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A Survey of the Sixth Chapter

[The word of God the sole rule of worship — The light of reason — Vocal revelation — Magistrate’s power in regard to things without the church but about it — Testimonies from the ancient fathers as to the supreme authority of Scripture — Alleged instances from the Old Testament of the magistrate appointing religious rites — Parker’s answers to certain objections considered — Doctrine of passive obedience refuted — Alleged right of the magistrate to punish his subjects if they will not comply with idolatry or superstition established by law — The true dignity and functions of the magistrate declared — Exhortation to toleration and charity.]

The sixth chapter in this discourse, — which is the last that at the present I shall call to any account, as being now utterly wearied with the frequent occurrence of the same things in various dresses, — is designed to the confutation of a principle which is termed the “foundation of all Puritanism,” and that wherein “the mystery of it” consisteth. Now this is, “That nothing ought to be established in the worship of God but what is authorized by some precept or example in the word of God, which is the complete and adequate rule of worship.” Be it so that this principle is by some allowed, yea, contended for, it will not be easy to affix a guilt upon them on the account of its being so; for lay aside prejudices, corrupt interests, and passions, and I am persuaded that at the first view, it will not seem to be foreign unto what is in a hundred places declared and taught in the Scripture. And certainly a man must be master of extraordinary projections who can foresee all the evil, confusion, and desolation in the world, which our author hath found out as inevitable consequences of its admittance. It hath, I confess, been formerly disputed with colourable arguments, pretences, and instances, 463on the one side and the other, and variously stated amongst learned men, by and on various distinctions, and with divers limitations. But the manner of our author is, that whatever is contrary to his apprehensions must presently overthrow all government and bring in all confusion into the world. Such huge weight hath he wonted himself to lay on the smallest different conceptions of the minds of men, where his own are not enthroned! Particularly, it is contended that there can be no peace in any churches or states whilst this principle is admitted; when it is easily demonstrable that without the admittance of it, as to its substance and principal end, all peace and agreement among churches are utterly impossible. The like also may be said of states; which, indeed, are not at all concerned in it, any farther than as it is a principal means of their peace and security where it is embraced, and that which would reduce rulers to a stability of mind in these things, after they have been tossed up and down with the various suggestions of men, striving every one to exalt their own imaginations. But seeing it is pretended and granted to be of so much importance, I shall, without much regard to the exclamations of this author, and the reproachful, contemptuous expressions, which, without stint or measure, he pours out upon the assertors of it, consider both what is the concern of his present adversaries in it and what is to be thought of the principle itself; so submitting the whole to the judgment of the candid reader. Only, I must add one thing to the position, without which it is not maintained by any of those with whom he hath to do, which may deliver him from combating the air in his next assault of it; and this is, That nothing ought to be established in the worship of God, as a part of that worship, or made constantly necessary in its observance, without the warranty before mentioned: for this is expressly contended for by them who maintain it, and who reject nothing upon the authority of it but what they can prove to be a pretended part of religious worship as such. And, as thus laid down, I shall give some farther account both of the principle itself and of the interest of the Nonconformists in it, because both it and they are together here reproached.

What then, I say, is the true sense and importance of that which our author designs to oppose, according to the mind of them who assert it? How impotent his attempts against it are for its removal shall briefly be declared. In the meantime, I cannot but in the first place tell him, that if by any means this principle, truly stated, as to the expressions wherein it is before laid down, and the formal terms whereof it consisteth, should be shaken or rendered dubious, yet that the way will not be much the plainer or clearer for the introduction of his pretensions. There are yet other general maxims 464which Nonconformists adhere unto, and suppose not justly questionable, which they can firmly stand and build upon in the management of their plea, as to all differences between him and them; and because, it may be, he is unacquainted with them, I shall reckon over some of them, for his information. And they are these that follow:—

1. That whatever the Scripture hath indeed prescribed and appointed to be done and observed in the worship of God and the government of the church, that is indeed to be done and observed. This, they suppose, will not be opposed; at least, they do not yet know, notwithstanding any thing spoken or disputed in this discourse, any pretences on which it may honestly so be. It is also, as I think, secured, Matt. xxviii. 20.

2. That nothing in conjunction with, nothing as an addition or supplement unto, what is so appointed ought to be admitted, if it be contrary either to the general rules or particular preceptive instructions of the Scripture. And this also, I suppose, will be granted; and if it be not freely, some are ready by arguments to extort the confession of it from them that shall deny it.

3. That nothing ought to be joined with or added unto what in the Scripture is prescribed and appointed in these things without some cogent reason, making such conjunction or addition necessary. Of what necessity may accrue unto the observation of such things by their prescription, we do not now dispute, but at present only desire to see the necessity of their prescription; and this can be nothing but some defect, in substance or circumstance, matter or manner, kind or form, in the institutions mentioned in the Scripture, as to their proper ends. Now, when this is discovered, I will not, for my part, much dispute by whom the supplement is to be made. In the meantime, I do judge it reasonable that there be some previous reasons assigned unto any additional prescriptions in the worship of God unto what is revealed in the Scripture, rendering the matter of those prescriptions antecedently necessary and reasonable.

4. That if any thing or things in this kind shall be found necessary to be added and prescribed, then that and those alone be so which are most consonant unto the general rules of the Scripture given us for our guidance in the worship of God, and the nature of those institutions themselves wherewith they are conjoined or whereunto they are added. And this also I suppose to be a reasonable request, and such as will be granted by all men who dare not advance their own wills and wisdom above or against the Will and wisdom of God.

Now, if, as was said, the general principle before mentioned should by any means be duly removed, or could be so, or if entangled or rendered dubious, yet, as far as I can learn, the Nonconformists 465will be very far from supposing the matters in contest between them and their adversaries to be concluded. But as they look upon their concernments to be absolutely secured in the principles now mentioned, all which they know to be true and hope to be unquestionable, so the truth is, there is by this author very small occasion administered unto any thoughts of quitting the former more general thesis as rightly stated; but rather, if his ability be a competent measure of the merit of his cause, there is a strong confirmation given unto it in the minds of considering men, from the impotency and successlessness of the attempt made upon it. And that this may appear to the indifferent reader’s satisfaction, I shall so far divert in this place from the pursuit of my first design as to state the principle aright, and briefly to call the present opposition of it unto a new account.

The sum, in general, of what this author opposeth with so much clamour is, That divine revelation is the sole rule of divine religious worship; an assertion that, in its latitude of expression, hath been acknowledged in and by all nations and people. The very heathen admitted it of old, as shall be manifested, if need require, by instances sufficient; for though they framed many gods, in their foolish, darkened imaginations, yet they thought that every one of them would be worshipped according to his own mind, direction, and prescription. So did, and I think do, Christians generally believe. Only, some have a mind to pare this generally-avowed principle, to curb it, and order it so, by distinctions and restrictions, that it may serve their turn and consist with their interest; for an opposition unto it nakedly, directly, and expressly, few have had the confidence yet to make. And the Nonconformists need not go one step farther in the expression of their judgments and principles in this matter; for who shall compel them to take their adversaries’ distinctions (which have been invented and used by the most learned of them) of “substantial and accidental, proper and reductive, primitive and accessary, direct and consequential, intrinsic and circumstantial worship,” and the like, for the most part, unintelligible terms, in their application unto the state of the question? If men have a mind, let them oppose this thesis as laid down; if not, let them let it alone: and they who shall undertake the confirmation of it will no doubt carry it through the briers of those unscriptural distinctions. And that this author may be the better instructed in his future work, I shall give him a farther account of the terms of the assertion laid down.

Revelation is either ἐνδιάθετος or προφορικός, and containeth every discovery or declaration that God hath made of himself or of his mind and will unto men. Thus it is comprehensive of that concreated light which is in all men concerning him and his will; for although we say that this is natural, and is commonly contradistinguished 466from revelation properly so called, which, for perspicuity’s sake, we call revelation supernatural, yet whereas it doth not so necessarily accompany human nature but that it may be separated from it, nor is it educed out of our natural faculties by their own native or primogenial virtue, but is or was distinctly implanted in them by God himself, I place it under the general head of revelation.

Hence, whatever is certainly from God, by the light of nature and instinct thereof declared so to be, is no less a certain rule of worship and obedience, so far forth as it is from him and concerneth those things, than any thing that comes from him by express vocal revelation. And this casts out of consideration a vain exception wherewith some men please themselves, as though the men of this opinion denied the admittance of what is from God, and by the light of nature discovered to be his mind and will. Let them once prove any thing in contest between them and their adversaries to be required, prescribed, exacted, or made necessary, by the light of nature, as the will of God revealed therein, and I will assure them that, as to my concern, there shall be an end to all difference about it. But yet, that I may add a little farther light into the sense of the Nonconformists in this matter, I say, —

1. That this inbred light of reason guides unto nothing at all in or about the worship of God, but what is more fully, clearly, and directly taught and declared in the Scripture. And this may easily be evinced, as from the untoward mixture of darkness and corruption that is befallen our primogenial, inbred principles of light and wisdom by the entrance of sin, so also from the end of the Scripture itself, which was to restore that knowledge of God and his mind which was lost by sin, and which might be as useful to man in his lapsed condition as the other was in his pure and uncorrupted estate. At present, therefore, I shall leave this assertion, in expectation of some instance, in matters great or small, to the contrary, before I suppose it be obnoxious to question or dispute.

2. As there can be no opposition nor contradiction between the light of nature and inspired vocal or scriptural revelation, because they are both from God, so if in any instance there should appear any such thing unto us, neither faith nor reason can rest in that which is pretended to be natural light, but must betake themselves for their resolution unto express revelation. And the reason hereof is evident, — because nothing is natural light but what is common to all men, and where it is denied, it is frustrated as to its ruling efficacy. Again; it is mixed, as we said before, and it is not every man’s work to separate the chaff from the wheat, or what God hath implanted in the mind of man when he made him upright, and what is since soaked into the principles of his nature from his own inventions. 467But this case may possibly very rarely fall out, and so shall not much be insisted on.

3. Our inquiry in our present contest is solely about instituted worship, which we believe to depend on supernatural revelation. The light of nature can no way relieve or guide us in it or about it, because it refers universally to things above and beyond that light; but only with reference unto those moral, natural circumstances, which appertain unto those actings or actions of men whereby it is performed, which we willingly submit unto its guidance and direction.

Again, vocal revelation hath come under two considerations:— First, As it was occasional. Secondly, As it became stated.

First, As it was occasional. For a long time God was pleased to guide his church in many concerns of his worship by fresh occasional revelations, even from the giving of the first promise unto Adam unto the solemn giving of the law by Moses; for although men had, in process of time, many stated revelations, that were preserved by tradition among them, as the first promise, the institution of sacrifices, and the like, yet as to sundry emergencies of his worship, and parts of it, God guided them by new occasional revelations. Now, those revelations being not recorded in the Scripture, as being only for present or emergent use, we have no way to know them but by what those to whom God was pleased so to reveal himself did practice, and which, on good testimony, found acceptance with him. Whatever they so did, they had especial warranty from God for; which is the case of the great institution of sacrifices itself, It is a sufficient argument that they were divinely instituted, because they were graciously accepted.

Secondly, Vocal revelation, as the rule of worship, became stated and invariable in and by the giving and writing of the law. From thence, with the allowances before mentioned, we confine it to the Scripture, and so unto all succeeding generations. I confess, many of our company, who have kept to us hitherto in granting divine revelation to be the sole principle and rule of religious worship, now leave us, and betake themselves to paths of their own. The postmisnical99   The reference is to the Mishna, or the collection of oral traditions, which profess to be a comment on the laws of Moses. The collection of them is ascribed to Rabbi Jehudah Hakkadosh, a.d. 190, or 220. — Ed. Jews, after many attempts made that way by their predecessors, both before and after the conversation of our Lord Christ in the flesh, at length took up a resolution that all obligatory divine revelation was not contained in the Scripture, but was partly preserved by oral tradition; for although they added a multitude of observances unto what were prescribed unto their fathers by Moses, yet they would never plainly forego that principle, nor do to this day, that divine revelation is the rule of divine worship. Wherefore, to secure their 468principle and practice, and to reconcile them together (which are indeed at an unspeakable variance), they have fancied their oral law, which they assert to be of no less certain and divine original than the law that is written. On this pretence they plead that they keep themselves unto the forementioned principle, under the superstition of a multitude of self-invented observances. The Papists also here leave us, but still with a semblance of adhering to that principle, which carries so great and uncontrollable an evidence with it as that there are a very few, as was said, who have hitherto risen up in a direct and open opposition unto it; for whereas they have advanced a double principle for the rule of religious worship besides the Scripture, — namely, tradition, and the present determinations of their church, from thence educed, — they assert the first to be divine or apostolical, which is all one, and the latter to be accompanied with infallibility, which is the formal reason of our adherence and submission unto divine revelation: so that they still adhere in general unto the forementioned principle, however they have debauched it by their advancement of those other guides. But herein also we must do them right, that they do not absolutely turn loose those two rude creatures of their own, traditions and present church determinations, upon the whole face of religion, to act therein at their pleasure, but they secure them from whatever is determined in the written word, affirming them to take place only in those things that are not contrary to the word or not condemned in it; for in such, they confess, they ought not nor can take place, — which I doubt whether our author will allow of or no in reference to the power by him asserted.

By “religious worship,” in the thesis above, we understand, as was said before, instituted worship only, and not that which is purely moral and natural; which, in many instances of it, hath a great coincidence with the light of nature, as was before discoursed.

We understand also the solemn or stated worship of the church of God. That worship, I say, which is solemn and stated for the church, the whole church, at all times and seasons, according to the rules of his appointment, is that which we inquire after. Hence, in this matter we have no concernment in the fact of this or that particular person which might be occasionally influenced by necessity, as David’s eating of the shew-bread was, and which how far it may excuse or justify the persons that act thereon, or regulate their actions directly, I know not, nor am any way engaged to inquire.

This is the state of our question in hand, the mind of the assertion, which is here so hideously disguised and represented in its pretended consequences. Neither do I think there is any thing needful farther to be added unto it; but yet, for the clearing of it from mistakes, something may be discoursed which relates unto it. We say, then, —

469First, That there are sundry things to be used in, about, and with those actions whereby the worship of God is performed, which yet are not sacred, nor do belong unto the worship of God as such, though that worship cannot be performed without them. The very breath that men breathe and the light whereby they see are necessary to them in the worship of God, and yet are not made sacred or religious thereby. Constantine said of old that he was “a bishop, but without the church;” not a sacred officer, but one that took care and had a supervisorship of things necessarily belonging to the performance of God’s worship, yet no parts or adjuncts of it as such, for it was all still without. Now, all those things in or about the worship of God that belonged unto Constantine’s episcopacy, — that is, the ordering and disposal of things without the church but about it, without worship but about it, — we acknowledge to be left unto common prudence, guided by the general rules of Scripture, by which the church is to walk and compose its actings. And this wholly supersedes the discourse of our author concerning the great variety of circumstances wherewith all human actions are attended; for, in one word, all such circumstances as necessarily attend human actions, as such, neither are sacred nor can be made so without an express institution of God, and are disposable by human authority: so that the long contest of our author on that head is altogether vain. So, then, —

Secondly, By “all the concernments of religious worship,” which any affirm that they must be directed in by divine revelation or regulated by the Scripture, they intend all that is religious, or whatever belongs to the worship of God, as it is divine worship; and not what belongs unto the actions wherein and whereby it is performed, as they are actions.

Thirdly, That when any part of worship is instituted in special, and general rules are given for the practice of it, “hic et nunc,” there the warranty is sufficient for its practice at its due seasons; and for those seasons, the nature of the thing itself, with what it hath respect unto, and the light of the general Scripture rules, will give them an acceptable determination.

And these few observations will abundantly manifest the impertinency of those who think it incumbent on any, by virtue of the principle before laid down, to produce express warranty in words of Scripture for every circumstance that doth attend and belong unto the actions whereby the worship of God is performed, which as they require not, so no such thing is included in the principle as duly stated. For particular circumstances that have respect to good order, decency, and external regulation of divine worship, they are all of them either circumstances of the actions themselves whereby divine 470worship is performed and exercised, and so in general they are natural and necessary, which in particular, or “actu exercito,” depend on moral prudence; or religious rites themselves, added in and to the whole, or any parts of divine service, — which alone, in this question, come under inquiry.

I know there are usually sundry exceptions put in to this thesis, as before stated and asserted, and instances to the contrary are pretended, some whereof are touched upon by our author, p. 181, which are not now particularly and at large to be considered. But yet, because I am, beyond expectation, engaged in the explication of this principle, I shall set it so far forth right and straight unto farther examination as to give in such general observations as, being consistent with it and explanatory of it, will serve to obviate the most of the exceptions that are laid against it; as, —

1. Wherever in the Scripture we meet with any religious duty that had a preceding institution, although we find not expressly a consequent approbation, we take it for granted that it was approved; and so, on the contrary, where an approbation appears, an institution is concealed.

2. The question being only about religious duties, or things pertaining to or required in or about the worship of God, no exception against the general thesis can take place but such as consists in things directly of that nature. Instances in and about things civil and belonging merely to human conversation, or things natural, as signs and memorials one of another, are in this matter of no consideration.

3. Things extraordinary in their performance, and which, for aught we know, may have been so in their warranty or rule, have no place in our debate: for we are inquiring only after such things as may warrant a suitable practice in us without any farther authority, which is the end for which instances against this principle are produced; this actions extraordinary will not do.

4. Singular and occasional actions, which may be variously influenced and regulated by present circumstances, are no rule to guide the ordinary stated worship of the church. David’s eating of the shew-bread, wherein he was justified because of his hunger and necessity, was not to be drawn into example of giving the shew-bread promiscuously to the people. And sundry instances to the same purpose are given by our Saviour himself.

5. There is nothing of any dangerous or bad consequence in this whole controversy, but what lies in the imposition on men’s practices of the observation of uncommanded rites, making them necessary unto them in their observation. The things themselves are said in their own nature, antecedent to their injunction for practice, to be 471indifferent, and indifferent as unto practice. What hurt would it be to leave them so? They cannot, say some, be omitted, for such and such reasons. Are there, then, reasons for their observation besides their injunction, and such as on the account whereof they are enjoined? Then are they indeed necessary in some degree before their injunction; for all reason for them must be taken from themselves. And things wholly indifferent have nothing in themselves, one more than another, why one should be taken and another left; for if one have the advantage of another in the reasons for its practice, it is no more indifferent, at least it is not comparatively so. Granting, therefore, things enjoined to be, antecedently to their injunction, equally indifferent in their own nature with all other things of the same or the like kind, which yet are rejected or not enjoined, and then to give reasons taken from themselves, — their decency, their conducingness to edification, their tendency to the increase of devotion, their significancy of this or that, — is to speak daggers and contradictions, and to say, “A thing is indifferent before the injunction of its practice; but yet if we had thought so, we would never have enjoined it, seeing we do so upon reasons.” And, without doubt, this making necessary the practice of things in the worship of God, proclaimed to be indifferent in themselves, and no way called for by any antecedent reason, is an act of power.

6. Where things are instituted of God, and he himself makes an alteration in or of his own institutions, those institutions may be lawfully practised and observed until the mind of God for their alteration and abolition be sufficiently revealed, proposed, and confirmed unto them that are concerned in them; for as the making of a law doth not oblige until and without the promulgation of it, so as that any should offend in not yielding obedience unto it, so upon the abrogation of a law, obedience may be conscientiously and without sin yielded unto that law, until the abrogation, by what act soever it was made, be notified and confirmed. An instance hereof we have in the observation of Mosaical rites, in the forbearance of God, after the law of their institution was enervated and the obligation of it unto obedience really dissolved, at least the foundation of it laid, for the actual dissolution of it depended on the declaration of the fact wherein it was founded.

7. There may be a coincidence of things performed by sundry persons at the same time and in the same place, whereof some may have respect unto religious worship directly, and so belong unto it, and others only occasionally, and so not at all belong thereunto; as if, when the Athenians had been worshipping at their altars, St Paul had come, and reading the inscription of one of them, and thence taking occasion and advantage to preach “the unknown God” unto 472them, their act was a part of religious veneration, his presence and observation of them, and laying hold of that occasion for his purpose, was not so.

8. Many things which are mere natural circumstances, requisite unto the performance of all actions whatever in communities, and so to be ordered by prudence according unto general rules of the word of God, may seem to be adjuncts of worship, unless they are followed to their original, which will discover them to be of another nature.

9. Civil usages and customs observed in a religious manner, — as they are all to be by them that believe, and directed by them unto moral ends, — may have a show and appearance of religious worship, and so, according to the principle before stated, require express institution; but although they belong unto our living unto God in general, as do all things that we do, seeing “whether we eat or drink, we are to do all to the glory of God,” and therefore are to be done in faith, yet they are, or may be, no part of instituted worship, but such actions of life as in our whole course we are to regulate by the rules of the Scripture, so far as they afford us guidance therein.

10. Many observances in and about the worship of God are recorded in the Scripture without especially reflecting any blame or crime on them by whom they were performed (as many great sins are historically only related, and left to be judged by the rule of the word in other places, without the least remark of displeasure on the persons guilty of them), and that by such whose persons were accepted of God; yea, it may be in that very service wherein, less or more, they failed in their observation, God being merciful to them, though not in all things prepared according to the preparation of the sanctuary; and yet the things themselves not to be approved or justified, but condemned of God. Such was the fact of Judas Maccabæus in his offering sacrifices for the sin of them that were dead; and that of instituting an anniversary feast in commemoration of the dedication of the altar.

This little search have I made into this “great mystery,” as it is called, “of Puritanism,” after which so mighty an outcry is raised by this author; and if it might be here farther pursued, it would, as stated by us in these general rules and explications, be fully manifested to be a principle in general admitted, until of late, by all sorts of men, some few only having been forced sometimes to corrupt it for the security of some especial interest of their own. And it were an easy thing to confirm this assertion by the testimonies of the most learned protestant writers that have served the church in the last ages. But I know how with many amongst us they are regarded, and that the citation of some of the most reverend names among them is not unlikely to prejudice and disadvantage the cause wherein 473their witness is produced. I shall not, therefore, expose them to the contempt of those, now they are dead, who would have been unwilling to have entered the lists with them in any kind of learning when they were alive. There is, in my apprehension, the substance of this assertion still retained among the Papists, Bellarmine himself lays it down as the foundation of all his controversies, and endeavours to prove: “Propheticos et apostolicos libros verum esse verbum Dei, et certam et stabilem regulam fidei,” De Verbo Dei, lib. i. cap. 1; — “That the prophetical and apostolical books are the true word of God, a certain and stable rule of faith.” [This] will go a great way in this matter; for all our obedience in the worship of God is the obedience of faith. And if the Scripture be the rule of faith, our faith is not, in any of its concerns, to be extended beyond it, no more than the thing regulated is to be beyond the rule.

Neither is this opinion of so late a date as our author and others would persuade their credulous followers. The full sense of it was spoken out roundly of old. So speaks the great Constantine (that an emperor may lead the way) in his oration to the renowned fathers assembled at Nice: Εὐαγγελικαὶ βιβλοι καὶ ἀποστολικαὶ, καὶ τῶν παλαιῶν προφητῶν θεσπίσματα σαφῶς ἡμᾶς ἃ χρὴ περὶ τοῦ θείου φρονεῖν ἐκπαιδεύουσι· τὴν πολεμοποιὸν οὖν ἀπελάσαντες ἔριν, ἐκ τῶν θεοπνεύστων λόγων λάβωμεν τῶν ζητουμένων τὴν λύσιν· — that is, “The evangelical and apostolical books and the oracles of the ancient prophets do plainly instruct us what we are to think of divine things. Laying aside, therefore, all hostile discord, let us resolve the things brought into question by the testimonies of the writings given by divine inspiration.” We have here the full substance of what is pleaded for; and might the advice of this noble emperor be admitted, we should have a readier way to expedite all our present differences than as yet seems to be provided for us. The great Basil speaks yet more expressly than Constantine the Great, Lib. de Confes. Fid.: Φανερὰ ἔκπτωσις, καὶ ὑπερηφανίας κατηγορία, ἢ ἀθετεῖν τι τῶν γεγραμμένων, ἢ ἐπεισάγειν τῶν μὴ γεγραμμένων· — that is, “It hath the manifest guilt of infidelity and pride, to reject any thing that is written, or to add or introduce any thing that is not written;” which is the sum of all that in this matter is contended for. To the same purpose he discourseth, Epist. lxxx. ad Eustath.; where, moreover, he rejects all pretences of customs and usages of any sorts of men, and will have all differences to be brought for their determination to the Scripture. Chrysostom, in his Homily on Psalm xcv., speaks the same sense. Saith he, Καὶ τίς ὁ ταῦτα ἐγγυώμενος; Παῦλος. Οὐδὲν γὰρ δεῖ λέγειν ἀμάρτυρον, οὐδὲ ἀπὸ λογισμῶν μόνον· ἐὰν τι γὰρ ἄγραφον λέγηται, ἡ διάνοια τῶν ἀκροατῶν σκάζει, πῆ μὲν ἐπινεύουσα, πῆ δὲ παραγραφομένη, καὶ ποτὲ μὲν τὸν λόγον ὡς ἕωλον ἀποστρεφομένη, ποτὲ δὲ ὡς πιθανὸν παραδεχομένη. Ὅταν δὲ ἔγγραφος ἡ μαρτυρία τῆς θείας φωνῆς προέλθῃ, καὶ 474τοῦ λέγοντος τὸν λόγον, καὶ τοῦ ἀκούοντος τὴν διάνοιαν ἐβεβαίωσε· — “Who is it that promiseth these things? Paul. For we are not to say any thing without testimony, nor upon our mere reasoning; for if any thing be spoken without Scripture (testimony), the mind of the hearers fluctuates, now assenting, anon hesitating, sometimes rejecting what is spoken as frivolous, sometimes receiving it as probable. But where the testimony of the divine voice comes forth from the Scripture, it confirmeth the word of the speaker and the mind of the hearer.” It is even so. Whilst things relating to religion and the worship of God are debated and disputed by the reasonings of men, or on any other principles besides the express authority of the Scriptures, no certainty or full persuasion of mind can be atoned about them. Men under such actings are as Lucian in his Menippus says he was between the disputations of the philosophers; sometimes he nodded one way, sometimes another, and seemed to give his assent backwards and forwards to express contradictions. It is in the testimony of the Scripture alone about the things of God that the consciences of those that fear him can acquiesce and find satisfaction. The same author, as in many other places, so in his 13th Homily on the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, expressly sends us to the Scripture to inquire after all things, as that which is the exact canon, balance, and rule of religion: Παρὰ τῷν γραφῶν ταῦτα πάντα πυνθάνεσθε. Among the Latins, Tertullian is express to the same purpose. In his book against Hermogenes, “Adoro,” said he, “plenitudinem Scripturarum quæ mihi factorem manifestat et facta.” Again, “Scriptum esse hoc doceat Hermogenis officina, aut timeat iræ illud adjicientibus aut detrahentibus destinatum;” — “I adore the fulness of the Scripture;” and, “Let Hermogenes prove what he saith to be written, or fear the woe denounced against them who add to or take from the word.” And again, in his book, De Carne Christi, “Non recipio quod extra Scripturam de tuo infers;” — “I do not receive what you bring of your own without Scripture.” So also in his book, De Præscriptionibus, “Nobis nihil ex nostro arbitrio indulgere licet; sed nec eligere quod aliquis de arbitrio suo induxerit. Apostolos Domini habemus authores, qui nec ipsi quicquam ex suo arbitrio quod inducerent elegerunt; sed acceptam a Christo disciplinam, fideliter nationibus assignaverunt;” — “It is not lawful for us” (in these things) “to indulge unto our own choice, nor to choose what any one brings in of his choosing. We have the apostles of our Lord for our example, who brought in nothing of their own minds or choice; but having received the discipline” (of Christian religion) “from Christ, they faithfully communicated it to the nations.” Jerome is plain to the same purpose in sundry places. So Comment. in xxiii. Matthew, “Quod de Scripturis authoritatem non habet, eadem facilitate contemnitur qua probatur;” 475— “That which hath not authority from the Scripture is as easily despised as asserted.” Comm. in Hagg., cap. i., “Sed et alia quæ, absque authoritate et testimoniis Scripturarum, quasi traditione apostolica sponte reperiunt atque confingunt, percutit gladius Dei;” — “But those other things which, without authority or testimony of the Scriptures, they find out or feign of their own accord, as of apostolical tradition, the sword of God smites through.” It were easy to produce twenty other testimonies out of the ancient writers of the church, giving sufficient countenance to the assertion contended about. What account our author gives of this principle is now, very briefly, to be considered.

First, therefore, pp. 174, 175, he reviles it as “a pretence wild and humorsome, which men must be absurd if they believe, or impudent if they do not, seeing it hath not the least shadow or foundation either from Scripture or reason;” though it be expressly asserted, either in its own terms, or confirmed by direct deductions, in and from above forty places of Scripture. And so much for that part of the assault.

The next chargeth it with infinite follies and mischiefs in those which allow it, and it is said that “there can never be an end of alterations and disturbances in the church whilst it is maintained;” the contrary whereof is true, confirmed by experience and evidence of the thing itself. The admittance of it would put an end to all disturbances; for let any man judge whether, if there be matters in difference, as in all these things there are and ever were, the bringing them to an issue and settled stability be not likelier to be effected by all men’s consenting unto one common rule, whereby they may be tried and examined, than that every party should be left at liberty to indulge to their own affections and imaginations about them. And yet we are told, p. 178, “that all the pious villanies that ever have disturbed the Christian world have sheltered themselves in this grand maxim, that Jesus Christ is the only lawmaker to his church.” I confess I could heartily desire that such expressions might be forborne; for let what pretence men please be given to them and colour put upon them, they are full of scandal to Christian religion. The maxim itself here traduced is as true as any part of the gospel; and it cannot be pretended that it is not the maxim itself, but the abuse of it (as all the principles of the gospel, through the blindness and lusts of men, have been abused), that is reflected on, seeing the design of the whole discourse is to evert the maxim itself. Now, whatever apprehensions our author may have of his own abilities, I am satisfied that they are no way competent to disprove this principle of the gospel, as will be evident on the first attempt he shall make to that purpose; let him begin the trial as soon as he pleaseth.

476In the third section we have a heap of instances raked together to confront the principle in its proper sense before declared and vindicated, in no one whereof it is at all concerned; for the reasons of things in matters civil and religious are not the same. All political government in the world consists in the exercise of principles of natural right, and their just application to times, ages, people, occasions, and occurrences. Whilst this is done, government is acted regularly to its proper end; where this is missed, it fails. These things God hath left unto the prudence of men and their consent; wherein they cannot for the most part fail, unless they are absolutely given up unto unbridled lusts; and the things whereto they may fail are always convenient or inconvenient, good and useful or hurtful and destructive; not always, yea, very seldom, directly and in themselves morally good or evil. In such things men’s ease and profit, not their consciences, are concerned. In the worship of God things are quite otherwise. It is not convenience or inconvenience, advantage or disadvantage, as to the things of this life, but merely good or evil, in reference to the pleasing of God and to eternity, that is in question. Particular applications to the manners, customs, usages of places, times, countries, — which is the proper field of human authority, liberty, and prudence in civil things (because their due, useful, and regular administration depends upon them), — have here no place: for the things of the worship of God, being spiritual, are capable of no variations from temporal, earthly varieties among men; have no respect to climates, customs, forms of civil government, or any thing of that nature; but, considering men quite under other notions, namely, of sinners and believers, with respect utterly unto other ends, namely, their living spiritually unto God here, and the eternal enjoyment of him hereafter, are not subject to such prudential accommodations or applications. The worship of God is, or ought to be, the same at all times, in all places, and amongst all people, in all nations; and the order of it is fixed and determined in all particulars that belong unto it. And let not men pretend the contrary: until they can give an instance of any such defect in the institutions of Christ as that the worship of God cannot be carried on, nor his church ruled and edified, without an addition of something of their own for the supply thereof, which therefore should and would be necessary to that end antecedent unto its addition; and when they have so done, I will subscribe unto whatsoever they shall be pleased to add of that, or indeed any other kind. “Customs of churches,” and “rules of decency,’’ which our author here casts under the magistrate’s power, are ambiguous terms, and in no sense express the hypothesis he hath undertaken the defence of. In the proper signification of the words, the things intended may fall under those natural circumstances 477wherein religious actions in the worship of the church may have their concern, as they are actions, and are disposable by human authority; but he will not, I presume, so soon desert his fundamental principle, of the magistrate’s appointing things in and parts of religious worship, nowhere described or determined in the word of God, which alone we have undertaken to oppose. The instances he also gives us about actions in their own nature and use indifferent, as going to law or taking physic, are not in the least to his purpose. And yet if I should say that none of these actions are indeed indifferent in “actu exercito,” as they speak, and in their individual performance, but have a moral good or evil, as an inseparable adjunct, attending them, arising out of respect to some rule, general or particular, of divine revelation, I know he cannot disprove it; and much more is not pleaded concerning religious worship.

But this principle is farther charged with “mischief equal to its folly;” which is proved by instances in sundry uninstituted observances, both in the Jewish and primitive Christian churches, as also in protestant churches abroad. I answer, that if this author will consent to umpire these differences by either the Old or New Testament, or by any protestant church in the world, we shall be nearer an end of them than, as far as I can see, yet otherwise we are. If he will not be bound neither to the example of the church of the Jews, nor of the churches of the New Testament, nor of the present protestant churches, it must be confessed that their names are here made use of only for a pretence and an advantage. Under the Old Testament we find that all that God required of his church was, that they should “remember the law of Moses his servant, which he commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments,” Mal. iv. 4. And when God had given out his institutions and the whole order of his worship, it being fixed in the church accordingly, it is added eight or ten times in one chapter that this was done: “As the Lord commanded Moses, so did he,” Exod. xl.. After this God gives them many strict prohibitions from adding any thing to what he had so commanded: as Deut. iv. 2, xii. 32; Prov. xxx. 6. And as he had in the decalogue rejected any worship not of his own appointment, as such, Exod. xx. 4, 5, so he made it afterward the rule of his acceptation of that people and what they did, or his refusal of them and it, whether it was by him commanded or no. So, in particular, he expressly rejects that which was so added as to days, and times, and places, though of the nearest affinity and cognation to what was appointed by himself, because it was invented by man, yea, by a king, 1 Kings xii. 33. And when, in process of time, many things of an uncertain original were crept into the observance of the church, and had firmed themselves with the notion of “traditions,” they were all at once rejected in that word of the 478blessed Holy One, “In vain do ye worship me, teaching for doctrines’’ (that is, what is in my worship to be observed) “the traditions of men.” For the churches of the New Testament, the foundation of them is laid in that command of our Saviour, Matt. xxviii. 19, 20, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” That they should be taught to do or observe any thing but what he commanded, — that his presence should accompany them in the teaching or observation of any superadditions of their own, — we nowhere find written, intimated, or exemplified by any practice of theirs. Nor, however, in that juncture of time, the like whereunto did never occur before, nor ever shall do again, during the expiration and taking down of Mosaical institutions, before they became absolutely unlawful to be observed, the apostles, according to the liberty given them by our Lord Jesus Christ and direction of the Holy Ghost, did practice some things compliant with both church-states, did they, in any one instance, impose any thing on the practice of the churches in the worship of God, to be necessarily and for a continuance observed among them, but what they had express warrant, and authority, and command of our Lord Christ for. Counsel they gave in particular cases, that depended upon present emergencies; directions for the regular and due observation of institutions, and the application of general rules in particular practice; they also taught a due and sanctified use of civil customs, and the proper use of moral or natural symbols: but to impose any religious rites on the constant practice of the church in the worship of God, making them necessary to be always observed by that imposition, they did not once attempt to do, or assume power for it to themselves. Yea, when, upon an important difficulty, and to prevent a ruining scandal, they were enforced to declare their judgment to the churches in some points, wherein they were to abridge the practice of their Christian liberty for a season, they would do it only in things made “necessary” by the state of things then among the churches (in reference to the great end of edification, whereby all practices are to be regulated), before the declaration of their judgment for the restriction mentioned, Acts xv. 23–29. So remote were they from assuming unto themselves a dominion over the religion, consciences, or faith of the disciples of Christ, or requiring any thing, in the constant worship of the church, but what was according to the will, appointment, and command of their Lord and Master. Little countenance, therefore, is our author like to obtain unto his sentiments from the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, or the example either of the Jews or Christians mentioned in them.

479The instances he gives from the church of the Jews, or that may be given, are either civil observances, as the feast of purim; or moral conveniencies directed by general rules, as the building of synagogues; or customary signs suited to the nature of things, as wearing of sackcloth; or such as have no proof of their being approved, as the feast of dedication, and some monthly fasts taken up in the captivity; — from none of which any objection can be taken against the position before laid down. Those from the church of the New Testament had either a perpetual binding institution from the authority of Christ, as the Lord’s-day Sabbath; or contain only a direction to use civil customs and observances in a holy and sanctified manner, as the love feasts and kiss of charity; or such as were never heard of in the New Testament at all, as the observation of Lent and Easter. He that out of these instances can draw a warranty for the power of the civil magistrate over religion and the consciences of men, to institute new duties in religion when he pleaseth, so these “do not countenance vice nor disgrace the Deity,” which all his Christian subjects shall be bound in conscience to observe, or otherwise make good any of those particular conclusions, that therefore Christ is not the only lawgiver to his church, or that divine revelation is not the adequate rule of divine worship, or that men may add any thing to the worship of God, to be observed in it constantly and indispensably by the whole church, will manifest himself, to have an excellency in argumentation beyond what I have ever yet met withal.

A removal of the argument taken from the perfection of the Scripture, and its sufficiency to instruct us in the whole counsel and will of God, concerning his worship and our obedience unto him, is nextly attempted; but with no engines but what have been discovered to be insufficient to that purpose a hundred times. It is alleged, “That what the Scripture commands in the worship of God is to be observed, that what it forbids is to be avoided;” which if really acknowledged, and a concernment of the consciences of men be granted therein, is sufficiently destructive of the principal design of our author. But, moreover, I say that it commands and forbids things by general rules, as well as by particular precepts and inhibitions; and that if what is so commanded be observed, and what is so forbidden be avoided, there is a direct rule remaining in it for the whole worship of God.

But this is said here to be of “substantial duties, but not of external circumstances;” and if it be so even of substantial duties, it perfectly overthrows all that our author hath been pleading in the first three chapters of his discourse. For external circumstances, of what nature those are which are disposable by human authority and prudence hath been now often declared, and needs not here to be repeated.

480The sum of his apprehensions in this matter, about the perfection and sufficiency of the Scripture in reference to the worship of God, our author gives us, p. 189: “Any thing,” saith he, “is lawful” (that is, in the worship of God) “that is not made unlawful by some prohibition; for things become evil, not upon the score of their being not commanded, but upon that of their being forbidden. And what the Scripture forbids not, it allows; and what it allows is not unlawful; and what is not unlawful may lawfully be done.” This tale, I confess, we have been told many and many a time, but it hath been as often answered that the whole of it, as to any thing of reasoning, is captious and sophistical.

Once more, therefore; what is commanded in the worship of God is lawful, yea, is our duty to observe. All particular instances of this sort that are to have actual place in the worship of God were easily enumerated, and so expressly commanded; and why, among sundry things that might equally belong thereunto, one should be commanded, and another left at liberty without any institution, no man can divine. Of particular things not to be observed there is not the same reason. It is morally impossible that all instances of men’s inventions, all that they can find out to introduce into the worship of God, at any time, in any age, and please themselves therein, should be beforehand enumerated and prohibited in their particular instances. And if, because they are not so forbidden, they may lawfully be introduced into divine worship, and imposed upon the practice of men, ten thousand things may be made lawful and be so imposed. But the truth is, although a particular prohibition be needful to render a thing evil in itself, a general prohibition is enough to render any thing unlawful in the worship of God. So we grant that what is not forbidden is lawful, but withal say that every thing is forbidden that should be esteemed as any part of divine worship that is not commanded; and if it were not, yet for want of such a command or divine institution, it can have neither use nor efficacy with respect to the end of all religious worship.

Our author speaks with his wonted confidence in this matter; yea, it seems to rise to its highest pitch, as also doth his contempt of his adversaries or whatever is or may be offered by them in the justification of this principle. “Infinite certainty” on his own part, p. 193, “baffled and intolerable impertinencies, weak and puny arguments, cavils of a few hot-headed and brain-sick people,” with other opprobrious expressions of the like nature, filling up a great part of his leaves, are what he can afford unto those whom he opposeth. But yet I am not, for all this bluster, well satisfied, much less “infinitely certain,” that he doth in any competent measure understand aright the controversy about which he treats with all this wrath 481and confidence; for the sum of all that here he pleads is no more but this, that “the circumstances of actions in particular are various, and as they are not, so they cannot be, determined by the word of God, and therefore must be ordered by human prudence and authority:” which if he suppose that any man denies, I shall the less wonder at his severe reflections upon them, though I shall never judge them necessary or excusable in any case whatever. Page 198, he imposeth it on others that lie under the power of this persuasion, “that they are obliged in conscience to act contrary to whatever their superiors command them in the worship of God;” which farther sufficiently evidenceth that either he understands not the controversy under debate, or that he believes not himself in what he saith; which, because the harsher imputation, I shall avoid the owning of in the least surmise.

Section 6, from the concession that the “magistrate may take care that the laws of Christ be executed,” — that is, command and require his subjects to observe the commands of Christ in that way and by such means as those commands, from the nature of the things themselves, and according to the rule of the gospel, may be commanded and required, — he infers that he hath himself power of making laws in religion! But why so? and how doth this follow? Why, saith he, “It is apparently implied, because whoever hath a power to see that laws be executed cannot be without a power to command their execution.” Very good: but the conclusion should have been, “He cannot be without a power to make laws in the matter about which he looks to the execution;” which would be good doctrine for justices of the peace to follow. But what is here laid down is nothing but repeating of the same thing in words a little varied; as if it had been said, “He that hath power to see the laws executed, or a power to command their execution, he hath power to see the laws executed, or a power to command their execution;” which is very true. And this we acknowledge the magistrate hath, in the way before declared. But that, because he may do this, he may also make laws of his own in religion, it doth not at all follow from hence, whether it be true or no. But this is farther confirmed from “the nature of the laws of Christ, which have only declared the substance and morality of religious worship, and therefore must needs have left the ordering of its circumstances to the power and wisdom of lawful authority.” “The laws of Christ” which are intended are those which he hath given concerning the worship of God. That these have “determined the morality of religious worship,” I know not how he can well allow, who makes the law of nature to be the measure of morality and all moral religious worship. And for “the substance of religious worship,” I wish it were well declared what is 482intended by it. For my part, I think that whatever is commanded by Christ, the observation of it is of the substance of religious worship; else, I am sure the sacraments are not so. Now, do but give men leave, as rational creatures, to observe those commands of Christ in such a way and manner as the nature of them requires them to be observed, as he hath himself in general rules prescribed, as the concurrent actions of many in society make necessary, and all this controversy will be at an end. When a duty, as to the kind of it, is commanded in particular, or instituted by Christ in the worship of God, he hath given general rules to guide us in the individual performance of it, as to the circumstances that the actions whereby it is performed will be attended withal. For the disposal of those circumstances according to those rules, prudence is to take place and to be used; for men, who are obliged to act as men in all other things, are not to be looked on as brutes in what is required of them in the worship of God.

But to institute mystical rites and fixed forms of sacred administrations, whereof nothing in the like kind doth necessarily attend the acting of instituted worship, is not to determine circumstances, but to ordain new parts of divine worship; and such injunctions are here confessed by our author, p. 191, to be “new and distinct commands by themselves,” and to enjoin something that the Scripture nowhere commands: which when he produceth a warranty for, he will have made a great progress towards the determining of the present controversy.

Page 192, he answers an objection, consisting of two branches, as by him proposed, whereof the first is, “That it cannot stand with the love and wisdom of God not to take order himself for all things that immediately concern his own worship and kingdom.” Now, though I doubt not at all but that God hath so done, yet I do not remember at present that I have read [of] any imposing the necessity hereof upon him in answer to his love and wisdom. I confess Valerianus Magnus, a famous writer of the church of Rome, tells us that never any one did so foolishly institute or order a commonwealth as Jesus Christ must be thought to have done, if he have not left one supreme judge to determine the faith and consciences of men in matters of religion and divine worship; and our author seems not to be remote from that kind of reasoning, who, without an assignment of a power to that purpose, contendeth that all things among men will run into confusion, — of so little concernment do the Scriptures and the authority of God in them to some seem to be. We do indeed thankfully acknowledge that God, out of his love and wisdom, hath ordered all things belonging to his worship and spiritual kingdom in the world; and we do suppose we need no other 483argument to evince this assertion but to challenge all men who are otherwise minded to give an instance of any defect in his institutions to that purpose. And this we are the more confirmed in, because those things which men think good to add unto them, they dare not contend that they are parts of his worship, or that they are added to supply any defect therein; neither did ever any man yet say that there is a defect in the divine institution of worship, which must be supplied by a minister’s wearing a surplice. All, then, that is intended in this consideration, though not urged, as is here pretended, is, that God, in his goodness, love, and care towards his church, hath determined all things that are needful in or to his worship; and about what is not needful, men, if they please, may contend, but it will be to no great purpose.

The other part of the objection which he proposeth to himself is laid down by him in these words: “If Jesus Christ have not determined all particular rites and circumstances of religion, he hath discharged his office with less wisdom and fidelity than Moses, who ordered every thing appertaining to the worship of God, even as far as the pins or nails of the tabernacle.” And hereunto in particular he returns in answer not one word, but only ranks it amongst idle and impertinent reasonings. And I dare say he wants not reasons for his silence; whether they be pertinent or no I know not: for setting aside the advantage that, it is possible, he aimed to make in the manner and terms of the proposal of this objection to his sentiments, it will appear that he hath not much to offer for its removal. We dispute not about the “rites and circumstances of religion, which are terms ambiguous, and, as hath been declared, may be variously interpreted, no more than we do about the “nails of the tabernacle,” wherein there were none at all; but it is about the worship of God, and what is necessary thereunto. The ordering hereof, — that is, of the house of God and all things belonging thereunto, — was committed to Jesus Christ, “as a Son over his own house,” Heb. iii. 1–6. In the discharge of his trust therein he was faithful, as was Moses, who received that testimony from God, that he was “faithful in all his house,” upon his ordering all things in the worship of God as he commanded him, without adding any thing of his own thereunto, or leaving any thing uninstituted or undetermined which was to be of use therein. From the faithfulness of Christ, therefore, in and over the house of God, as it is compared with the faithfulness of Moses, it may be concluded, I think, that he ordered all things for the worship of God in the churches of the New Testament, as far as Moses did in and for the church of the Old, and more is not contended for; and it will be made appear that his commission in this matter was as extensive as that of Moses at the least, or he 484could not, in that trust and the discharge of it, have that preeminence above him which in this place is ascribed unto him.

Section 7, an account is given of the great variety of circumstances which do attend all human actions, whence it is impossible that they should be all determined by,divine prescription. The same we say also; but add withal, that if men would leave these circumstances free, under the conduct of common prudence, in the instituted worship of God, as they are compelled so to do in the performance of moral duties, and as he himself hath left them free, it would be as convenient for the reasons and consciences of men as an attempt to the contrary. Thus, we have an instance given us by our author in the moral duty of charity, which is commanded us of God himself; but the times, seasons, manner, objects, measures of it are left free, to be determined by human prudence upon emergencies and occasions. It may be now inquired whether the magistrate, or any other, can determine those circumstances by a law? or whether they are not, as by God, so by all wise men, left free, under the conduct of their reason and conscience who are obliged to do the duty itself by the command of God? And why may not the same rule and order be observed with respect to the circumstances that attend the performance of the duties of instituted worship? Besides, there are general circumstances that are capable of a determination, — such are time and place as naturally considered, — without such adjuncts as might give them a moral consideration, or render them good or evil; these the magistrate may determine: but for particular circumstances attending individual actions, they will hardly be regulated by a standing law. But none of these things have the least interest in our debate. To add things necessarily to be observed in the worship of God, no way naturally related unto the actions wherewith prescribed worship is to be performed, and then to call them circumstances thereof, erects a notion of things which nothing but interest can digest and concoct.

His eighth section is unanswerable. It contains such a strenuous reviling of the Puritans, and contemptuous reproaches of their writings, with such encomiums of their adversaries, as there is no dealing with it; and so I leave it. And so likewise I do his ninth, wherein, as he saith, he “upbraids the men of his contest with their shameful overthrows, and dares them to look those enemies in the face that have so lamentably cowed them by so many absolute triumphs and victories:” which kind of juvenile exultations on feigned suppositions will, I suppose, in due time receive an alloy from his own more advised thoughts and considerations. The instance wherewith he countenanceth himself in his triumphant acclamations unto the victory of his party is the book of Mr Hooker, and its being unanswered; 485concerning which I shall only say, that as I wish the same moderation, ingenuity, and learning unto all that engage in the same cause with him in these days, so if this author will mind us of any one argument in his longsome discourse not already frequently answered, and that in print long ago, it shall have its due consideration. But this kind of discourse, it may be, on second thoughts, will be esteemed not so comely. And I can mind him of those who boast as highly of some champions of their own against all Protestants, as he can do of any patron of those opinions which he contendeth for. But it doth not always fall out that those who have the most outward advantages and greatest leisure have the best cause and abilities to manage it.

The next sections treat concerning superstition, will-worship, and Popery; which, as he saith, having been charged by some on the church unduly, he retorts the crime of them upon the authors of that charge. I love not to strive, nor will I contend about words that may have various significations fixed on them. It is about things that we differ. That which is evil is so, however you call it, and whether you can give it any special name or no. That which is good will still be so, call it what and how men please. The giving of a bad or odious name to any thing doth not make itself to be bad or odious. The managing, therefore, of those appellations, either as to their charge or recharge, I am no way concerned in. When it is proved that men believe, teach, or practice otherwise than in duty to God they ought to do, then they do evil; and when they obey his mind and will in all things, then they do well, and in the end will have the praise thereof. In particular, I confess superstition, as the word is commonly used, denotes a vicious habit of mind with respect unto God and his worship, and so is not a proper denomination for the worship itself, or of any evil or crime in it; but yet, if it were worth contending about, I could easily manifest that, according to the use of the word by good authors, in all ages men have been charged with that crime from the kind and nature of the worship itself observed by them. And when St Paul charged the Athenians with an excess in superstition, it was from the multiplication of their gods, and thronging them together, right or wrong, in the dedication of their altars. But these things belong not at all to our present design. Let them who enjoin things unto an indispensable necessary observation in the worship of God, which are not by him prescribed therein, take care of their own minds that they be free from the vice of superstition, and they shall never be judged or charged by me therewith; though I must say that a multiplication of instances in this kind, as to their own observation, is the principal if not the only way whereby men who own the true and proper object of religious worship 486do or may manifest themselves to be influenced by that corrupt habit of mind, so that they may relate unto superstition as the effect to its cause. But the recrimination here insisted on, with respect unto them who refuse admittance unto or observance of things so enjoined, is such as ought to be expected from provocations and a desire of retortion. Such things usually taste of the cask, and are sufficiently weak and impertinent; for it is a mistake, that those charged do make, as it is here expressed, “any thing necessary not to be done,” or put “any religion in the not doing of any thing,” or the non-observance of any rites, orders, or ceremonies, any other than every one puts in his abstinence from what God forbids, which is a part of our moral obedience.

And the whole question in this matter is not, Whether, as it is here phrased, “God hath tied up his creatures to nice and pettish laws, laying a greater stress upon a doubtful or indifferent ceremony than upon the great duty of obedience?” but merely, Whether men are to observe in the worship of God what they apprehend he hath enjoined them, and to abstain from what he doth forbid, according to all the light that they have into his mind and will? which inquiry, as I suppose, may be [thus] satisfied, — that they are so to practice and so to abstain, without being liable to the charge of superstition. No man can answer for the minds of other men, nor know what depraved, vicious habits and inclinations they are subject unto. Outward actions are all that we are, in any case, allowed to pass judgment upon, and of men’s minds as those actions are indications of them. Let men, therefore, observe and do in the worship of God whatever the Lord Christ hath commanded them, and abstain from what he hath forbidden, whether in particular instances or by general directive precepts and rules, — by which means alone many things are capable of falling under a prohibition, without the least thought of placing any worship of God in their abstinence from this or that thing in particular, — and I think they need not much concern themselves in the charge of superstition given in or out by any against them.

For what is discoursed, section 11, about will-worship, I cannot so far agree with our author as I could in what passed before about superstition; and that partly because I cannot discern him to be herein at any good agreement with himself: for “superstition,” he tells us, “consists in the apprehensions of men, when their minds are possessed with weak and uncomely conceits of God,” p. 201; here, that “will-worship consists in nothing else than in men’s making their own fancies and inventions necessary parts of religion,” which outward actings are not coincident with the inward frame and habit of mind before described. And I do heartily wish that some men could well free themselves from the charge of will-worship, as it is here described by 487our author, though cautelously expressed, to secure the concernments of his own interest from it; for although I will not call the things they contend to impose on others in the worship of God their “fancies,” yet themselves acknowledge them to be their “inventions.” And when they make them necessary to be observed in the whole worship of God, as public and stated, and forbid the celebration of that worship without them; when they declare their usefulness and spiritual or mystical significancy in that worship or service, designing to honour God in or by their use, setting up some of them to an exclusion of what Christ hath commanded, — if I cannot understand but that they make them necessary parts of God’s worship, as to the actual observance of it, I hope they will not be angry with me, since I know the worst they can possibly with truth charge upon me in this matter is, that I am not so wise nor of so quick an understanding as themselves. Neither doth our author well remove his charge from those whose defence he hath undertaken; for he doth it only by this consideration, “that they do not make the things by them introduced in the worship of God to be parts of religion; they are not so,” he saith, “nor are made so by them;” — for this hinders not but that they may be looked on as parts of divine worship, seeing we are taught by the same hand that “external worship is no part of religion at all.” And let him abide by what he closeth this section withal, — namely, that they make not any additions to the worship of God, but only provide that what God hath required be performed in an orderly and decent manner, — and, as to my concern, there shall be an end of this part of our controversy.

The ensuing paragraphs about “Christian liberty, adding to the commands of God, and Popery,” are of the same nature with those preceding about superstition and will-worship. There is nothing new in them but words, and they may be briefly passed through. For the charge of Popery, on the one side or other, I know nothing in it, but that when any thing is enjoined or imposed on men’s practice in the worship of God, which is known to have been invented in and by the papal church during the time of its confessed apostasy, it must needs beget prejudices against it in the minds of them who consider the ways, means, and ends of the fatal defection of that church, and are jealous of a sinful compliance with it in any of those things. The recharge on those who are said “to set up a pope in every man’s conscience, whilst they vest it with a power of countermanding the decrees of princes,” — if no more be intended by “countermanding’’ but a refusal to observe their decrees and yield obedience to them in things against their consciences, which is all that can be pretended, — if it fall not on this author himself, as in some cases it doth, and which, by the certain conduct of right reason, must be extended 488to all wherein the consciences of men are affected with the authority of God, yet it doth on all Christians in the world that I know of, besides himself. [As] for “adding to the law of God,” it is not charged on any that they add to his commands, as though they made their own divine, or part of his word and law; but only that they add in his worship to the things commanded by him: which being forbidden in the Scripture, when they can free themselves from it I shall rejoice, but as yet see not how they can so do. Nor are there any, that I know of, who “set up any prohibitions of their own,” in or about the worship of God, or any thing thereunto pertaining, as is unduly and unrighteously pretended. There may be, indeed, some things enjoined by men which they do and must abstain from, as they would do from any other sin whatever; but their consciences are regulated by no prohibitions but those of God himself. And things are prohibited and made sinful unto them, not only when in particular, and by a specification of their instances, they are forbidden, but also when there lie general prohibitions against them on any account whatever. Some men, indeed, think that if a particular prohibition of any thing might be produced, they would acquiesce in it, whilst they plead an exemption of sundry things from being included in general prohibitions, although they have the direct formal reason attending them on which those prohibitions are founded: but it is to be feared that this also is but a pretence; for let any thing be particularly forbidden, yet if men’s interest and superstition induce them to observe or retain it, they will find out distinctions to evade the prohibition and retain the practice. What can be more directly forbidden than the making or using of graven images in or about religious worship? and yet we know how little some men do acquiesce in that prohibition. And it was the observation of a learned prelate1010   Dr Bilson. See page 407. of this nation, in his rejection of the distinctions whereby they endeavoured to countenance themselves in their idolatry, that the particular instances of things forbidden in the second commandment are not principally intended, but the general rule of not adding any thing in the worship of God without his institution. “Non imago,” saith he, “non simulachrum prohibetur; sed non facies tibi.” What way soever, therefore, any thing becomes a sin unto any, be it by a particular or general prohibition, be it from the scandal that may attend its practice, unto him it is a sin. And, it is a wild notion, that when any persons abstain from the practice of that in the worship of God which to them is sinful as so practised, they add prohibitions of their own to the commands of God.

The same is to be said concerning Christian liberty. No man, that I know of, makes “things indifferent to be sinful,” as is pretended, nor can any man in his right wits do so; for none can 489entertain contradictory notions of the same thing at the same time, as these are, that the same things are indifferent, that is, not sinful, and sinful. But this some say, that things in their own nature indifferent, that is, absolutely so, may be yet relatively unlawful, because, with respect unto that relation, forbidden of God. To set up an altar of old for a civil memorial in any place was a thing indifferent; but to set up an altar to offer sacrifices on, where the tabernacle was not, was a sin. It is indifferent for a man that understands that language to read the Scripture in Latin or in English; but to read it in Latin unto a congregation that understands it not, as a part of God’s worship, would be sin. Nor doth our Christian liberty consist alone in our judgment of the indifferency of things in their own nature, made necessary to practice by commands, as hath been showed; and if it doth so, the Jews had that privilege as much as Christians. And they are easily offended who complain that their Christian liberty, in the practice of what they think meet in the worship of God, is intrenched on by such as, leaving them to their pleasure, because of their apprehension of the will of God to the contrary, cannot comply with them in their practice.

The close of this chapter is designed to the removal of an objection, pretended to be weighty and difficult, but indeed made so merely by the novel opinions advanced by this author; for, laying aside all respect unto some uncouth principles broached in this discourse, there is scarce a Christian child of ten years old but can resolve the difficulty pretended, and that according to the mind of God: for it is supposed that the magistrate may “establish a worship that is idolatrous and superstitious,” and an inquiry is made thereon what the subject shall do in that case? Why, where lies the difficulty? “Why,” saith he, “in this case they must be either rebels or idolaters. If they obey, they sin against God; if they disobey, they sin against their sovereign.” According to the principles hitherto received in Christian religion, any one would reply and say, No: for it is certain that men must obey God, and not contract the guilt of such horrible sins as idolatry and superstition; but in so doing they are neither rebels against their ruler nor do sin against him. It is true, they must quietly and patiently submit to what they may suffer from him, but they are in so doing guilty of no rebellion or sin against him. Did ever any Christian yet so much as call it into question whether the primitive Christians were rebels, and sinned against their rulers, because they would not obey those edicts whereby they established idolatrous worship? or did any one ever think that they had a difficult case of conscience to resolve in that matter? They were, indeed, accused by the Pagans as rebels against the emperors; but no Christian ever yet thought their case 490to have been doubtful. But all this difficulty ariseth from the making of two Gods, where there ought to be but one; and this renders the case so perplexed, that, for my part, I cannot see directly how it is determined by our author. Sometimes he speaks as though it were the duty of subjects to comply with the establishment of idolatry supposed, as pp. 214, 215; for with respect, as I suppose, it is to the case as by him stated that he says, “Men must not withdraw their obedience;” and, “Better submit unto the unreasonable impositions of Nero or Caligula than to hazard the dissolution of the state.” Sometimes he seems not to oblige them in conscience to practice according to the public prescription, but only pleads that the magistrate may punish them if they do not, and fain would have it thought that he may do so justly. But these things are certain unto us in this matter, and are so many κύριαι δόξαι in Christian religion:— That if the supreme magistrate command any thing in the worship of God that is idolatrous, we are not to practice it accordingly, because we must obey God rather than men. Nextly, That in our refusal of compliance with the magistrate’s commands, we do neither rebel nor sin against him; for God hath not, doth not at any time, shut us up, in any condition, unto a necessity of sinning. Thirdly, That in case the magistrate shall think meet, through his own mistakes and misapprehensions, to punish, destroy, and burn them alive who shall not comply with his edicts, as did Nebuchadnezzar, or as they did in England in times of Popery, after all honest and lawful private ways of self-preservation used, which we are obliged unto, we are quietly and patiently to submit to the will of God in our sufferings, without opposing or resisting by force, or stirring up seditions or tumults, to the disturbance of public peace.

But our author hath elsewhere provided a full solution of this difficulty, chap. viii. p. 308, where he tells us, “That in cases and disputes of a public concern, private men are not properly ‘sui juris;’ they have no power over their actions; they are not to be directed by their own judgments, or determined by their own wills, but by the commands and determinations of the public conscience; and if there be any sin in the command, he that imposed it shall answer for it, and not I, whose duty it is to obey. The commands of authority will warrant my obedience; my obedience will hallow or at least excuse my action, and so secure me from sin, if not from error, because I follow the best guide and most probable direction I am capable of; and though I may mistake, my integrity shall preserve my innocence; and in all doubtful and disputable cases, it is better to err with authority than to be in the right against it.” When he shall produce any one divine writer, any of the ancient fathers, any sober schoolmen or casuists, any learned modern divines, speaking at this rate, 491or giving countenance unto his direction given to men for the regulating of their moral actions, it shall be farther attended unto. I know some such thing is muttered amongst the pleaders for blind obedience upon vows voluntarily engaged into for that purpose. But as it is acknowledged by themselves that by those vows they deprive themselves of that right and liberty which naturally belong unto them, as unto all other men (wherein they place much of the merit of them); so by others those vows themselves, with all the pretended brutish obedience that proceeds from them, are sufficiently evidenced to be a horrible abomination, and such as make a ready way for the perpetration of all villanies in the world, — to which purpose that kind of obedience hath been principally made use of. But these things are extremely fond, and not only, as applied unto the worship of God, repugnant to the gospel, but also in themselves to the law of our creation, and that moral dependence on God which is indispensable unto all individuals of mankind. We are told in the gospel that “every man is to be fully persuaded in his own mind;” that “whatsoever is not of faith is sin;” that we are not to be (in such things) “the servants of men;” that other men’s leading of us amiss, whoever they are, will not excuse us, “for if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch,” and he that followeth is as sure to perish as he that leadeth. The next guides of the souls and consciences of men are, doubtless, those who speak unto them in the name of God, or preachers of the gospel; yet are all the disciples of Christ frequently warned to “take heed” that they be not deceived by any under that pretence, but diligently examining what is proposed unto them, they discern in themselves what is good and evil. Nor doth the great apostle himself require us to be followers of him any farther than he was a follower of Christ. They will find small relief who, at the last day, shall charge their sins on the commands of others, whatever hope to the contrary they are put into by our author. Neither will it be any excuse that we have done according to the precepts of men, if we have done contrary to those of God. Ephraim of old was “broken in judgment, because he willingly walked after the commandment,” Hos. v. 11. But would not his “obedience hallow, or at least excuse, his action?” and would not the “authority of the king warrant his obedience?” or must Ephraim now answer for the sin, and not he only that imposed the command? But it seems that when Jeroboam sinned, who at that time had this goodly creature of the “public conscience” in keeping, he made Israel sin also, who obeyed him. It is, moreover, a brave attempt, to assert that “private men,” with respect to any of their moral actions, “are not properly ‘sui juris,’ have no power over their actions, are not to be directed by their own judgments or determined by their own 492wills.” This is Circe’s rod, one stroke whereof turned men into hogs. For to what propose serve their understandings, their judgments, their wills, if not to guide and determine them in their actions? I think he would find hard work that should go about to persuade men to put out their own eyes, or blind themselves, that they might see all by one public eye; and I am sure it is no less unreasonable to desire them to reject their own wills, understandings, and judgments, to be led and determined by a public conscience, considering especially that that public conscience itself is a mere “tragelaphus,” which never had existence in “rerum natura.”

Besides, suppose men should be willing to accept of this condition of renouncing their own understandings and judgments from being their guides as to their moral actions, I fear it will be found that indeed they are not able so to do. Men’s understandings and their consciences are placed in them by him who made them, to rule in them and over their actions in his name, and with respect unto their dependence on him; and let men endeavour it whilst they please, they shall never be able utterly to cast off this yoke of God and destroy this order of things, which is by him inlaid in the principles of all rational beings. Men, whilst they are men, in things that have a moral good or evil in them or adhering to them, must be guided and determined by their own understandings whether they will or no; and if by any means they stifle the actings of them at present, they will not avoid that judgment which, according to them, shall pass upon them at the last day. But these things may elsewhere be farther pursued. In the meantime, the reader may take this case as it is determined by the learned prelate before mentioned, in his dialogue about subjection and obedience, against the Papists, whose words are as follow. Part iii. p. 297:— “ Philand. If the prince establish any religion, whatever it be, you must by your oath obey it. Theoph. We must not rebel and take arms against the prince, but with reverence and humility serve God before the prince; and that is nothing against our oath. Philand. Then is not the prince supreme. Theoph. Why so? Philand. Yourselves are superior, when you serve whom you list. Theoph. As though to serve God according to his will were to serve whom we list, and not whom princes and all others ought to serve. Philand. But you will be judges when God is well served, and when not. Theoph. If you can excuse us before God when you mislead us, we will serve him as you shall appoint us; otherwise, if every man shall answer for himself, good reason he be master of his own conscience in that which toucheth him so near, and no man shall excuse him for. Philand. This is to make every man supreme judge of religion. Theoph. The 493poorest wretch that is may be supreme governor of his own heart; princes rule the public and external actions of their countries, but not the consciences of men.” This in his days was the doctrine of the church of England; and, as was observed before, no person who then lived in it knew better what was so.

The sole inquiry remaining is, Whether the magistrate, having established such a religion as is idolatrous or superstitious, may justly and lawfully punish and destroy his subjects for their non-compliance therewithal? This is that which, if I understand him, our author would give countenance unto, contrary to the common sense of all Christians, yea, of common sense itself; for whereas he interweaves his discourse with suppositions that men may mistake in religion and abuse it, all such interpositions are purely sophistical, seeing the case proposed to resolution, which ought in the whole to be precisely attended unto, is about the refusal to observe and practise a religion idolatrous or superstitions. Of the like nature is that argument which alone he makes use of here and elsewhere to justify his principles, — namely, the necessity of government, and how much better the worst government is and the most depraved in its administration than anarchy or confusion; for as this by all mankind is unquestioned, so I do not think there is any one among them who can tell how to use this concession to our author’s purpose. Doth it follow that because magistrates cannot justly or righteously prescribe an idolatrous religion, and compel their subjects to the profession and obedience of it, and because the subjects cannot nor ought to yield obedience therein, because of the antecedent and superior power of God over them, therefore anarchy or confusion must be preferred before such an administration of government? Let the magistrate command; what he will in religion, yet, whilst he attends unto the ends of all civil government, that government must needs be every way better than none, and is by private Christians to be borne with and submitted unto, until God in his providence shall provide relief. The primitive Christians lived some ages in the condition described, refusing to observe the religion required by law, and exercising themselves in the worship of God, which was strictly forbidden; and yet neither anarchy, nor confusion, nor any disturbance of public tranquillity did ensue thereon. So did the Protestants here in England in the days of Queen Mary, and some time before. The argument which he endeavours in these discourses to give an answer unto is only of this importance: If the supreme magistrate may command what religion he pleaseth, and enact the observation of it under destructive penalties, whereas the greatest part of magistrates in the world will and do prescribe such religions and ways of divine worship as are idolatrous or superstitious, which their 494subjects are indispensably bound in conscience not to comply withal, then is the magistrate justified in the punishing of men for their serving of God as they ought, and they may suffer as evil-doers in what they suffer as Christians. This, all the world over, will justify them that are uppermost and have power in their hands (on no other ground but because they are so and have so) in their oppressions and destructions of them that, being under them in civil respects, do dissent from them in things religious. Now, whether this be according to the mind of God or no is left unto the judgment of all indifferent men. We have, I confess, I know not how many expressions interposed in this discourse, as was observed, about “sedition, troubling of public peace, men being turbulent against prescribed rules of worship,” whereof if he pretend that every peaceable dissenter and dissent from what is publicly established in religious worship are guilty, he is a pleasant man in a disputation; and if he do any thing, he determines his case proposed on the part of compliance with idolatrous and superstitious worship. If he do not so, the mention of them in this place is very importune and unseasonable. All men acknowledge that such miscarriages and practices may be justly coerced and punished; but what is this to a bare refusal to comply in any idolatrous worship, and a peaceable practice of what God doth require, as that which he will accept and own?

But our author proceeds to find out many pretences on the account whereof persons whom he acknowledgeth to be innocent and guiltless may be punished; and though their “apprehensions in religion be not,” as he saith, “so much their crime as their infelicity, yet there is no remedy, but it must expose them to the public rods and axes,” p. 219. I have heard of some wise and righteous princes, who have affirmed that they had rather let twenty guilty persons go free than punish or destroy one that was innocent. This seems to render them more like Him whose vicegerents they are than to seek out colourable reasons for the punishment of them whom they know to be innocent; which course is here suggested unto them. Such advice might be welcome to him whom men called πηλὸν αἵματι πεφυραμένον, — “clay mingled and leavened with blood;” others, no doubt, will abhor it and detest it. But what spirit of meekness and mercy our author is acted by he discovereth in the close of this chapter, p. 223; for, saith he, “it is easily imaginable how an honest and well-meaning man may, through mere ignorance, fall into such errors, which, though God will pardon, yet governors must punish. His integrity may expiate the crime, but cannot prevent the mischief of his error. Nay, so easy is it for men to deserve to be punished for their consciences, that there is no nation in the world in which (were government rightly understood and duly managed) mistakes 495and abuses of religion would not supply the galleys with vastly greater numbers than villany.” There is no doubt but that if Phæton get into the chariot of the sun, the world will be sufficiently fired. And if every Absalom, who thinks he understands government and the due management of it better than its present possessors, were enthroned, there would be havoc enough made among mankind. But blessed be God, who in many places hath disposed it into such hands as under whom those who desire to fear and serve him according to his will may yet enjoy a more tolerable condition than such adversaries are pleased withal. That honest and well-meaning men falling into errors about the worship of God, through their own ignorance, wherein their “integrity may expiate their crime, must be punished, must not be pardoned,” looks, methinks, with an appearance of more severity than it is the will of God that the world should be governed by, seeing one end of his instituting and appointing government among men is to represent himself in his power, goodness, and wisdom unto them. And he that shall conjoin another assertion of our author, namely, that it is “better and more eligible to tolerate debaucheries and immoralities in conversation than liberty of conscience for men to worship God according to those apprehensions which they have of his will,” with the close of this chapter, that “it is so easy for men to deserve to be punished far their consciences, that there is no nation in the world in which (were government rightly understood and duly managed) mistakes and abuses of religion would not supply the galleys with vastly greater numbers than villany,” will easily judge with what spirit, from what principles, and with what design, this whole discourse was composed.

But I find myself, utterly beside and beyond my intention, engaged in particular controversies; and finding, by the prospect I have taken of what remains in the treatise under consideration, that it is of the same nature and importance with what is past, and a full continuation of those opprobrious reproaches of them whom he opposeth, and open discoveries of earnest desires after their trouble and ruin, which we have now sufficiently been inured unto, I shall choose rather here to break off this discourse than farther to pursue the ventilation of those differences, wherein I shall not willingly or of choice at any time engage. Besides, what is in the whole discourse of especial and particular controversy may be better handled apart by itself, as probably ere long it will be, if this new representation of old pretences, quickened by invectives, and improved beyond all bounds and measures formerly fixed or given unto them, be judged to deserve a particular consideration. In the meantime, this author is more concerned than I to consider whether those bold incursions that he hath made upon the ancient boundaries and 496rules of religion and the consciences of men; those contemptuous revilings of his adversaries, which he hath almost filled the pages of his book withal; those discoveries he hath made of the want of a due sense of the weaknesses and infirmities of men, which himself wants not, and of fierce, implacable, sanguinary thoughts against them who appeal to the judgment-seat of God that they do not in any thing dissent from him or others but out of a reverence of the authority of God and for fear of provoking his holy majesty; his incompassionate insulting over men in distresses and sufferings, — will add to the comfort of that account which he must shortly make before his Lord and ours.

To close up this discourse: The principal design of the treatise thus far surveyed is, to persuade or seduce sovereign princes or supreme magistrates unto two evils, that are indeed inseparable, and equally pernicious to themselves and others. The one of these is, to invade or usurp the throne of God; and the other, to behave themselves therein unlike him; — and where the one leads the way, the other will assuredly follow. The empire over religion, the souls and consciences of men in the worship of God, hath hitherto been esteemed to belong unto God alone, to be a peculiar jewel in his glorious diadem; neither can it spring from any other fountain but absolute and infinite supremacy, such as belongs to him, as he hath alone, who is the first cause and last end of all. All attempts to educe it from or resolve it into any other principle are vain, and will prove abortive. But here the sons of men are enticed to say, with him of old, “We will ascend into heaven; we will exalt our throne above the stars of God; we will sit upon also the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north; we will ascend above the heights of the clouds; we will be like the Most High.” For wherein can this be effected? What ladders have men to climb personally into heaven? and who shall attend them in their attempt? It is an assuming of a dominion over the souls and consciences of men in the worship of God wherein and whereby this may be pretended, and therein alone. And all this description of the invasion of the throne of God, whence he who did so is compared to Lucifer, who sought supremacy in heaven, is but the setting up of his power in and over the church in its worship, which was performed in the temple, the mount of the congregation, and in Zion, on the north of the city of Jerusalem, Isa. xiv. 12–14. This now princes are persuaded unto, and can scarce escape without reproaches, where they refuse, or omit the attempting of it. Suppose they be prevailed with to run the hazard and adventure of such an undertaking, what is it that they are thereon persuaded unto? How are they directed to behave themselves after they have assumed a likeness unto the Most High, and exalted themselves to his throne? Plainly, that which is 497now expected from them is nothing but wrath, fury, indignation, persecution, destructions, banishments, ruin of the persons and families of men innocent, peaceable, fearing God, and useful in their several stations, to satisfy their own wills, or to serve the interests of other men. Is this to act like God, whose power and authority they have assumed, or like to his greatest adversary? Doth God deal thus in this world in his rule over the souls of men? or is not this that which is set out in the fable of Phæton, that he who takes the chariot of the sun will cast the whole world into a combustion? So he who of old is supposed to have affected the throne of God hath ever since acted that cruelty to his power; which manifests what was his design therein, and what would have been the end of his coveted sovereignty. And whoever at any time shall take to himself that power that is peculiar to God, will find himself left, in the exercise of it, to act utterly unlike him, yea, contrary unto him.

Power, they say, is a liquor that, let it be put into what vessel you will, is ready to overflow; and as useful as it is, — as nothing is more to mankind in this world, — yet when it is not accompanied with a due proportion of wisdom and goodness, it is troublesome, if not pernicious, to them concerned in it. The power of God is infinite, and his sovereignty absolute; but the whole exercise of these glorious, dreadful properties of his nature is regulated by wisdom and goodness, no less infinite than themselves. And as he hath all power over the souls and consciences of men, so he exercises it with that goodness, grace, clemency, patience, and forbearance, which I hope we are all sensible of. If there be any like him, equal unto him, in these things, I will readily submit the whole of my religion and conscience unto him, without the least hesitation. And if God, in his dominion and rule over the souls and consciences of men, do exercise all patience, benignity, long-suffering, and mercy, — for “it is of his compassion that we are not consumed,” — doth he not declare that none is meet to be intrusted with that power and rule but they who have these things like himself; at least, that in what they are or may be concerned in it, they express and endeavour to answer his example? Indeed, sovereign princes and supreme magistrates are God’s vicegerents, and are called gods on the earth, to represent his power and authority unto men in government, within the bounds prefixed by himself unto them, which are the most extensive that the nature of things is capable of; and in so doing, to conform themselves and their actings to him and his, as he is the great monarch, the prototype of all rule and the exercise of it, in justice, goodness, clemency, and benignity, that so the whole of what they do may tend to the relief, comfort, refreshment, and satisfaction of mankind, walking in the ways of peace and innocency, in answer unto the ends of their rule, — is their 498duty, their honour, and their safety. And to this end doth God usually and ordinarily furnish them with a due proportion of wisdom and understanding; for they also are of God. He gives them an understanding suited and commensurate to their work, that what they have to do shall not ordinarily be too hard for them, nor shall they be tempted to mistakes and miscarriages from the work they are employed about, which he hath made to be their own. But if any of them shall once begin to exceed their bounds, to invade his throne, and to take to themselves the rule of any province belonging peculiarly and solely to the kingdom of heaven, therein a conformity unto God in their actings is not to be expected; for be they never so amply furnished with all abilities of mind and soul for the work and those duties which are their own, which are proper unto them, yet they are not capable of any such stores of wisdom and goodness as should fit them for the work of God, that which peculiarly belongs to his authority and power. His power is infinite; his authority is absolute; so are his wisdom, goodness, and patience. Thus he rules religion, the souls and consciences of men. And when princes partake in these things, infinite power, infinite wisdom, and infinite goodness, they may assume the same rule and act like him; but to pretend an interest in the one and not in the other will set them in the greatest opposition to him.

Those, therefore, who can prevail with magistrates to take the power of God over religion, and the souls of men in their observance of it, need never fear that when they have so done they will imitate him in his patience, clemency, meekness, forbearance, and benignity; for they are no way capable of these things in a due proportion to that power which is not their own, however they may be eminently furnished for that which is so. Thus have we known princes (such as Trajan, Adrian, Julian of old), whilst they kept themselves to their proper sphere, ordering and disposing the affairs of this world and all things belonging to public peace, tranquillity, and welfare, to have been renowned for their righteousness, moderation, and clemency, and thereby made dear to mankind, who, when they have fallen into the excess of assuming divine power over the consciences of men and the worship of God, have left behind them such footsteps and remembrances of rage, cruelty, and blood in the world, as make them justly abhorred to all generations. This alone is the seat and posture wherein the powers of the earth are delighted with the sighs and groans of innocent persons, with the fear and dread of them that are and would be at peace, with the punishment of their obedient subjects, and the binding of those hands of industry which would willingly employ themselves for the public good and welfare. Take this occasion out of the way, and there is nothing that should provoke sovereign magistrates to any 499thing that is grievous, irksome, or troublesome to men peaceable and innocent; nothing that should hinder their subjects from seeing the presence of God with them in their rule, and his image upon them in their authority, causing them to delight in the thoughts of them, and to pray continually for their continuance and prosperity. It may be some may be pleased for a season with severities against dissenters, such as concerning whom we discourse, who falsely suppose their interest to lie therein. It may be they may think meet rather to have all “debaucheries of life and conversation tolerated” than liberty for peaceable men to worship God according to their light and persuasion of his mind and will, as the multitude was pleased of old with the cry of, “Release Barabbas, and let Jesus be crucified.” Magistrates themselves will at length perceive how little they are beholden to any who importunately suggest unto them fierce and sanguinary counsels in these matters. It is a saying of Maximilian the emperor, celebrated in many authors: “Nullum,” said he, “enormius peccatum dari potest, quam in conscientias imperium exercere velle. Qui enim conscientiis imperare volunt, ii arcem cœli invadunt, et plerumque terræ possessionem perdunt.

Magistrates need not fear but that the open wickedness and bloody crimes of men will supply them with objects to be examples and testimonies of their justice and severity. And methinks it should not be judged an unequal petition by them who rule in the stead and fear of God, that those who are innocent in their lives, useful in their callings and occasions, peaceable in the Lord, might not be exposed to trouble only because they design and endeavour, according to their light, which they are invincibly persuaded to be from God himself, to take care that they perish not eternally. However, I know I can mind them of advice which is ten thousand times more their interest to attend unto than to any that is tendered in the treatise we have had under consideration, and it is that given by a king unto those that should partake of the like royal authority with himself: Ps. ii. 10–12, “Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” And he who can inform me how they can render themselves more like unto God, more acceptable unto him, and more the concern and delight of mankind, than by relieving peaceable and innocent persons from their fears, cares, and solicitousness about undeserved evils, or from the suffering of such things, which no mortal man can convince them that they have merited to undergo or suffer, he shall have my thanks for his discovery.

And what is it that we treat about? What is it that a little truce 500and peace is desired unto and pleaded for? What are the concerns of public good therein? Let a little sedate consideration be exercised about these things, and the causelessness of all the wrath we have been conversing withal will quickly appear. That there is a sad degeneracy of Christianity in the world, amongst the professors of Christian religion, from the rule, spirit, worship, and conversation of the first Christians, who in all things observed and expressed the nature, virtue, and power of the gospel, all must acknowledge and many do complain. Whatever of this kind comes to pass, and by what means soever, it is the interest and design of them who are present gainers by it in the world to keep all things in the posture that yields them their advantage. Hence, upon every appearance of an alteration, or apprehension that any will desert the ways of worship wherein they have been engaged, they are cast into a storm of passion and outrage, like Demetrius and the rest of the silversmiths, pretending divisions, present settlement, ancient veneration, and the like, when their gain and advantage, whether known or unknown to themselves, is that which both influenceth them with such a frame of spirit and animates them to actings suitable thereunto. Thus in the ages past there was so great and universal an apostasy, long before foretold, overspreading Christianity, that by innumerable sober persons it was judged intolerable, and that if men had any regard to the gospel of Christ, their own freedom in the world, or everlasting blessedness, there was a necessity of a reformation, and the reduction of the profession of Christian religion unto some nearer conformity to the primitive times and pattern. Into this design sundry kings, princes, and whole nations, engaged themselves, — namely, what lay in them, and according to the sentiments of truth they had received, to reduce religion unto its pristine glory. What wrath, clamours, fury, indignation, revenge, malice, this occasioned in them whose subsistence, wealth, advantages, honour, and reputation, all lay in preserving things in their state of defection and apostasy, is known to all the world. Hence, therefore, arose bloody persecutions in all, and fierce wars in many nations, where this thing was attempted, stirred up by the craft and cruelty of them who had mastered and managed the former declensions of religion to their own use and advantage; the guilt of which mischiefs and miseries unto mankind is, by a late writer amongst ourselves, contrary to all the monuments of times past, and confessions of the adversaries themselves, endeavoured to be cast on the reformers.

However, a work of reformation was carried on in the world, and succeeded in many places; in none more eminently than in this nation wherein we live. That the end aimed at, which was professedly the reduction of religion to its ancient beauty and glory in truth and worship, 501is attained amongst us, some perhaps do judge, and absolutely acquiesce therein; and for my part, I wish we had more [who] did so: for, be it spoken, as I hope, without offence on the part of others, so without fear of giving it, or having it taken, on my own, there are among many such evident declensions from the first established reformation towards the old or a new, and it may be worse apostasy, such an apparent weariness of the principal doctrines and practices which enlivened the reformation, as I cannot but be troubled at, and wherewith many are offended; for although I do own a dissent from some present establishments in the church of England, yet I have that honour for the first reformers of it, and reformation itself, that love to the truth declared and established in it, that respect to the work and grace of God in the conversion of the souls of thousands by the ministry of the word in these nations, that I cannot but grieve continually to see the acknowledged doctrines of it deserted, its ancient principles and practices derided, its pristine zeal despised, by some who make advantage of its outward constitution, inheriting the profits, emoluments, and wealth which the bounty of our kings have endowed it withal, but not its spirit, its love, its steadfastness in owning the protestant truth and cause.

But to return, for these things may better elsewhere be complained of, seeing they relate only to particular persons: That what is done in reformation be established, that any farther public work of the same nature attempted, or the retrievement of what is done to its original condition and estate, belongs to the determination of the supreme magistrate, and to that alone. Private persons have no call, no warrant to attempt any thing unto these purposes. However, many there are who dislike some ecclesiastical constitutions and modes of outward worship, which have been the matter of great contests from the first reformation, but much more dislike the degeneracy from the spirit, way, and principles of the first reformers before mentioned, which in some at present they apprehend. And, therefore, though many seem to be at a great distance from the present established forms of the church of England, yet certainly all who are humble and peaceable, when they shall see the ministry of the church, as in former days, in some measure acted rightly and zealously towards the known ends of it, and such as are undeniably by all acknowledged, — namely, the conviction of the world, the conversion of souls, and the edification of them that do believe; and the discipline of it exercised in a conformity at least to the rule of the discipline of the secular powers of the earth, — “Not to be a terror to the good, but to them that do evil;” and in these things a demonstration of the meekness, humility, patience, forbearance, condescension to the weakness, mistakes, errings and wanderings of others, which the gospel doth as plainly and 502evidently require of us as it doth that we should believe in Jesus Christ, — will continually pray for its prosperity, though they cannot themselves join with it in sundry of its practices and ways. In the meantime, I say, such persons as these, in themselves and for their own concerns, do think it their duty not absolutely to take up in what hath been attained amongst us, much less in what many are degenerated into, but to endeavour the reduction of their practice in the worship of God to what was first appointed by Jesus Christ; as being persuaded that he requires it of them, and being convinced that, in the unspeakable variety that is in human constitutions, rest unto their souls and consciences is not otherwise to be obtained. And if, at the same time, they endeavour not to reduce the manner and course of their conversation to the same rule and example by which they would have their worship of God regulated, they are hypocrites. Short enough, no doubt, they come, in both, of perfection, but both they profess to aim equally at; and herein alone can their consciences find rest and peace. In the doctrine of faith, consented on in the first reformation, and declared in the allowed writings of the church of England, they agree with others, and wish with all their hearts they had more to agree withal. Only, they cannot come up to the practice of some things in the worship of God, which being confessedly of human prescription, their obedience in them would lie in a perfect contradiction to their principal design, before mentioned; for those things, being chosen out from a great multitude of things of the same nature, invented by those whose authority was rejected in the first reformation, or reduction of religion from its catholic apostasy, they suppose cannot justly be imposed on them, they are sure cannot be honestly received by them, whilst they design to reduce themselves unto the primitive rules and examples of obedience. In this design they profess themselves ready to be ruled by, and to yield subjection unto, any truth or direction that can or may be given them from the word of God, or any principles lawfully from thence educed. How their conviction is at present attempted, let the book under consideration, and some late unparalleled and illegal acts of violence, conformable to the spirit of it, be a testimony. But, in the management of their design, they proceed on no other principles than those of the liberty of judgment (of discretion, or discerning, they call it), for the determining of themselves and their own practices in what they believe and profess about religion, and the liberty of their consciences from all human impositions, than were owned, pleaded, and contended for by the first reformers, and the most learned defenders of the church of England, in their disputations against the Papists; those they will stand to and abide by: yea, than what are warranted by the principles of our 503nature and constitution; for no man practiseth any thing, nor can practice it, but according to his own will and choice.

Now, in these things, in their principle, or in their management of it, it may be they are mistaken, it may be they are in an error, or under many mistakes and errors; but from their integrity they know themselves innocent, even in their mistakes. And it is in the nature of men to think strange of sedate violences, that befall them without their demerit, and of suffering by law without any guilt. Their design of reducing themselves in worship and conversation to the primitive pattern, they openly avow; nor dare any directly condemn that design, nor can they be convinced of insincerity in what they profess. And shall they be destroyed if they miss it in some matters of smaller concernment? which, whatever some may boast of, is not hitherto tolerably proved. Shall now their dissent in religious observances on this occasion, and those and that about things mostly and chiefly, if not only, that appear neither name nor thing in the Scripture, be judged a crime not to be expiated but by their ruin? Are immoralities or vicious debaucheries rather to be tolerated, or exempted from punishment, than such a dissent? What place of Scripture in the Old or New Testament, which of the ancient fathers of the church, do speak at this rate? Opinions inconsistent with public tranquillity, with the general rules of moral duties in all relations and conditions, practices of any tendency in themselves to political disturbances, are by none pleaded for. Mere dissent itself, with different observances in the outward worship of God, is by some pretended, indeed, to be a civil disturbance; it hath always been so by some, even by those whose own established ways have been superstitious and idolatrous. But wise men begin to smile when they hear private interest pleaded as public good, and the affections which it begets as the common reason of things. And these pretences have been by all parties, at one time or another, refuted and discarded. Let the merit of the cause be stated and considered, which is truly as above proposed, and no other; set aside prejudices, animosities, advantages from things past and bygone in political disorders and tumults, wherein it hath no concern, — and it will quickly appear how little it is, how much, if possible, less than nothing, that is or can be pleaded for the countenancing of external severity in this case. Doth it suit the spirit of the gospel [of Christ] or his commands, to destroy good wheat, for standing, as is supposed, a little out of order, who would not have men pluck up the tares, but to let them stand quietly in the field until harvest? Doth it answer his mind to destroy his disciples, who profess to love and obey him, from the earth, who blamed his disciples of old for desiring to destroy the Samaritans, his enemies, with fire from heaven? We 504are told that “he who was born after the flesh persecuted him who was born after the promise;” and a work becoming him it was And if men are sincere disciples of Christ, though they may fall into some mistakes and errors, the outward persecuting of them on that account will be found to be of the works of the flesh. It is certain, that for those in particular who take upon them, in any place or degree, to be ministers of the gospel, there are commands for meekness, patience, and forbearance given unto them; and it is one of the greatest duties incumbent on them to express the Lord Jesus Christ in the frame of his mind and spirit unto men, and that eminently in his meekness and lowliness, which he calls us all in an especial manner to learn of him. A peculiar conformity also to the gospel, to the holy law of love, self-denial, and condescension, is required of them, that they may not, in their spirits, ways, and actings, make a false representation of him and that which they profess.

I know not, therefore, whence it is come to pass that this sort of men do principally, if not only, stir up magistrates and rulers to laws, severities, penalties, coercions, imprisonments, and the like outward means of fierce and carnal power, against those who in any thing dissent from them in religion. Generally, abroad, throughout Christendom, those in whose hands the civil powers are, and who may be supposed to have inclinations unto the severe exercise of that power which is their own, such as they think, possibly, may become them as men and governors, would be inclinable to moderation towards dissenters, were they not excited, provoked, and wearied, by them who pretend to represent Jesus Christ to the world, — as if any earthly potentate had more patience, mercy, and compassion than he. Look on those Lutheran countries where they persecute the Calvinists. It is commonly declared and proved that the magistrates, for the most part, would willingly bear with those dissenters, were they not stirred up continually to severities by them whose duty it were to persuade them to clemency and moderation, if in themselves they were otherwise inclined. And this hath ruined the interest of the protestant religion in Germany, in a great measure. Do men who destroy no more than they can, nor punish more than they are able, and cry out for assistance where their own arm fails them, render themselves hereby like to their heavenly Father? Is this spirit from above? Doth that which is so teach men to harass the consciences of persons, their brethren and fellow-servants, on every little difference in judgment and practice about religious things? Whom will such men fulfil the commands of patience, forbearance, waiting, meekness, condescension, that the gospel abounds with, towards? Is it only towards them who are of the same mind with themselves? They stand in no need of them; they stand upon the same terms of 505advantage with themselves. And for those that dissent, “Arise, kill and eat,” seems to be the only command to be observed towards them. And why all this fierceness and severity? Let men talk what they please, those aimed at are peaceable in the land, and resolve to be so, whatever may befall them. They despise all contrary insinuations. That they are in their stations severally useful to the commonwealth, and collectively, in their industry and trading, of great consideration to public welfare, is now apparent unto all indifferent men. It is, or must be, if it be for any thing (as surely no men delight in troubling others for trouble’s sake), for their errors and mistakes in and about the worship of God. All other pleas are mere pretences of passion and interest. But who judgeth them to be guilty of errors? Why, those that stir up others to their hurt and disquietment. But is their judgment infallible? How if they should be mistaken themselves in their judgment? If they are, they do not only err, but persecute others for the truth. And this hath been the general issue of this matter in the world. Error hath persecuted truth ten times for truth’s once persecuting of error. But suppose the worst, suppose them in errors and under mistakes, let it be proved that God hath appointed that all men who so err should be so punished as they would have Nonconformists, and though I should believe them in the truth, I would never more plead their cause. And would these men be willingly thus dealt withal by those who judge or may judge them to err? It may be some would, because they have a good security that none shall ever judge them so to do who hath power to punish them, for they will be of his mind. But sure none can be so absolutely confined unto themselves, nor so universally, in all their affections and desires, unto their own personal concerns, as not to have a compassion for some or other who, in one place or other, are judged to err by them who have power over them to affix what guilt they please unto that which is not their crime. And will they justify all their oppressors? All men have an equal right in this matter; nothing is required but being uppermost to make a difference. This is that which hath turned Christendom into a shambles, whilst every prevailing party hath judged it their duty and interest to destroy them that do dissent from them.

Once more; what name of sin or wickedness will they find to affix to these errors? “Nullum criminis nomen, nisi nominis crimen.” No man errs willingly, nor ought to be thought to tempt or seduce his own will, when his error is to his disadvantage; and he is innocent whose will is not guilty. Moreover, those pretended errors in our case are not in matters of faith; nor, for the most part, in or about the worship of God, or that which is acknowledged so to be; but in or about those things which some think it convenient to add unto 506it or conjoin with it. And what quietness, what peace is there like to be in the world, whilst the sword of vengeance must be continually drawn about these things? Counsels of peace, patience, and forbearance, would certainly better become professors of the gospel and preachers of everlasting peace than such passionate and furious enterprises for severity as we meet withal.

And I no way doubt but that all generous, noble, and heroic spirits, such as are not concerned in the empaled peculiar interest and advantages of some, and do scorn the pedantic humours of mean and emulous souls, when once a few more clouds of prejudices are scattered, will be willing to give up to God the glory of his sovereignty over the consciences of men, and despise the thought of giving them disquietment for such things as they can no way remedy, and which hinder them not from being servants of God, good subjects to the king, and useful in their respective lots and conditions.

And now, instead of those words of Pilate, “What I have written I have written,” — which, though uttered by him maliciously and despitefully, as was also the prophecy of Caiaphas, were, by the holy, wise providence of God, turned into a testimony to the truth, — I shall shut up this discourse with those of our Saviour, which are unspeakably more our concernment to consider, Matt. xxiv. 45–51: “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, that he shall make him ruler over all his goods. But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to smite his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”


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