unanimous work, to doe Gods work, and not their own: had Religion been first considered (as it merited) much trouble might have been prevented.
But some men thought, that the Government of this Church and State, fixed by so many Lawes, and long Customes, would not run into their new moulds, till they had first melted it in the fire of a Civill Warre; by the advantages of which they resolved, if they prevailed, to make My self & all My Subjects fall down, and worship the Images they should form and set up: if there had been as much of Christs Spirit, for meeknesse, wisdome, and charity, in mens hearts, as there was of his name used in the pretensions, to reform all to Christs Rule, it would certainly have obtained more of Gods blessing, and produced more of Christs Glory, the Churches good, the Honour of Religion, and the Unity of Christians.
Publick Reformers had need first Act in private, and practise that on their own hearts, which they purpose to trie on others; for Deformities within, will soon betray the Pretenders of publick Reformations, to such private designes as must needes hinder the publick good.
I am sure the right Methods of Reforming the Church cannot consist with that of perturbing the Civill State, nor can Religion be justly advanced by depressing Loyalty, which is one of the chiefest Ingredients, and Ornaments of true Religion, for next to fear God, is, Honour the King.
I doubt not but Christs Kingdome may be set up without pulling down Mine; nor wil any men in impartiall times appear good Christians, that approve not themselves good Subjects.
Christ's Government will confirme Mine, not overthrow it, since as I owne Mine from Him, so I desire to rule for his Glory, and his Churches good.
Had some men truly intended Christ's Government, or knew what it meant, in their hearts, they could never have been so ill governed in their words, and actions, both against Me, and one another.
As good ends cannot justifie evill means, so nor will evil beginnings ever bring forth good conclusions; unlesse God, by a miracle of Mercy, create Light out of Darknesse, order out of our confusions, and peace out of our passions.
Thou, O Lord, who onely canst give us beauty for ashes, and Truth for Hypocrisie; suffer us not to be miserably deluded with Pharisaicall washings, instead of Christian reformings.
Our greatest deformities are within, make us the severest Censurers, and first Reformers of our owne soules.
That we may in clearnesse of judgment, and up-rightnesse of heart be meanes to reforme what is indeed amisse in Church and State.
Create in us cleane hearts, O Lord, and renew right spirits within us; that we may doe all by thy directions, to thy glory, and with thy blessing.
Pity the deformities, which some rash and cruell Reformers have brought upon this Church and State; Quench the fires which Factions have kindled, under the pretence of Reforming.
As thou hast shewed the world by their divisions, and confusions, what is the pravity of some mens intentions, and weaknesse of their judgements; so bring us at last more refined out of these fires, by the methods of Christian and charitable Reformations; wherein nothing of ambition, revenge, covetousnesse, or sacriledge, may have any influence upon their counsels, whom thy providenceGod or another spiritual entity's protective care and direction. in just and lawfull waies shall entrust with so great, good, and now most necessary worke. That I and my People may be so blest with inward piety, as may best teach us how to use the blessing of outward peace.