After these dark and dreadful days of barbarous blindness and superstition, wherein by the deceit of dumb dogs, bloody wars have covered the face of this land for many years, it pleased the bountifulness of God, in the riches of his love, as not regarding the time of former ignorance, with a marvellous mercy, to visit this realm by sending, not one Jonah to such a Nineveh, or one Philip to Samaria, but first few, since many, and all faithful, holy, wise, frack [eager, ready] to preach the gospel in Scotland, as in another Antioch. At the terror of these trumpets, like smoke before the wind, were quickly driven away, not only the darkness of idolatry, and damnable dissension among the members of this kingdom, wherein consisted the strength of that bloody beast, by whose tyrannical cruelty and deceitful ways, princes and people were shamefully abused, and often compelled with the claws of violence to shed the blood of saints; yea, to keep the book of the unchangeable testament of Jesus Christ under the cover of a strange tongue, as a clasped [closed] book, that it should not be read: but also, many of that Antichristian sect, who in the time of persecution had used the curious arts of that kingdom of lies, and service of Baal, were turned to the truth of God, and preached the word of his grace, so that in a short time that Romish Jericho fell; the people that sat in darkness saw a great light; and where the power of Satan had prevailed, the throne of Christ was set up, the word increased, and the Lord added to the kirk from day to day, such as were to be saved; so magnifying the strength of his own arm against his enemies, in that prosperous time, that neither proud Anakims nor crafty Gibeonites were able stand before the Spirit that spoke in these men of God, when they were but few.
And though they walked in the flesh, yet they did not war after the flesh, but by the spiritual arms of bold preaching, reverent ministration of the sacraments, and sincere ruling of the flock of Christ with discretion, and without partiality; and always praying, and often fasting, they banished atheism, barbarity, and Papistry, quenched the fire of contentions, prevented dangers, planted the kirks, taught and persuaded great and small, poor and rich, and persons of all estates, to profess the evangel. And howsoever they were daily crossed with deceit and opposition, so they led diversity in the hand of amity, that all things concerning the great work of that glorious reformation to the praise of God, and the comfort of the godly, were wisely and firmly appointed. In those happy days, the servants of the Lord, in love, were like Jonathan and David; in courage, like Gideon's three hundred [men]; in unity, like the saints that first received the gospel; in care and diligence, like the builders of the wall of Jerusalem, and so marching like the Lord's armies. Then were they neither despised nor abhorred, but received as the angels of God; and yet, in the Lord's troops, neither for work, nor war, were there to be found any pompous prelates, abbots, bishops or archbishops, that love to shine in dignity, and rejoice in rent, with the contempt of their brethren, and neglect of the Lord's service. O Scotland! what was then your felicity? Then did you sing and shout with the voice of God: God will arise, and his enemies shall be scattered; they also that hate him shall flee before him. Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt. Thou hast cast out the heathen and planted it. Thou madest room for it, and didst cause it to take root, and it filled the land, etc. [Ps. 68:1; 80:8-9].
The superstitious ignorant, the perverse Papist, the crafty parasite,
and the self-loving
politician, the Christian-coloured belly-god, and the loose-liver, the
time-server, and all sorts of
that filthy sect that hate to be reformed, often conspired against the building of that glorious
temple-but all in vain; for by the power of God they were disappointed.
Yet, in these last days,
some dangerous Delilahs have betrayed Sampson, and told wherein his
strength lay, with no less
hurt to this kirk, than was performed by the false brethren who were
craftily sent in, and crept in
privily amongst the faithful, to spy out their liberty which they had
in Christ Jesus, that they might bring them unto bondage.
It is clearly known to many in this kingdom, and in foreign parts, what a wall for defence, and a band for peace and progress of the gospel, was that heavenly discipline whereby brotherly amity, and sacred harmony of prince, pastors, and professors, were so continued and increased, that all as one man did stand together for the doctrine, sacraments, and kirk government, against the adversaries (either lurking or professed). It was the hedge of the Lord's vineyard and the hammer whereby the horns both of adversaries and disobeyers were beaten and broken. And of this happy mean it might be truly said, that in the strength of it, more than by our own virtue, were we strong and prevailed. And to sharpen our love, it is thus written by a stranger, but a friend: Albeit it is necessary that they who have their city in heaven repose altogether thereupon, yet nothing should let [hinder] us to behold, as it were, heaven upon earth: that is, the power of God in his own, etc. By most evident reasons I judge the kirk of Scotland to be of this sort. In the which, the many mighty, and long continuing assaults of Satan, the like whereof, as I think, no nation sustained, could neither defile the purity of doctrine, nor bow the rule of right discipline. This is a great gift of God, that he has brought together to Scotland, both the purity of religion and discipline, whereby, as in a bond, the doctrine is safely kept. I pray and beseech you to keep these two together, as that you may be assured, that if the one falls, the other can no ways long stand.
It cannot be denied, but by the space of fifty years and above, Scotland ran well, the doctrine was in such sort preached, and discipline appointed and practiced; yea, both professed, established, and constantly defended, not only by those faithful men that went before, but by them who followed, and yet live, in such concord of kirk and policy, that the like thereof is scarcely to be found in history, or seen with eyes, in any nation, since the revelation of the mystery of the gospel to the first apostles. But now of late, with pity to speak it, no uncircumcised Philistine, or Assyrian, but some of the disciples-desirous to sit at the right hand, and pretending to restore again the kingdom of Israel, the kirk, to her old rents and privileges-at first did mince and sparingly speak, but afterward practice and loudly preach: that except, after the manner of the nations, the kirk of Scotland admitted again prelates (the princes of that wicked hierarchy), with some untrusty traditions, and change of things indifferent (as they term them), but in effect the disgracing of pastors, ejecting of elders, destroying of assemblies, and fashioning doctrine, discipline, sacraments, confessions of faith, forms of prayer, and all in a new shape; it cannot be saved, nor vindicated from poverty and contempt, but by means of this malady obtruded for a remedy.
Not only these evils, howsoever at the beginning seeming small, have so grown that, like the nettles in a foul ground, they not only bud and bloom, but abundantly bring forth divisions, dissensions, and unkindly contentions among brethren, to the great joy of the enemies, and grief and offence of them that fear God: this strange fire has entered into the city of God, and horribly burns on. And yet is it so, that such as may will not; and such as are willing cannot; and they that should be first, are the least zealous and forward to offer their pains, either to clear and defend the truth, to pacify their brethren, or to plead the cause of discipline against the calumnies and cavillations of such as by promoting of novelties, seek promotion. But uncharitable speeches, and pestiferous pens of dissension, fretting as a canker, increase unto more ungodliness; dangerous dissolution, the daughter of division, and the undoubted forerunner of desolation, daily proclaims the defacing, if not the fall of this reformed church: as if no care should be taken that the spouse of Jesus Christ, who so long like a chaste virgin has shined in purity before her Lord in this land, should now be stained with Korah's ambition, Balaam's wages, and Esau's profaneness, altar against altar, and brother against brother.
In this case so pitiful, and good cause so universally neglected, if not
deserted; it should be
our heart's desire and prayer to God to be found faithful, when with grief
we may justly say of the
old friends, and new adversaries of discipline,
It is time for the Lord to work, for they have destroyed
thy law. And of her constant friends boldly avow,
Therefore love I thy commandments above gold, yea, above most fine gold
(Ps. 119:126-27). Could this pragmatic course of dangerous
from a truth so long professed, whereof none, or few can be ignorant, work
in our hearts (now
almost lukewarm) a laborious love, and holy zeal for that truth whereof we
are persuaded; we
might then be fully assured that, as it was said in the book of the wars
of the Lord, what he did in
the Red Sea, and in the brooks of Arnon, the banners of
his power being displayed for Israel, as at their coming out of Egypt against Pharaoh: so through the wonderful working of his equivalent power, and unchangeable love, it should be remembered in the records of the reformed kirks of Scotland, that what he did first in substance, that he did last in ceremony, making the end of his own work against apostates from discipline, professed by themselves, and in that respect renters of brotherly unity, and dividers of brethren, answerable to the happy beginnings thereof against cruel persecutors and wicked heretics.
Is the Lord changed, because he changes the manner of his working? God forbid. For al though he declares not in our times who belongs to him by miraculous fire sent from heaven, as in the days of Elijah; the earth opens not her mouth, as in the days of Korah; he rains not showers of brimstone upon the Sodomites of this age; he turns not such as look back into pillars of salt to season others; neither is his favour manifested towards his own secret ones in earthly and visible blessings, so wonderfully as of old; yet the God of Israel is our God, and the God of the old testament is the God of the new, and better testament, having still a secret and equivalent providence most wisely disposed, and framed for the weal of his kirk, according to the diversity of the ages succeeding one after another. So that no wise heart perceiving the course thereof could wish another than the present, howsoever the folly of infidelity blinds men to affect the miracles, ease, and outward prosperity of former generations, and if these fail, to cast themselves headlong in desperation, defection, or atheism. Yea, because he works not as before, in their haste they conclude that he works not at all.
It were our wisdom, who live in the last times, rather to determine with ourselves that, as in great and extraordinary plagues small and common diseases are swallowed up; so will the Lord, leaving all other warnings, have all ears to be lifted up in fear, to the hearing of the loud trumpet of the gospel, summoning all flesh before the judgment seat of Christ, that they may most of all tremble at that last sentence, which debars men for ever from the face of God, and in the mean time will have the life of his own children hid with Christ, that in a holy conformity with him, they may by many afflictions enter into his kingdom. As the present prosperity of the common sort does make their fear the greater; so the crosses of the kirk should make them with the greater courage to lift up their heads, and while the day of their redemption draws near, to walk with the greater fidelity in their vocations, building the house of God with the one hand, and fighting with the other against the enemies of all sorts- especially these Sanballats and Tobiahs, who labour to make other kirks abroad, and a great number of the pastors and people at home, to think that great parts of the wall of Christ's kirk, built within this nation since our delivery from the Romish captivity, are so weak, that if a fox shall go up upon them, he should break them down; and now, forsooth, the new work rising in place of the old to be more firm, and of the old foundation, when the mystery of iniquity, after long working in secret was manifested, there was brought a new face upon the kirk; the pure fountains of holy scripture troubled with the puddle of trifling traditions; ceremonies brought in, and will-worship, and damnable idolatry set up; apostolical discipline abolished, and Popish policy exalted. Yet such is the willfulness of men, knowing the weakness of error and force of the truth, that multitudes in the succeeding times have not blushed to bring in these novelties under the name of ancient verities: yea, without shame or fear, to affirm that this last was the primitive and natural face of their mother.
It may be seen in these days, that after a large time, this second mystery working under cover, yet always perceived by some in this land, is now brought to light, according to the warnings of the wise watchmen of this kirk, and has changed the comely countenance of Christ's spouse, further than the lovers of the truth would have thought, into the Antichristian complexion of that whore of Babylon; and without God's preventing mercy, and our speedy repentance, the loss of a great substance for a foul conformity. And yet, howsoever all men cry that the ancient way was the best, and as they love honesty, they will be the sons of constancy, and firmly retain the ancient discipline of the reformed kirk of Scotland: they have renounced nothing; they have abjured nothing; yea, if any whisper of a fall from the first love, they are quickly marked as willfully pleading for shadows, and making of schisms. And so such as would strive to stand must suffer for their fault, who have wrought the change. As that old painter, intending to represent the body of Hercules, expressed nothing of the lineaments of his face, stature, or members, contenting himself with the resemblance of the lion's skin, which he was wont to carry, as the badge of his strength and trophy of his honour: so some of his apprentices, for the beautiful face of this kirk, and heavenly proportion of her divine discipline, do set before the eyes of men of this time (who never saw the fair face, nor felt the strength of ancient order) that roaring lion's skin of Episcopacy, the greatest monster that this kirk had conflicted with, in the most part of her meetings, and whose skin within these few years was commonly reputed among the rest of the spoils taken from her enemies. As it was the courage of wise Cato against the brags of arrogant Greeks, perverting all verity and antiquity of history and usurping the honour of the invention of all things, to write a book de Originibus, for vindicating the truth from usurping presumption; and as in later times many have happily labored in discovering the Roman inventions, and bringing to light the beginnings and progress of error and idolatry, creeping in and corrupting that kirk: it were likewise to be wished, for the weal of this kirk, and her cause of controversies, that the acts of the general assemblies (so often visited and prepared for public use) were now, according to the intention and care of the kirk, together with the books of discipline (which should be lights for direction and laws for decision of controversies arising thereabout) faithfully perused and printed.
For the present necessity, you have here the first and second books of discipline, with certain acts of the kirk for clearing your doubts, and confirming the truth against such as delight in veils of obscurity, and circuits of circumvention. As there was never any miracle wrought for confuting of atheists, because every work of God is a miracle against them; so there needs no argument to stop the mouths of adversaries of discipline, who would seem to stand to their own oath an ancient profession, because almost every line of these books will be an argument against them. If truth shall obtrude herself to the knowledge of men, not suffering them to be forgetful and ignorant, as perhaps they would seem, God forbid that any should think that his resolution to be rich and stately should so suppress his light, and stay his mind from thinking that true (which we would wish were false) that were the sin of a witty malignant: Hæc est summa delicti nolle agnoscere quod ignorare non potes. [Here is the height of transgression, to be unwilling to acknowledge what one cannot but know.] It were much better that, as many as through ignorance of the established order in the kirk have been misled, would now repent their negligence and dangerous course, when they see a good daughter of an evil mother. This truth brought to light to be the fruit of our division-as perfection in former times has brought forth purity, and heresy the truth of doctrine-so has this fit of distraction among brethren brought this draft of discipline to the view of the world; to so many as have stood, by the grace of God, to the defence of their profession, a strong confirmation; and to such as are tossed with doubts, a clear resolution. Let it be no derogation to the truth here expressed, nor to the labours of these faithful fathers, who penned and put in register the same, but a great imputation and guiltiness lying upon the succeeding age, who deprived themselves of such a benefit, and the kirk of such a defence. Though the book of God's covenant lay long hid in the temple, yet Josiah, rejoiced when it came to light. Very Jezebel could not be stayed from magnifying of Baal by all the dashes she suffered from heaven and earth. And should not Christians be ashamed to be less affectionate to verity, than she to idolatry, and namely a truth concerning Christ's kingly office, and the ministers of his kingdom, without the truth whereof we can neither have comfort of his prophecy nor priesthood. It is the Lord's great mercy, that in the reformation of this kirk, he has been preached, and professed, King, Priest, and Prophet. And it shall be the glory of this land, thankfully to acknowledge that incomprehensible benefit, and always carefully to keep whole without rent, and to carry a reverent estimation of the great work of the glorious reformation of this kirk.
For this effect you must arm yourselves against the lords of tongues, who have said, With our tongues we will prevail. Of that generation, some will dash you by the odious name of Puritan, and yet one of that lordly sort is forced to confess that Scots professors are unto him Puritans from the form of external government, but not from religion, which both is and may be one and the same where the external form of government is different and contrary, who albeit they are miserably taken with their own form, yet in the rest of the doctrine they are sufficiently orthodox. Others, like wicked creditors destroying the obligation whereby they are bound for debtful obedience, sum marily deny that this kirk ever had any approved discipline, except that which is printed and placed in the psalm books. A third sort, making such pastors, who at the beginning were called superintendents, to be figures, patterns, forerunners, or lieutenants of bishops such as now are, would move the world to believe that they follow the first discipline. A fourth kind, wandering in the wilderness of unbounded indifferency, takes upon them to determine all doubts of discipline by honor, ease, or gain. And some, of Gallio's disposition it may be, hidly [secretly] esteeming all religion a matter of speech, spare not to proclaim that striving about such trifles is needless. For your encouragement against such, and others of like disposition, it has pleased the Lord to set on work our pens; and in his own time, if presumption be obstinate, he will inspire them with greater love of his truth, to whom he has given knowledge in measure above them who have put to their hand; and increase their knowledge, in whose hearts he has wrought some love; howsoever their knowledge is far inferior to many of theirs who stand for the truth.
It is to be remembered that the true friends of discipline are the ministers of the blessed evangel of Jesus Christ, agreeing in doctrine and administration of the sacraments, and the people of this realm that profess Christ, as he is now offered in his evangel, and do communicate with the holy sacraments (as in the reformed kirk of this realm they are publicly administered) according to the confession of faith; and that such as were clothed with the kirk rents, or greedily gaped after the same, as abbots, priors, prioresses, bishops, commendators, and other sacrilegious usurpers of kirk livings, as they had place in policy and credit in court or council, either professedly or craftily have resisted the course of the gospel, and the discipline thereof, as may be seen in these conflicts, whereby the kirk has ever striven for deliverance from their usurpation; till now the zeal of benefices having devoured the zeal of discipline, old opposites are thought to be her most loving familiars, and her old friends her greatest enemies. A strange case, and yet very casual for the kirk by seeking worldly preferment, to loose spiritual servants, as one said, Never a minister got a great benefice, but he spilt, or it spilt him.
Item, that under the name of discipline is to be understood not only the particulars expressed in these two books, but also the acts, constitutions, and practices agreed upon and recorded in the registers of the general and provincial assemblies, presbyteries, and kirk sessions.
Thirdly, to consider the different conditions of the kirk in her infancy, in her growing, and in her ripe age, and accordingly to accommodate the discipline to practice, as the condition of the time permitted or required, and wisely to distinguish betwixt the kirk's purpose and intention in every particular, and their possibility to perform and practice, as circumstances concurred, or were contrary. As, for example, they intended resident ministers, one or more, as kirks were of largeness, with elders and deacons. Item, doctors of divinity for schools, assemblies general, provincial, weekly meetings for the interpretation of the scripture, which afterward at Edinburgh the 7th day of July 1579 were judged to be a presbytery; and they abhorred anarchy, oligarchy, and hierarchy; but with great pains and frequent meetings were abuses condemned and order established; so that for lack of ordinary ministers planted, and in that respect lack of lawful assemblies, they were forced occasionally to use superintendents, and visitors of countries: who afterward in the general assembly held at Edinburgh the 4th of August 1590, when presbyteries were well and orderly constituted, were declared neither to be necessary, nor expedient.
Fourthly, the first and second books of discipline, penned by the ministers of the reformed kirk -and the first book at the charge and commandment of the great council of Scotland, subscribed by the greatest part thereof, and afterward by many more, as may be seen in the acts of the kirk; the second book standing insert in public register of the kirk, ordained to be subscribed by diverse acts of the assembly, and confirmed by practice-are both for one end: to wit, to direct reformation in doctrine, sacraments, and exercise of discipline, and to resist idolatry and corruptions. The first has more particular purposes; the second sets down more fully and particularly the jurisdiction of the kirk, as it agrees, or is distinguished from, the civil policy, the office bearers of the kirk with their duties, the assemblies of the kirk, and distinctions thereof; the patrimony of the kirk, and distribution thereof; the office of a Christian magistrate in the kirk; certain heads of reformation, with the utility of the said books, etc. Item, either of the said books confirms the other, and neither of them abolishes or innovates the other.
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