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A Survey of the Third Chapter
[Liberty of conscience — The obligation to comply with its dictates not superseded by the authority of the magistrate — External worship an essential part of religion — External worship not left to be regulated by man — The rite of sacrifice shown to be of divine original — Alleged right of the magistrate to appoint ceremonies — Distinction between words and ceremonies as signs.]
The third chapter entertains us with a magnificent grant of liberty of conscience. The very first paragraph asserts a “liberty of conscience in mankind over all their actions, whether moral or strictly religious.” But lest this should prove a bedlam concession, that might mischief the whole design in hand, it is delivered to the power of a keeper; who yet, upon examination, is no less wild and extravagant than itself is esteemed absolutely to be. This is, “That they have it as far as concerns their judgments, but not their practice;” — that is, they have liberty of conscience over their actions but not their practices, or over their practices but not over their practices! for, upon trial, their actions and practices will prove to be the same. And I do not as yet well understand what is this liberty of conscience over men’s actions. Is it to do or not to do, as their consciences dictate 440to them? This is absolutely denied and opposed in the chapter itself. Is it to judge of their actions, as done, whether they be good or evil? This, conscience is at no liberty in; for it is determined to a judgment in that kind naturally and necessarily, and must be so whilst it hath the light of nature and word of God to regard, so far as a rule is capable of giving a measure and determination to things to be regulated by it, — that is, its moral actings are morally determined. What, then, this liberty of conscience over men’s actions should be, when they can neither act freely according to their consciences what they are to do, nor abstain from what they are not to do, nor are at liberty to judge what they have done to be good or bad, I cannot divine.
Let us search after an explication of these things in the paragraph itself, whose contents are represented in the words mentioned. Here we are told that this liberty consists in “men’s thinking of things according to their own persuasion, and therein asserting the freedom of their judgments.” I would be loath to think that this liberty of men’s consciences over all their moral actions should, at first dash, dwindle into a liberty in speculations, — that men may think what they will, opine as they please, in or about things that are not to be brought into practice; but yet, as far as I can perceive, I must think so, or matters will come to a worse issue.
But these things must be a little farther examined, and that very briefly. Here is mention of “liberty of conscience;” but what conscience is, or what that liberty is, is not declared. For conscience, it is called sometimes “the mind,” sometimes “the understanding,” sometimes “opinion,” sometimes described by the “liberty of thinking,”sometimes termed an “imperious faculty;” which things, without much discourse and more words than I can now afford to use, are not reconcilable among themselves. Besides, liberty is no proper affection of the mind or understanding. Though I acknowledge the mind and its actings to be naturally free from outward compulsion or coaction, yet it is capable of such a determination from the things proposed unto it, and the manner of their proposal, as to make necessary the elicitation of its acts. It cannot but judge that two and three make five. It is the will that is the proper seat of liberty; and what some suppose to be the ultimate determination of the practical understanding is indeed an act of the will. It is so if you speak of liberty naturally and morally, and not of state and condition, which are here confounded. But suppose what you will to be conscience, it is moral actions or duties that are here supposed to be the objects of its actings. Now, what are or can be the thoughts or actings of the mind of man about moral actions, but about their virtue or their vice, their moral good or evil? Nor is a conclusion of what is a man’s own duty in reference 441to the practice of them possibly to be separated from them. That, then, which is here asserted is, That a man may think, judge, or conceive such or such a thing to be his duty, and yet have thereby no obligation put upon him to perform it; for conscience, we are informed, hath nothing to do beyond the inward thoughts of men’s minds!
To state this matter a little more clearly, let us take conscience in the most usual acceptation of it, and that which answers the experience of every man that ever looks into the affairs and concerns within; and so it is the practical judgment that men make of themselves and of their actions, or what they are to do and what they are not to do, what they have done or what they have omitted, with reference unto the judgment of God, at present declared in their own hearts and in his word, and to be fully executed at the last day: for we speak of conscience as it is amongst Christians, who acknowledge the word of God, and that for a double end; first, as the rule of conscience itself; secondly, as the declaration of the will of God, as to his approbation or rejecting of what we do or omit. Suppose, then, that a man make a judgment in his conscience, regulated by the word of God, and with respect unto the judgment of God concerning him, that such and such a thing is a duty, and whose performance is required of him, I desire to know whether any obligation be upon him from thence to act according? It is answered, that “the territory of conscience is confined unto men’s thoughts, judgments, and persuasions, and these are free” (Yea, no doubt); “but for outward actions there is no remedy, but they must be subject to the cognizance of human laws,” p. 9. Who ever doubted of it? He that would have men so have liberty from outward actions as not to have those actions cognoscible by the civil power as to the end of public tranquillity, but to have their whole station firmed absolutely in the world upon the plea of conscience, would, no doubt, lay a foundation for confusion in all government. But what is this to the present inquiry, Whether conscience lay an obligation on men, as regulated by the word of God, and respecting him, to practice according to its dictates? It is true enough, that if any of its practices do not please or satisfy the magistrate, their authors must, for aught I know, stand to what will follow or ensue on them to their prejudice; but this frees them not from the obligation that is upon them in conscience unto what is their duty. This is that which must be here proved, if any thing be intended unto the purpose of this author, — namely, that notwithstanding the judgment of conscience concerning any duty, by the interposition of the authority of the magistrate to the contrary, there is no obligation ensues for the performance of that duty. This is the answer that ought plainly 442to be returned, and not a suggestion that outward actions must fall under the cognizance of the magistrate, which none ever doubted of, and which is nothing to the present purpose, unless he would have them so to fall under the magistrates cognizance as that his will should be the supreme rule of them; which, I think, he cannot prove. But what sense the magistrate will have of the outward actions, wherein the discharge of man’s duty doth consist, is of another consideration.
This, therefore, is the state of the present case applied unto religious worship: Suppose the magistrate command such things in religion as a man in his conscience, guided by the word and respecting God, doth look upon as unlawful and such as are evil, and sin unto him if he should perform them, and forbid such things in the worship of God as he esteems himself obliged in conscience to observe as commands of Christ; if he practice the things so commanded, and omit the things so forbidden, I fear he will find himself within doors continually at confession, saying, with trouble enough, “I have done those things which I ought not to have done, and I have left undone those things which I ought to have done, and there is no health in me;” unless this author can prove that the commands of God respect only the minds of men, but not their outward actions, which are left unto the authority of the magistrate alone. If no more be here intended, but that whatever conscience may require of any, it will not secure them but that, when they come to act outwardly according to it, the civil magistrate may and will consider their actions, and allow them or forbid them, according to his own judgment, it were surely a madness to deny it, as great as to say the sun shineth not at noonday. If conscience to God be confined to thoughts, and opinions, and speculations about the general notions and notices of things, about true and false, and unto a liberty of judging and determining upon them what they are, whether they are so or no, the whole nature and being of conscience, and that to the reason, sense, and experience of every man, is utterly overthrown. If conscience be allowed to make its judgment of what is good or evil, what is duty or sin, and no obligation be allowed to ensue from thence unto a suitable practice, a wide door is opened unto atheism, and thereby the subversion of all religion and government in the world.
This, therefore, is the sum of what is asserted in this matter: Conscience, according to that apprehension which it hath of the will of God about his worship (whereunto we confine our discourse), obligeth men to act or forbear accordingly. If their apprehensions are right and true, just and equal, what the Scripture, the great rule of conscience, doth declare and require, I hope none, upon second thoughts, 443will deny but that such things are attended with a right unto a liberty to be practised, while the Lord Jesus Christ is esteemed the Lord of lords and King of kings, and is thought to have power to command the observance of his own institutions. Suppose their apprehensions to be such as may in those things, be they more or less, be judged not to correspond exactly with the great rule of conscience, yet supposing them also to contain nothing inconsistent with, or of a disturbing nature to, civil society and public tranquillity, nothing that gives countenance to any vice or evil, or is opposite to the principal truths and main duties of religion, wherein the minds of men in a nation do coalesce, nor to carry any politic entanglements along with them; and add thereunto the peaceableness of the persons possessed with those apprehensions, and the impossibility they are under to divest themselves of them; — and I say natural right, justice, equity, religion, conscience, God himself in all, and his voice in the hearts of all unprejudiced persons, do require that neither the persons themselves, on the account of their consciences, have violence offered unto them, nor their practices in pursuit of their apprehensions be restrained by severe prohibitions and penalties But whereas the magistrate is allowed to judge and dispose of all outward actions in reference to public tranquillity, if any shall assert principles, as of conscience, tending or obliging unto the practice of vice, immorality, or sin, or to the disturbance of public society, such principles being all notoriously judged by Scripture, nature, the common consent of mankind, and inconsistent with the fundamental principles of human polity, may be, in all instances of their discovery and practice, coerced and restrained. But, plainly, as to the commands of conscience, they are of the same extent with the commands of God; — if these respect only the inward man, or the mind, conscience doth no more; if they respect outward actions, conscience doth so also.
From the liberty of conscience a proceed is made to Christian liberty, which is said to be “a duty or privilege founded upon the” (chimerical) “liberty of conscience” before granted. But these things stand not in the relation imagined. Liberty of conscience is of natural right, Christian liberty is a gospel privilege, though both may be pleaded in unwarrantable impositions on conscience. But these things are so described by our author as to be confounded: for the Christian liberty described in this paragraph is either restrained to matters of pure speculation, wherein the mind of man is left entirely free to judge of the truth and falsehood of things; or as it regards things that fall under laws and impositions, wherein men are left entirely free to judge of them, as they are objects of mere opinion. Now, how this differs from the liberty of conscience granted before I know not. And that there is some mistake in this description of 444Christian liberty needs no other consideration to evince but this, namely, that Christian liberty, as our author tells us, is a privilege; but this is not so, being that which is equally common unto all mankind. This liberty is necessary unto human nature, nor can it be divested of it; and so it is not a privilege that includes a speciality in it. Every man cannot but think what he thinks, and judge what he judgeth, and that when he doth so, whether he will or no; for every thing when it is, and as it is, is necessary. In the use of what means they please, to guide, direct, and determine their thoughts, their liberty doth consist. This is equal in all, and natural unto all. Now, this inward freedom of our judgment is, it seems, our Christian liberty, consistent with any impositions upon men in the exercise of the worship of God, with an obligation on conscience unto their use and practice! a liberty, indeed, of no value, but a mere aggravation of bondage. And these things are farther discoursed, sect. iii., p. 95; wherein we are told, that “this prerogative of our Christian liberty is not so much any new favour granted in the gospel, as the restoration of the mind of man to its natural privilege, by exempting us from the yoke of the ceremonial law, whereby things in themselves indifferent were tied upon the conscience with as indispensable an obligation as the rule of essential goodness, and equity, during the whole period of the Mosaic dispensation; which being corrected by the gospel, those indifferent things, that have been made necessary by a divine, positive command, returned to their own nature, to be used or omitted only as occasion shall direct.”
It is true that a good part of our Christian liberty consists in our deliverance from the yoke of Mosaical institutions; but that this “is not so much a new favour granted in the gospel as the restoration of the mind of man to its natural privilege,” is an assertion that runs parallel with many others in this discourse. This privilege, as all others of the gospel are, is spiritual, and its outward concerns and exercise are of no value where the mind is not spiritually made free by Christ. And it is uncertain what is meant by the “restoration of the mind to its natural privilege.” If the privilege of the mind in its natural purity is intended, as it was before the entrance of sin, it is false; if any privilege [which] the mind of man, in its corrupt, depraved condition, is capable of, be designed, it is no less untrue. In things of this nature the mind in that condition is in bondage, and not capable of any liberty; for it is a thing ridiculous to confound the mere natural liberty of our wills, which is an affection inseparable from that faculty, with a moral or spiritual liberty of mind relating unto God and his worship. But this whole paragraph runs upon no small mistake, — namely, that the yoke of Mosaical institutions consisted in their impositions on the minds and judgments of men, with an opinion 445of the antecedent necessity of them; for although the words recited, “Things in themselves indifferent were tied upon the conscience with as indispensable an obligation as the rules of essential goodness and equity,” may be restrained to their use, exercise, and observation, yet the conclusion of it, that “whatever our superiors impose upon us, whether in matters of religious worship or any other duties of morality, there neither is nor can be any intrenchment upon our Christian liberty, provided it be not imposed with an opinion of the antecedent necessity of the thing itself,” with: the whole scope of the argument insisted on, makes it evident to be the sense intended. But this is wide enough from the mark. The Jews were never obliged to judge the whole system of their legal institutions to be any way necessary antecedent unto their institution and appointment; nor were they obliged to judge their intrinsic nature changed by their institution: only, they knew they were obliged to their constant and indispensable practice, as parts of the worship of God, instituted and commanded by him who hath the supreme authority over their souls and consciences. There was, indeed, a bondage frame of spirit upon them in all things, especially in their whole worship of God, as the apostle Paul several times declares. But this is a thing of another nature, though our delivery from it be also a part of Christian liberty. This was no part of their inward no more than their outward bondage, that they should think, believe, judge, or esteem the things themselves enjoined them to be absolutely of any other nature than they were. Had they been obliged unto any such judgment of things, they had been obliged to deceive themselves, or to be deceived. But, by the absolute authority of God, they were indispensably bound in conscience to the actual observance and continual use of such a number of ceremonies, carnal ordinances, and outward observances, as, being things in themselves low and mean, called by the apostle “beggarly elements,” and enjoined with so great strictness, and under so severe penalties, — many of them, of excision, or extermination from among the people, — so became an intolerable and insupportable yoke unto them. Neither doth the apostle Peter dispute about a judgment of their nature, but the necessity of their observation, when he calls them “a yoke which neither they nor their fathers were able to bear,” Acts xv. 10. And when St Paul gives a charge to believers to “stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made them free,” it is with respect to the outward observation of Mosaical rites, as by him instituted, and not as to any inward judgment of their minds concerning their nature antecedent unto that institution. His whole disputation on that subject respects only men’s practice with regard unto an authoritative obligation thereunto, which he pleaded to be now expired and removed. And 446if this Christian liberty, which he built and proceeded upon, be of force to free, not our minds from the judgments that they had before of things in themselves, but our persons from the necessary practice and observance of things instituted of God, however antecedently indifferent in themselves, I think it is, at least, of equal efficacy to exempt us from the necessary practice of things imposed on us in the worship of God by men. For, setting aside the inequality of the imposing authority, which casts the advantage on the other side (for these legal impositions were imposed on the church by God himself; those now intended are such masters as our superiors of themselves impose on us in religious worship), the case is absolutely the same: for as God did not give the “law of commandments contained in ordinances” unto the Jews from the goodness of the things required therein antecedent to his command, which should make them necessary to be practised by them for their good, but did it of his own sovereign, arbitrary will and pleasure; so he obliged not the people themselves unto any other judgment of them, but that they were necessarily to be observed. And, setting aside the consideration of his command, they were things in their own nature altogether indifferent. So is it in the present case. It is pleaded that there is no imposition on the minds, consciences, or judgments of men, to think or judge otherwise of what is imposed on them than as their nature is and doth require; only they are obliged unto their usage, observance, and practice: which is to put us into a thousand times worse condition than the Jews, if instances of them should be multiplied, as they may lawfully be every year, seeing it much more quiets the mind, to be able to resolve its thoughts immediately into the authority of God under its yoke than into that of man. If, therefore, we are freed from the one by our Christian liberty, we are so much more from the other; so as that, “being made free by Christ,” we should not be the “servants of men” in things belonging to his service and worship.
From this discovery here made of the nature of Christian liberty, our author makes some deductions, pp. 98, 99, concerning the nature of religious worship; wherein he tells us that “the whole substance of religious worship is transacted within the mind of man, and dwells in the heart and thoughts, the soul being its proper seat and temple, where men may worship their God as they please without offending their prince; and that external worship is no part of religion itself.” I wish he had more clearly and distinctly expressed his mind in this matter, for his assertions, in the sense the words seem to bear, are prodigiously false, and such as will open a door to atheism, with all the villany and confusion in the world; for who would not think this to be his intention: Let men keep their minds 447and inward thoughts and apprehensions right for God, and then they may practice outwardly in religion what they please; one thing one day, another another; be Papists and Protestants, Arians and Homo-ousians, yea, Mohammedans and Christians, any thing, every thing, after the manner of the country and laws of the prince where they are and live; — the rule that Ecebolius77 Ecebolius was a sophist of Constantinople, a zealous Christian under Constantine the Great, and equally zealous as a Pagan under Julian. — Ed. walked by of old? I think there is no man that owns the Scripture but will confess that this is, at least, if not a direct, yet an interpretative rejection of the whole authority of God. And may not this rule be quickly extended unto oaths themselves, the bonds and ligaments of human society? for whereas, in their own formal nature, they belong to the worship of God, why may not men pretend to keep up their reverence unto God in the internal part of them, or their esteem of him in their invocation of his name, but as to the outward part accommodate it unto what by their interest is required of them; so swearing with their tongues, but keeping their mind at liberty? If the principles laid down be capable of any other more tolerable sense, and such as may be exclusive of these inferences, I shall gladly admit it; at present, what is here deduced from them seems to be evidently included in them.
It is true, indeed, that natural, moral, or internal worship, consisting in faith, love, fear, thankfulness, submission, dependence, and the like, hath its constant seat and residence in the souls and minds of men; but that the ways whereby these principles of it are to be outwardly exercised and expressed, by God’s command and appointment, are not also indispensably necessary unto us, and parts of his worship, is utterly false. That which principally in the Scripture comes under the notion of the worship of God, is the due observance of his outward institutions; which divines have, upon unquestionable grounds, contended to be commanded and appointed in general in the second commandment of the decalogue, whence all particular institutions in the several seasons of the church are educed, and resolved into the authority of God therein expressed. And that account which we have here given us of outward worship, — namely, that it is “no part of religion itself, but only an instrument to express the inward generation of the mind by some outward action or posture of the body,” — as it is very difficultly to be accommodated unto the sacrifices of old or the present sacraments of the church, which were and are parts of outward worship, and, as I take it, of religion; so the being an instrument, unto the purpose mentioned, doth not exclude any thing from being also a part of religion and worship itself, if it be commanded by God to be performed in his 448service unto his glory. It is pretended that all outward worship is only “an exterior signification of honour;” but yet all the parts of it in their performance are acts of obedience unto God, and are the proper actings of faith, love, and submission of soul unto God; which if they are not his worship, and parts of religion, I know not what may be so esteemed. Let, then, outward worship stand in what relation it will to inward spiritual honour, where God requires it and commands it, it is no less necessary and indispensably to be performed than any part of inward worship itself, and is a no less important duty of religion; for any thing comes to be a part of religious worship outwardly to be performed, not from its own nature, but from its respect unto the commands of God, and the end whereunto it is by him designed. So the apostle tells us, that “with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation,” Rom. x. 10. Confession is but the “exterior signification” of the faith that is in our hearts; but yet it is no less necessary to salvation than faith itself is to righteousness. And those who regulate their obedience and religious worship by the commands of God, knowing that which way soever they are signified, by inbred light or superadded revelation, it is they which give their obedience its formal nature, making it religious, will not allow that place and use of the outward worship required by God himself which should exclude it from being religious, or a part of their religion.
But upon the whole matter our author affirms, “That in all ages of the world, God hath left the management of his outward worship unto the discretion of men, unless when to determine some particulars hath been useful to some other purpose, p. 100. “The management of outward worship” may signify no more but the due performance of it; and so I acknowledge that though it be not left unto men’s discretion to observe or not observe it, yet it is, too, their duty and obedience, which are their discretion and their wisdom. But the management here understood is opposed to God’s own determination of particular forms, — that is, his especial institutions; and hereof I shall make bold to say, that it was never in any age so left to the discretion of men. To prove this assertion, sacrifices are singled out as an instance. It is known and granted that these were the most solemn part of the outward worship of God for many ages, and that there was a general consent of mankind unto the use of them, so that however the greatest part of the world apostatized from the true, only, and proper object of all religious worship, yet they retained this mode and medium of it. These sacrifices, we are told, p. 101, “did not owe their original unto any divine institution, but were made choice of by good men as a fit way of imitating the 449grateful resentments of their minds.” The argument alone, as far as I can find, fixed on to firm this assertion is, that those who teach the contrary, and say that this mode of worship was commanded, do say so without proof or evidence. Our author, for the most part, sets off his assertions at no less rate than as such without whose admittance all order and government, and almost every thing that is good amongst mankind, would be ruined and destroyed. But he hath the unhappiness to found them, ordinarily, not only on principles and opinions dubious and uncertain, but on such paradoxes as have been by sober and learned men generally decried. Such is this of the original of sacrifices, here insisted on. The divines of the church of Rome do generally contend that religion and sacrifices are so related that the one cannot be without the other. Hence, they teach [that] God would have required sacrifices in the state of innocency had mankind continued therein. And though the instance be ill laid and not proved, yet the general rule applied unto the religion of sinners is not easily to be evicted; for as in Christian religion we have a Sacrifice that is πρόσφατος καὶ ζῶσα, as to its efficacy, always “newly offered and living,” so before the personal offering of it in the body of Christ, there was no season or age without a due representation of it in sacrifices typical and of mystical signification. And although there be no express mention in the Scripture of their institution (for these are ancient things), yet there is as good warrant for it as for offering and burning incense only with sacred fire taken from the altar, which was of a heavenly traduction, for a neglect whereof the priests were consumed with fire from before the Lord; that is, though an express command be not recorded for their institution and observation, yet enough may be collected from the Scripture that they were of a divine extract and original. And if they were arbitrary inventions of some men, I desire to have a rational account given me of their catholicism in the world, and one instance more of any thing not natural or divine that ever prevailed to such an absolute universal acceptance amongst mankind. It is not so safe, I suppose, to assign an arbitrary original unto any thing that hath obtained a universal consent and suffrage, lest men be thought to set their own houses on fire, on purpose to consume their neighbours’.
Besides, no tolerable colour can be given to the assertion that they were the “invention of good men.” The first notice we have of them is in those of Cain and Abel, whereof one was a bad man and of the evil one, and yet must be looked on as the principal inventor of sacrifices, if this fiction be allowed. Some of the ancients, indeed, thought that Adam sacrificed the beasts to God whose skins his first garments were made of; and if so, he was very pregnant and sudden in his invention, if he had no direction from God. But more than 450all this, bloody sacrifices were types of Christ, from the foundation of the world; and Socinus himself, who and his followers are the principal assessors of this paradox, grants that Christ is called the “Lamb of God,” with respect unto the sacrifices of old, even before the law, as he is termed “a Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,” not only with respect unto the efficacy of his sacrifice, but to the typical representation of it. And he that shall deny that the patriarchs in their sacrifices had respect unto the promised Seed will endeavour the shaking of a pillar of the church’s creed. Now, I desire to know how men, by their own invention or authority, could assign such an end unto their sacrifices, if they were not of divine prescription, if not designed of God thereunto.
Again, the apostle tells us, Abel offered his sacrifice by faith, Heb. xi. 4; and faith hath respect unto the testimony of God, revealing, commanding, and promising to accept our duty. Wherever any thing is done in faith, there an assent is included to this, “that God is true,” John iii. 33; and what it doth is thereby distinguished from will-worship, that is resolved into the commandments and doctrines of men, which whoso rest on make void the commandment of God, Matt. xv. 3, 6. And the faith of Abel, as to its general nature, was “the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen,” Heb. xi. 1; which in this matter it could not be if it had neither divine command nor promise to rest upon. It is evident, therefore, that sacrifices were of a divine original; and the instance in them to prove that the “outward worship of God hath, in all ages, been left unto the prudence and management of men,” is feeble, and such as will give no countenance unto what it is produced in the justification of. And herewith the whole discourse of our author on this subject falls to the ground; where I shall at present let it lie, though it might, in sundry particulars, be easily crumbled into useless asseverations and some express contradictions.
In the close of this chapter an application is made of what hath been before argued, or rather dictated, upon a particular controversy about “significant ceremonies.” I am not willing to engage in any contests of that nature, seeing to the due handling of them a greater length of discourse would be necessary than I think meet at present to draw forth this survey unto. Only, seeing a very few words may serve to manifest the looseness of what is here discoursed, to that purpose I shall venture on the patience of the reader with an addition of them. We have, therefore, in the first place, a reflection on “the prodigious impertinency of the clamour against the institution of significant ceremonies, when it is the only use of ceremonies, as of all other outward expressions of religion, to be significant,” I do somewhat admire at the temper of this author, who cannot express 451his dissent from others in controversial points of the meanest and lowest concernment, but with crying out, “prodigies,” “clamours,” “impertinencies,” and the like expressions of astonishment in himself and contempt of others. He might reserve some of these great words for more important occasions. But yet I join with him thus far in what he pleads, that ceremonies instituted in the worship of God that are not significant are very insignificant, and such as deserve not the least contention about them. He truly, also, in the next words, tells us that all “outward worship is a sign of inward honour.” It is so, both in civil things and sacred. All our question is, How these instituted ceremonies come to be significant, and what it is they signify, and whether it be lawful to assign a significancy to them in the worship of God, when indeed they have none of the kind intended? To free us from any danger herein he informs us, p. 108, “That all the magistrate’s power of instituting significant ceremonies amounts to no more than a power of determining what shall or what shall not be visible signs of honour; and this can be no usurpation upon the consciences of men.” This is new language, and such as we have not formerly been used unto in the church of England, — namely, that of the ‘“magistrate’s instituting significant ceremonies.” It was of old, the “church’s appointing ceremonies for decency and order.” But all the terms of that assertion are metamorphosed; the “church” into the “magistrates;” “appointing,” which respects exercise, into “institution,” which respects the nature of the thing, and hath a singular use and sense in this matter (or let them pass for the same); and “order and decency” into “ceremonies significant.” These things were indeed implied before, but not so fully and plainly expressed or avowed. But the “honour” here intended in this matter is the honour, which is given to God in his worship. This is the honour of faith, love, fear, obedience, spiritual and holy, in Jesus Christ. To say that the magistrate hath power to institute visible signs of this honour, to be observed in the outward worship of God, is upon the matter to say that he hath power to institute new sacraments, for so such things would be, and to say what neither is nor can be proved, nor is here either logically or any way regularly attempted so to be.
The comparing of the ceremonies and their, signification, with words and their signification, will not relieve our author in this matter. Some things are naturally significant of one another: so effects are of causes; so is smoke of fire; and such were the signs of the weather mentioned by our Saviour, Matt. xvi. 2, 3. Thus, I suppose, ceremonies are not significant, They do not naturally signify the things whereunto they are applied; for if they did there would be no need of their institution, and they are here said to be instituted by the magistrate. Again, there are customary signs, — some, it 452may be, catholic, many topical, — that have prevailed by custom and usage to signify such things as they have no absolute natural coherence with or relation unto; such is putting off the hat in sign of reverence, with others innumerable. And both these sorts of signs may have some use about the service and worship of God, as might be manifested in instances. But the signs we inquire after are voluntary, arbitrary, and instituted, as our author confesseth; for we do not treat of appointing some ceremonies for order and decency, which our canons take notice of, but of instituting ceremonies for signification, such as neither naturally nor merely by custom and usage come to be significant, but only by virtue of their institution. Now, concerning these, one rule may be observed, — namely, that they cannot be of one kind and signify things of another, by virtue of any command and consent of men, unless they have an absolute authority both over the sign and thing signified, and can change their natures, or create a new relation between them. To take, therefore, things natural, that are outward and visible, and appoint them to be signs, not natural, nor civil, nor customary, but mystical, of things spiritual, supernatural, inward, and invisible, and as such to have them observed in the church or worship of God, is a thing which is not as yet proved to be lawful. Signify thus naturally they never can, seeing there is no natural relation between them; civilly, or by consent, they do not so, for they are things sacred which they am supposed to signify, and are so far from signifying by consent, that those who plead for their signification do not agree wherein it doth consist. They must, therefore, signify so mystically and spiritually, and “signa cum ad res divinas pertinent sunt sacramenta,” says Austin; — these things are sacraments. And when men can give mystical and spiritual efficacy to any of their own institutions; when they can make a relation between such signs and the things signified by them; when they can make that teaching and instructing in spiritual things and the worship of God which he hath not made so or appointed, blessed or consecrated to that end; when they can bind God’s promises of assistance and acceptance to their own inventions; when they can advance what they will into the same rank and series of things in the worship of God with the sacrifices of old, or other parts of instituted worship in the church, by God’s command, and attended with his promise of gracious acceptance; — then, and not before, may they institute the “significant ceremonies” here contended for. Words, it is true, are signs of things, and those of a mixed nature, partly natural, partly by consent: but they are not of one kind and signify things of another; for, say the schoolmen, “Where Words are signs of sacred things, they are signs of them as things, but not as sacred.”
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