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CHAPTER II.: mr. bernard's dissuasion'S against separation considered . - John Robinson, The Works of John Robinson, vol. 2 
The Works of John Robinson, Pastor of the Pilgrim Fathers, with a Memoir and Annotations by Robert Ashton, 3 vols (London: John Snow, 1851). Vol. 2.
Part of: The Works of John Robinson, Pastor of the Pilgrim Fathers, with a Memoir and Annotations by Robert Ashton, 3 vols.
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mr. bernard's dissuasion'S against separation considered.
The next thing that comes into consideration, is, certain probabilities and likelihoods, as the author calls them, consisting for the most part of personal imputations, and disgraceful calumniations, whereby he labours to withdraw the hearts of the simple from the truth of God, unto disobedience, as Absalom did the people into rebellion against the king by slandering his government. 2 Sam. xv.
But if Mr. B. followed his sound judgment in this book, as he professeth in the Preface, and so laboured to lead others, he would neither go himself, nor send them by unstable guesses and likelihoods, as he doth.
The truth of God goes not by peradventures, neither needs it any such paper-shot as likelihoods are to assault the adversary withal. The Word of God, which is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, and to instruct in righteousness, 2 Tim. iii. 16, 17, is sufficient to furnish the man of God with weapons spiritual, and those, “mighty through God to cast down strongholds, and whatsoever high thing is exalted,” against the knowledge of God, 2 Cor. x. 4, 5. And if Mr. B. speak according to the law and prophets, his words are solid arguments; if not, there is neither light in him, nor truth in them: and so where truth is wanting, must some like truths or images of truth be laid in the place; like the image in David's bed to deceive them that sought after him, when he himself was wanting. 1 Sam. xix. 13.
The first probability that our way is not good, is, “The novelty thereof differing from all the best reformed Churches in Christendom.”
It is no novelty to hear men plead custom, when they want truth. So the heathen philosophers reproached Paul as a bringer of new doctrine, Acts xvii. 19: so do the papists discountenance the doctrine and profession of the Church of England, yea, even at this day, very many of the people in the land, use to call popery the old law, and the profession there made, the new law.
But we for our parts, as we do believe by the Word of God, that the things we teach are not new, but old truths renewed; so are we no less fully persuaded, that the Church constitution in which we are set, is cast in the apostolical and primitive mould, and not one day nor hour younger, in the nature and form of it, than the first church of the New Testament. And whether a people all of them separated and sanctified, so far as men by their fruits can or ought to judge, or a mingled generation of the seed of the woman and seed of the serpent, be more ancient; the government of sundry elders or bishops with joint authority over one church, or of one national, provincial, or diocesan, bishop over many hundred or thousand churches; the spiritual prayers conceived in the heart of the ministers: according to the present occasions or necessities of the Church, or the English service book; the simple administration of the sacraments, according to the words of institution, or pompous and carnal complements of cap, cope, surplice, cross, godfathers, kneeling and the like mingled withal; I do even refer it to the report of Mr. B.'s own conscience, be it never so partial.
Now for the differences betwixt the best reformed churches, as Mr. B. calls them, granting thereby his own to be the worst, and us, they are extant in print, being few in number, and those none of the greatest weight. But what a volume would these differences make betwixt those reformed churches, and the unreformed churches of England, if they were exactly set down! And yet for the corruptions reproved by us in the reformed church where we live, I do understand by them of good knowledge, and sincerity, that the most or greatest of them are rather in the execution than in the constitution of the church.
Our differences from the reformed churches Mr. B. aggravates by two reasons. 1. The first is out separation from them. 2. The second, certain terms of disgrace uttered by Mr. Barrowe and Mr. Greenwood against the eldership: which Mr. Bernard will have us disclaim.
For the first, it is not truly affirmed that we separate from them. What our judgment is of them, our confessions of faith and other writings do testify; and for our practice, as we cannot possibly join unto them, would we never so fain, being utterly ignorant of their language; so neither do we separate from them, save in such particulars as we esteem evil; which we also shall endeavour to manifest unto them so to be as occasion and means shall be offered.
And secondly, for the taxations laid by Mr. Barrowe and Mr. Greenwood upon the eldership, or other practice in the reformed churches, wherein they were any way excessive, we both have disclaimed, and always are and shall be ready to disclaim the same. Only I entreat the godly reader to consider, that those things were not spoken by them otherwise, than in respect of those corruptions in the eldership and elsewhere, which they deemed antichristian and evil. Of which respective phrase of speech more hereafter.
Lastly, if it be likely that our way is not good, for the difference it hath from the reformed churches, and that the greatness of the difference appears by the hard terms given, by some of us, against the government there used, then surely it is much more likely, that the way of the unreformed Church of England is not good, which differeth far more from the reformed churches, which difference appears, not only in most reproachful terms used by the prelates and their adherents against the seekers of reformation comparing them to all vile heretics, and seditious persons, but in cruel persecutions raised against them, and greater than against papists or atheists.*
The second mark by which Mr. B. guesseth our way not good is, “for that it agreeth so much with the ancient schismatics condemned in former ages by holy and learned men;” such were the Luciferians, Donatists, Novatians, and Audæans.†
Can our way both be a novelty and new device, and yet agree so well with the ancient schismatics condemned in former ages? Contraries cannot be both, true, but may both be false as these are.
The parties to whom Mr. B. likeneth us were condemned not only for schism but for heresy also, as appears in Epiphanius, Austin, Eusebius, and others. And, as we have nothing, no not in show, like unto some of them, nor, in truth, unto any of them in the things blameworthy in them, so if Mr. B. were put to justify by the “Word of God the condemnation of some of them, it would put him to more trouble than he is aware of.
The Audæans dissented from the Nicene Council about their Easter time. The Luciferians held the soul of man to be extraduced, and were, therefore, accounted heretics, as indeed it was too usual a thing in those days to reject men for heretics upon too light causes.
And for the Donatists unto whom Mr. Giffard and others would so fain fashion us, Mr. B. and all others may see the dissimilitude betwixt them and us in the refutation of that supposed consimilitude.*
A third evil for which Mr. B. would bring our cause into suspicion is,
“The manner of defending our opinions, and proving our assertions by strange and forced expositions of scriptures.”
Where he also notes in the margin that, “the truth needs no such ill means to maintain it.”
What the means are by which the prelacy against which we witness is maintained, all men know. The flattering of superiors, the oppressing of inferiors, the scoffing, reviling, imprisoning, and persecuting unto banishment and death of such as oppose it, are the weapons of the prelates' warfare, by which they defend their tottering Babel. And were it not for the arm of flesh by which they hold, and to which they trust, they and their pomp would vanish away like smoke before the wind, so little weight have they or theirs in the consciences of any.
But let us see wherein we mislead the reader by deceitful allegations of scriptures,
“1. In quoting scriptures by the way, that is for things coming in upon occasion, but nothing to the main point,” &c.
And, wherefore, is this deceitful dealing, thus to allege the Scriptures? Because the simple reader is hereby made believe, that, all is spoken for the question controverted.
He is simple and careless also, that will not search the Scriptures before he believe that they are brought to prove, if he any way suspect it, which whoso doth, cannot be deceived, as is here insinuated.
It were to be wished we both spake and wrote the language of Canaan and none other, Isa. xix. 18, and not only to use, but even to note the scripture phrase, soberly may be, to the information and edification of the reader.
“2. By urging commandments, admonitions, exhortations, dehortations, reprehensions, and godly examples to prove a falsity.”
What is falsity but that which is contrary to truth? and so the Word of God being truth, whatsoever is contrary unto any part of it, whether commandment, admonition, 'exhortation, &c. is false, John xvii. 17, so far forth as it is contrary.
The similitude you take from a natural child, who for his disobedience is not to be reputed a false child, but no good child, is like the rest of your similitudes. The proportion holds not. Men may have such children as ever were, are and will he disobedient to their dying day, and yet they remain their children, whether they will or no: but if any of God's children prove disobedient, and “will not be disclaimed, he can dischild them for bastards as they are, and the true children of the devil. John viii. 44.
“3. In alleging scriptures not to prove that for which to the simple it seems to be alleged, but that which is without controversy, taking the thing in question for granted.” For this I take to be his meaning, though he express it ill.
The instance he brings of one of us citing Acts xx. 27, to prove that all truth is not taught in the Church of England, is, I am persuaded, if not worse, mistaken by him. For who would bring Paul's example to show what the ministers of England do, and not rather what they should do? what they do is known well enough, and how both they in preaching the will of God, and the people in obeying it, are stinted at the bishops' pleasure.
“4. By bringing in places setting forth title invisible church and holiness of the members, to set forth the visible church by, as being proper thereto, as 1 Pet. ii. 9, 10.”
That the apostle here speaketh not of the invisible, but of the visible church, appeareth not by our bare affirmation, which we might set against Mr. B.'s naked contradiction, yea though he bring in Dr. Alison* in the margin, to countenance the matter, but by these reasons.
To this I have answered formerly, page 20, and do again answer, that necessary consequences and inferences are both lawful and necessary.
If Mr. B. had to deal with a papist against purgatory or with an anabaptist for the baptizing of infants, he should be compelled, except I be deceived, to draw his arrows out of this quiver. And what are consequences regulated by the Word, which sanctifieth all creatures, 1 Tim. iv. 4, 5, but that sanctified use of reason? and will any reasonable man deny the use and discourse of reason? “If all the things which Jesus did, had been written, the world could not have contained the books,” John xx. 23: and if all the duties which lie upon the church to perform had been written in express terms, as Mr. B. requires, a world of worlds could not contain the books which should have been written. Neither are inferences and references justly made, any way to be accounted windings, but plain passages to the truth, trodden before us by the Lord Jesus and all his holy apostles, which scarce allege one scripture of three, out of Moses and the prophets, but by way of inference, as all that will, may see.
But the truth is, Mr. B. hath so many times been driven to so gross absurdities by a consequence or two about this cause, as he utterly abhors the very memory of all conseqnences, and it seems would have it enacted, that never consequence should be more urged.
To conclude, whatsoever it pleaseth this man to suggest, the main grounds, for which we stand touching the communion, government, ministry, and worship of the visible church, are expressly contained in the Scriptures, and that as we are persuaded, so plainly, that as like Habakkuk's vision, he that runs may read them. Hab. ii. 2.
The 4th guess against us is,
“That we have not the approbation of any of the reformed churches for our course, and that where our confession of faith is without allowance by them, they give on the contrary the right hand of fellowship to the Church of, England.”
This is the same in substance with the first instance of probability, and that which followeth in the next place the same with them both. And Mr. B. by his so ordinary pressing us with human testimonies, shows himself to be very barren of Divine authority: as hath been truly noted by another. Nature teacheth every creature, in all danger to fly first and oftenest to the chief instruments, either of offence, or defence, wherein it trusteth, as the bull to his horn, the boar to his tusk, and the bird unto her wing right so this man shows wherein his strength lies, and wherein he trusts most, by his so frequent and usual shaking the horn and whetting the tusk of mortal man's authority against us.
But for the reformed churches the truth is, they neither do imagine, no nor will easily be brought to believe that the frame of the Church of England stands as it doth: neither have they any mind to take knowledge of those things, or to enter into examination of them. The approbation which they give of you, as Mr. Ainsworth hath observed, as indeed it is of special observation, is in respect of such general truths of doctrine, as wherein we also for the most part acknowledge you: which, notwithstanding you deny in a great measure in the particulars, and practice. But touching the gathering and governing of the church, which are the main heads controverted betwixt you and us; they give you not so much as the left hand of fellowship, but do, on the contrary, turn their backs upon you.
The difference betwixt you and them in the gathering and constituting of churches, is as great as betwixt compulsive conformity unto the service-book and ceremonies, which is your estate, and voluntary submission unto the gospel, by which all and every member of them is joined to the church, and as, is betwixt the reign of one lord bishop over many churches, and the government of a presbytery or company of elders over one.
And if you would take view of this difference nearer home, do but east your eyes to your next neighbours of Scotland, and there you shall see the most zealous Christians choosing rather to lose liberty, country, and life than to stoop to a far more easy yoke than you bear. Yea what need I send you out of your own horizon? The implacable and mortal hatred the prelates bear unto the ministers and people, wishing the government and ministry received in the reformed churches, proclaims aloud the utter enmity betwixt them, and your unreformed Church of England, of which I pray you hear with patience what some of your own have testified. “Those that will needs be our pastors and spiritual fathers are become beasts, as the prophet Jeremy saith. And if we should open our mouths, to sue for the true shepherds and overseers indeed, unto whose direction we ought to be committed, the rage of these wolves is such, as this endeavour would almost be the price of our lives.”* And do these churches like sisters go hand-in-hand together as is pretended?
Now for us, where Mr. B. affirmeth that we published our confession but without allowance, if I saw not his frowardness in the things he knows, I should marvel at his boldness in the things whereof he is ignorant. We published the confession of our faith to the Christian universities in the Low Countries† and elsewhere, entreating them in the Lord, either to convince our errors by the Word of God, if so any might be found, or if our testimony in their judgments agreed with the same Word, to approve it either by writing, or silence, as they thought good. Now what university, church, or person amongst them hath once enterprised our conviction? which without doubt some would have done, as with such heretics or schismatics as arise amongst them, had they found cause?
Thus much of the learned abroad: in the next place Mr. B. draws us to the learned at home, from whose dislike of us he takes his fifth likelihood, which he thus frameth.
“5, The condemnation of this way by our own divines, both living and dead, against whom either for godliness of life, or truth of doctrine, otherwise than for being their opposites, they can take no exception.”
No marvel: we may not admit of parties for judges: how is it possible we should be approved of them in the things wherein we witness against them? And if this argument be good or likely, then is it likely that, neither the reformists have the truth in the Church of England, nor the prelates, for there are many, and those both godly and learned, which in their differences, do oppose, and that very vehemently the one the other.
Now, as for mine own part, I do willingly acknowledge the learning and godliness of most of the persons named by Mr. B., and do honour the very memory of some of them, so do I neither think them so learned, but they might err; nor so godly, but in their error they might reproach the truth they saw not. I do indeed confess to the glory of God, and mine own shame, that a long time before I entered this way, I took some taste of the truth in it by some treatises published in justification of it, which, the Lord knoweth, were sweet as honey unto my mouth; and the very principal thing, which for the time quenched all further appetite in me, was the over-valuation which I made of the learning and holiness of these, and the like persons, blushing in myself to have a thought of pressing one hair-breadth before them in this thing, behind whom I knew myself to come so many miles in all other things; yea, and even of late times, when I had entered into a more serious consideration of these things, and, according to; the measure of grace received, searched the Scriptures, whether they were so or no, and by searching found much light of truth; yet was the same so dimmed and overclouded with the contradictions of these men and others of the like note, that had not the truth been in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, Jer. xx. 9, I had never broken those bonds of flesh and blood, wherein I was so straitly tied, bat had suffered the light of God to have been put out in mine own unthankful heart by other men's darkness.
This reverence every man stands bound to give to the graces of God in other men, that in his differences from them, he be not suddenly nor easily persuaded, but that being jealous of his own heart, he undertake the examination of things and so proceed, with fear and trembling, and so having tried all things, keep that which is good. 1 Thess. v. 21. So shall he neither wrong the graces of God in himself, nor in others. But on the other side, for a man so far to suffer his thoughts to be conjured into the circle of any mortal man or men's judgment, as either to fear to try what is offered to the contrary, in the balance of the sanctuary, or finding it to bear weight, to fear to give sentence on the Lord's side, yea though it be against the mighty, this is to honour men above God, and to advance a throne above the throne of Christ, who is Lord and King for ever.
And to speak that in this ease, which by doleful experience I myself have found, many of the most forward professors in the kingdom are well nigh as superstitiously addicted to the determinations of their guides and teachers, as the ignorant papists unto theirs, accounting it not only needless curiosity, but even intolerable arrogancy, to call into question the things received from them by tradition.
But bow much better were it for all men to lay aside these and the like prejudices, that so they might understand the things which concern their peace, and seeing with their own eyes, might live by their own faith!.
And for these famous men here named by Mr. B., with whose oppositions as with Zedekiah's horns of iron he would push us here and everywhere, as we do bear their reproofs with patience, and acknowledge their worths without envy, or detraction, so do we know they were but men, and so through human frailty might be abused as well, or rather as ill, to support Antichrist in a measure, as others before them have been, though godly, and learned, as they. It will not be denied but the fathers, as they are called, Ignatius, Irenæus, Tertullian, Cyprian, Ambrose, Jerome, Austin, and the rest were both godly and learned; yet no man, if he have but even saluted them, can be ignorant, what way, though unwittingly, they made for the advancement of Antichrist which followed after them: and if they, notwithstanding their learning and godliness, thus ushered him into the world, why might not others, and that more likely, though learned and godly as the former, help to bear up his train? especially considering, that as his rising was not, so neither could his fall be perfected at once. And for us, what do we more or otherwise for the most part, than walk in those ways into which divers of the persons by Mr. B. named, have directed us by the Word of God, in manifesting unto us by the light thereof what the ministry, government, worship, and fellowship of the gospel ought to be? we then being taught, and believing, that the Word of God is a light and a lantern not only to our eyes, but to our feet and paths, as the psalmist speaketh, Psa. cxix. 105, cannot possibly conceive how we should justly be blamed by these men for observing the ordinances, which themselves not only acknowledged but contended for, as appointed by Christ's testament to be kept inviolable till his appearing, as some of them have expressly testified.,
To conclude, let not the Christian reader cast our persons, and the persons of our opposites, whether these or others, in the balance together, but rather our cause and reasons with their oppositions and the grounds of them, and so with a steady hand and impartial eye weigh and poise cause with caused, that so the truth of God may not be prejudiced by men's persons, nor held in respect of them.
And to your marginal note, viz., that none of us whom you call guides did fall to this course before we were in trouble and could not enjoy our liberty as we desired, I do only answer this one thing, that all and every one of us might have enjoyed both our liberty and peace, at the same woeful rate with you and your fellows.
The sixth likelihood. “The Lord's judgment giving sentence with him and his church against us.”
But wherein appears that, Mr. B.?
“1. By the blessing of God,” you tell us, “upon your ministry, by which people are won truly to sanctification of life, and that we, on the contrary, work but upon the labours of other men.”
Considering the multitude of ministers in the kingdom, and their long continuance in their ministry, there is in the most parts of the land, no such cause of so loud boasts as are here made.
There is nothing more common both in the sermons and writings of the forwarder sort, than their complaints how little good their preaching hath done, howsoever with us, for advantage, they plead the contrary.
But let it be, as Mr. B. saith, that they win men to sanctification of life, and that we work but upon their labours, his own words shall judge him, wherein he doth directly overthrow that he would establish, and establish that he would so fain overthrow.
The ministers of the Church of England do win men to true sanctification of life; then, the people over whom they are set, are not truly sanctified; then, not true saints; then, no true members of the church: and therefore, that, no true body of Christ consisting of such members.
We work upon other men's labours; and so true ordinary elders do, whose office stands in feeding, and not in begetting. The elders which the apostles ordained were set over them which believed in the Lord, Acts xiv. 23; and the overseers or bishops made by the Holy Ghost were over such a flock, as all whereof were purchased with the blood of Christ, so far as men could judge. Acts xx. 28. We do not despise the conversion of a sinner, as Mr. B. odiously traduceth us, but do, with men and angels, bless the Lord for that mercy upon ourselves and others, only we dare not stand ministers to an unconverted people nor dispense unto them the holy things of God, to which we know they have no right, how bold soever Mr. B. and his brethren make with the Lord and his ordinances this way. And so I pass to the second proof.
“2. The blessing of God assisting us walking in our way with the reformed churches hath from Luther's time made prosperous our way by him, and other glorious instruments, and in few years spread the truth to many nations,” &c.
He that would not in the words before going work upon the labours of other men, will now make boast of them: but instead of proving his likelihoods, by this dealing, he is justly to be reproved of two falsehoods.
The one is, that he will bear the world in hand that his way, and the way of the reformed churches are one, whereas the ways of the Church of England wherein we forsake her, do directly and ex diametro cross and thwart the ways of the reformed churches: as appears in these three main heads.
Now if Mr. B. can at once walk in so many and so contrary ways, he had need have as many feet as the polypus hath.
Secondly, understanding by his church's way, such doctrines and ordinances as wherein we oppose it, it is an empty boast to affirm that the same is spread into other nations. Which are the nations, or what may be their names, which either do retain or have received the prelacy, ministry, service-book, canons and confused commixture of all sorts now in use in the Church of England?
But Mr. B. having, as he boasts, God, angels, and men on his side, proceeds in the next place to plead against us God's judgments, who seemeth, as he saith, from the first beginning to be offended with our course.
And intending, principally, in this whole discourse to oppress us with contumelies, and by them to alienate all men's affections from us, he raketh together into this place, as into a dunghill of slander and misreport, what-soever he thinks may make us and our cause stink in the nostrils of the reader. And so forging some things in his own brain, and enforcing other things, true in themselves, with most odious aggravations, he presents us to the view of the world, with such personal infirmities and human frailties written in our foreheads, as the Lord hath left upon the sons of men for their humbling. And the world wanting spiritual eyes, and beholding the church of Christ with the eyes of flesh and blood, and seeing it compassed about with so many infirmities, and falling into so many and manifold trials and temptations, is greatly offended, and passeth unrighteous judgment upon the servants of God, and blasphemeth their most holy profession.
But, let all men learn not to behold the church of Christ with carnal eyes, which like fearful spies will discourage the people, but with the eyes of faith and good conscience, which like Joshua and Caleb will speak good of the promised land, the spiritual Canaan, the church of God. But to the point;
That Mr. B. may make sure work he strikes at the head, and whetteth his tongue like a sword, said shooteth bitter words like arrows at such principal men, as God hath Raised up in this cause, whereof some have persevered, and stood fast unto death, others have fallen away in the day of temptation, whose end hath been worse than their beginning.
The first person in whom he instanceth is one Boulton, touching whom he writeth thus: that he being the first broacher of this way came to as fearful an end as Judas did: adding thereupon, that God suffereth not his special instruments called forth otherwise than after a common course to come to such ends.
To this I do first answer, that neither this man was, nor any other of us, is called forth by the Lord otherwise than, after a common course: even that which is common to all God's people, which is to come out of Babylon, and to bring their best gifts to Sion for the building of the Lord's temple there.
It is true that Boulton was, though not the first in this way, an elder of a separated church* in the beginning of Queen Elizabeth's days, and falling away from his holy profession recanted the same at Paul's Cross, and afterwards hung himself as Judas did. And what marvel if he, which had betrayed Christ in his truth, as Judas did in his person, came to the same fearful end which Judas did?
Nay rather, patience and long-suifering of God is to be marvelled at, that others also, who either have embraced this truth and after fallen from it, or refused to submit cento it when they have both seen and approved it, have not been pursued by the same revengeful hand of God. And for the promise of God's presence with his, Gen. xii 3; Matt. xxviii. 20; Josh. i. 9, it must ever be taken conditionally, viz. whilst they are with him and do his work faithfully as they ought, and no further.
Now touching Browne it is true, which Mr. B. affirmeth, that, as he forsook the Lord, so the Lord forsook him in his way: and so he did his own people Israel many a time. And if the Lord had not forsaken him he had never so returned back into Egypt as he did to live of the spoils of it, as is said he speaketh.
And for the wicked things, which Mr. B. affirmeth, he did in this way, it may well be as he saith, and the more wicked things he committed in this course, the less like he was to continue long in it, and the more like to return again to his proper centre, the Church of England where he should be sure to find companions enough in any wickedness, as it came to pass.
Lastly, to let pass the universal apostacy of all the bishops, ministers, students in the universities, yea, and of the whole Church of England in Queen Mary's time, (a handful only excepted in comparison,) which the papists might more colourably urge against Mr. B. than he, some few instances against us; the fall of Judas an apostle, Matt. xxvi. 14—16, and 47, 48, 49, and xxvii. 3, 4, 5; of Nicholas one of the first seven deacons, Acts vi. 5; Rev. ii. 15; of Demas one of Paul's special companions in the ministry, 2 Tim. iv. 10, do sufficiently teach us that there is no cause so holy, nor calling so excellent, which is not subject to the invasion of painted and deceitful hypocrites, whose service the Lord, notwithstanding, may use for a time till their whiting be worn off, and then leave them to their own deceivable lusts, which will work their most woful downfall: thereby warning his people not to repose too much upon any mortal man in whom there is no stedfastness, but to cast their eyes upon him alone and upon his truth which changeth not.
Of Mr. Barrowe and Mr. Greenwood's spirit of railing, as this man raileth against them, in another place, p. 85. Only let the indifferent reader judge, whether Mr. B. in blazing abroad the personal infirmities of his adversaries without any occasion, neither sparing the living nor the dead, have not come to the very highest pitch of the most natural railing that may be. A practice which all sober-minded men do abhor from.
The next that comes in Mr. B.'s way are the two brethren, Mr. Francis and Mr. George Johnson, whose contentions he exaggerateth what he can to make both their persons and cause odious. True it is that George Johnson, together with his father taking his part, were excommunicated by the church for contention arising at the first, upon no great occasion, whereupon many bitter and reproachful terms were uttered both in word and writing; George becoming, as Mr. B. chargeth him, “a disgraceful libeller.”*
It is to us, just cause of humiliation all the days of our lives, that we have given, and do give by our differences, such advantages to them which seek occasion against us to blaspheme the truth: though this may be a just judgment of God upon others which seek offences, that seeking they may find them, to the hardening of their hearts in evil. But let men turn their eyes which way soever they will, and they shall see the same scandals. Look to the first and best churches planted by the apostles themselves, and behold dissensions, scandal, strife, biting one of another. Rom. xvi. 17; 1 Cor. i. 11, iii. 3; Gal. v. 15.
About two hundred years after Christ, what a stir was there about moonshine in water, as we speak, betwixt the east and west churches, when Victor Bishop of Rome excommunicated the churches in Asia for not keeping the Jewish feast of Easter at the same time with the Church of Rome! And to come nearer our own times, how bitter was Luther against Zuinglius and Calvin in the matter of the Sacrament! And how implacable is the hatred at this day of them whom they call Lutherans against the followers of the other parties!
Take yet one instance more, and in it, a view of the very height of human frailty this way. The exiled church at Frankfort, in Queen Mary's days, bred and nourished within itself such contentions, as that one accused another to the magistrate of treason, whereupon Mr. Knox was compelled to fly for fear of trouble.*
I could also allege to the present purpose, the state of the reformed churches amongst which we live, whose violent oppositions, and fiery contentions, do far exceed all ours: but I take no delight in writing these things, neither do I think the needless dissensions which have been amongst us, the less evil because they are so common to us with others, but these things I have laid down to make it appear, that Mr. B. here useth none other weapon against us than Jews and pagans might have done against Christians and papists against such as held the truth Against them, yea, and than atheists and men of no religion might take up against all the professions and religions in the world.
And, to go no further, the irreconcileable enmity betwixt the prelates and reformists about cap, surplice, cross and the like, which the patrons of them acknowledge trifles, might well have stopped Mr. B.'s mouth from upbraiding any with fiery contentions upon small occasions.
And touching the heavy sentence of excommunication, by which the father and brother were delivered up to the devil, as Mr. B. speaketh, I desire the reader to consider, that, if excommunication be, as indeed it is, so heavy a sentence, and that by it, the party sentenced be delivered over to the devil; the Church of England is in heavy case which plays with excommunications as children do with rattles. And to allude to the word Mr. B. useth, in what a devilish case are either the prelates and convocation house which have ipso facto excommunicated all that speak or deal against their state, ceremonies, and service-book, since the curse causeless falls upon the head of him from whom it comes, or the reformists, whereof Mr. B. would be one by fits, and such as seek for and enterprise reformation! And for the particular in hand, howsoever it may seem an odious thing unto the natural man, which savours not the things of God, nor the impartial ordinances of the Lord Jesus, and would be a matter of wonder that a man should censure, or consent to the censuring of his father or brother, in the Church of England, where a good word of a friend or a small bribe may stay the excommunication of the grossest offender, yet if there be just cause, though with extraordinary sorrow for the occasion, Christ in his ordinance must be preferred before father and brother, yea and mother and sister also. Matt. x. 37. Yea, and it shall be the seal of his ministry upon that son which in the observance of the word of the Lord, and in the keeping of his covenant saith unto his father, mother, brother, yea and own children, “I know you not.” Deut. xxxiii. 8, 9.
The next Mr. B. objecteth is Mr. Burnet,* who died of the plague in prison, whither he was committed by the arch-prelate.
And so did Mr. Holland and Mr. Parker in the same city, at the same time, as I remember: and so did Junius and Trelcatius the two divinity professors at Leyden, at another time upon the same infection. And was the plague God's fearful correcting rod upon these men because their religion was false, or rather would any man knowing the Scriptures, and the Lord's dispensations towards his church argue as this man doth? “If judgment thus begin at God's house, what shall the end of them be which obey not the gospel of God?” 1 Pet. iv. 17.
But if Mr. B. will bring against us all the persons which the bishops have killed in their prisons, by this and the like means, as David did Uriah by the sword of the Ammonites, he may overwhelm us with witnesses: but his argument shall be much what of the same nature with that of the Caian heretics, which affirm that Cain was a good man, and conceived by a superior power unto Abel, because he prevailed against him, and slew him.
Lastly for Mr. Smyth, as his instability and wantonness of wit is his sin and our cross,* so let Mr. B. and all others take heed that it be not their hardening in evil.
Mr. B. in proceeding to point out the hand of God writing heavy things against us, chargeth us, by Mr. White's testimony,† with such notable crimes, and detestable uncleannesses, as from which they in the Church of England either truly fearing God, or but making an apparent show thereof are so preserved by God, as they cannot be tainted with such evils, as some of us ofttimes fall into.
As the witness well fits the cause and person alleging him, who, according to the proverb, may ask his fellow, &c., so have his slanders been answered, as Mr. Bernard knows, whereof it seems the party himself is ashamed, and so might Mr. B. have been, had he not been shameless in accusing the brethren.
Now for the things objected, it is first to be noted how Mr. B. affirmeth that none with them either truly fearing God, or making an apparent show thereof, falls into such notable crimes, &c., wherein he acknowledgeth that a great part of the Church of England neither truly fears God, nor makes apparent show of it. How then are all of them saints by calling, and where is that profession of faith for which they are to be held true members of the Church? And what detestable crimes the members of the Church of England fall into, if there were none other testimony, the very gallows and gibbets in every country declare sufficiently, upon which for treason, witchcraft, incest, buggery,‡ rape, murders and the like, the members of that Church, so living and dying, do receive condign punishmerit. Where with us if any such enormities arise, as what temptations have befallen any we are subject unto the same, those monsters, without their answerable repentance, are by the power of Christ cut off from the body, and do for the most part return to their proper element, the English synagogue.
But what if all were true which Mr. B. avoucheth, what advantage hath he more against us than the heathen Corinthians had against the church there, where such fornication was found, as was not once named among the Gentiles? 1 Cor. v. 1.
Mr. B. having thus handled, as you see, some particular and principal persons, proceeds to set upon the whole body in general, as if, with the accuser of the brethren, he had obtained liberty to strike the same from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot with the boils and botches of reproach; and, therefore, writeth, that if men be but inclinable to this way, they judge the minister to have lost the power of his ministry, whereas the fault is in the alteration of their own affections; and if they be once entered into it, they are then so bewitched, as that, where before they were humble and tractable, they then become proud and wilful; where before they could with understanding discern betwixt cause and cause, they then lick up all that comes from themselves as oracles though never so absurd; where before they could feel in themselves lively marks of the children of God, and so judge of others, they then are persuaded against former faith to think, that neither themselves had, nor others have any outward marks of the children of God.
Let the reader here observe in the first place, that Mr. B. accounts all them inclinable to this way, which dislike conformity and subscription in the ministers; for them only Dr. Downame, whose epistle before his second sermon* he quotes in the margin, intendeth, and they only are the men which judge the conforming ministers to have lost the power of their ministry. And that their judgment is most sound, generally, of such ministers as having formerly refused ceremonies and subscription do afterward bow unto the same, all men of understanding do discern.
To the challenge of pride and wilfulness upon them in this way, though before they were humble and tractable, I do answer, that as true humility is ever commendable, so is there also a sinful subjection and submission of mind, by which spiritual tyrants, according to their fleshly wisdom in Voluntary religion, would rule over the consciences of the simple, of which the apostle warneth us, Col. ii. 18, which superstitious humility or humble superstition. if the servants of God begin to shake off and to stand for that liberty, so dearly bought by Christ, and so highly commended by the apostles of Christ, then begin these imperious masters to rage, thinking by reproaches, to compel them again under that subjection, in which by former delusions they could not contain them. Thus dealt the bloody bishops with the servants of God in Queen Mary's days, calling them proud, wilful, conceited, and what evil not? and very well do the like accusations become Mr. B.'s mouth in the like case.
Whether our opinions, which we are charged by Mr. B. to lick up as oracles, be absurd or no, will appear in the discussing of them in the sequel of the boot: in the meanwhile this is most true and undeniable, that a great part of the spleen uttered against us in this invective, grew from this very cause, that sundry of his hearers would not lick up whatsover he poured out unto them though bitter as gall; as “that ministers were not brethren properly,” that “the church had some power to excommunicate because the minister,” as the official's executioner, might read the sentence, “that the churchwardens were elders, the midwives widows,” and many the like, which to reckon up is to confute sufficiently.
Lastly, it is a great wrong which Mr. B. offereth us in affirming, that, “if we be once in this fraternity,” as he scoffeth at our holy covenant, “we then dislike our former graces, and are content to be persuaded against our former faith and feeling in ourselves of the lively marks of the children of God, and all because we were as a deer without, the compass of our park,” as he speaketh.
We do with all thankfulness to our God acknowledge, and with much comfort remember, those lively feelings of God's love, and former graces wrought in us, and that one special grace amongst the rest by which we have been enabled to draw ourselves into visible covenant, and holy communion. Yea with such comfort and assurance do we call to mind the Lord's work of old this way in us, as we doubt not but our salvation was sealed up unto our consciences, by most infallible marks and testimonies, which could not deceive, before we conceived the least thought of separation; and so we hope it is with many others in the Church of England, yea and of Rome too.
And the more ample measure of grace, and fulness of assurance that any man hath received of the Lord, the more carefully is he to endeavour, in all good conscience, the knowledge and obedience of all and every one of the holy commandments of God, and not to satisfy himself in his present feelings, thinking his salvation sure enough, and so his obedience full enough, for this were to serve God for wages, as hypocrites do, but rather, with the apostle, forgetting those things which are behind, and forcing to those things which are before, let him follow hard to the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Phil. iii. 13, 14. And whatsoever Mr. B. judgeth of a deer without the park pale wherein he should be, sure it is, that he is none of Christ's sheep, visibly or in respect of men, which is without Christ's sheepfold. For “there is one sheepfold, and one shepherd.” John x. 16.
The last conjecture gathered against our cause is,
“The ill success it hath had these very many years, being no more increased, where the increasings of God are great,” &c.
As it is always safer to proceed by the causes and reasons of things, than by their events and success, so especially is this rule of use in the case of religion, whose way, as it is in itself narrow and found by few, how much more being straitened by the fiery persecutions of the wicked world.
Indeed the Church of England hath advantage of us, and, as I suppose, of all the churches in the world for monstrous speedy growth, and increase, for that of a synagogue of Satan consisting of popish idolaters, and cruel murderers of the saints, it grew from top to toe into a true and entire body of Christ, of a sudden and before the greatest part of it so much as heard the gospel preached in any measure for their conversion,
But consider herein Mr. B. dealing: he spares no ungodly means in this his book, and otherwise, by slandering our persons, by falsifying our opinions, by exaggerating our infirmities, by incensing the magistrate against us, to suppress us, and yet reproacheth us because we grow no faster: dealing with us much what as the Jews did with Christ when they blindfolded him first, and then bade him prophesy who smote him. Luke xxii. 64.
But let it he as Mr. B. would have it, that the cause of religion is to be measured by the multitude of them that profess it, yet must it further be considered, that religion is not always sown and reaped in one age: “one soweth and another reapeth.” John iv. 37. John Huss and Jerome of Prague finished their testimony in Bohemia, and at Constance, a hundred years before Luther; and Wickliffe in England well nigh as long before them, and yet neither the one nor the other with the like success unto Luther.
And the many that are already gathered by the mercy of God into the kingdom of his Son Jesus, and the nearness of many more through the whole land, for the regions are white unto the harvest, do promise within less than an hundred years, if our sins and theirs make not us and them unworthy of this mercy, a very plenteous harvest.
That we have been, here and there, up and down, without sure footing, is our portion in this present evil world, common to us with the more worthy servants of God going before us, who have wandered in wildernesses and mountains and dens and caves of the earth. Heb. xi. 38.
The same answer may serve for that other exprobation of us, that we only have toleration in a place, where the enemies of Christ may be as well as we. Yea, though we were not so much as tolerated, but on the contrary persecuted to the death, where the enemies of Christ were not only tolerated, but even approved, yea, the persecutors of us, for the cause of Christ, what were this but to partake in the fellowship of his afflictions with the holy prophets and apostles, and other his most faithful servants? And I will tell you, Mr. B. in the presence of God what my persuasion is in this case, that as we have only toleration in the city where we live, where the enemies of Christ are tolerated with us, so all that truly fear God, whether ministers or private people, have only toleration in your church, and no approbation by the canons and constitutions of it.
And for the leading of the people out of one nation into another of a strange language, it is our great cross, but no sin at all, and should rather move you and others to compassion towards us, than thus to insult over us in our exile. But your addition, that we do this without compulsion is most shameless, you yourself both beholding and furthering our most violent persecution. But see your equal dealing with us: whilst we tarried in the kingdom you blamed us because we got us not gone, now we are gone you find fault we tarry not.
For your marginal note that, “Israel left not Egypt without Pharaoh's leave, nor the Jews, Babylon without Cyrus's consent.” To let pass the leave which Pharaoh gave the Israelites to depart, when to reduce them back, he and his people followed them into the sea; they could not depart sooner, though they would, being held in bondage by their enemies; yet when Moses was in danger of his life as we are, he fled as we do. Exod. ii. 15.
Besides, the Israelites had the certain known time of their captivities limited and prescribed by God, which they were to tarry. Gen. xv. 13, 14; Exod. xii. 40, 41; Jer. xxv. 11, 12; Dan. ix. 2; Ezra i. 1, which is no way our case.
And what other do we in flying than the holy prophets and apostles have done before us, Exod. ii. 15; 1 Sam. xviii. 10, xxvii. 1, 2; Acts ix. 25; and than the protestants did in Queen Mary's reign, that fled to Frankfort, Geneva, and other places, where they understood not the language of other nations? yea than the Lord Jesus himself hath sanctified, not only by his commandment, or licence at the least, Matt. x. 23, but also in his own person, flying into Egypt in his mother's arms? Matt. ii. 13, 14.
Reason see I none, why this man should thus blame us for our flying, except with the Montanists, he thought flight in the time of persecution unlawful;*
Lastly, Mr. B. concludeth his likelihoods with “a cursed farewell which,” saith he, “we leave in all places, like a scorching flame singeing where it comes, so as the growth of all things are hindered by it.”
And this observation he fathers upon me, though, in truth, it be his own bastard. I affirmed indeed that where this truth came, it left the places barren of good things, in taking away the best sort of people, but this I spake to no such purpose as is here insinuated.
The scorching flame, which hinders all things in the Church of England, is the prelacy, to which, by universal and infallible observation, no man applies himself, no nor inclines, but with a sensible decay of the former graces which he seemed to have. He that but once enters into the high priest's hall to warm himself at the fire there, shall scarce return without a scorched conscience.
[*]Against Scoticizing arid Genevating Ministers. O. O. his Picture of a Puritan.
[†]Luciferians.—The disciples of Lucifer, Bishop of Cagliari in Sardinia, who was banished in the fourth century by the Emperor Constantius, for having defended the Nicene doctrine concerning flue three Persons in the Godhead.
[*]“A Plain Refutation of Mr. Giffard'a Book, intituled 'A Short Treatise against the Donatists of England,”“by Henry Bar-rowe, 1591: republished, 1605.
[*]A plain Confutation of a Treatise of Brownism, published by some of that Faction, by Dr. K. Alison, 1590.
[*]“Discovery of Dr. Bancroft's Slanders.”
[†]“The Confession of Faith, of certain English People living in Exile in the Low Countries.” 1596. This work was reprinted at Amsterdam in 1598, and subscribed by Francis Johnson and Henry Ainsworth. It was dedicated to the reverend and learned men, students of Holy Scripture in the Christian Universities of Leyden, in Holland, of St. Andrews, Scotland, of Heidelberg, Geneva, and the other like famous schools of learning in the Low Countries, Scotland, Germany, and Prance.
[*]Under the care of Mr. Fitz, the pastor. Ainsworth's “Counter-poyson” p. 39, edit. 1608.'
[*]The dress of Mrs, Francis Johnson was the occasion of great contention and strife in the church at Amsterdam over which Mr. Francis Johnson was pastor. Governor Bradford, in his “Dialogue” states, that “she was a young widow when he (Mr. Francis Johnson) married her, and had been a merchant's wife, by whom he had a good estate, and was a godly woman: and because she wore such apparel as she had been formerly used to, which was neither excessive nor immodest, for their chiefest exceptions were against her wearing of some whalebone in the bodice and sleeves of her gown, corked shoes, and other such like things as the citizens of her Tank then used to wear. And although, for offence sake, she and he were willing to reform the fashions of them, so far as might be without spoiling of their garments, yet it would not content them (George Johnson and his father) except they came up full to their size.”—Vide the Dialogue in “Young's Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers,” p. 446. Boston. 8vo. 1841. “Hanbury's Historical Memorials,” vol. i. p. 99.
[*]Vide “A. Brieff Discerns off the Troubles begonne at Franckford in Germany, Anno Domini, 1554.” 4 to. edit. 1575; lately reprinted by John Petheram, 71, Chancery Lane, London, 1846.
[*]Bornit, as written by Mr. Bernard.
[*]The Rev. John Smyth, of Amsterdam, to whom frequent reference is made by Mr. Robinson, in his various works.
[†]“A Discovery of Brownism: or a Brief declaration of some of the errors and abominations daily practised and increased among the English Company of the Separation remaining for the present at Amsterdam in Holland. By Thomas White.” London. 1605. 4to., pp. 29. A reply to this scurrilous and malignant pamphlet was published by Francis Johnson, entitled “An Enquiry and Answer of Thomas White, his Discovery of Brownism. By Francis Johnson, Pastor of the Exiled English Church at Amsterdam in Holland.” 1606. 4to. pp. 92.
[*]“Two Sermons; one commending the Ministry ia general! the other the Office of Bishops.” 4to. London, 1608.
[*]Mr. Robinson discusses this subject fully in a treatise on Public Communion, vol. iii. chap. 3.