|« Prev||A Sermon Preached Before the University at St.…||Next »|
BEFORE THE UNIVERSITY,
ST. MARY’S CHURCH, OXON,
ON AN ACT-SUNDAY.
And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
HE who has arrived to that pitch of infidelity as to deny that there is a Devil, gives a shrewd proof that he is deluded by him; and so by this very denial does unawares infer the thing which he would deny. There have indeed been some in all ages, sects, and religions, who have promoted the Devil’s interests by arguing against his being. For that which men generally most desire, is to go on in their sin without control; and it cannot be more their desire, than the Devil accounts it his interest, that they should do so. But when they are told withal, that he who tempts to sin now, is to execute God’s wrath for our sin hereafter, the belief of a, spirit, appointed to so terrible an office, standing so directly between them and their sins, they can never proceed smoothly in them, till such a belief be first taken out of the 451way; and therefore, no wonder if men argue against the thing they hate; and, for the freer enjoyment of their lusts, do all they can to baffle and throw off a persuasion, which does but torment them before their time: this undoubtedly being the true, if not only ground of all the disputes men raise against demons, or evil spirits, that their guilt has made it their concern that there should be none.
Nevertheless, on the other side, it must be considered, that the proving of spirits and immaterial substances from the common discourses of the world upon this subject, has not hitherto proved so successful as might be wished. For that there are such finite, incorporeal beings, as we call spirits, I take to be a point of that moment, that the belief of it ought to be established upon much surer proofs than such as are commonly taken from visions, and apparitions, and the reports which use to go of them; it having never hitherto been held for solid reasoning, to argue from what seems to what exists; or, in other words, from appearances to things; especially since it has been found so frequent, for the working of a strong fancy and a weak judgment to pass with many for apparitions. Nor yet can I think the same sufficiently proved from several strange effects, chances, and alterations, which (as historians tell us) having sometimes happened in the world, and carrying in them the marks of a rational efficiency, (but manifestly above all human power,) have therefore by some been ascribed to spirits, as the proper and immediate causes thereof. For such a conclusion, I conceive, cannot be certainly drawn from thence, unless we were able to comprehend the full force and activity of all corporeal substances, especially 452the celestial; so as to assign the utmost term which their activity can reach to, and beyond which it cannot go; which, I suppose, no sober reasoner or true philosopher will pretend to.
And therefore in the present case, allowing the forementioned common arguments all the advantage of probability they can justly lay claim to; yet if we would have a certain proof of the existence of finite spirits, good or bad, we ought, no doubt, to fetch it from that infallible word of revelation, held forth to us in the scriptures; and so employ faith to piece up the shortness and defects of science; which, as no thing but faith can do, so that man must by no means pretend to faith, who will not sell his assent under a demonstration; nor indeed to so much as prudence, who will be convinced by nothing but experience, when perhaps the experiment may prove his, destruction. He who believes that there is a Devil, puts himself into the ready way to escape him. But as for those modern Sadducees, who will believe neither angel nor spirit, because they cannot see them; and with whom invisible and incredible pass for terms perfectly equipollent; they would do wisely to consider, that as the fowler would certainly spoil his own game, should he not, as much as possible, keep out of sight; so the Devil never plants his snares so skilfully and successfully, as when he conceals his person; nor tempts so dangerously, as when he can persuade men that there is no tempter.
But I fear I have argued too far upon this point already; since it may seem something inartificial for the sermon to prove what the text had supposed. But since the infidelity of the present age has made the proof of that necessary, which former ages took 453for granted, I hope the usefulness of the subject will atone for what may seem less regular in the prosecution. It must therefore be allowed (and that not only from the foregoing probable arguments, but much more from an infallible and divine testimony) that there is a devil, a satan, and a tempter. And we have him here presented to us under such a strange kind of mask or vizard, that we cannot see him for light; and then surely he must needs walk undiscovered, who can make that, which discovers all things else, his disguise. But the wonder ought to abate, if we consider, that there is a light which dazzles and deludes, as well as one which informs and directs; and that it is the former of these which Satan clothes himself with, as with a garment. A light so far resembling that of the stars, that it still rules by night, and has always darkness both for its occasion and companion. The badge of truth is unity, and the property of falsehood variety; and accordingly the Devil appears all things, as he has occasion; the priest, the casuist, the reformer, the reconciler; and in a word, any thing but himself. He can change his voice, his dress, and the whole scene of his fallacies; and by a dexterous management of the fraud, present you with an Esau under the form of a Jacob; for the old serpent can shift his skin, as often as he has a turn to serve by his doing so. For it is a short and easy transition from darkness to light, even as near as the confines of night and day. So that this active spirit can quickly pass from one to the other, and equally carry on a work of darkness in both. We read of a daemonium meridianum, though the sun, we know, is then highest, and the light greatest. The Psalmist, in 454Psalm xci. 6, tells us not only of a pestilence which walks in darkness, but also of a destruction which wasteth at noon-day; and consequently that he who is the great manager both of the one and the other, is as much a devil when he shines as Lucifer, as when he destroys as Satan.
Now the Devil, I conceive, is represented to us thus transformed in the text, not so much in respect of what he is in his person, as in his practice upon men; for none ever dissembles or conceals himself, but he has a design upon another. And therefore, to prosecute the sense of the words by as full a representation of his frauds as I am able to give, I shall discourse of him in this method.
I. I shall endeavour to shew the way of his operation upon the soul, in conveying his fallacies into the minds of men.
II. I shall shew the grand instances in which he has played an angel of light, in the several ages of the church successively. And
III. and lastly, give caution against some principles, by which he is like to repeat the same cheat upon the world, if not prevented in time to come.
And first, for the influence he has upon the soul.
To lay open here all the ways whereby this spiritual engineer works upon us, to trace the serpent in all his windings and turnings, is a thing, I believe, as much above a mere human understanding, as that is below an angelical; but so far as the ducture of common reason, scripture, and experience will direct our inquiries, we shall find that there are three ways by which he powerfully reaches and operates upon the minds of men. As,
1. By moving, stirring, and sometimes altering 455the humours and disposition of the body. That the soul in all its operations is strangely affected by and held down to the particular crasis and constitution of the corporeal part is indubitable. And that the Devil can model and frame the temperament of it to his own purpose, the woman whom Satan is said to have bound for so many years, Luke xiii. 16, is a convincing instance. Now this expert anatomist, who has examined and looked into all the secret recesses, caverns, and little fibres both of body and soul, (as I may so express the matter,) knows that there is no grace but has its counterfeit in some passion; and no passion of the mind, but moves upon the wheel of some humour of the body. So that it is easy for him to refine, and, as it were, sanctify the fire and fury of a choleric humour into zeal, and raise the operations of melancholy to the semblance of a mortified demureness and humiliation. On which case of supposed sorrow for sin, but real disturbance from some other cause, it is not to be questioned, but many repair to the divine, whose best casuist were an apothecary; and endeavour to cure and carry off their despair with a promise, or perhaps a prophecy, which might be better done with a purge. Poor self-deluding souls! often misapplying the blood of Christ under these circumstances, in which a little effusion of their own would more effectually work the cure; and Luke as physician give them a much speedier relief, than Luke as an evangelist.
2. The Devil can act upon the soul, by suggesting the ideas and spiritual pictures of things (as they may be not unfitly called) to the imagination. For this is the grand repository of all the ideas and representations which the mind of man can work 456either upon or by. So that Satan, our skilful artist, can as easily slide his injections into the fancy, as present a deluding image to the eye., From whence it is, that poor deluded women (followers of conventicles, or rather of such as meet them there) talk much of sudden joys, and raptures, and secret whispers of the Spirit, with a great deal more of such cant; in all which this grand impostor is still at his old work, and whether he speaks in the gentle charming voice of a comforter, or roars in the terrible thunders of damnation, is, and ever was, a liar from the beginning, and will be so to the end. Again, some perhaps have had a text, of something a peculiar significancy, cast into their fancy; as that for instance in Jerem. xlviii. 10, Cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from shedding blood; whereupon they presently thought themselves commissioned, by an extraordinary call from Heaven, to cut and slay all such as fought for the crown and the church, in the late infamous rebellion.3737 Such persons, principles, and practices, can want nothing to enable them to overthrow any government, but to be countenanced by it. Likewise it is very credible, that the same spirit can in discourse suggest smart sentences and strictures of wit, far surpassing the invention of the speaker; for otherwise, whence can it be that persons, known to be deplorably dull in other things, can yet be witty upon a subject obscene or profane? And no doubt, what the Papists falsely and ridiculously said of Luther, may with great truth be said of many leading heretics, that the Devil furnished them with arguments. For where the cause is his, he will never be wanting to give it an helping hand, but will be still with the 457heretic in his study, guiding his pen, and assisting his invention with many a lucky turn of thought and sophistical reasoning. So that upon the whole matter, the Devil himself may, perhaps, more properly pass for the heretic, and Arius or Socinus only for the amanuensis. For he is able to present images of words and sentences to the imagination, in as clear and perspicuous an order, as the most faithful and methodical memory. And why should the common word be, that the Devil stands at the liar’s elbow, if he were not to be his prompter? But
3. The Devil can work upon the soul, by an actual ingress into and personal possession of the man, so as to move and act him; and like a kind of vicarious soul, use his body, and the several faculties and members thereof, as instruments of the several operations which he exerts by them. Upon which account persons so possessed were heretofore called πνευματόφοροι, and ἐνεργούμενοι. And if any one here should doubt, that a spirit can move and impel a body, since without quantity and dimensions on both sides there can be no contact, and since without contact some think all impulsions impossible, this maxim, if too far insisted upon, would bear as hard upon the soul itself, as to its moving the body, (allowing it to be a spiritual immaterial substance; which, I hope, in a Christian auditory, needs not to be proved.) And now, the premises thus supposed, how easy must it be for this spirit to cast any person possessed by him into a kind of prophetic ecstasy, and, with other amazing extravagancies, to utter through him certain sentences and opinions, and in the utterance thereof to intermix some things pious and good, to take off the suspicion, and qualify the poison 458of the bad? For so the sibyls used to wait, till at a certain time the demons entered into them, and gave answers by them, suspending the natural actings of their souls, and using their bodily organs of speech, with strange prodigious convulsions, and certain circumstances of raving and unseemly horror attending them; as Virgil elegantly describes the Cumaean sibyl, in his 6th Æneid.
—Subito non vultus, non color unus,
Non comptae mansere comae; sed pectus anhelum,
Et rabie fera corda tument; majorque videri,
Nec mortale sonans, &c.
Of which words, the Quakers amongst us (as little as they deal in Latin) have yet been the best and fullest interpreters, by being the liveliest instances of the thing described in them of any that I know. And so likewise in the case of the person possessed, Acts xix. 16. Certainly he could never have prevailed over so many men, had he not had something in him stronger than man. But what needs there any further arguing, or how is it possible for that man to question whether the Devil can enter into and take possession of men, who shall read how often our Saviour cast him out?
These, I say, are the physical ways of operation which the Devil can employ, so as to insinuate there by his impostures in a clever unsuspected manner: which three general ways doubtless may be improved by so experienced a craftsman into myriads of particulars. But I shall confine myself to his dealings with the church, and that only within the times of Christianity; and so pass to the second general head proposed.459
II. Which was to shew the grand instances in which the Devil, under this mask of light, has imposed upon the Christian world. And here we must premise this general observation, as the basis of all the ensuing particulars; viz. that it has been the Devil’s constant method to accommodate his impostures to the most received and prevailing notions, and the peculiar proper improvements of each particular age. And, accordingly, let us take a survey of the several periods of them. As,
1. The grand ruling principle of the first ages of the church, then chiefly consisting of the gentile converts, was an extraordinarily zealous devotion and concern for the honour and worship of one only God, having been so newly converted from the worship of many: which great truth, since the Devil could neither seasonably nor successfully oppose then, he saw it his interest to swim with the stream, which he could not stem, and, by a dexterous turn of hand, to make use of one truth to supplant another. Accordingly, having met with a fit instrument for his purpose, he sets up in Arianism, and with a bold stroke strikes at no lower an article than the god head of the Son of God; and so manages this mighty and universal hatred of polytheism, to the rejection of a trinity of divine coequal Persons, as no ways consistent with the unity of the divine essence. The blasphemy of which opinion needed, no doubt, a more than ordinary artist to give it the best gloss and colour he could, and therefore was not to be introduced and ushered into the world, but by very plausible and seemingly pious pleas.
As for instance, that the ascribing of a deity or divine nature to Christ, was not so much a removal 460of polytheism, as a change. That for Christ to decry the pagan gods, and yet assume the godhead to himself, was, instead of being their reformer, to be their rival; and that by thus transferring divine worship to his own person, he did not so much destroy idolatry, as monopolize it. Moreover, that Christ himself professes his Father to be greater than he; and therefore, that either he himself is not God, or, if so, that the deity then includes not the highest degree of perfection. For if Christ was God, and upon that account comprehended in him all perfections, how could the Father be greater? which relation yet must imply a degree of perfection above that of the Son. And if it should be here replied, that the Father is greater in respect of a personal excellency, but not of a natural; such as reply so should do well to consider, how it can be, that where essence includes all perfection, personality can add any further. Besides, that the granting Christ to be the Son of God will not therefore infer him to be God. For the son of a king is but his father’s subject; and consequently, to assert any more concerning Christ, seems to be only paganism refined, and idolatry in a better dress.
These, I say, were the Arian objections against the deity of our Saviour; all of them extremely sophistical and slight, and such as the heathen philosophers had urged all along against the Christian religion, for near three hundred years before Arius was born: and we shall find them grounded only upon their not distinguishing between perfection absolute and relative, and their absurd arguing from finite and created beings to a being infinite and uncreate; as might easily be shewn in each of the foregoing 461particulars, would the time allotted for this exercise permit. So that it was a most true and proper remark, that if we take from hereticks disputing against any article of the Christian faith what is common to them with the heathens disputing against the whole body of Christianity, they will have little or nothing left them which is new, or can be called peculiarly their own. Nevertheless, such plausible stuff, backed with power, and managed by the Devil, drew over most of the Christian churches, for a considerable time, to Arianism; and so, by a very preposterous way of worship, made them sacrifice the Son to the honour of the Father. But,
2. As the Arian ages had chiefly set themselves to run down, or rather quite take away our Saviour’s divinity; so the following ages, by an ἀμετρία τῆς ἀνθολκῆς, a kind of contrary stretch, were no less intent upon paying a boundless and exorbitant devotion to every thing belonging to his humanity; and in a very particular and more than ordinary manner, to those who had eminently done and suffered (especially to the degree of martyrdom) for his person and religion. And this was the course all along taken by the papal heresy, from the very first that it got footing in the church; touching which, let none think it strange, that I make an immediate step from the times of Arianism to those of Popery, as if there ought to be a greater interval put between them. For though it must be confessed, that Arianism received its mortal wound by the first council of Nice, pretty early in the fourth century; yet these following heresies of Macedonianism, Nestorianism, Eutychianism, Monotheletism, &c. (which, as different as they were amongst themselves, were 462yet, in truth, but so many shoots out of the old Arian stock,) continued much longer, and reached considerably beyond the sixth century; about the end whereof, and the beginning of the seventh, Popery began to work and shew itself by degrees; (Gregory the Great, who lived till the year of our Lord 604, being, not without cause, reckoned the last of the good popes of Rome, and the first of the bad;) so that in truth there was no vacancy, or intermediate chasm of time, between the Arian poison ceasing, and the Popish ferment beginning to infest the church. Well then, the deity of Christ having been thus irrefragably proved, and Arianism, with its appendant heresies, at length drawing off the stage, and another predominant principle coming on, it was now time for the grand deceiver to change his hand, being to work upon quite different materials, as well as with quite different instruments; and so to turn that vast honour and zeal, which, as we observed, the world bore to Christ’s human nature, to the perverting, depraving, and undermining of Christianity itself. For from hence men came to give that inordinate veneration to the sacrament of Christ’s body and blood; and for the defence thereof invented that monster of absurdities, transubstantiation. After which, with great industry, they got together and kept all relicks, which any way represented his memory, as pieces of the cross, and pictures of his body, till at length they even adored them; and, to justify their so doing, they cast their practice into a doctrine, that the crucifix was to be adored with relative divine worship; more than which, by the way, the heathens themselves never gave to their idols; but worshipped them only so far as they were 463representations, or rather significations of those effects and benefits, for which they adored the Deity, the great cause and original of them. But this superstition stopped not here, but extended itself likewise to Christ’s friends and followers, the saints; those especially, who, as I noted before, had sealed their profession with their blood: the memory of whom they celebrated with solemn invocations of them at their sepulchres, making offerings to them there, and bowing and falling prostrate at the very mention of their names, till at length this reverential respect grew into downright adoration. And thus by degrees Paganism came to be christened into a new form and name, by their setting up their divi, or begodded tutelar saints, and prosecuting their apotheosis with divine worship. And lest in this they might seem to intrench upon the honour of Christ, by treating his saints and servants upon equal terms with himself, they made their very zeal for his honour a plea for their making these saints their intercessors with him; alleging, forsooth, their own unfitness and utter unworthiness to approach him by a direct address, without such a mediation: as subjects do then most acceptably petition their earthly prince, when their suits are handed to him by some particular and beloved favourite: a shrewd argument, no doubt, if God and man proceeded by the same methods. But to go on: since religion would be but a very lame and imperfect institution, should not points of faith be seconded with suitable rules of practice; hereupon mortification and austerity of life were, in shew at least, equally advanced, and Satan began to play the white devil, by prohibiting, upon pretence of higher sacerdotal purity, the marriage of 464the clergy, (though at the same time reckoned by themselves a sacrament,) forbidding also certain sorts of meat, and enjoining others; as likewise imposing hair shirts, whips, scourges, with many more such corporal severities; for the recommending of all which to men’s use, they taught them, that these practices were satisfactory for sin and meritorious of heaven. And lest this might seem to derogate from Christ’s satisfaction, (as it certainly did,) they distinguished sins into mortal and venial. And whereas they held, that these venial sins could not deserve eternal death; and withal, that many men die before they have completed their repentance; for them they invented a certain place in the other world, for the temporal, penal expiation of such sins; to wit, purgatory. And since the pains of this were not to be eternal, but that a deliverance and redemption of the souls held therein might be procured, and that by the merit of the good works of others, to help out those who had none of their own, they came from hence to assert works of supererogation, as they called them; which good works, and the merit of them, not being always actually employed for the benefit of any, (and as if the world abounded more with good works than bad,) they are said to be reserved in the treasury of the church, to be disposed of (as there should be occasion) to such as were able and willing to ransom their suffering friends with silver and gold, (the very best of metals, and always held by them a valuable price for souls,) and this produced indulgences; the most useful and profitable part of the whole Romish religion.
By all which particulars put together, you may 465see the curious contexture and concatenation of the several mysteries and intrigues of Popery; and how artificially one is linked to and locked within the other, in this chain of darkness made to hold and keep poor souls to the judgment of the great day; and (if God be not so merciful as to save them in spite of their religion) to condemn them in it too. And now these tenets being advantaged by the suitableness of them to man’s natural disposition, (which in matters of belief is too prone to credulity and superstition, and in matters of practice to an arrogant opinion of merit, every man being too apt to think that a good action obliges God, and satisfies for an ill one;) these tenets, I say, were upon these terms easily imbibed by the vulgar in those dark times of ignorance; which ignorance also was carefully cherished and kept up, by maintaining the sufficiency of an implicit faith, and securing the scriptures under the double lock of an unknown language and a bad translation. Besides all which, that they might not in the last place want a sure shelter and strong hold to defend them, in case this terrible book of the scriptures should come to be unsealed and let loose upon them, they had two other refuges to fly to; to wit, that of unwritten traditions, without which they held the scriptures imperfect; and of an infallible judge, without which they affirmed them to be obscure; two qualifications which must unavoidably render the scriptures an incompetent rule of faith. And thus the nail is driven home, and riveted too; and upon their being hereby made judges in their own cause, they do and must stand incorrigible; forasmuch as all conviction upon these terms is utterly impossible. And thus we have seen 466what a lofty Babel has been raised by this grand architect of mischief and confusion, the Devil; a Babel, with the top of it reaching to heaven, and the foundation of it laid in hell. And we have seen likewise the materials with which, and the arts by which, this stupendous structure was reared: and since neither old nor new Babel was built in a day, we have given some account also how this master-builder has all along suited his tools and engines to the proper genius and condition of each several age; sometimes working in the light, and sometimes in the dark; sometimes above ground, and sometimes under it; but in all, like a Romish priest, still under a disguise.
And here, I think, it may be further worth our considering, that since the aspects and influences in heaven (which are some of the chief instruments whereby Providence governs this lower world) must needs work considerably upon the tempers, humours, and constitutions of men, under their several positions and revolutions; it cannot but follow, that the same must work very powerfully about the affairs of religion also, so far as the tempers and dispositions of men are apt to mingle and strike in with them. And accordingly, as I have observed that Satan played his papal game chiefly in the times of ignorance, and sowed his tares while the world was asleep; cum Augustmus haberetur inexpugnabilis dialecticus, quod legisset categorias Aristotelis. Cum qui Graece sciret, suspectus; qui autem Hebraice, plane magicus putaretur; when the words haereticum devita were looked upon as sufficient to warrant the taking away the life of an heretic: so on the other side, when this mist of ignorance 467began to clear up, and polite learning to recover, and get footing again in the world, by the great abilities and industry of Erasmus, Melancthon, Politian, Budaeus, Calvin, and several others, men generally then began to smell out the cheat; and after a long growing suspicion of the imposture they had been held under, came at length to a resolution quite to throw it off. But then again, lest so sudden and mighty a stream of light, breaking in upon the prince of darkness, might wholly overbear and baffle all his projects, he also began wisely to light up his candle too, in the new sect and society of Ignatius Loyola; a sect composed of the best wits and ablest heads, the most learned and industrious that could be got, to list themselves to serve the pope under him. And by this course he quickly brought his myrmidons to fight the Protestants at their own weapons, and for parts and literature to vie with the reformation. For he saw well enough that it was learning which must do his business, when ignorance was grown out of fashion: and that when such multitudes were resolved to have their eyes open, it was time for him to look about him too. Accordingly Satan, who loves to compass his ends and amuse the world by contrary methods, (like the evil spirit in the gospel, sometimes casting the person possessed by him into the fire, and sometimes into the water,) having, as we have noted, long imposed upon Christendom by Popery, and at length finding a new light sprung in upon a great part of it, and mightily chasing away that darkness before it, he thought it his interest to trump up a new scene of things; and so, correspondently to the two main parts of religion, speculative and practical, he fell upon two contrary, but equally destructive extremes, 468Socinianism and enthusiasm. Thus, like a subtle disputant, casting his argument into such a dilemma, as should be sure to gain him his point, and gall his enemy one way or other. And,
1. For the first extreme, Socinianism. Faustus Socinus seems to have been a person so qualified by Providence with a competent stock of parts and measure of reason, (for the man was no miracle, either in divinity or philosophy,) to shew, how wofully such an one (being left to himself) might blunder, and fall short of the right notions of religion, even in the plainest and most important points of it. He was indeed so bred and principled by his uncle Lelius, that Satan thought him a fit instrument for the advancement of the light of reason above that of revelation, by making (as he notoriously did) the former the sole judge of the latter. Socinus’s main design (or pretence at least) was to bring all the mysteries of Christianity to a full accommodation with the general notions of man’s reason; and so far the design was no doubt fair and laudable enough, had it kept within the bounds of a sober prosecution. For that which is contrary to reason cannot be true in religion; nor can God contradict that in the book of his revealed word, which he had writ before in the book of nature: so much, I say, is certain, and cannot be denied. Nevertheless, a little reason will prove also, that many things may seem contrary to reason, which yet really are not so; and where this seeming contrariety is, the question will be, whether revelation ought to control reason, or reason prescribe to revelation; which indeed is the very hinge upon which the whole Socinian controversy turns.
But to proceed, and shew that even Socinianism 469itself, by a kind of antiperistasis, took its rise from Popery, as the occasion or accidental cause of it, it is to be observed, that those nice, bold, and unjustifiable notions, which many of the schoolmen had advanced concerning the divine essence and persons, (things which the mind of man can form to itself no express idea, nor consequently any clear comprehensive knowledge of,) caused in Socinus such an high loathing of and aversion to that whole scheme of Christian theology which then obtained in the world, that, breaking through all, he utterly denied the divine nature of the Son and of the Holy Ghost; and so exploded the whole doctrine of the Trinity, as no part or article of the Christian religion; frequently alleging also, that the urging the necessity of believing notions so contrary (as he pretended) to the discourses and maxims of natural reason, mightily scandalized and kept off the Jews, Turks, and rational infidels from embracing Christianity. And this consideration he laid no small stress upon.
But in answer to it; by his favour, the contrariety of the notions here excepted against to the maxims of natural reason (as confidently as it has been all along supposed by him) was never yet proved; and as for the offence taken at it by Jews and Turks, he might have remembered, that the doctrines preached by St. Paul himself found no better acceptance, as being to the Jews a stumblingblock, and to the Greeks foolishness; but neither by him who preached it, nor by those who received it, at all the less valued for its being so: and certainly the Christian church would make but an ill bargain, to barter away any one article of her faith, to gain either Turk or Jew: and I shrewdly guess, that the 470Jews themselves understood bargaining too well, to part with their Moses for a Socinian Christ. But further, as touching this heresy: the time when it was vented in the world is no less observable than the instruments by whom; Satan suiting the work he had to do to the peculiar qualification of the age which he was to do it in. For as the schoolmen, who were the greatest and most zealous promoters of the papal interest, sacrificing both reason and religion to the support of it, were in the highest vogue for some ages before; so the age wherein it began to decline and go downwards had entertained a general contempt of, and aversion to, that sort of learning, as may appear out of Sir Thomas More’s Defence of Erasmus, and other critics, against Dorpius, a great patron and admirer of school-divinity. And as for Socinus himself, the Polonian who wrote his life testifies, illum scholasticam theologiam nunquam attigisse. Thus therefore was he qualified, it seems, to baffle the learned part of the world; and having made his first adventure in denying Christ’s divinity, and bringing it much lower than ever Arius did, the denial of his satisfaction unavoidably followed; no mere creature being able, in a strict sense, to merit of God, and much less to satisfy for sin. So that we see here how Satan, under the plausible plea of reason, introduced a doctrine into the world, which has shook every article of our faith; and in the full compass of it grasps in the most considerable heresies that ever were; especially those two topping ones of Photinianism and Pelagianism. And whosoever shall, by a true and impartial logic, spin it out into its utmost consequences shall find, that it naturally tends to, and inevitably ends in, the destruction of all religion: 471and that where Socinianism has laid the premises, atheism cannot be kept out of the conclusion. But now, that even reason itself is but pretended only, and not really shewn in the doctrines of Socinus, give me leave to demonstrate in one or two instances, instead of many more that might be assigned.
1. That this doctrine asserts Christ to be a mere creature, and yet ascribes to him divine worship, and that both as to adoration and invocation; and this upon absolute and indispensable necessity.3838 See Socinus in his catechism, discoursing of those who allow not of the adoration and invocation of Christ. “Quid censes,” says he, “de iis, qui ista Christo non tribuunt?” To which he answers: “Censeo illos non esse Christianos; quippe qui revera Christum non habeant: et Jesum esse Christum licet fortasse aperte verbis non audeant, re tamen ipsa omnino negent.” And elsewhere: “Praestat Trinitarium esse, quam asserere Christum non esse adorandum.” So that whereas Socinus says, that the Jews and Turks are so scandalized at our asserting Christ’s deity, I am sure, that, by a peculiar and better grounded aversion, they are more scandalized at idolatry. And if Socinus will advance this proposition, that Jesus Christ is not by nature God, let Jews, Turks, and all infidels of common sense alone to make the assumption, that then he is not to be worshipped with divine worship. Christianus Francken shame fully baffled Socinus upon this head. And it is impossible for him, or any of his tribe, to maintain it. But,
. This doctrine asserts also, that God cannot certainly foreknow future contingents; as Socinus positively concludes in the eleventh chapter of his Prelections;3939 “Cum igitur nulla ratio, nullus sacrarum literarum locus sit, ex quo aperte colligi possit, Deum omnia, quae fiunt, scivisse, antequam fierent, concludendum est minime asserendam esse a nobis istam Dei praescientiam,” &c. Socinus, Praelectionum capite 11mo. In stating of which point, the heretic indeed grants, that where God has peremptorily purposed or decreed to do a thing, he infallibly knows, that the thing so decreed shall certainly come to pass, and accordingly may as infallibly fore tell it. A great matter, no doubt. But, by his favour; what is this to God’s foretelling of sinful actions, together with many passages of great moment depending thereupon (all of them declared by the prophets, many ages before the event of them?) For these things, as bad as they are, have their events, as well as the best that happen; and yet cannot be ascribed to God, as the cause or producer of them. Where upon, since such events, according to Socinus, proceed wholly from the free will of the immediate agents, he denies God to have any certain prescience of them; for that he will not so much as allow them to be in the number of things in their nature knowable, nor consequently to fall within the object of omniscience itself. Which though it extends to all that is knowable, yet reaches not beyond it. In answer to which I grant, that such future contingents as depend wholly upon the free turn of man’s will, are not antecedently knowable to a finite understanding; but that they are simply and absolutely in the very nature of them not knowable, this I utterly deny; and on the contrary affirm, that to an infinite understanding they are both knowable, and actually known too. And the reason of this difference is, because an infinite understanding never looks upon a future contingent, but it looks beyond it too; that is to say, by one single act of knowledge God sees it, both in the instant of nature before its production, and in the instant of nature after it: which is the true account of this matter, as being founded in the comprehensiveness of God’s knowledge, taking in past, present, and future, by one single view. “Scientia Dei ad omnia praesentialiter se habet.” And how difficult soever, if at all possible, it may be for human reason, to form to itself a clear notion of the immanent acts of God; yet all that is or can be excepted against the account now given by us, will be found but mere cavil, and not worth an answer. where, in answering, or rather eluding 472 such scriptures as declare the contrary, he all along with a bold impiety degrades the divine knowledge into mere conjecture, and no more; and so ranges the all-knowing God with the heathen oracles, soothsayers, and astrologers, not allowing him any preeminence above them, but only a better faculty at 473guessing than they had. So that hereby the here tic is either for giving us a deity without infinite perfection, or an infinite perfection without a power of infallible prediction, or an infallibility of prediction without any certain knowledge of the thing foretold: which, amongst other wretched consequences, must needs render God such a governor of the world, as, in those many important affairs of it, depending upon the free motions of man’s will, shall not be able to tell certainly what shall come to pass in it, so much as one day before it actually happens. He may indeed, as I shew before, shrewdly guess at events, (and so may a wise man too,) but further than guessing he cannot go. All which are such monstrous assertions, and so scandalously contumelious to the divine nature and attributes, and yet so inevitably resulting from the position first laid down by him, that nothing can equal the profaneness of them, but the absurdities.
As for several others of the Socinian errors; to wit, about the nature of the sacraments, the divine covenants, the ministry, and the church, with sundry other parts of divinity, I purposely omit them; and mention only these two, as being in themselves not grosser errors in divinity, than inconsistencies in philosophy. So that upon this turn at least we may worthily use that remark of Grotius, in his book concerning the satisfaction of Christ; Mirum esse, toties a Socino ostentari rectam rationem, ostendi nusquam. But to shew compendiously how he stabs, not only the Christian, but also all religions, by one assertion; we must know, that the chief corner stone laid by him in this supposed rational (and by some so much adored) doctrine, is his affirming, that 474by the light of natural reason no man can know that there is a God; as you may see in the second chapter of his aforementioned Prelections. For the proof of which, amongst other places of scripture, he wrests and abuses that in Heb. xi. 6, where the apostle tells us, that he who comes to God must believe that he is. Mark it, says Socinus; it is here said only, that he must believe this, not that he must know, or scientifically assent to it. But by his favour, as this is not here said, so it is as true that it is not here denied. And this new teacher of the world should, one would think, have known, that the words πίστις and πιστεύω, belief and believe, are not always used in a strict philosophical sense, for an assent upon testimony, in contradistinction to an assent upon grounds of science; but generally, and at large, for any firm assent, whether upon one account or the other. I say, as this is certain from the use of the word in common speech, so there is nothing to prove, that the apostle in this sixth verse of the aforementioned chapter uses it otherwise than in this general, popular, and more enlarged sense. Nevertheless, admitting, but not granting, that he took the word in this text, in the strict philosophical sense of it, for an assent upon testimony, must this therefore exclude all assent upon scientifical grounds? Whereas it is certain, that the same thing may be the object both of our knowledge and belief; and that we may assent to the same proposition, upon the discourses of reason, drawn from the nature of the things contained in that proposition; and withal, upon the affirmation of one, whom, for his knowledge and veracity, we know worthy to be believed. No true philosopher, 475I am sure, (which Socinus never was,) either will or can deny this.
But on the contrary, and in opposition to these new notions, I shall proceed further, and venture to affirm, that to believe that there is a God, only because God says so, is a mere petitio principii, and manifestly circular and ridiculous; as supposing, and taking for granted, the very thing, which as yet is under inquiry, and ought to be proved. For the being of a God is the thing here to be proved; and the testimony of God, whereby it is to be proved, must presuppose, or rather imply the antecedent being of him whose testimony it is. Supposing therefore, that the first revelation made to man of the being of God, (for it is of that only we now speak,) was by an express, audible declaration of himself to be God; yet this bare affirmation could not of itself, and in the way of a testimony, oblige a man to believe or assent to the thing affirmed, while he was yet ignorant who or what he was, from whom it proceeded. For surely, in order of nature, I must know that it is God who says a thing, before I can believe it true, because God says it. Otherwise, suppose some angel had affirmed himself to be God, as the Devil in effect did, when he challenged to himself the dominion and disposal of all the kingdoms of the world, and required divine worship of our Saviour thereupon; none certainly will pretend that such a declaration could oblige our assent. But when God affirmed or declared himself to be God, in the first age or ages of the world, no doubt this declaration was made in such a transcendent and supernatural way, and with circumstances so wonderfully glorious and extraordinary, 476that he or they to whom it was made, and Adam in particular, could not but perceive that the person making it was a being much above the condition of a creature, and consequently God. And such an acknowledgment of, or assent to the being of a God, was really an act of knowledge, as inferring the cause from the effect; and that too, such an effect, as could issue from nothing but such a cause. For which reason, the assent given in this case could not be founded upon bare testimony, nor be formally an act of belief, but an act properly and strictly scientifical. From all which I conclude, that it is absurd and irrational to suppose, that we can believe the being of a God upon the bare affirming this of himself, unless we have some precedent or concomitant knowledge, that the person so affirming it is God. And this utterly overthrows the assertion of Socinus; that the being of a God is knowable only by faith, or belief. An assertion much fitter to undermine than establish the belief of a Deity upon the true grounds of it; but it was perhaps for this very purpose that he intended it.
And thus much for the first extreme mentioned; by which Satan has poisoned the principles and theoretick part of religion; though the poison will be found of that spreading malignity, as to influence the practick too. And so we come to the
Second extreme mentioned; under which, as an angel of light, he more directly strikes at the practice of religion; and that is enthusiasm. A thing not more detestable in its effects, than plausible in its occasion. For men being enraged at the magisterial imposing of traditions upon them, as a rule of faith equal to the written word, and being commanded 477withal to submit their reason to the cheat of an infallible interpreter, they too naturally struck off to his extreme, to slight and lay aside the judgment of all antiquity, and so to adhere only to the bare letter of the scripture; and then, both to secure and authorize their errors, they made their own reason, or rather humour, (first surnaming it the Spirit,) the infallible, unappealable judge of all that was delivered in the written word. And now upon these terms, what could keep a man so disposed from coming over to Socinianism; since the prime art and engine made use of by Socinus himself, for the venting of all his abominations, was a professed defiance of the judgment of all antiquity in matters of religion? And what likewise could hinder a man (if his temper inclined that way) from taking up in anabaptism, when he could neither find any clear precept for infant baptism, nor express instance of it in the scripture; but only probable inferences from thence, and remote consequences; all of them perhaps too little, without the universal tradition of the church, to found the necessity and perpetuity of such a practice upon? Especially having been encountered by such specious objections, as have been too often produced against it. And thus we see, how both the two forementioned extremes commence upon one and the same principle; to wit, the laying aside the judgment of antiquity, both in matters of faith, and in all expositions of scripture: but Socinianism being, as was observed, an heresy much too fine for the gross and thick genius of vulgar capacities, the Devil found it requisite sometimes to change his engine, and amongst such as these to set up his standard in Familism, or enthusiasm. A 478monster, from whose teeming womb have issued some of the vilest, the foulest, and most absurd practices and opinions, that the nature of man (as corrupt as it is) was ever poisoned and polluted with. For these enthusiasts having first brought all to the naked letter of scripture, and then confined that letter wholly to the exposition of the Spirit, (as they called it,) they proceed further, and advance this mystery of iniquity to its highest ἀκμὴ, by asserting the immediate indwelling of the said Spirit in their persons; so that by his impulse and authority they may, like Abraham, Phinehas, or Ehud, be carried out to actions, otherwise, and in other men, indeed unlawful, but in themselves sufficiently warranted by the Spirit’s dispensing with his own laws in their behalf, and much more with the laws of men; besides that, according to the same doctrine, he only who has this Spirit can be a competent judge of what is suggested to him by it. A principle of that diabolical malignity, that it sets men beyond all reach of the magistrate, and frets asunder the very nerves of all government and society. For it owns an impulse lawful, and yet unaccountable; whereby they are empowered to shake off laws, invade the rights and properties of all about them, and, if they please, to judge, sentence, and put to death kings; because the spiritual man, forsooth, judgeth all things., but himself is judged of none. And these were the persons who would needs set up for the new lights of this last age: blazing comets always portending, or rather causing wars and confusions both in church and state; first setting all on fire, and then shining by the flames they raised. But light, as we have seen, being so often made the 479Devil’s livery, no wonder if his servants affect to be seen in it.
And now, after this short view of Popery and enthusiasm, I hope I shall not incur the suspicion of any bias to the former, if (as bad as it is) I prefer it to the latter, and allow it the poor commendation of being the less evil of the two. I confess, that under both, the great enemy of truth strikes at our church and state; and that whether he acts by the fanatic illuminati or by Vaux’s lantern, the mischief projected by him is the same; there being in both a light (and something else) within, for the blowing up of churches and kingdoms too. Nevertheless, if we consider and compare these two extremes together, we shall find enthusiasm the more untractable, furious, and pernicious of the two, and that in a double respect.
1. That the evils of Popery are really the same in enthusiasm. And
2. That the little good which is in Popery is not in this.
And first; that the evils of both are equal, may appear upon these two accounts.
1. That the enthusiasts challenge the same in fallibility which the papal church does, but are more intolerable in their claim; for Popery places it only in one person, the pretended head of the church, the pope; but enthusiasm claims it, as be longing to every Christian amongst them, every particular member of their church. So that upon a full estimate of the matter, the papacy is only enthusiasm contracted, and enthusiasm the papacy dif fused; the evil is the same in both, with the advantage of multiplication in the latter. But480
2. Both of them equally take men off from the scriptures, and supplant their authority. For as one does it by traditions, making them equal to the written word; so the other does it by pretending the immediate guidance of the Spirit, without the rule of the said word. For see with what contempt the father of the Familists, Henry Nicholas, casts off the use and authority of it. See also the Quakers, (who may pass for the very elixir, the ultimum quod sic, and hitherto the highest form of enthusiasts amongst us.) See, I say, how they recur only to the light within them; a broad hint to men of sense and experience, how they intend to dispose of the scriptures, when the angel of this light within them shall think fit to screw them up to an higher dispensation; for then no doubt they will judge it convenient to bury this dead letter out of their sight. But,
2. As for the other proposition mentioned by us, viz. that the little good which is in Popery is not in enthusiasm; this will appear upon these grounds.
1. Upon a political account. The design of the popish religion is, in the several parts and circumstances of it, to reach and accommodate itself, as much as possible, to all the humours and dispositions of men: and I know no argument like this universal compliance, to prove it catholic by. So that a learned person,4040 Sir Edwin Sandys. in his Europae Speculum, or survey of the religions of the western church, pronounces Popery, upon a strict view of the artificial, wonderful composure of the whole frame of it, the greatest piece of practical wit that was ever yet set on foot in the world. For to shew how in a depraved 481sense it becomes all things to all men; is any one of a pious, strict, and severely disposed mind? There are those retirements, austerities, and mortifications in this religion, which will both employ and gratify such a disposition. Or is he, on the other side, of a loose, jolly temper? Why there is that sufficiency placed in the opus operatum, and the external acts of religion, pieced out with suitable supplies from the bank of merit, which shall make the whole practice of it easy and agreeable. And lastly, if a man has lost his estate, broke his credit, missed of his preferments, failed in his projects, or the like, he may fairly and creditably take sanctuary in some monastery or convent, and so pretend piously to leave the world, as soon as he finds that the world is leaving him.
And as for the doctrinal part of the Christian religion, Escobar, with his fellow casuists, has so pared off all the roughness of that, and suited the strictest precepts to the largest and loosest consciences, that it will be a much harder matter to prove a man a sinner, than to condemn him for his being so; so carefully and powerfully do these men step in between sin and sorrow; so that if conscience should at any time become troublesome, and guilt begin to lift up its voice, and grow clamorous, it is but to go and disgorge all in confession, and then absolution issuing of course, eases the mind, and takes off all that anguish and despair, which (should it lie pent up, without vent) might overwhelm, or, as Ovid expresses it, even choke or strangle a man, and either send him to an halter, or prove itself instead of one.
And thus these spiritual sinks receive and divert 482all those ill humours of desperate, discontented persons, which the world will never want, and which, in all probability, would otherwise discharge and spend themselves upon the state. For he who is malecontent and desperate, will assuredly either let fall his spirit, and consume himself, or keep it up, and so (as occasion serves) wreak his spite upon the public: for spite will be always working, and either find or make itself an object to work upon. Cain was the only person I have read of, who sought to divert his discontent by building cities; but the reason was, because then there were none for him to pull down. These, I say, are some of the benefits and benign influences which the papal constitution bestows upon the outward and civil concerns of such as fall within its communion.
But on the contrary, where the quicksilver or rather gunpowder of enthusiasm (for the fifth of November must not claim it all) has once insinuated itself into the veins and bowels of a kingdom, it presently rallies together all the distempers, all the humours, all the popular heats and discontents, till it kicks down crowns and sceptres, tramples upon thrones, much like those boisterous vapours shut up within the caverns of the earth, which no sooner in spire it into a quaking fit, (as I may express it,) but it overturns houses and towns, swallows up whole cities, and, in a word, writes its history in ruins and desolations, or in something more terrible than all, called a further reformation. But,
2. Popery is likewise preferable to enthusiasm, in respect of the nature, quality, and complexion of the subjects in which it dwells.
The popish religion has not been of that poisonous 483influence but it has brought up men of accomplished learning and morals, of a sublime wit, and all other excellent parts and endowments, which human nature can recommend itself by: whereas enthusiasm, on the contrary, seldom or never falls upon such dispositions, but commonly takes up its abode in the gloomy regions of melancholy, of an ill habit of body, and a worse of mind; so that the spirit of darkness, brooding upon the ill humours of the one and the distractions of the other, commonly hatches this monster. For, to look back upon some of the most noted ringleaders and promoters of our late disorders in church and state, were they not such as were first under some disorder themselves? persons for the most part cracked either in fortune or in brain, acted by preternatural heats and ferments; and so mistaking that for devotion, which was only distemper, and for a good conscience, which too often proved little else but a bad constitution. And in such cases certainly we may well collect the malignity of that principle, which never dwells but in such venomous tempers; and rationally conclude that the leprosy must needs have seized the inhabitants, where the infection sticks so close to the walls.
3. Popery is likewise much more tolerable than enthusiasm, upon a religious account. The great basis and foundation upon which the whole body of Christianity rests, is the divinity of Christ’s person, the history of his nativity, life, and death, his actions and sufferings, and his resurrection and ascension concluding all. But though the popish church has presumed to make several bold additions to, and some detractions from, the old system of our faith, yet it always acknowledged and held sacred 484the foregoing articles, without ever venturing to make any breach upon them. Whereas on the contrary, Familism and Quakerism, the two grand and most thriving branches of enthusiasm, have reduced the whole gospel to allegories and figures; and turned the history of what Christ actually and personally did and suffered, into mystical and moral significations of some virtues to be wrought within us, or some actions to be wrought by us. And this in truth does, and must directly strike at the very vitals of our religion, and without more ado will (if not prevented) effectually send Christianity packing out of the world. Popery indeed has forced some bad consequences from good principles, but this destroys the very principles themselves.
Add to this, that the corruptions in a church are not of so destructive an influence as schisms and divisions from it, the constant effects of enthusiasm. It being much in the body spiritual as in the natural; where that which severs and dissolves the continuity of parts tends more to the destruction of the whole, than that which corrupts them. You may cure a throat when it is sore, but not when it is cut.
And so I have done with this parallel; after which, give me leave to recapitulate to you, in short, some of Satan’s principal and most specious abuses of religion, hitherto discoursed of by us. As first, how he made use of the church’s abhorrence of polytheism, for the introducing of Arianism, in the denial of our Saviour’s divinity; and next, how, upon the declension and fall of that heresy, he took occasion, from the zealous adoration of Christ’s person, to bring in a superstitious worship of the virgin Mary his mother, and of his picture in crucifixes, and the like; 485and so at length appeared, in Popery, a sort of religion making men in nothing more zealous than in worshipping such things. And lastly, how, when this also was shaken off, with the tales and legends that chiefly supported it, and the bare scripture, with the guidance of the Spirit, made the sole rule of faith, without the help of a pretended infallible judge, he then in the greater and more refined wits turned Socinian, and in the vulgar played the enthusiast. And thus, having pursued the impostor through all his labyrinths, pulled off his vizard, and turned his inside outwards, that we may now, by reflecting upon what is past, the better fence against his methods for the future; I shall here proceed to the third and last general head proposed, and under it very briefly set down some certain principles, by which he is likely enough to play over his old game again, and, if not counterworked, to trump up the same religious cheats upon the world, with more advantage than before. And these are eminently three.
1. The stating of the doctrine of faith and free grace so as to make them undermine the necessity of a good life. God’s mercy is indeed the crown and beauty of all his attributes, and his grace the emanation of his mercy; and whosoever goes about in the least to derogate from it, may he (for me) find no share in it. But, after all, has not the Devil endeavoured to supplant the gospel in a considerable part of it, by the very plea of grace; while some place an irreconcileable opposition between the efficacy of that and all freedom of man’s will, and thereby make those things inconsistent, which the admirable wisdom of God had made so fairly subordinate. 486But notwithstanding such fancies, we shall find that religion, in the true nature of it, consists of action, as well as notion; of good works, as well as faith; and that he believes to very little purpose, whose life is not the better for his belief.
But to state (as some do) the nature of justifying faith in this, that he who is confident his sins are forgiven him, is by that act of confidence completely justified, and beyond the danger of a final apostasy, so that all sins must for ever after be surnamed infirmities; what is this, but to give a man a licence to sin boldly and safely too, and so to write a perpetual divorce between faith and good works? The church of England owns and maintains free grace as much as any. But still let God be free of it, and not men; who, when he gives it, never makes a bare Crede quod habes the only title to it, or character of it.
Antinomianism, as both experience and the nature of .the thing has sufficiently taught us, seldom ends but in Familism. And the sum and substance of that doctrine is, that it makes men justified from eternity; and faith not to be the instrument, but only the evidence of our justification, as no more than barely declaring to the conscience of the believer what is already done and transacted in heaven. Now let us see whether the former definition of faith can stand upon any other or better bottom than this of Antinomianism. For if the faith which justifies me be a firm belief and persuasion that my sins are remitted, it must follow, that my sins are remitted antecedently to that act of belief; forasmuch as the object must needs precede the act: assent or belief being such an act as does not produce, but presuppose its object. But if my sins are not actually 487remitted before I believe, how can I truly believe they are so? unless the believing of a false proposition can make it true; which would be a piece of logic as new as this divinity. Bellarmine indeed fixes this upon the doctrine of all the protestant churches, and much triumphs in the charge, but falsely and invidiously, and like a Jesuit, as (in spite of the character some have given him for learning and candour) he still shews himself upon this subject. For all the reformed churches (especially the church of England) disclaim it as a paradox in reason, a pest in morality, and an assertion so grossly absurd and contradictious, that not so much as the least shadow of an argument can be brought for it, unless Credo, quia impossibile est, may pass for one, which it will hardly ever do, but in the case of transubstantiation.
2. A second principle, by which in all likelihood the Devil may and will (as opportunity serves) impose upon the church, is by opposing the power of godliness irreconcileably to all forms. And what is this, but in another instance to confront subordinates, and to destroy the body, because the soul can subsist without it? But thus to sequester the divine worship from all external assistances, that by this means, forsooth, it may become wholly mental, and all spirit, is, no doubt, a notable fetch of the Devil, who, we know, is all spirit himself, but never the less a Devil for being so. On the contrary, we have rather cause to fear, that, in the strength of this pretence the worship of Christ may be treated as Christ himself once was; that is, first be stripped, and then crucified. For would you know what the Devil drives at in all this seemingly seraphic plea? Why, first he 488pleads, that a set service or liturgy for divine worship is superstition and formality; and then, that churches and a ministry are so too; and lastly, that the very letter of the scripture is but a mere form, (if so much,) and accordingly to be laid aside, as in Familism and Quakerism we have shewn it actually is. But then again some other shortsighted schismatics were for proceeding upon that doughty principle, that nothing ought to be allowed in the church or worship of God, but what is expressly enjoined in his written word: and accordingly in the strength thereof having run down several of the constitutions of the church of England, as forms and rules uncommanded in the scriptures, they soon had the same principle every whit as strongly, and more justly, retorted upon themselves by some of the brotherhood of another class, who (their interest leading them to carry the argument much further) inferred from thence, that tithes were to be taken away too. But this, you will say, was a pinching, ill-natured inference; and therefore the Presbyterians themselves (who it seems could find matter, as well as form, in the revenue, though none in the service of the church) not only granted, but stiffly contended also, that tithes were by all means to be continued and retained in the house of God; especially since they were so throughly convinced, that without them they could not keep their own. Now that certainly must needs be a very unkind and ungrateful principle, which starves the persons who maintain it; and a very weak one too, which affords no consequences but what make for its own confutation. It must be confessed, that the power of godliness, so much and so often boasted of by some amongst us, 489has been a very plausible, well-sounding word; and many a foul fact has been committed under the splendid cover of it. But it is now high time to redeem truth from the slavery and cheat of words; and certainly that can never be imagined to be the spirit or power of godliness, which teaches either to rob or desert the church, and shews itself in nothing but sacrilege and separation; it being, no doubt, a very odd and strange sort of zeal for God’s house, which eats it up; and a fire much likelier to come from hell than heaven, which consumes the altar itself. But,
3. The third and last principle which I shall mention, whereby Satan has so much disturbed and abused the world, and may (for ought appears to the contrary) do so again, is the ascribing such a kingdom to Christ, as shall oppose and interfere with the kingdoms and governments of the world. Christ is indeed our king, and it is our honour and happiness to be his subjects; but where a zealous rebellion destroys monarchy, it renders his greatest prerogative, which is to be King of kings, impossible. There cannot, one would think, be a better design, or a more unexceptionable pretence, than to advance the sceptre of Christ in promoting the due authority of his church: and yet even upon this the Devil can forge such blessed maxims and conclusions as these.
1. That since Christ has two kingdoms in the world, one his providential over all things, as he is God; the other his mediatorial, belonging to him as head of his church, with a full subordination of the former to this latter, during this world; men are apt to reckon of kings as his vicegerents only in the administration 490of the former of these, but church-officers as his deputies for governing the latter; and consequently that the sceptre ought to submit to the keys, and Christ’s providential kingdom to come under his mediatorial: a principle which the pope and some others (should opportunity serve) know how to make no small use of.
2. That these ecclesiastical deputies of Christ, by virtue of a power immediately derived from him, may meet together, and consult about church affairs, when and where they shall think fit, in any part or place of their prince’s dominions without his consent, and, if they shall judge it requisite, excommunicate him too. And then Buchanan tells the world, “that he who is thrown out of the church by excommunication is not worthy to live.” And he might, if he had pleased, have told us also, in what soil such doctrines root deepest and thrive best.
3. That these ecclesiastical deputies of Christ have the sole cognizance and decisive power in all spiritual causes, and in all civil also in ordine ad spiritualia.
4. That a minister of Christ uttering any thing, though sedition or treason, in the execution of his ministerial office, and in the pulpit, is not to be accountable for it to any civil court, but only to the tribunal of Christ; to wit, the church, (or, in other words, to those who call themselves so;) forasmuch as the spirit of the prophets, they tell us, is to be subject to, and judged by, only the prophets.
5. That when religion is in danger, (of which they themselves are to be the sole judges,) they may engage in an oath or confederacy against the standing laws of the country which they are actually of and 491belong to, and then plead, that they cannot in conscience turn to the obedience required by those laws, because of the obligation of the said oath.
And now, if this be the grand charter and these the fundamental laws of Christ’s kingdom, and the execution thereof be committed wholly to a sort of ecclesiastics, (and those made such by none but themselves,) it will in good earnest behove kings and princes to turn their thrones into stools of repentance; for, upon these terms, I know not where else they can expect to sit safe. As for the late troubles and confusions caused in these poor kingdoms by the same rebellious ferment, and carried on much more by black coats than by red, we shall find that they all moved by the spring of a few specious, abused words; such as the Spirit, Christian liberty, the power of godliness, the sceptre and kingdom of Jesus Christ, and the like. Touching which, it will be found no such strange or new thing for Satan to teach rebellion, as well as to manage a temptation, in scripture phrase. He can trapan a Jephthah into a vow and solemn oath, and then bind him, under fear of perjury, to perform it by an horrid and unhuman murder. And, in a word, by a bold and shameless pretence of God’s cause, he can baffle and break through any of his commands.
And thus, at length, I have upon the matter des patched what I had to say upon this text and subject; a subject of such vast importance, that it would be but to upbraid any hearer, to enforce it by any further argument than itself. For can we have an higher concern at stake, than our happiness in both worlds, or a subtler gamester to win it from us, than 492he who understands his game so perfectly well, that though he stakes nothing, yet never plays for less than all, in any of his temptations? Which being our case, should not he who is so wise as to see the danger he is in, be so wise also as not to cast the least pleasing look or glance upon any of his insidious offers? especially in their first addresses, when they paint and flatter most: considering that nothing ever flatters, but what is false; nor paints, but what, without it, would appear exceeding ugly. There cannot certainly be a greater and a juster reproach to an intelligent being, than to barter away glory and immortality for baubles and fancies, to lose paradise for an apple, to damn one’s soul to please one’s palate, and, in a word, to be tempted with such proposals as the proposer himself shall extremely scorn and laugh at us for accepting. For what is all this but the height of mockery as well as misery, the very sting of death, and like being murdered (as the best of kings was) by a disguised executioner? For such an one the tempter ever was and will be; never accosting us with a smile, but he designs us a stab; nor on the other hand ever frighting those whom he would destroy. Such a course, he well knows, will not do his work; but that if he would attempt and ruin a man effectually, silence and suddenness are his surest ways; and he must take heed of giving an alarm, where he intends a surprise. No; we may be sure that he understands the arts of tempting too well not to know, that the less he appears, the more he is like to do; and that the tempter himself is no temptation. He is indeed an old, thoroughpaced, experienced sophister, and has ways to make the 493very natures and properties of things equivocate. He can, if need be, shroud a glutton in a fast, and a miser in a feast; and though the very nature of swine hurries them into the foulest dirt and mire, yet, to serve a turn, we read, he can make them run as violently into the water.
Still his way is to amuse the world with shews and shadows, surface and outside; and thereby to make good that old maxim in philosophy, that in all that occurs to the eye, it is not substance, but only colour and figure, which we see. This has been his practice from the beginning, from the very infancy and nonage of the world to this day; but whatsoever it was then in those early times, shall we, whose lot has cast us upon these latter ages, and thereby set us upon their shoulders, giving us all the advantages of warning, and observations made to our hands, all the benefits of example, and the assurances of a long and various experience; shall we, I say, after all this, suffer ourselves to be fooled with the wretched, thin, transparent artifices of modern dissimulation? with eyes turned up in prayer to God, but swelling with spite and envy towards men? with a purity above mortal pitch, professed (or rather proclaimed) in words, without so much as common honesty seen in actions? with reformation so loudly and speciously pretended, but nothing but sacrilege and rapine practised?
This was the just and true character of the blessed times of forty-one; and one would think it a great pity, that the same cheat should pass upon the same nation twice. For nothing but the utter subversion of church and state was driven at by Satan and his 494instruments, in that was then done; and lies, oaths, and armies (raised in the strength of both) were the means by which they effected it. In short, the nation was to be blindfolded, in order to its being buffeted; and Samson to have his eyes put out, before he could be made fool enough to kill himself for company. All grant, that the acts of the understanding should, in order of nature, lead and go before the acts of the will; and accordingly Satan is always so much a philosopher as to know, that there is no debauching the one, but by first deluding the other.
It is indeed no small degree of impudence, (as common as it is,) for men to dare to own pretences contrary to what they actually and visibly practise; and yet, to shew how much “the world is made for the bold,” (as the saying is,) this has been the constant course of it, with an unfailing success at tending it. For as long as knaves will pretend, and fools believe, (as it is seldom but they keep pace with one another,) the Devil’s interest is sure to be served by both. And therefore if, after all this long scene of fallacy and imposture, (so infinitely dishonourable to our very nature,) we would effectually obviate the same for the future, let us, in God’s name, and in the first place, resolve once with ourselves to act as rational creatures; that is to say, let us carry an open, steady, and impartial eye upon what men do, in spite of any thing which they shall or can say. And in the next place, let us, as Christians, encounter our grand enemy the tempter with these two best of weapons put into our hands by the great Captain of our salvation, watchfulness and prayer: and if, by these blessed means, God shall discover and lay open 495to us his delusions, we may thank ourselves, if we fall by his temptations.
To which God, the great Fountain and Father of light, who alone can scatter all those mists and defeat those stratagems which the prince of darkness has hitherto blinded and abused the world by, be rendered and ascribed, as is most due, all praise, might, majesty, and dominion, both now and for evermore. Amen.496
|« Prev||A Sermon Preached Before the University at St.…||Next »|