Baxter - Houston-Packer Collection BX5200 .B352 1835 v1

LIFE OF RICHARD BAXTER. 95 salvation. For before, the riotous rabble had boldness enough to make serious godliness a common scorn, and call them all Puritans and Precisians who did not care as little for God, and heaven, and their souls, as they did. Especially, if a man was not fully sat- isfied with their undisciplined, disordered churches, or lay-chancel- lor's excommunications, &c., then, no name was bad enough for him. And the bishop's articles inquiring after such, and - their courts, and the high commission, grievously afflicting those who did but fast and pray together, or go from an ignorant, drunken reader, to hear a godly, able preacher at the next parish, kept . religion, among the vulgar, under either continual reproach or terror; encouraging the rabble to despise it, and revile it, and dis- couraging those that else would own it. Experience telleth us, that it is a lamentable impediment to men's conversion when it is a 'way everywhere spoken against,' and persecuted by superiors, which they must embrace ; and when, at their first approaches, they must go through such dangers and obloquy as is fitter for con- firmed Christians to be exercised with, than unconverted sinners, or young beginners. Therefore, though Cromwell gave liberty to all sects among us, and did not set up any party alone by force, yet this much gave abundant advantage to the gospel, removing the prejudices and the terrors which hindered it; especially con- sidering that godliness had countenance and reputation also, as well as liberty. Whereas before, if it did not appear in all the fetters and formalities of the times, it was the common way to shame and ruin. Hearing sermons abroad, when there were none or worse at home ; fasting and praying 'together ; the strict obser- vation of the Lord's day, and such like, went under the dangerous name of Puritanism, as well as opposing bishops and ceremonies. "I know, in these times, you may meet with men who confi- dently affirm that all religion was then trodden down,,and heresy and schism were the only piety ; but I give warning to all ages, by the experience of this incredible age, that they take heed how they believe any, whoever they be, while they are speaking for the interest of their factions and opinions, against those that were their real or supposed adversaries. "For my part, I bless God who gaveme, even under an usurper whom I opposed, such liberty and advantage to, preach his gospel with success, as I cannot have under a king to whom Ihave sworn and performed true subjection and obedience ; yea, such as no age, since the gospel came into this land, did before possess, as far as I can learn from history." " I shall add this much more, for the sake of posterity, that as much as I have said and written against licentiousness in religion, and for the magistrates' power in it ; and though I think that land most happy whose rulers use their au-