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For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
HAVING, I presume, in my first discourse upon this important subject, sufficiently exploded the bold fancies and extravagant pretences of these sons of novelty and inspiration, by the foregoing reasons there produced against them; I shall now proceed to an examination of what they yet plead more for themselves, and this their daring but absurd hypothesis. For these pretenders to an immediate impulse and inward leading voice of the Spirit, will not rest satisfied so, but, for their further defence, plead the example of several eminent saints and worthies of the church, doing several things (as they would persuade us) contrary to the express written word, and yet with sufficient evidence of the divine approbation: the reason of which seems not possible to be stated upon any thing but this, that the Spirit of God did by an inward voice raise them to, and consequently warrant them in those actions, notwithstanding any prohibition lying against them in the 58 written letter of the word. Such, for instance, were Abraham’s attempting to sacrifice his son Isaac. Jacob’s deceiving his father, and defrauding and supplanting his brother Esau with a lie. Also the Egyptian midwives saving the Hebrew children; and Rahab the harlot’s saving the spies of Canaan by lies and false affirmations. Likewise Moses’s killing the Egyptian, while he was but a private person in Pharaoh’s court. And Phinehas’s killing of Zimri and Cozbi after the same manner. Of the like nature was the Israelites robbing or spoiling of the Egyptians. Samson’s killing of himself, that he might be revenged on the Philistines. Ehud’s killing of Eglon, king of Moab, to whom, with the rest of the children of Israel, he was at this time subject. Jael’s killing Sisera, though he was in league with her husband, and upon that account was induced to take shelter in her house. Add to these, Elijah’s killing the prophets of Baal, though, being no magistrate, he had no right, against the magistrate’s will, to execute justice upon his fellow-subjects, though never so worthy of death by law. With these, I say, and such other scripture examples, these pretenders to the inward voice of the Spirit, in opposition to his written word, use to defend themselves. In order to the examination of which instances, before I survey them severally and apart, I shall premise these four general observations.
1. That the actions of persons recorded in scripture are not proposed to us as rules of direction to live or act by: laws and precepts are the only things intended for that purpose, and consequently are of an universal aspect and obligation, and respect the actions of all mankind. But examples and instances, 59as they are personal, so they are also particular, and exhibit to us matter of fact, what has been done, but not matter of duty, what ought or ought not to be done. For certain it is, that no contrary practices, though never so much allowed, even by divine approbation, do or can cancel any law made by God; but at the most declare, that some persons have been dispensed with, in some things enjoined by law. And therefore as God’s will to oblige men in general, where he makes no exception, and his will not to oblige some particulars, whom he is pleased to except, do no ways clash or contradict, but very fairly accord with one another; so those examples, which declare where he has actually thus used his prerogative, do no ways abrogate or repeal the standing obligation of those laws, which otherwise certainly bind mankind, where such exceptions have not interposed. And God might have many reasons, why he thought fit to deliver down to us, in sacred history, an account of such extraordinary actions and passages of men’s lives, without ever intending them as rules or patterns for us to measure our actions by. As for instance; partly to manifest the absoluteness of his prerogative and dominion even over his own laws; partly to magnify the admirable contrivances of his providence, bringing about strange and great events by such unusual actions; partly also to declare and shew the necessity of his grace, and withal the deplorable weakness even of the best of men, when he is pleased at any time to leave them to themselves: besides other reasons best known to his infinite wisdom, and therefore such as may well be come ours not to inquire into. And so much for the first observation.60
2. The second is this; that God treated with men in those first days of the church after a very different way from what he does in these latter, and since the times of the gospel; in which he has given mankind the last and perfect revelation of his will, and withal completed and confirmed the whole canon of scripture, as the great and full repository of that revelation. It may appear to any ordinary observation, that it has been God’s method all along to discover himself to the world by degrees, and to train up his church from a less to a more perfect religion, still vouchsafing a greater measure of light to the latter ages of the church than to the former, till at length he revealed himself in the most absolute and perfect manner of all, by the gospel of his Son.
Now, as in those first ages of the church, the notions of religion were generally much weaker and more obscure than nowadays, so God found it necessary sometimes, by extraordinary means and ways, to discover his mind to men; the common discoveries of it not sufficing for all the particular exigencies and occasions of the church: but as the most wise God neither in nature nor religion ever does any thing in vain, so it is observable, that as more of his will came to be declared and written by the prophets, so there were still fewer instances of these extraordinary declarations of it by the peculiar suggestions and inspirations of the Spirit. For in the days of Samuel we read, that the vision of the Lord was rare and seldom, 1 Sam. iii. 1. And in the days of Isaiah, and the other immediately following prophets, much rarer; and from Malachi to John Baptist, the extraordinary and prophetic spirit seems wholly to have ceased. But when the Messias was come, whose 61business it was to reveal the whole mind of God, and to confirm it by the highest proof of miracles that could be given, and so to establish a perpetual and universal rule, which should last to the world’s end, and answer all the possible occasions of his church; what reason can there be now assigned, why any inward extraordinary inspiration of the Spirit should be thought necessary to guide men in those actions, which the Spirit has provided a standing, full, and sufficient rule for already?
The ground of God’s dealing with, and speaking to, some persons after such a singular and peculiar manner in those first times, was the imperfect economy of the church then; and the imperfection of its economy was founded upon this, that it was all that time in a state of expectation; by every thing almost, whether ordinary or extraordinary, pointing at the Messias yet to come. Who being now actually come, and exhibited, the reason of those things must by consequence cease; nor can the extraordinary motions of the Spirit, whether by prophecies, miracles, or new revelations, be of any necessity to the church at all. Granting therefore, that God did indeed, in those first times of the church, direct and move many men by immediate impulses and inward voices of the Spirit; yet the same is by no means pleadable from thence by any living under the Christian economy, forasmuch as the cause, for which God vouchsafed it then, is wholly at an end now. Where upon the author of the epistle to the Hebrews, in Heb. i. 1, 2. tells us, that God, who in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken to us by his Son. In which words he clearly shews, that this one 62 way of God’s speaking by his Son was instead of all those other ways of his speaking to men formerly; and consequently, that after he comes once to speak to us this way, those other ways of his manifesting himself are no more to be expected: Christ, the great prophet, who was to make known all the will of his Father, being thus come.
But still this is to be supposed, that under the coming of Christ we are to comprehend the proof and declaration of that his coming, by the signs and miracles wrought for that purpose both by himself and his apostles; by which the Spirit of God having done enough to convince the world, that the Messias was indeed come, and that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messias, and his doctrine the full and last revelation of the mind of God to mankind; this, I say, being thus effected, there is, upon no terms, the same reason allegeable for the continuance of those extra ordinary motions and impulses of the Spirit in the church now, which the scripture tells us were vouchsafed to many eminent worthies in the church heretofore; and so much for the second observation.
3. The third and principal is this; that there has been no man, whom the Spirit of God immediately, and after an extraordinary manner, used to move or inspire, but has been attended with those signs and characters, by which he has been visibly known and took notice of by all about him to have been such an extraordinary person. That this was so de facto, will appear by running over the several persons to whom God used thus to manifest himself, either in the Old or New Testament; where you will find those remarkable manifestations of God’s presence with them, whether by miracles or other extraordinary 63and supernatural passages relating to their persons, so that all people knew them to be prophets, and men sent and inspired by God. Nor indeed in reason could it be otherwise, considering that the design of God, in raising up such men, was to signify his mind by them to the world, whose duty there upon it was to hearken unto them, and to obey them speaking in the name of God. But if those persons did not carry upon them such marks and signs, whereby people should be enabled to know and discern them to be really what they professed themselves, it was impossible but men must unavoidably sometimes listen to impostors and false prophets, and sometimes reject the true; there being no certain mark, whereby to distinguish and know them one from another. For if their own word and affirmation were sufficient to vouch their mission, it is evident, that false prophets could and did affirm themselves to be inspired and sent by God, as much as those who were so indeed. And thus much for the third observation.
4. The fourth and last is this; that when any action, unwarranted by the rule of God’s written word, has been done by a person, not known by any remarkable sign to have been led and acted by an extraordinary spirit, nothing can warrant such an action to have been allowed by God, but only God’s own subsequent approbation of it, declared either immediately by himself, or by some person known to be inspired by him. And therefore, if the enthusiasts of our times will warrant any of their lawless, irregular actions to have been done by authority of divine impulse, if they cannot by miracles and signs prove themselves to be persons inspired, as were 64 Moses, Samson, Elias, and such others; yet let them shew at least that God has passed some particular approbation upon what they have done, as he did upon the action of the Egyptian midwives, of Rahab the harlot, and Jael’s killing Sisera, and the like. But then also this approbation must be made in express words, and not gathered only from the success of the action; which if it be a sufficient declaration of God’s being pleased with any action, then none would have so fair and full a plea for the lawfulness of what they do as the Turk, or any victorious infidel, prospering in any great villainy that he undertakes: yet this was the constant plea and current divinity of the saints of the late times, (revived in these;) this, I say, was still the beaten theme of those Balaams in their thanksgiving sermons, all along proving God’s approbation of their cause by the success of it; that is, taking their text out of the Bible, and their proofs out of the Alcoran.
Now these four rules or observations being premised, namely, 1. That examples are not recorded in scripture as rules of action: 2. That the Spirit of God treated with the church heretofore in a very different way from what he does since the time of Christ: 3. That persons extraordinarily inspired were known to be such by visible signs and characters of God’s presence with them: 4. That where these signs appeared not, no action done besides the rule of God’s written word could or can pretend to have been done with divine allowance, without a subsequent divine approbation expressly passed upon it: these rules, I say, being thus laid down, I shall now by the light of them examine the several in stances above alleged; many of which will be found 65lawful and allowable by the standing rules of God’s law, howsoever they have been produced in behalf of extraordinary inspiration.
1. And first for the example of Abraham going about to sacrifice his son. It is certain, that to kill any one (much more a son) without sufficient authority, is a sin; and what it is a sin to do, must be a sin also to attempt. To clear this act of Abraham therefore from sin, we must affirm him to have done it with sufficient authority; which could be derived only from God, who alone has a plenary right to dispose of the lives of innocent men. But God does not by any written law give men power to take away the lives of such persons. And therefore all authority and warrant derived from him in this matter must have been fetched from an immediate and extraordinary revelation of his divine will commanding, and thereby authorizing Abraham thus to deal with his son. So that an extraordinary voice, or dictate of the Spirit, must here be confessed. But then, that this is not here pleaded in the behalf of Abraham gratis, and upon such grounds as any man may plead the like, is evident from those many other extraordinary passages of his life. As God’s appearing to him in Ur of the Chaldees, and bidding him leave his country. Three angels lodging with him, and God’s discoursing with him as familiarly as a man does with his friend, about the destruction of Sodom; together with his strange procreation of a son in his old age. All which were sufficient demonstrations, that he was a person whom God dealt with after an immediate and extraordinary manner; and different from the common way of his speaking to and dealing with the rest of mankind.66
2. For Jacob’s supplanting his brother Esau; though God had designed him the birthright, yet the manner of his procuring it was throughout the whole action sinful and fraudulent; nor have we any cause to conclude it to have been pleasing to God, or commanded by him; and much less intended for a rule or example to warrant any to do the like; there being not one word in scripture that intimates the divine approbation of it.
3. For the Egyptian midwives saving the Hebrew children, and Rahab’s saving the spies of Canaan by lies and false affirmations: the humanity, charity, and mercifulness of the action was the only thing commended and approved by God; but the adherent circumstance of it, that it was done by a lie, was sinful, and no ways approved by him, nor consequently to be imitated by us.
4. For Moses’s killing the Egyptian, while he was a private person in Pharaoh’s court; we are to deny the supposition, that he was a private person at that time, but that he was even then commissioned by God governor of Israel; and consequently, in the right of a governor, might revenge the wrong done to his subjects. For though we find not a particular account, how and when God invested Moses in the government of his people, while he lived with Pharaoh; yet that the right of governing them was by God conferred upon him, is evident from Acts vii. 25, where the Spirit of God by the mouth of St. Stephen speaks that of Moses, that must needs imply so much. For it is said, that when Moses slew the Egyptian, he supposed that his brethren would have understood that God had raised him up to be their deliverer, and consequently their governor. 67And if he supposed that this would have been understood by others, it could not be, but that he, at that time, must needs have known and understood it himself.
3. For Phinehas’s killing of Zimri and Cosbi, he did it by the express command of Moses the supreme magistrate, who, in Numb. xxv. 5, commanded the judges of the people, of which Phinehas, the second person in the priestly dignity, could not but be one, to fall upon such as had joined themselves to Moab, and to slay every one his man. So that there is no need here to recur to any extraordinary motion of the Spirit, to authorize this action of Phinehas; nor yet to that jus zelotarum, asserted by some amongst the Jews.
6. For the Israelites’ spoiling of the Egyptians, Exod. xii. 36, though it is manifest, that what they did was by the express command of God signified to them by Moses, whose great and mighty miracles sufficiently declared him to be one, to whom God used to speak after a peculiar and extraordinary manner; yet to state the lawfulness of the action upon other grounds also, we must know that the word שאל here translated borrowing., may signify either to borrow, or barely to ask or demand a thing of another. If we take it in the first sense, we have no cause to conclude, but that, when the Israelites borrowed such and such things of the Egyptians, they were borrowers bona fide, and knew not at the time of borrowing, but that, after they had sacrificed to God, they might come back again and make restitution; but God afterwards prohibiting their return, and thereupon rendering it unlawful, and withal the Egyptians pursuing them as enemies, 68 it became impossible for them to restore what they had borrowed; and being so, though the Egyptians lost what they had lent them, yet it was with out any fraudulence or injustice on their part, who were the borrowers. But then, if we take the word in the other sense, as it signifies only the bare asking or demanding of a thing, (as the best expositors upon the place confess the word to be rendered borrowing., rather than asking, more from the circumstances of the case in hand, than from the proper force and signification of the word;) I say, if we take it thus, no more can be gathered from the text, but that the Israelites, upon their departure, asked such and such things of the Egyptians, and they freely gave them what they asked; which was very agreeable to that condition of fear and terror they were in, through the repeated infliction of so many plagues upon their land; which might well at that time make them ready to part with any thing to the Israelites, as being desirous to be rid of them upon any terms. So that which way soever we take the word, there was nothing sinful or unjust in the action, nor applicable to their purpose, who, from this and such like scriptures, think they may plunder their neighbours jure divino, and rob and pillage by commission from God himself. Nor yet does that word spoiling of the Egyptians import any injustice in the proceeding; forasmuch as it does not of necessity denote any unlawful intention in the taker or borrower, but only the event of the action in respect of the lender; who, if he loses his estate, is equally spoiled and undone, whether the means by which he is bereaved of it were just or unjust. And so much for this instance. In the69
Seventh place. As for that of Samson’s killing himself, we must know that self-murder is to be measured by the prime and direct intention of the person who does it; and not by any event accident ally and secondarily attending an action designed to much another end. Samson, being chief magistrate of the children of Israel, might destroy the Philistines, who were their enemies; and this was the thing primely, nay solely intended by him, and not the taking away his own life, which no doubt he wished that in that action he could have preserved from the common ruin, though he knew that the cause was such, that while he took away his enemies’ lives, he should by consequence lose his own. And this, some are of opinion, was altogether as lawful, as for a captain to descend into battle to fight for his country, though he knew certainly that he should die in the encounter. I cannot affirm the cases to be parallel; yet certainly Samson’s action could not strictly and properly be called self-murder, there being in it no design against his own life, though there was a neglect of it, which in a just cause is very allowable. But if we admit here of an extraordinary motion of the Spirit, inciting Samson to do what he did, the eminent and miraculous assistance vouchsafed him by the Spirit in that very action, is abundantly sufficient to credit and make good that allegation. In the
Eighth place. For Ehud’s killing of Eglon, king of the Moabites; besides that he seems to carry his authority in those words, in which he is said to have been raised up by God to deliver Israel, Judges iii. 15, we must know that Ehud is not here to be looked upon as Eglon’s rightful subject, but as his 70 enemy. For the Israelites were then in captivity and bondage to the king of Moab, who oppressed them. But a state of captivity, where no league or compact supervenes, is a state of hostility; and consequently, when the captives can get power enough into their hands, they have as much right to attack the lives of their enemies, as if they met them in battle upon an open and professed war.
9. For Jael’s killing of Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s host, Judges iv. 21, when (as some judge from the text) there was a league between Jabin and her husband Heber the Kenite, which league must equally bind her, both husband and wife being politically but one person; I answer, that both she and her husband are to be supposed to have been under a precedent league with the Israelites, under whose protection they lived, and whose religion they professed; and consequently no subsequent league with their enemies could discharge them from the obligation of the former. And by that they were obliged to prosecute the enemies of Israel, as much as were the Israelites themselves. But I add, secondly, that the text speaks not of any league between Jabin and Heber, but says only, that there was peace between them; which, I conceive, implies no more of necessity, than a mutual forbearance of all acts of hostility, and a neighbourly intercourse thereupon; which might be without the obligation of any league or contract; and very well cease, when a league in consistent with that peace should engage them in a state of war. In the
Tenth and last place. It must be confessed, (and there is no colour of pretence against it,) that Elijah acted by the impulse of an extraordinary spirit; 71which was sufficiently manifest to all Israel, both from the miracles done by him in his life, and his miraculous translation, whereby he was privileged from death and mortality, the common lot of the rest of the world. And therefore we need not question by what authority Elias executed the sentence of the law upon the idolatrous priests of Baal, though he was neither supreme magistrate himself, nor yet commissioned by him.
And thus I have gone over ten of the principal scripture instances, by which our modern enthusiasts would defend their lawless irregular actings. Seven of which I have yet proved justifiable upon the principles of common right and morality; so that there remain but three, to wit, of Abraham, Samson, and Elias, the justification of which must be derived from the immediate and extraordinary impulse of the Spirit. And these were persons so eminent for the extraordinary presence of God with them, in so many other passages of their lives, that we may well venture the result of the whole matter upon this; and allow our enthusiasts to act as much besides the rule of God’s written law as ever they did, provided they will give us such undeniable evidences of an extraordinary spirit moving them, as they in their several ages gave the world. For this we do and must constantly deny, that the authority of such an extraordinary spirit was ever owned or admitted upon the mere affirmation or word of the persons pretending to it; but upon one or both of these conditions: namely, 1. That the pretenders to it had otherwise, by several signs or miracles, proved themselves to have been acted and inspired by God after an extraordinary way; or, 72 2. That the actions for which they make this plea were commended and owned by the subsequent approbation of God himself.
Neither of which conditions being now produceable by the enthusiasts of our times, it follows, that those scripture examples are of no force at all to warrant them in their pretences to an extraordinary Spirit; nor are arguments to prove any thing so much, as the knavery of those who make this pretence, and the folly of those who allow it.
And thus I have at length finished the second and main general head proposed for the discussion of the words; which was to shew, what it is for men to be led by the Spirit. I proceed now to the
Third, which is to declare what is meant in the text by being the sons of God. The relation of father and son in scripture is taken two ways, properly or improperly. In the proper acceptation of it, it is founded upon generation; but improperly taken, it is founded (for the most part) upon one of these two things, adoption or imitation. The latter of which, I conceive, gives the denomination here, though by consequence also it infers the persons so denominated to be sons by adoption. Now for this sonship by imitation, which consists in the cognation or conformity of a man’s actions to the example or will of another, we have it fully and emphatically set forth to us in John viii. where Christ proves the Jews not to have been the sons of Abraham, because they did not the works of Abraham: but to have been of their father the Devil, because by doing of the works of the Devil, they had made themselves his sons. And the same is yet more fully expressed in 1 John iii. 10. 73 In this are the children of God manifest, and the children of the Devil. And what this is he tells us in the foregoing verses, in the 8th of which he says, that he who committeth sin is of the Devil; and in the 9th, that he who is born of God sinneth not: which negative term of not sinning is, in the 7th verse, positively expressed by working righteousness; and in the 10th particularly by the acts of charity, in loving our brother. Which is a comprehensive term, implying all the duties of the second table, as loving God takes in and comprehends all the duties of the first; according to the best and most authentic explication given of this subject by our Saviour himself. He therefore, in the apostle’s sense, is the son of God, who does the works of God; and he does the works of God who loves his brother; and he loves his brother or neighbour (which in scripture are terms synonymous) who pays obedience to his governors; who neither kills nor mischiefs his neighbour in his person, nor defiles his bed, nor invades his property, nor traduces his good name, nor yet covets or casts a longing eye upon any part of his substance or estate: but on the contrary prosecutes him with all the acts of justice, love, and charity, which oppose the forementioned injuries and violences prohibited in the law.
Now this being the genuine explication of the words, let us cast them into argumentation. As many as are led by the Spirit of God, (says the apostle,) they are the sons of God. The proposition is universal, and perhaps also the terms of it convertible; but whether they are or no, I am sure, it being a right and legitimate way of arguing, from the removal of the consequent to the denial of the 74 antecedent, this inference must needs be firm and good; that those who are not the sons of God are not led by the Spirit. Now whether those who rebel, and prosecute their rebellion with murders, rapine, and sacrilege, who plunder their neighbours, and perjure themselves, who libel church and state, and throw all order into confusion, can be accounted the sons of God in that scripture sense, in which those only are the sons of God who do the works of God, let any one judge. If they are not the sons of God, I have shewn that they are not led by the Spirit: but if they think they can prove themselves the sons of God, while they practise these and the like enormities, (as no doubt they either do or would persuade themselves,) I will undertake to prove, that such sons of God are certain heirs of damnation.
Come we now to the fourth and last thing proposed, which is, to gather some conclusions, by way of use and inference, from the foregoing particulars. The conclusions shall be two.
1. That persons thus pretending to act by an inward voice, or impulse of the Spirit, in opposition to the rule of God’s written word, are by no means to be endured in the communion of a Christian church, as being the highest scandal and reproach to religion, indeed a much higher and greater than drunkards, swearers, or robbers upon the highway. For though these persons by such practices disobey, and consequently dishonour the religion they profess; yet they pretend not that their villainies have any countenance or warrant from religion, so as thereby to lose their guilt, and cease to be villainies. But now such as pretend to be led by the extraordinary 75motions of the Spirit, do by that affirm every thing that they do to be lawful, and suitable to the mind of God: those very actions which in other men are sinful and abominable, as done by themselves through the authority of the Spirit, putting on quite another nature. So that their killing is no murder; their plundering their neighbour, no robbery; their violating his bed, no adultery; their resisting and fighting against their king, no rebellion; for the Spirit, by an inward voice or motion, dissolving the bonds of those laws which tie up other men from these actions, does in the mean time authorize and empower them to act all these things innocently, piously, and perhaps meritoriously too; than which it is impossible for the wickedness of man to utter or conceive any thing more highly opprobrious to God and to religion. Villains may fly to the altar to escape the punishment of their sin; but that they should fly to religion to excuse and take off the guilt of their sin, this is to make the altar itself a party in the crime, and the Almighty, not so much a pardoner, as a patron of their guilt. This is certainly next to the sin against the Holy Ghost, (if that sin may be committed nowadays,) and possibly one kind of that sin itself. For if the Pharisees are said to have sinned against the Holy Ghost by blaspheming him, and that blasphemy consisted in their attributing those works which were done by the Holy Ghost to the power of the Devil; pray, what difference, in point of blasphemy, is there between that and the ascribing those villainies, which are done by the instigation of the Devil, to the impulse and suggestion of the Holy Ghost? For my part, I can perceive no more nor other difference in 76 the blasphemy of these two assertions, than there is in the same way, as it leads from Thebes to Athens, and from Athens to Thebes. For the Spirit can be no less dishonoured and blasphemed by having the works of the Devil ascribed to him, than by having his own works ascribed to the Devil.
2. The other conclusion or inference is this; that as these pretenders are upon no terms to be endured in the church, for the scandal they bring upon religion; so neither are they to be tolerated in the state, for the pernicious influence they have upon society. Whether the original right of civil government were from compact or no, has been disputed but that the actual subsistence and continuance of it stands upon compact observed and made good, is past question; I mean that compact and agreement whereby all agree to submit and be subject to the same laws. For if one half of a nation agree to live in subjection to such laws, and the other half refuses all submission to the same, and both parts be equally strong, the government must of necessity fall in pieces. And upon this account, no subject has any right to claim protection of the government he is under, any longer than he submits to the laws of that government.
But now the enthusiasts we speak of, pretending to be led and governed immediately by the Spirit, whose inward voice is the only rule and law they hold themselves obliged to live and act by; by virtue of which also they plead themselves authorized to do many things which the written laws of God and man forbid, and to omit many things which the same written laws enjoin; with what face or confidence can they expect the protection of the government 77they live under, when they profess themselves to live by a law wholly differing from those laws, to the observers of which alone that government promises protection? Is it reason that my neighbour should live at peace by me, and enjoy his estate only by my conscience of, and obedience to that law, which forbids me to rob or steal from him; and he in the mean time proceed by an inward law, which exempts him from the same obligation, and allows him, when he pleases, to seize upon my estate, and rifle me? I say, is there, can there be any reason that such a fellow should be safe from me by my subjection to the laws of my country, and I not be mutually safe from him by his subjection to the same? No, certainly; where the benefit of the law is his, the obligation of it ought to reach him too, or there will be no equality, and consequently no society. He therefore who shall presume to own himself thus led by an inward voice, or instinct of the Spirit, in opposition to the laws enacted by the civil power, has forfeited all right to any protection from that power, and has, ipso facto, outlawed himself, and accordingly as an outlaw ought he to be dealt with; and if by these impulses and inspirations he shall dare to offend capitally, the magistrate must assert his rights, and vindicate the prerogative of his abused laws with the gibbet or the halter, the axe or the fagot; and this, if any thing, will cure such villains of that which they call the Spirit.
Infinite have been the disturbances given the world in general, and this poor kingdom in particular, by crafty persons sowing their hypocrisy by pretences of religion: of all which pretences none have been so frequent and fatally successful, as the two 78 grand ones, one of the Spirit, the other of tender consciences; concerning the highest pretenders to both of which I shall say no more, than that it is well for them that no sort of lies whatsoever can choke them, and well for the magistrate that something else can; there being no casuist comparable to the minister of justice, to answer the sturdy scruples of an enthusiast disposed to rebel. For otherwise, as to matter of duty, whether to God or man, there can be no doubt or difficulty about it at all; that rule of our Saviour being infallible for the discovery of all such pretenders and spiritual cheats, that by their fruits ye shall know them. And the fruits of the Spirit, St. Paul tells us, Galat. v. 22, 23, are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, meekness, temperance, and the like; fruits which never grew in the same soil with rebellion, murder, and sacrilege. For, as the same apostle says, those who live by the Spirit, will walk by the Spirit too, since no man subsists by one vital principle, and acts by another.
To which eternal Spirit of truth and holiness, together with the Father and the Son, be rendered and ascribed, as is most due, all praise, might, majesty, and dominion, now and for evermore.79
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