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of his life, and such memorials of him and his works as came to my hands; which I shall set down with as much brevity and plainpess as I can, in sincerity to him, and the truth he professed and adorned. Particularly of his labours, writings, sufferings and end, from the time he left off.
But first I must look back a little, to give some additional account of some passages in relation to his answers to the priests about tithes, for the reader's information and satis. faction, which every body may not know ; to prevent misapprehensions in the case.
In the year 1676, he answered a nameless book, miscalled, A friendly Conference between a Minister and a Parishioner of his in. clining to Quakerism ; in a book entitled, Truth prevailing and detecting Error; which he divided into nine chapters, according to the various subjects treated of; wherein that nameless author had endeavoured to misre. present us; the last of which was of tithes
This,' to use his own words, 'pinching the priests in a tender part, the belly, (as Erasmus wittily said Luther did the monks) made them bestir themselves, and lay their heads together, to consider what was to be done.' After divers debates, and much consultation, as he was informed about it, it was at last resolved to answer that first; which though the last chapter in his book, yet having the first and chiefest place in the priests’ minds and affections, the priests' Delilah, the very dar
fing and minion of the clergy, says Thomas Ellwood, the oil by which their lamp is nourished; the pay by which their army is maintained; (as the priest confesses,) and to take away tithes, would be to stop the oil that nourishes the lamp, and force them to disband for want of pay. This being, their chiefest concern, and lying nearest at heart, obtained from them the first and chiefest defence ; which at length came forth by a nameless author also, in a book entitled The right of tithes asserted and proved. To which Thomas Ellwood replied in 1678, in a large book, entitled The Foundation of Tithes Shaken, and the four principal Posts of Divine Institution, Primitive Practice, Voluntary Donation and Positive Laws, on which the nameless author of the said book had set his pretended Right to Tithes, removed. Tracing them all along, from the Patriarchs to the time of the Law; shewing the design and use of them under it; and how they were abolished by the coming and suffering of Christ in the flesh; and how they came to be set up again in the Declension of the Church, by popish kings and councils, in the night of apostacy, for superstitious and idolatrous ends and uses, contràry to the Gospel Dispensation, and consequently not obligatory on Christians, by any Divine Right, to pay in this Gospel Day; answering all the Objections and Pretences, which were brought by that Author for them from the four fore-mentioned Topics.
To this book of Thomas Ellwood's there was a pretended answer put forth two years after, supposed by the author of the former, but nameless still; the author not daring to own his work with his name, (though since called Combers) entitled, The Right of Tithes Re-asserted; wherein the proofs from the four former points, are said to be further strength ened and vindicated; especially from the objections taken out of Mr. Selden's History of Tithes; as if it was chiefly designed against John Selden; Thomas Ellwood's name or book, not being so much as mentioned in the title page, though often in the book, as if it was, however, designed as an answer to him; which, therefore, Thomas Ellwood, though not entitled to it, took in hand to rejoin to, and had begun and made some considerable progress in it, but before he had gone through or finished it, some other occasions falling in his way, (of which hereafter) it was laid by and never finished, though he had wrote, as he told me, near sixty sheets, (though I find but forty-six amongh his papers; but these with his notes and quotations, will make near sixty) for he had collected a vast number of materials out of authors, in order thereto, as appears by his papers, which I have since seen. For thus it was, that some of the priests' party, vaunting that this second book of the priests was not answered, I took occasion once at London, in the year 1692, to speak to him about it; and he told me that the substance of
the priests' arguments in this second book, were answered in his former, The Foundation of Tithes Shaken; only some new quotations which he had brought; and that was what he chiefly designed to deal with the priest about, to examine and clear, by adding some new ones also; but that he never expected to have the last word with the priests about tithes; which their interest lay so much in, that they would never be satisfied, but always be cavilling about some way or other, how little soever it was to the purpose: and some other services taking him off, he laid it by. Which I mention to satisfy any who may question in their minds, why it was never answer. ed, or at least gone through; and this is the reason why I resumed this matter.
• In handling the argument of tithes,' says he, in a paper found among his manuscripts, as an introduction to his said intended answer, 'I write with this disadvantage, that I encoun. ter a numerous party and order of men, with whom interest is far more prevalent than truth; whose profit will not permit them to yield to reason, whose advantage will not suffer them to acknowledge the plainest demonstration; their gain as apparently lying in that which I oppose, as Demetrius' and his fellow craftsmen the silversmiths of Ephesus did, in that which the apostle preached against, Acts xix. 25, 26. Hence is it that they bend all their strength, and employ their utmost force to maintain this point, by which they are main
tained ; and like those shrine-makers of old, they endeavour to carry it by noise and cla.. mour, instead of truth and reason. Nor do they regard what they say, how false soever, or whom they bespatter, how undeservedly soever, in order to the upholding their ador. ed Diana, and enjoying their most beloved Delilah, tithes. My present adversary is not ashamed to say (page one, two) That I, and my fellow quaking speakers, as he reproachfully calls us, have our gain by railing against tithes. A charge so apparently and ridiculously false, that it needs no more than its own malice and folly to detect it. With equal reason might Demetrius have charged St. Paul, that he and his brethren had their gain by impugning the idolatrous worship of Diana.
Sacrilege and idolatry, the priests say, are sins near of kin; but covetonsness and the clergy are perhaps nearer. The great outcry against sacrilege is made for the most part by idolators and false ministers ; who, as they are most greedy and crafty to get, so are they most solicitous and careful to keep, most enraged and clamorous, when they come to lose their unjustly acquired gains. Thus was it with the popish clergy, after they had gulled the people by a religious cheat, of a great part of their substance, they laboured to terrify them by the name of sacrilege, from attempt. ing to recover that which had been so fraudulently gotten from them, and doubtless she