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A Hind Let Loose by Alexander Shields

Contrary to the hope of the covenanters


III.

We have in this period, not only an illustrious testimony for the principle, but a continued and unintermitted putting into practice the duty of defensive arms, in resisting the sovereign power, maleversing and abusing authority to the destruction of the ends of it; which resistance was avowed, encouraged, and furthered by the general assembly, both for the defence of themselves, and for the help of their brethren in England. Take one expression in their solemn and seasonable warning to all ranks, Feb. 12, 1645, sess. 18.--'Unless men will blot out of their hearts the love of religion and cause of God, and cast off all care of their country, laws, liberties, &c. (all being in visible danger of present ruin and destruction) they must now or never appear actively, each one stretching himself to, yea beyond his power. It is not time to dally, or go about the business by halves, nor be almost, but altogether zealous: Cursed is he that doeth the work of the Lord negligently. If we have been forward to assist our neighbour kingdoms, shall we neglect to defend our own? Or shall the enemies of God be more active against his cause than his people for it? God forbid.' In another seasonable and necessary warning, July 27, 1649, sess. 27. they say, 'But if his majesty, or any having or pretending power and commission from him, shall invade this kingdom, upon pretext of establishing him in the exercise of his royal power; as it will be an high provocation against God, to be accessory or
assisting thereto, so it will be a necessary duty to resist and oppose the same.' These fathers could well distinguish, between authority and the person abusing it: and were not so loyal, as now their degenerate children are ambitious to shew themselves, stupidly stooping to the shadow thereof, and yet will be called the only asserters of presbyterian principles. But we find, they put it among the characters of malignants, to confound the king's honour and authority with the abuse and pretence thereof, and with commissions, warrants, and letters, procured from the king by the enemies of the cause and covenant, as if we could not oppose the latter, without incroaching upon the former. But here an objection or two must be removed out of the way before we go forward. One is, from the third article of the covenant; where there seems to be a great deal of loyalty, obliging to defend the king's majesty, his person and authority, in the preservation and defence of the true religion and liberties of the kingdoms, 'that the world may bear witness with our consciences of our loyalty, and that we have no thoughts or intentions to diminish his majesty's just power and greatness.' I answer, there is indeed a deal of loyalty there, and true loyalty, because lawfully limited, being qualified with, and subordinate unto the preservation and defence of the true religion and liberties of the kingdom (as the makers of the covenant do expound it, in the assembly's declaration against the unlawful engagement, July _ult._ 1648, sess. 21.) not that reverse loyalty, which makes duties to God conditional and limited, and duties to the king absolute and unlimited, as our loyalists do now. And I wish others were free of it, who have sworn oaths of unlimited allegiances to maintain the king in any power unto which his force aspires; and to justify this their loyalty, will bring in this article of the covenant with a distorted sense, reading it backward, 'that we in the preservation and defence of religion must preserve and defend the king:' As if religion obliged to defend him, do what he will. It were better such pretended covenanters denied the covenant, than to be such a reproach to it, in wresting its genuine sense. But I have adduced the sense of the best interpreters of it, the general assembly. Next when they entered under the bond of this covenant, they did it with a purpose to oppose all his invasions upon religion and the liberties of the people, and to vindicate these precious interests from his usurpings, into a state of liberty: And shall we imagine, that that very oath of God did lay upon them or us an obligation to defend the person who is a destroyer of all these, contrary to the very nature of the oath, contrary to the hope of the covenanters, and contrary to their subsequent practice? But then it will be urged, why then was that clause cast into the covenant? I answer we have not the same cause to keep it, as they had some cause to put it in, with accommodation to the present possessor of the sovereignty. The owning of it in our circumstances would be as great a reproach to us, as the want of it was to them in theirs. They put in the words to prevent the world's mistake, and to remove that odium industriously heaped upon the heads of whose hearts were associate in the defence of religion and liberty, therefore they would profess they would not be disloyal while he was for God. And a defiance may be given to clamour, and calumny itself, to give one instance of the defect of performance hereof, while he went not about to ruin those things, incomparably more precious than his person or authority, and in ruining whereof no person can retain authority.


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