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[Page]Whence can it be but for want of self-denial, that Magistrates professing a zeal for Holiness, regard no more the interest of Christ? but that the name (& but the name) of liberty, (a liberty that hath neither Moral good or evil in it) is set in the ballance against the things of everlasting consequence, and thought sufficient to over-weigh them? And that the meer pretence of this indifferent-carnal Liberty, is thought an argument of sufficient weight, for the introduction of a wicked damning Liberty, even a Liberty to deceive and destroy as many as they can, and to hinder those that endeavour mens salvation? And what's the argument pleaded for all this? It's partly a pretence of tenderness and mercy: and partly because men cannot be made Religious by force. And must such ignorant or jugling confusions serve turn, to cheat a Nation of their Religion and Liberties, and many thousands of their salvation? As if all the controversie were, whether we should force others to be of our Religion? when it is only or principally, whether we may hinder them from robbing us of our own? and from tempting unstable souls to sin and to damnation? and from hindring the means of mens salvation? and from the open practise of Idolatry or ungodliness? If we cannot force them to the Christian faith, cannot we hinder them from drawing others from it? And are unmerciful to them, if we give them leave to damn themselves (for that's the [Page] mercy that is pleaded for) and only hinder them from damning others? Is it cruelty or persecution to hinder them from ticing souls to Hell, as long as they may freely go thither themselves? I should rather think, that if we did our best to save themselves, it were far from crucity. For example, if Infidel, or Papists Books be prohibited, what cruelty or persecution is this? If Quakers be hindred from railing at Gods Ordinances in the open streets and Assemblies, what cruelty or persecution is this? But some think it enough for this Toleration, that they think as confidently they are in the right, as we do that they err! And so do Heathens, Mahometans, and Infidels. And what! Shall every man have leave to do evil, that can but be ignorant enough to think, (or say he thinks) that he doth well? And must Magistrates rule as men that are uncertain whether there be a Christ, or a Church, or a Heaven, or Hell, because some are found in their Dominions so foolish or impious as to be uncertain of it? In plain English, is it any hinderance to mens salvation, and furtherance of their damnation, to be made Infidels, Papists, and such as deny the Essentials of Christianity, or not? If not; then away with Christianity and Reformation. Why do we pretend to it our selves? But if it be; will merciful Rulers set up a trade for butchering of souls? and allow men to set up a shop of poison for all to buy and take that will? yea to proclaim this poison [Page] for souls, in streets and Church assemblies, as if mens souls were no more worth than Rats or Mice, or hurtful vermine, or it were some noble atchievement to send as many as may be to the Devil. Judge impartially, whether all this be not for want of self-denial? If selfish interest led them not to this, and if they were more tender of the Interest of Christ than of their own, and of mens souls than of their flesh, it would not be thus. But the same argument that tempts the sensual to Hell, doth tempt such Magistrates to set up Liberty for drawing men to Hell. The wicked sell their souls to spare their flesh, and let go Heaven to enjoy the Liberty of sinning; and run into Hell to scape the trouble of an holy life: And such Magistrates sell the peoples souls to spare the flesh of the deceivers; and in tenderness and mercy to their bodies, they dare not restrain men from seeking their damnation. Is faith and holiness propagated by perswasion, and not by force? Surely then Infidelity, Popery and Ungodliness, are propagated by perswasion too! Again I tell you, self-love doth make such Rulers wiser than to grant Commission or Liberty to all that will, to tice their souldiers to mutinies or rebellion, their wives to Adultery, their children to prodigality, or their servants to thievery: But the love of Christ and mens salvation is not so strong as to satisfie them whether men should be hindred from raising mutinies in his Church, and from destroying [Page] souls! Forsooth, they tell us that Christ is sufficient to look to his own cause. Very true (and they shall one day know it.) But must he not therefore teach or rule by men? Is not Adultery, Murder, Theft, Rebellion, against the Cause of Christ, and his Laws, as well as Popery and Infidelity? And must they therefore be let alone by man? Christ is sufficient to Teach the world, as well as to Govern. But doth it follow that men must be no Teachers under him? Nothing but selfishness could cause this blindness.
I. The first of these is not to be denied, but all other Liberty to be denied for it. This Holy Liberty consisteth in these following Particulars. 1. To be freed from the Power of sin, which is the disability, the deformity, the death of the soul. 2. From the Guilt of sin, and the wrath of God, and the Curse of the Law. 3. To be restored to God by Christ, in Union, Reconciliation, and Sanctification; and our enthralled spirits set free, to know, and love, and serve him, and delight in him. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Libert y, 2 Cor. 3. 17. God is the souls freedom, who is its Lord, and life, and end, and all. 4. To be delivered from Satan as a Deceiver, and enemy, and executioner of the wrath of God. 5. To be freed from that Law or Covenant of Works, which requireth that which to us is become impossible. 6. To be freed from the burdensome task of useless Ceremonies, imposed on the Church in the times of infancy and darkness. 7. To be freed from the accusations of a guilty conscience, & those self-tormentings which in the wicked are the fore-tastes of hell. 8. To be freed from such temporal judgments here as might hinder our salvation, or our service of God. 9. To be free from the condemning sentence at the last day, and the everlasting Torments which the wicked must endure. 10. And to be delivered into the blessed sight of God, and the perfect fruition and pleasing of him, in Perfect Love, and Joy, and Praise, to all eternity. This is the Liberty which you must not deny, which I therefore name, [Page 220] that by the way you may see, that it is not for nothing that the other sorts of Liberty are to be denied.
And another part of this ungodly Liberty is, to be free from the exercise at least of this power of Magistrates and Ministers so far as not to be restrained from sin, though they be not free from the state of subjects. To swear, and be drunk, and live as most Ale-sellers on the damning sins of others, and make a trade of selling men their damnation, and to have no Magistrate punish them, no Officer trouble them, and no neighbour accuse them; this is their Liberty. To game, and roar, and revel, and have no body say to them, Why do you [Page 222] so, is part of their Liberty. To have leave without Restraint to make all others as bad as themselves, and if they are Infidels or Hereticks, to perswade other men to it: If they hold any opinion against the God that made them, against Christ, against the Spirit of God, against the Word and Laws of God, against his Ministers, his Church, his Ordinances, against any necessary point of Faith, or if they have any false conceit that leads straight to Hell, that they may have full power, license, and authority, to bring as many as they can to be of the same mind, that they may not be unprofitable servants to the Devil, nor go to Hell alone, this is a great part of their impious Liberty: And because the name of Conscience is become honourable, they call this by the name of Liberty of Conscience: when indeed it is Liberty of Practice that they mean, and not Liberty of Conscience: For their Conscience cannot be altered by force, nor touched by the Sword. It's they that deprive men of the Liberty of their Consciences, whilst by false teaching they put out the eye of conscience, & enslave it to sinful false conceits. And Conscience is science: and Error is not science but ignorance: And therefore as Error is not Conscience, but the destruction of Conscience; so Liberty to error, is no Liberty of Conscience, but a Liberty to destroy Conscience: Much less is it Liberty of Conscience to sin against God, and draw others from Conscience into error, and poyson mens souls, and hinder the Gospel, and promote the work and Kingdom of the Devil.
And many of our miserable sottish people take it for a part of their desired Liberty to be free from Ministers Spiritual Oversight and Government, & not to be Carechised or called to an account, or examined about the state of their souls, nor questioned about their lives, but that they may do what they will, and have Sacraments, [Page 223] and all Ordinances on what terms and in what manner they will, and to have Ministers bow their Judgments to theirs, and lay their Consciences at the feet of every carnal ignorant wretch, and be but their servants to do what they would have them: this is the Liberty that Satans servants do desire.
And withall, that they may be free from necessary payments for the safety of the Commonwealth, and from the necessary retribution to God, for the Church and poor, yea from giving but the Ministers their own; all this they take for part of their liberty. But they are all such liberties as Christ never purchased, and the Gospel never bestowed, and never made the Owners happy: It is a liberty to starve their own souls, and go quietly to everlasting torment, and not be molested by Preachers and Puritans, but to sin against God, and damn themselves, and be let alone, and have no body tell them of it, or ask them, Why will you do so? In a word, it is that liberty that Christ died to save his people from, and which the Gospel would take down, and the spirit, ministry, and Ordinances would overthrow, and which no wise or good man hath reason to desire: & it is that liberty which God will save all those from, whom he will save from the flames of hell. 041b061a72