EXHORTATION BY THE WESTMINSTER
IF the power of religion or solid reason, if loyalty to the king and piety to their native country, or love to themselves and natural affection to their posterity, if the example of men touched with a deep sense of all these, or extraordinary success from God thereupon, can awaken an embroiled, bleeding remnant to embrace the sovereign and only means of their recovery, there can be no doubt but this solemn league and covenant will find, wheresoever it shall be tendered, a people ready to entertain it with all cheerfulness and duty.
And were it not commended to the kingdom by the concurrent encouragement of the honourable Houses of Parliament, the Assembly of Divines, the renowned city of London, multitudes of other persons of eminent rank and quality in this nation, and the whole body of Scotland, who have all willingly sworn and subscribed it, with rejoicing at the oath, so graciously seconded from heaven already by blasting the counsels, and breaking the power of the enemy more than ever; yet it goeth forth in its own strength, with such convincing evidence of equity, truth, and righteousness, as may raise in all (not wilfully ignorant, or miserably seduced) inflamed affections to join with their brethren in this happy bond, for putting an end to the present miseries, and for saving of both king and kingdom from utter ruin, now so strongly and openly laboured by the popish faction, and such as have been bewitched and besotted by that viperous and bloody generation.
For what is there almost in this covenant, which was not for substance either expressed, or manifestly included in that solemn protestation of May 5th, 1641, wherein the whole kingdom stands engaged until this day? The sinful neglect whereof doth (as we may justly fear) open one floodgate the more to let in all these calamities upon the kingdom, and cast upon it a necessity of renewing covenant, and of entering into this.
If it be said, the extirpation of prelacy, to wit, the whole hierarchical government (standing, as yet, by the known laws of the kingdom) is new and unwarrantable: this will appear to all impartial understandings, (tho' new) to be not only warrantable, but necessary; if they consider (to omit what some say, that this government was never formally established by any laws of this kingdom at all) that the very life and soul thereof is already taken from it by an act passed in this present parliament, so as (like Jezebel's carcass of which no more was left but the skull, the feet, and the palms of her hands) nothing of jurisdiction remains, but what is precarious in them, and voluntary in those who submit unto them: that their whole government is at best but a human constitution, and such as is found and adjudged by both houses of parliament, (in which the judgment of the whole kingdom is involved and declared) not only very prejudicial to the civil state, but a great hindrance also to the perfect reformation of religion. Yea, who knoweth it not to be too much an enemy thereunto, and destructive to the power of godliness, and pure administration of the ordinances of Christ? Which moved the well-affected, almost throughout this kingdom, long since to petition this parliament (as hath been desired before, even in the reign of queen Elizabeth, and of king James) for a total abolition of the same. Nor is any man hereby bound to offer any violence to their persons, but only in his place and calling, to endeavour their extirpation in a lawful way.
And as for those clergymen, who pretend that they (above all others) cannot covenant to extirpate that government, because they have (as they say) taken a solemn oath to obey the bishops, in licitis et honestis: they can tell, if they please, that they that have sworn obedience to the laws of the land, are not thereby prohibited from endeavouring by all lawful means the abolition of those laws, when they prove inconvenient or mischievous. And if yet there should any oath be found, into which any ministers or others have entered, not warranted by the laws of God and the land, in this case they must teach themselves and others, that such oaths call for repentance, not pertinacity in them.
If it be pleaded, That this covenant crosseth the oaths of supremacy and allegiance; there can be nothing further from truth; for, this covenant binds all and more strongly engageth them to "preserve and defend the king's majesty's person, and authority, in the preservation and defence of the true religion and liberties of the kingdoms."
That scruple, That this is done without the king's consent, will soon be removed, if it be remembered, that the protestation of the fifth of May, before-mentioned, was in the same manner voted and executed by both houses, and after (by order of one house alone) sent abroad to all the kingdom, his majesty not excepting against it, or giving any stop to it, albeit he was resident in person at Whitehall.
Thus Ezra and Nehemiah (Ezra 10. Neh. 9.) drew all the people into a covenant without any special commission from the Persian monarchs (then their sovereigns) so to do, albeit they were not free subjects, but vassals, and one of them the servant of Artaxerxes, then by conquest king of Judah also.
Nor hath this doctrine or practice been deemed seditious or unwarrantable by the princes, that have sat upon the English throne, but justified and defended by Queen Elizabeth of blessed memory, with the expense of much treasure and noble blood, in the united provinces of the Netherlands combined not only without, but against the unjust violence of Philip, king of Spain; king James followed her steps, so far as to approve their union, and to enter into a league with them as free states; which is continued by his majesty now reigning, unto this day; who both by his expedition for relief of Rochel in France, and his strict confederacy with the prince of Orange, and the states general, notwithstanding all the importunity of Spain to the contrary, hath set to his seal that all that had been done by his royal ancestors, in maintainance of those who had so engaged and combined themselves, was just and warrantable.
And what had become of the religion, laws, and liberties of our sister nation of Scotland, had they not entered into such a solemn league and covenant at the beginning of the late troubles there? Which course however it was at first, by the popish and prelatic projectors, represented to his majesty, as an offence of the highest nature, justly deserving chastisement by the fury of a puissant army; yet when the matter came afterwards in cool blood to be debated, first by commissioners of both kingdoms, and then in open parliament here, (when all those of either house, who are now engaged at Oxford, were present in parliament, and gave their votes therein) it was found, adjudged and declared by the king in parliament, that our dear brethren of Scotland had done nothing but what became loyal and obedient subjects, and were by act of parliament publicly righted in all the churches of this kingdom, where they had been defamed.
Therefore, however some men, hoodwinked and blinded by the artifices of those Jesuitical engineers, who have long conspired to sacrifice our religion to the idolatry of Rome, our laws, liberties and persons to arbitrary slavery, and our estates to their insatiable avarice, may possibly be deterred and amused with high threats and declarations, flying up and down on the wings of the royal name and countenance, now captivated and prostituted to serve all their lusts, to proclaim all rebels and traitors who take this covenant; yet, let no faithful English heart be afraid to join with our brethren of all the three kingdoms in this solemn league, as sometimes the men of Israel, although under another king, did with the men of Judah, at the invitation of Hezekiah.
What though those tongues set on fire by hell do rail and threaten? That God who was pleased to clear up the innocency of Mordecai and the Jews, against all the malicious aspersions of wicked Haman to his and their sovereign, so as all his plotting produced but this effect, that (Esther 9.) "When the king's commandments and decree drew near to be put in execution, and the enemies of the Jews hoped to have power over them, it was turned to the contrary, and the Jews had rule over them that hated them, and laid hands on such as sought their hurt, so as no man could withstand them;" and that same God, who, but even as yesterday vouchsafed to disperse and scatter those dark clouds and fogs, which overshadowed that loyal and religious kingdom of Scotland, and to make their righteousness to shine as clear as the sun at noon-day, in the very eyes of their greatest enemies, will doubtlessly stand by all those who, with singleness of heart, and a due sense of their own sins, and a necessity of reformation, shall now enter into an everlasting covenant with the Lord, never to be forgotten, to put an end to all those unhappy and unnatural breaches between the king and such as are faithful in the land; causing their "righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations," to the terror and confusion of those men of blood, the confederate enemies of God and the king, who have long combined, and have now raked together the dregs and scum of many kingdoms, to bury all the glory, honour and liberty of this nation in the eternal grave of dishonour and destruction.