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Friday, June 15, 2012

Areopagitica by John Milton online

They, who to states and governors of the Commonwealth direct their
speech, High Court of Parliament, or, wanting such access in a private
condition, write that which they foresee may advance the public good;
I suppose them, as at the beginning of no mean endeavour, not a little
altered and moved inwardly in their minds: some with doubt of what will
be the success, others with fear of what will be the censure; some with
hope, others with confidence of what they have to speak. And me perhaps
each of these dispositions, as the subject was whereon I entered,
may have at other times variously affected; and likely might in these
foremost expressions now also disclose which of them swayed most, but
that the very attempt of this address thus made, and the thought of whom
it hath recourse to, hath got the power within me to a passion, far more
welcome than incidental to a preface.

Which though I stay not to confess ere any ask, I shall be blameless, if
it be no other than the joy and gratulation which it brings to all who
wish and promote their country's liberty; whereof this whole discourse
proposed will be a certain testimony, if not a trophy. For this is not
the liberty which we can hope, that no grievance ever should arise
in the Commonwealth--that let no man in this world expect; but when
complaints are freely heard, deeply considered and speedily reformed,
then is the utmost bound of civil liberty attained that wise men look
for. To which if I now manifest by the very sound of this which I shall
utter, that we are already in good part arrived, and yet from such
a steep disadvantage of tyranny and superstition grounded into our
principles as was beyond the manhood of a Roman recovery, it will be
attributed first, as is most due, to the strong assistance of God our
deliverer, next to your faithful guidance and undaunted wisdom, Lords
and Commons of England. Neither is it in God's esteem the diminution
of his glory, when honourable things are spoken of good men and worthy
magistrates; which if I now first should begin to do, after so fair a
progress of your laudable deeds, and such a long obligement upon the
whole realm to your indefatigable virtues, I might be justly reckoned
among the tardiest, and the unwillingest of them that praise ye.

Nevertheless there being three principal things, without which all
praising is but courtship and flattery: First, when that only is praised
which is solidly worth praise: next, when greatest likelihoods are
brought that such things are truly and really in those persons to whom
they are ascribed: the other, when he who praises, by showing that such
his actual persuasion is of whom he writes, can demonstrate that he
flatters not; the former two of these I have heretofore endeavoured,
rescuing the employment from him who went about to impair your merits
with a trivial and malignant encomium; the latter as belonging chiefly
to mine own acquittal, that whom I so extolled I did not flatter, hath
been reserved opportunely to this occasion.

For he who freely magnifies what hath been nobly done, and fears not to
declare as freely what might be done better, gives ye the best covenant
of his fidelity; and that his loyalest affection and his hope waits on
your proceedings. His highest praising is not flattery, and his plainest
advice is a kind of praising. For though I should affirm and hold by
argument, that it would fare better with truth, with learning and the
Commonwealth, if one of your published Orders, which I should name, were
called in; yet at the same time it could not but much redound to the
lustre of your mild and equal government, whenas private persons are
hereby animated to think ye better pleased with public advice, than
other statists have been delighted heretofore with public flattery. And
men will then see what difference there is between the magnanimity of a
triennial Parliament, and that jealous haughtiness of prelates and cabin
counsellors that usurped of late, whenas they shall observe ye in the
midst of your victories and successes more gently brooking written
exceptions against a voted Order than other courts, which had produced
nothing worth memory but the weak ostentation of wealth, would have
endured the least signified dislike at any sudden proclamation.

If I should thus far presume upon the meek demeanour of your civil and
gentle greatness, Lords and Commons, as what your published Order hath
directly said, that to gainsay, I might defend myself with ease, if any
should accuse me of being new or insolent, did they but know how much
better I find ye esteem it to imitate the old and elegant humanity of
Greece, than the barbaric pride of a Hunnish and Norwegian stateliness.
And out of those ages, to whose polite wisdom and letters we owe that we
are not yet Goths and Jutlanders, I could name him who from his private
house wrote that discourse to the Parliament of Athens, that persuades
them to change the form of democracy which was then established. Such
honour was done in those days to men who professed the study of wisdom
and eloquence, not only in their own country, but in other lands, that
cities and signiories heard them gladly, and with great respect, if they
had aught in public to admonish the state. Thus did Dion Prusaeus, a
stranger and a private orator, counsel the Rhodians against a former
edict; and I abound with other like examples, which to set here would be

But if from the industry of a life wholly dedicated to studious labours,
and those natural endowments haply not the worst for two and fifty
degrees of northern latitude, so much must be derogated, as to count me
not equal to any of those who had this privilege, I would obtain to be
thought not so inferior, as yourselves are superior to the most of them
who received their counsel: and how far you excel them, be assured,
Lords and Commons, there can no greater testimony appear, than when
your prudent spirit acknowledges and obeys the voice of reason from what
quarter soever it be heard speaking; and renders ye as willing to
repeal any Act of your own setting forth, as any set forth by your

If ye be thus resolved, as it were injury to think ye were not, I know
not what should withhold me from presenting ye with a fit instance
wherein to show both that love of truth which ye eminently profess, and
that uprightness of your judgment which is not wont to be partial to
yourselves; by judging over again that Order which ye have ordained to
regulate printing:--that no book, pamphlet, or paper shall be henceforth
printed, unless the same be first approved and licensed by such, or at
least one of such, as shall be thereto appointed. For that part which
preserves justly every man's copy to himself, or provides for the poor,
I touch not, only wish they be not made pretences to abuse and persecute
honest and painful men, who offend not in either of these particulars.
But that other clause of licensing books, which we thought had died with
his brother quadragesimal and matrimonial when the prelates expired, I
shall now attend with such a homily, as shall lay before ye, first the
inventors of it to be those whom ye will be loath to own; next what is
to be thought in general of reading, whatever sort the books be;
and that this Order avails nothing to the suppressing of scandalous,
seditious, and libellous books, which were mainly intended to be
suppressed. Last, that it will be primely to the discouragement of all
learning, and the stop of truth, not only by disexercising and blunting
our abilities in what we know already, but by hindering and cropping
the discovery that might be yet further made both in religious and civil

I deny not, but that it is of greatest concernment in the Church and
Commonwealth, to have a vigilant eye how books demean themselves as well
as men; and thereafter to confine, imprison, and do sharpest justice on
them as malefactors. For books are not absolutely dead things, but do
contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul was whose
progeny they are; nay, they do preserve as in a vial the purest efficacy
and extraction of that living intellect that bred them. I know they
are as lively, and as vigorously productive, as those fabulous dragon's
teeth; and being sown up and down, may chance to spring up armed men.
And yet, on the other hand, unless wariness be used, as good almost kill
a man as kill a good book. Who kills a man kills a reasonable creature,
God's image; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself, kills
the image of God, as it were in the eye. Many a man lives a burden
to the earth; but a good book is the precious life-blood of a master
spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life. 'Tis
true, no age can restore a life, whereof perhaps there is no great loss;
and revolutions of ages do not oft recover the loss of a rejected truth,
for the want of which whole nations fare the worse.

We should be wary therefore what persecution we raise against the living
labours of public men, how we spill that seasoned life of man, preserved
and stored up in books; since we see a kind of homicide may be thus
committed, sometimes a martyrdom, and if it extend to the whole
impression, a kind of massacre; whereof the execution ends not in the
slaying of an elemental life, but strikes at that ethereal and fifth
essence, the breath of reason itself, slays an immortality rather than
a life. But lest I should be condemned of introducing license, while I
oppose licensing, I refuse not the pains to be so much historical,
as will serve to show what hath been done by ancient and famous
commonwealths against this disorder, till the very time that this
project of licensing crept out of the Inquisition, was catched up by our
prelates, and hath caught some of our presbyters.

In Athens, where books and wits were ever busier than in any other part
of Greece, I find but only two sorts of writings which the magistrate
cared to take notice of; those either blasphemous and atheistical, or
libellous. Thus the books of Protagoras were by the judges of Areopagus
commanded to be burnt, and himself banished the territory for a
discourse begun with his confessing not to know WHETHER THERE WERE GODS,
OR WHETHER NOT. And against defaming, it was decreed that none should
be traduced by name, as was the manner of Vetus Comoedia, whereby we may
guess how they censured libelling. And this course was quick enough, as
Cicero writes, to quell both the desperate wits of other atheists,
and the open way of defaming, as the event showed. Of other sects and
opinions, though tending to voluptuousness, and the denying of divine
Providence, they took no heed.

Therefore we do not read that either Epicurus, or that libertine school
of Cyrene, or what the Cynic impudence uttered, was ever questioned
by the laws. Neither is it recorded that the writings of those old
comedians were suppressed, though the acting of them were forbid; and
that Plato commended the reading of Aristophanes, the loosest of them
all, to his royal scholar Dionysius, is commonly known, and may be
excused, if holy Chrysostom, as is reported, nightly studied so much the
same author and had the art to cleanse a scurrilous vehemence into the
style of a rousing sermon.

That other leading city of Greece, Lacedaemon, considering that Lycurgus
their lawgiver was so addicted to elegant learning, as to have been the
first that brought out of Ionia the scattered works of Homer, and sent
the poet Thales from Crete to prepare and mollify the Spartan surliness
with his smooth songs and odes, the better to plant among them law and
civility, it is to be wondered how museless and unbookish they were,
minding nought but the feats of war. There needed no licensing of books
among them, for they disliked all but their own laconic apophthegms, and
took a slight occasion to chase Archilochus out of their city, perhaps
for composing in a higher strain than their own soldierly ballads and
roundels could reach to. Or if it were for his broad verses, they were
not therein so cautious but they were as dissolute in their promiscuous
conversing; whence Euripides affirms in Andromache, that their women
were all unchaste. Thus much may give us light after what sort of books
were prohibited among the Greeks.

The Romans also, for many ages trained up only to a military roughness
resembling most the Lacedaemonian guise, knew of learning little but
what their twelve Tables, and the Pontific College with their augurs
and flamens taught them in religion and law; so unacquainted with other
learning, that when Carneades and Critolaus, with the Stoic Diogenes,
coming ambassadors to Rome, took thereby occasion to give the city a
taste of their philosophy, they were suspected for seducers by no less
a man than Cato the Censor, who moved it in the Senate to dismiss them
speedily, and to banish all such Attic babblers out of Italy. But Scipio
and others of the noblest senators withstood him and his old Sabine
austerity; honoured and admired the men; and the censor himself at
last, in his old age, fell to the study of that whereof before he was
so scrupulous. And yet at the same time Naevius and Plautus, the first
Latin comedians, had filled the city with all the borrowed scenes of
Menander and Philemon. Then began to be considered there also what was
to be done to libellous books and authors; for Naevius was quickly cast
into prison for his unbridled pen, and released by the tribunes upon
his recantation; we read also that libels were burnt, and the makers
punished by Augustus. The like severity, no doubt, was used, if aught
were impiously written against their esteemed gods. Except in these two
points, how the world went in books, the magistrate kept no reckoning.

And therefore Lucretius without impeachment versifies his Epicurism to
Memmius, and had the honour to be set forth the second time by Cicero,
so great a father of the Commonwealth; although himself disputes against
that opinion in his own writings. Nor was the satirical sharpness or
naked plainness of Lucilius, or Catullus, or Flaccus, by any order
prohibited. And for matters of state, the story of Titus Livius, though
it extolled that part which Pompey held, was not therefore suppressed by
Octavius Caesar of the other faction. But that Naso was by him banished
in his old age, for the wanton poems of his youth, was but a mere covert
of state over some secret cause: and besides, the books were neither
banished nor called in. From hence we shall meet with little else but
tyranny in the Roman empire, that we may not marvel, if not so often bad
as good books were silenced. I shall therefore deem to have been large
enough, in producing what among the ancients was punishable to write;
save only which, all other arguments were free to treat on.

By this time the emperors were become Christians, whose discipline in
this point I do not find to have been more severe than what was formerly
in practice. The books of those whom they took to be grand heretics were
examined, refuted, and condemned in the general Councils; and not till
then were prohibited, or burnt, by authority of the emperor. As for the
writings of heathen authors, unless they were plain invectives against
Christianity, as those of Porphyrius and Proclus, they met with no
interdict that can be cited, till about the year 400, in a Carthaginian
Council, wherein bishops themselves were forbid to read the books of
Gentiles, but heresies they might read: while others long before them,
on the contrary, scrupled more the books of heretics than of Gentiles.
And that the primitive Councils and bishops were wont only to declare
what books were not commendable, passing no further, but leaving it to
each one's conscience to read or to lay by, till after the year 800,
is observed already by Padre Paolo, the great unmasker of the Trentine

After which time the Popes of Rome, engrossing what they pleased of
political rule into their own hands, extended their dominion over men's
eyes, as they had before over their judgments, burning and prohibiting
to be read what they fancied not; yet sparing in their censures, and the
books not many which they so dealt with: till Martin V., by his bull,
not only prohibited, but was the first that excommunicated the reading
of heretical books; for about that time Wickliffe and Huss, growing
terrible, were they who first drove the Papal Court to a stricter policy
of prohibiting. Which course Leo X. and his successors followed, until
the Council of Trent and the Spanish Inquisition engendering together
brought forth, or perfected, those Catalogues and expurging Indexes,
that rake through the entrails of many an old good author, with a
violation worse than any could be offered to his tomb. Nor did they stay
in matters heretical, but any subject that was not to their palate,
they either condemned in a Prohibition, or had it straight into the new
purgatory of an index.

To fill up the measure of encroachment, their last invention was to
ordain that no book, pamphlet, or paper should be printed (as if St.
Peter had bequeathed them the keys of the press also out of Paradise)
unless it were approved and licensed under the hands of two or three
glutton friars. For example:

     Let the Chancellor Cini be pleased to see if in this present
     work be contained aught that may withstand the printing.

     VINCENT RABBATTA,  Vicar of Florence.

     I have seen this present work, and find nothing athwart the
     Catholic faith and good manners: in witness whereof I
     have given, etc.

     NICOLO GINI,  Chancellor of Florence.

     Attending the precedent relation, it is allowed that this
     present work of Davanzati may be printed.


     It may be printed, July 15.

     Chancellor of the Holy Office in Florence.

Sure they have a conceit, if he of the bottomless pit had not long since
broke prison, that this quadruple exorcism would bar him down. I fear
their next design will be to get into their custody the licensing
of that which they say Claudius intended, but went not through with.
Vouchsafe to see another of their forms, the Roman stamp:

     Imprimatur, If it seem good to the reverend Master of the
     Holy Palace.

     BELCASTRO,  Vicegerent.

     Imprimatur, Friar Nicolo Rodolphi, Master of the Holy Palace.

Sometimes five Imprimaturs are seen together dialogue-wise in the piazza
of one title-page, complimenting and ducking each to other with their
shaven reverences, whether the author, who stands by in perplexity at
the foot of his epistle, shall to the press or to the sponge. These
are the pretty responsories, these are the dear antiphonies, that so
bewitched of late our prelates and their chaplains with the goodly echo
they made; and besotted us to the gay imitation of a lordly Imprimatur,
one from Lambeth House, another from the west end of Paul's; so apishly
Romanizing, that the word of command still was set down in Latin; as
if the learned grammatical pen that wrote it would cast no ink without
Latin; or perhaps, as they thought, because no vulgar tongue was worthy
to express the pure conceit of an Imprimatur, but rather, as I hope, for
that our English, the language of men ever famous and foremost in the
achievements of liberty, will not easily find servile letters enow to
spell such a dictatory presumption English.

And thus ye have the inventors and the original of book-licensing ripped
up and drawn as lineally as any pedigree. We have it not, that can
be heard of, from any ancient state, or polity or church; nor by any
statute left us by our ancestors elder or later; nor from the modern
custom of any reformed city or church abroad, but from the most
anti-christian council and the most tyrannous inquisition that ever
inquired. Till then books were ever as freely admitted into the world
as any other birth; the issue of the brain was no more stifled than the
issue of the womb: no envious Juno sat cross-legged over the nativity
of any man's intellectual offspring; but if it proved a monster, who
denies, but that it was justly burnt, or sunk into the sea? But that a
book, in worse condition than a peccant soul, should be to stand before
a jury ere it be born to the world, and undergo yet in darkness the
judgment of Radamanth and his colleagues, ere it can pass the ferry
backward into light, was never heard before, till that mysterious
iniquity, provoked and troubled at the first entrance of Reformation,
sought out new limbos and new hells wherein they might include our books
also within the number of their damned. And this was the rare morsel
so officiously snatched up, and so ill-favouredly imitated by our
inquisiturient bishops, and the attendant minorites their chaplains.
That ye like not now these most certain authors of this licensing order,
and that all sinister intention was far distant from your thoughts, when
ye were importuned the passing it, all men who know the integrity of
your actions, and how ye honour truth, will clear ye readily.

But some will say, what though the inventors were bad, the thing for
all that may be good? It may so; yet if that thing be no such deep
invention, but obvious, and easy for any man to light on, and yet best
and wisest commonwealths through all ages and occasions have forborne
to use it, and falsest seducers and oppressors of men were the first who
took it up, and to no other purpose but to obstruct and hinder the first
approach of Reformation; I am of those who believe it will be a harder
alchemy than Lullius ever knew, to sublimate any good use out of such
an invention. Yet this only is what I request to gain from this reason,
that it may be held a dangerous and suspicious fruit, as certainly it
deserves, for the tree that bore it, until I can dissect one by one the
properties it has. But I have first to finish, as was propounded, what
is to be thought in general of reading books, whatever sort they be, and
whether be more the benefit or the harm that thence proceeds.

Not to insist upon the examples of Moses, Daniel, and Paul, who were
skilful in all the learning of the Egyptians, Chaldeans, and Greeks,
which could not probably be without reading their books of all sorts;
in Paul especially, who thought it no defilement to insert into
Holy Scripture the sentences of three Greek poets, and one of them a
tragedian; the question was notwithstanding sometimes controverted among
the primitive doctors, but with great odds on that side which affirmed
it both lawful and profitable; as was then evidently perceived, when
Julian the Apostate and subtlest enemy to our faith made a decree
forbidding Christians the study of heathen learning: for, said he, they
wound us with our own weapons, and with our own arts and sciences they
overcome us. And indeed the Christians were put so to their shifts by
this crafty means, and so much in danger to decline into all ignorance,
that the two Apollinarii were fain, as a man may say, to coin all the
seven liberal sciences out of the Bible, reducing it into divers
forms of orations, poems, dialogues, even to the calculating of a new
Christian grammar. But, saith the historian Socrates, the providence of
God provided better than the industry of Apollinarius and his son, by
taking away that illiterate law with the life of him who devised it. So
great an injury they then held it to be deprived of Hellenic learning;
and thought it a persecution more undermining, and secretly decaying the
Church, than the open cruelty of Decius or Diocletian.

And perhaps it was the same politic drift that the devil whipped St.
Jerome in a lenten dream, for reading Cicero; or else it was a phantasm
bred by the fever which had then seized him. For had an angel been his
discipliner, unless it were for dwelling too much upon Ciceronianisms,
and had chastised the reading, not the vanity, it had been plainly
partial; first to correct him for grave Cicero, and not for scurril
Plautus, whom he confesses to have been reading, not long before; next
to correct him only, and let so many more ancient fathers wax old in
those pleasant and florid studies without the lash of such a tutoring
apparition; insomuch that Basil teaches how some good use may be made
of Margites, a sportful poem, not now extant, writ by Homer; and why not
then of Morgante, an Italian romance much to the same purpose?

But if it be agreed we shall be tried by visions, there is a vision
recorded by Eusebius, far ancienter than this tale of Jerome, to the
nun Eustochium, and, besides, has nothing of a fever in it. Dionysius
Alexandrinus was about the year 240 a person of great name in the Church
for piety and learning, who had wont to avail himself much against
heretics by being conversant in their books; until a certain presbyter
laid it scrupulously to his conscience, how he durst venture himself
among those defiling volumes. The worthy man, loath to give offence,
fell into a new debate with himself what was to be thought; when
suddenly a vision sent from God (it is his own epistle that so avers it)
confirmed him in these words: READ ANY BOOKS WHATEVER COME TO THY HANDS,
To this revelation he assented the sooner, as he confesses, because it
was answerable to that of the Apostle to the Thessalonians, PROVE ALL
THINGS, HOLD FAST THAT WHICH IS GOOD. And he might have added another
remarkable saying of the same author: TO THE PURE, ALL THINGS ARE PURE;
not only meats and drinks, but all kind of knowledge whether of good or
evil; the knowledge cannot defile, nor consequently the books, if the
will and conscience be not defiled.

For books are as meats and viands are; some of good, some of evil
substance; and yet God, in that unapocryphal vision, said without
exception, RISE, PETER, KILL AND EAT, leaving the choice to each man's
discretion. Wholesome meats to a vitiated stomach differ little or
nothing from unwholesome; and best books to a naughty mind are not
unappliable to occasions of evil. Bad meats will scarce breed good
nourishment in the healthiest concoction; but herein the difference is
of bad books, that they to a discreet and judicious reader serve in
many respects to discover, to confute, to forewarn, and to illustrate.
Whereof what better witness can ye expect I should produce, than one of
your own now sitting in Parliament, the chief of learned men reputed in
this land, Mr. Selden; whose volume of natural and national laws proves,
not only by great authorities brought together, but by exquisite reasons
and theorems almost mathematically demonstrative, that all opinions, yea
errors, known, read, and collated, are of main service and assistance
toward the speedy attainment of what is truest. I conceive, therefore,
that when God did enlarge the universal diet of man's body, saving ever
the rules of temperance, he then also, as before, left arbitrary the
dieting and repasting of our minds; as wherein every mature man might
have to exercise his own leading capacity.

How great a virtue is temperance, how much of moment through the whole
life of man! Yet God commits the managing so great a trust, without
particular law or prescription, wholly to the demeanour of every grown
man. And therefore when he himself tabled the Jews from heaven, that
omer, which was every man's daily portion of manna, is computed to have
been more than might have well sufficed the heartiest feeder thrice as
many meals. For those actions which enter into a man, rather than issue
out of him, and therefore defile not, God uses not to captivate under
a perpetual childhood of prescription, but trusts him with the gift
of reason to be his own chooser; there were but little work left for
preaching, if law and compulsion should grow so fast upon those things
which heretofore were governed only by exhortation. Solomon informs us,
that much reading is a weariness to the flesh; but neither he nor other
inspired author tells us that such or such reading is unlawful: yet
certainly had God thought good to limit us herein, it had been much more
expedient to have told us what was unlawful than what was wearisome.
As for the burning of those Ephesian books by St. Paul's converts;
'tis replied the books were magic, the Syriac so renders them. It was
a private act, a voluntary act, and leaves us to a voluntary imitation:
the men in remorse burnt those books which were their own; the
magistrate by this example is not appointed; these men practised the
books, another might perhaps have read them in some sort usefully.

Good and evil we know in the field of this world grow up together almost
inseparably; and the knowledge of good is so involved and interwoven
with the knowledge of evil, and in so many cunning resemblances hardly
to be discerned, that those confused seeds which were imposed upon
Psyche as an incessant labour to cull out, and sort asunder, were not
more intermixed. It was from out the rind of one apple tasted, that the
knowledge of good and evil, as two twins cleaving together, leaped forth
into the world. And perhaps this is that doom which Adam fell into
of knowing good and evil, that is to say of knowing good by evil. As
therefore the state of man now is; what wisdom can there be to choose,
what continence to forbear without the knowledge of evil? He that can
apprehend and consider vice with all her baits and seeming pleasures,
and yet abstain, and yet distinguish, and yet prefer that which is truly
better, he is the true warfaring Christian.

I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and
unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary but slinks out
of the race, where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without
dust and heat. Assuredly we bring not innocence into the world, we bring
impurity much rather; that which purifies us is trial, and trial is by
what is contrary. That virtue therefore which is but a youngling in the
contemplation of evil, and knows not the utmost that vice promises to
her followers, and rejects it, is but a blank virtue, not a pure; her
whiteness is but an excremental whiteness. Which was the reason why our
sage and serious poet Spenser, whom I dare be known to think a better
teacher than Scotus or Aquinas, describing true temperance under the
person of Guion, brings him in with his palmer through the cave of
Mammon, and the bower of earthly bliss, that he might see and know, and
yet abstain. Since therefore the knowledge and survey of vice is in this
world so necessary to the constituting of human virtue, and the scanning
of error to the confirmation of truth, how can we more safely, and with
less danger, scout into the regions of sin and falsity than by reading
all manner of tractates and hearing all manner of reason? And this is
the benefit which may be had of books promiscuously read.

But of the harm that may result hence three kinds are usually reckoned.
First, is feared the infection that may spread; but then all human
learning and controversy in religious points must remove out of the
world, yea the Bible itself; for that ofttimes relates blasphemy not
nicely, it describes the carnal sense of wicked men not unelegantly, it
brings in holiest men passionately murmuring against Providence through
all the arguments of Epicurus: in other great disputes it answers
dubiously and darkly to the common reader. And ask a Talmudist what ails
the modesty of his marginal Keri, that Moses and all the prophets cannot
persuade him to pronounce the textual Chetiv. For these causes we all
know the Bible itself put by the Papist must be next removed, as
Clement of Alexandria, and that Eusebian book of Evangelic preparation,
transmitting our ears through a hoard of heathenish obscenities to
receive the Gospel. Who finds not that Irenaeus, Epiphanius, Jerome, and
others discover more heresies than they well confute, and that oft for
heresy which is the truer opinion?

Nor boots it to say for these, and all the heathen writers of greatest
infection, if it must be thought so, with whom is bound up the life of
human learning, that they writ in an unknown tongue, so long as we are
sure those languages are known as well to the worst of men, who are both
most able and most diligent to instil the poison they suck, first into
the courts of princes, acquainting them with the choicest delights and
criticisms of sin. As perhaps did that Petronius whom Nero called his
Arbiter, the master of his revels; and the notorious ribald of Arezzo,
dreaded and yet dear to the Italian courtiers. I name not him for
posterity's sake, whom Henry VIII. named in merriment his vicar of hell.
By which compendious way all the contagion that foreign books can infuse
will find a passage to the people far easier and shorter than an
Indian voyage, though it could be sailed either by the north of Cataio
eastward, or of Canada westward, while our Spanish licensing gags the
English press never so severely.

But on the other side that infection which is from books of controversy
in religion is more doubtful and dangerous to the learned than to
the ignorant; and yet those books must be permitted untouched by the
licenser. It will be hard to instance where any ignorant man hath been
ever seduced by papistical book in English, unless it were commended and
expounded to him by some of that clergy: and indeed all such tractates,
whether false or true, are as the prophecy of Isaiah was to the eunuch,
not to be UNDERSTOOD WITHOUT A GUIDE. But of our priests and doctors
how many have been corrupted by studying the comments of Jesuits and
Sorbonists, and how fast they could transfuse that corruption into the
people, our experience is both late and sad. It is not forgot, since the
acute and distinct Arminius was perverted merely by the perusing of a
nameless discourse written at Delft, which at first he took in hand to

Seeing, therefore, that those books, and those in great abundance, which
are likeliest to taint both life and doctrine, cannot be suppressed
without the fall of learning and of all ability in disputation, and that
these books of either sort are most and soonest catching to the learned,
from whom to the common people whatever is heretical or dissolute may
quickly be conveyed, and that evil manners are as perfectly learnt
without books a thousand other ways which cannot be stopped, and evil
doctrine not with books can propagate, except a teacher guide, which he
might also do without writing, and so beyond prohibiting, I am not able
to unfold, how this cautelous enterprise of licensing can be exempted
from the number of vain and impossible attempts. And he who were
pleasantly disposed could not well avoid to liken it to the exploit of
that gallant man who thought to pound up the crows by shutting his park

Besides another inconvenience, if learned men be the first receivers out
of books and dispreaders both of vice and error, how shall the licensers
themselves be confided in, unless we can confer upon them, or they
assume to themselves above all others in the land, the grace of
infallibility and uncorruptedness? And again, if it be true that a wise
man, like a good refiner, can gather gold out of the drossiest volume,
and that a fool will be a fool with the best book, yea or without book;
there is no reason that we should deprive a wise man of any advantage
to his wisdom, while we seek to restrain from a fool, that which being
restrained will be no hindrance to his folly. For if there should be so
much exactness always used to keep that from him which is unfit for his
reading, we should in the judgment of Aristotle not only, but of Solomon
and of our Saviour, not vouchsafe him good precepts, and by consequence
not willingly admit him to good books; as being certain that a wise man
will make better use of an idle pamphlet, than a fool will do of sacred

'Tis next alleged we must not expose ourselves to temptations without
necessity, and next to that, not employ our time in vain things. To both
these objections one answer will serve, out of the grounds already laid,
that to all men such books are not temptations, nor vanities, but useful
drugs and materials wherewith to temper and compose effective and strong
medicines, which man's life cannot want. The rest, as children and
childish men, who have not the art to qualify and prepare these working
minerals, well may be exhorted to forbear, but hindered forcibly they
cannot be by all the licensing that Sainted Inquisition could ever yet
contrive. Which is what I promised to deliver next: that this order of
licensing conduces nothing to the end for which it was framed; and hath
almost prevented me by being clear already while thus much hath been
explaining. See the ingenuity of Truth, who, when she gets a free and
willing hand, opens herself faster than the pace of method and discourse
can overtake her.

It was the task which I began with, to show that no nation, or
well-instituted state, if they valued books at all, did ever use this
way of licensing; and it might be answered, that this is a piece of
prudence lately discovered. To which I return, that as it was a thing
slight and obvious to think on, so if it had been difficult to find
out, there wanted not among them long since who suggested such a course;
which they not following, leave us a pattern of their judgment that it
was not the rest knowing, but the not approving, which was the cause of
their not using it.

Plato, a man of high authority, indeed, but least of all for his
Commonwealth, in the book of his Laws, which no city ever yet received,
fed his fancy by making many edicts to his airy burgomasters, which they
who otherwise admire him wish had been rather buried and excused in
the genial cups of an Academic night sitting. By which laws he seems to
tolerate no kind of learning but by unalterable decree, consisting most
of practical traditions, to the attainment whereof a library of smaller
bulk than his own Dialogues would be abundant. And there also enacts,
that no poet should so much as read to any private man what he had
written, until the judges and law-keepers had seen it, and allowed it.
But that Plato meant this law peculiarly to that commonwealth which
he had imagined, and to no other, is evident. Why was he not else a
lawgiver to himself, but a transgressor, and to be expelled by his own
magistrates; both for the wanton epigrams and dialogues which he made,
and his perpetual reading of Sophron Mimus and Aristophanes, books of
grossest infamy, and also for commending the latter of them, though
he were the malicious libeller of his chief friends, to be read by the
tyrant Dionysius, who had little need of such trash to spend his
time on? But that he knew this licensing of poems had reference
and dependence to many other provisos there set down in his fancied
republic, which in this world could have no place: and so neither he
himself, nor any magistrate or city, ever imitated that course, which,
taken apart from those other collateral injunctions, must needs be vain
and fruitless. For if they fell upon one kind of strictness, unless
their care were equal to regulate all other things of like aptness to
corrupt the mind, that single endeavour they knew would be but a
fond labour; to shut and fortify one gate against corruption, and be
necessitated to leave others round about wide open.

If we think to regulate printing, thereby to rectify manners, we must
regulate all recreation and pastimes, all that is delightful to man.
No music must be heard, no song be set or sung, but what is grave and
Doric. There must be licensing dancers, that no gesture, motion, or
deportment be taught our youth but what by their allowance shall be
thought honest; for such Plato was provided of. It will ask more than
the work of twenty licensers to examine all the lutes, the violins, and
the guitars in every house; they must not be suffered to prattle as they
do, but must be licensed what they may say. And who shall silence all
the airs and madrigals that whisper softness in chambers? The windows
also, and the balconies must be thought on; there are shrewd books, with
dangerous frontispieces, set to sale; who shall prohibit them, shall
twenty licensers? The villages also must have their visitors to inquire
what lectures the bagpipe and the rebeck reads, even to the ballatry
and the gamut of every municipal fiddler, for these are the countryman's
Arcadias, and his Monte Mayors.

Next, what more national corruption, for which England hears ill abroad,
than household gluttony: who shall be the rectors of our daily rioting?
And what shall be done to inhibit the multitudes that frequent those
houses where drunkenness is sold and harboured? Our garments also should
be referred to the licensing of some more sober workmasters to see
them cut into a less wanton garb. Who shall regulate all the mixed
conversation of our youth, male and female together, as is the fashion
of this country? Who shall still appoint what shall be discoursed, what
presumed, and no further? Lastly, who shall forbid and separate all idle
resort, all evil company? These things will be, and must be; but how
they shall be least hurtful, how least enticing, herein consists the
grave and governing wisdom of a state.

To sequester out of the world into Atlantic and Utopian polities, which
never can be drawn into use, will not mend our condition; but to ordain
wisely as in this world of evil, in the midst whereof God hath placed
us unavoidably. Nor is it Plato's licensing of books will do this, which
necessarily pulls along with it so many other kinds of licensing, as
will make us all both ridiculous and weary, and yet frustrate; but
those unwritten, or at least unconstraining, laws of virtuous education,
religious and civil nurture, which Plato there mentions as the bonds and
ligaments of the commonwealth, the pillars and the sustainers of every
written statute; these they be which will bear chief sway in such
matters as these, when all licensing will be easily eluded. Impunity and
remissness, for certain, are the bane of a commonwealth; but here the
great art lies, to discern in what the law is to bid restraint and
punishment, and in what things persuasion only is to work.

If every action, which is good or evil in man at ripe years, were to be
under pittance and prescription and compulsion, what were virtue but a
name, what praise could be then due to well-doing, what gramercy to
be sober, just, or continent? Many there be that complain of divine
Providence for suffering Adam to transgress; foolish tongues! When
God gave him reason, he gave him freedom to choose, for reason is but
choosing; he had been else a mere artificial Adam, such an Adam as he is
in the motions. We ourselves esteem not of that obedience, or love, or
gift, which is of force: God therefore left him free, set before him a
provoking object, ever almost in his eyes; herein consisted his merit,
herein the right of his reward, the praise of his abstinence. Wherefore
did he create passions within us, pleasures round about us, but that
these rightly tempered are the very ingredients of virtue?

They are not skilful considerers of human things, who imagine to remove
sin by removing the matter of sin; for, besides that it is a huge heap
increasing under the very act of diminishing, though some part of it may
for a time be withdrawn from some persons, it cannot from all, in such a
universal thing as books are; and when this is done, yet the sin remains
entire. Though ye take from a covetous man all his treasure, he has yet
one jewel left, ye cannot bereave him of his covetousness. Banish all
objects of lust, shut up all youth into the severest discipline that can
be exercised in any hermitage, ye cannot make them chaste, that came not
hither so; such great care and wisdom is required to the right managing
of this point. Suppose we could expel sin by this means; look how much
we thus expel of sin, so much we expel of virtue: for the matter of them
both is the same; remove that, and ye remove them both alike.

This justifies the high providence of God, who, though he command us
temperance, justice, continence, yet pours out before us, even to a
profuseness, all desirable things, and gives us minds that can wander
beyond all limit and satiety. Why should we then affect a rigour
contrary to the manner of God and of nature, by abridging or scanting
those means, which books freely permitted are, both to the trial of
virtue and the exercise of truth? It would be better done, to learn
that the law must needs be frivolous, which goes to restrain things,
uncertainly and yet equally working to good and to evil. And were I the
chooser, a dream of well-doing should be preferred before many times
as much the forcible hindrance of evil-doing. For God sure esteems the
growth and completing of one virtuous person more than the restraint of
ten vicious.

And albeit whatever thing we hear or see, sitting, walking, travelling,
or conversing, may be fitly called our book, and is of the same effect
that writings are, yet grant the thing to be prohibited were only books,
it appears that this Order hitherto is far insufficient to the end
which it intends. Do we not see, not once or oftener, but weekly, that
continued court-libel against the Parliament and City, printed, as the
wet sheets can witness, and dispersed among us, for all that licensing
can do? Yet this is the prime service a man would think, wherein this
Order should give proof of itself. If it were executed, you'll say.
But certain, if execution be remiss or blindfold now, and in this
particular, what will it be hereafter and in other books? If then the
Order shall not be vain and frustrate, behold a new labour, Lords and
Commons, ye must repeal and proscribe all scandalous and unlicensed
books already printed and divulged; after ye have drawn them up into a
list, that all may know which are condemned, and which not; and ordain
that no foreign books be delivered out of custody, till they have
been read over. This office will require the whole time of not a few
overseers, and those no vulgar men. There be also books which are partly
useful and excellent, partly culpable and pernicious; this work will ask
as many more officials, to make expurgations and expunctions, that the
commonwealth of learning be not damnified. In fine, when the multitude
of books increase upon their hands, ye must be fain to catalogue all
those printers who are found frequently offending, and forbid the
importation of their whole suspected typography. In a word, that this
your Order may be exact and not deficient, ye must reform it perfectly
according to the model of Trent and Seville, which I know ye abhor to

Yet though ye should condescend to this, which God forbid, the Order
still would be but fruitless and defective to that end whereto ye meant
it. If to prevent sects and schisms, who is so unread or so uncatechized
in story, that hath not heard of many sects refusing books as a
hindrance, and preserving their doctrine unmixed for many ages, only by
unwritten traditions? The Christian faith, for that was once a schism,
is not unknown to have spread all over Asia, ere any Gospel or Epistle
was seen in writing. If the amendment of manners be aimed at, look into
Italy and Spain, whether those places be one scruple the better, the
honester, the wiser, the chaster, since all the inquisitional rigour
that hath been executed upon books.

Another reason, whereby to make it plain that this Order will miss
the end it seeks, consider by the quality which ought to be in every
licenser. It cannot be denied but that he who is made judge to sit upon
the birth or death of books, whether they may be wafted into this world
or not, had need to be a man above the common measure, both studious,
learned, and judicious; there may be else no mean mistakes in the
censure of what is passable or not; which is also no mean injury. If
he be of such worth as behooves him, there cannot be a more tedious and
unpleasing journey-work, a greater loss of time levied upon his head,
than to be made the perpetual reader of unchosen books and pamphlets,
ofttimes huge volumes. There is no book that is acceptable unless at
certain seasons; but to be enjoined the reading of that at all times,
and in a hand scarce legible, whereof three pages would not down at any
time in the fairest print, is an imposition which I cannot believe
how he that values time and his own studies, or is but of a sensible
nostril, should be able to endure. In this one thing I crave leave of
the present licensers to be pardoned for so thinking; who doubtless took
this office up, looking on it through their obedience to the Parliament,
whose command perhaps made all things seem easy and unlaborious to
them; but that this short trial hath wearied them out already, their
own expressions and excuses to them who make so many journeys to solicit
their licence are testimony enough. Seeing therefore those who now
possess the employment by all evident signs wish themselves well rid of
it; and that no man of worth, none that is not a plain unthrift of his
own hours, is ever likely to succeed them, except he mean to put himself
to the salary of a press corrector; we may easily foresee what kind of
licensers we are to expect hereafter, either ignorant, imperious, and
remiss, or basely pecuniary. This is what I had to show, wherein this
Order cannot conduce to that end whereof it bears the intention.

I lastly proceed from the no good it can do, to the manifest hurt it
causes, in being first the greatest discouragement and affront that can
be offered to learning, and to learned men.

It was the complaint and lamentation of prelates, upon every least
breath of a motion to remove pluralities, and distribute more equally
Church revenues, that then all learning would be for ever dashed and
discouraged. But as for that opinion, I never found cause to think that
the tenth part of learning stood or fell with the clergy: nor could I
ever but hold it for a sordid and unworthy speech of any churchman
who had a competency left him. If therefore ye be loath to dishearten
utterly and discontent, not the mercenary crew of false pretenders to
learning, but the free and ingenuous sort of such as evidently were born
to study, and love learning for itself, not for lucre or any other end
but the service of God and of truth, and perhaps that lasting fame and
perpetuity of praise which God and good men have consented shall be the
reward of those whose published labours advance the good of mankind;
then know that, so far to distrust the judgment and the honesty of one
who hath but a common repute in learning, and never yet offended, as not
to count him fit to print his mind without a tutor and examiner, lest
he should drop a schism, or something of corruption, is the greatest
displeasure and indignity to a free and knowing spirit that can be put
upon him.

What advantage is it to be a man, over it is to be a boy at school,
if we have only escaped the ferula to come under the fescue of an
Imprimatur; if serious and elaborate writings, as if they were no more
than the theme of a grammar-lad under his pedagogue, must not be uttered
without the cursory eyes of a temporizing and extemporizing licenser? He
who is not trusted with his own actions, his drift not being known to
be evil, and standing to the hazard of law and penalty, has no great
argument to think himself reputed in the Commonwealth wherein he was
born for other than a fool or a foreigner. When a man writes to the
world, he summons up all his reason and deliberation to assist him; he
searches, meditates, is industrious, and likely consults and confers
with his judicious friends; after all which done he takes himself to be
informed in what he writes, as well as any that writ before him. If, in
this the most consummate act of his fidelity and ripeness, no years, no
industry, no former proof of his abilities can bring him to that state
of maturity, as not to be still mistrusted and suspected, unless he
carry all his considerate diligence, all his midnight watchings and
expense of Palladian oil, to the hasty view of an unleisured licenser,
perhaps much his younger, perhaps his inferior in judgment, perhaps one
who never knew the labour of bookwriting, and if he be not repulsed or
slighted, must appear in print like a puny with his guardian, and his
censor's hand on the back of his title to be his bail and surety that he
is no idiot or seducer, it cannot be but a dishonour and derogation to
the author, to the book, to the privilege and dignity of learning.

And what if the author shall be one so copious of fancy, as to have many
things well worth the adding come into his mind after licensing, while
the book is yet under the press, which not seldom happens to the best
and diligentest writers; and that perhaps a dozen times in one book? The
printer dares not go beyond his licensed copy; so often then must the
author trudge to his leave-giver, that those his new insertions may be
viewed; and many a jaunt will be made, ere that licenser, for it must be
the same man, can either be found, or found at leisure; meanwhile either
the press must stand still, which is no small damage, or the author lose
his accuratest thoughts, and send the book forth worse than he had made
it, which to a diligent writer is the greatest melancholy and vexation
that can befall.

And how can a man teach with authority, which is the life of teaching;
how can he be a doctor in his book as he ought to be, or else had better
be silent, whenas all he teaches, all he delivers, is but under the
tuition, under the correction of his patriarchal licenser to blot or
alter what precisely accords not with the hidebound humour which he
calls his judgment? When every acute reader, upon the first sight of a
pedantic licence, will be ready with these like words to ding the book
a quoit's distance from him: I hate a pupil teacher, I endure not an
instructor that comes to me under the wardship of an overseeing fist. I
know nothing of the licenser, but that I have his own hand here for his
arrogance; who shall warrant me his judgment? The State, sir, replies
the stationer, but has a quick return: The State shall be my governors,
but not my critics; they may be mistaken in the choice of a licenser,
as easily as this licenser may be mistaken in an author; this is
some common stuff; and he might add from Sir Francis Bacon, THAT
licenser should happen to be judicious more than ordinary, which will
be a great jeopardy of the next succession, yet his very office and his
commission enjoins him to let pass nothing but what is vulgarly received

Nay, which is more lamentable, if the work of any deceased author,
though never so famous in his lifetime and even to this day, come to
their hands for licence to be printed, or reprinted, if there be found
in his book one sentence of a venturous edge, uttered in the height
of zeal (and who knows whether it might not be the dictate of a divine
spirit?) yet not suiting with every low decrepit humour of their own,
though it were Knox himself, the reformer of a kingdom, that spake it,
they will not pardon him their dash: the sense of that great man shall
to all posterity be lost, for the fearfulness or the presumptuous
rashness of a perfunctory licenser. And to what an author this violence
hath been lately done, and in what book of greatest consequence to be
faithfully published, I could now instance, but shall forbear till a
more convenient season.

Yet if these things be not resented seriously and timely by them who
have the remedy in their power, but that such iron-moulds as these shall
have authority to gnaw out the choicest periods of exquisitest books,
and to commit such a treacherous fraud against the orphan remainders of
worthiest men after death, the more sorrow will belong to that hapless
race of men, whose misfortune it is to have understanding. Henceforth
let no man care to learn, or care to be more than worldly-wise; for
certainly in higher matters to be ignorant and slothful, to be a common
steadfast dunce, will be the only pleasant life, and only in request.

And it is a particular disesteem of every knowing person alive, and most
injurious to the written labours and monuments of the dead, so to me it
seems an undervaluing and vilifying of the whole nation. I cannot set
so light by all the invention, the art, the wit, the grave and solid
judgment which is in England, as that it can be comprehended in any
twenty capacities how good soever, much less that it should not pass
except their superintendence be over it, except it be sifted and
strained with their strainers, that it should be uncurrent without
their manual stamp. Truth and understanding are not such wares as to be
monopolized and traded in by tickets and statutes and standards. We must
not think to make a staple commodity of all the knowledge in the land,
to mark and licence it like our broadcloth and our woolpacks. What is it
but a servitude like that imposed by the Philistines, not to be allowed
the sharpening of our own axes and coulters, but we must repair from
all quarters to twenty licensing forges? Had anyone written and divulged
erroneous things and scandalous to honest life, misusing and forfeiting
the esteem had of his reason among men, if after conviction this only
censure were adjudged him that he should never henceforth write but
what were first examined by an appointed officer, whose hand should be
annexed to pass his credit for him that now he might be safely read; it
could not be apprehended less than a disgraceful punishment. Whence to
include the whole nation, and those that never yet thus offended, under
such a diffident and suspectful prohibition, may plainly be understood
what a disparagement it is. So much the more, whenas debtors and
delinquents may walk abroad without a keeper, but unoffensive books must
not stir forth without a visible jailer in their title.

Nor is it to the common people less than a reproach; for if we be
so jealous over them, as that we dare not trust them with an English
pamphlet, what do we but censure them for a giddy, vicious, and
ungrounded people; in such a sick and weak state of faith and
discretion, as to be able to take nothing down but through the pipe of a
licenser? That this is care or love of them, we cannot pretend, whenas,
in those popish places where the laity are most hated and despised, the
same strictness is used over them. Wisdom we cannot call it, because
it stops but one breach of licence, nor that neither: whenas those
corruptions, which it seeks to prevent, break in faster at other doors
which cannot be shut.

And in conclusion it reflects to the disrepute of our ministers also, of
whose labours we should hope better, and of the proficiency which their
flock reaps by them, than that after all this light of the Gospel which
is, and is to be, and all this continual preaching, they should still be
frequented with such an unprincipled, unedified and laic rabble, as
that the whiff of every new pamphlet should stagger them out of their
catechism and Christian walking. This may have much reason to discourage
the ministers when such a low conceit is had of all their exhortations,
and the benefiting of their hearers, as that they are not thought fit
to be turned loose to three sheets of paper without a licenser; that all
the sermons, all the lectures preached, printed, vented in such numbers,
and such volumes, as have now well nigh made all other books unsaleable,
should not be armour enough against one single Enchiridion, without the
castle of St. Angelo of an Imprimatur.

And lest some should persuade ye, Lords and Commons, that these
arguments of learned men's discouragement at this your Order are mere
flourishes, and not real, I could recount what I have seen and heard in
other countries, where this kind of inquisition tyrannizes; when I have
sat among their learned men, for that honour I had, and been counted
happy to be born in such a place of philosophic freedom, as they
supposed England was, while themselves did nothing but bemoan the
servile condition into which learning amongst them was brought; that
this was it which had damped the glory of Italian wits; that nothing had
been there written now these many years but flattery and fustian.
There it was that I found and visited the famous Galileo, grown old, a
prisoner to the Inquisition, for thinking in astronomy otherwise than
the Franciscan and Dominican licensers thought. And though I knew
that England then was groaning loudest under the prelatical yoke,
nevertheless I took it as a pledge of future happiness, that other
nations were so persuaded of her liberty. Yet was it beyond my hope that
those worthies were then breathing in her air, who should be her leaders
to such a deliverance, as shall never be forgotten by any revolution of
time that this world hath to finish. When that was once begun, it was as
little in my fear that what words of complaint I heard among learned men
of other parts uttered against the Inquisition, the same I should hear
by as learned men at home, uttered in time of Parliament against an
order of licensing; and that so generally that, when I had disclosed
myself a companion of their discontent, I might say, if without envy,
that he whom an honest quaestorship had endeared to the Sicilians was
not more by them importuned against Verres, than the favourable opinion
which I had among many who honour ye, and are known and respected by ye,
loaded me with entreaties and persuasions, that I would not despair to
lay together that which just reason should bring into my mind, toward
the removal of an undeserved thraldom upon learning. That this is
not therefore the disburdening of a particular fancy, but the common
grievance of all those who had prepared their minds and studies
above the vulgar pitch to advance truth in others, and from others to
entertain it, thus much may satisfy.

And in their name I shall for neither friend nor foe conceal what
the general murmur is; that if it come to inquisitioning again and
licensing, and that we are so timorous of ourselves, and so suspicious
of all men, as to fear each book and the shaking of every leaf, before
we know what the contents are; if some who but of late were little
better than silenced from preaching shall come now to silence us from
reading, except what they please, it cannot be guessed what is intended
by some but a second tyranny over learning: and will soon put it out of
controversy, that bishops and presbyters are the same to us, both name
and thing. That those evils of prelaty, which before from five or six
and twenty sees were distributively charged upon the whole people, will
now light wholly upon learning, is not obscure to us: whenas now the
pastor of a small unlearned parish on the sudden shall be exalted
archbishop over a large diocese of books, and yet not remove, but keep
his other cure too, a mystical pluralist. He who but of late cried down
the sole ordination of every novice Bachelor of Art, and denied sole
jurisdiction over the simplest parishioner, shall now at home in his
private chair assume both these over worthiest and excellentest books
and ablest authors that write them.

This is not, ye Covenants and Protestations that we have made! this is
not to put down prelaty; this is but to chop an episcopacy; this is
but to translate the Palace Metropolitan from one kind of dominion into
another; this is but an old canonical sleight of commuting our penance.
To startle thus betimes at a mere unlicensed pamphlet will after a
while be afraid of every conventicle, and a while after will make a
conventicle of every Christian meeting. But I am certain that a State
governed by the rules of justice and fortitude, or a Church built
and founded upon the rock of faith and true knowledge, cannot be so
pusillanimous. While things are yet not constituted in religion, that
freedom of writing should be restrained by a discipline imitated from
the prelates and learnt by them from the Inquisition, to shut us up all
again into the breast of a licenser, must needs give cause of doubt and
discouragement to all learned and religious men.

Who cannot but discern the fineness of this politic drift, and who are
the contrivers; that while bishops were to be baited down, then all
presses might be open; it was the people's birthright and privilege in
time of Parliament, it was the breaking forth of light. But now, the
bishops abrogated and voided out of the Church, as if our Reformation
sought no more but to make room for others into their seats under
another name, the episcopal arts begin to bud again, the cruse of truth
must run no more oil, liberty of printing must be enthralled again
under a prelatical commission of twenty, the privilege of the people
nullified, and, which is worse, the freedom of learning must groan
again, and to her old fetters: all this the Parliament yet sitting.
Although their own late arguments and defences against the prelates
might remember them, that this obstructing violence meets for the most
part with an event utterly opposite to the end which it drives at:
instead of suppressing sects and schisms, it raises them and invests
them with a reputation. The punishing of wits enhances their authority,
saith the Viscount St. Albans; and a forbidden writing is thought to be
a certain spark of truth that flies up in the faces of them who seek
to tread it out. This Order, therefore, may prove a nursing-mother to
sects, but I shall easily show how it will be a step-dame to Truth: and
first by disenabling us to the maintenance of what is known already.

Well knows he who uses to consider, that our faith and knowledge thrives
by exercise, as well as our limbs and complexion. Truth is compared in
Scripture to a streaming fountain; if her waters flow not in a perpetual
progression, they sicken into a muddy pool of conformity and tradition.
A man may be a heretic in the truth; and if he believe things only
because his pastor says so, or the Assembly so determines, without
knowing other reason, though his belief be true, yet the very truth he
holds becomes his heresy.

There is not any burden that some would gladlier post off to another
than the charge and care of their religion. There be--who knows not that
there be?--of Protestants and professors who live and die in as arrant
an implicit faith as any lay Papist of Loretto. A wealthy man, addicted
to his pleasure and to his profits, finds religion to be a traffic so
entangled, and of so many piddling accounts, that of all mysteries he
cannot skill to keep a stock going upon that trade. What should he do?
fain he would have the name to be religious, fain he would bear up with
his neighbours in that. What does he therefore, but resolves to give
over toiling, and to find himself out some factor, to whose care and
credit he may commit the whole managing of his religious affairs; some
divine of note and estimation that must be. To him he adheres, resigns
the whole warehouse of his religion, with all the locks and keys, into
his custody; and indeed makes the very person of that man his religion;
esteems his associating with him a sufficient evidence and commendatory
of his own piety. So that a man may say his religion is now no more
within himself, but is become a dividual movable, and goes and comes
near him, according as that good man frequents the house. He entertains
him, gives him gifts, feasts him, lodges him; his religion comes home at
night, prays, is liberally supped, and sumptuously laid to sleep; rises,
is saluted, and after the malmsey, or some well-spiced brewage, and
better breakfasted than he whose morning appetite would have gladly fed
on green figs between Bethany and Jerusalem, his religion walks abroad
at eight, and leaves his kind entertainer in the shop trading all day
without his religion.

Another sort there be who, when they hear that all things shall be
ordered, all things regulated and settled, nothing written but what
passes through the custom-house of certain publicans that have the
tonnaging and poundaging of all free-spoken truth, will straight give
themselves up into your hands, make 'em and cut 'em out what religion ye
please: there be delights, there be recreations and jolly pastimes that
will fetch the day about from sun to sun, and rock the tedious year
as in a delightful dream. What need they torture their heads with that
which others have taken so strictly and so unalterably into their own
purveying? These are the fruits which a dull ease and cessation of our
knowledge will bring forth among the people. How goodly and how to be
wished were such an obedient unanimity as this, what a fine conformity
would it starch us all into! Doubtless a staunch and solid piece of
framework, as any January could freeze together.

Nor much better will be the consequence even among the clergy
themselves. It is no new thing never heard of before, for a parochial
minister, who has his reward and is at his Hercules' pillars in a warm
benefice, to be easily inclinable, if he have nothing else that may
rouse up his studies, to finish his circuit in an English Concordance
and a topic folio, the gatherings and savings of a sober graduateship,
a Harmony and a Catena; treading the constant round of certain common
doctrinal heads, attended with their uses, motives, marks, and
means, out of which, as out of an alphabet, or sol-fa, by forming and
transforming, joining and disjoining variously, a little bookcraft, and
two hours' meditation, might furnish him unspeakably to the performance
of more than a weekly charge of sermoning: not to reckon up the infinite
helps of interlinearies, breviaries, synopses, and other loitering gear.
But as for the multitude of sermons ready printed and piled up, on every
text that is not difficult, our London trading St. Thomas in his vestry,
and add to boot St. Martin and St. Hugh, have not within their hallowed
limits more vendible ware of all sorts ready made: so that penury he
never need fear of pulpit provision, having where so plenteously to
refresh his magazine. But if his rear and flanks be not impaled, if his
back door be not secured by the rigid licenser, but that a bold book
may now and then issue forth and give the assault to some of his old
collections in their trenches, it will concern him then to keep waking,
to stand in watch, to set good guards and sentinels about his
received opinions, to walk the round and counter-round with his fellow
inspectors, fearing lest any of his flock be seduced, who also then
would be better instructed, better exercised and disciplined. And God
send that the fear of this diligence, which must then be used, do not
make us affect the laziness of a licensing Church.

For if we be sure we are in the right, and do not hold the truth
guiltily, which becomes not, if we ourselves condemn not our own weak
and frivolous teaching, and the people for an untaught and irreligious
gadding rout, what can be more fair than when a man judicious, learned,
and of a conscience, for aught we know, as good as theirs that taught
us what we know, shall not privily from house to house, which is more
dangerous, but openly by writing publish to the world what his opinion
is, what his reasons, and wherefore that which is now thought cannot be
sound? Christ urged it as wherewith to justify himself, that he preached
in public; yet writing is more public than preaching; and more easy
to refutation, if need be, there being so many whose business and
profession merely it is to be the champions of truth; which if they
neglect, what can be imputed but their sloth, or unability?

Thus much we are hindered and disinured by this course of licensing,
toward the true knowledge of what we seem to know. For how much it hurts
and hinders the licensers themselves in the calling of their ministry,
more than any secular employment, if they will discharge that office as
they ought, so that of necessity they must neglect either the one duty
or the other, I insist not, because it is a particular, but leave it to
their own conscience, how they will decide it there.

There is yet behind of what I purposed to lay open, the incredible loss
and detriment that this plot of licensing puts us to; more than if some
enemy at sea should stop up all our havens and ports and creeks, it
hinders and retards the importation of our richest merchandise, truth;
nay, it was first established and put in practice by Antichristian
malice and mystery on set purpose to extinguish, if it were possible,
the light of Reformation, and to settle falsehood; little differing from
that policy wherewith the Turk upholds his Alcoran, by the prohibition
of printing. 'Tis not denied, but gladly confessed, we are to send our
thanks and vows to Heaven louder than most of nations, for that great
measure of truth which we enjoy, especially in those main points between
us and the Pope, with his appurtenances the prelates: but he who thinks
we are to pitch our tent here, and have attained the utmost prospect of
reformation that the mortal glass wherein we contemplate can show us,
till we come to beatific vision, that man by this very opinion declares
that he is yet far short of truth.

Truth indeed came once into the world with her divine Master, and was
a perfect shape most glorious to look on: but when he ascended, and his
Apostles after him were laid asleep, then straight arose a wicked race
of deceivers, who, as that story goes of the Egyptian Typhon with his
conspirators, how they dealt with the good Osiris, took the virgin
Truth, hewed her lovely form into a thousand pieces, and scattered them
to the four winds. From that time ever since, the sad friends of Truth,
such as durst appear, imitating the careful search that Isis made for
the mangled body of Osiris, went up and down gathering up limb by limb,
still as they could find them. We have not yet found them all, Lords and
Commons, nor ever shall do, till her Master's second coming; he shall
bring together every joint and member, and shall mould them into
an immortal feature of loveliness and perfection. Suffer not these
licensing prohibitions to stand at every place of opportunity,
forbidding and disturbing them that continue seeking, that continue to
do our obsequies to the torn body of our martyred saint.

We boast our light; but if we look not wisely on the sun itself, it
smites us into darkness. Who can discern those planets that are oft
combust, and those stars of brightest magnitude that rise and set with
the sun, until the opposite motion of their orbs bring them to such a
place in the firmament, where they may be seen evening or morning? The
light which we have gained was given us, not to be ever staring on, but
by it to discover onward things more remote from our knowledge. It
is not the unfrocking of a priest, the unmitring of a bishop, and the
removing him from off the presbyterian shoulders, that will make us a
happy nation. No, if other things as great in the Church, and in the
rule of life both economical and political, be not looked into and
reformed, we have looked so long upon the blaze that Zuinglius and
Calvin hath beaconed up to us, that we are stark blind. There be who
perpetually complain of schisms and sects, and make it such a calamity
that any man dissents from their maxims. 'Tis their own pride and
ignorance which causes the disturbing, who neither will hear with
meekness, nor can convince; yet all must be suppressed which is not
found in their Syntagma. They are the troublers, they are the dividers
of unity, who neglect and permit not others to unite those dissevered
pieces which are yet wanting to the body of Truth. To be still searching
what we know not by what we know, still closing up truth to truth as we
find it (for all her body is homogeneal and proportional), this is the
golden rule in theology as well as in arithmetic, and makes up the
best harmony in a Church; not the forced and outward union of cold, and
neutral, and inwardly divided minds.

Lords and Commons of England! consider what nation it is whereof ye are,
and whereof ye are the governors: a nation not slow and dull, but of a
quick, ingenious and piercing spirit, acute to invent, subtle and sinewy
to discourse, not beneath the reach of any point the highest that human
capacity can soar to. Therefore the studies of learning in her deepest
sciences have been so ancient and so eminent among us, that writers of
good antiquity and ablest judgment have been persuaded that even the
school of Pythagoras and the Persian wisdom took beginning from the
old philosophy of this island. And that wise and civil Roman, Julius
Agricola, who governed once here for Caesar, preferred the natural wits
of Britain before the laboured studies of the French. Nor is it for
nothing that the grave and frugal Transylvanian sends out yearly from
as far as the mountainous borders of Russia, and beyond the Hercynian
wilderness, not their youth, but their staid men, to learn our language
and our theologic arts.

Yet that which is above all this, the favour and the love of Heaven,
we have great argument to think in a peculiar manner propitious and
propending towards us. Why else was this nation chosen before any other,
that out of her, as out of Sion, should be proclaimed and sounded forth
the first tidings and trumpet of Reformation to all Europe? And had it
not been the obstinate perverseness of our prelates against the divine
and admirable spirit of Wickliff, to suppress him as a schismatic and
innovator, perhaps neither the Bohemian Huns and Jerome, no nor the name
of Luther or of Calvin, had been ever known: the glory of reforming all
our neighbours had been completely ours. But now, as our obdurate clergy
have with violence demeaned the matter, we are become hitherto the
latest and the backwardest scholars, of whom God offered to have made
us the teachers. Now once again by all concurrence of signs, and by
the general instinct of holy and devout men, as they daily and solemnly
express their thoughts, God is decreeing to begin some new and great
period in his Church, even to the reforming of Reformation itself: what
does he then but reveal himself to his servants, and as his manner is,
first to his Englishmen? I say, as his manner is, first to us, though we
mark not the method of his counsels, and are unworthy.

Behold now this vast city: a city of refuge, the mansion house of
liberty, encompassed and surrounded with his protection; the shop of war
hath not there more anvils and hammers waking, to fashion out the plates
and instruments of armed justice in defence of beleaguered truth, than
there be pens and heads there, sitting by their studious lamps, musing,
searching, revolving new notions and ideas wherewith to present, as with
their homage and their fealty, the approaching Reformation: others as
fast reading, trying all things, assenting to the force of reason and
convincement. What could a man require more from a nation so pliant and
so prone to seek after knowledge? What wants there to such a towardly
and pregnant soil, but wise and faithful labourers, to make a knowing
people, a nation of prophets, of sages, and of worthies? We reckon more
than five months yet to harvest; there need not be five weeks; had we
but eyes to lift up, the fields are white already.

Where there is much desire to learn, there of necessity will be much
arguing, much writing, many opinions; for opinion in good men is but
knowledge in the making. Under these fantastic terrors of sect and
schism, we wrong the earnest and zealous thirst after knowledge and
understanding which God hath stirred up in this city. What some lament
of, we rather should rejoice at, should rather praise this pious
forwardness among men, to reassume the ill-deputed care of their
religion into their own hands again. A little generous prudence, a
little forbearance of one another, and some grain of charity might win
all these diligences to join, and unite in one general and brotherly
search after truth; could we but forgo this prelatical tradition of
crowding free consciences and Christian liberties into canons and
precepts of men. I doubt not, if some great and worthy stranger should
come among us, wise to discern the mould and temper of a people, and how
to govern it, observing the high hopes and aims, the diligent alacrity
of our extended thoughts and reasonings in the pursuance of truth and
freedom, but that he would cry out as Pyrrhus did, admiring the Roman
docility and courage: If such were my Epirots, I would not despair the
greatest design that could be attempted, to make a Church or kingdom

Yet these are the men cried out against for schismatics and sectaries;
as if, while the temple of the Lord was building, some cutting, some
squaring the marble, others hewing the cedars, there should be a sort
of irrational men who could not consider there must be many schisms and
many dissections made in the quarry and in the timber, ere the house
of God can be built. And when every stone is laid artfully together,
it cannot be united into a continuity, it can but be contiguous in
this world; neither can every piece of the building be of one form;
nay rather the perfection consists in this, that, out of many
moderate varieties and brotherly dissimilitudes that are not vastly
disproportional, arises the goodly and the graceful symmetry that
commends the whole pile and structure.

Let us therefore be more considerate builders, more wise in spiritual
architecture, when great reformation is expected. For now the time seems
come, wherein Moses the great prophet may sit in heaven rejoicing to
see that memorable and glorious wish of his fulfilled, when not only
our seventy elders, but all the Lord's people, are become prophets. No
marvel then though some men, and some good men too perhaps, but young in
goodness, as Joshua then was, envy them. They fret, and out of their own
weakness are in agony, lest these divisions and subdivisions will undo
us. The adversary again applauds, and waits the hour: when they have
branched themselves out, saith he, small enough into parties and
partitions, then will be our time. Fool! he sees not the firm root, out
of which we all grow, though into branches: nor will beware until he
see our small divided maniples cutting through at every angle of his
ill-united and unwieldy brigade. And that we are to hope better of
all these supposed sects and schisms, and that we shall not need that
solicitude, honest perhaps, though over-timorous, of them that vex in
this behalf, but shall laugh in the end at those malicious applauders of
our differences, I have these reasons to persuade me.

First, when a city shall be as it were besieged and blocked about, her
navigable river infested, inroads and incursions round, defiance and
battle oft rumoured to be marching up even to her walls and suburb
trenches, that then the people, or the greater part, more than at other
times, wholly taken up with the study of highest and most important
matters to be reformed, should be disputing, reasoning, reading,
inventing, discoursing, even to a rarity and admiration, things not
before discoursed or written of, argues first a singular goodwill,
contentedness and confidence in your prudent foresight and safe
government, Lords and Commons; and from thence derives itself to a
gallant bravery and well-grounded contempt of their enemies, as if there
were no small number of as great spirits among us, as his was, who when
Rome was nigh besieged by Hannibal, being in the city, bought that piece
of ground at no cheap rate, whereon Hannibal himself encamped his own

Next, it is a lively and cheerful presage of our happy success and
victory. For as in a body, when the blood is fresh, the spirits pure and
vigorous, not only to vital but to rational faculties, and those in the
acutest and the pertest operations of wit and subtlety, it argues in
what good plight and constitution the body is; so when the cheerfulness
of the people is so sprightly up, as that it has not only wherewith to
guard well its own freedom and safety, but to spare, and to bestow upon
the solidest and sublimest points of controversy and new invention, it
betokens us not degenerated, nor drooping to a fatal decay, but casting
off the old and wrinkled skin of corruption to outlive these pangs and
wax young again, entering the glorious ways of truth and prosperous
virtue, destined to become great and honourable in these latter ages.
Methinks I see in my mind a noble and puissant nation rousing herself
like a strong man after sleep, and shaking her invincible locks:
methinks I see her as an eagle mewing her mighty youth, and kindling
her undazzled eyes at the full midday beam; purging and unscaling her
long-abused sight at the fountain itself of heavenly radiance; while the
whole noise of timorous and flocking birds, with those also that love
the twilight, flutter about, amazed at what she means, and in their
envious gabble would prognosticate a year of sects and schisms.

What would ye do then? should ye suppress all this flowery crop of
knowledge and new light sprung up and yet springing daily in this city?
Should ye set an oligarchy of twenty engrossers over it, to bring a
famine upon our minds again, when we shall know nothing but what is
measured to us by their bushel? Believe it, Lords and Commons, they
who counsel ye to such a suppressing do as good as bid ye suppress
yourselves; and I will soon show how. If it be desired to know the
immediate cause of all this free writing and free speaking, there cannot
be assigned a truer than your own mild and free and humane government.
It is the liberty, Lords and Commons, which your own valorous and happy
counsels have purchased us, liberty which is the nurse of all great
wits; this is that which hath rarefied and enlightened our spirits like
the influence of heaven; this is that which hath enfranchised, enlarged
and lifted up our apprehensions, degrees above themselves.

Ye cannot make us now less capable, less knowing, less eagerly pursuing
of the truth, unless ye first make yourselves, that made us so, less
the lovers, less the founders of our true liberty. We can grow ignorant
again, brutish, formal and slavish, as ye found us; but you then
must first become that which ye cannot be, oppressive, arbitrary and
tyrannous, as they were from whom ye have freed us. That our hearts
are now more capacious, our thoughts more erected to the search and
expectation of greatest and exactest things, is the issue of your own
virtue propagated in us; ye cannot suppress that, unless ye reinforce an
abrogated and merciless law, that fathers may dispatch at will their own
children. And who shall then stick closest to ye, and excite others?
not he who takes up arms for coat and conduct, and his four nobles of
Danegelt. Although I dispraise not the defence of just immunities, yet
love my peace better, if that were all. Give me the liberty to know, to
utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.

What would be best advised, then, if it be found so hurtful and so
unequal to suppress opinions for the newness or the unsuitableness to
a customary acceptance, will not be my task to say. I only shall repeat
what I have learned from one of your own honourable number, a right
noble and pious lord, who, had he not sacrificed his life and fortunes
to the Church and Commonwealth, we had not now missed and bewailed a
worthy and undoubted patron of this argument. Ye know him, I am sure;
yet I for honour's sake, and may it be eternal to him, shall name him,
the Lord Brook. He writing of episcopacy, and by the way treating of
sects and schisms, left ye his vote, or rather now the last words of his
dying charge, which I know will ever be of dear and honoured regard with
ye, so full of meekness and breathing charity, that next to his last
testament, who bequeathed love and peace to his disciples, I cannot
call to mind where I have read or heard words more mild and peaceful. He
there exhorts us to hear with patience and humility those, however
they be miscalled, that desire to live purely, in such a use of God's
ordinances, as the best guidance of their conscience gives them, and
to tolerate them, though in some disconformity to ourselves. The book
itself will tell us more at large, being published to the world, and
dedicated to the Parliament by him who, both for his life and for his
death, deserves that what advice he left be not laid by without perusal.

And now the time in special is, by privilege to write and speak what may
help to the further discussing of matters in agitation. The temple of
Janus with his two controversial faces might now not unsignificantly be
set open. And though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to
play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously,
by licensing and prohibiting, to misdoubt her strength. Let her and
Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and
open encounter? Her confuting is the best and surest suppressing. He who
hears what praying there is for light and clearer knowledge to be sent
down among us, would think of other matters to be constituted beyond
the discipline of Geneva, framed and fabricked already to our hands. Yet
when the new light which we beg for shines in upon us, there be who envy
and oppose, if it come not first in at their casements. What a collusion
is this, whenas we are exhorted by the wise man to use diligence, to
seek for wisdom as for hidden treasures early and late, that another
order shall enjoin us to know nothing but by statute? When a man hath
been labouring the hardest labour in the deep mines of knowledge,
hath furnished out his findings in all their equipage: drawn forth
his reasons as it were a battle ranged: scattered and defeated all
objections in his way; calls out his adversary into the plain, offers
him the advantage of wind and sun, if he please, only that he may try
the matter by dint of argument: for his opponents then to skulk, to lay
ambushments, to keep a narrow bridge of licensing where the challenger
should pass, though it be valour enough in soldiership, is but weakness
and cowardice in the wars of Truth.

For who knows not that Truth is strong, next to the Almighty? She needs
no policies, nor stratagems, nor licensings to make her victorious;
those are the shifts and the defences that error uses against her power.
Give her but room, and do not bind her when she sleeps, for then she
speaks not true, as the old Proteus did, who spake oracles only when he
was caught and bound, but then rather she turns herself into all shapes,
except her own, and perhaps tunes her voice according to the time, as
Micaiah did before Ahab, until she be adjured into her own likeness. Yet
is it not impossible that she may have more shapes than one. What else
is all that rank of things indifferent, wherein Truth may be on this
side or on the other, without being unlike herself? What but a vain
shadow else is the abolition of those ordinances, that hand-writing
nailed to the cross? What great purchase is this Christian liberty which
Paul so often boasts of? His doctrine is, that he who eats or eats not,
regards a day or regards it not, may do either to the Lord. How many
other things might be tolerated in peace, and left to conscience, had we
but charity, and were it not the chief stronghold of our hypocrisy to be
ever judging one another?

I fear yet this iron yoke of outward conformity hath left a slavish
print upon our necks; the ghost of a linen decency yet haunts us.
We stumble and are impatient at the least dividing of one visible
congregation from another, though it be not in fundamentals; and
through our forwardness to suppress, and our backwardness to recover
any enthralled piece of truth out of the gripe of custom, we care not to
keep truth separated from truth, which is the fiercest rent and disunion
of all. We do not see that, while we still affect by all means a rigid
external formality, we may as soon fall again into a gross conforming
stupidity, a stark and dead congealment of wood and hay and stubble,
forced and frozen together, which is more to the sudden degenerating of
a Church than many subdichotomies of petty schisms.

Not that I can think well of every light separation, or that all in a
Church is to be expected gold and silver and precious stones: it is not
possible for man to sever the wheat from the tares, the good fish from
the other fry; that must be the Angels' ministry at the end of mortal
things. Yet if all cannot be of one mind--as who looks they should
be?--this doubtless is more wholesome, more prudent, and more Christian,
that many be tolerated, rather than all compelled. I mean not tolerated
popery, and open superstition, which, as it extirpates all religions and
civil supremacies, so itself should be extirpate, provided first that
all charitable and compassionate means be used to win and regain the
weak and the misled: that also which is impious or evil absolutely
either against faith or manners no law can possibly permit, that intends
not to unlaw itself: but those neighbouring differences, or rather
indifferences, are what I speak of, whether in some point of doctrine
or of discipline, which, though they may be many, yet need not interrupt
THE UNITY OF SPIRIT, if we could but find among us THE BOND OF PEACE.

In the meanwhile if any one would write, and bring his helpful hand to
the slow-moving Reformation which we labour under, if Truth have spoken
to him before others, or but seemed at least to speak, who hath so
bejesuited us that we should trouble that man with asking license to do
so worthy a deed? and not consider this, that if it come to prohibiting,
there is not aught more likely to be prohibited than truth itself; whose
first appearance to our eyes, bleared and dimmed with prejudice and
custom, is more unsightly and unplausible than many errors, even as the
person is of many a great man slight and contemptuous to see to. And
what do they tell us vainly of new opinions, when this very opinion of
theirs, that none must be heard but whom they like, is the worst and
newest opinion of all others; and is the chief cause why sects and
schisms do so much abound, and true knowledge is kept at distance from
us; besides yet a greater danger which is in it.

For when God shakes a kingdom with strong and healthful commotions to
a general reforming, 'tis not untrue that many sectaries and false
teachers are then busiest in seducing; but yet more true it is, that God
then raises to his own work men of rare abilities, and more than
common industry, not only to look back and revise what hath been taught
heretofore, but to gain further and go on some new enlightened steps in
the discovery of truth. For such is the order of God's enlightening his
Church, to dispense and deal out by degrees his beam, so as our earthly
eyes may best sustain it.

Neither is God appointed and confined, where and out of what place these
his chosen shall be first heard to speak; for he sees not as man sees,
chooses not as man chooses, lest we should devote ourselves again to set
places, and assemblies, and outward callings of men; planting our faith
one while in the old Convocation house, and another while in the Chapel
at Westminster; when all the faith and religion that shall be there
canonized is not sufficient without plain convincement, and the charity
of patient instruction to supple the least bruise of conscience, to
edify the meanest Christian, who desires to walk in the Spirit, and not
in the letter of human trust, for all the number of voices that can be
there made; no, though Harry VII himself there, with all his liege tombs
about him, should lend them voices from the dead, to swell their number.

And if the men be erroneous who appear to be the leading schismatics,
what withholds us but our sloth, our self-will, and distrust in the
right cause, that we do not give them gentle meetings and gentle
dismissions, that we debate not and examine the matter thoroughly with
liberal and frequent audience; if not for their sakes, yet for our own?
seeing no man who hath tasted learning, but will confess the many ways
of profiting by those who, not contented with stale receipts, are able
to manage and set forth new positions to the world. And were they but as
the dust and cinders of our feet, so long as in that notion they may yet
serve to polish and brighten the armoury of Truth, even for that respect
they were not utterly to be cast away. But if they be of those whom God
hath fitted for the special use of these times with eminent and ample
gifts, and those perhaps neither among the priests nor among the
Pharisees, and we in the haste of a precipitant zeal shall make no
distinction, but resolve to stop their mouths, because we fear they come
with new and dangerous opinions, as we commonly forejudge them ere we
understand them; no less than woe to us, while, thinking thus to defend
the Gospel, we are found the persecutors.

There have been not a few since the beginning of this Parliament, both
of the presbytery and others, who by their unlicensed books, to the
contempt of an Imprimatur, first broke that triple ice clung about our
hearts, and taught the people to see day: I hope that none of those were
the persuaders to renew upon us this bondage which they themselves have
wrought so much good by contemning. But if neither the check that Moses
gave to young Joshua, nor the countermand which our Saviour gave
to young John, who was so ready to prohibit those whom he thought
unlicensed, be not enough to admonish our elders how unacceptable to
God their testy mood of prohibiting is; if neither their own remembrance
what evil hath abounded in the Church by this set of licensing, and what
good they themselves have begun by transgressing it, be not enough,
but that they will persuade and execute the most Dominican part of the
Inquisition over us, and are already with one foot in the stirrup so
active at suppressing, it would be no unequal distribution in the first
place to suppress the suppressors themselves: whom the change of their
condition hath puffed up, more than their late experience of harder
times hath made wise.

And as for regulating the press, let no man think to have the honour
of advising ye better than yourselves have done in that Order published
next before this, "that no book be printed, unless the printer's and the
author's name, or at least the printer's, be registered." Those which
otherwise come forth, if they be found mischievous and libellous, the
fire and the executioner will be the timeliest and the most effectual
remedy that man's prevention can use. For this authentic Spanish policy
of licensing books, if I have said aught, will prove the most unlicensed
book itself within a short while; and was the immediate image of a Star
Chamber decree to that purpose made in those very times when that Court
did the rest of those her pious works, for which she is now fallen
from the stars with Lucifer. Whereby ye may guess what kind of state
prudence, what love of the people, what care of religion or good
manners there was at the contriving, although with singular hypocrisy
it pretended to bind books to their good behaviour. And how it got the
upper hand of your precedent Order so well constituted before, if we may
believe those men whose profession gives them cause to inquire most,
it may be doubted there was in it the fraud of some old patentees and
monopolizers in the trade of bookselling; who under pretence of the poor
in their Company not to be defrauded, and the just retaining of each man
his several copy, which God forbid should be gainsaid, brought divers
glossing colours to the House, which were indeed but colours, and
serving to no end except it be to exercise a superiority over their
neighbours; men who do not therefore labour in an honest profession
to which learning is indebted, that they should be made other men's
vassals. Another end is thought was aimed at by some of them in
procuring by petition this Order, that, having power in their hands,
malignant books might the easier scape abroad, as the event shows.

But of these sophisms and elenchs of merchandise I skill not. This I
know, that errors in a good government and in a bad are equally almost
incident; for what magistrate may not be misinformed, and much the
sooner, if liberty of printing be reduced into the power of a few? But
to redress willingly and speedily what hath been erred, and in highest
authority to esteem a plain advertisement more than others have done a
sumptuous bride, is a virtue (honoured Lords and Commons) answerable to
your highest actions, and whereof none can participate but greatest and
wisest men.

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