And he said (to Eliah) come out and stand upon the Mount before the Lord. And behold the Lord went by, and a mighty strong wind rent the Mountaines and brake the Rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind, and after the wind came an Earth-quake, but the Lord was not in the Earthquake. And after the Earth-quake came fire, but the Lord was not in the fire, and after the fire came, a still and soft voice. And when Eliah heard it, he covered his face with a Mantle, &c.
Printed in the Yeare, 1647.
As he who is arrived to the full age of a man, and seriously considers, the severall passages and progresse of his sore past life: what he did or understood, when he was a child, a youth, a young man, a meere man, or before he came to be advised, and to consider all things by true rules of reason : is best able to deale with every one in every age and condition, to shew them their vanity, ignorance and mistakings: and to point them out the path of vertue. Experience making the best School-master in things naturall and morall.
Even so is it in Religion, he only can best judge, advise and counsell others, who hath observed and most seriously considered the severall passages and progresse of his owne knowledge in things divine: yet who are so forward to judge and comptrole therein, as meere smatterers and such as have leaft experience.
I suppose it will be acknowledged, by all experienced Christians, that the greatest number of men and women in the world, are drawne into the consideration and Practice of Religion, by education, and custome of the place where they are bred: and that many never have any other foundation, nor motive to continue therein, then the reputation it brings them: all other religions or wayes of worship being discontenanced and out of credit, such as these are Champions for whats in fashion: ever running with the streame, and crying downe all contrary minded; Vox populi, Vox dei, the Major voice (then which nothing is more uncertain in Religion) is to these as the voice of God: and when they are zealous for vulgar opinions they thinke they are zealous for God and his truth: when they revile, abuse, and hale men before the Magistrates, and even kill and destroy them, they think they doe God good service: being zealous of the traditions of the times: for though truth should be publickly professed: yet to such as hold it only by education and custome: it is in them traditionall, and they are not truly religious; but mere morrall christians: utterly ignorant of the cleare Heavenly brightness, inherent, in pure and undefiled Religion.
But though it be evident, that there are too too many, who hold their religion, on this fraile foundation, yet it is very comfortable to behold, the sincerity of multitudes of good people in our dayes: who; not content to possesse their knowledg in a traditionall way: doe accustome themselves to try and examine all things.
Yet as it is a hard thing unto men, bred so vainly as most men are, to keepe the golden meane, in naturall or morall Reformations: so is it difficult to preserve from extreames, in matters of religion, the reason is, because in our tryalls and examinations, we have not that heedfull care, which is absolutely necessary, to free our Judgements from absurdityes or improper things: common and uvlgar [sic] arguments catching fast hold upon us too suddenly; and so we engage over violently, averring and maintayning without giving due time to our consideration to worke and debate it selfe into necessary conclusions.
The first sort of these religious persons: are deadly enemies to examination and tryall of things, we (say they) are not fit to Judge of these matters ne sutor ultra crepidam, is commonly in their mouthes: the Cobler ought not to goe beyond his last: what are the learned for, if these high things fall within the compasse of our capacities, why chuse wee wise and juditious men, more able then our selves, but to reforme, and settle Religion: if you draw them into any discourse, and endeavour to shew them their weakenesse, their only aime is how to entrap you, in your words, and if it be possible to make you obnoctious to authority.
If their ignorance and superstition appeare so grosse and palpable, that (in loving tearmes, and for their better information) you demand how they come to know there is a God, or that the scriptures are the word of God: their common answer is, doe you deny them: it seemes you doe ~ otherwise why doe you aske such questions ~ if they offer to proove by some common received argument: and you shew the weaknesse thereof: they'le goe nigh to tell you to your face, and report for certain behind your back, to all they know, or can know, that you are an Athiest, that you deny there is a God, and deny the Scriptures to be the word of God: nor doe they hate any sort of men so much, as those who are inquisitive after knowledge, judgeing them as busie bodyes, men of unquiet spirits, that know not when they are well, or when they have sufficient: for their parts, they are constant in one, for the substance; their principles are not of yesterday but of many yeares standing: and the most learned and wise are of their way, and why should not others be as well content as they, is it fit (say they) that every one should follw his owne understanding in the worship of God, we see what comes of it; when men once forsake the beaten Road (the Kings high way) in Religion, into how many by-pathes, doe they runne, nay, whether would they not runne, if our care were not to hedg and keepe them in.
And thus ignorance becomes many times Judge of knowledge: and the most grosse and slothfull; comptroler of the most active in Religion.
Of this sort of men there are many; and they are made very much use of by worldly Pollititians, who have found by constant experience, that superstition is the easiest meanes to lead a multitude, this way, or that way as their occasions and purposes may require, and on the contrary, that true Religion is in it selfe as oppsite to their unjust ends, as it is to superstition and therefore if they observe any man who out of the principles of true Religion opposeth their ends; at him they let loose these ignorant and morrall christians, furnish them with reproachfull tales, and falshoods, against him, call him Athiest Infidell, Heritick, Scismatic, any thing: which is as eagerly effected, as wickedly devised, and how to stop these mens mouthes is in my apprehention no less a worke then to make white a Blackamore;
Those others who are startled in their consciences, and roused by the word of God, out of this worldly way of religion, or running with the streame, it is a hard matter to hold them to a due pace, in the persute of necessary knowledge or to keepe them to a proper Method, or to obtaine this of them, that they receive nothing as a truth, which they see admiteth of an absurdity.
But having broke loose from the bands of education and customary religion, through necessity of conscience, and being anew to begin, they are apt hastily to take in, that which is first offered with any resemblance of truth, and so in an instant, fall into new entanglements.
For if hast, make wast in any thing, it is in pursute after knowledge: and though every considerate mans experience findeth this a truth: though it be confest by all, that there is nothing of greatet concernment to man, then the truth of his Divine knowledge: though nothing doth more disturb the minde of man, then error and mistakeing in religion.
Yet is there not any thing wherein men: proceed more irregularly, or more impatiently: either they are over rash and sudden or over fearfull, and irresolute: they approach all discourse with prejudice, and a mind distempered, searching nothing throughly or orderly, but content themselves with an overly examination, and (in my apprehention) are not so disingenious in any thing, as in religion: willingly resigning and forfeiting their understandings, and Judgments, at a cheap rate then Esau did his Birthright: and so continue very long (not truly religious, but) superstitious men, alwayes amazed: neither remembring what themselves or others speake: he that once opposeth them, hath a Wolfe by the eares, he can neither speake, nor hold his peace, without damage, they take allthings in the worst sense sigh, lament, pitty, or censure, all that sutes not with their opinion or practice: and talk or report of, any man, any thing that comes in their imaginations; those that come behind them in knowledge; are carnall: those before them desperate[.] And therefore it may be very profitable; that the differences betwene true Religion and superstition, be made knowne to these times, more fully than it is, the one being commonly taken for the other.
Now both are best knowne by their effects: for true Religion setleth a man in peace and rest: makes him like unto the Angels, always praising God and saying Glory to God on High, in earth peace, Good will towards men, it is ever provided with good intentions and good desires, maketh the best construction in doubtfull cases, see how true Christian love is described by the Apostle in the 13. to the Corinths. and that is the true Religious mans Character.
On the contrary, superstition troubleth and makes a man wilde, a superstitious man suffereth neither God nor man to live in peace, (as one well observeth from experience) he aprehendeth God, as one anxious, spitefull, hardly contented easily moved, with difficulty appeased, examining our actions after the human fashion of a severe Judge, that watcheth our steps, which hee prooveth true by his manner of serving him, he trembleth for feare is never secure, fearing he never doth well, and that he hath left something undone, by omission whereof, all is worth nothing that he hath done.
But generally now a dayes, (contrary to former tymes) the superstitious mans devotion costs him litle, he hath somuch worldly wit in his zeale, as to save his purse, hot and fiery against heresie and blasphemy, (which are titles he freely bestowes on all opinions, contrary to his own, true or false), he will course his poor neighbor out of all he hath, yea out of the Nation, if he can not course him into his opinion: and all upon pretence of doing God service and for the good of his soule.
As for his body, or estate, thats no part of his care, hee is not so hasty to runn into his poore neighbours house, to see what is wanting there, he may ly upon a bed, or no bed, covering or no covering, be starved through cold and hunger, over burthened with labour, be sick, lame or diseased: and all this troubles not the superstitious mans (nor the morall Christians) Conscience: he may through want and necessity goe into what prison he will, and ly and rott and starve there: and these kind of Religious people are not halfe so much moved at all, as if he goe to another Church or congregation, then what they aproove: if hee doe so, upstarts their zeale; and after him, watch, spy, accuse and informe: and all for the good of his soule: and for the Glory of God.
One would not think it were possible man could be so blind, or so inconsiderate as to immagin, that God would be thus mocked, thus madly served, contrary to the whole tenor of the Scriptures, but such are the effects of educated, customary or superstitious Religion.
Whist [?] the effects of pure and undefiled Religion, are another thing: as Feeding the hungry, Cloathing the naked, Visiting the sick, the Fatherlesse, the Widdowes and Prisoners: and in all things walking as becometh the Gospell of Christ: it will empty the fullest Baggs: and pluck downe the highest plumes.
And who ever serveth God sincerely in this Religion, shall be knowne by his fruites: his light shall so shine before men, that they seeing his good Workes, shall Glorify our father which is in heaven.
But of these there are few to bee found; and as few that truly labour, to reclaime those many thousands of miserable people that are drencht all their life long in grosse ignorance, and notorious loathsome wickednesse: Yet there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than for ninety nine just persons that need no repentence: Why talke wee so much of Christianity, holinesse, and saintship, whilst we neglect the lost sheep, or the recovery of our brethren from those Errors of their wayes.
The plain truth is, this grosse neglect of known duty herein, and the general eagernesse in the lesse necessary parts of zeale and devotion, manifesteth the world is not subdued; that there is little selfe-deniall, little of pure and undefiled Religion as yet in the world: men content themselves with forms of godlinesse, but are regardlesse of the power thereof.
And therefore I have been the lesse troubled in my selfe; for the hard measure I have found: amidst so great a mixture of worldlinesse, ignorance, and superstitious zeale, why should one looke for much ingenuity, these times have but cast an eye towards the materiall parts of true Christianity: It is not knowne what it is, in its excellency, the end and issue thereof, is too good to bee deserved, or discerned, by a people that are not yet broad awake, they strike him that brings them more light; then they can well endure.
All the evill and reproach I have suffered, hath beene by occasion of my forwardnesse to others good: my freenesse in discourse, though harmless in it selfe, and intended for good, hath been perverted, misconstrued, and made use of to my prejudice.
I accompt nothing more vain, then to discourse meerly for discourse sake, nay, it is painfull and ircksome to me, to heare a discourse that is not really necessary and useful, nor doe I know, that I have ever purposely set my self to debate any serious matter, slightly or carelessely, though cheerefully.
And my manner is, whatever is in debate, to search it thorowly, being of an opinion, that, what is really true, stands the firmer, for being shaken: like a house that is built upon a rock.
I have been much troubled, to observe men earnestly engage to maintaine the strongest maximes and principles by weak arguments; the weaknesse whereof, I have endevoured to manifest, that I might discover the weaknesse of such practices, and to make it evident, that fundamental truthes support all things, and need no supporters: Thou bearest not the root, but the root, thee.
But this my free dealing (with uncharitable or superstitious people) have found this evill returne, they have reported me, to deny that there is a God, when I have only denyed the validity of a weak argument, produced to prove that there is a God; it being too too common to insist upon meere notionall indigested arguments: so also have I been most uncharitably slandered to deny the Scriptures to bee the word of God, because I have opposed insufficient arguments produced to prove them such: and because at the same time I have refused to shew the grounds inducing me to beleeve them.
Now it hath been my lot to be drawne into discourses of this nature for the most part by timerous, scrupulous, people, in whom, I have discovered so much impatience, and discontent, at the shaking of their arguments, that I have not discerned any reason to open my selfe at that time, yet I never parted with any of them, but I alwayes professed that I did believe, both that there is a God, & that the Scriptures are the Word of God, though I judged their grounds not good; and withall, that if they would be so ingenious as to acknowledge the weaknesses of their arguments, I would then shew them my ground of faith; or if at any time they stood in need, I would not be wanting to the uttermost of my power to supply them, but I have seldome found any, who in the heat of contest and prosecution of dispute, have been qualified, to receive, what I had to say, touching this matter, their apprehension and mine being at too great a distance therein.
But I blesse God it is not so ill with me, as some bad minded men desire, nor as some weak and scrupulous men imagin.
And there are some ingenious men, with whom I have daily converst, that know I doe acknowledge and beleeve there is a God, and that the Scriptures are the Word of God.
Yet the testimony of men in this case to mee is little; my owne conscience being as a thousand witnesses.
That there is a God: I did never beleeve through any convincing power I have ever discerned by my utmost consideration of any natural argument or reason I ever heard or read: But it is an unexpressible power, that in a forcible manner constraines my understanding to acknowledge and beleeve that there is a God, and so to beleeve that I am fully perswaded there is no considerat man in the world but doth believe there is a God.
And, That the Scriptures are the Word of God I shall clearly make the same profession, That I have not beleeved them so to be, by force of any argument I have ever heard or read, I rather find by experience, most, if not all arguments, produced in prejudice thereof: (Art, argument, and compulsive power, in this case holding resemblance with the mighty strong wind, the Earth quake and fire, distracting, terrifying and scorching the minds of men) but I beleeve them through an irresistible perswasive power that from within them (like unto the soft still voyce wherein God was) hath pierced my judgment and affection in such sort, that with aboundance of joy and gladnesse I beleeve, and in beleeving have that Peace which passeth all utterance or expression; and which hath appeared unto me after so many sad conflicts of a distracted conscience, and wounded spirit, that it is to me a heaven on earth: It being now long since, I blesse God, that I can truly say, My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed, I will sing and give praise: In other respects, I conceive the most holy upon earth, if they give impartiall eare to this voyce, will finde no cause to boast or to finde fault with others, but as Eliah to cover their faces with a mantle.
And truly were it not that too too many pretenders to Religion, are over apt to receive false reports (which is a most uncharitable disposition) and over prone to make the worst construction, which is altogether unchristian, it had beene impossible for any to have abused me in these or any other respects.
But it will be neefull for all such, seriously to lay to heart, that they ought to do as they would be done unto in all things, that he who seemeth to bee religious and bridles not his tongue, that mans religion is vaine.
That he who boasteth to beleeve a God, and the Scriptures to be the Word of God, and glorieth in his ability of exposition thereof: yet applieth it to the discovery of a mote in his brothers eye, rather than a beame in his own: he whose expressions and actions do demonstrate him to say within himselfe, Lord I thank thee I am not as other men, extortioners, unjust adulterers, nor as this Publican: This man who ever he be, is not yet got through the lesson of the Pharisies; that were wise in their owne eyes, and despised others.
But it would be much more profitable to society and good neighbourhood that there were a more exact accompt taken by every man of his owne wayes; it is verily thought most men neede not goe abroad for want of work, if either pride, covetousnesse, backbiting, unreasonable jealosy, vanity of minde, dotage upon superfluities (tilted tilde with a dot below) with hard heartednesse to the poore: were thought worthy of Reformation.
To be zealous in lipp service, or to expresse our devotion, in censuring of others, yeelds neither honour to God, nor good to man.
Who were more blinde, then those who said are we blind, also the Angell of the Church of Laodicea, boasted that he was rich, and increased with goods and had neede of nothing: and knew not that he was wretched, and misserable and poor and blind and naked.
Wee have many now a dayes, who are doubly unjust and thinke not of it: they are partiall and favourable in examining and correcting of themselves: and severe towards others, when as they ought to be severe towards themselves: and favourable towards others.
And it is a fault not easily mended: it requires agreater power of religion to doe it, then the most have as yet attained, if one may judge by the Fruites: and therefore it will be good for every one to neglect that which is behinde, and to presse forward to the marke, for the price of the high Calling of God which is in Jesus Christ: either renounce the Name, or let your practice demonstrate, that you are a Christian.
Hee who greedily receiveth a hard report of his neighbour, is not provided of charitable and loving thoughts as he ought; and if he report any evill, before he be certaine of the truth thereof, he is a slanderer; and when hee is certaine it is true, if he report it with delight, it argues him of malice.
He who is glad of his neighbours defamation, would not be sory at his ruine: a slanderer would be a murderer but for feare: and therefore, every honest vertuous religious man should shun a slanderer, as he would shun a Serpent.
And thus having said enough to free my self from this slander (if religious people will but study ingenuity, which hath been too much wanting amongst them) the whole course of my actions, writings and discourses, evidencing the contrary to all that throughly know me: and this my profession being added to satisfie those but by hearsay: I have done: judging it a small thing to be judged of any, or of mans judgement; Whoart thou that judgeth another mans servant, to his owne master, hee standeth or falleth.
The liberty of my native Country, and the freedome of all consciencious people hath been, and still is pretious in my esteeme: nor shall I be discouraged (by any the unworthy slanders cast upon me) from a just and due prosecution of both, according to my place and calling: I shall make bold to deceive the deceiver and his instruments therein: I should be glad to see the Educated and customary morall Christians become Christians indeed, and cease to persecute: I should exceedingly rejoyce to see the superstitious, become really religious, and to see babes; become strong men in Christ, and all bend their endevours to deliver the captive, and set the oppressed free, to reclaime the vicious, and to labour the saving of the lost sheep of the house of England: To see Charity abound, and all envy, malice, and worldly mindednesse to cease for ever, and not to be named amongst us, as becometh Saints indeed: to see all men ingenious, loving, friendly and tender-hearted towards another: but I must neither be silent, nor slothfull till I see it, nor sorow as one without hope of seeing it: but through evill report, and good report, do my duty ~ patiently expecting a good issue ~ laboring in all estates to be content; knowing there is no temptation hath taken hold upon others, but may befall unto me. In the mean time, knowing all terrestriall things to be but vain and transitory, my chiefest comfort is, that I desire to know Nothing save Jesus Christ and him crucified: accounting all things as losse and dung, that I may be found in Christ, not having my own righteousnesse which is of the Law, but the righteousnesse which is of God in him.
I have no quarrell to any man, either for unbeleefe or misbelieefe, because I judge no man beleeveth any thing, but what he cannot choose but beleeve; it is misery enough to want the comfort of true beleeving, and I judge the most convincing argument that any man can hold forth unto another, to proove himselfe a true sincere beleever, is to practice to the uttermost that which his faith binds him unto: more of the deeds of Christians, and fewer of the arguments would doe a great deale more good to the establishing of those that stagger: It being not the leaves but the fruit that nourisheth and carrieth the feed with it, Shew me thy faith by thy workes; If I have all faith and have not love, I am as sounding brasse, or as a tinckling cymball, if faith worke, it workes by love: Let us all therefore hence-forth walk in love, even as Christ hath loved, and hath given himselfe an offering and a sacrifice for us: to whom bee glory and dominion for ever. Amen.
By William Walwyn, Merchant:
(there being a Minister of the same name.)