« PreviousContinue »
the letters of which they were composed. I rejoice to find that your virtues and talents, of which I saw the fair promise in your youth, have raised you to so honourable a situation under the prince; and I wish you every good which you can enjoy. Adieu.
London, Aug. 15, 1666.
REFORMATION IN ENGLAND,
CAUSES THAT HITHERTO HAVE HINDERED IT.
IN TWO BOOKS.
WRITTEN TO A FRIEND.
MIDST those deep and retired thoughts, which, with every man christianly instructed, ought to be most frequent of God, and of his miraculous ways and works amongst men, and of our religion and works, to be performed to him; after the story of our Saviour Christ, suffering to the lowest bent of weakness in the flesh, and presently triumphing to the highest pitch of glory in the fpirit, which drew up his 'body also; till we in both be united to him in the revelation of his kingdom, I do not know of any thing more worthy to take up the whole paffion of pity on the one side, and joy on the other, than to consider first the foul and sudden corruption, and then, after many a tedious age, the long deferred, but much more wonderful and happy reformation of the church in these latter days. Sad it is to think how that doctrine of the gospel, planted by teachers divinely inspired, and by them winnowed and fifted from the chaff of overdated ceremonies, and refined to such a spiritual height and temper of purity, and knowledge of the Creator, that the body, with all the circumstances of time and place, were purified by the affections of the regenerate soul, and no. thing left impure but fin; faith needing not the weak VOL. I.
and fallible office of the senses, to be either the ushers or interpreters of heavenly mysteries, save where our Lord himself in his facraments ordained; that such a doctrine should, through the grossness and blindness of her profeffors, and the fraud of deceivable traditions, drag fo downwards, as to backside one way into the Jewish beggary
of old cast rudiments, and stumble forward another way into the new-vomited paganism of sensual idolatry, attributing purity or impurity to things indifferent, that they might bring the inward acts of the spirit to the outward and customary eye-service of the body, as if they could make God earthly and fleshly, because they could not make themselves heavenly and spiritual; they began to draw down all the divine intercourse betwixt God and the soul, yea, the very shape of God himself, into an exterior and bodily form, urgently pretending a necessity and obligement of joining the body in a formal reverence, and worship circumscribed ; they hallowed it, they fumed it, they sprinkled it, they bedecked it, not in robes of pure innocency, but of pure linen, with other deformed and fantastic dresses, in palls and mitres, gold, and gewgaws fetched from Aaron's old wardrobe, or the Hamins vesiry: then was the priest fet to con bis motions and his postures, his liturgies and his lurries, till the foul by this means of overbodying herself, given up justly to fleshly delights, bated her wing apace downward: and finding the ease she had from her visible and sensuous colleague the body, in performance of religious duties, her pinions now broken, and flagging, shifted off from herself the labour of high soaring any more, forgot her heavenly flight, and left the dull and droiling carcase to plod on in the old road, and drudging trade of outward conformity. And here out of question from her perverse conceiting of God and holy things, The had fallen to believe no God at all, had not curtom and the worm of conscience nipped her incredulity: hence to all the duties of evangelical grace, instead of the adoptive and cheerful boldness which our new alliance with God requires, came servile, and thrallike fear: for in very deed, the superstitious man by his good will is an atheist; but being scared from thence by the pangs and gripes of a boiling conscience, all in a pudder Thuffles up to himself such a God and such a worThip as is most agreeable to remedy his fear; which fear. of his, as also is his hope, fixed only upon the flesh, renders likewise the whole faculty of his apprehension carnal; and all the inward acts of worship, issuing from the native strength of the soul, run out lavishly to the upper skin, and there harden into a crust of formality. Hence men came to scan the scriptures by the letter, and in the covenant of our redemption, magnified the external signs more than the quickening power of the Spirit; and yet looking on them through their own guiltiness with a servile fear, and finding as little comfort, or rather terrour from them again, they knew not how to hide their Navith approach to God's behests by them not understood, nor worthily received, but by cloaking their servile crouching to all religious presentments, sometimes lawful, sometimes idolatrous, under the name of humility, and terming the piebald frip. pery and oftentation of ceremonies, decency.
Then was baptism changed into a kind of exorcism, and water, sanctified by Christ's institute, thought little enough to wash off the original spot, without the scratch or cross impression of a priest's forefinger : and that feast of free grace and adoption to which Christ invited his disciples to fit as brethren, and coheirs of the happy covenant, which at that table was to be sealed to them, even that feast of love and heavenly-admitted fellowship, the seal of filial grace, became the subject of horrour, and glouting adoration, pageanted about like a dreadful idol ; which fometimes deceives well-meaning men, and beguiles them of their reward, by their voluntary humility; which indeed is fleshly pride, preferring a foolish sacrifice, and the rudiments of the world, as Saint Paul to the Colossians explaineth, before a favoury obedience to Christ's example. Such was Peter's unseasonable humility, as then his knowledge was small, when Christ came to wash his feet; who at an impertinent time would needs strain courtesy with his master, and falling troublesomely upon the lowly, all-wile, and unexaminable intention of Christ, in what he went with refolution to do, so provoked by his