William Bradford (1590-1657 / the United States)
On The Various Heresies In Old And New England, With An Appeal To The Presbyterians
Nor need you fear sin to commit,
For Christ hath satisfied for it.
But these doctrines make men profane,
And bring dishonor to Christ's name.
Now faith is made, hereby, to be
A dead body, as you may see;
And these are but a wretched race,
That they abuse God's holy grace.
The Familists come next in place,
But found to be a worser race.
From Henry Nichols came this ill,
Or the Nichols' bans, if you will.
A plague they are to any place,
And always carry a double face.
You cannot them by words descry,
For anything they will deny.
The depths of Satan is in them:
They'll smooth, flatter, lie and feign;
With covert words, in mysteries,
Will they deceive, by fallacies;
And they will laugh, when you are gone,
How they deceived such a one.
They'll show as fair and temperate,
And seem all filthiness to hate;
But still they have this hidden wile,
Themselves and others to beguile:
With outward man they cannot sin,
So they keep pure their hearts within.
As if these dreamers could do so,
When they let loose their reins unto
All filthy lusts which fill the heart,
And do defile their inward part.
Of God and Heaven they will you tell,
And also of the pains of Hell,
The persecution and last doom,
And how to judgment all must come,
Of Christ and faith, and his suffering-
And of the Holy Ghost's indwelling,
By whom they are illuminate,
And brought into a saving state.
Their hearts are filled with grace and love,
And from the world are borne above.
And God in Christ is all in all;
He keepeth them; they shall not fall,
For by faith they are raised on high,
To enjoy heaven's felicity.
So, as some would think hereby,
To be as orthodox as any.
But all this while they do disguise,
For all these things they allegorize.
Nor God, nor Christ, Heaven nor Hell,
They do believe, when truth they tell;
But such as in themselves they find,
And fancies in their foolish mind.
This a religion you cannot call;
No, not corrupt it's none at all,
But colored atheism at the best,
Though openly it is not professed.
Next unto these we may bring in
The filthy Ranters, near of kin.
Where had they first their rise or name?
I know not from the devil they came.
The Adamites they are most like,
But more against public shame do strike.
Cynic-like, as vile as dogs,
Carry themselves as filthy hogs,
Yea worse than brutes, they know no end;
But all their strength in lusts they spend.
They shame the nature of mankind,
And blot out reason in their mind.
Professed atheists some of them are,
Who openly revile God dare,
And horridly blaspheme His name,
And publicly avow the same,
Which makes my heart quake and tremble.
Nor may I herein dissemble;
Methinks such wretches should not live
In any land offense to give,
Of this high nature, against the most high,
And men it hear, and pass it by.
I might say more of their vileness,
How in contempt they will profess
Their fellow creatures to adore,
That God's dishonor may be more.
But let them pass; they are too vile
My fingers for to defile.
I hope the Lord's help will come in
To cleanse the land of such vermin.
What shall we of the Seekers say?
Even surely they have lost the way,
For they seek that they'll never find,
For they have left the truth behind.
For new apostles they still expect,
But doctrines of the old reject.
The prophets' words which are most sure,
They look at them to be obscure.
They gaze and gape still for new light;
The noon to them is as dark night.
Like owls and bats, they cannot see
The light of truth, though clear it be.
And nothing them will satisfy,
But such new notions as do fly
In their own wild and giddy brains,
Even vain found raptures and high strains.
For revelation they do seek,
But what is revealed they do not keep.
Signs and marvels they would see,
But leave those truths that confirmed be.
They seek, indeed, they know not what:
Now reach at this, and then at that,
But nothing that will them long please-
A giddy mind is their disease.
As children with their rattle play,
What now they like straight throw away,
As new toys come in their mind-
Such fancies you in these may find.
If anything from them you will take,
Great opposition they will make;
But let them but a while alone,
From what they held they will be gone.
They know not into what they run,
For nothing but the truth they shun;
And few that do thus run astray
Do return into the right way.
But of these be different kinds,
According to their different minds:
Some that seek others to seduce,
That they of them may make their use;
Others do seek to show their wit,
Though nought but froth be found in it;
Some do seek to trouble the state,
As Jesuits have done of late;
Of any sect these seem to be,
If but advantage they may see,
How for to make divisions grow,
The seed whereof they seek to sow;
They'll be baptized, confer, or preach
If they their wicked ends may reach.
Some seek their conscience to blind,
In which, sometimes, the truth hath shined;
And some seek others for to please,
That they may live at better ease;
And some women, full of lust,
Which to fulfill needs seek they must-
Whether fancies, pride, or venery,
Ambition, or whate'er it be-
And commonly such are among those,
That lead their husbands by the nose,
And make them subject to their will;
Such fools they are and will be still,
But they should rule and their wives guide,
And not by them be led aside.
A greater plague they cannot have,
To be their wives' and error's slave.
But some through mere simplicity,
And some ill examples, are led awry.
Next some we have they Quakers call,
Who seem distrait, and then they fall
To prophecy, and strange things they tell,
Which are riddles others may spell.
Yet scarce of them can make good sense,
But yet are carried by some thence,
As if deep oracles they were,
And so are rumored, far and near.
What folly in these times is found,
That men are moved with every sound;
When as these sots do but disguise,
Or else they are bewitched-with lies.
And well they do deserve the whip,
E'en at a cart's axle to skip.
And such as do these fools admire,
It's pity that they miss their hire,
That they may learn to be more wise,
And such deceivers to despise.
But some against the scriptures are-
What is it not, that now men dare!
Some quarrel 'gainst th' Old Testament.
Nothing from thence will them content,
As if it were now antiquate,
As almanac that's out of date.
And some will neither Old nor New.
Allow of now even such a crew
Are to be found in this, our age,
So greedily does th' devil rage.
They'll say they were for the infancy
Of the church, in her minority.
When revelation once was writ,
They then no longer churches fit.
If Satan thus the Word could quell,
This heavenly light from them to pull,
Then anything might be brought in,
Even all error and wicked sin.
Then these deceivers, in this night,
May well come in, with their New Light,
And say 'twas by the spirit revealed
To them, and may not be concealed.
But lo, vain fools! Be not so rash!
The Lord will all your follies dash,
And make appear you are absurd,
Thus for to war against his Word.
What! Do you think he'll not defend
His holy Word unto the end?
Nor Jew, nor Turk, or atheist could,
Ere yet, prevail 'gainst this stronghold.
Antiochus may fret and spurn,
And command the scriptures to burn,
And 'gainst God's books and folk be hot;
But they shall live when he shall rot.
Maximinus and Julian
May use all the worst craft they can,
God's holy scriptures for to deface;
But he will pour on them disgrace,
And his Word shall stand, firm and sure,
While sun and moon in the heavens endure.
Others who do the scriptures love,
Yet of learning they will not approve.
And of these there are too great store,
For hereby errors grow the more;
For they are fit for ev'ry snare,
And easily they taken are.
What folly doth them thus possess?
Weakness, pride, or conceitedness,
Or what else, so e'er it may be,
They will heartily be brought to see.
They do themselves so overween,
Their own defect to them's not seen.
They think of the spirit they have such part,
As that they need no other art.
The revelations they'll unfold,
As readily as tale is told,
And wonders that you cannot see,
Such things therein so clear to be.
Though their brains be but muddy,
Yet they can preach, without study,
On any theme they will assay,
Even to teach extempore,
And think that they have done as well
As ever did their master, Dell.
I wonder what madness hath caught
Men's minds, to set learning at nought.
For when God had great works to do,
He always fitted men thereto.
Moses, in Egypt, was learned,
When he from thence God's people led.
Who mighty was in word and deed,
And meet his people for to feed.
Of the prophets, none learned more
Than Isaiah was, and full of store.
The gospel in his style did flow,
As sweet streams in valleys low.
And Christ sent not the twelve abroad
Till knowledge of the tongues they had,
And also what was meet from them,
The nations for to win and gain.
How learned was the Apostle Paul,
Employed in labors more than all.
The heathen poets he then knew,
And great learned men he overthrew.
And after the apostles' days,
What learned fathers did God raise,
The philosophers to oppose,
From whom so many errors rose.
Their heathen gods they did defend,
And greatly for them did contend,
And all that foul idolatry,
Defending errors learnedly.
But God raised up such learned men,
As were able to vanquish them
At their own weapons, and did show
That learned truth did overthrow
The greatest force that art could raise,
Which turned much to Christ's praise.
And after this; in Luther's time,
When God upon His church did shine,
And popish darkness did expell,
How learned men did then excell;
Which made the triple crown to shake,
And tottering Babel for to quake;
And hath increased to this day,
And shall we now cast it away?
Ho! What great madness would it be,
And what confusions should we see.
Error the truth would undermine.
To barbarism all would decline.
Another sort of men there are,
Whose errors also are spread far.
What to call them I cannot tell,
But surely they are come from Hell.
No forms of churches they will allow,
And ordinances disavow,
Nor any forms of worship be,
No offices, nor ministry.
Baptism, they say, is not divine,
Nor any sacramental sign.
Who doth a pastor's office take,
Or ruler's, does God's spirit forsake;
With many things of such like kind,
Which I cannot now bear in mind.
Nor are they worthy to be known,
But worthy for to be trodden down.
But these persons are so high flown,
As if they were all spirit grown;
But take of them a stricter view,
You'll find them but a carnal crew.
If there should now no churches be,
Nor pastors them to oversee,
Nor ordinances to dispense,
But these should all be taken hence;
Ho! what a babel should we see,
All in confusions for to be.
All orders, then, men would despise,
And follow what pleased their own eyes.
Profaneness, then, would quickly grow,
And iniquity would overflow.
All vices and looseness would come in,
Error, atheism, or any sin.
And if in the commonwealth there should
No ruler be office to hold,
How quickly, then, soon should we see
Nothing but a mere anarchy.
All law and right they would deface,
And fraud and force would come in place;
And villainy would grow so bold,
As it would pass even uncontrolled.
Therefore, all wise and godly men,
Hath need to look about them, then,
How they these monsters may repell,
And beat them back again to Hell.
A foolish and bewitched sort
There are, who themselves do report
To be Jews, and to digging fall.
And Levelers some do them call,
And say they are sent the earth to till;
As some did at Saint George's Hill,
E'en in the county of Surrey,
As Everard and Winstanley,
Who the chief of these diggers were,
Who said a vision did appear
To them, and bid them dig and plow;
For God had promised fruit should grow
Out of the dry and barren ground;
And so they hoped it would be found.
Community they would restore,
And give their labors to the poor.
They would not meddle with any field,
But what was common and untilled.
But that the time shortly would be,
When men should very willingly
Give up their states and all their lands,
And them release into such hands
As would maintain community
In this free land of liberty.
And as their fathers lived in tents,
So they would have no proper rents.
Oh what wonder it is to see
The fancies that in these days be.
When men with errors do run mad,
It makes the time look very sad.
Now in our land, among this throng,
The Anabaptists are grown strong,
And do increase unto this hour,
As if the rest they would devour.
But you need not fear such a thing,
For they war against Christ the king,
Who his poor babes will still defend,
And his covenant, unto the end.
In Luther's days, they then did rage,
But God their folly did assuage,
When Müntzer up in tumults rose,
And against Luther right and did oppose.
Then one Hubmerus did arise,
Who did teach them to rebaptize;
Whom Zwenglius did then oppose,
And such as 'gainst the truth arose.
Tho John of Leyden was made king,
Assisted by Cniperdoling,
At Münster, in Westphalia.
Yet soon in the dust their glory lay,
For much outrage they did commit,
In this their vain and frenzy fit.
His apostles he forth did send,
Even twenty-eight, unto this end,
That they might seduce and others bring,
For to submit to this their king.
And many wives he then did take,
For his lust's and pleasure's sake.
But one of them, who took pity
On the poor people's misery,
He made her, forthwith, to be led
In public place to lose her head.
But long his kingdom did not last,
For he was taken and made fast,
And with his prophets hung on high,
And made a shameful death to die.
But these other places did infect,
And seemed a more refined sect,
And overspread Low Germany,
Where many of them still there be,
And into many sorts are grown,
For above thirty have been known.
Now in England they have got foot,
But God in time will them outroot;
Or else their errors so will blast,
As they shall not much hurt at last.
But let us now a little see,
What some of their opinions be,
And on what grounds they build the same,
And with the scriptures how they'll frame.
And first in this they all agree,
That children should not baptized be,
Because they are not of Christ's fold,
For so they do affirm and hold.
But sure they either dream or sleep.
Because they're lambs, are they not sheep?
Jacob's sheep and lambs made one flock,
And so do those of Jacob's stock.
When God a covenant did make
With Abraham, he then did take
His seed also into the same.
And this covenant eternal was,
Which thus God now established has,
And thereunto has set his seal,
Which no man living may repeal.
Yet these fond men are so stout,
As the faithful seed they will thrust out
Of this covenant of God's grace,
And their names quite out of it 'rase.
And yet they can no reason make,
Why from God's flock his lambs they take,
Nor why that now they should not be
In covenant, as formerly.
A kingdom is of young and old,
As sheeps and lambs are in a fold;
And the faithful Christ's kingdom be,
As in the scriptures you may see.
But what can any for these say,
That half Christ's kingdom take away,
And do affirm no children are
Belonging unto his scepter.
And these men are so vain and blind,
As that they cut off from mankind
The use of Christ's redeeming blood
From all that are in their childhood.
A worser error cannot be
'Gainst children in their infancy,
For it is a more cruel thing
Than was done by Herod the king.
But ho, say they, as they are now,
Faith nor repentance can they show.
No more can they reason express,
And shall we, therefore, think them beast?
What then? Yet God can work upon
Their souls' regeneration,
And Christ his blood to them apply
As well, and as effectually,
As unto those that are more grown,
And something of their faith have shown.
Yea, but often they grow profane,
And bring dishonor to Christ's name.
And so do many of your crew
That have been baptized anew.
Yea, but in the New Testament
There is no command or precedent.
What then? If there be in the sould,
It is to us as sure a hold.
But Christ his command to baptize,
Both young and old, it does comprise.
This, unto us, is a sure hold,
That Jews and Gentiles are one fold,
And we with them are one body,
And so our children needs must be.
No longer strangers, now we dwell
In common wealth of Israel.
Now they and we are not at odd,
But both are one household of God.
My spirit I'll pour, says Zion's king,
Upon your seed and your offspring.
The apostle said, your lives amend,
And God on you his spirit will send.
And be baptized, every one,
Even for your sins' remission,
In the name of Christ; for the promise then
Belongs to you and your children,
And those far off; yea, unto all,
As many as the Lord shall call,
That the blessing of Abraham, says Paul,
Through Christ may on the Gentiles fall.
And he sayeth he it that Christ's you be;
Then Abraham's seed and heirs be ye,
Of the promise made him of old,
Which doth extend to his household.
And Christ sayeth, Let babes come to me,
For even of such God's kingdom be.
Then in his arms he did embrace,
And gave them blessings of his grace.
If that the root we holy see,
Such must the branches also be.
Believers' infants are holy,
As do the scriptures testify.
What madness, then, is found in men,
They for to wrong poor children,
Even their birthright from them to take,
And with the heathen equal make;
That parents should be so unkind,
And have in them so cruel a mind.
Their infants young Christ bids them bring
To him, who is their heavenly King.
But they refuse, and do delay,
And Him therein do disobey.
These persons, also, do not see,
But that rebaptized they must be.
But yet by whom they do not know.
Nor are they able for to show,
If that themselves they should baptize.
Yet then this scruple would arise:
How for true baptism this would stand,
That came from an unbaptized man,
Who no calling had thereto,
Such a divine work for to do?
And, therefore, some think they must stay,
Till new apostles have they may.
And others seek for some new light,
To guide them in this, their dark night.
But some, more bold, refuse to stay,
And think that any do it may.
Then at some waters, being stripped,
By some of themselves they're new dipped.
And this they think better to be,
Than by a holy ministry.
The next that come into our view
Are a horrid and accursed crew.
I tremble of them for to think,
And wish their names may rot and stink.
I hope that we shall never see
Such in our land nourished to be,
That should bring in such heresy,
And most abhorred blasphemy,
And openly it to defend,
And for it strongly to contend,
And that by men of no mean place.
To their dishonor and disgrace,
They do affirm that there is no such thing
As three persons in one being.
And of the holy Trinity
They do speak most blasphemously,
And it an opinion call,
To be most chasfie and carnal.
Yea, they affirm it for to be
A myst'ry of iniquity,
And say it is most gross and absurd.
But who will not abhor their word?
Also, they say they cannot see,
Anything above reason to be.
As if all divine mystery
Should within their dark reason lie.
When as, perhaps, they cannot see
Such things in nature as clear be,
Through ignorance that is in them,
And yet are known to other men.
But these men, they are grown so high,
As they'll near give the Lord the lie,
Who sayeth when the wind doth blow.
From whence it comes thou dost not know,
And it is far above thy skill,
To know whither that pass it will.
Neither is it known unto ye
How that the clouds they balanced be.
Nor yet canst thou, if thou would,
By searching fully, find out God.
For the Almighty's perfection
Is far higher than thy reason.
But lo, herein you may behold
These men's errors are many fold.
For should there not three persons be
In the most holy Trinity,
Then Christ could not the second be,
And so lose his divinity.
The father, then, should have no son,
Nor could they be said to be one,
Nor he to be equal with God-
For found to be robbery that would-
Nor could we him creator call,
Nor truly say he hath made all,
Both things in heaven and earth,
That have being, or do draw breath,
Things invisible, or what we see,
Even all things made by him to be;
And that before all things he was,
And they by him consistence has;
And that all things made for him are,
Which now remain, or ever were.
These things cannot to any agree
But him that's God, as we may see.
But their doctrine would us bereave
Of Christ, if we should it receive,
And the gospel a babel make,
And our salvation from us take.
Then our redemption would be void;
Our faith and hope would be destroyed.
For if Christ was but a mere man,
How could his blood then save us can?
But let these proud Arians go,
And all that do adhere thereto,
Samosatensis, with his crew,
And all our Socinians new.
For God's most holy truth will stand,
When all errors shall then be damned;
And his Godhead shall then prevail,
Against all those that it assail;
And he will triumph gloriously,
When they shall lie in infamy.
That our faith may confirmed be,
Let us some other scriptures see,
That of this truth may give us ground,
Our faith therein firmly to found.
There's three in heaven that bear record,
The Father, Spirit, and the Word.
And all these three they are but one,
As sayeth the holy apostle John.
A plainer proof there cannot be
Of the most holy Trinity.
John saw the spirit come down upon,
And heard the voice, 'Thou art my son,'
When the Father sent, sent from above,
His spirit on him, like a dove.
So here we find the holy three,
The Father, Son and Spirit to be.
The Word was God, as scriptures tell,
And was made flesh did with us dwell.
And His glory, then, men did see,
The Father's only begotten Son to be.
He that is the Word eternal,
The world's light, that lighteneth all.
The first and last, also, is he,
Which is, and was, and ever shall be,
The alpha and omega, Revelation 1.8
The great and holy Jehovah,
The king of kings, and Lord is he,
Who only has immortality.
All potentates he doth excell,
And in that glorious doth dwell,
Which none are able for to see,
Nor any ever so shall be.
God in the flesh man felt was he,
Of godliness the great mystery.
Cease! Ye wretches are thus base,
Christ's magistry for to deface.
England, it was thy blemish then,
To have some such Parliament men.
The Arminians, next, may take place,
Sprung from the Pelagian race,
Or half papists you may them call;
And oftentimes to them they fall.
To kindle coals they do well know,
As Jesuits the same do blow,
In any state afires to raise,
Which is not easy to appease.
Which in Holland was well known,
When they were almost overthrown
By their so cunning policy,
Cloaked with their divinity.
You need not marvel why such men
Was by our bishops favored then,
And advanced to dignity,
When better men were passed by.
They knew that these men they could mould,
And with their ends comply they would.
To Jesuits they're near akin,
For what you will employ them in.
Twixt both religions they do stand,
And they can play on either hand.
They hold man's nature not so ill,
But to do good lies in his will;
Also that men elected been
For some good thing in them foreseen;
And none predestinated be,
But only conditionally,
And assurance they have none at all,
But quite from grace away may fall.
And though they carry a fair face,
They are enemies to God's grace,
And too much ascribe unto man,
That his salvation further can.
To those only they are best friends,
That most do suit with their own ends.
And their parts they will always take,
Which most for their advantage make.
But we will leave them as they be,
Mourning for episcopacy.
The popish party are much crossed,
And many ways their hopes have lost.
Their plots so well they did contrive,
As now they thought sure they should thrive.
Their hopes in England high were grown,
Far more than openly was known,
And they had got so good a hold,
As made them confident and bold.
Ireland, they thought, had now been sure,
And of the same they were secure,
Seeing their plots so well had wrought,
And all suited unto their thought.
And if Scotland would not submit
Unto their ends, as was thought fit,
They doubted not them for to quell,
And by force them for to compell.
But their devices, old and new,
God's mighty pow'r soon overthrew,
And made it to be understood,
That he'll avenge innocent blood.
Of these here much more I might say,
For they are working every way,
In states divisions for to make,
Advantage thereby for to take.
Like raging sea they cannot rest,
But others' peace they will molest.
But all in vain their strength they spend,
For God will still his church defend.
Their principles are known to all;
I now with them not meddle shall,
But leave them, to receive their doom,
Together with their mother Rome.
I wish our nation would be wise,
And be ware of their policies
And their divisions to compose,
That they be not made worse by those.
For it is the Jesuits' desire
To keep the state still on a fire;
And while they in contention burn,
To work out something for their turn.
Of our bishops I need not tell.
From lofty place have they fell.
Their lordly pow'r was soon cast down,
And all their greatness overthrown.
And if you'll seek the reason why,
It was their pride and tyranny.
It was too much, even long before,
But now it was augmented more.
More innovations they brought in
And nearer Rome they would us bring.
New ceremonies they'll impose.
The table with rails they'll enclose,
Or else as altars make them be-
Where English mass you soon might see-
Unto which you must curtsy low,
Your duty else you'll be made to know.
And if you'll not hereto obey,
It's best for you to get away.
In vain it is for to contend,
If you 'gainst them herein offend.
New canons, also, they did make,
Which as binding rules all should take.
The Book for Sports they caused to be read,
And the sabbath thereby profaned
And all such as would not do so,
From their places they were put fro,
Or else they straight did them suspend,
Till they complied with their end.
Best ministers they did silence,
Which made so many go from thence.
And piety did then decay,
When as the godly went away.
And others such have come in place
As was to religion's disgrace.
Yet not herewith being content,
A war 'gainst Scotland did foment,
Because that they could it not brook,
To receive their new-service book.
And twelve of them, amongst the rest,
Against Parliament did protest,
Which first on them their knees did bring,
And after; th'house did out them fling.
Episcopacy now is dead,
With little Laud, that was their head.
And whether they again shall rise,
You for to tell I am not so wise.
But if they do, they will be but poor.
Their great livings they will get no more,
For they are got into such hands
As sometimes was our abbey lands.
The fate of Rome in them we see,
For they wear branches of that tree,
And the time draws near, as some do think,
When as Rome shall be made to drink
Of the bitter cup for her prepared;
When she shall receive her reward,
For all her great idolatry,
And her filthy iniquity,
And also for her guilt of blood,
Which she hath shed like a great flood.
Her cruelty hath been so great,
As none is able to repeat.
Her torments, then, will be the more,
When burnt with fire shall be this whore.
The Presbyterians are the next,
Who in these troubles have been vexed
That they could not fulfill their will,
And have their ways established still.
For they had brought things very near,
And it was confirmed for three year.
But they drove on so furiously,
As made them for to miscarry.
For if they could have been content,
When the state's favor with them went,
Their brethren might have lived free,
Who with them did, in the main, agree.
Much mischief, then might have been stayed.
And great heart burning have been 'llayed
The wars had sooner been composed,
And all things would have better closed.
But their spirits were grown so high,
As all must fall for Presbytery.
And the Scots with them ran a strain,
As caused the wars to begin again.
And how they'll end yet no man knows,
For strange new trouble daily grows.
Ho! how much blood hath there been shed!
Whole counties have been ruined!
What villainies committed been,
And cruelty hath there been seen!
What mighty spoil and plunderings!
What horrid acts and ravishings!
How many have been left naked?
How many starved for want of bread?
And many have been killed with grief,
Finding no comfort nor relief.
But ho, there is none who able are
All these miseries for to declare;
And if they could, they had better die,
And in oblivion let them lie.
The Scots herein have done their part,
And just it is they all so smart.
For by their pride and falsity,
They have increased our misery.
But seeing Presbytery is new
Here in England, let us it view,
And look upon this lofty frame,
The better to judge of the same.
The parishes, even as they stand
Divided, throughout all the land,
They'll take as churches for to be,
In which they'll set a presbyt'ry.
Then sundry of these must combine,
As they in nearness do confine;
And being they consociate,
Are fit for a classical state.
A classis then's established,
As by direction they are led;
To which others their matters bring,
To be ordered in any thing.
Here ministers they are ordained,
And from hence are to be obtained.
And causes are here to be heard,
And persons to be censured,
And many things of the like kind,
As elsewhere you will more largely find.
Then provinces divided be,
Even like to an archdeaconry,
In which the greater synod sit,
All higher matters for to fit.
And unto these all may appeal,
Their differences for to heal.
And these, according to their mind,
Rectify what amiss they find
In that which the classes have done.
And all such acts are made as none.
The next courts that in order fall
Are the synods national,
Which is a great tribunal high,
And the matters of the rest may try.
What's done before they may rescind,
If anything therein they find,
Which to their minds do not agree,
Though it of a high nature be.
The next, which is highest of all,
From which there is no appeal,
Is the great general council,
The highest church which you may tell,
If the rest have done you wrong.
But ere you'll be helped, 'twill be long.
Now thus you see this building high,
And all the parts as they do lie,
What standing courts are in the same,
And how they're ranked in this frame.
First, there is the consistory;
Second, classes; are more high;
Thirdly, synods, provincially;
Fourthly, then, the national;
The fifth, as being most supreme,
A general council over them.
Thus in this fabric you may see
A fair and stately hierarchy.
And if on these courts you'll attend,
Your time, your means, your life may spend,
Ere that your causes you shall see,
After much suit, well ended be.
For the richer and high will scorn
By you for to be overborne.
They'll still appeal unto the last,
And all you have will make you waste.
And the higher your causes go,
The less thereof the courts will know.
If any ask whence it had rise,
I needs must say it's man's device.
Though they will say the scriptures are clear,
And if you'll look, you'll find it there.
But it is more than I can see,
Though I have looked diligently.
So many courts, of such a kind,
I nowhere in the scriptures find.
Nor so many presbyteries,
Of such differing sorts and size,
One over another to be set,
I can nowhere find out as yet.
Neither will you, if you do look,
Even all over God's holy book.
No names nor titles you'll there see,
That with such courts and powers will 'gree.
Classes, synods, councils general
I find therein not named at all,
Nor rules how they are governed,
Nor by whom they should be called.
With popish frame they will best agree,
And next with episcopacy.
From Rome's empire they had their mold;
The image thereof they still do hold.
So they run but a circle round,
And, in effect, are where first found.
Herein they rush on Roman rocks;
In other things they are orthodox,
And with the best may ranked be,
For sound doctrine and purity.
Ho, that there should be such a rent,
Only for points of government,
But lo, they will you further tell
That they follow the example
Of the best reformed churches
That are now in these our ages.
But what then, though so it should be?
They fall short of antiquity,
And that pattern the scriptures show,
Even unto which all men should bow.
Though it in some things ancient be,
As Reverend Cotton lets us see,
Yet no sins thereof do appear,
Till after Christ three hundred year.
Nor can it more ancient be
Than human episcopacy,
As he and Beza doth it call,
And with us lately had its fall.
Reason to see I am not so wise,
Why the one should fall and the other rise,
Unless the same does best agree
With the states, or human prudence.
But the reformed, however they,
And the Scotch, and ours from Belgia,
Not any there they do compel,
Though in the parish they do dwell.
Nor any there admitted be,
Into their church society,
But such as freely seek the same,
And their faith profess in Christ's name.
Not one in ten are joined there,
But all they do make members here.
And, also, they there do take care,
That none but such as members are
Do unto the Lord's table come,
And do receive a token from.
Neither are these courts thought to be,
By some, of that necessity,
Nor, though they might, do seek for all.
Geneva rests in the classical.
Ho, not your wings, soar not so high,
But with your brethren do comply.
Let fall your plumes, and lowly be,
And with your brethren do agree.
Why should you not? They it desire,
And for to quench contentious fire.
For with you they can live in peace,
That love and truth may still increase.
In fundamentals you agree,
And differ most in presbytery,
Which yet you may so moderate,
As love it need not dissipate.
But as true churches both may be,
Living in sweet society,
And, in the main, communion hold,
To both your comforts many fold.
Your common force then you may turn
'Gainst those that at the gospel spurn.
Let not Ephraim Judah envy,
Nor any hatred twixt them lie,
But on the Philistines both fall,
Until they have routed them all.
Then all these errors, now thick grown,
Will be destroyed and beaten down.
You'll see them wither and decay,
Until they languish quite away.
Lay aside, therefore, your debate,
And be conjoined in such a state,
That with joint force you may oppose
All such errors as now are rose,
And all such as do them maintain,
That truth may rise and spring again,
As our land may flourish more
Than ever it has done before.
Ho! What happiness would it be,
For us such blessed fruits to see.
The papists, then, would lose their hope,
And Jesuits would lose their scope,
Their mischief here further to spread;
They would be kept in awe and dread.
Episcopacy might lie in grave,
And never resurrection have;
And perish would their memory,
And so in oblivion lie.
Then proud Arminians could make
No more advantage of the state.
Either whole papists they would be,
Or leave their tenets you should see.
The Arians would be suppressed,
Socinus and that cursed nest,
With all that unto them adhere,
No more in public to appear.
The Anabaptists would decay,
And their number wither away.
Their fundamentals are not sound;
Therefore the truth will them confound.
Seekers, Quakers and Levelers,
With all the rest of such dreamers,
Quickly to vanish you would find,
As does the smoke before the wind.
The obscene Ranters would be brought,
And all their villainies, to nought.
These wicked atheists would be quelled,
And any such as with them held.
The Familists, with their craft deep,
Would into corners be made creep.
Their blasphemies abroad to show
They durst not then as they do now.
And those who do God's word reject,
And ordinances do reject,
And on new fancies do depend,
Shame and reproach would be their end.
And such as learning do despise
Themselves decree they will never be wise.
Their folly and simplicity,
If honest, it may move pity;
But if it be from stubborn pride,
All men may at them deride.
The Antinomians, libertine,
Who godliness do undermine,
And under pretense of free grace
All holiness seek to deface-
These and the rest, where they are known,
By the Word are to be beaten down.
Here's work enough, as you may see,
Which calls you loudly to agree.
Why should you any longer delay?
But one unto another say:
Ho, we have stood aloof too long;
Truth's enemies are grown now strong.
Come, let us reconciled be,
And lay aside all jealousy.
In love and peace let us now close,
And differences so compose,
As that we may in one agree
Against a common enemy,
And all our force and strength may spend,
The common truth for to defend.
This is a work we ought to do,
And called of God are we thereto.
Let us His will therein obey;
Oh let us make no longer stay.
Ho, that you would be brought to see
Even this your duty for to be,
And straight the same for to embrace.
Things soon would be in a better case.
God's hand along would with you go.
When you begin, you'll find it so.
And your endeavors he will bless
With much profit and good success.
And far more comfort you will find,
And satisfaction, to your mind,
Jointly the truth for to defend,
Than in contention for to spend
Your precious time against those
With whom in love you ought to close.
So should God's name then honored be,
And truth prevail would mighty.
The gospel then soon would flourish,
And godliness it would nourish.
The fruits thereof would then be found
Unto God's glory to redound.
And humble hearts it would upraise,
To magnify His name with praise.
The hearts of those who are now sad
Would then be cheered and made glad.
Their drooping minds would then revive,
To see religion for to thrive.
Their hopes encouraged would be,
Such blessed times again to see.
That peace and truth might with us dwell,
And godliness for to excell,
And all these storms be overblown,
Which heavy things to us have shown,
And made our hearts tremble and fear,
The very noise thereof to hear.
Oh what a blessing it would be,
A pleasant calm now for to see,
After these storms and bloody wars,
And healing of our unkind jars.
All godly hearts would then rejoice,
And praise the Lord with a loud voice,
And say, Oh Lord, all praise is thine,
For thou hast made thy face to shine
Upon thy church and people poor,
Thy name blessed be forever more.
And all that love the Lord will say,
Even so, Amen, Hallelujah!
Then the enemies will hang the head,
And all their hopes will be struck dead;
And Truth will give them such a blow,
As their proud courage will lay low.
And they will be forced to see,
That Truth will have the victory,
When they have done the worst they can,
And they shall fall, yet it will stand.
Ho, who would not put to their hand,
For to obtain such blessed ends,
Which would be for the good of all,
And hereby God thus honor shall.
Methink men should themselves deny,
And their own ends and wills lay by.
For to further so great a thing,
That so much good would with it bring,
Surely it will their honor be,
And remain to posterity,
That herein the most forward are
For to express their godly care.
Oh let me then yet once again
Exhort you that are brethren,
That in this work you yet may close,
If God your hearts may so dispose.
You have yet opportunity;
Take hold thereof, lest lost it be.
For you may come to such a state,
To wish you had, when 'tis too late.
You, of the Congregation way,
If your brethren will still delay,
And that their spirits are so high,
That in this work they will not comply;
Be not dismayed, but do go on
In this good work yourselves alone.
God will you help, as you shall see,
Though you of men rejected be.
Yea, let the world fume and fret,
In the end thereby they'll nothing get.
For God His truth will advance high,
When all errors in the dust shall lie.
But keep the truth in purity,
And walk in all humility.
Take heed of pride and contention,
For that will bring destruction.
Seek love and peace and unity,
And preserve faith and sanctity;
And God will bless you with his grace,
And bring you to his resting place.
Pacem sectamini cum omnibus et sancti pacem sectamini cum.
Comments about this poem (On The Various Heresies In Old And New England, With An Appeal To The Presbyterians by William Bradford )
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