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A Hind Let Loose by Alexander Shields

And equal the wishes of the most zealously concerned


we hereby strictly charge all

our loving subjects, that as we do give them leave to meet and serve God after their own way, in private houses, chapels, or places purposely hired or built for that use, so that they take care that nothing be preached or taught, which may any way tend to alienate the hearts of our people from us and our government, and that their meetings be peaceably and publicly held, and all persons freely admitted to them, and that they do signify and make known to some one or more of the next privy counsellors, sheriffs, stewards, bailiffs, justices of the peace, or magistrates of burghs royal, what place or places they set apart for these uses, with the names of the preachers----provided always that the meetings be in houses, and not in the open fields for which now after this our royal grace and favour (which surpasses the hopes, and equals the very wishes of the most zealously concerned) there is not the least shadow of excuse left: which meeting in the fields we do hereby strictly prohibit and forbid, against all which we do leave our laws and acts of parliament in full force and vigour, notwithstanding the premises; and do further command all our judges, magistrates, and officers of forces, to prosecute such as shall be guilty of the said field conventicles with the utmost rigour; for we are confident, none will after these liberties and freedoms, given to all without reserve to serve God in their own way, presume to meet in these assemblies, except such as make a pretence of religion
to cover their treasonable designs against our royal person and the peace of our government.'----

This is the royal charter for security of the protestant religion (intended to secure it so, that it shall not go much abroad again) in lieu of all the laws, constitutional oaths, and covenants wherewith it was formerly confirmed. This is the only patent which the royal dawties, the moderate presbyterians, have now received to ensure their enjoyment of it _durante bene placito_, during his pleasure whole faith is as absolute over all ties of promises, as his power from whence it flows is over all laws; whose chiefest principle of conscience is that no faith is to be kept to hereticks. Here is the liberty which is said to surpass the hopes, and equal the wishes of the most zealously concerned; holding true indeed of too many, whose hopes and wishes and zeal are terminate upon peace rather than truth, case rather than duty, and their own things rather than the things of Christ; but as for the poor wild wanderers, it some way answers their fears and corresponds with their jealousies, who put the same interpretation upon it as on all the former indulgences, indemnities and tolerations, proceeding from the same fountain, and designed for the same sinistrous ends with this, which they look upon as more openly and obviously antichristian: and therefore, while others are rejoicing under the bramble-shadow of it, they think it a cause of weeping and matter of mourning, not because they do not share of the benefit of it, but because they are afraid to share of the curse of it. For which cause, though a freedom be pretended to be given, to all without reserve to serve God in their own way, they think it necessary to reserve to themselves the liberty wherewith Christ hath made them free, and to serve him in his way though interdicted by men, and to take none from antichrist restricted with his reserves; and do look upon it as a seasonable testimony for the cause of Christ, and the interest of the protestant religion, and the laws and liberties of the country, all overturned and subverted by this toleration, to keep their meetings as in former times, in the open fields whither their tyranny hath driven them. And let them call these meetings covered and treasonable designs against the government on pretence of religion, I trust it shall be made evident to the conviction of all that know religion, that their designs are to preserve it, in opposition to the tyranny that goes about all these ways to suppress it. Though I must suspend the reasons of their keeping their meetings in the fields, till I come to discuss that case in its own place: here I shall only say, none that are acquainted with their circumstances, which are as dangerously stated as ever, by reason of the constant persecution of cruel enraged enemies incessantly pursuing them without relenting, notwithstanding of all this pretence of clemency and tenderness to conscience, but may know they can neither have safety, secrecy, nor conveniency in houses for fear of their entrapping enemies, and none will blame them, that after so many discoveries of their truculent treachery they dare not trust them: and besides, they think it sinful, scandalous, and inconvenient to seem to homologate this toleration, the wickedness whereof they are convinced of, from these reasons.


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