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the doctrine nor worship; no, nor in the substance of the discipline itself; but when it falls on matter easily inflammable, a little sparkle, how great a fire will it kindle!
Oh! who would not long for the shadows of the evening, from all those poor childish contests!
But some will say that we are engaged against prelacy by covenant, and therefore cannot yield to so much as you do, without perjury.
Ans. That this is wholly untrue, I thus demonstrate.-When that covenant was presented to the assembly with the bare name of prelacy joined to popery, many contrair and reverend divines, desired that the word (prelacy) might be explained, because it was not all Episcopacy they were against ; and thereupon the following clause, in the parenthesis, was given by way of explication, in these words, (That the church government by archbishops, bishops, their chancellors, and commissaries, deans, and chapters, arch-deacons, and all the other ecclesiastical officers depending on that hierarchy,) by which it appears, that it was only the English hierarchyor frame, that was covenanted against; and that which was then existent, that was taken down.
II. When the house of lords took the covenant, Mr. Thomas Coleman, that gave it them, did so explain it, and profess that it was not their intent to covenant against all Episcopacy; and upon this explication it was taken ; and certainly the parliament was most capable of giving the due sense of it, seeing it was they that did impose it.
III. And it could not be all Episcopacy that was excluded, because a parochial Episcopacy was at that same time used and approved commonly in England.
IV. And in Scotland they had used the help of visiters, for the reformation of their churches, committing the care of a country or circuit, to some one man, which was as high a sort of Episcopacy at least as any I am pleading for; besides that, they had moderators in all their synods, which were temporary bishops.
V. Also the chief divines of the late assembly at Westminster, that recommended that covenant to the nations, have professed their own judgment for such a moderate Episcopacy as I am here defending, and therefore they never intended the exclusion of this by covenant.
After the same author saith, As we have prelacy to be aware of, so we have the contrary extreme to avoid ; and the church's peace,
may cured, and as we must not take down the ministry, lest it prepare men for Episcopacy, so neither must we be against any profitable use and exercise of the ministry, or desirable order amongst them, for fear of introducing prelacy, &c.
There is another that has wrote a treatise on purpose, and that zealous enough, concerning the obligation of the league and covenant, under the name of Theophilus Timercus, and yet therein it is expressly asserted, that however at first view it might appear, that the parliament had renounced
be so pro
all Episcopacy, yet, upon exacter inquiry, it was evident to the author, that that very scruple was made by some members in parliament, and resolved, with the consent of their brethren in Scotland, that the covenant was only intended against prelacy, as it was then in being in England, leaving a latitude for Episcopacy, &c.
It would be noted, that when that covenant was framed, there was no Episcopacy at all in being in Scotland, but in England only; so that the extirpation of that frame only could then be merely intended.
Likewise it would be considered of, though there is in Scotland at present the name of dean and chapter and commissaries; yet that none of these do exercise at all any part of the discipline under that name, neither any other, as chancellor or surrogate, &c. by delegation from bishops, with total exclusion of the community of presbyters from all power and share in it, which is the greatest point of difference between that model and this with us, and imports so much as to the main of discipline.
I do not deny that the generality of the people, even of ministers in Scotland, when they took the covenant, did understand that article, as against all Episcopacy whatsoever, even the most moderate ; especially if it should be restored under the express name of bishops and archbishops, never considering how different the nature and model, and way of exercising it, might be thought on under these names; and that the due regulating of the thing
is much more to be regarded, than either the returning or altering the name; but though they did not then consider any such thing, yet certainly it concerns them now to consider it, when it is
represented to them, that not only the words of the oath itself do very genuinely consist with such a qualified and distinctive sense ; but that the very composers and imposers of it, or a considerable part of them, did so understand and intend it; and unless they can make it appear, that the Episcopacy now in question with us in Scotland, is either contrary to the word of God, or to that mitigated sense of their own oath, it would seem more suitable to Christian charity and moderation, rather to yield to it, as to. lerable at least, than to continue so inflexibly to their first mistakes, and excessive zeal for love of it, as to divide from the church, and break the bond of peace. It
may likewise be granted, that some learned men in England, who have refused to take the covenant, did possibly except against that article of it, as signifying the total renunciation and abolition of Episcopacy, and seeing that was the real event and consequence of it, and they having many other strong and weighty reasons for refusing it, it is no wonder that they were little curious to inquire what passed amongst the contrivers of it, and what distinction or different senses, either the words of that article might admit, or those contrivers might intend by them. And the truth is, that, besides many other evils,
the iniquity and unhappiness of such oaths and covenants lie much in this, that being commonly framed by persons that even amongst themselves, are not fully of one mind, but have their different opinions and interests to serve, (and it was so even in this) they commonly patched up so many several articles and clauses, and those too of so versatile and ambiguous terms, that they prove most wretched snares and thickets of briars and thorns to the consciences of those who are engaged in them, and matter of endless contentions and disputes amongst them, about the true sense and intendment, and the ties and obligations of those doubtful clauses, especially in such alterations and revolutions of affairs, as always may, and often do even within few years follow after them, for the models and
productions of such devices are not usually long-lived. And whatsoever may be said for their excuse in whole or in part, who (in yieldance to the power that pressed it, and the general opinion of this church at that time) did take that covenant in the most moderate and least schismatical sense that the terms can admit; yet I know not what can be said to clear them of a very great sin, that not only framed such an engine, but violently imposed it upon all ranks of men; not ministers and other public persons only, but the whole body and community of the people, thereby engaging such droves of poor ignorant persons to they know not what, and (to speak freely) to such a hodge-podge of things of various concernments, religious and civil,