« PreviousContinue »
TO MY WORTHY FRIEND,
MR. G. H.
AFTER my stedfast purpose of a silent obscurity for the small remainder of my days, I do now, once more, break loose again. The view of the danger and sad condition of the Church of God hath wrung these lines from me. You know the story of Cresus's son : right so it is with me, upon sight of the mortal peril of our common and dearer parent. For Sion's sake I will not, (I may not, I cannot) hold my peace ; for my own, I would and shall. If, therefore, you believe that these papers may avail ought towards the public good, let them fly abroad out of your hands; since I have resolvedly shut my own, save only for their lifting up to heaven for mercy to our Sion; wherein yourself, and all other faithful patriots of the Spiritual Jerusalem, will heartily join with,
Your much devoted,
MOURNERS IN SION.
FORASMUCH as there is no well-affected Christian, that is not deeply sensible of the woeful calamity of this once-glorious Church, now humbled into the dust of confusion; and exposed to the pity of all those foreign neighbours, which heretofore blessed it as a singular pattern of divine mercy, and to the scorn and insultation of Gath and Ascalon : and, forasmuch as it is, and hath been ever the prac. tice of the enemies of our peace, to range themselves into several ranks and files, under various forms, qualities, and denominations; as, on the one side, the society of Jesus, the Order of the Glorious Virgin, the Arch-confraternity of the Most Holy Trinity, and the rest of this kind, not easy to be numbered; on the other side, Seekers, Quakers, Shakers, Dippers, the Holy Family of Love, Ranters, and such other prodigies of misreligion and faction; and, thereby, have found advantage several ways, for the promoting of our ruin: why should it not be found requisite, that we, the professed servants of our Lord Jesus Christ, orthodox and genuine sons of the Church of England, whose hearts are moved by the good Spirit of God to a just resentment of our miseries and dangers, should firmly resolve, for the countermining of these engineers of hell and conspirers of our destruction, to enter into a safe, warrantable, Holy Fraternity of Mourners in Sion; whose profession and work shail be a peculiarity of devotion: striving, with fervent prayers and tears, to obtain from heaven a seasonable redress of these our pressing calamities; and a prevention of that utter overthrow and final devastation, which threatens this miserable Church, wherein we do yet live?
And, for this purpose, may it be thought meet to tie ourselves, by our secret and silent vows, to these Rules following:
1. That, without all offensive, tumultuous, and suspectible complottings and conventions, we shall hold up our private devotions ; and perform these our godly undertakings to that premised end.
covery of it.
2. That there shall be no superiority or subordination in this Holy Fraternity, nor any soul more interested in it than other: and, therefore, no formality or ceremony of admittance into it; but a free and voluntary entrance left open for all comers, into this strict course of Christian austerity ; without any noise; without the required notice of any, but God and their own conscience: that the
well see and know, that here is no other design, than merely spiritual; aiming at nothing, but religious transactions between God and our souls; and consisting in the performance of the unquestionable exercises of piety and holy devotion.
3. That we shall zealously excite our neighbours and friends to be passionately affected with this sad estate of God's Church ; and to be liberal of their sighs, and tears, and prayers for the happy re
4. That we will effectually endeavour to work our hearts to a sound humiliation for our own sins, which bave helped to contribute to the common stock of our miseries; and daily renew our vows of a more strict and holy obedience, and a more close walking with our God.
5. That we shall deeply take to heart, and secretly mourn for and lament the sins of our people; representing them to our thoughts, in their heinous nature and quality; humbly begging for their serious repentance of them, and earnestly deprecating the judgments provoked by them.
6. That, for this end, we shall do our best endeavour to get just notice of the sad estate of this distracted Church of ours; and to be truly apprehensive of the peril wherein it stands : as also, of the horrible blasphemies and damnable heresies, which have been of late disgorged from the mouth of hell amongst us; and those helJish practices, which have followed thereupon, to the high dishonour of the Majesty of that Holy God, whom we pretend to serve; to the utter shaming of that blessed Gospel, which we profess : forasmuch as we cannot mourn, for what we know not; nor mourn enough, for what we do not know to be so transcendently sinful.
7. As of the sins, whereby we have moved the fierce anger and wrathful displeasure of our God against us ; so also, shall we take full notice of the judgments, whereby we have smarted from his most just hand : yea, in a larger comprehension of the judgments past, present, imminent. Amongst which, how can we but sorrowfully reckon the mutual effusion of so much Christian blood, spilt by the hands of brethren; and, as the tribes of Israel did for Benja. min, bitterly mourn for the slain of our people? of whom so many, on both parts, have been swept away from the earth, in the fury of a violent hostility, as might well have serveil to store a populous nation; or might probably have overrun the professed enemies of Christendom. To these we cannot but add the woeful disasters and inexpressible miseries, which do always inevitably attend an in. testine war. But, of all judgments, none have cause to make so deep an impression in us, as the spiritual; as knowing, that, as our God is terrible in all his inflictions, so most of all where he is least felt:
when he pays us in our own coin: when he punishes us with out sins ; making one sin the revenger and executioner of another : when he repays our actual rebellion against him, with a senseless obdurateness; with a plausible security, and deadness of spirit : when he rewards our neglect and contempt of his ordinances, with giving us up to spiritual delusions, and to the seductions of the spirits of error; to prodigious whimsies, and heretical blasphemies. We shall then, as we have too just reason, lay together these evils that we feel, with those which we have no less cause to fear; and, under the sense of both, shall find our hearts pierced with sorrow, and resolved into the just tears of our mourning.
8. That we shall not fail, both by night and day, constantly to pour out our hearts, in strong cries and fervent prayer to our God, that he will be pleased, now at last, to visit this miserable and disconsolate Church, in mercy and compassion; and cause the light of his countenance to shine upon us, once again.
9. That the matter of our prayers shall be the illumination and reduction of those our weak brethren, which offend through ignotance; and, out of a well-meant zeal, are, in the simplicity of their hearts, miscarried into erroneous ways, whether of doctrine or practice : for the merciful conversion of the not-obdured and wilful opposers of the truth: for the seasonable confusion of the despe. rately malicious enemies of God and his Church: for the settling of the Church of God in righteousness, order, and peace: for the prevalence and happy success of the Gospel, against all schism, heresy, errors in opinion, and wickedness of life : for the discovery and defeat of all the devices and machinations of Satan, and all his accursed instruments, against the Church of Christ in all parts of the world; and, especially, .in these disjointed members of it, wherein we are interested : for the encouragement and prosperity of all those, that are faithful in the land, and that are hearty wellwishers to our Sion: for the averting of those heavy and desolatory judgments, which our sins have thus long and loudly called for: and, lastly, for the making up of our deplorable breaches; and reuniting of all honest and faithful hearts, in a firm concord and Christian love.
10. That we shall, every week, set apart one day for this holy purpose; wherein we shall humble ourselves in private fasting and prayer, till it shall please our God to return to us, in his wonted compassion; and to put an end to these deadly distractions, under which we labour.
11. That we shall willingly abridge ourselves of our wonted pleasure; not giving ourselves leave to enjoy any public meetings of mirth and jollity; nor take the liberty of those lawful recreations, which we have formerly made use of, while the hand of God lies thus heavily upon this Church and Nation.
12. That it shall be the desire of our hearts, that all, which shall condescend to join together in the profession of this Holy Frater: nity, be knit together in an entire affection to one another, and be teady to shew all mutual respects of Christian love and observance