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That by their own experience they came to know the difference betwixt the service of God, and the slavery of men: the golden scepter of Christ, and the Iron rod of Antichrist; who tortured their consciences upon a continuall rack, held their souls smoaking over the mouth of the bottomelesse pit, put them into hell, and plucked them out at his pleasure, whence men desired to die, rather then to live.
They then began to sigh for some deliverance from this spirituall, more then Egyptian bondage ; and being thus prepared to lend a listening ear unto the truth, God sent them some little reviving in their extremities, a day-star arising in this their darknesse.
He stirred up the spirit of Waldenses, Armachanus, Wickliff, Hus, and Jerom of Prage, who openly proclaimed the usurpations of that man of sin, stoutly asserted the fulnesse and sufficiency of the Scriptures, cleared and maintained the deciding authority thereof in all the waies and worship of God, and so set up the Lord Iesus, as the only Prophet of his Church.
After them succeeded Luther, who made a spoil of the Popes treasury, marred wholly his market, and the sale of his indulgencies, and so wonderfully cooled and quenched the fire of Purgatory, and the Popes kitchin: that his holinesse, and the wretched rabble of all his black-guard, were forced to improve all their power and policy to crush the credit of that champion, and the authority of that doctrine which he taught, but all in vain.
For the vertue of the bloudy sacrifice of Christ once offered for all, the perfect satisfaction, iustification, and redemption, came so strongly to be received and maintained in many places and persons of note. That now all the unbloudy sacrifices, masses, and multitudes of that trash, which the merit-mongers did studiously set forth to sale, and by which they set up themselves in the hearts of the people, grew to be abhorred of such as were pious and conscientious, and all such who would but suffer themselves to be led by the principles of right reason. And thus the Priestly office of our Saviour came in some measure to be acknowledged, and appropriated to him, whose peculiar it was.
Only the Supremacy of that Kingly Power, upon which the Pope had encroached, and maintained the possession thereof so long, was yet retained and fortified (as reason would) with greatest resolution, nor could he suffer the appearance of any approach or battery to be erected, that might seem to hazard the safty of that, but he sets him fully and fiercely against Reformation, which sticks like the cunny-skin at the head principally.
Hence for the surprisall of so strong a peice, the Lord in his providence provided many means to make approaches thereunto by little and little. The Councells of Constance and Basill justled the Pope to the Wall, and took the wall of him, made him lower then the councell, but let him enjoy his Headship over all his Officers and particular Churches,
King Henry the eighth, he further clipped his wings in temporalls, shook off and renounced that supremacy that he had arrogated and erected over kings and kingdomes in former ages : Only that is storied of him as his mistake, he cut off the head of Popery, but left the body of it (in Arch-Bishops, Primates, Metropolitans, Archdeacons,) yet within his realm, and the Churches there established.
This power having a double respect: Partly to Ministers, Partly to Churches : The first of these was abated, when a Parity in the Ministery came to be acknowledged and received in the Churches of the reformation. And that the sole and princely power, which was arrogated and exercised by the Bishops and their Officers, over the faithfull Pastors of Christ, was cashiered, as contrary to the government and power bequeathed to each particular Officer of his own appointment, who all have Ministerium, non Dominium, are stewards, not Lords of Gods inheritance.
But whether all Ecclesiasticall power be impaled, impropriated and rightly taken in to the Presbytery alone: Or that the people of the particular Churches should come in for a share, according to their places and proportions ; This is left as the subject of the inquiry of this age, and that which occasions great thoughts of heart of all hands: Great thoughts of heart in the Presbytery, as being very loth to part with that so chief priviledge, and of which they have taken possession so many years. Great thoughts of heart amongst the Churches, how they may clear their right, and claim it in such pious sobriety and inoderation, as becomes the Saints : being unwilling to loose their cause and comfort, meerly upon a nihil dicit, or for ever to be deprived of so precious a legacy, as they conceive this is, though it hath been withheld from them, by the tyranny of the Pope, and prescription of times. Nor can they conceive it lesse, then a heedlesse betraying of their speciall liberties, and
not selling but casting away their inheritance, and right, by a carelesse silence, when the course of providence, as the juncture of things now present themselves, allows them a writt Ad melius inquirendum.
And it seemes God sets out this disquisition (fall the issue on which side it will) as most sutable and seasonable to these times, which appear fruitfull in discoveries: Truth seeming to be in travell, having fulfilled her appointed moneths, and the instant opportunity of her deliverance drawing on apace, as the Scripture account, may seem to give symptomes to that purpose, and such as will not fail.
For these are the times drawing on, wherein Prophecies are to attain their performances: and its a received rule, and I suppose most safe, when Prophecies are fulfilled they are best interpreted, the accomplishment of them is the best Commentary.
These are the times, when the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters the Sea : and these waters of the Sanctuary shall encrease from the ankles, unto the knees, thence unto the loins, and thence become a river that cannot be passed
These are the times when people shall be fitted for such priviledges, fit I say to obtain them, and fit to use them.
Fit to obtain them at Gods hands, for Dan. 12. 4. people shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase : they shall by the strength of their desires, improve the most painfull exercise of their thoughts, in the most serious search of the mystery of godlinesse, and bloud-hound like, who are bent upon their prey, they shall most indefatigably trace the truth, and follow the least appearance of the foot-steps thereof presented, until they come to see the formings and framings in the first rise, Scire est per causas scire, and thus digging for wisdome as for hid treasures, and seeking the Lord and his will, with their whole heart, they shall finde him, and understand it.
Fit to use them, now the Lord will write his laws in their hearts, and put it into their inward parts, and they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, For they shall all know me, from the least of them, to the greatest of them.
And whereas it hath been charged upon the people, that through their ignorance and unskilfulnesse, they are not able to wield such priviledges, and therefore not fit to share in any such power. The Lord hath promised : To take away the vail from all faces in the mountain, the weak shall be as David, and David as an Angel of God. The light of the Moon shall be as the Sun, and the Sun seven times brighter. When he hath not only informed them, but made them to be ashamed of their abominations, and of all that they have done, then he will shew them the frame of his house, and the patern thereof, the going out thereof, the coming in thereof, the whole fashion thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, all the figures thereof, and laws thereof: And write them in their sight, that they may keep the whole fashion thereof, and all the Ordinances thereof, and do them. Observe how often the Lord expresseth the enlarged manifestations of himself in those many universals.
All Lawes, All Ordinances, All Figures. 2. Not only shew all, but make them see all, and doe all.
The travell of the truth, as I said, thus drawing on, it hath pleased the Lord to improve the pens and pains of many of his Worthies (midwife like) to lighten and ease the throws of the truth, in this sharp and sore travell for a safe delivery.
Amongst these M. Rutterford hath deserved much for his undefatigable diligence; A man of eminent abilities, the depth of whose judgement, and sharpnesse in dispute, is evidenced beyond all exception, by that accurate and elaborate peece of his Apologeticall exercitations, wherein he appears to be Malleus Jesuitarum, and of their factours and followers the Arminians, who receive their errours by whole-sale from them, and retail them out again in their particular treatises. And for these pains of his, I suppose the Churches will (I must professe for mine own particular I do) owe him much. And therefore it was a pleasing and pleasant providence, when I perceived by some bookes, set forth of late, that he did addresse himself seriously to debate of Church-Discipline, a subject, as of speciall difficulty, so of speciall advantage to the truth, and of help to the present times in which we live.
These two things seeming to be great reserves of inquiry, for this last age of the world,
1. Wherein the spirituall rule of Christs Kingdome consists, the manner how it is revealed and dispensed to the souls of his servants inwardly?
2. The order and manner, how the government of his kingdome is managed outwardly in his Churches?
V pon these two hinges the tedious agitations that are stirring in the earth turn: either having their first rise from hence directly, or by a secret influence, these fore-mentioned causes send in and insinuate their speciall interests indirectly, to make up that peryas delo Mòs, to set forwards the shakings of heaven and earth, which are to be seen even at this day.
This being the season, when all the kingdomes of the world, are becoming the Lords and his Christs : and to this purpose he is taking to himself his great might, which heretofore he seemed to lay aside and in silence, as himself speaks in a like case. Psa, 50. to suffer wicked men to put forth their rage, according to their own pleasure, but he resolves by his Iron rod to dash those earthen vessels to peeces.
The first of these, to wit; The spirituall Kingdome of Christ, is most opposed by a generation of Enthusiests ; and Familists, who having refined the loathsome follies of their former predecessours, do adventure to set open their conceits, with greater insolency, to the view of the world, and under the pretence of free-grace, they destroy the grace of God in the power and operations of it, in the hearts and lives of men.
The other, which concerns the managing of the outward kingdome, unlesse my prospective much deceives me, is coming towards its last triall: because there is more liberty now given to each, to plead their own interests, when in former times the tyranny of Antichrist, and blinde obedience unto his dictates, turned the tomb stone of untimely silence upon all mens endeavours, buried all mens debates in their own bosomes, or else the unreasonable rigour of the prelates laboured to destroy the being of the defense as soon as it came to the birth.
This present term of Gods patience promiseth some allowance to his people, the distressed and despised ones of Christ, sub formâ pauperis, to take leave, to lay claim to the priviledges, which they have conceived to be part of the legacy bequeathed unto them by the Lord Jesus, being estated and entitled members of the visible Kingdome of his Church.
To set out the bounds of these interests, worthy M. R. hath bestowed great labour, which I have again and again attended, and as I do freely acknowledge to have received light therefrom: so I do professe I do readily consent with him in many things.
In the number and nature of Officers, as Pastours, Teachers, Elders, &c. appointed by Christ and his Church.
That the people hath right to call their own officers, and that none must be imposed upon them by Patrons and Prelates.
That Scandalous persons are not fit to be members of a visi. ble Church, nor should be admitted.