« PreviousContinue »
looks upon it as his Duty to yield to this Authority all active and chearful Obedience, even for Conscience sake, &c.
Here is a plain Renunciation of all the Obligation of the Covenant, so far as respects the King; the good man is quit by Providence, nay did not that whole Party, as scrupulous as ever they may now seem, from that time forward ever afterward till the laying aside the Family of Cromwels, absolutely lay aside all thought of any manner of Obligation either to King or Covenant. ...
And now after all these dangers which will be perpetually impending over us from the Covenant, and which we can never be secure from, so long as there is the least pretence remaining among us, that that Oath is at all obligatory ; there is another thing which may justly raise our wonder, and may concern us much more than the generality of us are aware, to enquire what may the meaning of it ; and that is this, to consider how it doth come to pass, that the Presbyte
rians and the other Sectaries do all at present unite in the Common Plea of Liberty of Conscience ; For it is very plain that in this part of the Debate between us, their Inclinations, Judgements and Interests are very different, and their Picas utterly in. consistent. It is not so long ago, but that some alive remember it, that the sweet noyse of Liberty of Conscience made a very pleasant sound, and the Dissenters from the legal Establishment were all for a while hugely taken themselves, and did endeavour to charm each other with it ; but within the compass of a very little time, they themselves could not tell what to do with it, fell out with one another about the Nature, Bounds, and Limits of it; and even at this very day it is a clear Case, That any Pri. vate Person, without the least entrenching upon the Authority of his Superiours, may safely undertake, that all the Pretenders to Liberty of Conscience in the whole Nation, shall eve. ry one of them have their utmost wish, in the very same moment that they
themselves shall all agree about it; I must needs say that this plea is at the first view something specious, and hath fome Thews of reason in it; But if it be a little narrowly looked into , it will be found to be a fine word, which no body knoweth the meaning of, a thing which looks prettily, but is of no manner of use, which very many Persons do admire , and very few if any at all will in the least endure.
And to make this evident , let us consider that this Liberty of Conscience must be either limited, or unli. mited ; If limited, it is by no means to be called Liberty of Conscience ; nay , it is a plain giving up of the Cause, for it is an actuall granting, that Conscience is neither so sacred, nor hath any Right to be looked upon as ro tender a thing, but that it both may and ought to have bounds and Jimits fet unto it; and I believe that there are few men who are not of this mind, or, if they are not at prc. sent, a little experience will quickly bring them to be of it.
Now if Conscience be to be li. mited, then they who do not like those limits which the Law hath already set unto it should do well(when they have obtained lieve for their so doing) to propose those other Limits which they fee cause to desire; and after they are agreed themselves about those Limits, let them in a dutiful manner offer them to their Superiours, alledge their reasons, and among them, let them by no means omit this one, which they so often boast of and triumph in, the great numbers, and Quality of those Persons wbo are agreed upon those Bounds and Limits, who will acquiesce and rest satisfied in them: And without the doing of this, the Raisers of all these Clamours do nothing else but put an intolerable affront upon the Wisdom and Autho. rity of the Nation, to demand so importunately the Alteration of the setled Constitution, in order to the Gratification of no Body knoweth whom, why, or in what, either how far the Alteration is desired, or what is designed to be the effect of any such
Alteration. Let, I say, the Diffen. ters, who take themselves to be considerable enough to expect a publick Change for their fakes, declare concerning Themselves and their Inten. tions, We are they who do desire an Alteration; we do desire it to be made only thus far, and then we will ac. quiesce in it, and in our several places and Callings (according to a known reading) will endeavour to make all others to acquiesce in it ; and we know, that all the Sober, Serious, Peaceable, Godly, Knowing, Conscientious Part of the Nation will joyn with us in it.
When the Noise-makers have done this, then, and not before, it will be seasonable to harken unto them:Upon these Terms, I say, and only upon these, their Proposals will be in a condition to be taken into Considera. tion : When it is once known what the desires of any Party are, then there is room for enquiry, whether or no, or how far they carry Reason in them. And it may sometimes so chance, that such demands as are not