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A Hind Let Loose by Alexander Shields

And contradictory unto our testimony


them to our rules of prudence.

We may indeed find rules to know, what is a case of confession; but hardly can it be determined, what truth or duty we are questioned about is not, or may not be, a case of confession. And who can deny, but this may be in some circumstance, a case of confession, even positively to disown the pretended authority of a bloody court or council? when either they go out of their sphere, taking upon them Christ's supremacy, and the cognizance of the concerns of his crown, whereof they are judges noways competent; then they must freely and faithfully be declined. Or when, to the dishonour of Christ, they blaspheme his authority, and the sacred boundaries he hath prescribed to all human authority, and will assert an illimited absolute authority, refusing and discharging all offered legal and scriptural restrictions to be put thereupon, (as hath been the case of the most part of these worthy though poor martyrs, who have died upon this head) then they must think themselves bound to disown it. Or when they have done some cruel indignity and despite to the Spirit of God, and to Christ's prerogative and glory, and work of reformation, and people, in murdering them without mercy, and imposing this owning of their king, by whose authority all is acted, as a condemnation of these witnesses of Christ their testimony, and a justification of their bloody cruelties against them, which hath frequently been the case of these poor people that hath been staged upon this account: in this case, and several
others of this sort that might be mentioned, then they may be free and positive in disowning this test of wicked loyalty, as the mark of the dragon of the secular beast of tyranny. And in many such cases, when the Lord gives the spirit, I see no reason but that Christ's witnesses must follow his pattern of zeal in the case of confession, which he witnessed before Pontius Pilate in asserting his own kingship, as they may in other cases follow his pattern of prudence. And why may we not imitate the zeal of Stephen who called the council before whom he was staged stiff-necked resisters of the Holy Ghost, persecutors of the prophets, and betrayers and murderers of Christ the just one, as well as the prudence of Paul? But, however it be, the present testimony against this pretended authority lies in the negative, which obliges always, for ever and for ever; that is to say, we plead, that it must never be owned. There is a great difference between a positive disowning and a not owning; though the first be not always necessary, the latter is the testimony of the day, and a negative case of confession, which is always clearer than the positive. Though we must not always confess every truth, yet we must never deny any.

3. It is confessed, we are under this sad disadvantage besides others, that not only all our brethren, groaning under the same yoke with us, will not take the same way of declining this pretended authority, nor adventure, when called, to declare their judgment about it, (which we do not condemn, as is said, and would expect from the rules of equity and charity, they will not condemn us when we find ourselves in conscience bound to use greater freedom) but also some when they do declare their judgment, give it in terms condemnatory of, and contradictory unto our testimony, in that they have freedom positively to own this tyranny as authority, and the tyrant as their lawful sovereign: and many of our ministers also are of the same mind. And further, as we have few expressly asserting our part of the debate, as it is now stated; so we have many famous divines expresly against us in this point, as especially we find in their comments upon, Rom. xiii. among whom I cannot dissemble my sorrow to find the great Calvin, saying, Saepe solent inquirere, &c. 'Men often enquire, by what right they have obtained their power who have the rule! it should be enough to us that they do govern; for they have not ascended to this eminency by their own power, but are imposed by the hand of the Lord.' As also Pareus saying too much against us. For answer to this, I refer to Mr. Knox's reply to Lethington, producing several testimonies of divines against him upon this very head; wherein he shews, that the occasions of their discourses and circumstances wherein they were stated, were very far different from those that have to do with tyrants and usurpers, as indeed they are the most concerned, and smart most under their scourge, are in best case to speak to the purpose. I shall only say, mens averment, in a case of conscience, is not an oracle, when we look upon it with an impartial eye, in the case wherein we are not prepossessed: it will bear no other value, than what is allayed with the imperfections of fallibility, and moreover is contradicted by some others, whose testimony will help us as much to confirm our persuasion, as others will hurt us to infirm it.


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