In the entry to this business, the importunity of not a few makes it needful to speak somewhat to a question which unto this time hath been unquestioned, as beyond all exception, that is, whether there be yet in Scotland a malignant party? Or, whether there be at this time any party who may and ought, in reason and Christian prudence, to be reputed and looked upon as malignants and disaffected to the covenanted cause of God? It seems the more needful to speak somewhat of this, 1. Because some ministers are become slack and silent in this point, as if now there were no need of watchfulness and warning against any such party, 2. Because the expressions of many of the people of the land run that way, that there are now no malignants in Scotland, and that it is but a few factious ministers that will still keep up these names, that they may more easily, with others of their own stamp, weaken and divide the kingdom, for carrying on of their own ends, 3. Because the inclinations and resolutions of the public judicatories, in reference to most of the party who carried that name, do clearly import that they do think they are no more to be looked upon as malignants, as appears from several of their papers, especially the letter written for satisfaction to the presbytery of Stirling. And therefore this must be laid down as the foundation of what follows. That there is still in the land, not only a few persons, but a party considerable for number, power, and policy, who are malignant and disaffected to the covenant and cause of God. We would join heartily in the desire of many, that these and other such like odious names of different parties and factions were taken away, but we cannot join in the reasons of this desire which are ordinarily given. We wish the name malignant were obsolete and antiquate, if so be the thing itself, which is such a root of bitterness, were extirpated out of the church. Yea, though the thing itself remained, if men would hate it for itself, and account it more odious and hateful than the name imports, we would be glad it were no more heard of, because we find this prejudice, by all such appropriated names, that people generally look upon that which goes under that name as the only sin, and as if there were not that root of bitterness, in all which it grows out of, in any, and so conceive themselves good Christians if they fall not under that hateful appellation of malignants. But seeing this bitter fruit of enmity, against godliness and the godly, comes to more ripeness and maturity in many of this generation than in others, who yet are unconverted, and seeing it hath been the custom of the church of God in all generations, to discriminate many more ungodly and known haters of godliness and his people from the common sort of natural people, and to comprehend them under these names of wicked, of malignant, of enemies as may appear in the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms, and that more especially in our days, that name hath been appropriated to such who have declared themselves, in their words or actions, to be haters of godliness and the power thereof, and his people, or have arisen to the height of actual opposition against these, we cannot be blamed for using such a name still, for distinction's sake. We proceed to some reasons.
I. The constant and continued proceedings of the General Assembly and their commissioners for many years past unto this day.
There is not almost any of their warnings, declarations, or remonstrances, which doth not assert this, and warn against it, and that not only before the king's homecoming and taking of the covenant, but also since that time, as is evident by the Declaration emitted by the commission in July last,(325) the Declaration of the Assembly itself, a little after,(326) by the Declaration emitted at Stirling since the defeat at Dunbar,(327) the Causes of the Fast upon that defeat,(328) the Remonstrance to the king at Perth after his escape, together with the Remonstrance given in by them to the parliament,(329) all which do clearly hold forth this truth.
II. Take Christ's rule, "By their fruits ye shall know them." There is a great party in the land that adhere to malignant principles, bring forth malignant fruits, and tread malignant paths, as may appear in these instances.1. A great many of these who have been formerly engaged in such courses, and under church censures, did lately conjoin together and rise in arms, and drew away the king(330) from the public councils of the kingdom, and refused to lay down arms till they got conditions agreeable to their mind; which course of theirs was justly declared by the commission to carry upon it the stamp of malignancy in an eminent way.2. The seeking to promote and establish an arbitrary power in the person of the king, as it hath been still the endeavour of the malignant party, so it hath been always taken by the kirk of Scotland as one of their characters; and that there is a party now in Scotland who still hold that principle, and drive this design of arbitrary power, is evident. First, because these same men, who were lately in arms, did not only take up arms upon the king's simple warrant, and without the knowledge, and contrary to the mind of the committee of estates; but also received the act of indemnity,(331) and laid down arms, in obedience to the king's majesty, without so much as mentioning or acknowledging the committee of estates, as is to be seen in a paper subscribed by them,(332) and in the remonstrance of the commission of the General Assembly, dated at Perth, Nov.29, 1650, the words whereof are these: "Your lordships should likewise consider, whether it doth not encroach upon the present constitution of government of this kingdom, and will not involve your lordships in the guilt of these men's sin, if you shall accept of their laying down of arms, merely upon the profession of obedience to the king's command, without any expression of their respect and obedience to the committee of estates, or any acknowledgment of their sin and offence, which we hope you will look upon as a most unnatural and unseasonable rending of the kingdom, in the time of this heavy oppression by a common enemy, and exposing the kingdom to all misery and ruin."(333) Second, It may be remembered that in the first model of the agreement which was made at Breda,(334) that clause which doth concern the determining of civil matters in the interval of parliament, by such as are authorized by parliament for that effect, and the king's majesty hearkening to their advice, was wholly left out; and any who are acquainted with expressions and inclinations of sundry great ones in the land, are not ignorant of their dislike of a committee of estates, and their desire to have the administration of matters, in the interval of parliament, wholly devolved upon the king's council. And the same spirit that would draw business from the committee to a cabinet council, would at last draw them from the parliament itself, because that is also, if not more, crossing to private interests and designs than a committee of estates. Third instance. There is a party in the land who as in their hearts they do envy, and in their tongues do traduce men that have been steadfast and faithful in the covenant and cause of God, so do they endeavour to the utmost of their power, to bring them into disgrace and contempt, and to get them removed from power and trust, and, upon the other side, study with no less diligence to get places of power and trust, in the army and elsewhere, filled with such as either have been open enemies or secret underminers. Fourth instance. Are there not many who oppose the kingdom of Jesus Christ and work of reformation, not only by holding up that old calumny of malignants, concerning the seditious and factious humour of ministers, and their stretching of themselves beyond their line, and by mocking all faithful and free preaching of the word, and by bearing down the power of godliness, deriding and hating all the lovers and followers thereof, by being impatient of the discipline and censures of the church, but also looking upon the government of the church with an evil eye, and strongly inclining some of them, that church government be put in the hands of a few prelates, most of them that it may be wholly devolved upon the civil government? Fifth instance. There is still a party in the land that endeavour to have the state of the question altered, and to have religion left out of the same, that it being stated upon civil interest, they may take to themselves a greater latitude in their way of carrying on business. This was holden forth to be the design of the malignant party in the year 1648, as appears in the Declaration of the Commission that year in March, and there was a necessary and seasonable warning given against it by the Commission in their Declaration, of the date July 1650.
III. Besides those who are excommunicated, there are yet in the land a considerable number of persons of chief note, who do still lie under censures of the church, some because of their accession to the late unlawful engagement, others because of their accession to the late course of rebellion, about the time of the king's escape from Perth, besides many others of less note.
IV. We suppose that it is most certain and unquestionable, that there was lately a malignant party and faction in the land, very numerous and powerful. How many men of blood, murderers of their brethren, as unnatural and barbarous as the Irish(335) they once joined with, against their country, -- how many have watched all opportunities for troubling the peace of the kingdom, and rejoiced in the day of its calamity? How many were the oppressors of those who called on the Lord's name in the time of the Engagement?(336) What multitudes of profane and ungodly mockers of all godliness, and haters and persecutors of the godly, swarming everywhere? If this be truth, as it is indeed, we may say, who hath heard such a thing? Who hath seen such a thing? Shall a nation be born at once? And have they so soon learned to do well, who have been so long accustomed to do evil? When did this catholic conversion fall out, and by what means? Hath the act of indemnity and pardon such influence, to justify these men from all their butcheries and barbarous cruelties? The adding of three thousand to the church in one day, was miraculous in the days of miracles. But behold, a greater miracle than that in the days when miracles are ceased, many thousands added to the church of the friends of the cause of God in one day, and that not by preaching, which is the power of God unto salvation, not by spiritual weapons, which are mighty through God, but by the carnal weapon of an act of indemnity, and the example of one man, the king's conjunction in the cause, which at the best hath not such evidence of reality as to convince any, and change their mind. Sad experience, and the constant testimony of the church of Scotland proves, that malignancy is a weed that hath deeper and stronger roots than to be plucked up so easily; and that, though there be some, yet there be but few in the land who have been once engaged in that way, that have really and indeed abandoned and come off the same.
The point shall more appear by taking off objections that are made to the contrary. It is objected, 1. That these who were formerly esteemed malignants, did oppose the work of God because they could not be persuaded in conscience, that the covenant and cause were contrived and carried on in a warrantable way, those who were most instrumental in it, seeming to them not only to act without authority, but against authority. But so it is, that the king hath now joined in the covenant and added his authority to it, and therefore it needs not be feared that these men will any more oppose it, nay it may be expected, they will no less zealously promote the ends thereof than they did formerly oppose the same.
Answer: This argument supposeth some things that are false, some things at best doubtful, and some things dangerous.
I. It supposeth two falsities: 1. That it was a ground and principle of conscience and respect to the king's authority that made these men to oppose the covenant and work of reformation. If it was the conscience and conviction of the unwarrantableness of it for the want of authority, that stirred them up to oppose the covenant and cause, then why did they subscribe it and join in the defence of the same against the king? 2. It supposeth that the only ground, why they did oppose and undermine the same, was, because the king was of a contrary mind, and refused to join in the covenant, and ratify the same by his authority, which also is false, for there were several other grounds and causes of so doing besides this. We shall name a few, leaving the rest to a further scrutiny (1.) The natural enmity that is in the hearts of all men against the Lord and his anointed, his work and his people, and the power of godliness which doth effectually work in the children of disobedience. (2.) An enmity against the power of parliament and laws. (3.) An enmity against the union of the kingdoms. (4.) An enmity against the power of presbyteries, and the discipline of the church, to which are opposed, a sinful desire of breaking the bonds and casting away the cords of the Lord and his anointed, a desire to establish an arbitrary power and unlimited monarchy, a desire to establish a lordly prelatical power in the persons of a few, or to have the government of the church wholly dependent on the civil power, a desire to dissolve the union of the kingdoms, that they may be thereby weakened and less able to resist malignant designs against religion and liberties, a desire to live loosely without bands in regard of personal reformation.
II. It supposeth something that is at best doubtful, to wit, that the king hath really joined unto the cause of God, there being small evidences of it, and many presumptions to the contrary, especially, 1. His bringing home with him into the kingdom, a number of eminent, wicked and known malignants; his countenancing of, and familiar conversing with such in this nation since his coming,(337) and correspondence with others of them abroad, his deserting of the public councils of the kingdom, to join to a party of bloody and wicked men, raided in arms with his knowledge and by his warrant. 2. His not being convinced of any guilt in his father, because of his opposition to the cause and covenant, notwithstanding of all the blood of the Lord's people shed by him in that opposition. For verifying whereof, we appeal to the knowledge of some noblemen and ministers, who have occasion to know his mind and to be serious with him in this thing.
III. It supposeth something that is of very dangerous consequence.1. That these men's zeal to the cause or against it, doth ebb and flow according to the king's being against it or for it. Since they follow the cause not for itself but for the king, will they not desert it when the king forsakes it? Can they be accounted real friends of the cause who are known to favour it only, ad nutum principis,(338) -- as the comedian, ait, aio, negat, nego?(339) Is it not all one to follow the cause for the king, and for a man's own interest and advantage? Both are alike extrinsic and adventitious to the cause, both are alike changeable. Eccebulus under Constantius was a precise Christian, under Julian a persecuting apostate; and then again under the next Christian emperor became a Christian. And it is like if he had outlived that emperor till a heathen succeeded, he should have paganized the second time.2. That very principle that is pretended to unite them to the cause is in itself most dangerous, both to the privileges of parliament and liberties of the people, and to our religion beside. Their principle of opposition was, "They conceived the way followed could not be warrantable without the king's consent and warrant, that people might not vindicate their own just rights and liberties, and their religion, without the king's concurrence, or against him." Now then, the principle of their conjunction to the cause must be this, because it is now clothed with authority which it had not before, and which now makes it warrantable. This principle therefore includes in the bosom of it, the establishing of unlimited and absolute power in kings; the unlawfulness of defensive wars against tyranny and oppression; the king's negative voice, and the dependent power of parliaments upon his pleasure; all which are principles destructive of the cause and our liberties, and the very characters(340) of our enemies from the beginning. Thus they have changed their way, but not their principles, and are now the more dangerous that they may not be looked upon as enemies, but as friends. Seeing it is manifest, that it is not the love of the cause that constrains them, and they know it was not that principle that persuaded the king, but mere necessity, contrary to his own inclination, may we not certainly expect, that according to their principles they will labour to set at freedom the king, whom they conceive imprisoned and captivated by the power of necessity within the limits and bounds of a regulated monarchy, and to loose him from all these chains of involuntary treaties and agreements, and rigid laws and parliaments, that he may then act in freedom and honour according to his own inclination and theirs both? And then farewell religion and liberties.
Objection 2: The most part of these who were formerly malignant, have now repented of that sin, and make profession of their resolution to adhere to the covenant and cause of God, and to bestow their lives and estates in defence thereof. Therefore they are not now to be esteemed malignants.
Answer: We would wish from our hearts that we had no answer to this argument; then should we yield the point in hand, and yield it cheerfully, that there is no malignant party now in Scotland. But, alas! that we have so much evidence convincing our consciences and persuading them to deny what is objected. We acknowledge some have indeed repented, and such we desire to embrace and receive with all tenderness and love, as godly Christians, worthy to be intrusted. But yet the most part of them do still bring forth the same malignant fruits. Their ungodly and wicked practices testify to their face that they have nothing to do to take his covenant in their mouth, seeing they hate to be reformed. The late rising in arms, contrary to their solemn and particular engagements, their bearing down and reproaching the godly, and such as are of known integrity, their studying to fill places of trust with men formerly enemies or underminers, their continuing in their profane and loose walking, -- all these are more convincing evidences of their retaining their old principles than any extorted confessions or professions, for sinister respects and ends can be no probable signs of their repentance and change.
We desire these things to be remembered, 1: That the Engagement(341) was carried on, not by open and professed enemies, but such as had made public profession of their repentance, and were thereupon admitted to trust.2. That upon consideration of the hypocrisy and instability of these men appearing in that and other particulars, the kirk and kingdom of Scotland did take upon themselves strait bonds and engagements to exclude such from trust, until such time as they had given real evidences of the reality of their repentance, and of abandoning their former principles and ways, of which the kirk was to judge impartially as in God's sight.3. That it hath been confessed and preached by many godly ministers, and was given in by sundry in the time of the search of the Lord's controversy against the land, in November last at Perth, and hath been bemoaned and regretted by many of the people who feared God, that there is a great deal of sin and guilt lying on the kirk of Scotland, for the sudden receiving of scandalous persons, especially malignants, to the public profession of repentance before there was in them any real evidence of their forsaking their former principles and ways.
Objection 3: None are now to be esteemed malignants, in reference to employment and trust, but such as stand judicially declared by kirk and state to be so; for certainly, men are not to lie under the burden of so great a reproach, upon the private whisperings and common reports of others, otherwise, honest men may be wronged, and there shall be no end of confusion, or terminating this controversy, there being no certain rule to walk by in it.
Answer: We acknowledge that surmisings, whisperings, and reports of others are not sufficient, but that a rule is needful. All the question will be, What is that rule? And though the judicial debarring of judicatories be not all, but it must be ruled by another rule, yet are we willing to take it for so much; for even that will prove there is yet a malignant party in Scotland, because many are standing under church censures [albeit we are sorry there is so much precipitancy and haste in taking off the censures].(342) Those involved in the late rebellion are standing under a sentence of the commission,(343) declaring them to be following their old malignant designs; few of them are yet admitted to profession of repentance. We desire it may be considered, that the rule holden forth by the kirk of Scotland 1648, for admitting of persons to trust is of larger extent than judicial sentence or censure; to wit, that they be such against whom there is no just cause of exception or jealousy.2. Albeit a judicial trial or censure be indeed necessary, for inflicting punishment or censure upon men, yet it is not necessary for avoiding association with them, or debarring them from trust.3. If none were to be accounted malignants, but they who are judicially declared to be such, what needed the kirk of Scotland have frequently taken so much pains, to give characters to know them by, there being so clear and compendious a way beside? Hath there not been always in the land secret underminers as well as open enemies? And hath not faithful men avoided the one as well as the other? 4. The General Assembly, 1648, declared the taking in of these who followed James Graham(344) to be an association with malignants, though most part of them were then released from church censures.