Having thus made Pepin his last friend, he calls him into Italy against Aistulphus the Lombard, that warred upon him for his late usurpation of Rome, as belonging to Ravenna which he had newly won. Thus he claims Naples, Sicily, England, and what not? To be short, under show of his zeal against the errors of the Greek church, he never ceased baiting and goring the successors of his best lord Constantine, what by his barking curses and excommunications, what by his hindering the western princes from aiding them against the Sarazens and Turks, unless when they humoured him; so that it may be truly affirmed, he was the subversion and fall of that monarchy, which was the hoisting of him.
And in the next Stanza, which begins the third part of the tale, he argues that they ought not to be lords. And so forward. Whether the bishops of England have deserved thus to be feared by men so wise as our Chaucer is esteemed; and how agreeable to our monarchy and monarchs their demeanour has been, he that is but meanly read in our chronicles needs not be instructed.
Have they not been as the Canaanites, and Philistines, to this kingdom? What could monarchy think, when Becket durst challenge the custody of Rochester-castle, and the Tower of London, as appertaining to his signory? To omit his other insolencies and affronts to regal majesty, until the lashes inflicted on the anointed body of the king, washed off the holy unction with his blood drawn by the polluted hands of bishops, abbots, and monks. What good upholders of royalty were the bishops, when by their rebellious opposition against King John, Normandy was lost, he himself deposed, and this kingdom made over to the pope?
When the bishop of Winchester durst tell the nobles, the pillars of the realm, that there were no peers in England, as in France, but that the king might do what he pleased. What could tyranny say more? Yes, sure; as wise and famous men have suspected and feared the protestant episcopacy in England, as those that have feared the papal. You know, sir, what was the judgment of Padre Paolo, the great Venetian antagonist of the pope, for it is extant in the hands of many men, whereby he declares his fear, that when the hierarchy of England shall light into the hands of busy and audacious men, or shall meet with princes tractable to the prelacy, then much mischief is like to ensue.
And can it be nearer hand, than when bishops shall openly affirm that, no bishop no king? Surely, there is not any prince in Christendom, who, hearing this rare sophistry, can choose but smile; and if we be not blind at home, we may Edition: current; Page: [ 21 ] as well perceive that this worthy motto, no bishop no king, is of the same batch, and infanted out of the same fears, a mere ague-cake coagulated of a certain fever they have, presaging their time to be but short: and now like those that are sinking, they catch round of that which is likeliest to hold them up; and would persuade regal power, that if they dive, he must after.
Sir, the little ado which methinks I find in untacking these pleasant sophisms, puts me into the mood to tell you a tale ere I proceed further; and Meneinus Agrippa speed us. The members, amazed, began to ask one another what he was that took place next their chief?
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Whereat the wen, though unwieldy, with much ado gets up, and bespeaks the assembly to this purpose: that as in place he was second to the head, so by due of merit; that he was to it an ornament, and strength, and of special near relation; and that if the head should fail, none were fitter than himself to step into his place: therefore he thought it for the honour of the body, that such dignities and rich endowments should be decreed him, as did adorn, and set out the noblest members.
To this was answered, that it should be consulted. Then was a wise and learned philosopher sent for, that knew all the charters, laws, and tenures of the body. Lourdan, quoth the philosopher, thy folly is as great as thy filth: know that all the faculties of the soul are confined of old to their several vessels and ventricles, from which they cannot part without dissolution of the whole body; and that thou containest no good thing in thee, but a heap of hard and loathsome uncleanness, and art to the head a foul disfigurement and burden; when I have cut thee off, and opened thee, as by the help of these implements I will do, all men shall see.
Amongst many secondary and accessary causes that support monarchy, these are not Edition: current; Page: [ 22 ] of least reckoning, though common to all other states; the love of the subjects, the multitude and valour of the people, and store of treasure. In all these things hath the kingdom been of late sore weakened, and chiefly by the prelates.
First, let any man consider, that if any prince shall suffer under him a commission of authority to be exercised, till all the land groan and cry out, as against a whip of scorpions, whether this be not likely to lessen, and keel the affections of the subject. Next, what numbers of faithful and freeborn Englishmen, and good Christians, have been constrained to forsake their dearest home, their friends and kindred, whom nothing but the wide ocean, and the savage deserts of America, could hide and shelter from the fury of the bishops? O sir, if we could but see the shape of our dear mother England, as poets are wont to give a personal form to what they please, how would she appear, think ye, but in a mourning weed, with ashes upon her head, and tears abundantly flowing from her eyes to behold so many of her children exposed at once, and thrust from things of dearest necessity, because their conscience could not assent to things which the bishops thought indifferent?returndare.tk
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What more binding than conscience? What more free than indifferency?
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Cruel then must that indifferency needs be, that shall violate the strict necessity of conscience; merciless and inhuman that free choice and liberty that shall break asunder the bonds of religion! Let the astrologer be dismayed at the portentous blaze of comets, and impressions in the air, as foretelling troubles and changes to states: I shall believe there cannot be a more ill-boding sign to a nation God turn the omen from us!
Now, whereas the only remedy and amends against the depopulation and thinness of a land within, is the borrowed strength of firm alliance from without, these priestly policies of theirs, having thus exhausted our domestic forces, have gone the way also to leave us as naked of our firmest and faithfullest neighbours abroad, by disparaging and alienating from us all protestant princes and commonwealths; who are not ignorant that our prelates, and as many as they can infect, account them no better than a sort of sacrilegious and puritanical rebels, preferring the Spaniard our deadly enemy before them, and set all orthodox writers at nought in comparison with the Jesuits, who are indeed the only corrupters of youth and good learning: and I have heard many wise and learned men in Italy say as much.
It cannot be that the strongest knot of confederacy should not daily slacken, when religion, which is the chief engagement of our league, shall be turned to their reproach.
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Sir, I persuade myself, if our zeal to true religion, and the brotherly usage of our truest friends, Edition: current; Page: [ 23 ] were as notorious to the world, as our prelatical schism, and captivity to rochet apophthegms, we had ere this seen our old conquerors, and afterwards liegemen the Normans, together with the Britons our proper colony, and all the Gascoins that are the rightful dowry of our ancient kings, come with cap and knee, desiring the shadow of the English sceptre to defend them from the hot persecutions and taxes of the French.
But when they come hither, and see a tympany of Spaniolized bishops swaggering in the foretop of the state, and meddling to turn and dandle the royal ball with unskilful and pedantic palms, no marvel though they think it as unsafe to commit religion and liberty to their arbitrating as to a synagogue of Jesuits. But what do I stand reckoning upon advantages and gains lost by the misrule and turbulency of the prelates?
What do I pick up so thriftly their scatterings and diminishings of the meaner subject, whilst they by their seditious practices have endangered to lose the king one third of his main stock?
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What have they not done to banish him from his own native country? But to speak of this as it ought, would ask a volume by itself. Thus as they have unpeopled the kingdom by expulsion of so many thousands, as they have endeavoured to lay the skirts of it bare by disheartening and dishonouring our loyalest confederates abroad, so have they hamstrung the valour of the subject by seeking to effeminate us all at home.
Well knows every wise nation, that their liberty consists in manly and honest labours, in sobriety and rigorous honour to the marriage-bed, which in both sexes should be bred up from chaste hopes to loyal enjoyments; and when the people slacken, and fall to looseness and riot, then do they as much as if they laid down their necks for some wild tyrant to get up and ride. Thus learnt Cyrus to tame the Lydians, whom by arms he could not whilst they kept themselves from luxury; with one easy proclamation to set up stews, dancing, feasting, and dicing, he made them soon his slaves.
Thus did the reprobate hireling priest Balaam seek to subdue the Israelites to Moab, if not by force, then by this devilish policy, to draw them from the sanctuary of God to the luxurious and ribald feasts of Baal-peor. Thus have they trespassed not only against the monarchy of England, but of heaven also, as others, I doubt not, can prosecute against them. I proceed within my own bounds to show you next what good agents they are about the revenues and riches of the kingdom, which declare of what moment they are to monarchy, or what avail.
Two leeches they have that still suck, and suck the kingdom, their ceremonies and their courts. If any man will contend that ceremonies be lawful under the gospel, he may be answered other where. This doubtless, that they ought to be many and overcostly, no true protestant will affirm. Now I appeal to all wise men, what an excessive waste of treasure hath been within these few years in this land, not in the expedient, but in the idolatrous erection of temples Edition: current; Page: [ 24 ] beautified exquisitely to outvie the papists, the costly and dear-bought scandals and snares of images, pictures, rich copes, gorgeous altar-cloths: and by the courses they took, and the opinions they held, it was not likely any stay would be, or any end of their madness, where a pious pretext is so ready at hand to cover their insatiate desires.
What can we suppose this will come to? What other materials than these have built up the spiritual Babel to the height of her abominations? If the splendour of gold and silver begin to lord it once again in the church of England, we shall see Antichrist shortly wallow here, though his chief kennel be at Rome. Now then for their courts. What a mass of money is drawn from the veins into the ulcers of the kingdom this way; their extortions, their open corruptions, the multitude of hungry and ravenous harpies that swarm about their offices, declare sufficiently.
And what though all this go not over sea? It were better it did: better a penurious kingdom, than where excessive wealth flows into the graceless and injurious hands of common spunges, to the impoverishing of good and loyal men, and that by such execrable, such irreligious courses. If the sacred and dreadful works of holy discipline, censure, penance, excommunication, and absolution, where no profane thing ought to have access, nothing to be assistant but sage and Christianly admonition, brotherly love, flaming charity and zeal; and then, according to the effects, paternal sorrow, or paternal joy, mild severity, melting compassion: if such divine ministeries as these, wherein the angel of the church represents the person of Christ Jesus, must lie prostitute to sordid fees, and not pass to and fro between our Saviour, that of free grace redeemed us, and the submissive penitent, without the truckage of perishing coin, and the butcherly execution of tormentors, rooks, and rakeshames sold to lucre; then have the Babylonish merchants of souls just excuse.
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Hitherto, sir, you have heard how the prelates have weakened and withdrawn the external accomplishments of kingly prosperity, the love of the people, their multitude, their valour, their wealth; mining and sapping the outworks and redoubts of monarchy. Now hear how they strike at the very heart and vitals. We know that monarchy is made up of two parts, the liberty of the subject, and the supremacy of the king. I begin at the root. See what gentle and benign fathers they have been to our liberty! What more baneful to monarchy than a popular commotion, for the dissolution of monarchy slides aptest into a democracy; and what stirs the Englishmen, as our wisest writers have observed, sooner to rebellion, than violent and heavy hands upon their goods and purses?
Yet these devout prelates, spite of our great charter, and the souls of our progenitors that wrested their liberties out of the Norman gripe with their dearest blood and highest prowess, for these many years have not ceased in their pulpits wrenching and spraining the text, to set at naught and trample under foot all the most sacred and lifeblood laws, statutes, and acts of parliament, that are the holy covenant of union and marriage between the king and his realm, by proscribing and confiscating from us all the right we have to our own bodies, goods, and liberties.
What is this but to blow a trumpet, and proclaim a firecross to an hereditary and perpetual civil war? Now how they have spared supremacy, or are likely hereafter to submit to it, remains lastly to be considered.
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The emulation that under the old law was in the king towards the priest, is now so come about in the gospel, that all the danger is to be feared from the priest to the king. Their eyes ever eminent upon worldly matters, their desires ever thirsting after worldly employments, instead of diligent and fervent study in the Bible, they covet to be expert in canons and decretals, which may enable them to judge and interpose in temporal causes, however pretended ecclesiastical. Do they not hoard up pelf, seek to be potent in secular strength, in state affairs, in lands, lordships, and domains; to sway and carry all before them in high courts and privy councils; to bring into their grasp the high and principal offices of the kingdom?
Have they not been told of late to check the common law, to slight and brave the indiminishable majesty of our highest court, the lawgiving and sacred parliament?
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