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In this verse you have the apodosis of the former instance: likewise is the adverb that implieth the connection between the two terms of a comparison; they perished that went after strange flesh, so these filthy dreamers that defile the flesh, &c., shall perish. In the words you may observe—(1.) A description of their persons, filthy dreamers. (2.) A discovery of their sins; two are mentioned in this verse. (1st.) Ἀκαθαρσία, their impurity, they defile the flesh. (2d.) Αταξία, their tumultuous carriage towards superiors, expressed in two phrases: First, They despise dominion; secondly, They speak evil of dignities. What these two phrases import is some question. Some think the first noteth their judgment and affection, the second, their speech and practice. Some think two kinds of government are here understood, and refer despising of dominion to contempt of magistracy and public 230government, and speaking evil of dignities to the private government of masters, 1 Tim. vi. 12, which was also despised by these wretches under the pretence of Christian liberty. Others more properly understand the first clause of civil government, usually expressed in scripture by κύριοτης, or domination; and speaking evil of dignities is fitly referred to the traducing and opposing of government and governors ecclesiastical, as apostles, pastors, teachers, and elders. The officers of the church are called δόξα, ‘the glory of Christ,’ 2 Cor. viii. 23, and what we translate speak evil of dignities, is in the original speak evil of glories; but of this more anon.
Let me open the words: Likewise. In the original there are many words, ὁμοίως μέντοι καὶ οὗτοι, likewise, notwithstanding; that is, though there be so many and such apparent instances of God’s judgment, and those set before us for an example, yet they, being blinded with their wicked passions, are not afraid, but boldly cast themselves upon the hazard of the same ruin. Filthy dreamers; the word in the original is ἐνυπνιαζόμενοι, led, inspired, or acted by dreams, or deluded by dreams. Beza rendereth it sopiti, being lulled asleep, as noting their security. I suppose rather the dotage of error, by which they were as it were bewitched and enchanted. Our translation seemeth to carry it another Way, as applying it to nocturnal pollutions, because dreaming is joined with defiling the flesh. And Peter chargeth these persons with rolling their fancies upon unclean objects, 1 Peter ii. 14; or, possibly, it may be taken literally, the persons here noted pretending to dreams inspired by associate and assistant spirits, see Euseb., lib. iv. cap. 7. The next phrase is defile the flesh; that is, pollute themselves with libidinous practices: 2 Peter ii. 10, ‘They walked after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness,’ and that under a pretence of the gospel, vide Irenaeum passim de Haer. Valentin. The Nicolaitans taught community of wives, and that it was an indifferent thing to commit adultery, Rev. ii. 6, 14. The Gnostics gave themselves up to all manner of prodigious and incestuous pollutions; whence, from their obscenity and beastly life, they were called Borborites. See again Euseb. Epihan. Haer. 26, lib. iv. cap. 7. How many ways they did defile the flesh we cannot with modesty express. The heathens, who made no distinction, charged these impurities upon the Christians in the general, as if they used the unlawful company of their mothers and sisters, &c. The next phrase is despise dominion, ἀθετοῦντες. The word ἀθετεῖν signifieth to remove a thing out of its place with some scorn and indignation; and so it implieth their utter enmity to civil policy and government: 2 Peter ii. 10, ‘They despise government, presumptuous are they, and self-willed,’ Κυριότητα, dominion. Some apply this to the dominion of Christ, which by their fables of the Æones or lords rulers they did set at nought; but of that in the 4th verse. But now he speaks of the government of men, and there is an emphasis in the word κυριότητα, dominion, which is more than if he had said κυρίους, rulers; for they did not only despise their magistrates, or men invested with superiority, but magistracy itself, as a thing unfitting for believers, and such as were made free by Christ, to endure. The last part of the charge is they speak evil of dignities, or, as it is in the original, blaspheme glories; 231by which some understand angels, as Clemens Alexandrinus; these impure heretics devising things unworthy and misbeseeming the angels; rather, I suppose, it implieth their scorns, curses, and reproaches cast upon the officers of the church, who are the glory of Christ, and the practice is afterward compared with the rebellion of Korah, who rose up, not only against Moses, but Aaron, Num. xi. In the whole you have a lively description of our modern ranters, levellers, familists, quakers, who, by dreams, are led on to defile the flesh, and to despise all authority, both in church and commonwealth, and that with bitter curses and evil speakings, so that our days afford us but too clear a comment on the expressions of this scripture; it is sadly fulfilled before our eyes. I come to the observations.
Obs. 1. From that filthy dreamers; note, that the erroneous thoughts of wicked men are but a dream. It is but friar-like to follow an illusion too far; only a little for illustration. Wicked men are dreamers—(1.) In regard of their state and condition, every carnal man is in a state of a ‘deep sleep,’ Isa. xxix. 10; snorting upon the bed of ease, without any sense of the danger of their condition, as Jonah in the ship was found asleep when the storm arose. They sleep, but ‘their damnation sleepeth not,’ 2 Peter ii. 3. (2.) In regard of the suitableness between their vain thoughts and a dream. A dream, you know, tickleth with a false delight, and deceiveth with a vain hope.
1. Tickleth with a false delight: they hug a cloud, as we say, instead of Juno, and embrace the contentments and pleasures of the world in stead of the true riches; a carnal man’s running from pleasure to pleasure is but a sweet dream, a fit of mirth and pleasure while conscience is asleep: ‘They walk in a vain show,’ Ps. xxxix. 6; they imagine a great deal of felicity and contentment in their condition; but when they come to ‘warm themselves by their own sparks, they lie down in sorrow,’ Isa. l. 11.
2. Deceiveth with a vain hope, as where the prophet compareth the dream of the enemies of the church to the dream of a night vision, Isa. xxix. 7, 8, ‘And it shall be as an hungry man dreameth, and be hold he eateth, but he awaketh and his soul is empty; or when as a thirsty man dreameth, and behold he drinketh, but he awaketh, and behold he is faint, and his soul hath appetite.’ So it is with them, all their hopes are dashed in an instant. The foolish virgins slept, Mat. xxv., and when they slept they dreamed that the door of grace would still be open to them, but they found it shut. Many flatter themselves with fair hopes till they awake in flames, but then all is gone.
Take heed, then, of being deceived by your own dreams, and the fictions of your own brain; there are no dreams so foolish as those we dream waking, as Epiphanus saith of the Gnostics; it was not ἐνυπνίασις τοῦ ὕπνου, a sleeping dream that they were guilty of, but ληρολογία ψύχης ὡς δι᾽ ὕπνου λεγομένης, the dotage of their minds, putting them upon fancies as monstrous and incoherent as men’s thoughts in a dream. Waking dreams are most pernicious. There are two sorts of these dreams—(1.) Dreams in point of opinion, when we hug error instead of truth. (2.) Dreams in point of hope, when we cherish presumption instead of faith.
1. Dreams in opinion, which are very rife now; the old world is apt 232to dote.129129 ‘Mundus senescens patitur phantasias.’—Gerson. Idle and ungrounded notions, how plausible soever, are but the dreams of a misty sleepy brain. To prevent these take these rules—(1.) If you would beware of dreams, beware of a blind mind. Men sleep in the dark, and in sleep fancy gets the start of reason; indistinct thoughts do easily dispose to error, and a half light will certainly abuse you: ‘The simple believeth every word,’ Prov. xiv. 15. (2.) Suffer not yourselves to be blinded, First, Not by vile affections: men would fain have that true which is pleasing, and most accommodate to their own interests. Vile affection taketh away the light of reason, and leaveth us only the pride of reason; and therefore none so confident and touchy in their opinions as they that are misled by lusts and interests. How easily do we exasperate our minds, and invent prejudices against a hated truth! If the weights be equal, yet if the balances be not equal, wrong will be done. When the heart is biassed before the search, and swayed with some carnal desire or interest, the judgment is obscured and cannot consider of the weight of what is alleged; there is an idol in the heart. Secondly, By vulgar prejudice. That the devil may keep the world asleep, it is his usual trick to burden the ways of God with clamour and vulgar prejudice. A dream or lie dareth not combat with truth in open field, and therefore fortifieth against it with popular arguments, that the ways of God may be suspected rather than tried; and usually it falleth that error is more specious at the first blush, God’s providence suffering his own ways to be under the cross and the world’s displeasure. Now, in such a case, men keep at a distance, and are loath to search lest they meet with trouble of conscience for not obeying the truth, or trouble from the world for crossing their customs and fashions. Thirdly, By personal administration in spiritual things; we learn to dream from one another, Deut. xiii. 3, Zech. x. 2. No man must be set up in God’s chair, and their dictates followed as if they were infallible.
Study the word, else there is no light in what is brought to you, Isa. viii. 20; it is but only a dream and dotage of men’s brains, and the closer you keep to the letter of the word the better. Many are perverted by mystical interpretations, when men bring that to the word which they do do not find there; the letter must not be receded from as long as it is capable of any commodious interpretation. Now this word must be ‘hidden in the heart,’ Ps. cxix. 9, and ‘dwell in us richly,’ Col. iii. 16.
2. There are dreams in point of hope; and so—(1.) Some wholly mistake in the object, and dream of an eternal happiness in temporal enjoyments, Ps. xlix. 11; so Luke xii. 19, Rev. xviii. 9. (2.) Others dream of attaining the end without using the means; they live in sin, and yet hope to die comfortably, and go to heaven at length for all that, as if it were but an easy and sudden leap from Delilah’s lap to Abraham’s bosom; and ‘the pleasures of sin for a season’ would be no hindrance to the enjoyment of the ‘pleasures at God’s right hand for ever more;’ a vain dream, see Luke xvi. 25, and James v. 5. (3.) Others mistake about the means, because they have a cold form; they are apt to be conceited of their spiritual condition and estate, Rev. iii. 17. If you would not dream in this kind, examine your 233hearts often; examination is like a rubbing of the eyes after sleep, and reviving of conscience the recollection of our dreams; a man laugheth at his dreams when he is awake, and when fancy is cited before the tribunal of God, vain apprehensions fly away. Again, ‘be sober and watchful,’ 1 Peter v. 9, 2 Thes. v. 6. Confessing sin it is telling our dream when we are awake and come to ourselves.
Obs. 2. From that defile the flesh, observe that dreams of error dispose to practices of sin and uncleanness, and impurity of religion is usually joined with uncleanness of body, which cometh to pass partly by the just judgment of God, who punisheth spiritual fornication with bodily: Hosea iv. 12, 13, ‘They have gone a-whoring from their God, therefore their daughters shall commit whoredom, and their spouses adultery.’ That is God’s course, that the odiousness of the one may make them see the heinousness of the other; see Rom. i. 24. Partly by the influence of error;130130 ‘Anima quae fornicata est a Deo casta esse non potest.’—Aug. it perverteth the heart; a frame of truth preserveth the awe of God in the soul, and a right belief maketh the manners orthodox: all sins are rooted in wrong thoughts of God, 3 John 11, either in unbelief or misbelief: unbelief is the mother of sin, and misbelief the nurse of it; it springeth from distrust, and is countenanced by error. Partly because the design of most errors is to put the soul into a liberty which God never allowed. Some errors come from the pride of reason, because it will not veil and strike sail to faith; but most come from ‘vile affection;’ a carnal heart must be gratified with a carnal doctrine: 2 Peter ii. 19, ‘They promise liberty,’ &c. Errors are but a device to cast off Christ’s yoke, and to lull the conscience asleep in a course of disobedience. Well, then, avoid error of judgment if you would avoid filthiness of conversation; men first dream, and then defile the flesh; abominable impurities (unless temper of nature and posture of interests hinder) are the usual fruit of evil opinions. Truth is the root of holiness: ‘Sanctify them by thy truth; thy word is truth,’ John xvii. 17. God’s blessing goeth with his own doctrine, 1 Peter i. 22. Again, those that have taken up the profession of a right way of religion should beware of staining it by such kind of practices. Nothing maketh the ways of God suspected so much as the scandals of those that profess to walk in them: ‘Walk in the light as children of the light,’ Eph. v., otherwise you will be a reproach to the truth, and deprive it of its testimony.
Obs. 3. Again, observe that sin is a defilement; it staineth and darkeneth the glory of a man, Mat. xv. 20. This defilement was implied in the washings of the ceremonial law, and in baptism; we are washed as soon as we are born, because we are sinners as soon as we are born. Surely they that glory in sin do but glory in their own shame; it is but as if a man should boast of his own dung, and count his spittle an ornament; when you count graceless swearing, mightiness to drink, revenge, pride, a glory to you, you do the same: there is nothing maketh us stink in God’s nostrils but sin: Ps. xiv. 3, ‘They are altogether become filthy;’ so much sin as you have about you, so much nastiness. Gain is pleasant to those that are taken with that kind of lust, but the scripture calleth it ‘filthy lucre,’ 1 Tim. iii. 3; all sins are compared to ‘filthy garments,’ Zech. iii. 4, Jude 19, and Isa. xxx. 22. Desire to be washed, and that thoroughly, Ps. li. 2.
Obs. 4. Again observe, that of all sins, the sin of uncleanness or unlawful copulation is most defiling. It defileth the whole man, but chiefly the body; and therefore it is said they defile the flesh. It staineth the soul with filthy thoughts, Mat. xv. 20; it staineth the name, Prov. vi. 33; but in a singular manner it polluteth the body, 1 Cor. vi. 18. In all other outward sins, though the body be the instrument, yet it is not the object of them. All other sins do abuse objectum extra positum (as Piscator explaineth it), as a drunkard, wine; an epicure, meats; a worldling, riches. All these are objects without us; but here the body is not only the instrument, but the object: Rom. i. 24, ‘God gave them up to uncleanness to dishonour their own bodies.’ So see 1 Thes. iv. 4. It wasteth the strength and beauty of the body, Prov. v. 9-11, hindereth our serviceableness, and doth not consider that this body is consecrated to God, Rom. xii. 1, and 1 Cor. vi. 15; a ‘temple of the Holy Ghost,’ 1 Cor. vi. 19; interested in hopes of glory, Phil. iii. 21; and therefore puts it to so vile a use as to be an instrument of lust. Christians, shall those eyes which are consecrated to God, to behold his works, be windows to let in sin? 2 Peter ii. 14; that body which is the Holy Ghost’s temple, be made the ‘member of a harlot,’ and so wasted in the service of lust as to become a clog to us, and wholly useless as to any gracious purposes? Are not your beauty, health, strength, concernments too good to be spent upon so vile an interest? Take heed, then, of all uncleanness, both conjugal, consisting in excess and immoderation of lust in. the married estate, si vinum ex apothecâ tuâ, &c., you may not be drunk with your own wine, nor quench the vigour of nature by excess in those pleasures which the laws of God and men do allow you; and also of uncleanness adulterous, which is more brutish, when men scat ter their lusts promiscuously, without confinement to one object.
06s. 5. From that despise dominion. Observe that errors, especially such as tend to sensuality, make men unruly and anti-magistratical. Dreamers that do ‘defile themselves,’ do also ‘despise dominion.’ Now this cometh to pass, partly from the permission of God’s wise and just providence, who suffereth such miscarriages to awaken the magistrate to a care of truth, if not in zeal for God’s glory, yet out of a sense of his own interest, and upon reason of state, the commonwealth being troubled by those who first began to trouble the church, οἱ περὶ τα θεῖα ξενίζοντες πολλοὺς ἀναπείθουσιν ἀλλοτριονομεῖν; new doctrines put men after an itch upon new laws, and false religions are usually turbulent; partly because persons loose and erroneous would free themselves from all awe, both of God and man, as it is said of the unjust judge, that he ‘feared neither God nor man,’ Luke xviii. So with those men. Error taketh off the dread of God, and sedition the dread of the magistrate, that so they may more freely defile the flesh. God hath two deputies to keep a sinner under awe—conscience and the magistrate. Now false doctrine benumbeth conscience, and then that all authority may be laid aside, the rights of the magistrate are invaded, that as conscience may not stand in the way of their lust, so not the magistrate in the way of their sin. That there were anciently 235such libertines in the church appeareth by Gal. v. 13, and 1 Peter ii. 16, and 1 Cor. vii. 20-23. Vain man would fain be free and yokeless, neither would he have his heart subject to God, nor his actions to man’s censure. Partly because all errors are rooted in obstinacy, and that will bewray itself, not only in divine and spiritual, but in civil things: see 2 Peter ii. 10, ‘But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness. Presumptuous are they and self-willed; they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.’ Usually errors sear the conscience, and give the sinner a front and boldness, so that God is not only dishonoured, but civil societies disturbed, as Nazianzen observeth of the Arians. They began in blasphemous language against Christ, but end in tumultuous carriage against the peace of the commonwealth; for, saith he, how shall we hope that they will spare men that would not spare God?131131 ‘Πῶς δε ἀνθρώπου ἐμελλον φείδεσθαι οἱ τῆς θεότητος μὴ φεισάμενοι.’—Nazian. Orat. xxv. Often it falleth out that they that ‘please not God’ are also ‘contrary to all men,’ 1 Thes. ii. 15. Tully, a heathen, ob serveth the same, Pietate adversus Deos sublatâ, fides etiam et societas humani generis, &c. Partly because opposition to magistracy is a kind of indirect blow and aim at God, and that either as it is his ordinance, Rom. xiii., or a kind of resemblance of his glory: ‘I have said you are gods,’ Ps. lxxxii. 6. So that it is a contempt of God in his image and picture. Look, as under the law God forbade men cruelty to the beasts, as not to destroy the dam from the young, to seethe the kid in the mother’s milk, and that such kind of prohibitions might be as a fence and rail about the life of man, so respect to magistracy is a kind of fence about his own dignity and divine glory. Magistrates being representative gods, εἴκων δε βασιλεὺς ἔστιν ἔμψυχος Θεοῦ; therefore through their sides they strike at God himself. Partly be cause the end of magistracy is to suppress evil, Rom. xiii. 5. An indefinite speech is equivalent to a universal in a matter of necessary duty, and the universal particle is expressed elsewhere: Prov. xx. 8, ‘A king that sitteth upon the throne of judgment scattereth away all evil with his eyes’—all evil that falleth under his cognisance, whether it be of a civil or spiritual concernment. We must not limit and distinguish where the word doth not. I know there be some that do defalcate and cut off a great part of that duty which belongeth to the magistrate, confining his care only to things of a civil concernment, but preposterously, truths according to godliness belonging also to his inspection, upon which ground we are bound to pray for them, that ‘they may come to the knowledge of the truth,’ 1 Tim. ii. 2, and under them ‘we may lead a quiet life in all godliness and honesty,’ where it is plainly implied that the converted magistrate is to look to the countenance and maintenance of godliness as well as honesty. Well, then, sensual heretics being doubly obnoxious, as sensual, as venting errors, no wonder that they rise up in defiance of God’s ordinance.
Use 1. It showeth us the evil of inordinate lustings. We may learn hence whence they proceed and whither they tend; they proceed from the pride and obstinacy of error; men dream, and are then licentious; and it tendeth to the casting off of all duty to God and man. Nip this disposition in the bud; it is in all our natures: ‘Man is born like the wild ass’s colt,’ Job xi. 12; not only for rudeness of 236understanding, but untamedness of affection. We love to break through all bonds and restraints, as if ‘none were lord over us,’ Ps. xii. 3.
Use 2. It informeth us what will be the issue when libertism .aboundeth, even an utter confusion. See Socrates Scholast., lib. v. Eccles. iv. ii, in proëm.: Nonnunquam tumultus ecclesiarum antegressi, reipublicae autem confusiones consecutae sunt—the ruin of the public weal is brought on by pestilent and evil doctrines. So our divines at the Synod of Dort: Cavendum est, ne qui magistratu connivente res novas in ecclesia moliantur, eodem etiam repugnante idem in republica efficiant. Tully, in his book De Legibus, saith, that the glory of Greece presently declined when the people were given malis studiis, malisque doctrinis, to evil manners and evil opinions. Let us lay these things to heart. I do not love to envy against the times, and to indulge the petulancy of a mistaken zeal, but the king’s danger made Croesus’ dumb son to speak.
Use 3. It may take off the prejudice that is often cast upon religion and the true ways of God. It is not truth that troubleth Israel, but error: 1 Kings xviii. 18, ‘I have not troubled Israel, but thou and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord.’ It is an old slander that strict religion is no friend to commonwealths. As soon as Christianity began to fly abroad in the world, it was objected against her, as if it was prejudicial to civil power and greatness, thereby to defeat her of the patronage of princes, and to hinder them from becoming ‘nursing fathers,’ Isa. xlix. 23. Magistracy being that power which is left, able to suppress or advance religion, the devil striveth all that he can to incense it against her. There is a natural and wakeful jealousy in princes over their dignities and prerogatives, and therefore the enemies of the church have ever sought occasion to represent the people of God as enemies to their just power. So Christ was accused, Luke xxiii. 2, and Paul, Acts xxiv. 5; but altogether without cause. It is true, if religion be not kindly received it bringeth a judgment there where it is tendered, as the ark, when it was irreverently handled, brought a plague upon the Bethshemites, 1 Sam. vi. 19; but yet a blessing upon the house of Obed-Edom. So religion, where it is worthily treated, bringeth a blessing, otherwise a judgment. Let the world say what it will, it is a friend to magistracy, partly by its commands enforcing civil duties by a sacred bond and obligation. See Prov. xxiv. 21, Mat. xxii. 21, 1 Peter ii. 17, Eccles. viii. 2. Partly by its influence, meekening the hearts of men, and obliging them to faithfulness. Those that are faithful to God, I shall expect them to be faithful to me, said Constantine’s father.132132 ‘Πῶς γὰρ ἂ πότε βασιλεῖ πίστιν φυλάξαι τοὺς περὶ τὸ κρείττον ἁλοντας ἀγνώμονως.’—Vid. Euseb. lib. ii. de Vitâ, Constant.; Sozom. lib. vi. Certainly none live so sweetly under the same government as those that are united in the same faith, or cemented together with the same blood of Christ. Partly by the indulgence of God’s providence, who is wont to favour those states where true religion is countenanced and vigorously owned. Oh! that our magistrates would regard this; their wisdom lieth in kissing the Son, Ps. ii. 10. Christ came not to gain persons, but nations to his obedience, and the more 237that is effected, though it be but by a public profession, the more safety may they expect; it is but a necessary thankfulness of the powers of the world to him to whom they owe their crowns, Prov. viii. 16. Let us pray for them that God would raise their zeal, and make them more cordial in the support of religion. A heathen said, Aut undiquaque religionem tolle aut usque quaque conserva—either wholly abandon religion, or maintain it more entirely.
Use 4. It showeth us what little reason magistrates have to countenance and spread their skirt over obstinate and impure heretics, such spirits being usually most opposite to magistracy. They do but nourish a snake in their own bosoms, and cherish a faction that in time will eat out their bowels. Were there no respects of religion but only those of civil policy, they should not be so sleepy in this case; but you will say, Is it lawful for them to intermeddle in matters of religion, and to use any compulsive power? I answer—Yes, verily; ‘they bear not the sword in vain.’ We have frequent instances in the word of good kings whose zeal is commended for so doing, and frequent injunctions also to this purpose. The Levites are commended for assisting Moses in the execution of those that worshipped the calf, Exod. xxxii. 26-28. Abraham was to command his children, Gen. xviii. 29. Asa commanded Judah to worship God, and the thing was right in the eyes of the Lord, 2 Chron. xiv: 2-4. So see 2 Chron. xv. 23, and Ezra x. 8; so 2 Chron. xxxiv. 32, 33; and that promise, Isa. xliii. 23. I know I touch the sore of this age, and that this is a truth much prejudiced; therefore I shall first remove the prejudices, and then state the question.
First, Remove the prejudices. The first is taken from the fathers, or primitive Christians, who almost generally express themselves against planting religion by the sword and compulsive force.133133 Austin changed his mind twice, and was at last for compulsion. Defendenda est religio non occidendo sed monendo, non soevitia sed patientia, so Lactantius, and suitably others. I answer—Were religion now to be planted, these sayings would take place. Pagans are not to be compelled, but enlightened; taught, not destroyed. And yet in such a case it is a question not easily resolved, whether the magistrate, if he had power, were not bound to compel his people, though professed pagans, to hear or attend upon the ministry of the word, it being the ordinary means of working faith. Augustine determineth that a Christian in such a case should improve his power for Christ. Felix necessitas quae ad meliora nos cogit, foris inveniatur necessitas et nascitur intus voluntas; and a little after, non quia cogantur reprehendant, sed quae cogantur attendant—it is a favour that the magistrate will take care to bring them to the means of salvation. Again, in such a case they are to be kept from scandalising and blaspheming the true religion; that is the least a magistrate can do for Christ. But where a people are Christianised, and do profess the true religion, they should not be set free to atheism, error, and apostasy.
2. Another prejudice is, that the examples before mentioned are brought from the Old Testament, and so proper to the policy of the Jews. I answer—Some alleged were before Moses’ law, as that of Abraham, and Jacob’s commanding his family to put away their idols, 238Gen. xxxv. 2. And the injunctions in the Old Testament were built upon reasons of immutable equity, as God’s glory, the danger of infection, &c., and so concern us as well as them; and the thing in question is agreeable to the light of nature, there being instances of pagan princes who were so far convinced of their duty to the true God, that they enjoined his worship, punishing the contempt thereof; see Ezra vi. 11; so Ezra vii. 26, and Dan. iii. 29. The Gentiles by the light of nature saw it to be suitable and agreeable to right reason. Arist. Polit., lib. vii. cap. 8, saith the first thing that falleth under a magistrate’s care is ἡ περὶ τὸ θεῖον ἐπιμέλεια, a care of divine worship. The Athenians banished Protagoras for speaking doubtfully, and by way of extenuation of their religion, and burnt his books. Besides all this, the reason why we have only precedents in the Old Testament is, be cause the people of the Jews were the only state that were acquainted with the knowledge of the true God. We have some prophecies that the like should be done in the New, Isa. xlix. 23, and Zech. xiii., which concerneth gospel times, Isa. lx. 10, Rev. xxi. 24. We were worse provided for than they were in the Old Testament, if men that had the plague-sore of heresy running upon them should without restraint be permitted to come into all companies.
3. Another prejudice is, it will make men hypocrites. I answer, with Athanasius—Would to God all were got so far as hypocrites, it would certainly be better for the Christian world; but however duties must not be left undone for ill consequences.
4. And another is, this will make way for persecution, and the calamities of the godly upon every change of the prince’s mind. I answer—If the Lord see persecution necessary for the church, we must endure it, and so we shall be gainers both by good princes and bad: by the persecution of evil princes truth is made glorious; by the ministry of the good, error is suppressed and discountenanced. God would oblige us the more to pray for them in power, Ps. lxxii. 1, and 1 Tim. ii. 2; and he hath promised to hear such prayers, and provide nurse-fathers for the church. Sometimes a wicked magistrate, understanding his duty, may, by the overruling power of God in his conscience, be with held from persecuting the truth, yea, carried out to the suppression of error. When Paulus Samosatenus revolted from the orthodox Christian faith, and would yet retain the bishopric of Antioch, the business was brought to Aurelian, a pagan emperor, who removed him.
Secondly, I shall state the point, and show you how far compulsion is necessary. (1.) The magistrate should use no compulsion before care had for better information, and resolution of the doubting conscience; otherwise the practice were fell and cruel, like that of false religions, that brook no contradiction. Consciences scrupulous must not be too hardly dealt withal. To answer arguments by a prison or the fires is a Popish topic,134134 ‘Ex officina carnificum petunt argumenta, et quos sermonibus decipere non possunt, gladiis clamant esse ferieudos.’—Ambros. and to supply in rage what wanteth in strength of reason and clearness of light is but a butcherly violence; punishment and compulsion should not be hastened, as long as there appeareth a desire to be informed, with meek endeavours after satisfaction. The apostle Paul is for two admonitions before church 239censure, Titus iii. 10; and the censure of the magistrate should not precede that of the church. (2.) In things indifferent, Christian toleration and forbearance takes place; all men never were, nor ever will be, in this world, of one and the same opinion, no more than of the same feature and complexion. There is a due latitude of allow able differences wherein the strong should bear with the weak, Rom. xv. 1; Eph. iv. 2; Gal. vi. 1. There are some lesser mistakes of conscience and infirmities incident to all men; namely, such as are consistent with faith, the main and fundamental truths and principles of salvation and charity, as not tending to foment faction in the church or sedition in the commonwealth; but if either of these limits be transgressed, circumstances may make these lesser things intolerable, as Paul ‘withstood Peter to the face,’ though otherwise he did not count the matter great, Gal. ii. 11; yet, when it was urged to the scandal of the churches, he thought it worthy of a contest. And here it belongeth to Christian princes, as to defend truth, so to see that peace be not violated for rites and ceremonies, and lesser differences that lie far from the heart of religion. I am persuaded that want of condescension to brethren hath brought all this confusion upon us, fec. (3.) A gross error kept secret cometh not under the magistrate’s cognisance, but the diffusion and dissemination of errors he must take notice of; as when men infect others, and openly blaspheme Christian doctrine, ‘he beareth not the sword in vain.’ The mind and conscience, as to any power under God, is sui juris; thoughts are free. It is a saying in the civil law, Cogitationis poenam nemo patitur—all command is exercised about such things as fall within the knowledge of him that commandeth. Now, God only knoweth the heart, Quis mihi imponat necessitatem credendi quod nolim, saith Lactantius, vel quod velim non credendi. Theodosius and Valentinian, in their law concerning the heretic, give this limitation, Sibi tantummodo nocitura sentiat, aliis obfutura non pandat—subscriptions and inquisitions into men’s consciences, we cannot but justly condemn. (4.) Errors, according to their nature and degree, merit a different punishment, Jude 9, and Ezra vii. 26. (5.) Blasphemy, idolatry, and gross heresy are to be put into the same rank with gross, vicious actions, and supposed (if entertained after the receiving of the truth) to be done against light and conscience. Paul saith of the heretic that he is αὐτοκάτακριτος, after due admonitions, Titus iii. 11. Therefore, in some cases, these may be punished with death, as Baal’s prophets were slain, 1 Kings xviii. 40, Exod. xxi. 20, and Lev. xxiv. 16. But of the whole question elsewhere.
Obs. 6. Again, I observe from the same clause, that it is a sin to despise dominions. For it is here charged upon these seducers. It is a sin, because it is against the injunctions of the word, Rom. xiii. 1, Titus iii. 1. We are apt to forget our civil duties, or to count them arbitrary, as if the same authority had not established the second table as well as the first; and it is a sin, because magistracy is God’s ordinance, the general instruction of it is of God, though the particular constitution of it be of man. Compare Rom. xiii. 1, with 1 Peter ii. 13. Government itself is of God; but this or that special manner or form of government is not determined by God, which is the difference 240between civil and ecclesiastical government, for there the particular form is specified, as well as the thing itself appointed. Again, it is a sin, because dominion preserveth human societies, so that we should trespass against the common good and public order if we should despise this help, yea, against the law of our own nature, man being by nature a sociable creature. Well, then, let us obey every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake. The public welfare is concerned in our obedience, as also the honour of religion, both which should be very dear to one that feareth God. The public welfare: better bear many inconveniences than embroil the country in war and blood. We are bidden be subject, σκολιοῖς, ‘to the froward,’ 1 Peter ii. 18. And the honour of religion: God will have the world know that Christianity is a friend to civil policy; see 1 Peter ii. 15, and Mat. xvii. 27. We learn hence, too, that they are but libertines that think that religion freeth them from the subjection which they owe to God or man; it doth not exempt us from our duty, but enable us to perform it. Many take such a liberty in civil things that they begin to grow contemptuous even in divine, and so cast off God’s yoke as well as the magistrate’s.
Obs. 7. The last expression is that, speak evil of dignities, or of glories, by which probably church officers are intended, such being spoken against in that age, 3 John 10, and expressed by the word glories, a term given both to the apostles and other officers of the church. Note, there is a respect due to persons invested with church power. This is established by God’s ordinance, and therefore should not be set at nought; neither should the persons invested with it be evil spoken of. That obedience is required to them, see Heb. xiii. 17; and respect and honour, see 1 Thes. v. 12, 13, and 1 Tim. v. 17; that they should not be lightly evil spoken of, 1 Tim. v. 19. Though for their persons and outward estate they are mean and despicable, yet they are called to a high employment, and have the promise of a great power and presence with them,: Mat. xvi. 19, John xx. 23; their regular proceedings are ratified in the court of heaven. We are fallen into an age wherein no persons are more contemptible than ministers, nothing less valued than church authority: it is become the eyesore of the times. Not to speak of those barking Shimeis the Quakers, and their foul-mouthed language, taught them by the father of lies; surely others have not such a reverence of God’s ordinance as they should have.
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