Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
To My Reverend Brethren of the Diocese of Norwich
By Joseph Hall (15741656)
Prefatory Letter to The Peace Maker
WORTHY BRETHRENYe cannot but have taken notice of the silence, that hath lately possessed my tongue, which was wont to be vocal enough. Besides some external reasons, it is my care and zeal of peace, that stops my mouth for the time; and bids me refrain, even from good works. In the meanwhile, the same dear respect to peace employs my hand; and bids it supply the place of my tongue, as that which shall speak louder and to more eyes than my tongue could to ears: both of them are heartily devoted to peace, and strive whether shall more express it.
It was ever the desire of my soul, even from my first entrance upon the public service of the Church, according to my known signature, with Noahs Dove, to have brought an olive branch to the tossed Ark: and God knows how sincerely I have endeavoured it: but, if my wings have been too short, and the wind too high for me, to carry it home, I must content myself with the conscience of my faithful devotions. Some little hint whereof, notwithstanding, I have thought fit to give to the world, in this present discourse, lest I should seem to be, like itself, all pretence; and that I might by this essay of mine, open the way to some more able undertakers.
Now therefore, let me recommend this subject to your seriousest thoughts; and beseech you all, in the bowels of our common Saviour, to join with me, in the zealous prosecution of what I here treat of, peace.
It is a useful rule of our Romish casuists, that he who will have benefit of their large indulgences, must porrigere manus adjutrices.1 Surely, it holds much better, in the present case. Whoever will hope to reap the comfort of this incomparable blessing of peace, must put forth his helping hand, towards the procuring it. Oh, let not our studies, nor prayers, nor tears, nor counsels, nor solicitations, nor engagements, nor endeavours, be wanting to it: no; nor, if need were, our blood. What the price of it is, since the fruition of it did not teach us, we have too well learnt in the want.
Alas, my brethren, we cannot help one another sufficiently to condole the miseries under which we, yea this whole Church, yea this whole bleeding monarchy, yea the whole Christian world, at this time groaneth, by reason of that woeful and deadly debate, that rageth everywhere. All the whole earth is on fire: the flame reacheth up to heaven, and calls for more thence. Woe is me! our very punishment is our sin. What should we do, but pour out floods of tears, towards the quenching of it: and say, with the lamenting prophet, Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!Jer. ix. 1.
But, as Chrysostom said long ago in the like case to Innocentius, it is not wailing will serve the turn, if we do not bestir ourselves, what we may, for redress. When we see our house on fire, do we stand still and cry? do we not ring bells, and call neighbours, and bring ladders, and fetch buckets, and pour on water, and pull down reeds and rafters, and whatever may feed that flame? And why should we not do so, in this common conflagration? Oh, let every man of us put his hand to the work; and labour to withdraw that hellish fuel which nourisheth and increaseth this fearful combustion; and, if each man can but pull away one stick, it shall be his comfort and joy in that great day. But far, far be it from us, that any of us should mis-employ himself as an incendiary.
It is felony, by our municipal laws, for a man to burn but the frame of a building intended for a house: how heinously flagratious shall the God of Heaven account it, to set on fire His complete spiritual house the Church, whereof every believer is a living stone! Doubtless, how slight account soever the world makes of these spiritual distempers, it shall be easier in the day of judgment for thieves and whoremongers and adulterers than for the breakers of public peace. Never was there any so fearful vengeance inflicted upon any malefactors, as upon Korah and his combination. Surely, if we consider the sin in itself, other offences had been far more heinous: but in that it was a presumptuous mutiny, tending to the affront of allowed authority, to the violation of peace, and to the destruction of community, the earth could not stand under it: hell only is fit to receive it.
I speak not this to intimate the least suspicion, much less accusation, of any of you, my dear brethren; but, by way of a tender precaution and loving cohortation, to excite you and myself to the improvement of all the powers of our souls, for the recovery and perpetuation of the Churchs peace: a duty, which both our blessed Saviour, and his holy Apostles, hath so vehemently urged, as if there were no life of Christianity without it.
As we honour the God of Love and Peace whom we serve, as we love the Prince of Peace in whom we believe, as we tender the success of the Gospel of Peace which we preach, as we wish and hope for the comfort of the peace of God in our own bosoms, let us seek peace where it is missing, let us follow after it when it flies from us, let us never leave the chase, by importuning God and men, till we overtake it, till we re-enjoy it, and all the blessings that accompany it; which shall be ever the prayer and endeavour ofYour faithful and loving fellow-labourer,