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AN ANSWER TO “A CENSORIOUS EPISTLE.” - John Robinson, The Works of John Robinson, vol. 3 
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. 3.
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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AN ANSWER TO “A CENSORIOUS EPISTLE.”
“It is a hard thing even for sober-minded men, in cases of controversy, to use, soberly, the advantages of the times; upon which, whilst men are mounted on high, they use to behold such as they oppose too overly, and not without contempt; and so are ofttimes emboldened to roll upon them, as from aloft, very weak and weightless discourses: thinking any slight and slender opposition sufficient to oppress those underlings whom they have, as they suppose, at so great an advantage. Upon this very presumption, it cometh to pass, that this Author undertaketh thus solemnly and severely to censure a cause whereof, as appeareth in the sequel of the discourse, he is utterly ignorant: which, had he been but half so careful to have understood as he hath been forward to censure, he would either have been, I doubt not, more equal towards it, or more weighty against it. As this Epistle is come to my hands, so I wish the Answer of it may come to the hands of him that occasioned it. Entreating the Christian reader, in the name of the Lord, impartially to behold, without either prejudice of cause or respect of person, what is written on both sides; and so from the court of a sound conscience, to give just judgment.
“The ‘crime’ here objected, is ‘separation;’ a thing very odious in the eyes of all them from whom it is made; as evermore casting upon them the imputation of evil, whereof all men are impatient. And hence it cometh to pass that the Church of England can better brook the vilest persons continuing communion with it, than any whomsoever separating from it, though upon never so just and well-grounded reasons. And yet separation from the world, and so from the men of the world, and so from the prince of the world that reigneth in them, and so from whatsoever is contrary to God, is the first step to our communion with God, and angels, and good men, as the first step to a ladder is to leave the earth!
“The separation we have made, in respect of our knowledge and obedience, is indeed late and new; yet is it, in the nature and causes thereof, as ancient as the gospel, which was first founded in the ‘enmity,’ Gen. iii. 15, which God himself put betwixt the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent; which ‘enmity’ hath not only been successively continued, but also visibly manifested by the actual separation of all true churches from the world, in their collection and constitution, before the law, under the law, and under the gospel. Gen.iv. 13, 14, 16; vi. 1, 2; vii. 1, with 1 Pet. i. 22; iii. 20,21; Gen. xii. 2; Lev. xx. 24, 26; Neh. ix. 2; John xvii. 14, 16; Acts ii. 40; xix. 9; 1 Cor. vi. 17. Which separation the Church of England neither hath made nor doth make, but stands actually one with all that part of the world within the kingdom, without separation: for which cause, amongst others, we have chosen, by the grace of God, rather to separate ourselves to the Lord from it, than with it from him, in the visible constitution of it.
“To the title of a ‘Ringleader,’ wherewith it pleaseth this ‘pistler to style me, I answer, That if the thing I have be good, it is good and commendable to have been forward in it; if it be evil, let it be reproved by the light of God's Word; and that God, to whom I have done that I have done, will, I doubt not, give me both to see and to heal my error, by speedy repentance: if I have fled away on foot, I shall return on horseback. But as I durst never set foot into this way, but upon a most sound and unresistable conviction of conscience by the Word of God, as I was persuaded, so must my retiring be wrought by more solid reasons, from the same Word, than are to be found in a thousand such pretty pamphlets and formal flourishes as this is.
“Your pitying of us, and sorrowing for us, especially for the wrong done by us, were, in you, commendable affections, if by us justly occasioned; but if your church be deeply drenched in apostacy, and you cry ‘Peace, peace,’ when sudden and certain desolation is at hand, it is you that do wrong, though you make the complaint. And so, being cruel towards yourselves, and your own, whom you flatter, you cannot be truly pitiful towards others whom you bewail. But I will not discourage you in this affection, lest we find few in the same fault: the most, instead of ‘pity’ and compassion, affording nothing but fury and indignation.
“The first action laid against us is of ‘ unnaturalness,’ and ingratitude, towards our ‘ mother, the Church of England, for our causeless separation from her.’ To which unjust accusation, and trivial querimony, our most just defence hath been, and is, That to our knowledge, we hare done her no wrong. We do freely, and with all thankfulness, acknowledge every good thing she hath, and which ourselves have there received. The superabundant grace of God covering and passing by the manifold enormities in that church, wherewith these good things are inseparably commingled; and wherein we also, through ignorance and infirmity, were inwrapped. But what then? Should we still have continued in sin, that grace might have abounded? If God have caused a further truth, like a light in a dark place, to shine in our hearts, should we still have mingled that light with darkness, contrary to the Lord's own practice, Gen. i. 4, and express precept, 2 Cor. vi. 14?
“But, the Church of England, say you, is our ‘ mother,’ and so ought not to be avoided. But, say I, we must not so cleave to ‘Holy Mother’ Church as [that] we neglect our heavenly Father and his commandments: which, we know, in that estate, we could not but transgress; and that heinously, and against our consciences; not only in the want of many Christian ordinances, to which we were most straitly bound, both by God's Word and our own necessities; but also in our most sinful subjection to many anti-christian enormities, which we are bound to eschew as hell. She is our ‘ mother;’ so may she be, and yet not the Lord's wife! Every mother of children is not a wife. ‘ Ammi and Ruhamah’ were bidden to ‘ plead’ with their ‘ mother,’ apostate Israel; and ‘ plead’ that she was ‘ not’ the Lord's ‘wife,’ nor he her ‘husband.’ Hos. ii. 1, 2. And though you forbid us a thousand times, yet must we ‘ plead.’ Not to ‘ excuse’ our ‘fault,’ but to justify our innocency: and that not only, nor so much, in respect of ourselves, as of the truth which, without sacrilege, we may not suffer to be condemned unheard. And if you yet hear her not, rather blame yourselves as deaf than as dumb. Is not ‘ Babylon’ the mother of God's ‘ people;’ whom he, therefore, commandeth to ‘ depart out of her,’ lest, being ‘ partakers of her sins,’ they also partake of her ‘ plagues?’ Rev. xviii. 4. And, to conclude, What say you more against us, for your ‘ mother,’ the Church of England, than the Papists do for their mother, and your mother's mother, the Church of Rome, against you, whom they condemn as unnatural bastards, and impious matricides, in your separations from her? And were not Luther, Zuinglius, Cranmer, Latimer, and the rest, begot to the Lord in the womb of the Romish Church? Did they not receive the knowledge of his truth when they stood actual members of it? Whom, notwithstanding, afterwards, they forsook, and that justly, for her fornications! But here, in the name of the Church of England, you wash your hands of all Babylonish abominations, which you pretend you have forsaken, and her, for and with them. And, in this regard, you, [we] speak thus, ‘ The reformation you have made of the many and main corruptions of the Romish Church we do ingenuously acknowledge, and do, withal, embrace with you, all the truths which, to our knowledge, you have received instead of them; but Rome was not built all in a day.’
“The ‘ mystery of iniquity’ did advance itself by degrees; and as the rise was, so must the fall be. That’ man of sin,’ and lawless man, must languish and die away of a consumption. 2 Thess. ii. 3, 7, 8. And what though many of the highest towers of Babel, and of the strongest pillars also, be demolished and pulled down; yet may the building stand still, though tottering to and fro, as it doth, and only underpropped and upheld with the shoulder and arm of flesh; without which, in a very moment, it would fall flat upon and be level with the earth. You have renounced many false doctrines in Popery, and, in their places, embraced the truth. But what, if this truth be taught tinder the same hateful prelacy, in the same devised office of ministry, and confused communion of the profane multitude, and that mingled with many grievous errors? Shall some general truths, yea, though few of them, in the particulars, may be soundly practised, sweeten and sanctify the other errors? Doth not one heresy make a heretic? And doth not a ‘ little leaven,’ whether in doctrine or manners, ‘leaven the whole lump?’1 Cor. v. 6; Gal. v. 9; Hag. ii. 13. If Antichrist held not many truths, wherewith should he countenance so many forgeries? Or, how could his work be a ‘ mystery of iniquity,’ which, in Rome, is more gross and palpable, but in England is spun with a finer thread, and so more hardly discovered? But to wade no further in universalities, we will take a little time to examine such particulars as you yourself have picked out for your most advantage, to see whether you be so clear of Babel's towers in your own evidence, as you bear the world in hand.
“‘ Where,’ say you,’ are those proud towers of their universal hierarchy? ‘ One in Lambeth; another in Fulham; and wheresoever a pontifical prelate is, or his chancellor, commissary, or other subordinate, there is a tower of Babel unruinated! To this end I desire to know of you, whether the office of archbishops, bishops, and the rest of that rank, were not parts of that accursed hierarchy, in Queen Mary's days, and members of that ‘ man of sin’? If they were, then as shoulders and arms under that head, the Pope, and over the inferior members, and have now the same ecclesiastical jurisdiction derived and continued upon them, whereof they were possessed in the time of Popery, as it is plain they have, by the first parliament of Queen Elizabeth, why are they not still members of that body, though the head, the Pope, be cut off? And so do all the reformed churches in the world, of whose testimony you boast so loud, renounce the prelacy of England, as part of that pseudo-clergy and antichristian hierarchy derived from Rome.”
“Infallible judgment.” “It seems the Sacred, so called, Synod, assumeth little less unto herself in her determinations. Otherwise, how durst she decree so absolutely, as she doth, touching things reputed ‘ indifferent;’ namely, ‘ That all men, in. all places, must submit unto them, without exception or limitation ‘? Except she could infallibly determine that these her ceremonies, thus absolutely imposed, should edify all men at all times, how durst she thus impose them? To exact obedience in and unto them, whether they offend or offend not, whether they edify or destroy, were intolerable presumption.”
“Dispensation with laws of God and sins of men.” “To let pass your ecclesiastical consistories, wherein sins and absolutions from them are as venal and saleable as at Rome,—is it not a law of the Eternal God, that the ministers of the gospel, the bishops or elders, should he ‘ apt’ and ‘ able ‘ to ‘ teach’? 1 Tim. iii. 2; Tit. i. 9. And, is it not their grievous sin to be unapt hereunto? Isa. lvi. 10, 11, And yet, who knoweth not that the patrons amongst you present, that the bishops institute, the archdeacons induct, the churches receive; and the laws, both civil and ecclesiastical, allow and justify ministers unapt and unable to ‘teach’?
“Is it not a law of the Eternal God, that the ‘ elders’ should ‘ feed the flock,’ over which they are set, labouring amongst them in the Word and doctrine? Acts xx. 28; 1 Pet. v. 1,2. And is it not sin to omit this duty?
“Plead not for Baal. Your dispensations for non-residency and pluralities for benefices, as for two, three, or more; yea, tot. quot., as many as a man will have, or can get, are so many dispensations of the laws of God and sins of men. These things are too impious to be defended, and too manifest to be denied.”
“Disposition of kingdoms, and deposition of princes.” “You are wiser, and I hope honester than thus to attempt, though that received maxim amongst you, ‘ No ceremony, no bishop, no bishop, no king,’ savours too strongly of that weed. But what though you be loyal to earthly kings, and their crowns and kingdoms, yet if you be traitors and rebels against the king of his church, Jesus Christ, and the sceptre of his kingdom, not suffering him, by his laws and officers, to reign over you; but, instead of them, do stoop to Antichrist in his offices and ordinances; shall your loyalty towards men excuse your treasons against the Lord? Though you now cry never so loud, ‘ We have no king but Cæsar,’ John xix. 15, yet is there ‘ another king, one Jesus,’ Acts xvii. 7, which shall return and pass a heavy doom upon the rebellious: ‘ These mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring them, and slay them before me.’ Luke xxix. 29.”
“Parting stakes with God in our conversion.” “Not to speak of the error of universal grace, and consequently of free-will, that groweth on apace amongst you; what do you else but put in for a part with God in conversion, though not through freedom of will, yet in a devised ministry, the means of conversion. It being the Lord's peculiar, as well to appoint the outward ministry of conversion, as to give the inward grace. 1 Cor. iii. 9.
“‘ Where,’ say you, ‘ are those rotten heaps of transubstantiating of bread?’ And where, say I, learned you your devout kneeling to or before the bread, but, from that error of transubstantiation? Yea, what less can it insinuate than either that or some other the like idolatrous conceit? If there were not something more in the bread and wine than in the water at baptism, or in the Word read or preached, why should such solemn kneeling be so severely pressed at that time, rather than upon the other occasions? And well and truly have your own men affirmed, that it were far less sin and appearance of an idolatry that is nothing so gross, to tie men, in their prayers, to kneel before a crucifix, than before the bread and wine: and the reason followeth, for that Papists commit an idolatry far more gross and odious in worshipping the bread, than in worshipping any other of their images or idols whatsoever.”*
“Adoring of images.” “To let pass your devout kneeling unto your ordinary, when you take the oath of canonical obedience, or receive absolution at his hands, which, as the main actions are religious, must needs be religious adoration! what is the adoring of your truly human, though called ‘Divine,’ service-book, in and by which you worship God, as the Papists do by their images? If the Lord Jesus, in his testament, have not commanded any such book, it is accursed and abominable. If you think he have, show us the place where, that we may know it with you: or manifest unto us, that ever the apostles used themselves, or commended to the churches after them, any such service-book! Was not the Lord, in the apostles’ time, and apostolic churches’, purely and perfectly worshipped, when the officers of the church, in their ministration, manifested the spirit of prayer which they had received according to the present necessities and occasions of the church; before the least parcel of this patchery came into the world? And might not the Lord now be also purely and perfectly worshipped, though this printed image, with the painted and carved images, were sent back to Rome; yea, or cast to hell, from whence both they and it came? Speak, in yourself, might not the Lord be entirely worshipped with pure and holy worship, though none other book but the Holy Scriptures were brought into the church: if yea, as who can deny it, that knows what the worship of God meaneth, what, then, doth your service-book there? The Word of God is perfect, and admitteth of none addition. Cursed be he that addeth to the Word of the Lord; and cursed be that which is added; and so be your great idol, the communion-book, though, like Nebuchadnezzar's image, some part of the matter be gold and silver, which is also so much the more detestable by how much it is the more highly advanced amongst you.”
“Multitude of sacraments.” “The number of sacraments seems greater amongst you, by one at the least, than Christ hath left in his testament; and that is marriage, which, howsoever, you do not, in express terms, call a sacrament, no more did Christ and the apostles call baptism and the supper ‘sacraments,’ yet do you, in truth, create it a sacrament, in the administration and use of it. There are the parties to be married, and their marriage, representing ‘Christ and his church,’ and their ‘spiritual’ union; to which ‘mystery,’ saith the oracle of your service-book expressly, God hath ‘ consecrated’ them. There is the ring, hallowed by the said service-book, whereon it must be laid, for the element; there are the words of consecration, ‘ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost;’ there is the place, the church; the time, usually the Lord's-day; the minister, the parish priest. And being made, as it is, a part of God's worship, and of the minister's office, what is it, if it be not a sacrament? It is no part of prayer, or preaching; and with the sacrament it hath the greatest consimilitude; but an idol I am sure it is, in the celebration of it, being made a ministerial duty, and part of God's worship, without warrant, call it by what name you will.”
“Power of indulgences.” “Your court of faculties, from whence your dispensations and tolerations for non-residency, and plurality of benefices, are had; together with your commuting of penances, and absolving one man from another: take away this power from the prelates, and you maim the ‘ beast’ in a limb.”
“Necessity of confession.” “In your high commission court, very absolute, where, by the oath ex officio, men are constrained to accuse themselves of such things as whereof no man will or can accuse them; what necessity is laid upon men in this case, let your prisons witness.”
“Profit of pilgrimages.” “Though you have lost the shrines of saints, yet you retain their days, and those holy as the Lord's-day; and that with good profit to your spiritual carnal courts, from such as profane them with the least and most lawful labour, notwithstanding the liberty of the six days’ labour which the Lord hath given. And as much would the masters of these courts be stirred at the casting of these saints’ days out of the calendar, as were the ‘masters’ of the possessed maid, when ‘the spirit of divination’ was cast out of her. Acts xvi. 19.”
“Constrained and approved ignorance.” “If an ignorant and unpreaching ministry be approved amongst you, and the people constrained, by all kinds of violence, to submit unto it, and therewith to rest, as what is more usual throughout the kingdom, then let no modest man once open his mouth to deny that ‘ignorance’ is ‘constrained and approved’ amongst you.”
“Unknown devotions.” “If the service, said or sung, in the parish church, may be called ‘ devotion,’ then sure there is good store of unknown devotion; the greatest part, in most parishes, neither knowing nor regarding what is said, nor wherefore.”
“Penances and purgatories.” “What are your sheet penances for adultery, and all your purse penances for all other sins? Than which, though some worse in popery, yet none more common.
“Touching ‘ purgatory,’ though you deny the doctrine of it, and teach the contrary, yet how well your practice suits with it, let it he considered in these particulars: Your absolving of men dying excommunicate, after they be dead, and before they may have Christian burial: your Christian burial in holy ground, if the party will be at the charges: your ringing of hallowed bells for the soul: your singing the corpse to the grave from the church stile your praying over, or for the dead; especially in these words, ‘ That God would hasten his kingdom, that we with this our brother,’ though his life were never so wretched and death desperate, ‘ and all other departed in the true faith of thy holy name, may have our perfect consummation both in body and soul.’ Your general doctrines, and your particular practices, agree in this, as in the most other things, like ‘ harp and harrow!’ In word, you profess many truths, which in deed you deny. These and many more popish devices, by others at large, discovered to the world, both for pomp and profit, are not only rased, and buried in the dust, but are advanced amongst you, above all that is called God.
“You are far from doing to the Romish idols as was done to the Egyptian idols ‘ Mythra and Serapis,’ whose priests were expelled their ministry, and monuments exposed to utter scorn and desolation; their temples demolished and rased to the very foundation.
“But your temples, especially your cathedrals and mother churches, stand, still, in their proud majesty, possessed by archbishops and lord bishops, like the flamens and archflamens amongst the Gentiles, from whom they were derived, and furnished with all manner of pompous and superstitious monuments; as carved and painted images, massing copes and surplices; chanting and organ music, and many other glorious ornaments of the Romish harlot, by which her majesty is commended to and admired by the vulgar; so far are you in these respects, from being gone, or fled, yea, or crept either, out of Babylon! Now, if you be thus Babylonish where you repute yourselves most Sion-like, and thus confounded in your own evidence; what defence could you make in the things whereof an adversary would challenge you? If your light be darkness, how great is your darkness!”
“Consorting in ceremonies.” “But for that, not the separation but the cause, makes the schismatic: and lest you should seem to speak evil of the thing you know not, and to condemn a cause unheard, you lay down, in the next place, the supposed cause of our separation, against which you deal as insufficiently; and that you pretend to be, none other than your ‘consorting’ with the Papists in certain ‘ ceremonies;’ touching which, and our separation in regard of them, thus you write:—’ M. H.: If you have taken but the least knowledge of the grounds of our judgment and practice, how dare you thus abuse both us and the reader, as if the only or chief ground of our separation were your popish ceremonies? But if you go only by guess, having never so much as read over one treatise published in our defence, and yet stick not to pass this your censorious doom, both upon us and it, I leave it to the reader to judge whether you have been more lavish of your censure or credit! Most unjust is the censure of a cause unknown; though in itself never so blameworthy; which, nevertheless, may be praiseworthy for aught he knows that censures it.’
“And touching the ‘ ceremonies’ here spoken of, howsoever we have formerly refused them, submitting, as all others did and do, to the prelate's spiritual jurisdiction— herein, through ignorance, straining at ‘gnats,’ and swallowing ‘camels,’ yet are we verily persuaded of them, and so were before we separated, That they are but as leaves of that tree, and as badges of that ‘man of sin,’ whereof the Pope is head, and the prelates, shoulders! And so we, for our parts, see no reason why any of the bishops’ sworn servants, as all the ministers of the Church of England are canonically, should make nice to wear their lords’ liveries. Which ‘ceremonies,’ notwithstanding, we know well enough, howsoever you, for advantage, extenuate and debase them unto us, to be advanced and preferred, in your church, before the preaching of the gospel. It is much that they, being ‘not so much as reed,’ nor any part of the building, as you pretend, should overturn the best builders amongst you as they do. The proportion betwixt ‘Zoar’ and them holds well: Zoar was a neighbour unto Sodom, both in place and sin, and obnoxious to the same destruction with it; and it was Lot's error to desire to have it spared, Gen. xix. 15, 18–20; and so he, never found rest nor peace in it, but forsook it for fear of the same just judgment, which had overtaken the rest of the cities, ver. 30. The application of this to your ‘ ceremonies, ’I leave to yourself; and them, to that destruction to which they are devoted by the Lord.
“How we would have behaved ourselves ‘in the temple,’ where the ‘money-changers’ were, and they that ‘sold doves,’ we shall answer you when you prove your church to be the ‘Temple of God,’ compiled and built of spiritually ‘hewn’ and ‘lively stones,’ 1 Kings v.17, 18; vi. 7; 1 Pet. ii. 5; and of the ‘cedars, firs,’ and ‘thyme,’ trees of Lebanon, 3 Chron. ii. 8, framed and set together in that comely order which ‘ a greater than Solomon’ hath prescribed; unto which God hath promised his presence. But whilst we take it to be, as it is, a confused heap of dead, and defiled, and polluted stones, and of all rubbish of briers and brambles of the wilderness, for the most part fitter for burning than building; we take ourselves rather bound to show our obedience in departing from it, than our valour in purging it; and to follow the prophet's counsel in flying out of Babylon, ‘as the he-goats before the flock.’ Jer. 1. 8.
“And what, I pray you, is the valour which the best hearted and most zealous Reformers amongst you, have manifested in driving out’ the money-changers’? Doth it not appear in this, that they suffer themselves to be driven out with the two-stringed whip of ceremonies and subscription, by ‘the money-changers’ the chancellors and officials which sell sins like ‘doves;’ and by the chief-priests, the bishops, which set them on work? So far are the most zealous amongst you, from driving out the ‘money-changers,’ as [that] they themselves are driven out by them; because they will not change with them to the utmost farthing!
“For the ‘ wafers,’ in Geneva; and disorders, in Corinth; they were corruptions which may and do, or the like unto them, creep into the purest churches in the world: for the reformation whereof Christ hath given his power unto his church, that such evils as are brought in by human frailty may, by divine authority, be purged out. This power and presence of Christ you want; holding all by homage, or rather by villanage, under the prelates; unto whose sinful yoke you stoop, in more than Babylonish bondage, bearing and approving, by personal communion, infinite abominations. And in these last two respects principally; your Babylonish confusion of all sorts of people in the body of your church, without separation, and your Babylonish bondage under your spiritual lords, the prelates; we account you Babylon, and fly from you.
“Master H., having formerly expostulated with us on our supposed impiety, in forsaking a ‘ ceremonious’ Babylon in England, proceeds, in the next place, to lay down our madness, in choosing a ‘ substantial’ Babylon in ‘ Amsterdam.’ And if it be so found, by due trial, as he suggesteth, it is hard to say, whether our impiety or madness be the greater! Belike Master H. thinks we gather churches here, by town-rows, as they do in England; and that all within the parish procession are of the same church. Wherefore (else, tells he us of Jews, Arians, and Anabaptists; with whom we have nothing common but the streets and market-place? It is the condition of the church, to live in the world, and to have civil society with the men of this world. 1 Cor. v. 10; John xvii. 11. But what is this, to that spiritual communion of the saints in the fellowship of the gospel, wherein they are separated, and sanctified, from the world unto the Lord? John xvii. 16; 1 Cor. i. 2; 2 Cor. vi. 17, 18.
“We, indeed, have much wickedness in the city where we live; you, in the church: but, in earnest, do you imagine we account the kingdom of England ‘ Babylon,’ or the city of Amsterdam, ‘ Sion?’ It is the Church of England, or State-Ecclesiastical, which we account Babylon; and from which we withdraw in spiritual communion. But for the commonwealth and kingdom, as we honour it above all the states in the world, so would we thankfully embrace the meanest corner in it, at the extremest conditions of any people in the kingdom. The hellish impieties in the city of ‘ Amsterdam’ do no more prejudice our heavenly communion in the church of Christ, than the frogs, lice, flies, murrain, and other plagues overspreading Egypt, did the Israelites, when Goshen, the portion of their inheritance, was free, Exod. viii. 22; ix. 26; nor than the deluge, wherewith the whole world was covered, did Noah, when he and his family were safe in the ark, Gen. vii.; nor than ‘ Satan's throne’ did the church of Pergamos, being established in the same city with it. Rev. ii. 12, 13.
“It is the will of God and of Christ, that his church should abide in the world, and converse with it in the affairs thereof, which are common to both. But it is the apostacy of Antichrist to have communion with the world in the holy things of God, which are the peculiars of the church, and cannot, without great sacrilege, be so prostituted and profaned.
“The air of the gospel which you draw in, is nothing so free and clear as you make show. It is only because you are used to it, that makes you so judge. The thick smoke of your Canons, especially of such as are planted against the kingdom of Christ, the visible church and the administration of it, do both obscure and poison the air which you all draw in, and wherein you breathe. The plaguy spiritual leprosy of sin rising up in the foreheads of so many thousands in the church, unshut up, uncovered, infects all, both persons and things, amongst you. Lev. xiii. 45–47; 3 Cor. vi. 17. The blasting hierarchy suffers no good thing to grow or prosper, but withers all, both bud and branch. The daily sacrifice of the service-book, which, instead of spiritual prayer sweet as incense, you offer up, morning and evening, smells so strong of the Pope's, portuise* as it makes many hundreds, amongst yourselves, stop their noses at it; and yet you boast of ‘ the free and clear air of the gospel’ wherein you breathe! .
“That ‘ all Christendom should so magnify’ your ‘ happiness,’ as you say, is much; and yet yourselves, and the best amongst you, complain so much, both in word and writing, of your miserable condition under the imperious and superstitious impositions of the prelates; yea, and suffer so much also, under them, as at this day you do, for seeking the same church government and ministry which is in use in all other churches, save your own! The truth is, you are best liked where you are worst known. Your next neighbours of Scotland know your bishops’ government so well as they rather choose to undergo all the miseries of bonds and banishment, than to partake with you in your ‘ happiness’ this way: so highly do they ‘ magnify’ and ‘ applaud’ the same! Which choice, I doubt not, other churches also, would make, if the same necessity were laid upon them. And for your ‘ graces,’ we ‘ despise’ them not, nor any good thing amongst you; no more than you do such graces and good things as are to be found in the church. of Rome, from which you separate notwithstanding. We have, by God's mercy, the pure and right use of the good gifts and graces of God in Christ's ordinance, which you want. Neither the Lord's people, nor the holy vessels, could make Babylon, Sion; though both the one and the other were captived for a time.
“Where the truth is a gainer, the Lord, which is Truth, cannot be ‘a loser.” Neither are ‘the thanks’ of ancient ‘favours lost,’ amongst them which still press on towards new mercies. Unthankful are they unto the blessed majesty of God, and unfaithful also, which, knowing the will of their Master, do it not, but go on presumptuously, in disobedience to many, the holy ordinances of the Lord and of his Christ, which they know, and in word also acknowledge, he hath given to his church to be observed; and not for idle speculation and disputation, without obedience. It is not by our ‘ sequestration/ but by your confusion, that ‘ Rome and Hell gains.’ Your odious commixture of all sorts of people in the body of your church, in whose lap the vilest miscreants are dandled; sucking her breasts, as her natural children, and are be-blest by her, as having right thereunto, with all her holy things, as prayer, sacraments, and other ceremonies; is that which advantageth ‘ Hell,’ in the final obduration and perdition of the wicked, whom, by these means, you flatter and deceive. The Romish prelacy and priesthood amongst you, with the appurtenances for their maintenance and ministrations, are Rome's advantage: which, therefore, she challengeth as her own; and by which, she also still holds possession amongst you, under the hope of regaining her full inheritance, at one time or other. And if the Papists take ‘ advantage’ at our condemnation of you, and separation from you, it concerns you well to see where the blame is, and there to lay it; lest, through light and inconsiderate judgment, you justify the wicked, and condemn the righteous. And for the suspicion of the ‘ rude multitude,’ you need not much fear it. They will suspect nothing that comes under the king's broad seal; they are ignorant of this fault. Though it were the mass that came with authority of the magistrate, they, for the most part, would be without suspicion of it; so ignorant and profane are they in the most places. It is the wise-hearted amongst you, that suspect your dealings, who will also suspect you yet more, as your unsound dealings shall be further discovered.
“Lastly: The terrible threat you utter against us, ‘ That even whoredoms and murders shall abide an easier answer than Separation,’ would certainly fall heavy upon us, if this answer were to be made in your Consistory Courts, or before any of your Ecclesiastical Judges; but because we know that not Antichrist, but Christ, shall be our Judge, we are bold upon the warrant of his Word and Testament, which, being sealed with his blood, may not be altered, to proclaim to all the world, separation from whatsoever riseth up rebelliously against the sceptre of his kingdom; as we are undoubtedly persuaded the communion, government, ministry, and worship of the Church of England do!”
Apology of the Min. of Lincoln Dioc. part 1, page 66.
Breviary or Mass-book.