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Henry Ferne, The Resolving of Conscience - Joyce Lee Malcom, The Struggle for Sovereignty: Seventeenth-Century English Political Tracts, vol. 1 
The Struggle for Sovereignty: Seventeenth-Century English Political Tracts, 2 vols, ed. Joyce Lee Malcolm (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999). Vol. 1.
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Henry Ferne, The Resolving of Conscience
Henry Ferne, 1602-1662
Upon this Question.
Whether upon such a Supposition or Case, as is now usually made (The King will not discharge his trust but is bent or seduced to subvert Religion, Laws, and Liberties) Subjects may take Arms and resist? and whether that case be now?
I. That no Conscience upon such a Supposition or Case can finde a safe and cleare ground for such resistance.
II. That no man in Conscience can be truly perswaded, that the resistance now made is such, as they themselves pretend to, that plead for it in such a case.
III. That no man in Conscience can be truly perswaded that such a case is now, that is, that the King will not discharge his trust but is bent to subvert, &c.
Whence it followeth,
That the resistance now made against the higher Power is unwarrantable, and according to the Apostle Damnable, Rom. 13.
Also that the shedding of bloud in the pursuit of this resistance is Murder.
By H. Fern D.D. &c
Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evill, that put darknesse for light, and light for darknesse, Isa. 5. 20.
O my soule come not thou into their secret. Gen. 49. 6.
Printed at Cambridge, and re-printed at
Henry Ferne, an Anglican divine, was born in York and educated at Cambridge University. He first came to Charles’s attention when he preached before the king at Leicester in July 1642. Charles was so pleased with Ferne he made him his chaplain extraordinary, no ordinary chaplaincy then being vacant. That autumn Ferne’s first pamphlet, “The Resolving of Conscience upon This Question,” one of the first tracts openly on the king’s side, was published. In it Ferne wrestled with the no longer theoretical dilemma of whether there was a right for a subject to resist a king and “whether that case be now?” The tract was published at Cambridge, York, and London in four further printings. It so incensed members of the Commons that Ferne was cited that Christmas Eve to answer for it. Instead he abandoned his living in Medbourne and took refuge with the royal party at Oxford where a “second edition” of the offending tract was published in 1643.
“The Resolving of Conscience” provoked a number of impressive replies. One by Charles Herle is reprinted below. Ferne attempted to address these, and in particular Herle’s, on 18 April 1643, with a rebuttal, “Conscience Satisfied,” far longer than his original essay. Other works followed earning for their author a reputation as the leading royalist writer of the period. In 1644 Ferne was one of five clergymen sent to defend Anglican church government in a debate with parliamentary clergy. After the surrender of the king in 1646 Ferne retired to Yorkshire. There he remained until summoned to the Isle of Wight in 1648 by Charles, where, on 28 November, he preached the last sermon the king would hear before his trial.
Ferne lived quietly in Yorkshire writing religious treatises until the Restoration when he was rewarded with the mastership of Trinity College, Cambridge. During the eighteen months he held this post he twice served as vice-chancellor of the university. He was created bishop of Chester in 1662 but died five weeks later.
The Resolving of Conscience, Touching the Unlawfulnesse of the Warre and Resistance Now Made Against the King.
Lamentable are the distractions of this Kingdome, and the more, because they gather strength from the name and authority of (that, which as it is of high esteeme with all, so should it be a remedy to all these our distempers) a Parliament: and from the pretended defence of those things that are most deare unto us, Religion, Liberties, Laws. Whereupon so many good people, that have come to a sense of Religion and godlinesse, are miserably carried away by a strange implicite faith to beleeve, that whatsoever is said or done in the name of a Parliament, and in the pretended defence of Religion, Liberties, Lawes, to be infallibly true, and altogether just.
But he that will consider, men are men, and would seeke a surer rule for his conscience than the Traditions or Ordinances of men taken hand over head, shall upon reasonable examination find upon what plausible but groundlesse principles, upon what faire but deceiving pretences, upon what grievous but causelesse imputations laid upon Majestie itself, a poore people are drawn into Arms against the duty and allegiance they owe to their Prince by the Laws of God and man. For directing the Conscience in such an examination this ensuing Discourse is framed as briefly and plainly as the matter will permit.
Conscience in resolving upon a question, first layes down the Proposition or Principle or Ground on which it goes; then it assumes or applies to the present case; then it concludes and resolves: as in this question, affirmatively for Resistance, thus, Subjects in such a case may arm and resist. But that case is now come. Therefore now they may and doe justly resist.
Or negatively against Resistance, either by denying the Principle: Subjects may not in such a case arm and resist; therefore now they doe not justly resist. Or by admitting the Principle and denying the Case; Subjects in such a case may arm and resist. But that case is not now. Therefore now they do not justly arm and resist.
What it is that Conscience is here to admit or deny, and how it ought to conclude and resolve, this ensuing Treatise will discover: which that it may more clearely appeare, we will premise,
First, that in the Proposition or Principle by the word Resistance is meant, not a denying of obedience to the Prince’s command, but a rising in arms, a forcible resistance. This though clear enough in the question, yet I thought fit to insinuate, to take off that false imputation laid upon the Divines of this Kingdom & upon all those that appear for the King in this cause, that they endeavoured to defend an absolute power in him, and to raise him to an Arbitrary way of government. This we are as much against on his part, as against Resistance on the subjects’ part. For we may & ought to deny obedience to such commands of the Prince, as are unlawfull by the law of God yea, by the established Laws of the Land. For in these we have his will and consent given upon good advice, and to obey him against the Laws, were to obey him against himselfe, his sudden will against his deliberate will; but a far other matter it is to resist by power of arms, as is in the question implied, and as we see at this day to our astonishment, first the power of arms taken from the Prince by setting up the Militia,1 then that power used against him by an army in the field.
Secondly, we must consider that they which plead for Resistance in such a case as is supposed do grant it must be concluded upon, Omnibus ordinibus regni consentientibus that is, with the generall and unanimous consent of the Members of the two Houses of the representative body of the whole Kingdom. Also they yeeld it must be only Legitima defensio, a meer defensive resistance; and this also Conscience must take notice of.
Thirdly, it is considerable that in the supposition or case it is likewise granted by them, that the Prince must first be so and so disposed, and bent to overthrow Religion, Liberties Laws, and will not discharge his trust for the maintaining of them, before such a Resistance can be pretended to. And although the question is, and must be so put now, as that it seems to streighten the Case, and make it depend upon the supposall of the people; yet it so much the more enlarges the falshood of the Principle, for it plainly speaks thus; If subjects beleeve or verily suppose their Prince will change Religion they may rise in arms; whereas all that have pleaded for Resistance in case of Religion, did suppose another Religion enjoined upon the subject first. We will therefore endeavour to cleare all for the resolving of Conscience in these three generalls:
I. That no Conscience upon such a case as is supposed can find clear ground to rest upon for such resistance as is pretended to but according to the rules of Conscience, What is not of faith is sin: and, In doubtfull things the safer way is to be chosen. Conscience it will find cause to forbeare and to suffer, rather than resist; doubtfull, I say, not that a Conscience truly informed will not clearly see the unlawfulnesse of this Resistance but because no conscience can be truly perswaded of the lawfulnesse of it, and so that Conscience that resolves for it, must needs run doubtingly or blindly upon the worke.
II. That the resistance now used and made against the Prince is not such as they pretend to either for that generall and unanimous consent that should precede it, or that defensive way that should accompany it, according to their owne grants that plead for it and therefore Conscience cannot admit such a resistance as is made now adayes.
III. If Conscience could be perswaded, that it is lawfull in such a case to resist, and that this rising in arms is such a resistance as they say may in such a case be pretended to, yet can it never (if it be willing to know anything) be truly perswaded that such a case is now come, that is, That the King refuses to discharge his trust, is bent to overthrow Religion, &c. and therefore Conscience cannot but resolve, this Opposition and Resistance to be unlawfull, unwarrantable, and (according to the Apostle) damnable; and that people running into arms without sufficient warrant, commit murder if they shed bloud in the pursuit of this Resistance, and perish in their own sinne, if die in the cause.
First then, that the Principle is untrue upon which they go that resist, and that Conscience cannot find clear ground to rest upon for making resistance: for it heares the Apostle expressely say, Whosoever resists shall receive to themselves damnation: and it cannot find any limitation in Scripture that will excuse the Resistance of these dayes.
The exception or limitation that is made, is taken from the Persons resisting, and the Causes of resistance, thus, They that are private persons and doe resist upon any cause receive damnation, but the States or representative body of the whole people may resist upon such or such causes. But how will this satisfie Conscience, when every distinction or limitation made upon any place of Scripture, must have its ground in Scripture; this has only some examples in Scripture that come not home to the cause and some appearances of Reason; which are easily refuted by clearer Scripture and Reason.
The examples alleged, are, I. The people’s rescuing of Jonathan out of the hands of Saul. Answ. Here the people drew not into arms of themselves, but being there at Saul’s command, did by a loving violence and importunitie hinder the execution of a particular and passionate unlawfull command.
II. David’s resisting of Saul. Answ. 1. David’s guard that hee had about him was only to secure his person against the cut-throats of Saul, if sent to take away his life. 2. It was a meer defence without all violence offered to Saul; therefore he still gave place as Saul pursued, and did no act of hostility to him or any of his Army when they were in his power, I Sam. 26. But thirdly, because they gather out of the I Sam. 23.12 that David would have defended Keilah against Saul, if the Inhabitants would have been faithfull to him. Wee say that’s only an uncertaine supposition not fit to ground Conscience in this great point of resistance; also to this and all other David’s demeanours, in his standing out against Saul, we say his example was extraordinary; for he was anointed and designed by the Lord to succeed Saul, and therefore he might use an extraordinary way of safeguarding his person.
These are the chiefe examples. They make use also of the high Priests resisting the King in the temple, and Elisha’s shutting the doore against the King’s Messenger that came to take away his head; and the like; which speake not so much as the two former, having no appearance of such resistance as is implied in the question. But wee answer, 1. That of the high Priest is more pertinently applied to the Pope’s power of excommunicating and deposing Kings, than to this power of resisting now used; but truly to neither. For he did no more than what every Minister may and ought to doe if a King should attempt the administration of the Sacrament; that is, to reprove him, to keep the Elements from him. Ambrose Bishop of Milain withstood the Emperour at the entrance of God’s house, not by Excommunication, much lesse by force of arms, but by letting him understand hee was not fit for that place, there to be made partaker of the holy things, till he had repented of that outrage and bloodshed at Thessalonica. Upon which the Emperour withdrew.
The Priests here are said to thrust him out of the Temple; but we must note God’s hand was first upon him smiting him with leprosie, and by that discharging him of the Kingdome also. It is added in the text, yea himself also hasted to goe out. But enough of this.
2. Elisha’s example speaks very little. But let us thence take occasion to say, That Personall defence is lawfull against the sudden and illegall assaults of such Messengers; yea, of the Prince himself thus far, to ward his blowes, to hold his hands, and the like: not to endanger his person, not to return blows, no; for though it be naturall to defend a man’s self, yet the whole Common-wealth is concerned in his person, as we see in the Common-wealth of the creatures, one particular nature will defend itself against another, but yeeld to the universall.
If this be drawn from personal defence to the publick resistance now used, as usually they make the Argument thus; If the body naturall, then the body politick may defend itself, if a private person much more the whole State may; and they doe but shut the way up against the King that comes to destroy his Parliament, and take away their heads.
We answer: As the naturall body defends itself against an outward force, but strives not by a schisme or contention within itself; so may the body politick against an outward power, but not as now by one part of it set against the Head and another part of the same body; for that tends to the dissolution of the whole. Again; Personall defence may be without all offence, and does not strike at the order and power that is over us, as generall resistance by Armes doth, which cannot be without many unjust violences, and does immediately strike at that order which is the life of a Commonwealth. And this makes a large difference betwixt Elisha’s shutting the doore against this messenger, and their shutting up the way against the King by armed men; nor can they conclude upon such an intention in the King’s heart without the Spirit of Elisha. He professeth hee intends no violence to his Parliament, nor has he taken away the head of any of theirs that have fallen into his power, nor does desire any other punishment inflicted upon any that do oppose him, than what a Legall tryall shall adjudge them to, which no good Subject ought to decline.
Now let us see how Scripture excludes this and all other exceptions, giving no allowance to resistance, in regard of Persons or Causes, or other pretences, and this not only by examples, but by precept, conclusions, Resolutions, which are more safe.
First, we have the two hundred and fifty Princes of the Congregation, gathering the people against Moses and Aaron, Numb. 16.3 and perishing in this sin. If it be replied, the persons indeed were publick, but there was no cause for it; Moses and Aaron did not deserve it. I answer, but the other supposed they did, and that is now enough, it seems, to make people not only say to their Prince, You take too much upon you, but therefore to rise in armes also, which I hope will appeare to be without cause too in the end of this Treatise.
Secondly, see for the cause of Resistance, I. Sam. 8.1. there the people are let to understand how they should be oppressed under Kings, yet all that violence and injustice that should be done unto them is no just cause of resistance, for they have no remedy left them but crying to the Lord, vers. 18.
Thirdly, we have not only example, but resolution and conclusion out of Scripture. The people might not be gathered together either for Civill assemblies, or for warre, but by his command that had the power of the Trumpet, that is, the supreme as Moses was, Numb. 10.
Also when David had Saul and his army in his power, he resolves the matter thus, Who can stretch out his hand against the Lord’s annointed and be guiltlesse, I Sam. 26.9. If replied, now they intend not hurt to the King’s person; yet might not they as well have hurt his person in the day of battell, as any of them that were swept away from about him by the furie of the Ordnance, which puts no difference betwixt King and common souldiers?
This also I must observe concerning this point of resistance, out of the Old Testament (for from thence have they all their seeming instances). That it is a marvellous thing, that among so many Prophets reprehending the Kings of Israel and Judah for idolatry, cruelty, oppression, none should call upon the Elders of the people for this duty of Resistance.
But lastly, that place of the Apostle, Rom. 13 at first mentioned does above all give us a clear resolution upon the point, which now I shall free from all exceptions.
First, I may suppose, that the King is the Supreme, as S. Peter calls him; or the higher power, as S. Paul here, though it be by some now put to the question, as one absurdity commonly begets another to defend it; but I prove it, S. Peter’s distinction comprehends all that are in authority, The King as supreme, and those that are sent by him, 1 Pet. 2.12 in which latter rank are the two Houses of Parliament, being sent by him, or sent for by him, and by his Writ sitting there. Also by the Oath of Supremacy it is acknowledged, that there is no power above him without or within this Realm; and that he is in all Causes and over all persons supreme. Also acknowledged by the Petitions of the two houses addressed unto his Majesty, wherein they style themselves His loyall Subjects. But enough of this.
Secondly, in the text of the Apostle, all persons under the higher power are expressely forbidden to resist. For whosoever, in the second verse, must be as large as the every soul in the first, and the resistance forbidden here concerns all upon whom the subject is injoined there, or else we could not make these universalls good against the Papists, exempting the Pope and Clergy from the subjection.
Thirdly, in those dayes there was a standing and continuall great Senate, which not long before had the supreme power in the Romane State, and might challenge more by the Fundamentalls of that State, than our great Councell (I think) will, or can. But now the Emperour being Supreme, S. Peter calls him; or the higher power, as S. Paul here, there is no power of resistance left to any that are under him, by the Apostle. This for the Persons that should resist, all are forbidden. Now considering the Cause.
Fourthly, was there ever more cause of resistance than in those dayes? Were not the Kings then not only conceived to be enclined so and so, but even actually were enemies to Religion, had overthrown Lawes and Liberties? And therefore if any should from the Apostle’s reasons that he gives against resistance in the 3, 4, 5, verses, (For Rulers are not a terrour to good works but evill, and he is the minister of God to thee for good) reply, That Rulers so long as they are not a terrour to the good, but minister for our good, are not to be resisted. The consideration of those times leaves no place for such exception, because the Powers then (which the Apostle forbids to resist) were nothing so, but subverters of that which was good and just.
If it be replied, That prohibition was temporary and fit for those times, as it is said by some, I answer, 1. This is a new exception never heard of (I think) but in these times. 2. It is groundlesse, and against the Text, for the reasons of the prohibition in the 3, 4, 5, 6, verses, are perpetuall, from that order, that good, for which the powers are ordained of God, which will be of force as long as there is government, and will alwayes be reasons against resistance; because resistance (though it be made against abused powers as then they were) doth tend to the dissolution of that order, for which the power itself is set up of God. By which also that other distinction of theirs is made void, when as they reply, as they think, acutely, That they resist not the power, but the abuse of the power.
It is also answered by some, that the Emperors then were absolute Monarchs, and therefore not to be resisted. I answer: They did indeed rule absolutely and arbitrarily, which should have, according to the principles of these dayes, been a stronger motive to resist. But how did they make themselves of Subjects such absolute Monarchs, was it not by force and change of the government, and was not the right of the people & Senate (according to the Principles of these days) good against them with as much or more reason, than the right of the people of this Land is against the succession of this Crown descending by three Conquests?2 And this I speak not to win an Arbitrary power or such as Conquerours use, unto this Crown, but only to shew that Resistance can be no more made against the Kings of England, than it could against those Emperours. Nay, with lesse reason against them, than these.
Lastly, it is replied, That Christian Religion was then enacted against by Law; but the Religion contended for is established by Law. I answer: But is the Religion established denied to any that now fight for it? Shall the Apostle’s prohibition be good against Christians in the behalfe of actuall Tyrants persecuting that Religion, and not against Subjects freely enjoying the Religion established? Or may Protestants upon a jealousie resist a Protestant King professing the same Religion, and promising to conserve it entire to them?
2. The prohibition does not only concern Christians, but all the people under those Emperours, and not only Religion was persecuted, but liberties also lost, the people and Senate were enslaved by Edicts and Lawes then inforced upon them, & they (according to the principles of these dayes) might resist, notwithstanding the Apostles’ prohibition, & the Laws then forced upon them; or else the State, as they usually say, had not means to provide for its safety. Thus one fancy of theirs thwarts another, because both are groundless. But more anon of those means of safty they suppose to be in every State, by the power of Resistance.
Hitherto of Scripture, which is most powerful against Resistance, in the prohibition & the reasons of it, by which Conscience will clearly see, it can have no warrant from Scripture for Resistance. Now let us try what Reason can enforce.
For proving this Power of resistance, there is much speech used about the Fundamentals of this government, which because they lie low and unseen by vulgar eyes, being not written Lawes, the people are easily made to believe they are such as they (that have power to build new Laws upon them) say they are. And indeed none so fit to judge of them as they. Yet this we know, and every one that can use his reason knows, that the Fundamentalls must needs be such as will bear the settled government of this Land, such as are not contradictory to the written established Laws: but both the government we see used in this Land, and the written Laws which we reade, must have a correspondency and analogie of reason to these, Fundamentalls, and they to these.
Well then, they that plead for power of resistance in the people, lay the first ground work of their Fundamentals thus: Power is originally in and from the people and if when by election they have intrusted a Prince with the power, he will not discharge his trust, then it falls to the people; or, as in this Kingdom, to the two houses of Parliament (the representative body of the people) to see to it; they may reassume the power.
This is the bottom of their Fundamentals as they are now discovered to the people. But here we may take notice by the way, that however the Fundamentals of this Government are much talked of, this is according to them the Fundamentall in all Kingdomes and Governments; for they say power was everywhere from the people at first, and so this will serve no more for the power of resistance in England, than in France or Turkey. But if this must be a Fundamentall, it is such a one as upon it this Government cannot be built, but Confusion and Anarchy may readily be raised; as shall appear by the clearing of these two particulars, Whether the power be so originally and chiefly from the people as they would have it; then, Whether they may upon such causes reassume that power.
First, of the originall of power, which they will have so from the people, that it shall be from God only by a kind of permissive approbation, as we may see by the Observator, and all other that plead for this power of resistance. Wee must here distinguish what the writers of the other side seeme to confound, to wit, the Power itselfe, (which is a sufficiency of authority for command and coercion in the governing of a people) from the designing of the Person to beare that power, and the qualification of that power according to the divers wayes of executing it in severall forms of government; and then we grant that the designing of the person is sometimes from the people by choice, and that the power of the Prince receiving qualification by joint consent of himselfe and the people, is limited by the laws made with such consent; but the power itself is of God originally and chiefly, which we prove by Scripture and Reason.
First, by such places of Scripture as plainly shew an ordaining and appointing, rather than a permission or approbation:
1. The Apostle speaks it expresly, The powers are of God, Rom. 13.1 and the ordinance of God, v. 2. S. Peter indeed saith, every ordinance of man, I Epist. 2. but of man there, and of God here is much differing; there it is ἀνθρωπίνῃ, of man, subjective, that is, every ordinance or power set up amongst men; but here it is ἀπὸ θεοῦ, of God, causaliter,3 that is, from him, his ordinance; and if in that ἀνθρωπίνῃ there be implied any creation or causality, or invention of man, it respects the qualification of the power according to the forms of severall governments and offices in them, which are from the invention of man; it does not make the power itselfe the creation of man, which is the constitution and ordinance of God. And men are not only naturally bent to society, but also are bound, as they are reasonable creatures, to set up and live under government, as under an order of that providence by which the world is governed.
2. He is called the minister of God, v. 4. but if so from the people and no otherwise from god than they would have him, he should be minister populi rather; he is indeed their minister for their good, which makes the people to be the end of this governing power, not the fountain and originall of it. Therefore the necessity of subjection urged in v. 5. has a double ground the ordinance of God, whose ministers Rulers are, there’s the fountain and originall of power to govern; then the people’s good, upon which Rulers ought to attend, that is an end of the governing power.
3. To the same purpose speake those other places, by me Kings reign: and, I have said, ye are Gods, Psa. 82. in relation to which our Saviour saith, Joh. 10. they are called Gods to whom the word of God came, that dixi, that word is the command, the issuing out as it were the commission for the setting up of a governing power among the people.
These places cannot be satisfied with that poor part, they on the other side leave to God in the setting up of power for the governing of men, that is, to approve it when the people have created or invented it. Indeed if we consider the qualification of this governing power, and the manner of executing it according to the severall formes of government, we granted it before to be the invention of man, and when such a qualification or forme is orderly agreed upon, we say it hath God’s permissive approbation.
And therefore the imputation is causeless which the Pleaders on the other side doe heedlessely and ignorantly lay upon us Divines, as if wee cried up Monarchy, and that only government to be jure divino. For although Monarchy has this excellency, that the Government God set up over his people in the person of Moses, the Judges, and the Kings, was Monarchicall; yet we confesse that neither that, nor Aristocracy, or any other forme is jure divino, but we say the power itself, or that sufficiency of Authority to govern, which is in Monarchy or Aristocracie, abstractly considered from the qualifications of either form, is an efflux or constitution subordinate to that providence, an ordinance of that Dixi, that silent Word by which the world was at first made, and is still governed under God.
Secondly, as this appeares by the former places of Scripture, so is it also suitable to Reason. Because God doth govern all creatures, Reasonable as well as Unreasonable; the inferiour or lower world he governs by the heavens or superiour bodies, according to those influences and powers he has put into them; and the reasonable creatures, Men, he governs too by others set up in his stead over them: for which they are called Gods, because in his stead over the people: and the powers are said to be ὑπὸ θεοῦ τεταγμέναι, Rom. 13.1. not only ἀπὸ θεοῦ from God, but also as orders ranked under him too, subordinate to that providence by which all creatures are governed.
These his Ministers he sometimes designed immediately by himself, as Moses, the Judges, Saul, David, &c. Now he designes his Vicegerents on earth mediately as by election of the people, by succession or inheritance, by conquest, &c. To conclude, The power itselfe of government is of God, however the person be designed, or that power qualified according to the severall formes or government by those Lawes that are established, or those grants that are procured for the people’s security. Thus much of the originall of Power.
Now we come to the Forfeiture, as I may call it, of this power. If the Prince, say they, will not discharge his trust, then it falls to the people or the two Houses (the representative body of the people) to see to it, and to reassume that power, and thereby to resist. This they conceive to follow upon the derivation of power from the people by vertue of election, and upon the stipulation or covenant of the Prince with the people, as also to be necessary in regard of those meanes of safety, which every State should have within itself. We will examine them in order, and shall find the arguments inconsequent.
Concerning the derivation of power, we answer, First, if it be not from the people, as they will have it, and as before it was cleared, then can there be no reassuming of this power by the people; that’s plaine by their own argument.
Secondly, if the people should give the power so absolutely as they would have it, leaving nothing to God in it but approbation, yet could they not therefore have right to take that power away. For many things which are altogether in our disposing before we part with them, are not afterward in our power to recall; especially such in which there redounds to God an interest by the donation as in things devoted, though afterward they come to be abused. So although it were, as they would have it, that they give the power and God approves; yet because the Lord’s hand also and his oile is upon the person elected to the Crown, & then he is the Lord’s anointed, & the minister of God, whose hands of the people which were used in lifting him up to the Crown, may not again be lifted up against him, either to take the Crown from his head, or the sword out of his hand. This will not a true informed Conscience dare to doe.
Thirdly, how shall the Conscience be satisfied that this their argument, grounded upon election and the derivation of power from the people, can have place in this kingdom, when as the Crown not only descends by inheritance, but also has so often been setled by Conquest in the lines of Saxons, Danes, and Normans? In answering to this they look beyond all these, and say, the right is still good to the people by reason of their first election. I answer, So then that first election must be supposed here, & supposed good against all other titles, or else this power of resistance falls to the ground. It is probable indeed that Kings at first were by choice here as elswhere; but can Conscience rest upon such remote probabilities for resistance, or think that first election will give it power against Princes that do not claim by it. We tell them the Roman Emperours were not to be resisted, Rom. 13.2. They reply, as we had it above, that they were absolute Monarchs. But how came they of subjects to be absolute Monarchs? Was it any otherwise than by force and arms? The way that the Saxons, Danes, and Normans made themselves masters of this people, & was not the right of the people as good against them for the power of resistance by virtue of the first election, as well as of the people of this Land, against their Kings after so many conquests? This I speak, not as if the Kings of this Land might rule as conquerors, God forbid. But to shew this slender plea of the first election can no more take place against the Kings of this Land, than it could against the Roman Monarchs, especially according to their argument, that hold all power originally from the people, & that (as we observed above) to be the fundamentall of all government. Therefore whether Kings were in this Land at first by election or no, we acknowledge what belongs to the duty of a Prince in doing justice and equity. What Grants also, Lawes, Priviledges have since those conquests beene procured or restored to the people, unto all those the King is bound. But yet not bound under forfeiture of this power to the people, which now comes to be examined in that capitulation or convenant he is said to enter with the people.
In the next place therefore, That capitulation or covenant, and the oath which the Prince takes to confirme what he promiseth, are so alledged, as if the breach or non-performance on the Prince’s part were a forfeiture of his power. But we answer, the words capitulation or covenant are now much used to make men believe the King’s admittance to the Crown is altogether conditionall, as in the meerly elective kingdoms of Polonia, Swedeland, &c. whereas our King is King before he comes to the Coronation, which is sooner or later at his pleasure, but always to be in due time in regard of that security his people receive by his taking the oath, and he again mutually from them, in which performance there is something like a covenant, all but the forfeiture. The King there promises and binds himself by oath to performance. Could they in this covenant shew us such an agreement between the King and his people, that in case he will not discharge his trust, then it shall be lawfull for the States of the kingdome by armes to resist, and provide for the safety thereof, it were something.
If it be said, that so much is implied in the first election; we answer, we examined that slender plea of the first election above, as it was thought to be a derivation of power. Now as it is thought to have a covenant in it, we say, that usually in all Empires the higher we arise, the freer we find the Kings, & still downwards the people have gained upon them. For at first when people chose their Rulers, they did as Justine in the beginning of his history observes, resign themselves to be governed by such, of whose prudence and moderation they had experience, and then, arbitria Principum pro legibus erant, the will and discretion of the Prince was law unto the people; but men were men though in God’s place, and therefore for the restraint of that power, with consent of the Prince, such Lawes have beene still procured by the people, as might make for their security.
Now from a promise the king makes for doing justice (the duty of every Prince) for the continuing those priviledges, immunities, that have been granted or restored to the people, and for the observing of those laws that have been established with the Prince’s consent, & from that oath (by which for the greater security of the people he binds himself to the performance of the premises) to infer a great obligation lieth upon him, is right, but to gather thence a forfeiture of his power upon the not performance, is a plain but dangerous inconsequent argument.
And though such argument may seem to have some force in States meerly elective and pactionall, yet can it never be made to appear to any indifferent understanding, that the like must obtain in this kingdom. And to this purpose Phil. Pareus excuseth what his father had written more harshly upon Rom. 13. in the point of resistance, that it was to be understood of elective and pactionall government, not to the prejudice of England, or such Monarchies. For where the King, as it is said, never dies, where he is King before oath or coronation, where he is not admitted upon any such capitulation as gives any power to the people, or their representative body, as is pretended to; Nay, where that body cannot meet but by the will of the Prince, and is dissoluble at his pleasure; that there in such a State, such a power should bee pretended to, and used against the Prince, as at this day; and that according to the Fundamentalls of such a State, can never appeare reasonable to any indifferent judgement, much lesse satisfie Conscience in the resistance that is now made by such a pretended power.
What then shall we say? Is the King not bound to perform? Yes, by all means. Or has he not a limited power according to the Laws? Yes, What then if he will take to himself more power, or not perform what he is bound to? Suppose that (though thanks be to God we are not come to that) then may the Subjects use all fair means as are fit to use, cryes to God, Petitions to the Prince, denialls of obedience to his unlawfull commands, denialls of subsidy, aid, &c. But are they left without all means to compell by force and resistance? This however it may at first sight seem unreasonable to the people, and very impolitick to the Statesman, yet has Scripture forbidden it, as before was plainly shewed, and so doth Reason too, as will appear in the examination of their last proof they make for reassuming this power and resisting, from that necessity of means of safety, which every State is to have within itself: Of which now.
In the last place it is thus reasoned, Were it not so that the two Houses might take and use this power, the State should not have means to provide for its own safety, when the King shall please to desert his Parliament, deny his consent to their bills, abuse His power, &c. So they.
When right and just will not defend a thing then Necessity is usually pleaded; as if, because Salus populi in a good sense is Suprema lex, everything must be honest which is Sparta Utile, imagined to conduce to the proposed end. We answer therefore.
1. They have many weapons sharpened for this resistance at the Philistines’ forge, arguments borrowed from the Roman Schools, among them this is one, the very reason that is made for the Pope’s power of curbing or deposing Kings in case of Heresie. For if there be not that power in the Church, say they, then in case the Civill Magistrate will not discharge his trust, the Church has not means for the maintenance of the Catholike faith and its own safety. Well, as we reply to them, the Church has means of preserving the faith, such as God has appointed, though not that of one visible head, which though at first seems plausible for preserving the Unity of faith, yet has experience shown it, to be indeed the means to bring much mischief upon the Church. So to the other we say, The State has means of preservation such as the Law has prescribed, though not such as are here pretended to in this power of resistance; which though seemingly plausible, yet true reason will conclude them dangerous, and at this day, God knows, we see it. Of this in the 4. answer more particularly.
2. If every State has such means to provide for its safety, what means of safety had the Christian Religion under the Roman Emperours in and after the Apostles’ times? Or the people then enslaved, what means had they for their Liberties? Had they this of resistance? Tertullian in his Apology sayes, the Christians had number and force sufficient to withstand, but they had no warrant; and the Apostle expressely forbids them, and all other under the higher power, to resist.
If it be replied, as it was above touched, That things being so enacted by Law, it was not lawfull for them to resist. I answer, But it is known that not only those Edicts which concerned Christian Religion, but also all other that proceeded from those Emperours and enslaved the people, were meerly arbitrary and enforced upon the Senate, and that the Senate did not discharge their trust in consenting to them, and therefore according to the former position the people might resist, notwithstanding the Apostle’s prohibition, or else no means of safety left in that State.
So would it be in this State, if at any time a King that would rule arbitrarily, as those Emperours did, should by some means or other work out of two Houses the better affected, and by the Consent of the Major part of them that remain, compasse his desires; might the people then resist? The Apostle forbids it to them as well as to the Romans in such a case: if so, where are these means of safety by this Power of resistance? Or are these means of safety extinct in the Consent of the Senate, or the two Houses? No, the people will tell them they discharge not their trust, they chose them not to betray them, enslave them; but according to the principles now taught them, they might lay hold upon this power of resistance, for their representative body claims it by them.
Thirdly we answer, We cannot expect absolute means of safety and security in a State, but such as are reasonable; and such are provided, especially in the fundamentalls of this Government, by that excellent temper of the three Estates in Parliament, there being a power of denying in each of them, and no power of enacting in one or two of them without the third; which as it is for the security of the Commonwealth (for what might follow if the King and Lords without the Commons, or these and the Lords without the King, might determine, the evils of these dayes do shew) so is this power of denying, for the security of each State against other, of the Commons against the King and Lords, of the Lords against them: and must the King trust only, and not be trusted? Must not he also have his security against the other, which he cannot have but by Power of denying? This is that Temper of the three Estates in Parliament, the due observing whereof, in the moderate use of this Power of denying, is the reasonable means of this State’s safety. But now not only the name of Parliament, which implies the three Estates, is restrained usually to the two Houses, but also that Temper is dissolved. I need not speak it, the distractions and convulsions of the whole Commonwealth, as the distempers in a naturall body, do sufficiently shew such a dissolution, and what’s the cause of it.
If it be replied, as it is, for the reasonablenesse of these means of safety, through that Power of resistance, and the finall trust reposed in the representative body of the people, That many see more than one, and more safety in the judgement of many than of one. Answ. True. But 1. Conscience might here demand for its satisfaction, Why should an hundred in the House of Commons see more than three hundred; or twenty in the Lords House, more than sixty that are of different judgement and withdrawn?
2. Reason doth suppose, That the Prince, though one, sees with the eyes of many, yea with their eyes who are of different judgement from him, for which his Houses of Parliament are his great Councell to present to his eyes the differences of things with the reasons of them; and albeit he sometimes dissents from the Major or prevailing part, because he is convinced in his own judgement they seek themselves not his or the publike good, or for other reasons that may perswade him against their Vote, yet have all times thought good to have Kings, and to reduce the judgement of many unto one. The Government which God made choice of to set up among his people was Monarchicall still, first in Moses, then in the Judges, then in the Kings; yea generally all Authors yield, and experience has taught it, That Monarchy is a better government than Aristocracy, because the Tyranny and Miscarriage of one, sometime happening in a Monarch, is nothing so dangerous as Oligarchy, Faction, and Division usually incident to Aristocracy or the Government by many equals. Again, as all times have thought it reasonable to have Monarchy, which settles the chief power and finall judgement in One; so will there be alwayes sufficient reason to withhold the King from a willfull deniall of his Consent to the free and unanimous Vote of his Houses. He cannot but see there will alwayes be some necessary good accrewing to him by his Parliament, that will keep him in all reason from doing so, and no cases can be put or inconveniences feared upon his power of denying, but greater and more eminent will appear upon his not having it, as has been insinuated, and now do follow.
Fourthly therefore and lastly we answer. Such power of resistance would be no fit means of safety to a State, but prove a remedy worse than the disease. This is very plain by the drift of the Apostle’s reasons which he gave against resistance, in the 3, 4, 5, 6, Vers. of the 13. to the Romans, in which we may consider, that, although the Powers then were altogether unjust, tyrannicall, subverters of true Religion, nothing answerable to the end for which the Governing power is ordained, yet doth the Apostle draw his reasons against the resisting of them, from that good, that justice, that order for which God hath set up the higher powers; to insinuate, that the resisting of the higher powers, even when they are so, does tend to the overthrow of that order which is the life of a Commonwealth; and this not only because there is still order under tyranny, but chiefly because, if it were good and lawfull, to resist the power, when abused, it would open a way to the people upon the like pretences to resist and overthrow even Powers duely administered for the executing of wrath upon them that do evill.
I enter this discourse, not to cast the least blemish upon Parliaments (which are an only remedy for distempers of the Kingdom) not to reflect upon the intentions of those that are yet resident in that high Court, (unto God, the judge of all, they stand or fall) not to raise jealousies, but to settle Conscience, and in the way of reasoning to shew according to the Apostle’s reasons what dangers and evils may ensue upon this power of resistance.
For first of all, This power of resistance, if admitted and pursued may proceed to a change of Government, the Principles that now are gone upon, and have carried it so farre as we see at this day, may also lead it on to that greatest of evils. And I have heard and seen it defended by the example of the Low-countreys; how they excuse it, thoroughly I examine not, but this I am sure they can say, That their Prince, succeeding in the right of the Duke of Burgundy was admitted upon other conditions than the Kings of England are. Also that a contrary Religion was enforced upon them by a terrible Inquisition, whereas they that do resist the higher Powers here, do freely enjoy their Religion, and have the Prince’s promise and Protestation for it.
Secondly, This power of resistance when used, and pursued, is accompanied with the evils of Civill warre. Former times shew it, and how little was gained by it beside the expence of bloud; as when all was referred to the rule and disposing of the 12 Peers, how long lasted it? What security had the State by it? And at this day we feel and groan under the evils brought upon us through this power of resistance, the Law silenced, the Property and Liberty of the Subject every where invaded: and the Lord knows when or how we shall be restored to them, or better secured in them by this way. Thirdly, We see the danger, if (as it is now said, for the justifying of this power of resistance, The King will not discharge His trust, and therefore it falls to the representative body of the people to see to it, so) the People being discontented, and having gotten power shall say, The Members of the two houses do not discharge the trust committed to them, they do not that for which they were chosen and sent for, then may the multitude by this rule and principle now taught them take the Power to themselves, it being claimed by them and say to them as Numb. 16. Ye take too much upon you, or, as Cade and Tylar,4 boast themselves Reformers of the Commonwealth, overthrow King and Parliament, fill all with rapine and confusion, draw all to a Folkmoot, and make every Shire a severall Government. These are Dangers and Evils not conceived in the fancy, but such as reason tells us may follow, and experience hath often, and this day doth shew us, do arise upon this Power of resistance, and for the preventing of which, the Apostle gave his reasons against resisting even of abused Powers, as we heard above. Lastly therefore, Seeing some must be trusted in every State, ’tis reason the highest and finall trust should be in the higher or supreme Power with whom next to himself God hath intrusted the whole Kingdom, all other that have power and trust, having it under him as sent by him; Good reason I say that the supreme Power (which is worth 10,000 of the Subjects) should have the best security on its side, for as much as Order, the life of a Commonwealth, is so best preserved, and not so endangered by Tyranny as by factions, division, tumults, power of resistance on the Subject’s part, and this is according to the drift of the Apostle’s reasons against resistance, as before they were laid down.
Well now unto all that hath hitherto been said from Scripture and Reason let Conscience adde the Oath of Supremacy and Allegeance, also the late Protestation,5 and consider what duty lies upon every Subject by the former to defend the King’s Person and right against what power soever, and how by the latter he hath protested and undertaken before Almighty God, in the first place to defend the same; and then what can Conscience conclude from the Premises? That the Prince hath his power for the good of his people? True, but that power cannot be prevalent for the good and protection of his people, unlesse it be preserved to him intire, unlesse he hath the power of Deniall, and the chiefe command of Arms; or that the Prince hath a limited power, according to the Laws established? True, but if Conscience be perswaded he does not hold himselfe within those bounds so fixed, can it be perswaded also that the people may re-assume that power they never had? Or take that sword out of his hand that God hath put into it? No, Conscience will look at that Power as the Ordinance of God, and the abuse of that Power as a judgment and scourge of God upon the people, and will use not Arms to resist the Ordinance under pretence of resisting the abuse, but cries and prayers to God, petitions to the Prince, denials of obedience to his unjust commands, denialls of Subsidies, aids, and all fair means that are fit for Subjects to use, and when done all, if not succeed, will rather suffer than resist: so would a truly informed Conscience resolve, were the Prince indeed what he is supposed to be, and did he do indeed as the people are made to fear and believe he will do.
Hitherto we have been in the examination of the principle upon which they go that plead for resistance, and we have found both Scripture and Reason speak plainly against the resisting even of abused Powers, professed enemies to Religion, actuall subverters of the people’s liberties, how much more against the resisting of a Prince that professeth the same Religion which we freely enjoy, promiseth the maintaining of that and our liberties, only upon a supposall he will not stand to his word, will overthrow all.
This however it may seem lesse reasonable to the Statist in the way of policy, permitting as little as he can to the goodnesse of the Prince or the providence of God for the safety of the State; yet ought it to satisfie a Christian in the way of Conscience, which when it comes to a desire of being safe, will not rest till it have a sure ground, which here it hath against resistance laid down by Scripture and Reason, even the Apostle’s reasons so powerfull against resistance.
The summe of all is this, Conscience hears the Apostle expressely forbid all under the higher power to resist, findes no other clear Scripture to limit it, findes that the limitations given will not consist with it, for the reasons of them (that are drawn from the Election of the people, and the Covenant supposed therein, from the necessity of means of safety in every State to provide for itselfe) were as strong in the Romane State as any, nay, are supposed by those that urge them, to be the fundamentalls of every State: and so resistance is forbidden as well here, as there in the Romane State, which is also cleared by the Apostle’s reasons, shewing the power of resistance cannot be the means of safety, but strikes at Order and power itselfe, though made against tyrannicall and abused powers, as before often insinuated. Therefore Conscience will not dare to go against the Apostle’s expresse prohibition, lest it fall into the judgement denounced by him.
But if there shall be any Conscience as strongly carried away with the name of Parliament, as the Papists are with the name of the Church, and thinking Religion may be defended any way, and that upon supposall that their Prince is minded to change it, (which is another humor of Popery) will not be perswaded that the resistance made upon the present supposall is unlawfull, against God’s word, and Reason. I am sure such a Conscience cannot be truly perswaded it is lawfull, but must want that clear ground it ought to have, especially in a matter so expresly against the Apostle, and of such high concernment as damnation: must needs run blindly, and headlong by a strange implicit faith upon so great a hazard.
Now we come to the application of their principle to the present, where we must enquire according to the second and third Generalls, whether the resistance now made be such as is pretended to by them in such a case as they supposed, and then whether Conscience can be truly perswaded the King is such, and so minded as in the case he is supposed to be.
The chief considerations of these two Generalls, are matters of fact. The principle was examined by Scripture and Reason, these admit the judgment of sense, and are cleared by what we hear and see: which judgment of sense is not so easily captivated by an implicit faith as that of reason is, insomuch as Conscience here cannot be so blinded but it may see that (were the principle good on which they rest, yet) this resistance which they make, is not such as in the case they supposed him to be, not such as ought to be resisted according to their own grants.
The second Generall was, That the Resistance now made, is not such as is pretended to by them that plead for it, and therefore Conscience cannot be truly perswaded it may lawfully bear part in it, or assist them that in the pursuit of it pretend one thing and do another.
It was premised at the beginning, that such a resistance should be omnibus ordinibus regni conscientibus, agreed upon and undertaken by the generall and unanimous consent of the whole State, and that it should be only Legitima defensio, a mere resistance, and these laid down, not that I admit resistance however conditioned (for all that I have said before, doth altogether condemne it) but according to their own grants that plead for it. To this purpose it is that they say the King is Universis minor, lesse than the whole State, and every body naturally defends itself. Therefore if a contention be between the Head and the Body, it must in all reason be the whole Body that is set against it, and if there be such an appearing against the supreme Power, as tends to resistance, the consent and judgment of the whole Kingdom just be against him, or else every prevailing faction might indanger the State, by causing such changes and evils as now it’s threatened with. This is the reason of this unreasonable power of resistance in the people.
Well then, how shall Conscience be perswaded that this resistance was agreed upon by an unanimous and free consent of the States assembled in the two Houses, such as in this case may be called the judgment of the whole Kingdom.
He that knows how the Militia (in which this resistance chiefly began) was brought in,6 with what opposition, especially in the Lords House, and by what number there at length was voted; also how the like proceedings of resistance, that have been voted since, are declared against, by a greater number of each House than do remain in either, such as have been cast out, or withdrawn themselves upon dislike of these proceedings: can he, I say, that knows this (and who knows it not, that hath eyes and ears?) be in Conscience perswaded, that this is such an unanimous, free and generall consent, the judgment of the whole kingdom?
For though a Vote passed by a few upon the place has the power and condition of a Vote for the formality of Law, yet, if the question be, Was this passed in full assemblies? Did they all unanimously as one man consent unto it? Conscience cannot be convinced there is such efficacie in the place, as to make a few, the whole, or their agreement to be that judgment of the whole Kingdom, that unanimous consent, which must be in the case of resistance, by their acknowledgment that plead for it. For were it in this case to be held for the judgement of the whole, which is passed by a few, then would the State be unreasonably exposed to that danger (above mentioned) which every prevailing faction might bring upon it under the pretence of the judgment of the whole Kingdome.
Again, as Conscience cannot be truley perswaded that this resistance is agreed upon with such a generall and unanimous consent, as they themselves pretend to, which plead for this resistance, so can it not truly be perswaded that this resistance is such for the mere defensive way of it, as it ought to be according to their grants and pretences that appear for it.
Conscience here will see how to resolve upon the triall of these two particulars, whether the King or they be upon the defensive part? Then, whether the managing of this war, or resistance on their parts, be so void of hostile acts, as the defensive way, which they pretend to, ought to be?
Conscience will discern whether part is upon the defensive, by inquiring, First, Who were first in Arms? He that can number the succession of weeks, and months in his Almanack may decide this. He shall find that armed men were thrust into Hull, the King’s Arms seized against his will, the Militia set up, and by that, the King’s Subjects drawn into Arms, before the King had anything to oppose but Proclamations. That subscriptions for Plate, Money, Horse, That listing of Souldiers for the field, and appointing of Officers of the Armie were begun upon their part, before His MAJESTIE did the like. Now resistance doth in the word itselfe and in their pretence, presuppose a power and force first made against them, whereas it is plain, they were still upon the preventing and forehand with the King, still shewed him example for what he has done since in the way of War: yet must the people believe he raises the War, and they are upon defence; but conscience will not be so forced.
Secondly, by enquiring what is the cause of these Arms? What do they contend for? And though it be clear, That if Subjects be first in Arms, they cannot be upon the defensive, yet the consideration of the cause will more apparently convince it, when Conscience shall see it is not for what is pretended, but for something the King has right to deny, that this resistance is made. The preservation of Religion and Liberties is pretended, but can it be for either? The King denies them not. Their Religion they freely enjoy; and was it ever known that Subjects should rise in Arms against their Prince for a Religion which he promises to maintain? Or does Religion stand in need of a defence, which itself condemns, a defence which would be a perpetuall scandall to it? If therefore Religion be the pretence, but no cause of War than is the War raised on their part, the King is upon the defensive. Or can it be for ancient Rights and undoubted Priviledges that they contend? The King denies them not, promiseth all security, so he may enjoy his own; and God forbid that either he or they should suffer in their just Rights. But would any man ever have defended the revolt of the ten Tribes, if Rehoboam had promised to conserve their Liberties? What shall we then think of this generall revolt from Allegiance that has possessed well-neer ten Tribes of twelve? They suppose he will not make good his promises, and therefore they will make all sure, seize his Arms and Forts, strip him of all, and if he begin to stir for his own Right and Dignity, then the people must be made to believe he makes War against his Parliament, intends to destroy their Liberties. But can any man in Conscience think his Majesty since the beginning of this breach was ever in such a condition of strength as might threaten the Liberty of the Subject, or destroy Parliaments, when as it was long ere he could with much ado attain to any reasonable means of subsistence, or to such a strength whereby he might seem to be able to defend himself.
To speak truth, Religion and Liberties can be no other than the pretences of this Warre, the King has fortified them so with many Acts of Grace passed this Parliament, that they cannot be in that danger which is pretended for the raising of this Warre. It must be something that his Majesty does indeed deny for which the contention is raised. That we shall finde to be his power of Arms and ordering the Militia of the Kingdom, his power of denying in Parliament, his disposing of the Offices of State, and such like; Also the Government of the Church, and the Revenue of it. In the three former he challenges his Right, as his Predecessors had: the other he is bound by Oath to maintain as by Law they are established. Well, if these be attempted, and His MAJESTIE will not be forced from them, cannot yeeld them up, but it comes to Arms, then will Conscience easily be convinced the King is upon the defensive, for the maintaining of what he justly holds his right, or is bound by Oath to defend.
And if we hearken to the people’s voice, for that commonly speaks the mind of their leaders, we shall hear them usually call this Warre, as they did that with the Scots, the Bishops’ Warre. His Majesty has indeed alwayes declared against the altering of the Government of the Church by Bishops, being such as it alwayes had since the first receiving of the Christian faith in this land, and of all other Governments simply the best, if reformed from abuses and corruptions that have grown upon it, to the purging out of which his Majesty is alwayes ready to agree. But be it the Bishops’ Warre (though the abolishing of that Government be but one of the many inconveniences which this power of resistance doth threaten this Land with, and which the King has reason by power of Arms to divert) whether is it so just in Subjects by Arms to force a change of Government which was alwayes in the Church, and by Law established, as it is in the King to defend the same as he is bound by Oath? It is clear which of the two are upon the defensive.
The second particular by which the defensive way of this resistance is to be examined, was the managing of this Warre on their parts, whether in void of acts of Hostility as that defensive way should be which they pretend to. David’s resistance made against Saul is frequently alledged by them, which example, though it will not countenance their cause (as was shewed before) yet might it tell them their demeanour should be answerable. He offered no act of violence to Saul, but still gave place and withdrew from him. The Spear indeed and the Cruse David took away from the King’s head, but it was only to shew Abner’s neglect who had the Command of Saul’s Militia, and to testifie his own integriety, therefore he restored them before they were demanded, I. Sam. 26.
But now the King’s Spear and his Cruse, his Ammunition and his necessary Provisions are taken away, intercepted, not restored though often demanded, used against him with all advantage; nay he is stript of the very power and command of Arms, his Officers and Ministers thrust out, and other substituted, and by them his people drawn into Arms against him.
Also by these that are in resistance against the King, his Loyale and peaceable Subjects are assauled, despoiled of their Arms, Goods, Estates; their persons imprisoned, because they would according to their Allegeance assist him in this extemity, or would not, contrary to their Conscience, join with them against him. What Conscience that will not follow this way with a stupid implicit faith can be perswaded that this warre is the defence of the Subject’s Liberties, and not rather an oppugnation of them? Or that it is a mere resistance or withstanding of a force first made against them, and not rather a violent illation or bringing in of force upon those that were disposed to peace. Therefore no conscience that has a sense of Religion, or of that which is just and right between man and man, can bear a part in this resistance, for fear of that sentence of damnation which the Apostle has laid upon it.
But in the last place, if Conscience could be perswaded, that it is lawfull upon such a case as they make, to take Arms and resist, and that this rising in Arms is such a defensive resistance, as in such a case they seem to pretend to, yet how will it be perswaded that the Case is now, that is, That the King is such as the people must be made to believe he is, unlesse it will as desperately offend against the rule of Charitie, in so concluding upon the King, as it does against the rule of Faith and perswasion, in admitting so ungrounded a principle as is now rested on for resistance. So that such a Conscience shall have in its perswasion neither certainty of Rule; for the principle it goes on is false, nor certainty of the Case, for it knows not the heart of the King, to conclude for resistance upon supposals of his intentions, and in its judgement it will be altogether void of Charitie.
Indeed it concerns all such as will resist upon the principles now taught to render their Prince odious to his people under the hatefull notions of Tyrant, Subverter of Religion, and Laws, a Person not to be trusted, or at least as one seduced to such evill designes, by wicked Counsell. But what? Hath this King forbid the exercise of the Religion established, or left off to professe it himself? hath he disclaimed his trust, or not upon all occasions promised Justice and libertie to his Subjects?
Yea! But they have cause to fear Popery will prevail, and that he will not stand to his promises. It seems they are men that would be loath to suffer for their Religion, they are so ready to fly to Arms to secure themselves. But shall subjects rise in Arms against their Prince upon such remote fears and jealousies as these will appear to be? When can such be wanting in turbulent minds? When shall the Prince be assured of safety? This was the way that David himself was shaken out of his throne, and driven from Jerusalem by Absalom. This cunning Rebell steales away their hearts by rising jealousies in them and an evill opinion of David’s government, 2. Sam. 15.3. Some ground, it seems, he had for his treacherous plea, through the negligence of those that were under David, but it was his villanie to make use of it to the alienating of the people from their King. Accordingly let us now consider what slender grounds our people have for their fears and jealousies, then what securitie they have and might have against them, that it may appear how causelesse those jealousies are in themselves; how unjust causes of this resistance.
If we examine the fears and jealousies that have possessed the people we shall find them to be raised upon these or the like grounds, Reports of foreign Power to be brought in, The Queen’s Religion, The resort of Papists to his Majesty, His intercepting of means sent for the relief of Ireland, from whence the people by their good teachers are made to believe, that he means to enslave this people, reestablish Popery, and does comply with the Rebells.
I answer to all which I needed not to say more than what Michael Archangel to the devill that arch-accuser, The Lord rebuke thee, Jude 9. but in particular; For such reports of invasions from abroad, as were, before the setting up of the Militia, given out to keep the people amused, the easier to draw them into a posture of defence as was pretended, all such are discovered by time to have been vain; if there be now any foreign aids towards the King (as all Christian Kings cannot but think themselves concerned in the cause) it will be as just for him to use them against subjects now in Arms, as it was unjust in the Barons to call in the French against their naturall King.
For the Queen’s Majestie; Her Religion is no new cause, if it be a sufficient cause of Jealousie to them, they have had it from her first entrance; I would to God it were otherwise with her, that it would please the Lord to open her eyes that she may see the truth and light of the Protestant Religion: only this I must say, this is not the way to draw her to it, if she look at it in the doctrines and practices of these times she is not like to fall in love with it.
For the resort of Papists, and the King’s entertaining them; He hath often declared what caution he desired to use therein, till necessitie hath driven him to admit of some few into his Army, which also he answered lately. Let me adde this concerning the justnesse of it, If he hath entertained any into this service, he may justly make use of them. We see what manner of men were gathered to David in his distresse, I. Sam. 22.2. and how false Ziba bringing provision to the King when he fled from Absalom, was entertained and rewarded, insomuch that the King (when afterward he knew how Ziba had abused him to gain his own ends) would not reverse the sentence pronounced in his favour. If therefore in this distresse after much forberrance our King hath admitted the help of some Recusants, it cannot be alledged as a cause of the resistance was a cause of it; and if the Papist will shew himselfe a good Subject, it is just and reasonable that the King when he is put to it, may admitt of his help, and the more shame it is for them that professe the Protestant Religion to force him to it; a scandall that would not easily be wiped off from our Religion, were it to stand or fall, by the doctrines of this giddie Age.
Lastly, His Majestie hath written enough for the clearing himselfe from those false and odious imputations laid upon him in relation to the Irish businesse. I have only thus much to say, concerning anything intended for the relief of Ireland; It was great pitie they should want it there, but it is more pitiefull, the King should be forced to make use of it here.
It is not long since our neighbour Nation brought an Army into the Northern parts of this kingdome to the great detriment of the inhabitants there, and it was excused by invincible necessitie, which drove them hither. The necessitie his Majesty was driven to is sufficiently known, and might excuse him, in taking his own where he meets with it, and drawing it from his service abroad to that which more nearly concerned him at home. And when his Arms, Moneys, and Provisions are seized on wherever they be found intended for him, and imployed against him in Warre, the Lord knows how unnecessary, shall it not be lawfull for to take some part of them where he finds it for his necessary defence?
Indeed the distresse of Ireland by the help of wicked Pamphlets hath been used as a great engine to weaken the King’s reputation with his people; but upon whose account the heavie rekoning of that neglected Cause will be laid, together with the disturbance of this kingdome, any man in conscience may easily discern, that sees what sufficient and reasonable means might have been had for the security of Religion and Liberties, and for the redresse of all just grievances before this time. Which is the next thing considerable: What his Majesty hath done and profered to exempt these scrupules of fears and jealousies out of this people’s minds.
For Religion, if it be a new frame they contend for, I must acknowledge hee declares against all such; but if they desire the continuance of that true Protestant Religion, which hath been professed without interruption from the beginning of the Queen’s dayes, and established by the Lawes of this land, that he undertakes to maintaine, that he hath protested in the head of his Army to defend. For matter of Church-government and discipline he hath offered any just reformation, even with a respect to tender consciences in point of ceremony, hath often called His two Houses to the worke in drawing up the grievances to some head. For priviledges of Parliaments and Liberty of Subjects hee hath given them the like promises with the deepest Protestations, and by an excellent moderation, amidst the presurres and necessities of Warre, hath showen what respect he hath to the property and liberty of the Subject. Lastly, For his choise of Officers of State, he hath promised to admit any just exception, and thereupon to relinquish the person and as an assurance of all this, hath so far condescended as to take away Star-Chamber, High Commission, Bishops’ votes, &c. and the Continuance of this parliament, & the constant returne of a Trieniall. And now after all these promises and protestations and so many expressions of grace, can any man in conscience think there was yet place left for Propositions of such necessary concernment, that except they be granted this kingdome must be imbroiled in a Civill War, & the reliefe of Ireland neglected? I speake not this to cast any blemish upon the wisdome of the great Councell, or upon their desires and endeavours to gaine a great security to the publicke: but I would to God, the King were once thought worthy to bee trusted a little, and that the Consciences of his Subjects were more respected, which cannot so easily be commanded into a resistance, being very tender in the points of damnation, and taught out of God’s Word, Not to raise so much as an evill thought against the King, Eccl. 10. much lesse to lift up an armed hand.
Every man’s Conscience now is solicited to adhere either to the King in this great cause, or to joine with Subjects in making resistance. To draw it from Allegiance, tongues are set on fire of hell, which blast His Majestie’s Actions and Declarations, and books written by hellish spirits, enemies to peace and quietnesse, are suffered to issue forth into every corner of the Land to possesse the people, that his promises are but words, his Acts of grace were forced, he will not stand to them. It seemes then he must by force of Armes be compelled to be willing. But let us see whether a conscience that desires to be safe can be so perswaded in judging the actions and intentions of him (to whom it owes the highest duty under God) as first to conclude he intends not as he promises, and thereupon to resolve for resistance? No, it will direct itselfe by the rule of Charity, which is, not rashly to conclude upon the heart which it knoweth not, or to think any evill; and if the difference be betwixt two, as in cause, it will hold the rule of indifferency, impartially to consider the actions of both. Conscience therefore that it may be informed of his Majestie’s intentions, will it look upon him at such a distance as London and read him only in those horrid relations that issue thence, and conceive of him as they report him to the people? Or will it consider some failings that necessity has inforced, or other accidentall occurrences have occasioned, and from these conclude intentions to him, contrary to all his promises and Protestations? This would be too partiall, too uncharitable. Conscience ought alwayes to be tender in judging upon other men’s intentions, especially those of the Prince, and those to be concluded as evill, and to be made a ground for resistance, which runs the hazard of Damnation. In the 2 Chr. c. 21.10. Libuah is said to revolt from the King of Judah because hee had forsaken the Lord; a Text that is objected to us, and should have been answered in the first part: but it is impertinent as all the rest are, for it neither proves the principle, That it is lawfull for the people to revolt when the King forsakes Religion, but shewes that such revolt is a punishment from God upon such a King, though a sinne in the people. Nor doth it come home to the Case; for there the King had forsaken; here is only supposall that he will, and that groundlesse and unconscionable too. For as there was enough in David to clear these Jealousies upon which that rebellion of the people following Absalom was grounded, so is there on the King’s part, to direct conscience against this desperate uncharitable judgment, if it look at those many Acts of grace as new additions to that security, by which this State has so long stood, and from them conclude, He would not in a faire way deny anything reasonable. If it consider those many promises strengthened with the deepest protestations, enforced with desires of successe from God according to his just intentions, and all these, as proceeding from a King, under such affliction, in such danger, after such successe and experience of God’s protection, approving thereby the reality and sincerity of his heart. What conscience can here conclude contrary intentions in him, and not think it blasphemeth God and the King?
Furthermore, as conscience will not be uncharitable when it judgeth upon the intentions of another man’s heart, so neither will it be partiall when it judgeth between two, unto which of them it should incline: and therefore he that is abused to believe amisse of his King and solicited to enter this way of resistance, is highly concerned first to consider, whether they also that are the main directours of it, and to whom he would adhere, doe discharge their trust they are called to, I say such an one, unlesse he will resigne up his faith to men, and receive their dictates as the immediate rule of his conscience, must consider whether all be just and honest that is done in that way? Whether to divest the King of the power of Armes and to use them against him, be to defend his person, Rights, and dignity? Whether the forcing of the Subjects’ property, to the advancing of this resistance, and the imprisoning of their persons for deniall, be the maintaining of the right and liberty of the Subject? Whether the suffering of so many Sects to vent their doctrines with such liberty, and to commit unsufferable outrages upon the worship of God, with such licentiousness, be a defending of Religion and the established worship of this Church? All these duties every Subject respectively is bound to discharge, and the neglect of them His Majesty has chiefly charged upon those that he conceives the chiefe directours and Actours in this resistance made against him, and every man in conscience ought seriously to consider it.
The necessity of the Common-wealth is pretended to defend the not defending of the premises; when as no necessity may excuse any failings on the King’s part, as if his promises, by which he stands obliged to his Subjects, did not suppose they for their parts also should performe. I know not how some particular men may be engaged and contract a necessity of resisting, or seeking safety by Armes; but I am perswaded, no man in Conscience can thinke it a necessity of the Common-wealth to have all confounded, or of a Christian to run the hazard of damnation by resisting. My conscience tells me, and will theirs one day tell them, how much they have to answer for not improving that grace and willingnesse, they had experience of in His Majestie and might still have found in him, to the speedy and happy Reformation of this Church and State. I pray God to give them Consciences truely inlightned, and bowels truly compassionate, that they may speedily and feelingly be sensible of the miseries this Land grones under, and faithfully examine how far they are answerable for them by rejecting such reasonable meanes of security, as they might have had for the safety of this State. Amen.
And now if there be any one that will run the hazard of this resistance, I desire he would first set his Conscience before the Tribunall of God, where it must appeare, and consider whether it will excuse him there, when he has shed the bloud of others, and expended his owne, to say, I verily supposed and believed my Prince would change Religion, overthrow our Liberties. I must tell him it will not be safe for him to present such a Conscience at that barre, a Conscience that wanted the rule of Faith to warrant and perswade the lawfulnesse of resistance on such a supposall, a Conscience that wanted the certainty of perswasion that the Prince’s heart (which God only knowes) was so inclined, a Conscience that wanted the judgement of charity, in concluding such intentions in the King notwithstanding all his promises and deepest protestations made in the time of his trouble, without which Charity all is nothing though he layes downe (as he thinkes) his life for Religion. Such a Conscience I must needs conclude sinfull, and liable to that which the Apostle threatens unto Resistance, Damnation.
[1. ]Ferne is referring to the Militia Ordinance passed by the two houses of Parliament on 5 March 1642.
[2. ]This statement is a reference to the theory that a conquered people have only those rights the conqueror chooses to bestow upon them. The English, according to Ferne’s reckoning, having been conquered no less than three times, would have no claim to inherent ancient rights.
[4. ]For information on Cade and Tyler, see note 14, above.
[5. ]The “late Protestation” is probably that drawn up by the Commons in May 1641, which read: “I, A. B. in the presence of Almighty God, promise, vow, and protest to maintain and defend, as far as lawfully I may, with my life, power, and estate, the true Reformed Protestant Religion, expressed in the doctrine of the Church of England, against all Popery and Popish innovations within this realm contrary to the same doctrine, and according to the duty of my allegiance, his Majesty’s Royal person, honour, and estate, as also the power and privileges of Parliament, the lawful rights and liberties of the subjects. . . .” The Protestation went on to include a vow to oppose and bring to punishment all who plot or do anything contrary to it.
[6. ]This is a reference to the months of wrangling between Charles and Parliament over control of the militia of the kingdom, with the two Houses eventually passing the Militia Ordinance without royal approval.