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THE BETTER PACIFICATION AND EDIFICATION
CHURCH OF ENGLAND.
DEDICATED TO HIS MOST EXCELLENT MAJESTY.
THE unity of your Church, excellent Sovereign, is a thing no less precious than the union of your kingdoms; being both works wherein your happiness may contend with your worthiness. Having therefore presumed, not without your majesty's gracious acceptation, to say somewhat on the one, I am the more encouraged not to be silent in the other: the rather, because it is an argument that I have travelled in heretofore.* But Solomon commendeth a word spoken in season; and as our Saviour, speaking of the discerning of seasons, saith, When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say it will be a shower: so your Majesty's rising to this monarchy in the west parts of the world, doth promise a sweet and fruitful shower of many blessings upon this Church and commonwealth; a shower of that influence as the very first dews and drops thereof have already laid the storms and winds throughout Christendom; reducing the very face of Europe to a more peaceable and amiable countenance. But to the purpose.
It is very true, that these ecclesiastical matters are things not properly appertaining to my profession; which I was not so inconsiderate but to object to myself: but finding that it is many times seen that a man that standeth off, and somewhat removed from a plot of ground, doth better survey it and discover it than those which are upon it, I thought it not impossible, but that I, as a looker on, might cast mine eyes upon * Vide p. 499.
some things which the actors themselves, especially some being interessed, some led and addicted, some declared and engaged, did not or would not see. And that knowing in my conscience, whereto God beareth witness, that the things which I shall speak, spring out of no vein of popularity, ostentation, desire of novelty, partiality to either side, disposition to intermeddle, or any the like leaven; I may conceive hope, that what I want in depth of judgment may be countervailed in simplicity and sincerity of affection. But of all things this did most animate me that I found in these opinions of mine, which I have long held and embraced, as may appear by that which I have many years since written of them, according to the proportion nevertheless of my weakness, a consent and conformity with that which your Majesty hath published of your own most Christian, most wise, and moderate sense, in these causes; wherein you have well expressed to the world, that there is infused in your sacred breast, from God, that high principle and position of government, That you ever hold the whole more dear than any part.
For who seeth not that many are affected, and give opinion in these matters, as if they had not so much à desire to purge the evil from the good, as to countenance and protect the evil by the good? Others speak as if their scope were only to set forth what is good, and not to seek what is possible; which is to wish, and not to propound. Others proceed as if they had rather a mind of removing than of reforming. But howsoever either side, as men, though excellent men, shall run into extremities; yet your Majesty, as a most wise, equal, and Christian moderator, is disposed to find out the golden mediocrity in the establishment of that which is sound, and in the reparation of that which is corrupt and decayed. To your princely judgment then I do in all humbleness submit whatsoever I shall propound, offering the same but as a mite into the treasury of your wisdom. For as the astronomers do well observe, that when three of the superior lights do meet in conjunction, it bringeth forth
some admirable effects: so there being joined in your Majesty the light of nature, the light of learning, and, above all, the light of God's Holy Spirit; it cannot be but your government must be as a happy constellation over the states of your kingdoms. Neither is there wanting to your Majesty that fourth light, which though it be but a borrowed light, yet is of singular efficacy and moment added to the rest, which is the light of a most wise and well compounded council; to whose honourable and grave wisdoms I do like. wise submit whatsoever I shall speak, hoping that I shall not need to make protestation of my mind and opinion; That, until your Majesty doth otherwise determine and order, all actual and full obedience is to be given to ecclesiastical jurisdiction as it now stand. eth; and, when your Majesty hath determined and ordered, that every good subject ought to rest satisfied, and apply his obedience to your Majesty's laws, ordinances, and royal commandments; nor of the dislike I have of all immodest bitterness, peremptory presumption, popular handling, and other courses, tending rather to rumour and impression in the vulgar sort, than to likelihood of effect joined with observation of duty.
But before I enter into the points controverted, I think good to remove, if it may be, two opinions, which directly confront and oppone to reformation: the one bringing it to a nullity, and the other to an impossibility. The first is, that it is against good policy to innovate any thing in Church matters; the other, that all reformation must be after one platform.
For the first of these, it is excellently said by the prophet; State super vias antiquas, et videte, quænam sit via recta et vera, et ambulate in ea. So as he doth not say, State super vias antiquas,et ambulate in eis: For it is true, that with all wise and moderate persons, custom and usage obtaineth that reverence, as it is sufficient matter to move them to make a stand, and to discover, and take a view; but it is no warrant to guide and conduct them: a just ground, I say,
it is of deliberation, but not of direction. But on the other side, who knoweth not, that time is truly compared to a stream, that carrieth down fresh and pure waters into that salt sea of corruption which environeth all human actions? And therefore, if man shall not by his industry, virtue, and policy, as it were with the oar, row against the stream and inclination of time; all institutions and ordinances, be they never so pure, will corrupt and degenerate. But not to handle this matter common-place like, I would only ask, why the civil state should be purged and, restored by good and wholesome laws, made every third or fourth year in parliament assembled; devising remedies as fast as time breedeth mischief: and contrariwise the ecclesiastical state should still continue upon the dregs of time, and receive no alteration now for these five and forty years and more? If any man shall object, that if the like intermission had, been used in civil causes also, the error had not been great: Surely the wisdom of the kingdom hath been otherwise in experience for three hundred years space at the least. But if it be said to me, that there is a difference between civil causes and ecclesiastical, they may as well tell me that churches and chapels need no reparations, though castles and houses do: whereas, commonly, to speak truth, dilapidations of the inward and spiritual edifications of the Church of God are in all times as great as the outward and material. Sure I am that the very word and stile of reformation used by our Saviour, ab initio non fuit sic, was applied to Church matters, and those of the highest nature, concerning the law moral.
Nevertheless, he were both unthankful and unwise, that would deny, but that the Church of England, during the time of Queen Elizabeth, of famous memory, did flourish. If I should compare it with foreign churches, I would rather the comparison should be in the virtues, than, as some make it, in the defects; rather, I say, as between the vine and the olive, which should be most fruitful; and not as between the brier and the thistle, which should be most
unprofitable. For that reverence should be used to the Church, which the good sons of Noah used to their father's nakedness; that is, as it were to go backwards, and to help the defects thereof, and yet to dissemble them. And it is to be acknowledged, that scarcely any Church, since the primitive Church, yielded, in like number of years and latitude of country, a greater number of excellent preachers, famous writers, and grave governors. But for the discipline. and orders of the Church, as many, and the chiefest of them, are holy and good; so yet, if St. John were to indite an epistle to the Church of England, as he did to them of Asia, it would sure have the clause; habeo adversus te pauca. And no more for this point, saving, that as an appendix thereto it is not amiss to touch that objection, which is made to the time, and not to the matter; pretending, that if reformation were necessary, yet it were not now seasonable at your Ma-jesty's first entrance: yet Hippocrates saith, Si quid moves, a principio move: and the wisdom of all examples do shew, that the wisest princes, as they have ever been the most sparing in removing or alteration of servants and officers upon their coming in; so for removing of abuses and enormities, and for reforming of laws, and the policy of their states, they have chiefly sought to ennoble and commend their beginnings therewith; knowing that the first impression with people continueth long, and when mens minds are most in expectation and suspence, then are they best wrought and managed. And therefore it seemeth to me, that as the spring of nature, I mean the spring of the year, is the best time for purging and medicining the natural body, so the spring of kingdoms is the most proper season for the purging and rectifying of politic bodies.
There remaineth yet an objection, rather of suspicion than of reason; and yet such as I think maketh a great impression in the minds of very wise and well-affected persons; which is, that if way be given to mutation, though it be in taking away abuses, yet it may so acquaint men with sweetness of change,