Though God hath given unto Mr. Edwards, parts and abilities, wherewithal to acquire a comfortable life, in a just and good way, and wherein hee might bee helpefull unto many, and hurtfull unto none; neverthelesse hee seemeth unhappily to have placed his contentment in being a Master and Comptrouler of other mens judgements and practises in the worship of God, (wherein the Word of God and a mans owne conscience is only to governe): and thereupon (necessarily) finding opposition from al consciensious people, hee growes most passionately impatient, and even violently madd against all such as either plead their cause, or take their part; plainly manifesting, throughout the whole course of his preaching and writing, that he would esteem it his greatest felicity, if he could prevaile with authority, or provoke any others to the perpetuall molestation and destruction, of all that will not (though against their consciences) submit to those rules which he approveth.
Now the piety and justice of this Honourable Parliament, having so lately freed this long oppressed Nation, from this very kind of Tyranny, in the Bishops and Prelaticall Clergy, and very many judicious, and considerate persons (through a blessed opportunity, freedeme of discourse, and cleerer search of Scripture then heretofore) being fully satisfied in their understandings, that to compell or restraine, any peaceable person in matters of faith, and the worship of God, is as reall a sinne, and as odious in the sight of God as murther, theft or adultery, and thereupon engaging themselves in the just defence of liberty of conscience, Master Edwards his worke (of bowing all to his rule) falls out to be very difficult, and impossible (by any arguments drawn from the word of God) to be effected, or proved just.
And this also, insteed of qualifying his spirit, or stopping him in his race, hath set him all on fire, that he rageth like an Irish, ravenous and hungry woolfe, deprived of his prey by generous and true English Mastives, that watch both night and day to save the harmlesse and benefitiall sheep (the Independants and Separatists) who from the begining of these our troubles, to this very day, have continually without repining contributed their fleece for clothing, and their limbes and lives for nourishment, and strength, to preserve not only their owne liberties, but the just liberties of this Nation; Yet nothing abateth the madnesse of this prophet; but even (as is to be feared) against his owne conscience, and as if hired thereunto by some politique Balacks, hee flieth from one hill to another, from authority to authority, hath his parables and his offerings, and Satan like, would tempt the Lord himselfe to fall downe and worship him, to go against his owne declared will, and to stir up a persecuting spirit in the Magistrate, against this his beloved Israel, to compell them to worship him (as doe the Hipocrites) against their minds and consciences, then which nothing could be more abominable in his sight.
And though he cannot but see the hand of God against him, and that notwithstanding all his opposition, or any others, the numbers of them are daily increased, and that their faithfulnesse to the Parliament & common-wealth, hath caused them to grow in favor with al the People; though (if he would speak his heart) he must as Baalam, perforce acknowledge there is no enchantment against Jacob, nor any divination against Israel; no prevailing for a coersive power, against this good people, in a time of refreshment from any just Authority: Yet persists he in his ungodly resolution, and seeing and knowing that God will by no meanes answer his eager desire, of cursing this part of his people; he seemeth to grow desperate, and like as Saul when God had cast him off, and refused to answer him, either by Urim or Vision, betooke himselfe to the witch of Endor, even so this most unhappy man, betaketh himselfe to Machivillian policy, for execution of his cruel purposes against them: and finding no just or judicious party that will afford him any countenance, or assistance, he applyeth himselfe to any that hate them, though enemies to the common-wealth, hazarding the doing of their work, so that with them, and by them, he may but doe his owne, whereunto the weaknesses of many wel minded people ministreth to great an advantage, their rashnesse and to easie credulity, being all the foundation which he hath now left, to build his hopes upon, for if these would but a while suspend their belief, and patiently consider the things he hath spoken or is about to publish, and would thereupon with-draw themselves from his wicked and delusive counsels, and insteed thereof would fall to councelling of him to forsake his violent Rayling, and reviling, of a people they know to be faithfull, it were then impossible for him to effect his unjust designes, wch also (if effected) must necessarily be the bondage or ruin of all sorts of wel minded people, as wel Presbiterians as others (however his charmings may for the present flatter them) that must and will be the conclusion, if they continue to take in his poysonous counsells, how pleasing soever they seem to a pallat corrupted by long custome; they are poysonous, and will in time both swell and destroy them.
And therefore unto this sort of people, doe I at this time principally addresse this discourse by way of Antidote, to prevent the working of his banefull Counsels, and to frustrate his accursed ends.
An ancient Philosopher (somewhat to this purpose) hath a fable, That the Wolves being at long and deadly war with the sheep, and not prevailing by force; but contrary to their expectation almost vanquished: Resolved to try what they could doe by policie, and thereupon desired a treaty, which the sheep simply and easily granted: The principall thing in the treaty, which the Wolves insisted on, was, that the sheepe would but discharge & send away their dogs, and then there would be no cause of warre at all, but they should live quietly one by another, urging withall, that the dogs were of a quarrelsome disposition, had been the beginners and continuers of the war, that they were of a different nature & temper from the sheep, maintain’d the war only for their own ends, and in probability were like enough to make a prey of the sheep themselves, and the like; if they would discharge them, they would give them what security themselves would desire, for assurance of their peaceable neighbourhood. The poor sheep soon weary of the charge and trouble of war, yeelded thereunto, and discharged their dogges, their strongest help, (whereby they had not only preserved themselves, but by many battels and maine force had even quite vanquished the Wolves) wch was no sooner done, but the Wolves in short time muster up their force, (the dogs being out of call) and when the sheep least suspected, fell upon them and destroyed them utterly.
I conceive this could never have been effected, but that the Wolves had conveyed some of themselves into sheepes cloathing, who by flattering and dissembling cariage, got themselves into credit with the sheepe, and so perswaded to this goodly treaty, and wrought them to those destructive conditions.
And (if well considered) this fable (though dogs and Christians hold no fit comparison) may demonstrate, that whosoever doth, or shall endevour to perswade the godly and honest Presbyters to abandon, discourage or molest their faithfull, helpfull, valiant and assured friends of other judgements (whom Mr. Edwards would have to be used worse then dogs) they are at best, but Wolves, or Wolves friends, and seek the destruction of all honest people, of what judgement soever.
And whether Master Edwards do expresly ayme at so horrid an issue, or not; for certaine, his workes and endevours do mainly tend thereunto, and will help on the wicked purposes of any that intend the destruction of the sheepe.
But, blessed be God, we are not as sheepe without a shepherd, wee have had, and still have faithfull & resolved shepherds set over us by providence, in a most just and orderly way, a Parliament (the terror of the wicked, and comfort of the just) that for these 5 years and upwards, have been a strong Tower of defence to the sheep of the Lords Pasture, to all the godly party in the Land: and though many of our froward and weak sheepe have many times been tampring & harkening after offers and conditions as dangerous to the whole flocke, as the discharging of that strength, the Wolves most feared; yet hath the wisdom of those our faithfull Shepherds hitherto prevented the same; and according to the true rules of wisdom have made most use of those whom the Wolves most feared.
And we trust the same God that endowed them with such a new modelising wisdome, as hath been successefull to the astonishment both of their friends and enemies, will still guide and direct them, when the policies of the enemies, are most busie and strongly working; and when the weaknesse and frowardnesse of their friends are most troublesome & importunate for destructive things, yea though some should be wrought upon so farre, as to shew a wearisomnesse of these their Shepherds; the same God will then we doubt not, shew his mighty power and wisdome in them, and thereby preserve this whole Nation, from a most dangerous Relaps, which otherwise were to be feared:
The whole flock is their charge, God hath made them Overseers of the whole, and to our joy and comfort they have hitherto shewed, a greater care to preserve the whole People, then to please any part of them; in unreasonable things: and in so doing they have been (and cannot but be) blessed and prosperous: ...