- A Just and Necessary Apology.
- Chapter I.: Of the Largeness of Churches.
- Chapter II.: Of the Administration of Baptism.
- Chapter III.: Of Written Liturgies.
- Chapter IV.: Of the Ecclesiastical Presbytery.
- Chapter V.: Of Holy Days.
- Chapter VI.: Of the Celebration of Marriage By the Pastors of the Church.
- Chapter VII.: Of the Sanctification of the Lord's Day.
- Chapter VIII.: Of the Exercise of Prophecy.
- Chapter IX.: Of Temples.
- Chapter X.: Of Things Indifferent.
- Chapter XI.: Of Civil Magistrates.
- Chapter XII.: Of the Church of England,
- Notice Respecting the Two Letters.
- On Religious Communion
- The Preface.
- Chapter I.: Of Private Communion.
- Chapter II.: Of Public Communion.
- Chapter III.: Of Flight In Persecution.
- Chapter IV.: The Outward Baptism Received In England Is Lawfully Retained.
- Chapter V.: Of the Baptism of Infants.
- Chapter VI.: A Survey of the Confession of Faith Published In Certain Conclusions By the Remainders of Mr. Smyth's Company After His Death. *
- The People’s Plea For the Exercise of Prophecy
- An Answer to the Arguments Laid Down By Mr. John Yates, Preacher In Norwich , to Prove Ordinary Prophecy In Public, Out of Office, Unlawful; Answered By John Robinson.
- A Treatise On the Lawfulness of Hearing Ministers In the Church of England
- On the Lawfulness of Hearing the Ministers of the Church of England. By John Robinson.
- A Letter to the Congregational Church In London
- An Appeal On Truth's Behalf.
- To Our Beloved, the Elders and Church At Amsterdam , Grace and Peace From God the Giver Thereof, and In Him Our Salutations .
- An Answer to a Censorius People
- Letter By Rev. Joseph Hall, B.d., Rector of Halstead, Called By Mr. Robinson “a Censorious Epistle.”
- An Answer to “a Censorious Epistle.”
- A Catechism
- An Appendix to Mr. Perkins’ Six Principles of Christian Religion.
- No I.: The Church In Southwark.
- No. II.: The Exiles and Their Churches In Holland.
- Chronological Index of Mr. Robinson's Works.
- Index of Subjects.
- Index of Authors Referred to Or Quoted, With Occasional Brief Notices of Their Works and Lives.
- Index of Important Texts of Scripture Illustrated Or Quoted.
JUST AND NECESSARY APOLOGY.
“the crime of heresy none ought patiently to endure,” said Jerome of old ; and that not without cause, for whereas in other accusations, either a man's goods, or good name, or bodily life, at the most, is endangered; in this, the life of the soul, which faith is, cometh in question.
But well it is for the servants of Jesus Christ, that they have him, their gracious Lord and Saviour, for their Judge, by whose alone judgment, notwithstanding all men's prejudices, they shall stand or fall for ever. And, if any others anywhere, surely I, and they with me, have need to get this divine comfort deeply printed in our hearts; whose profession gives occasion to many, as doth our condition liberty unto all, to spare no severity of censure upon us.
Four sorts of heavy friends we have found and felt, in sorrowful experience, wheresoever we have become. The first whereof is the unhallowed multitude, who living without God in the world; and walking themselves perversely, and in the works of darkness, John iii. 19, cannot but hate, as the light itself, so all those, who have received grace of God, to walk therein with good conscience. And as the apostles, in their days, were everywhere most vexed with the hatred of the unbelieving Jews, their own countrymen; so are we by the like of ours like-minded. Of whom whilst the most do want their country for causes so unlike unto ours, no marvel though there be no better concurrence of either affection or action between us.
The second is of them, who are enamoured on that Romish hierarchy, as on a stately and potent lady. Against which, and for the holy presbyterial government, as Christ's institution by his apostles, whilst we do in word and deed, give a free and full testimony; alas! with how many, and how great waves of affliction, are we overwhelmed by their hatred and power! Demetrius of Ephesus, with his silversmiths, was of. all other men, to the apostle Paul, opposing himself to the majesty of Diana, and their profit withal, the most infestuous. And who will marvel, if we nothing obsequious to the hierarchical Diana, in herself, magnificent enough, and enough advantageable unto hers, be abominable unto this kind of people, above all others, even atheists, papists and most flagitious persons not excepted, whom they have devout enough and Over, unto that goddess.
A third kind is of those, who so servilely inbondage themselves, and their consciences, either to the edicts of princes, or to the determinations of certain doctors, or to both these jointly; as that they think nothing well done in case of religion, which either these teach not, or they command not: and on the other side, almost anything -warrantable, which is commended by the one of them, or commanded by the other. And as of these some are so- transported with, waspish zeal, as they can scarcely -without a fit of an ague, either speak to, or think of him, who a little steps out of their troad so others of them are so cunning, and wot so will how to make their market, that though they be indeed almost like-minded with us in all things, yet do they vehemently affect unchristian enmity with us: not because they themselves judge us so deserving; but others, whom therein they think it a point of their -wisdom to gratify.
The fourth, and last sort are they, who, through credulity and lightness of belief, have their ears open to the false aud feigned suggestions of slanderous tongues. These men whilst they are over good and easy towards the evil and injurious unto Whom they give credence, become injurious themselves to the good and innocent: though, in truth, it be hard to say, unto which of three they do the greatest; wrong: whether to their brethren, of whom they causelessly conceive amiss, whilst either they greedily devour, or easily receive such false reports, and vituperies, as venomous tongues spit out against them: or to their own souls, which they thereby make accessory to others’ malice: or to the calumniators themselves, whom they put in heart to go boldly on in reproaching the innocent, whilst they know, where to find receivers for their slanders, as do thieves for their stolen goods.
Now, alas, what sufficient bulwark of defence have we (poor people) to oppose unto the violence of so many, and mighty adversaries? First, and most, as a brazen wall, our conscience before God, and men (so far as human frailty will permit) pure, and unstained. Next, thine equanimity joined with wisdom, godly and Christian reader, for whose cause we have penned and published this our just and necessary defence: lest being circumvented by prejudice, thou mayest happen “to hate that whereof thou art ignorant:” than which nothing in Tertullian's judgment, “is more unjust, no not though the thing in itself justly deserve hatred.” By this we do earnestly crave, that, as thou safely mayest, so thou wilt ingenuously pass sentence upon us and our profession, and not by the unsavoury reports, either in word or writing, of our adversaries whomsoever: who do most commonly take liberty to suggest against us (underlings), not what in truth and conscience they should, but what either fame reporteth, or ignorance suspecteth, or malice inventeth, or proud contempt deems suiting with our meanness and simplicity.
Two opprobries (amongst others infinite) have been of late by our adversaries cast upon us; by which we are not only occasioned, but after a sort necessitated to the publishing of this our Apology: lest by not refuting such criminations, “so great and grievous,” we should seem to acknowledge a crime, as Cyprian speaketh. The former, by some of those, who in our own country, are reputed the chief masters and patrons both of religion and truth; by whom there hath been, not a flying bruit spread amongst the multitude, but a solemn accusation to them in special authority, framed against us: First, that we (lewd Brownists) do refuse, and reject one of the sacraments: secondly, that we have amongst us no ecclesiastical ministry, but do give liberty to every mechanical person to preach publicly in the church. Thirdly, that we are in error about the very Trinity. Fourthly and lastly, that being become soodious to the magistrates here, as that we are by violence to be driven the country, we are now constrained to seek some other, and far part of the world to settle in.
The other contumely is in a Dutch rhyme without name, framed it may be, and as commonly it comes to pass, “between the cup and the wall,” as saith the proverb. This ballad-maker comparing the received religion in the Dutch churches to a tree: the sectaries in the country, of which he nameth not a few, to certain beasts endeavouring this tree's ruin, and overthrow, likens the Brownists to a little worm, gnawing at the root thereof; and not having less will, but less power to hurt, than the residue. We are indeed worms and not men, the reproach of men, and despised of the people, Psalm xxii. 6, whom high and low, and all that will, may, without danger, tread and trample under foot.
But to give thee satisfaction, Christian and indifferent reader, whosoever thou art, that choosest rather to take knowledge of men's innocency, than to condemn the same unknown; and that it may appear unto thee, how alike unhonest our adversaries are in their accusations, though of unlike condition in themselves, we do profess before God and men, that such is our accord in the case of religion, with the Dutch reformed churches, as that we are ready to subscribe to all and every article of faith in the same church, as they are laid down in the Harmony of Confessions of Faith, published in their name: and one only particle (and the same not of the greatest weight) in the sixth article, touching the Scriptures, being conveniently interpreted, and conformably to itself, and the general judgment of the learned amongst them.
The scope of the article is, as appears in the margin, to distinguish between the books canonical and apocryphal, as they are called. Touching which apocryphal notwith- standing it is judged, and affirmed, that they may be read in the church. Which if it be meant of their private reading by the members of the church, we willingly assent: if of public, pastoral, and ecclesiastical reading, we are indeed otherwise minded: neither admit we any other books to that dignity in the church, than such as were penned by the “holy men of God, moved by the Holy Ghost.” 3 Pet. i. 21. And as the apostle James testified of the Jews, that “they had Moses read in the synagogue every Sabbath day,” Acts xv. 21: so we think it sufficient for the Christian assemblies, that with Moses, Christ, that is, the books of the New Testament be joined with the Old, and they alone be read.
Neither need we seek further, or for other arguments to confirm our opinion, than the article itself affordeth us. The words thereof are these:—
Moreover, we put a difference between the holy writings and those which they call apocryphal, to wit, so as the apocryphal may indeed be read in the church, and that it may be lawful to take instructions from them, so far forth as they agree with the canonical books: but such at no hand is their authority, or firmness, that upon their testimony any doctrine of faith and Christian religion may be founded, much less that they have force to infringe or weaken the others’ authority.
And first, If the apocryphal books be publicly read in the church, as well as the canonical, the difference which in word is professed, seems indeed by this so reading them, to be taken away: since the selfsame religious act, viz. public reading, is performed about the one and other, although not altogether to the same end. And if public reading of the canonical Scriptures be commanded of God in his worship, either the reading of these apocryphal books is a part of God's worship also, (which the Belgic churches do not believe) or else they must be unlawful to be read publicly in the church, especially coming together for that only end of worshipping God. Publicly, I say; for the private reading of them, as of other books, comes not under the respect of worship properly, but of an act and exercise preparative unto worship, as both lawyers and divines speak.
Secondly, In this very article, the canonical books, as opposed to the apocryphal, are called holy writings. The apocryphal then are not holy, as not being hallowed to this end, that is not commanded of God in the holy writings of the prophets and apostles. Now what have the holy assemblies to do, especially convening, and meeting together for the solemn worship of God, and exercising themselves in the same, with books not holy, that is, not hallowed, or enjoined of God, for his most holy service?
Thirdly, Seeing these books are apocryphal, that is, hidden and concealed, their very name may put them in mind of their duty in concealing themselves within the vail of privacy. And surely no small immodesty it is in them, which ought to contain themselves in private use and entertainment, thus boldly to press into public assembly. They must therefore change either their names or their manners; as women by their sex, so they by their name, well expressing their nature, are inhibited all liberty of speaking in the church.
I add, and conclude out of our countryman Hugh Broughton, that those apocryphal books are so stuffed with trifles, fables, lies, and superstitions of all sorts, that the middle place between the Old and New Testament, as ill becomes them, as it would do a Turkish slave, and leper, between two the noblest princes of all Europe.
But to return whence I digressed. Seeing that, as appears in the Preface, the intention of the Belgic churches was, as in divulging their confession, to render a reason of the hope which is in them, and plainly to make known their persuasion in the matter of faith; so also in publishing the Harmony of Confessions, to give all men to understand, and take knowledge of that most near conjunction which they have with the saered and truly catholic church of God, and all the holy and sound members thereof: by what right, or rather injury, could we be excluded from the fellowship of, the same churches, who do far better accord, and have greater congruity with, them in the matter of faith and religion, than the greatest part of those, whose confessions they do publish to the view of all men, as the cognisance and badges of their Christian consociation? And with what conscience of a Christian, or rather licentiousness of a rhymer, could that adversary traduce us to the world, as endeavouring the ruin of the reformed churches?
But, perhaps, that which may he, is suspected to be by some, which also the false accuser doth insinuate in his libel against as, and that, what in word we profess, we deny in deed; and what we would seem to build with our tongues, we do, as it were, with our hands pull down. If so it be, and that indeed we be found to be such, I do freely confess, that no censure upon us can be too severe, no hatred more grievous than we do deserve.
Now the guilt of this evil must cleave unto our fingers, if at all, one of these two ways, either in regard of ourselves, or of the reformed churches. For ourselves, and our course of life, for necessity compelleth, as it were foolishly to babble out that, wherein modesty persuadeth silence, and how we converse with God, and men, whether publicly in the church, or privately in the family, we refuse not, by the grace of God bestowed upon frail creatures, labouring of the same human infirmities with other men, the search and censure of our most bitter adversaries, if not destitute of all, both honesty and wisdom.
Touching the reformed churches, what more shall I say? We account them the true churches of Jesus Christ, and both profess and practise communion with them in the holy things of God, what in us lieth; their sermons such of ours frequent, as understand the Dutch tongue; the sacraments we do administer unto their known members, if by occasion any of them be present with us; their distractions, and other evils we do seriously bewail, and do desire from the Lord their holy and firm peace.
But haply, it will be objected that we are not like-minded with them in all things, nor do approve of sundry practices in use amongst them, if not by public institution, which it seems they want, yet by almost universal consent, and uniform custom. I grant it; neither doubt I, but that there are many godly, and prudent men in the same churches, who also dislike in effect the things which we do: and amongst other things, this malapert and unbridled boldness of unskilful men, who make it a very May-game to pass most rash censure upon the faith, and so by consequence, upon the eternal salvation of their brethren, and to impeach their credit, whom they neither do, nor perhaps willingly would know: lest that which they lust to condemn unknown, they should be constrained to allow, if they once knew it: and withal to disallow that, into which they themselves have been led formerly by common error of the times. Which malady is also so frequent, and ordinary, as that it may truly be said of many, that they then think themselves most acceptable unto God, when they can make their brethren, differing from them in some smaller matters, most odious unto men. This raging plague except the Lord God in mercy assuage, and bend the minds of godly, and modest men, the ministers of his Word, to put to their helping hand that way, it will without all doubt, come to pass, which God forbid, that the multitude of Christians will come to judge of their estate with the Lord, not so much by the Christian virtues, which themselves indeed have, as which they imagine others want.
But that it may appear unto thee, Christian reader, wherein we do dissent from the Dutch reformed churches, and upon what grounds: and that none may take occasion of suspicion, that the things are either greater, or more absurd, for which those hateful Brownists are had by many in such detestation, than indeed and truth they are, I will briefly, as I can, present unto thy Christian view either all, or the most, and our greatest differences, with the grounds thereof.
OF THE LARGENESS OF CHURCHES.
And first, it is evident, that the most, especially city churches, are so great and populous, as that two or three divers temples are not sufficient for one and the same church to meet in at once. We on the contrary, so judge, that no particular church under the New Testament, ought to consist of more members than can meet together in one place; because,
- 1.The Holy Scriptures speaking definitely of the political, or ministerial, commonly called, visible church, insti tuted by Christ, and his apostles, by his power, understand none other than one congregation convening, and coming together, ordinary at least, in one place. Matt. xviii. 17, 20, “gathered together in my name:” with 1 Cor. v. 4, “when you are come together.” Acts ii. 44, “All that believed were together:” and chap. v. 12, “They were all with one accord in Solomon's porch.” Also chap. vi. 2, 5; xiii. 1, 2; xiv. 23, 27; xv. 4, 22, 25; Titus i. 5. So 1 Cor. xi. 20, “When ye therefore come together in one,” to wit, place, not mind, as some conceit, for from that the Corinthians were too far: and lastly, chap. xiv. 23, “If the whole church come together into some place.”
- 2.There is then had the most full, and perfect communion of the body in the holy things of God, which is the next and immediate end of the visible church, when all the members thereof do convene, and assemble together in some one place, Acts ii. 42; Heb. x. 25. And if nature, as philosophers teach, ever intend that which is most perfect, much more, grace. Now that the church, commonly called visible, is then most truly visible indeed, when it is assembled in one place; and the communion thereof then most full, and entire, when all its members inspired, as it were, with the same presence of the Holy Ghost, do from the same pastor, receive the same provocations of grace, at the same time, and in the same place: when they all by the same voice, “banding as it were together,” do with, one accord pour out their prayers unto God: when they all participate of one, and the same holy bread, 1 Cor. x. 17; and lastly, when they all together consent unanimously, either in the choice of the same officer, or censuring of the same offender, no man admitting a due thought of things, can make doubt of.
- 3.We have the apostle Paul giving it in charge to the elders of every particular church, as was that of Ephesus, “that they take heed unto all the flock, whereof the Holy Ghost made them bishops,” or overseers, “to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with Ms own blood.” Acts xx. 17, 28. But surely, as that flock is very inordinate, if not monstrous, which for the largeness thereof, neither ever doth, nor possibly can feed together; so that shepherd of the Lord's flock seemeth not aright, and as he ought, to fulfil his charge, which doth not at the least, every Lord's day, minister unto the same, the wholesome food of God's Word. Add hereunto, that in these huge and vast floeks, the governors cannot take knowledge of the manners of the people, private or public; no, nor so much as of their presence at, or absence from the church assemblies; whereby what damage comeh unto true piety, any man may easily conjecture, and miserable experience makes too manifest in the reformed churches. I conclude therefore, since, as Junius saith, “it concerneth the pastor thoroughly to know the church committed unto him, the persons, their works and courses, without the knowledge of which things, he shall profit them no more than a tinkling cymbal,” &c., that it were a point of good provision both for the conscience of the officers, and edification of the people, that a division were made of the city churches, which by continual accession of members, are thus grown out of kind, into different, and distinct congregations, under their certain, and distinct pastors, and elders.
If any object, that there is one visible, and catholic church, comprehending as the parts thereof, all the particular churches, and several congregations of divers places; as there is one ocean, or sea, diversely called, according to the divers regions by whose shores it passeth; and that therefore this matter is not worth labour spending about it, I answer, first, that the catholic church neither is, nor can be called visible: since only things singular are visible, and discerned by sense: whereas universals, or things catholic, are either only in the understanding, as some are of mind; or as others think better, are made such, to wit, universals, by the understanding abstracting from them all circumstantial accidents, considering that the kinds intelligible have their existence in nature, that is in the individuals,
2. The catholic church, with due reverence unto learned men be it spoken, is very unskilfully said to be one, as the sea is one. For, first, it is expressly said, Gen. i. 9, 10, that the waters which were under the heavens, were gathered into one place, or conceptacle, which God called sea, or seas. But the catholic church, which is said to comprehend all particular congregations hi her bosom, is not gathered together into one place, nor ever shall be, before the glorious coming of Christ. 2. The ocean is a body so continued, as that all and every part thereof is continually fluent, so as the selfsame waters, which in their flux do make one sea, do in their reflux by contrary winds, make another, and so contrariwise. But thus to affirm of particular churches, and their material constitutive cause, were most absurd. 3. If some one particular sea were drawn dry, or should fail his course, a disturbance of all the rest would necessarily follow; but and if the sea should in divers places at once happen to be exhausted, or drawn dry, there would then be a failing of the ocean: neither were the waters now gathered into one place, neither made they one sea, and body of water, either continued or conjoined. But now, on the other side, upon the defection, or dissipation of this or that particular church, no such impediment should come in the way, but that the rest might hold their full course, as before. Yea, I add moreover, if all and every particular assembly in the world should languish, and fall away, one only excepted, that only one did still remain the true and entire church of Christ, without any either subordination, or co-ordination, or dependency spiritual, save unto Christ alone. The reason is plain, because this singular and sole assembly may, under Christ the head, use and enjoy every one of his institutions: the communion of saints combined together in solemn, and sacred covenant, the Word of God, sacraments, censures, and ministrations whatsoever by Christ appointed, and therewith, the same Christ's most gracious presence.
And upon this ground it is, that the apostle Paul doth entitle the particular congregation, which was at Corinth, and which properly, and immediately he did instruct, and admonish, “the body of Christ,” “the temple of God,” and one “virgin espoused to one husband Christ.” 1 Cor. xii. 27; 2 Cor. vi. 10; xi. 2. We may not therefore under pretence of antiquity, unity, human prudence, or any colour whatsoever, remove the ancient bounds of the visible and ministerial church, which our right fathers, to wit, the apostles, have set; in comparison of whom, the most ancient of those, which are so called, are but infants, and beardless, as one truly, and wittily saith.
There is indeed one church, and as the apostle speaketh, “one body, as one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one faith, one baptism;” Eph. iv. 4, 5; that is, of one kind, and nature; not one in number, as one ocean. Neither was the church at Rome in the apostles’ days, more one with the church of Corinth, than was the baptism of Peter one with Paul's baptism, or than Peter and Paul were one. Neither was Peter or Paul more one, whole, entire, and perfect man, consisting of their parts essential and integral, without relation unto other men, than is a particular congregation, rightly instituted and ordered, a whole, entire, and perfect church immediately and independently, in respect of other churches, under Christ.
To conclude, since the pastor is not a minister of some part of a church, but of the whole particular church, Acts xx. 28. Attend to the whole flock, or church, “whereof the Holy Ghost hath made you bishops,” &c., if the minister's office be to be confined within the circle of a particular congregation, then also the ministerial church itself. Now the pastor's office is either circumscribed within these bounds, or else “the angel of the church of Ephesus “was also “the angel of the church of Smyrna;” and so the pastor of this church is also the pastor of that; and by consequence, of all; that is, every pastor is an universal bishop, or pope by office; if not for execution, yet for power; according to which power, we are to judge of the office.
What then? will some man say. Is it not lawful for a pastor to execute his pastoral office but in the congregation over which he is set? I answer, with the apostle, “No man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as Aaron,” Heb. v. 4. It is not lawful for thee, reverend brother, to do the work of a pastor where thou art no pastor, lest thou arrogate to thyself that honour, which appertains not unto thee. Thou art called, that is elected, and ordained a pastor of some particular church, and not of all churches. It is not only lawful, but requisite, that the pastor of one church, or rather he that is the pastor, and so any other member, impart the gift either spiritual, or bodily, which he hath received, to other churches, out of the common bond of charity in which he is obliged: not so, to execute a public office over them by the prerogative of authority, which he hath not but only over his own. We will illustrate this by a similitude. Any citizen of Leyden may enjoy certain privileges in the city of Delft, by virtue of the politic combination of the United provinces, and cities, under the supreme heada thereof, the States-general; which he is bound also to help and assist with all his power if necessity require; but that the ordinary magistrate of Leyden should presume to execute his public office in the city of Delft, were an insolent, and unheard of usurpation. The very same, and not otherwise, is to be said of pastors, and particular churches, in respect of that spiritual combination mutual under their chief and sole Lord, Jesus Christ.
OF THE ADMINISTRATION OF BAPTISM.
The Dutch Reformed Churches, as is evident by their practice compared with their profession, are neither so true unto their own grounds, as they ought, neither do they so well provide for the dignity of the thing, whilst they administer the sacrament of baptism to the infants of such, as are not within the covenant, nor have either parent, a member of any church, because
- 1.Baptism now, as circumcision of old, is the seal of the covenant of God, Col. ii. 11, 12, with the faithful, and their seed, “I will be thy God, and the God of thy seed,” Gen. xvii. 9; and “the seal of the righteousness of faith,” Rom. iv. 11; and is one, as “there is one faith, and one baptism,” Eph. iv. 4, 5, and therefore ought not to be administered to others, than those within the compass of the same covenant: nor but upon faith coming between, either of the party to be baptized, or of one parent at the least. If any shall answer, that this gracious promise of God is not to be restrained to the next immediate children, but is extended even to those who follow afar off, I grant it, except infidelity, or other sin come between; by which the parents with themselves break off their seed externally and actually from the communion of the church, and holy things thereof. And if we be not to insist in the next, and immediate parent, why in the grandfather, or greatgrandfather, and so for the rest, till we climb up, as high as to Noah himself? Whereupon it should follow, that not the infants of Jews, nor Turks, no, nor of Gentiles neither, should have baptism denied them. Surely the grace of Christ must needs be universal, and wherein all have interest, if the seal thereof appertain unto all. Neither should the church, amongst whose sacred furniture baptism is, by this rule be any more the house of God, peculiar ta his children and servants; but more like a common inn, whose door stands wide open to all that pass by the highway.
- 2.The apostle, 1 Cor. vii. 14, upon this ground, that the one parent is a believer, avoweth the child holy: which otherwise he pronounceth impure, in respect of the covenant and holiness thereof, leaving unto God his secret judgments. Now what have the impure, and unhallowed to do with the holy things of God? And what hath the pastor, and shepherd in holy things to do with them, who are no portion of the Lord's flock? “What have I to do,” saith the apostle, “to judge them that are without? Do not ye judge them that are within?” 1 Cor. v. 12. So, reverend brethren, what have you to do, to baptize them that are without? do you not baptize them that are within, and them alone? In the number of whom yet you reckon not those infants (though baptized by you) nor belonging to your charge. Whence also, God knoweth, it cometh to pass, for the most part, that they who are thus by you baptized into the name of the Lord, are by their godless parents’ education made the servants of Satan.
- 3.The baptism of infants, in all soundness of judgment, serveth, and that immediately, for the comfort of their godly parents; whose hearts it filleth with no small joy, whilst they behold the gracious promise of God made to them and their seed, ratified and confirmed by this seal: even as of old the circumcision of Isaac was granted, and enjoined by God unto Abraham, his and our father, first and immediately, for the confirmation of his faith. Whence I conclude, that the seal of the righteousness of faith, which baptism is, doth no more belong to the seed of godless parents, than doth the comfort flowing from the righteousness of faith unto the parents themselves. Whom as it would effectually move to more serious, and sad thoughts of their own estate with God, if they beheld their infants, so dear unto them, excluded through their default from the comfortable seal of God's covenant; so can they not but by the undue administration of the same, take occasion of hardening themselves in their accustomed perverseness. I conclude then with Tertullian, speaking, as Junius interprets him, of the children of such as were strangers from the covenant of God, “Let them come, when they are grown to years; let them when they have learned, and are taught wherefore they come; let them then be made Christians, when they can know Christ.”
OF WRITTEN LITURGIES.
We cannot but mislike that custom in use, by which the pastor is wont to repeat and read out of a prayer-book certain forms, for his and the churches’ prayers, and that for these reasons.
1. Because this external mien and manner of worshipping God in prayer is nowhere found in the written Word, by the prescript whereof alone he is to be worshipped, whatsoever either the Jews’ fable of the liturgy of Ezra; or the papists of St. Peter's, or St. James’ liturgies. Isa. xxix. 13; Matt. xv. 9; Col. ii. 23. Yea, contrariwise, I add for overplus, that it did not seem good to the apostles, the last penmen of the Holy Ghost, that any such prescript form for such end should come in use, in the churches. And this seemeth unto me very clear, from the former epistle of Paul to Timothy, chap. ii. 1,2. The kings of the earth in those days, and such as were in authority under them, being, as it were, so many sworn enemies of the name of Christ, this conceit might easily, and it seems did, creep into the minds of divers Christians, that these kinds of men were rather to he prayed against, than for, by the servants of Christ. And now, what was the medicine prescribed by the apostle for this malady in that epistle written to Timothy for that very end, that he “might know how to converse in the church of God?” 1 Tim. iii. 15. Did he now either send Timothy to any liturgy formerly set forth for his own and others’ direction? Or did he himself frame any for the purpose, whose beaten troad the churches following afterwards should not err? Nothing less: although a more fit, and full occasion for that business scarce be offered: which without doubt, Paul would no more have let slip, than did the other apostles, that which was more light, for the introduction of deacons, Acts vi. 2, 3, if it had seemed good to the Holy Ghost, by whose finger he was guided in the ordering of the churches, that any such book-prayer should have come into use.
Three things especially are objected, which must here be cleared. The first is, that David, and other prophets penned the book of Psalms for the mother church of Israel. The second, that Christ himself delivered to his disciples a certain form of prayer, commonly called, “The Lord's Prayer.” The third, that Moses from the Lord, Numb, vi., gave direction to Aaron, and his sons, in what form of words they should bless the children of Israel.
I answer first generally, that the consequence followeth not from the authority of Christ, and of Moses, and of the apostles, in ordaining these, and these forms of Divine worship, for the like authority in ordinary bishops, and pastors, to ordain other, and divers forms, for the same end. What can be spoken more insolently? Christ the Lord, Moses, the prophets, and apostles, being immediately and infallibly guided by the Spirit of Christ, have prescribed certain, set forms of God's worship; therefore others, though not immediately and infallibly guided by the same Spirit, may also prescribe them. Why may they not by this argumentation, as well frame us a new canon of Holy Scriptures, considering that even these very forms, wherewith also they equalize their own, are parts, and portions of the same scriptures? More particularly, and first for Psalms. I deny that there is the same reason of a prayer, and of a Psalm; or (whereupon the difference hangeth) that singing and praying are all one. For the question is not, which I desire the reader once for all to bear in mind, either of the internal affection of him that singeth, or prayeth; or of the subject-matter of the song or prayer: but of the external act and exercise of praying and singing. Now these two exercises both the Holy Scriptures, and common sense in every man, that pleaseth but to open his eyes, and look upon them, do plainly difference.
For first, if to sing be to pray, then whosoever singeth prayeth: but how far from truth this is, the Psalms of David, i., ii., and many others in which not the least parcel of prayer is to be found, do plainly evince.
2. “Is any man sad amongst you,” saith the apostle, “let him pray; is he merry, let him sing.” James v. 13. To pray then, and to sing, are not the same, nor which do agree, to wit primarily, with the same constitution of the mind.
3. In prayer the pastor's voice is only heard, unto which the people, as the apostle teacheth, 1 Cor. xiv. 14, 16, are to add their Amen: but in singing, all the multitude have as well their part for tuneable voice, as the pastor himself. Neither can divers possibly sing together, without con fusion, but fey a certain and set form, both of words and syllables, which yet may be done hi church prayer, and is everywhere.
4. We have the same apostle elsewhere teaching us thus: “Speaking to yourselves in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” Eph. v. 19. And again, “Let &e word of Christ dwell in you plenteously, with all wisdom, teaching and admonishing yourselves mutually in psalms and, hymns,” Col. iii. 16. In singing then we do speak to ourselves, or one to another mutually: but in praying, neither to ourselves, nor to our brethren, but unto God alone. And the reason hereof is evident. Whenas we read or sing the Psalms of David (for what other thing is it to sing out of a book, than to read with a loud and harmonious voice? of which harmony singing is a kind): these selfsame psalms in this very use do still remain, and so are read or sung, as a part of the Word of God in the Holy Scriptures: and in which God speaketh unto us: whereas on the other side, we do speak unto God, in all our prayers, whether mental only, or vocal withal.
5. Even these very psalms, whose matter is prayer and “thanksgiving, were framed and composed by the prophets into psalms, and spiritual songs, for this very end, that the men of God might in them teach us, as in the written Word of God, whereof they are parts, both what petitions they in their distresses put up to the Lord, and also what thanksgiving they returned upon their deliverance, that so we in reading and singing them, might instruct and admonish ourselves both publicly and privately, whether by way of doctrine, or admonition, or consolation, for the promoting of the glory of God in our hearts.
Lastly, That I may descend unto them, who are only taught by experience; if any going out of the temple, whilst the church were singing a psalm, either before or after sermon, being asked of one that met him, what the church were then doing, should answer that it were at prayer, would he not be judged by all men to tell a lie? but altogether without cause, if to sing, he to pray, as many imagine.
Touching the Lord's Prayer. We deny it to be the meaning of Christ, teaching his disciples, when they pray to say, “Our Father,” &c., to bind them, and the Holy Ghost in them, Jude 20, by which they ought to pray, to a certain form of words and syllables, which they should repeat by heart, or, which is our question, read out of a book. Because, 1. The two evangelists, Matthew and Luke, of whom both the one and other did aright both understand and express the meaning of Christ, do not precisely keep the same words. 2. By these words, “when you pray,” is meant, whensoever you pray: whereupon it should follow, that we were tied to this stint of words alone, and always: and so might lawfully use none other, except it be lawful for us sometimes to pray rather by the level of our own device, than of Christ's prescript. The words therefore of Cyprian. are good in a good sense. To pray otherwise than Christ hath taught, is not only ignorance, but guilt, seeing he himself hath said, you reject the precepts of God, that you may observe your own tradition. Matt. vi. 6. 3. Amongst the many, and manifold prayers of the apostles to be seen in the Holy Scriptures, this form of words is not found: and yet can it not be denied, but they always prayed as they were taught in this place by their master Christ: whose meaning therefore it could not be to tie them necessarily to any such certain form of words. 4. It appears by the context, that the purpose of Christ is to speak of private, or rather secret prayer, and such as every Christian apart from others, and in his closet, with the door shut unto him, should pour out unto the Lord. Now that one alone, and by himself, should say, “Our Father,” seems not very congruous. Lastly, Seeing of the like, there is the like consideration; if the apostle James in these words, “Go to now, ye that say, To-day or to-morrow we will go into such a city,” &c., James iv. 13; and verse 15, “For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this or that,” do neither simply find fault with the form of words, nor prescribe necessarily any other, but only (to use Calvin's words ) wakens them from their dream, who without respect of the Divine providence, will make themselves masters of a whole year, when there is not a moment in their power: so neither are we to conceive that our Saviour, Christ, Matt. vi. and Luke xi., doth enjoin unto his, any set words to pray in, but only shows whither all our prayers and vows ought to be referred, as with all other orthodox writers about this matter, the said author speaketh: howsoever divers unskilful men cease not still to sing unto us, even to loathsomeness, the song, when you pray, say, as the papists do theirs, “This is my body:” as though the controversy were about the words, and not rather about the meaning of them.
But for that we are very odiously traduced by divers, as abhorring from this form, and that we will not, as they use to speak, say the Lord's Prayer, I will in few and plain terms set down what our judgment is about it.
- 1.And seeing that, as the poet hath it, “the names do commonly suit with the things,” we may see, and sorrow withal, in the phrases in common use about this most Christian duty of prayer, what it is with the unhallowed multitude of Christians to pray, namely, to say prayer, to read prayer, to hear prayer, and rather anything than in deed to pray, that is, than to pour out the conceptions of a godly and devout mind unto God, from faith and feeling of our wants, by the Holy Ghost.
- 2.We do affirm, that this form of words is improperly, how commonly soever, called the Lord's Prayer: as neither being a prayer as it is the Lord's, nor the Lord's as it is a prayer. As it is of the Lord Christ, and so the Lord's, whether by himself uttered in words, or committed to writing by his evangelists, it hath the consideration and respect of a sermon, and of evangelical doctrine, in which Christ taught his disciples; and not of a prayer put up to his Father: as on the contrary it neither was, nor could be used prayerwise by Christ, in so many words; with whose most perfect sanctimony it did not agree for him to say, Forgive us our trespasses.
- 3.“We do firmly believe, that all and every both church and person is bound always to pray, as Christ hath there taught: whether we respect the matter there propounded, or the affections there enjoined, or the commodious and compendious simplicity which Christ our Saviour, and only Master, there opposeth, both to the vain babblings, and oft repetitions of the heathens: and that in these things, and them alone, the commandment of Christ doth consist, we both firmly believe, and confidently avow.
- 4.And lastly, we doubt not but that this very form of words may be, and is rightly used in prayer unto God, provided there be neither opinion of necessity, by which superstitious persons think themselves stinted by the Lord to words and syllables, nor of perfection, by which many are of mind, that they have then at the last, and not before prayed perfectly, when they have repeated tiais form of words. And it is well, if some spot of this mire cleave not to the fingers of many ministers; which make it a matter of great conscience not to conclude their and the churches’ prayers applied specially to the present state of things, with this number and measure of words. Which custom as it is used very commonly, so in my judgment, with, no great reason, for these two causes.
First, It seems to cross all good order, and method, by which men should descend from the more general unto that which is more special: and not go the clean contrary way, as in this they do.
Secondly. Since the rule, according to philosophy, and good reason, is always before the thing ruled, and that this form is by Christ instituted, for this purpose, that it might be the rule and square of all our prayers, and as Tertullian saith, is premised, as the foundation of all our accessory desires, methinks the same should rather be used in the first place; upon which as the same author hath it, every one should build the circumstances of his occasioned requests,
It remaineth that in a few words I answer that, which. is by some objected touching those solemn blessings, at the first imparted by the patriarchs to their first-born, and after by the priests to Israel the first-born of God. Exod. iv. 22.
And to let pass, 1. That the composers, and imposers of the liturgies now in use have not equal authority with Moses the man of God, nor axe their writings any way comparable with his, 2. That Moses did not prescribe unto the priests a stint of words for blessing, much, less to be read out of a book, but the substance of the thing; which, by many arguments, save that I study for brevity, might be proved. 3. If that were Moses’ mind, and the Lord's by him, the minister were bound to the same form of blessing upon the Israel of God now, Gai vl 16, which the church is: since there is nothing in it not moral, and perpetual, or not concerning the church now, as then. I de answer this one thing, and the same in Calvin's words, viz. that these blessings were not ordinary prayers, but a lawful authority divinely interposed to testify the grace of election: which he also confirms by divers reasons. Neither can any man who considers the words of the text make question, but that the priests in blessing Israel, not God, do direct their speech unto Israel by way of promise, and not unto God by way of prayer. “So bless you,” saith Moses, “the children of Israel, saying unto them, The Lord bless thee,” &c. The same is to be judged of the salutations of the apostles in their epistles, whereof they are a part, and so a part of the Holy Scriptures, albeit yet they, in them, as the priests in their blessings, desired to have their truly loving affection taken knowledge of by them to whom they wrote: and what good things they both desired at the hands of the Lord for them, and also promised them in his name.
2. We dislike all reading of prayer, in the act of praying, as inconvenient, yea, directly contrary unto that act? In prayer we do pour out matter, to wit the holy conceptions of the mind, from within to without; that is, from the heart to God: on the contrary, in reading, we do receive and admit matter from without to within; that is from the book, into the heart. Let him that prayeth do that which he doth, not another thing, not a divers thing. Let the whole man, and all that he is, both in soul and body, be bent upon God, with whom he converseth. The eyes of the mind are lifted to God in prayer; and why not the eyes of the body also? both which, he that prayeth, by intending them upon a book, both depresseth and averteth from God. The Apostle exhorteth, that “the men pray, lifting up pure hands to God in every place.” 1 Tim. ii. 8. In like manner, besides the reason of the thing, we have the patriarchs, prophets, Christ himself, with his apostles, and disciples, for ensamples of lifting up the eyes to heaven in prayer. Not that this gesture of body is simply necessary but most convenient, save in some great temptation, and depression of mind, both to express and further the intention of a godly heart.
Let devout and learned men, if they please, commit to writing their holy meditations, and secret conferences with God, as did Austin, and others amongst the ancients; and many of later times: which may be read, and that with no small benefit, both by pastor and people; but privately, and for better preparation unto prayer. Now the preparation unto prayer is very unseasonable at the self-same time of the solemn performance thereof; and unreasonable in and by the self-same act.
3. Seeing that “public prayer,” as Bucanus saith, “is a second part of the ministry;” as also that amongst the gifts of the Holy Ghost, wherewith the pastor is endued from above, that is not small, nor to be despised, by which he is able conveniently both for matter and form, to conceive a prayer according to the church's present occasion, and necessities; by the reading of this prescript form, that truly excellent gift, given of God for this end is made void, and of none use, and the Spirit, contrary to that which ought to be, extinguished. 1 Thess. v. 19. “The manifestation of the Spirit,” saith the apostle, “is given to every one,” especially to every pastor, “to profit withal.” 1 Cor. xii. 7. But he who reads a form of prayer conceived and consigned by another, doth not manifest the pastoral gift, (for of the internal affection our question is not) of the Spirit given to him to profit withal, but to that other by whom the form of prayer was indited.
4. If to read such a form of prayer be to pray aright, and pastor-like, no probable reason can be rendered, wherefore to read a sermon, or homily, is not as well to preach aright, and as is required of the pastor of the church. Which so being, small reason had the apostle, treating of the ecclesiastical ministry, which principally consists in these two exercises, Acts vi. 4, to cry out, as he did, “Who is sufficient for these things?” 2 Cor. ii. 16. For who is not sufficient even of the vulgar sort? who cannot read a liturgy, and an homily?
5. “The Spirit,” saith the same apostle, speaking of all Christians, “helpeth our infirmities, for we know not what to pray, as we ought.” Rom. viii. 26. Yes, Paul, with your leave, right well; for we have in our prayer-book, What we ought to pray, word for word, whether the Spirit be present or not. What then is to be done in this business? That which Tertullian saith. the Christians of his time did. “We pray,” saith he, “without any to prompt us, because we pray from the heart” But he who reads his prayers, or rather the prayers of him that penned them, and his lesson out of a book, hath one that prompts him, and that diligently, both what, and how much, and after what manner, and with what words and syllables he ought to pray.
Lastly, If it would be just matter of shame to any earthly father, that his child, who desired of him bread, fish, or an egg, should need to read out of a book, or paper, “Father, I pray you give me bread, fish, or egg;” how much more contumelious is it, to our heavenly Father, and his Holy Spirit, wherewith he furnisheth all his children, especially his ministers according to their place, that an help so unworthy, and more than babyish, and indeed the instrument of a “foolish shepherd,” Rom. viii 26; Jude 20; Zec. ii. 15; xii. 10; namely a bare reader, with which kind of vermin Home and England are pestered, should be used by such godly and learned pastors, as wherewith the re formed churches are furnished.
OF THE ECCLESIASTICAL PRESBYTERY.
we do so acknowledge, and approve of, as divinely instituted, the presbyteries of the particular churches, as with all we judge them sundry ways defective. As first we require, that all received into the college, and company of elders, even those which are called governors, should be “apt to teach,” 1 Tim. iii. 2, and “able to exhort with sound doctrine,” and “convince gainsayers,” Tit. i. 5, 7, 9, and that not only privately, or in the consistory, but in the public assembly also, as the nature of their public office requireth. I am not ignorant, what that learned man Gersom Bucer- in his late treatise hath published about this matter, neither do I unwillingly assent the reunto: provided only, that what he requires in those elders, that they be able to perform publicly, and in the church-assembly, if not exactly, yet competently.
A second defect, which we wish supplied is, that of annual or triennial or temporary, they might be perpetual, and for life, (except by some casualty, or occurrence they be disabled) as the pastors themselves. This term of years for the elders’ administration in the reformed churches, the forenamed author in the same place doth not so much defend, as excuse; but it seemeth rather needful to haw it reformed, which is also the desire of the said learned man, and that for these reasons.
- 1.The apostle Paul calling unto him the elders of the church of Ephesus to Miletus, doth pronounce of them all, as well the governors, as those that laboured in the Word, that they were made bishops or overseers of the same church, by the Holy Ghost. Acts xx. 17, 28. Now the authority of that the appointer ought to work in the appointed great conscience, not lightly to relinquish that charge, which by the disposition of the Holy Ghost they had taken upon them.
- 2.The same apostle doth in the same place admonish and exhort the same elders that they should take heed unto themselves, and to all the flock, lest the same, after his departure should unhappily be damnified, either by “wolves entering in among them,”or such as should “rise up from themselves speaking perverse things.” Acts xx. 28–31. Now if the date of their eldership and, charge were shortly to be out, they might well think with themselves, that the apostle's admonition for after-times did not much concern them, whose term of office should so shortly be expired, and were perhaps to follow the apostle's departure at the heels.
- 3.It was sacrilege for the Levites being consecrated to the Lord, for the service of the tabernacle and temple, to retire from the office undertaken by them,- although, age growing upon them, they were exempted from some the more laborious works of that ministration: how then is it lawful for the elders, or deacons (being now no more at their own disposing, but as the Levites of old, the Lord's saered and consecrated ones) to withdraw so lightly from his special service? Numb. viii. 24, 25. No man under the law might change a beast, if clean, no, not a better for a worse, if once hallowed to the Lord. Lev, xxvii. 9, 10. How much less may the church, then, discharge her officers, or they themselves, ministering faithfully, and as they ought!
Lastly, the apostle Paul instructing the church, in Timothy, to keep the commandment of Christ unrebukable until that his glorious appearing, doth not permit, no, not to the widows and deaconesses to relinquish the office once taken upon them, 1 Tim. v. 9–12, 21; vi. 14; 1 Cor. xiv. 37; unto whom for that very cause he forbids marriage itself, otherwise permitted to all, and to some enjoined. How much less lawful is it for the elders, or deacons of the church, whose both condition and ministry is far more excellent, for far lighter causes, to look back, and relinquish their vocation, wherein Christ hath in such sort placed them!
A third thing there is, and that of most moment, viz. that the elders do not administer their public office publicly, as they should, but only in their private consistory. And first, the administration of every office doth in right follow the nature of the same; whether domestical in the family, or civil in the commonwealth, or spiritual in the church: the elders’ office then being public, requires answerable and public administration. Not that it is unlawful for the elders to convene, and meet apart from the body, and to deliberate of such things as concerns the same, and so to do sundry things by virtue of their office; but because that is not sufficient, neither do they indeed fulfil their public and church-office, which in the Lord they have received, Col. iv. 17; except as privately, and in their consistory, so also (and that specially) publicly, and in the face of the congregation, they execute the same.
2. The apostle beseecheth them of Thessalonica that they would in love highly esteem for their work's sake, not only them which laboured among them, to wit, in doctrine; 1 Thess. v. 12, 13; but them also, which were over them in the Lord, and admonished them. 1 Tim. v. 17. But of the work -of their elders which govern, the reformed churches must needs be ignorant; neither do, or can they know, whether they be good, or bad. Their pastors they do prosecute with due love, and honour, out of their own certain knowledge of them and their work, but their elders only by hearsay.
Lastly, The same apostle warneth the elders of Ephesus, that they attend and take heed to the whole flock, in which they were made bishops. Acts xx. 17, 28. But it cannot be, that he should ministerially, as he ought, feed the whole church, whose voice the greatest part thereof never so much as once heareth. To lead, or receive a sheep now and then into the sheepfold, to confirm one that is weak, or correct one that strayeth, and that apart from the flock, is in no wise to feed the whole flock, as the apostle requireth.
And that this point may be made the more plain, let us descend unto some such particulars, as in which the elders’ office seemeth specially to consist. And they are, the admitting of members into the church, upon profession of faith made; and the reproving and censuring of obstinate offenders, whether sinning publicly, or privately with scandal. As we willingly leave the execution and administration of these things to the elders alone in the settled and well-ordered state of the church, so do we deny plainly, that they are, or can be rightly, and orderly done, but with the people's privity and consent.
For the first, Christ the Lord gave in charge to his apostles to preach in his name remission of sins, and, therewith, life eternal: and that such Jews, or Gentiles, as should believe and repent, viz. profess, holily, faith and repentance, (for to judge of the heart is God's prerogative), they should receive into the fellowship of the church, and baptize. And that these all and every of them were publicly, and in the face of the congregation to be administered, the Acts of the Apostles do plenteously make known. And if baptism, the consequent of the confession of faith, in them baptized, and the badge of our consociation with Christ and his church, be to be celebrated publicly, why is not the profession of faith proportionably (although by the formerly baptized through a kind of unorderly anticipation) to be made publicly also, and, therewithal, the consociation ecclesiastical, as the former? The covenant privately made, and the seal publicly annexed, are disproportionate.
I further add, that since persons admitted into the drareh, are by the whole body, if not of enemies, at least of strangers, become and are to be reputed brethren in Christ most nearly joined, and they, with whom they are to call upon one common Father publicly, to participate of one holy bread, 1 Cor. x. 17; and with whom they are to have all things, even bodily goods, after a sort, common, as every one hath need, Acts ii. 44, 45; it seemeth most equal, that not only the presbyters, the churches’ servants under Christ, but the whole commonalty also, should take knowledge in their persons, both of their holy profession of faith, and voluntary submission made, as unto Christ himself, so to his most holy institutions in his church.
To come to the second head. And 1. Those who sin, that is, with public scandal, “rebuke publicly,” saith the apostle,” that others also may fear.” 1 Tim. v. 20. And if the elders themselves, of whom he speaketh, for whose credit the greatest eare is to be taken, much more than any other, as Beza rightly observeth. And that not for this cause alone, that when the punishment comes to one, the fear might reach unto many, which yet wise men in all public executions would have carefully provided for, but also that both he that so sinneth may be the more ashamed, and others both within and without may, withal, take knowledge, how little indulgent the church is to her own dearest ones in their enormous sins.
2. With this also it well consorteth, that Christ the only Doctor of his church, would have not only sins scandalous committed in. public, publicly reproved, and before the multitude, but even those which are private, obstinately persisted hi, when he saith, “Tell the church,” &c. Matt. xviii, 15–17.
I am not ignorant, how diversely, divers men do interpret these words: whilst some, by the church, do understand the civil court of the magistrate; others, the hierarchical bishop, with his officials; others, the senate of elders excluding the people. And thus whilst these strive for the power, and name, withal, of the church amongst themselves, the church indeed, and which Christ the Lord meaneth, is well nigh stripped both of power and name.
The first of these three interpretations I will not trouble myself with; as being almost of all, and that worthily exploded and rejected, and abundantly refuted by divers learned men: the two latter are to be assaulted with, almost the same weapons.
The former of these two, though it be in itself the more different from Christ's meaning, yet comes it in this circumstance now in consideration, the nearer the truth in our judgment, considered in its execution: since neither the bishops, nor their officials, chancellors, commissaries, or other court-keepers, do exclude the people from their consistories and courts, but do offer themselves in their public judgments and censures to the riew of all who please to be present thereat. And I think it a course unheard of either amongst Gentiles or Jews, or Christians (be it spoken without offence) before this last age, that public judgments and other acts of public nature, as these are, should be privately exercised, and without the people's privity. It was not so in Israel of old, where by God's appointment the elders were to sit, and judge in the gates of the city: nor in the synagogues themselves, from which many are of mind, how truly, I will not say, that the Christian eldership was derived, after the Roman tyranny had confined into them the Jews’ civil conventions and judgments; nor in the primitive church, no not in some ages after the apostles, as might easily be proved out of Tertullian, Cyprian, and others, if I would try the matter in that court: but it is much more safe, as Austin saith, to walk by the Divine Scriptures.
And first the word ἔκκλησία church, originally Greek, answering to the Hebrew πτρ, doth primarily and properly signify a convention of citizens called from their houses by the public crier, either to hear some public sentence or charge given: but translated to religious use, denoteth an assembly of persons called out of the state of corrupt nature into that of supernatural grace, by the publishing of the gospel. Now the elders, or presbyters, as such, are, and so are said to be, called, to wit, to their office of eldership, feat called out they are not, being themselves to call out the church, and unto it to perform the crier's office. Neither do I think that the name ecclesia, church, hath been used by any Greek author, before the apostles’ times, or in their days, or in the age after them, for the assembly of sole governors in the act of their government, or, indeed, before the same governors had seized into their own, and only hands the church's both name and power.
But you will say, as learned men use to do, that these elders sustain the person of the whole multitude, and supply their room, for the avoiding of confusion; and so are rightly, as commonly called the church representative.
In answer, First, No godly, no, nor reasonable man will affirm, that this representation is to be extended to all the acts of religion, or indeed to others, than these, which are exercised in the governing of the church. What is it then? The elders in ruling and governing the church must represent the people, and occupy their place. It should seem, then, that it appertains unto the people, unto the people, primarily and originally, under Christ, to rule and govern the church, that is, themselves. But who will so say of a government, not personal but public, and instituted as the churches’ is?
2. If the elders in their consistory represent the church, then whatsoever they either decree or do, agreeing to the Word of God, whether respecting faith or manners, that also the church decreeth and doth, though absent, though ignorant both what the thing is which is done, and upon what grounds it is done by the elders; this being the nature of representations, that what the representing doth within the bounds of his commission, that the represented doth primarily, and much more, as but using the other for his instrument. Now how dissonant this is to true faith and piety, how consonant unto the papists’ implicit faith, no man can be ignorant; and I had rather wise men should consider, than I, aggravate.
3. The constant and universal practice of the apostles and apostolic churches, do quite cross this consistorian. course. The apostle Paul, well acquainted with the mean ing of Christ, doth, 1 Cor. v., so reduce into practice the rule and prescript of his Master, Matt. xviii., or to use the words of the Bishop of Chichester, “there commands to bring into practice this power, in the name of Christ, with his Spirit,” as he seems to leave no place for doubting to him who with diligence, and without prejudice, will compare together these two places: what the Lord mean-eth when he saith, “Tell the church.” This our apostle doth in that place reprove, not the elders or governors alone, but with them also the whole commonalty and body, for tolerating the incestuous person amongst them. Which therefore, accordingly, as his authority apostolical and care for all the churches, 2 Cor. ii. 28, did require; he admonisheth and directeth, that as mindful both of the sinner's repentance and salvation, and therewith of their own purity, they would exclude, by due order, that wicked man from their holy fellowship. And that by these words, “When ye are come together,” the whole church is to be understood, many but heavy friends to the people's liberty, Jesuits, Prelatists, and others, do grant. But we will annex certain reasons for the further clearing of the thing.
- 1.They among whom the fornicator was, who were puffed up when they should have sorrowed, and out of the midst of whom he was to be put, who had done that thing, they were to be gathered together in one, and to judge and excommunicate that incestuous person. 1 Cor. v. 1–13. But the fornicator was not amongst the elders alone, neither were they alone puffed up when they should have sorrowed, neither was that wicked man to be taken out of the midst of them and still left in the midst of the people; and therefore not to be judged by them alone, but by the church with them, though governed by them.
- 2.It did not of old appertain only to the Levites and elders in Israel, to purge out of their houses the material leaven, but to every father of a family also; so by proportion to the whole church now, to purge out the leaven spiritual there spoken of: which also could not leaven the whole lump, or church, in the apostle's meaning, except it had concerned the whole church to purge it out. 1 Cor. v. 7.
- 3.The apostle wrote not to the elders only, but with them to the whole body, not to be commingled with fornicators, covetous persons, or the like, called brethren; he therefore admonisheth them, as the other, to cast their stone at the incestuous man, for the taking him away from the Lord's people. 1 Cor. v. 9, 11.
Many more arguments, and the same very clear, might he drawn to this end, out of the text itself; but for brevity's sake I will omit them, and annex this only one which followeth, from the second chapter of the second epistle. The same apostle, writing to these same Corinthians, about the same incestuous person, but now penitent, as before delinquent, seriously exhorts them, that look what severity they had formerly showed in censuring him for his sin, the like compassion they would now show, in receiving him again upon his repentance: therein plainly insinuating, that this business was not in the hands of the elders alone; except we will say, that they alone were made sad by the apostles’ reproof, that they alone by their study, defence, indignation, zeal, &c., testified that they were pure in the thing, and except it belonged to them alone to pardon and comfort the repentant sinner, and to confirm their love unto him. 2 Cor. ii. 7, 8; vii. 9, 11.
And whereas some would inclose this whole power within the apostle's circuit, as if he alone, bishop-like, had passed sentence judiciary upon the offender, and only committed the declaration and publication of it in the church to some his substitute, I deem it not lost labour briefly to show how erroneous this opinion is of external, monarchical government, yea, power also which is more, in the church of Christ.
And, first, one alone, how great soever, cannot suffice to make the church, or a congregation, which Christ hath furnished with the power of binding and loosing, Matt. xviii 17 — 19, both reason and Scripture teaching, that for an assembly and congregation, at least, two or three are required. “The Church, which name signifies a multitude, designing by a new trope one alone singular person,” as saith D. Whitaker against Stapleton. going about to prove that “the name of the church belongs to the pastors, or bishops, or pope alone.”
2. It is expressly affirmed, 2 Cor. ii. 6, that the incestuous person was censured by many: which many or more, the apostle opposeth to himself alone, as appeareth by the context, and not to all as some erroneously think.”
3. The apostle plainly and sharply reproveth the Corinth ians for that, before his writing, they had not voided that sinful man their holy fellowship, and so prevented the report by which such a crime, and the same unpunished, came to his ears. This their power, then, the man of God doth not seize into his own hands, as forfeit by their default in not using it, but vehemently, and as became a faithful minister, exhorts and admonishes them to use it, as they ought, in the judging, purging out, and taking from among themselves that wicked man, and so any other within, or called a brother, sinning in the like manner.
4. If the apostle Paul, being absent from Corinth, had excommunicated this sinner, then had he judicially condemned and judged a man unaccused, unconvicted, and unreproved, at least face to face and before his judge, than which what more unjust can be imagined of, or ascribed unto, the holy apostle? I conclude, therefore, with Peter Martyr on 1 Cor. v., “The apostle, as great as he was, doth not so far usurp to himself power, as that he one and alone by himself should excommunicate: which yet the Pope and many bishops (both Romish and English) dare do; in judging he goes before others, as it is meet the chief in the church should do, that so the less skilful multitude might be directed in judging by their voting before them.”
Thus much of this place. The next followeth, which is Acts i. 30–26. When another was to succeed in the room of Judas the traitor, not Peter alone, or the apostles with him, but, that the ordination might be just and lawful, being made with the knowledge of the people assistant, and examined by the verdict and judgment of all. the multitude of the disciples together did substitute two, whom they deemed most excellent, that of them the Lord, who knew the hearts of all men, Acts i. 24, might take unto himself the man which he knew most fit. Gal. i. 1. That which belonged unto God, namely, to design an apostle immediately, was left unto him; the disciples also, in this work, retaining what might be their liberty, which Calvin notes upon this place, to have been a kind of middle temper.
The third place followeth, which is Acts vi. I—8, handling the choice of deacons, and that by the same church in Jerusalem, not now small, as before, but (which I wish may be marked to stop the passage, which some think lies open for escape through smaller assemblies) now become great and populous. In this business the apostles inform the church what kind of men they ought to choose: the multitude chooseth whom they judge fit and meet accordingly, and the same present to the apostles; upon whom, so chosen by the people, the said apostles impose hands as a solemn symbol of their consecration, joining therewith common prayer. Now if the deacons only be trusted with the church's money, were not to be made but by the people's suffrage and election: much less pastors and elders, unto whose fidelity under Christ the same church doth commit the incomparable treasure of their souls.
To the same purpose, in regard of the matter in hand, serveth that which we read, Acts xiv. 23, where “Paul and Barnabas do ordain elders in every church, by suffrages,” not their own, as some fancy, unto whom to lift up and to lay on hands is all one, but the people's; or “by the lifting up of hands,” by which sign the Grecians, as appears in Demosthenes and others, the people's vote or voice giving in their popular assemblies was wont to be made. I add, which is especially to be observed, that the apostles, in doing their part in the ordination of elders, did what they did as it were by the way; staying only, most like, two or three days in a place: so as they could not possibly by their own experience take sufficient knowledge, what persons in the church were apt to teach or govern: who able to exhort with sound doctrine, and to convince the gain-sayers: how unblameable they were, how watchful, given to hospitality, temperate, &c., and with, these, how mannered wives and children they had. I Tim. iii. 1–7; Tit.
i. 7. These things only, the brethren, which conversed with them publicly and privately, could sufficiently take knowledge and experience of. Upon their electing them, did the ordination conferred by the apostles, as the hands of the church, depend. By election, the persons elected have right to their offices; into the actual possession, whereof they are solemnly admitted by ordination.
This troop of proofs, that known and notable place, Acts xv., shall shut up: in which we have the people's liberty in the churches, both of Antioch and Jerusalem, plentifully confirmed and commended by apostolic practice to ensuing churches, and times.
And first, It is evident, that in the Church of Antioch, together with the elders, which, it appears then it had, Acts xiv. 21, 23, the brethren were admitted into the fellowship of the business, and disquisition made about circumcision: Paul and Barnabas, with the rest of the delegates, then sent, being “brought on their journey by the church,” ver. 3, the letters also being written back from Jerusalem “to the brethren which were at Antioch,” ver. 23, and which is specially to be noted, then, and not before, “delivered when the multitude were come together,” ver. 30. So in the church at Jerusalem the messengers from Antioch were received not only “of the apostles and elders,” but of “the church,” with them, ver. 4. And as the question was propounded so was it discussed before the whole church by “the apostles and’ elders coming together to look unto that business,” ver. 6, yet not so as the brethren were wholly bound to silence, seeing that ver. 11, the whole multitude is said to have, held their peace; that is, to have yielded to Peter's speech, and reasons. Lastly, As “Silas and Judas” were sent with Paul and Barnabas, “by the apostles, and elders, with the whole church,” unto Antioch, ver. 22, so were the letters written back in the name of them all “to the brethren at. Antioch,” ver. 23. And although the decrees to be observed by the churches of the Gentiles, whereof no one, excepting Antioch, had any delegates present, which were also part of the Word of God, and holy canon, could come from none other than the apostles, immediately inspired by the Holy Ghost, they notwithstanding in the publishing of the same, did not disdain the consenting suffrage of the brethren of that particular church of Jerusalem, -where the assembly was.
And surely, if it ever did, or could appertain to any church officers or governors whatsoever to represent the church assemblies, in elections, censures, and other ecclesiastical judgments, and occurrences; then without doubt unto the apostles in an eminent, and peculiar manner, especially living in that rude, and childish state of the church, considering both how superlative their office was, and how admirable their gifts, and endowments of the Holy Ghost, together with their incomparable both piety, and prudence; by which they were both most able, and willing, to promote the Christian faith in holiness. And although this constant and uniform both practice and institution of the apostles unto divers politic persons, swelling with pride of fleshly reason, despising apostolical simplicity, and who, as Ireneus speaks, illegible would be rectifiers of the apostles, seem worthy of light regard, yet to us, who believe with Theodoret, that we “ought to rest in the apostolical and prophetical demonstrations;”; and who, with Tertullian, do adore the fulness of the Scriptures they seem of singular weight and moment.
And whilst I consider with myself, in the fear of God, how it was the apostles’ duty to teach the disciples of Christ “to observe whatsoever he commanded them,” Matt xxviii. 20; and how the apostle Paul testifieth, that even the things which he wrote, touching order and comeliness to be observed in the church exercises, were the commandments of the Lord, 1 Cor. xiv. 37; as also how the same apostle clearly professeth, that he and his fellow-officers were only to be reputed as ministers and ambassadors of Christ, 1 Cor. iv. 1; 2 Cor. v. 20; to whom therefore in the execution of their office, it was not permitted to do, or speak the least thing, which they had not in charge from him; it is unto me a matter of great scruple, and conscience, to depart one hair-breadth, (extraordinary accidents ever excepted) from their practice, and institution, in anything truly ecclesiastical, though neyer so small in itself; —whatsoever, by whomsoever, and with what colour soever is invented, and imposed;—touching the government of the church, which is the “house and tabernacle of the living God.” 2 Tim. iii. 15. And a partner in this faith I do hope to live, and die, and to appear before Jesus Christ, with boldness in that great and fearful day of his coming.
I add, that seeing the Christian congregation, as the spouse of Christ, free and ingenuous, hath the church officers whosoever, as Christ Jesus her husband's, so also her servants for Jesus’ sake, whom, under Christ, she trusteth with her eternal salvation, and unto whom for their labour she oweth wages for relief and maintenance, 2 Cor. iv. 5; 1 Tim. iv. 16; v. 17, 18; considering also how much it makes both to whet on the diligence of the ministers, and to enforce the diligence of the people, whilst these on the one side consider with themselves, how they have them set over them, whom above others themselves have liked, and made choice of; and they on the other side, that they are set over those by whom they before others were made choice of, and elected: that which Cyprian hath, seemeth most equal, and of institution moral, and unchangeable, that “the commonalty fearing God and keeping his commandments, should have the special hand either in choosing of worthy priests, or ministers, or of rejecting the unworthy: which also,” saith he, “we see to be founded upon Divine authority.”
The same is to be held of excommunication. Seeing that it behoveth the Christian multitude to avoid the fellowship of the excommunicated, not only in the course of religion, but even in common and familiar conversation, (the rights of nature, family, and commonwealth ever kept inviolated): and that whom yesterday I was to repute a brother near and dear in Christ, to-morrow I must hold as a “heathen and publican,” and as, “for the destruction of the flesh, delivered to Satan,” Matt. xviii. 17; 1 Cor. v. 5: who is so unequal a judge as not to think it a most equal filing, that the multitude should clearly, and undoubtedly, take knowledge both of the heinousness of the crime, and incorrigible contumacy of the person, after the use of all means and remedies for reclaiming him. This, if it be not done, then doth not the church herein live by her own, but by her officers’ faith, neither are her governors to be reputed as servants, but lords unto her; neither do they exercise their office popularly in the church as they ought, but tyrannically, as they ought not, by Chrysostom's verdict. His words are these: “He who bears himself upon an external and worldly power, because he rules legally, and that men must of necessity obey him, doth ofttimes, and that not without cause, exercise authority against the will, and well-liking of his subjects. But on the other side, he who will be over those, who voluntarily submit unto him, and can him thank, and yet will presume to do things as himself liketh, and as if he were to give account to none other thereof, that man rather exerciseth his authority tyrannically than popularly.”
The Lord God put it into the hearts of those who bear greatest sway in the reformed churches, to endeavour the furnishing of the same with such elders, as may both fully, and constantly, and popularly, discharge their place, for the peace of their own consciences before God, the edification of the churches over which they are set, as also for the abating, if not abolishing, of that contempt in which prelatists and supercilious persons use to hold these lay-elders, as they call them.
But now lest any should take occasion, either by the things here spoken by us, or elsewhere of us, to conceive, that we either exercise amongst ourselves, or would thrust upon others, any popular, or democratical church government; may it please the Christian reader to make estimate of both our judgment and practice in this point, according to these three declarations following.
First, We believe, that the external church government tinder Christ, the only mediator and monarch thereof, is plainly aristocratical, and to be administered by some certain choice men, although the state, which many unskilfully confound with the government, be after a sort popular and democratical. By this it appertains to the people freely to vote in elections and judgments of the church: in respect of the other, we make account it behoves the elders to govern the people, even in their voting, in just liberty, given by Christ whatsoever. 1 Cor. xii. 28; 1 Tim. v. 17; Heb. xiii. 17. Let the elders publicly propound, and order all things in the church, and so give their sentence on them; let them reprove them that sin, convince the gainsayers, comfort the repentant, and so administer all things according to the prescript of God's Word: let the people of faith give their assent to their elders’ holy and lawful administration: that so the ecclesiastical elections and censures may be ratified, and put into solemn execution by the elders, either in the ordination of officers after election, or excommunication of offenders after obstinacy in sin.
2. We doubt not but that the elders both lawfully may, and necessarily ought, and that by virtue of their office, to meet apart at times from the body of the church, to deliberate of such things as concern her welfare, as for the preventing of things unnecessary, so for the preparing, according to just order, of things necessary, so as publicly, and before the people, they may be prosecuted with most conveniency, and least trouble, that may be. Acts xx. 18.
3. By the people whose liberty, and right in voting, we thus avow, and stand for, in matters truly public and ecclesiastical, we do not understand, as it hath pleased some contumeliously to upbraid us, women, and children; but only men, and them grown, and of discretion: making account, that as children by their nonage, so women by their sex are debarred of the use of authority in the church. 1 Cor. xiv. 34, 35; 1 Tim. ii. 12.
OF HOLY DAYS.
It seemeth not without all leaven of superstition, that the Dutch reformed churches do observe certain days consecrated as holy to the nativity, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, and the same also (as it commonly comes to pass where human devices are reared up by the side of Divine institutions) much more holy than the Lord's-day, by him himself appointed.
And for this, first we are taught by Moses, thus speaking unto the people of Israel in the name of the Lord: “Verily, my Sabbaths ye shall keep; for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you,” Exod. xxxi. 13, that it appertains unto God alone (and to no man, or angel) as to sanctify whether person, or thing, so to institute the signs, or means of sanctification, of which number holy days are. I add, if the Lord as Jehovah, and the God of his people Israel, Exod. xx. 8, and supreme lawgiver, do ordain the sanctification of a day in the ‘decalogue, how far should God's servants be, either magistrates from taking this honour of God unto themselves by commanding a holy day; or subjects by observing it, to give the same unto any other save God alone?
2. It was not the least part of Israel's defection, first in the wilderness, afterwards under Jeroboam, that they ordained a feast to Jehovah, whom they represented to themselves by the golden calves which they had made.
3. Seeing that every first day of the week, called by John, the Lord's-day, is consecrated by Christ himself and his apostles to the memorial of Christ's resurrection, and God's solemn worship; it seems too much for any mortal man to appoint, or make an anniversary memorial, and the same most solemn and sacred, of the same resurrection, or so to observe it.
Lastly. That you may see it was a man, from whom this device came, and so erred, as one saith, (not to meddle with the uncertainty either of the day of the month, or month of the year in which Christ was born, as it is most certain on the contrary that this twenty-fifth of December cannot be the time), what good reason, I would know, can be rendered, why a day should be consecrated rather to the birth, circumcision, and ascension of Christ, than to his death, seeing that the Scriptures everywhere do ascribe our redemption and salvation to his death, and passion in special manner?
OF THE CELEBRATION OF MARRIAGE BY THE PASTORS OF THE
sixthly, and lastly. We cannot assent to the received opinion and practice answerable in the reformed churches, by which the pastors thereof do celebrate marriage publicly, and by virtue of their office: because,
- 1.The Holy Scripture divinely inspired, that the man of God, that is the minister, may be perfectly furnished to every good work, doth no where furnish or oblige the minister to this work. 2 Tim. iii. 16, 17.
- 2.Marriage doth, properly and immediately, appertain to the family, which is primarily framed of man and wife, and cities, and other political bodies consisting of many families. Secondarily and immediately, to the common-wealth, and public governors of the same: who, therefore, weighing their office, and what concerneth them do accordingly, in the Low Countries, comelily and in good order tie that knot of that marriage amongst such their subjects, as require it at their hands. Neither did God as a minister join in marriage our first parents, as some would make him, but as their common father by right of creation, and the chief master of the marriage, Gen. i. 27; ii. 22; neither ought the pastor's office to be stretched to any other acts than those of religion, and such as are peculiar to Christians: amongst which marriage, common to Gentiles as well as to them, hath no place.
Lastly. Considering how popish superstition hath so far prevailed, that marriage in the Romish church hath got a room amongst the sacraments, truly and properly so called, and by Christ the Lord instituted; the celebration, and consecration whereof the patrons, and consorts of that superstition will have so tied to the priests’ fingers, that by the decree of Evaristus the First, they account the marriage no better than incestuous, which the priest consecrates not; it the more concerns the reverend brethren, and pastors of the reformed churches to see unto it, that by their practice they neither do, nor seem to advantage this popish error.
And these are the points of our difference from the Belgic churches, which are neither so small, as that they deserve to be neglected; especially of them unto whom nothing seemeth small, which proceeds from the gracious either mouth or Spirit of the Lord Jesus: nor yet so great, as to dissolve the bond of brotherly charity, and communion.
If any now shall object, that there are yet other things beside these, in which we consort not so well with them, nor they with us; as for example:—1. In the sanctification of the Lord's-day, in which we seem even superstitiously rigid. 2. In a certain popular exercise of prophecy amongst us. 3. In our dislike of the public temples, and sundry other indifferent things, as they are termed; besides, that we are accused by some for not having in due estimation the magistrate's authority in matters of religion; I do answer, and first, that in the two first of these, the same churches do not differ from us in judgment, but in practice: as appears evidently by the harmony of the Belgic synods, lately published by S. R. Of the former of those two, the author of the same book, testifieth in his preface to the reader, that the Synod held at Middleburgh in Zealand, 1581, did supplicate unto the magistrate, that by his authority he would decree the sanctification of the Lord's-day, abolishing the manifold abuses thereof. That sanctification then of the Lord's-day which the reformed churches do endeavour unto, and desire to have fortified by the magistrate's authority, that, we, considering it as immediately imposed by Christ upon his churches, by the grace of God, labour to perform, being thereunto induced by the following, amongst other reasons.
OF THE SANCTIFICATION OF THE LORD's DAY.
First, The sanctification of the Sabbath is a part of the decalogue, or moral law, written in tables of stone by the finger of God: of which Christ our Lord pronounceth, that “no one jot or tittle shall pass away.” Matt. v. 18. Now if it be impossible for one tittle of the law to be dissolved, much more for a whole word, or commandment, and one of ten; by which it should come to pass, that Christians now were not to count of ten commandments of the moral law, but of nine only.
If reply be made that the fourth commandment is so ceremonial, that notwithstanding it hath this moral in it, that some time be assigned, and taken for the public ministry, and exercises of religion, I answer:
- 1.That the same may he said in general, of the Mosaical ceremonies whatsoever: all, and every one where of affordeth something moral. For instance, the Mosaical temple, or tabernacle had this moral in it, and pertaining to us, as well as to the Israelites, that it was a fit and convenient place for the church assembly. Is therefore the precept for the tabernacle as well moral, as that for the Sabbath? Exod. xxv. and xxvi. Is it alike a part of the decalogue, and moral law? Is it alike one of the ten commandments? Exod. xx.
- 2.If the moral sanctification of the Sabbath stand in this, that some time be assigned to the public ministry, then were the Israelites, especially the priests, and Levites, bound to an every-day Sabbath and sanctification moral, being bound every day to offer in the tabernacle, and temple, two young lambs, the one at morning, the other at evening for a daily sacrifice. Numb. xxviii. 3, 4.
- 3.If the second precept of the decalogue do in the affirmative part enjoin all outward instituted worship of God; then also by consequence it requires some set time, as a natural circumstance absolutely necessary to every finite action, in which the same worship is to be performed. In vain then is the fourth commandment, and to no purpose, if it enjoin nothing at all, but that which was enjoined before, namely in the second.
- 4.The very essence of the fourth commandment consists in this, that a day of seven be kept holy, that is separated from common use, and consecrated to God, in which as in a holy day the works of Divine worship, and such as serve for the spiritual man ought to be exercised as appears plainly by the reason taken from God's example, upon which, the commandment is founded. Take this away, and the life of the precept seemeth to suffer violence. The truly godly take some time for the exercises of God's worship not only public, and ecclesiastical, hut private also, and domestical: yea in their closets, as Christ teacheth. Matt. vi. 6. Yet are not these either times or places, in which such things are done, than others are. Either therefore a day in itself must be holy, by Divine institution, or the decalogue is maimed in the fourth commandment.
But you will doubtless object the change made from the last day, to the first day of the week. I answer, 1, That change is merely circumstantial, and in which also the essence of the precept is not abolished, but established. As for example. God promised unto children duly honouring their parents a long life in that land, Exod. xx. 12, to wit of Canaan, then to be possessed by his people, “which the Lord thy God gave unto them.” The same promise by the apostle's testimony still stands good to obedient children, Ephes. vi. 2, though out of Canaan, and in another land, so doth the same precept stand in force for the sanctification of the Sabbath, though removed to another of the seven days by the Lord's hand.
2. It is evident that this alteration was made both upon weighty ground, and warrantable authority. The ground is Christ our Saviour's resurrection from the dead: in which man's new creation, (at least in respect of Christ working the same in the state of humiliation for that end undertaken) was perfected: a new kind of kingdom of God, Luke vii. 28, after a sort established: and, as the Scriptures speak, all things made new. And why not also a new Sabbath after a sort? in which yet notwithstanding the former, as the creation also by Christ, is not so properly abolished, as perfected.
The authority upon which this change leaneth, is no less than of Christ himself: who, first, by word of mouth for the forty days after his resurrection, taught the disciples the things, which appertained to the kingdom of God, that is, as Calvin saith, “Whatsoever things they published either by word or writing afterward.” 2. By his example, or fact, setting himself in the midst of the same his apostles, the first day of the week, John xx. 19, 26; Luke xxiv. 36, and as Junius saith, every eighth day, till his ascension into heaven: and therein not only blessing them with his bodily, but much more, with his spiritual, and that special presence. 3. By his Spirit speaking in his apostles, whose office it was to teach his disciples to observe what things soever he had commanded them, and to declare unto them the whole counsel of God: who also in their whole ministration were to be reputed none other than the ministers of Christ; Matt. xxviii. 20; Acts xx. 27; 1 Cor. iv. 1; and lastly, whose both writing (and preachings accordingly) even about order and comeliness to be kept in the church exercises were the commandments of the Lord Jesus. I Cor. xiv. 37. Agreeable hereunto it was, that the Apostle Paul coming to Troas, and there with his company abiding seven days, he did not till the first day of the week, which yet was the last of the seven, call together the disciples to eat bread, that is to communicate in the Lord's Supper. Acts xx. 6, 7. Hereupon also it was, that the same apostle ordained, that on every first day of the week, 1 Cor. xvi. 1, 2, as on a day sanctified for the holy assemblies, and fittest for most effectual provocations to the supplying of the necessities of the poor saints, every one of the richer sort should lay something apart, as God had blessed him, for the relief of the churches in Syria, at that time oppressed with great penury, and want. Lastly, Upon none other ground but this, was this day, by John the Apostle, named expressly the Lord's-day, Rev. i. 10, as being consecrated to the resurrection and service of the Lord Jesus: for which end also it was kept in the primitive churches, as appeareth by most ancient and authentic writers. Neither did Patmos more distinctly denote a certain and known island, and John a certain and known person, than did the Lord's-day a day certain, and known especially unto Christians, unto whom the apostle wrote. Whereunto also agreeth that of Austin. ; This Lord's-day is therefore so called, because on that day the Lord rose again, or that hy the very name it might teach us, how It ought to be consecrated to the Lord.
The second reason is, because the sanctification of the Sabbath, the circumstantial change notwithstanding, doth as well belong to us in our times, as to the Israelites in theirs; whether we respect the reason of the commandment, or the end. The reason is taken from the example of God himself, who rested the seventh day from the works of creation. The ends are, 1. That we framing ourselves to God's example, after six days spent in servile works, or works of acquisition, might rest the seventh. 2. That we might recount with ourselves, not only with thankful, but also composed hearts’, as the creation of man, and of all other things for man's good, so also his re-creation, and renovation clearly shining in the resurrection of Christ from the dead. 1 Pet. i. 3. 3. That sequestring our hearts, tongues, and hands from every servile work, so far as human infirmity will bear, we might consecrate unto God a certain and set time and day, for the works of piety towards him, and of charity towards men. Isa. Iviii. 13. And albeit the state of Israel of old compared with ours, was childish, and elementary, and so needed the more helps both for restraint and supportance, Gal. iv. 1; yet have not we attained to such manlike perfection, as that we need none at all in this kind.
And not to meddle with the rabble of Christians, whose aversion from the due sanctification of this day gives no obscure testimony, that the same is sacred and of God, from which their profane conversation so much abhorreth, how behoveful and necessary it is for the true worshippers of God, that for some certain, and whole day they should empty and disburden their hearts of their earthly cares, though in themselves lawful, that so they might wholly consecrate themselves to God, publicly in his house, and privately in their own; partly by preparing themselves, and theirs for the public worship, and ministry, and partly by calling to mind in themselves, and instructing, and examining of those which belong unto them, as they ought, touching the things which they hava publicly heard; as also in meditating of the most glorious works of God's hands, the very experience of every godly and devout man may teach him. He that sells himself to the holy, and severe observations of this the Lord's sabbath, “turning away his foot from the Sabbath, not to do that wherein he delighteth on the Lord's holy day, and calling the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, and honourable, and shall honour him, not doing his own ways, nor performing his own pleasure, or speaking his own words; then shall he delight himself in the Lord, and he will cause him to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed him with the heritage of Jacob his father, because the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” Isa. lviii. 13, 14. Whereas on the contrary, no man doth or can neglect the same without apparent prejudice and wrong to piety and goodness both in himself, and those under him. To let pass other things, how easily doth this thought steal into the heart not thoroughly persuaded of the holiness of this day? What now! There is in the day no holiness by God's appointment, save only, as in it, the public sermons of the church with prayer and thanksgiving are to be frequented, and performed: for me to be present at every sermon, specially made in city, both on the Lord's-day, and every other day of the week, my special calling, and worldly affairs will not permit: besides, it were very commodious for me on this Lord's-day, to make an end of such or such a work which I have in hand, to deal in such a business, to undertake such a journey; and what should hinder me from so doing? But provided always, upon this condition, that look what this day wants, the morrow, or next day shall plentifully supply: or, if it so fall out, through mine importunate business, that I be something more behind this week in these things, I will certainly, and at the furthest, the next week be so much the more frequent in them, and so make God, and my soul amends. And why, as is the guise of ill debtors, will not men desire, and take longer day, even to months, and years also? considering how on the one side the heart of man is daily faster taken and held by the bait of worldly profit and pleasure: and on the other, less affectioned to God's Holy Word, by the less frequent hearing of it. And hence, alas, cometh it to pass, that true piety languisheth so much in the most, and with it such other Christian virtues as use to accompany it. Hence flow those tears of sorrow, and lamenting, which no true Christian casting his eyes upon the reformed churches can forbear.
The third reason is taken from that apostolical determination, wrested by many to a contrary meaning, Col. ii. 16, 17, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or drink, or in respect of a feast or new moon, or sahbaths; which are the shadow of good things to come, but the body is Christ.” Whence it appeareth more than plainly, that only those Sabbaths are abolished by Christ's coming in the flesh, which were types and figures of Christ to come, of which sort as there were not a few instituted of God by Moses, so doth this apostle here, and elsewhere sufficiently declare the abrogating, and abolishing of the same by Christ. But that the Sabbath of which we now speak comes in that reckoning we plainly deny.
For, 1. In its primary institution, Gen. ii., there can nothing be found not wholly moral. Let a man having many eyes as Argus, search the same with a candle, he seeks, as we say, a knot in a bulrush, if he think to find in it any either shadow of Christ, or shadow of shadow. If any shall except, that God by Moses did enjoin unto the Israelites the sanctification of this day, “that it might be a sign between him and Israel throughout their generations, that they might know that he is the Lord that doth sanctify them.” Exod. xxxi. 13. I do answer, first, in the words of Arminius, that “the reason upon which God did afterwards commend unto his people, the sanctification of the sabbath because it was a sign between God and his people, that it was Jehovah that sanctified them, may be applied to the times of the new testament, and further, with them also, the sabbath's sanctification.” 2. Admit that this use were ceremonial, and typical in the fourth commandment, yet were there no force in the consequence from one end and use typical and ceremonial, superinduced, and brought in upon the precept, to prove the precept itself ceremonial and typical in the institution. By the same reason it may be affirmed, that both the covenant of God made with Abraham, “I will be thy God, and the God of thy seed,” as also the right of the first-born, Gen. xlix. 3; for a double portion, and many things more of like consideration, were merely ceremonial and typical, seeing that even unto them also, were annexed, and that by God's appointment, divers typical and temporal respects: of which notwithstanding none soundly minded will deny, that the one is evangelical, and the other natural. Gal. iii. 8, 16, 17. 3. Considering that the observation of this sabbath was either enjoined, as I persuade myself it was from Gen. ii. 1–3, and Exod. xvi. 26, 30, to Adam, in innocency and not yet needing Christ; or at least, that the reason of the institution did fit the state of innocency as well, as it did the Israelites afterward, I do undoubtedly conclude, that the same Sabbath in the primary, and essential institution thereof is not to come upon their file, which as the shadows of future things had Christ for the body.
Fourthly, I argue from that premonition of Christ, Matt. xxiv. 20, “Pray that your flight be not in winter nor on the Sabbath.” I am not ignorant how the most divines both ancient, and later do understand this sermon, as Chrysostom saith, as made of the Jews; seeing that, as the same author hath it, “neither the apostles did observe the Sabbath-day, neither yet were they in Judea when these things were done of the Romans: many of them having departed this life, and the rest, (if any survived) having bestowed themselves in other places.” But, with due reverence to them all be it spoken, it seemeth by the text to be otherwise. For 1. Christ made not this sermon to the Jews, as Jews, but to his disciples, and those alone, and the same coming unto him secretly to be taught by him: ver. 3; whom he forewarned in the same place how that first at the hands of the Jews in Judea, and after, of the Gentiles everywhere, they should be evil intreated for his name's sake, verses 3, 4, 9, 25, 26, with Luke xxi. 12. Secondly, Our Saviour in saying “Pray ye/’ makes it plain, that he speaks of them, and their associates unto whom he speaks, to wit, Christians. Lastly, How could it be that Christ, who by his death, now drawing so near as that there was but a step unto it, was to abrogate, and abolish all Jewish ceremonies, and shadows, should so carefully provide for the so religious observation of a shadowish and ceremonial Sabbath: and that not for a day or two, but for so many years after the same his death? Could anything more weighty be spoken by Christ, or which could more deeply imprint in the hearts of men a religious regard of the Sabbath, than that it behoved them to obtain by prayer at God's hands, that they might not be constrained unto that thing although, permitted them of God in case of urgent necessity, which might violate and interrupt the public and solemn sanctification thereof ? It is true then which Chrysostom saith, that the apostles did not observe the Sabbath, to wit, Jewish: but the Christian Sabbath, or Lord's-day, they did undoubtedly celebrate.
The fifth and last reason may be fetched from the very Gentiles themselves, who directed by the glimpse of the light of nature, how darkly soever shining in them, had their holy days, and some of the same such, as in which not so much as the pleading and determining of suits were admitted. It seemeth natural that some day, and moral that some day certain and distinct, be sacred unto God: and the same, as Junius saith, every seventh day: in which men forbearing all servile works, may consecrate, and give themselves to God in the duties of piety, and of charity to men. Which with what hinderanee unto the one and other, is everywhere neglected, can scarce either be uttered, or conceived. For what marvel if upon the over-slipping of the most seasonable seed-time, a slender harvest follow; or that, the market day being neglected, penury of provision should be found in the family; we Christians have the Lord's-day by the Lord Christ assigned us for the exercises of piety, and mercy, in which he offers, and exhibits himself in the fruits of his gracious presence in a singular manner to be seen, and enjoyed of his, religiously observing the same. Let us at no hand, as alike unmindful of God's ordinance and man's infirmity, suffer the fruit of such a benefit to die in our hands: but let us accordingly acknowledge the same in thought, word, and work, to his honour, and our own good.
OF THE EXERCISE OF PROPHECY.
There are they, whose names I forbear, for their credit's sake, who have not spared, and that in their public writings, to lay to our charge, that we will needs have all and every member of the church, a prophet, and to prophesy publicly. With what minds they let loose their tongues to utter these, and many more most false and absurd vituperies against us, we leave it to God to judge, who knoweth: with what conscience, and desert of credit therein, unto thee, Christian reader, into whose hands this our Apology shall come.
We learn from the apostle Paul, 1 Cor. xiv. 3, that “he who prophesieth, speaketh unto men to edification, exhortation, and comfort:” which to perform conveniently, and as becomes the church assembly, we make account comes within the compass but of a few of the multitude; happily two or three in each of our churches, considering their weak and depressed state. Touching prophecy then we think the very same, that the synod held at Embden, 1571, hath decreed in these words: “1. In in all churches, whether but springing up, or grown to some ripeness, let the order of prophecy be observed, according to Paul's institution. 2. Into the fellowship of this work are to be admitted not only the ministers, but the teachers too, as also the elders and deacons, yea, even of the multitude, which are willing to confer their gift received of God, to the common utility of the church: but so as they first be allowed by the judgment of the ministers, and others.” And as the apostle sometimes said, “We believe, and therefore we speak,” 2 Cor. iv. 13, so because we believe with the Belgic churches, that this exercise is to be observed in all congregations, therefore we also observe it in ours. Of this our both faith and practice, we have these amongst other special foundations.
The first we fetch from examples in the Jewish church, where liberty both for teaching and disputing publicly both, in the temple and synagogue, was freely given to all gifted accordingly, without respect had to any office. Luke ii. 46, 47; iv. 15, 16; Acts viii, 4, 11, 19–21; xiii. 14–16; xviii. 24–26.
If any object, that the examples of Christ and the apostles in this case, are incompetent, seeing that Christ was furnished with his own, and the apostles with his authority; he allegeth that which is true in itself, but to small purpose, considering we lay not our foundation in this, that Christ and his apostles so did; but in that liberty so to do was always had, in all places granted, and sometimes offered them. This liberty they obtained not by the authority of Christ, which the rulers of the synagogues and temple no more acknowledged than they did Christ himself: but by the order then received, and still continued to this day amongst the Jews, that they whom, with the Scriptures, they call “wise men,” Jer. xviii. 18; Matt.xxiii. 34; 1 Cor. i. 20, without all regard of public office, having any word of exhortation to the people, should “say on,” as we have it written, Acts xiii. 23. Whereunto I add, that divers of them, in whom we instance, were furnished with no such authority specially from Christ.
The second we take from the apostle Paul, 1 Cor. xiv., where to the full he informeth the church at Corinth of the order of that exercise, which they had formerly violated. Which whole order, according to Beza on 1 Cor. xiv., is apparently taken from the received custom in the Jewish synagogues. Which custom, saith Peter Martyr on 1 Cor. xiv. 31, seeing it was of old both good and laudable in the synagogues of the Jews, the apostle disdains not to transfer it to the Church of Christ, of which also he renders this reason, because it was not a legal ceremony, but serves to the edification of the church. If this be so, then must they needs take their marks amiss, who imagine that the apostle in this place speaks of the extraordinary gift and exercise of prophecy. And although it be not like, that the Church of Corinth was, in that so plenteous effusion of the gifts of the Spirit, altogether destitute of extraordinary prophets, yet that the apostle did not in that place aim at them, may be proved by many more, and the same, as I think, firm arguments drawn from the selfsame text. Which that I may do the more commodiously, the prudent reader must call to mind, that upon the foundation of the extraordinary prophets, as well as of the very apostles, the church is built, Eph. ii. 20; and that that mystery of Christ, by the Spirit immediately and infallibly enlightening their mind, was in the same manner, though not in all the same degree, revealed to them, and the other. Eph. iii. 4, 5.
This so considered, 1. It seems altogether improbable, that so many prophets of this rank, although inferior in gifts, should have been found in that one small congregation, as the apostle insinuates, ver. 24, 29, 31, that Corinth had.
2. The prophets in Corinth not only behaved themselves inordinately in the church, but withal, as by interpreters from ver. 29 and 32, is generally delivered, were subject to error in the very doctrine which they propounded; which to affirm of the extraordinary prophets, those skilful master builders, who together with the apostles laid the foundation, together participated the same holy Spirit, seemeth not a little to shake the foundation of the Christian religion. And if one of these extraordinary prophets might err, why not they all? And if the prophets, why not the apostles? And if they might err, how should it appear, that they have not erred? And so by consequence, what either then was, or now is, the firmness and certainty of the Christian faith?
3. Seeing that the apostle, ver. 34, 35, enjoins women deep silence in this church exercise, not permitting them at all to speak; it seems most plain that he hath no eye, nor respect at all, to those extraordinary gifts and endowments of prophecy authorising even women furnished with them, to speak publicly, and in men's presence, as appears in Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Anna, as also even in Jezebel herself in regard of order, and others. Exod. xv. 21; Judges v. 1; 2 Kings xxii. 14; Luke ii. 36; Rev. ii. 20.
Lastly, The apostle, ver. 36, upbraideth those very prophets unto whom he directeth his speech, as such as from whom the Word of God came not: but without cause, yea, not without notable injury, if they were extraordinary prophets, that is, inspired with the Holy Ghost, and his immediate instruments: seeing that from these kind of prophets, as well as from Paul the apostle, the Word of God came, though in a different degree and measure.
The third foundation of this exercise is laid in the manifold, and the same most excellent ends attainable only by this means. 1. That” God may be glorified, whilst every one doth administer to another the gift which he hath received, as good dispensers of the manifold grace of God.” 1 Pet. iv. 10, 11. 2. That” the Spirit be not extinguished,” 1 Thess. v. 19, 20, that is, the gift of prophecy, or teaching; in which it may so come to pass, that some in the church, though no ministers, may excel the very pastors themselves. 3 That such as are to be taken into the ministry of the church, may both become and appear “apt to teach.” 1 Tim. i. 3. This seeing, the apostle would have done, he would questionless have some order for the doing of it; which, excepting this of prophecy, we have none of apostolical institution. 4. That the doctrine of the church may be preserved pure, from the infection of error: which is far more easily corrupted, when some one or two alone in the church speak all, and all the rest have deep and perpetual silence enjoined them. 1 John iv. 1; Rev. ii. 2, 7, with i. 11. 5. That things doubtful arising in teaching may be cleared, things obscure opened, things erroneous convinced; and lastly, that as by the beating together of two stones fire appeareth, so may the light of the truth more clearly shine by disputations, questions, and answers modestly had and made, and as becomes the church of saints, and work of God. Luke ii. 40; iv. 21, 22; Acts xvii. 2; xviii. 24, 26, 28. 6. For the edification of the church, and conversion of them that believe not: and this the rather because it appertaineth not properly to the pastors, as pastors, to turn goats or wolves into sheep, but rather to feed the flock and sheep of Christ, in which the Holy Ghost hath made them overseers. 1 Cor. xiv. 4, 24, 25; Acts xx. 28. 7. And lastly, Lest by excluding the commonalty and multitude from church affairs, the people of God be divided, and charity lessened, and familiarity and good-will be extinguished between the order of ministers and people.
To speak nothing of the office of the Christian magistrate in demolishing the monuments and snares of idolatry, which these temples want not, if themselves be not such, I account that the consideration is one of a temple, as a temple, that is, a holy place, as it is counted of the most, consecrated either to God himself, or to some saint made therein a false god, though being a true saint, whose name it bears; and which for its magnificent building, and superstitious form agrees far better to the Romish religion, pompous and idolatrous as it is, than to the reformed, and apostolical simplicity. And another, and the same far diverse, of a place, although in the house sometimes consecrated for such a temple, partly natural, which is simply necessary to every finite action; partly civil, in which the church may well, and conveniently assemble together. The former use I deem altogether unlawful; the latter not so, but lawful, provided always that the opinion of holiness be removed, and withal such blemishes of superstition, as wherewith things lawful in themselves are usually stained.
OF THINGS INDIFFERENT.
We do so repute many things as indifferent, or mean in themselves and their own nature, and as holding a middle place as it were, between the things simply commanded, and the things simply forbidden of God, as that the same things being once drawn into use, and practice, do necessarily undergo the respect and consideration of good or evil. This the apostle teacheth, 1 Cor. xiv., in his so diligently warning the church of Corinth, that all things be done decently, in order, and to edification. The things then thus accounted indifferent, when they onee come into use in the church, do either work the exercises of’ religion the more comely, orderly, and edificative, and are such as without which, the same exercises cannot be performed but confusedly, uncomelily, and unfruitfully, at least in part, or else they swerve from the apostolical canon. With this commandment of the apostle, yea of Christ the Lord, agrees the rule of the philosophers, the accessory followeth the nature of the principal. For example. Let the principal, as they speak, be some natural good thing, the very least accessory or circumstance, by which this principle is rightly and orderly furthered, and promoted undergoes also the consideration of a natural good. The same rule holds in actions civil: much more in the things, which appertain to religion, and God's worship. I therefore conclude, that the least rite or ceremony serving rightly and orderly to further the principal act and exercise of religion, doth worthily obtain, after a sort, the respect and denomination of a religious, and ecclesiastical good thing: which principal act, if it do not truly and effectually promote and advance, it is a vain addition at the best, beseeming only vain purposes, and persons, which “worship God in vain, teaching for doctrines men's traditions,” Matt. xv. 9: seeing whatsoever is to be done in the church, is also, and first to be taught, that so it may be done.
2. Whatsoever hath being in nature, is some certain thing first, and properly, and to be reduced to some certain and distinct head. Now all things whatsoever in use, either in, or about God's worship, may and must be referred necessarily to some one of these three heads. Either they are things natural, and simply necessary to the exercise; of which sort are the natural circumstances of time, and place, without which no finite action can be performed: also for the administering of baptism, either a font or other vessel to hold water: and so for other adjuncts absolutely necessary for the administering of the holy things of the church: or secondly, they are things civil, and comely: as for example, a convenient place in which the church may conveniently, and comelily meet together, not a stable, or swine-stye, also that habit of the minister, that covering of the Lord's table, those ministering vessels, and other accessories and appurtenances whatsoever, without which the holy things of God cannot be dispensed so civilly, and comely, as is meet. Or lastly, they are properly things sacred, and holy, and by consequence, parts of external Divine worship: and the same either commanded by God, and so lawful, or of man's device, and therefore superstitious.
Now if any shall further ask me, what power then I ascribe either to the civil magistrate, or church-governors for making laws about things indifferent? I answer touching church-governors first, being to treat by and by of the magistrate, that no such power, to speak properly, belongs unto them; as being not lords but servants of the church, under Christ the only Lord thereof: Ezek. xliv. 11; Matt. xx. 25; 2 Cor. iv. 5; 1 Pet. v. 3: exercising, as saith Austin, from Christ and the apostles a ministry, not a lordship: and who therefore are to learn, if they will be content with their scantling, which God hath allowed them, that a weeding-hook better becomes them, than a sceptre as Bernard speaketh. For to make laws by all men's grant, belongs to them, and them only, who do sway sceptres, or are lords at least.
Moreover the Holy Scriptures everywhere teach, that the highest church-officers, and governors are but ambassadors of God, and interpreters, and proclaimers or criers of his Word. But “neither an ambassador, nor interpreter, nor crier, no, nor the herald, the’ most honourable of all proclaimers, or publishers of edicts, can command anything, nor dispose of the least matter by his own authority,” as Junius saith rightly. It is certain, that the governors of churches do stand in need of wisdom and discretion for the applying and determining of the common rules of order and comeliness taken from the Scripture, and common sense, to certain cases, and according to certain circumstances. But what makes this for the power of making laws in the church? which as Mr. Perkins makes account, is a part of Christ's prerogative royal: considering withal, that neither the church, nor the meanest member thereof is further bound unto these their determinations, than they appear to agree with order, and comeliness: neither are the ministers in anything at all, as are the magistrates in many things, to be obeyed for the authority of the commander, but for the reason of the commandment, which the ministers are also bound in duty to manifest, and approve unto the consciences of them over whom they are set.
OF CIVIL MAGISTRATES.
We believe the very same, touching the civil magistrate, with the Belgic reformed churches, and willingly subscribe to their confession; and the more, because what is by many restrained to the Christian magistrate, they extend indefinitely and absolutely to the magistrate whomsoever. And that surely upon good ground: seeing the magistracy is one, and the power the same, whether the person be Christian or heathen; neither is there wanting in an heathen magistrate, that he might rule as he ought, authority of order, but will of person: neither is his power increased by the accession of Christianity, but only sanctified, as is first his person. The prince rules over his subjects as he is a prince, and they subjects simply, not as faithful or Christian, he or they. Only Christ, the Lord of our faith, hath the faithful, as faithful, for his subjects: “neither are the subjects of kings, as subjects, any part of the church, but of the kingdom.”
Besides, there is one and the same Christian faith of the prince and subject, and all things common unto both, which spring from the same; seeing that in Christ Jesus there is neither servant nor freeman: I add, neither magistrate nor subject, but all are one in him. As therefore none, no, not the least power of public administration comes to the subjects by their Christianity, so neither is the prince's thereby at all increased. And, indeed, how can it? The magistrate, though a heathen, hath power as the minister of God for the good of his subjects, Rom. xiii. 4, to command and procure in and by good and lawful manner and means, whatsoever appertains either to their natural or spiritual life, so the same be not contrary to God's Word: upon which Word of God if it beat, God forbid that the Christian magistrate should take liberty to use, or rather abuse, his authority for the same; which yet if he do either the one or the other, whether by commanding what God forbids, or by forbidding what God commands, seeing it comes by the fault of the person, not of the office, the subject is not freed from the bond of allegiance, but is still tied to obedience as active for the doing of the thing commanded, if it be lawful; so passive, if unlawful, by suffering patiently the punishment, though unjustly inflicted.
Lastly, If any civil and coactive power in things, whether civil or ecclesiastical, come to the magistrate by his Christianity, then if it so fall out that he make defection from the same, whether by idolatry, or heresy, or profaneness, it must follow that thereupon his kingly power is diminished and abridged; whereby how wide a window, or gate rather, would be opened to seditious subjects, under pretext of (specially catholic) religion, to raise tumults in kingdoms, no man can be ignorant.
OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND,
There remains one, and that a great matter of exception against us, and the same the fountain well-nigh of all our calamity: to wit, that we seem evil affected towards the Church of England, and so averse from the same, as that we do no less than make a plain secession and separation from it.
I answer, first, That our faith is not negative, as papists used to object to the evangelical churches; nor which consists in the condemning of others, and wiping their names out of the bead-roll of churches, but in the edifying of ourselves; neither require we of any of ours, in the confession of their faith, that they either renounce, or, in one word, contest with the Church of England, whatsoever the world clamours of us this way. Our faith is founded upon the writings of the prophets and apostles, in which no mention of the Church of England is made. We deem it oar duty what is found in them to “believe, with the heart to righteousness, and to confess with the tongue to salvation.” Rom. x. 10.
Secondly, We accord, as far as the Belgic and other reformed churches, with the Church of England in the Articles of Faith and heads of Christian religion, published in the name of that church, and to be found in the “Harmony of the Confessions of Faith.”
Thirdly, If by the church be understood the catholic church, dispersed upon the face of the whole earth, we do willingly acknowledge that a singular part thereof, and the same visible and conspicuous, is to be found in the land, and with it do profess and practise, what in us lays, communion in all things, in themselves lawful and done in right order.
But and if by the word church be understood a spiritual politic body, such as was in her time the Church of Israel; and in hers the Church of Rome, Corinth, the seven Churches of Asia, and others, with them, partaking of the same apostolical constitution, and as unto which do appertain the oracles of God, sacraments, censures, government, and ministry ecclesiastical, with other sacred institutions of Christ; I cannot but confess and profess, though with great grief, that it is to us a matter of scruple, which we cannot overcome, to give that honour unto it which is due from the servants of Christ to the Church of Christ, rightly collected and constituted.
And, that there may be place left in the eyes of the prudent reader for our defence in this case, so far forth as equity and reason will permit, he must once and again be entreated by me, seriously to weigh with himself, and in his heart, this one advertisement following.
That a man may do a thing truly pleasing, and acceptable to God, it sufficeth not, that both the doer in his person be accepted of God, the thing done commanded by God, and that he do it with good and holy affection before God, except withal, and first, he be possessed of that state and condition of life, which may afford him a lawful calling to that work. That a man, though never so good, with never so good a mind, should exercise the office, or do (though the best) works of a magistrate, father of family, husband, steward, citizen, or messenger, except he were first lawfully called, and preferred to the state of a magistrate, master of family, husband, or the like; so far were he from deserving any praise for so doing, as on the contrary he most justly incurred the censure of great rashness, and violation of all order in family and commonwealth; as “taking unto himself that honour, unto which he was not called of God.” Heb. v. 4. The same holdeth, and that specially in course of religion, which is the special state of man's life: so as if any either as a pastor dispense the holy things of the ministerial church, without a lawful pastoral calling going before; or participate in the same, out of a just and lawful church-state; neither that dispensation, nor this participation can be warranted, but both the one and other are usurpations, and in which is seen not the use, but abuse of holy things, and confusion of order. And as it behoveth every person first to believe, and know, that he is truly a Christian, and partaker of the grace of Christ, before he can hope to please God in the performance of this or that particular Christian work; so doth it also concern every Christian to provide, that he be first possessed of a just and lawful church order, before he so much as touch with his least finger the holy things of the church thereunto proper and peculiar. Proper, I say, and peculiar, amongst which I do not simply reckon the hearing of the Word, which both lawfully may, and necessarily ought to be done, not only of Christians, though members of no particular church, but even of infidels, profane persons, excommunicates, and any others: as being that in which no communion spiritually passeth, either ecclesiastical or personal, between the teacher and hearer, but according to some union, ecclesiastical or personal, going before: seeing that Christian faith comes by hearing the gospel, by faith, union, and from union, communion.
This thus premised, I will speak a few things of the Church of England; not by way of accusation of it, but for our own purgation in the eyes of the godly and equal reader, of the imputed crime of schism, so far as truth and equity will bear.
And first, seeing that the people of God are materially, as they speak, the church of God, it is required to the constitution of a holy church of God, that the people be holy, or saints, and sanctified in Christ Jesus, Rom. i. 7; 1 Cor. i. 2; 2 Cor. i. 1: truly and internally in regard of God, and their own consciences; externally and in appearance in respect of others, whom it concerns to discern and judge of them, according to the Word of God and rule of charity. And considering that our question is about the church external, and visible, as it is called, we are not so fond, or rather frantic, as to require, in respect of others, other holiness in the members thereof, than that which is visible and external.
Now how marvellous a thing is it, and lamentable withal, that amongst Christians, any should be found so far at odds with Christian holiness, as to think that others than apparently holy at the least, deserved admittance into the fellowship of Christ's church, and therewith of Christ! Do, or can the gracious promises of God made to the church, the heavenly blessings due to the church, the seals of Divine grace given to the church, appertain to others than such? Are others to be admitted into the family of God, the kingdom of Christ, and as it were the suburbs of heaven? The church of God is by him called, and destinated to advance his glory in the holiness of their lives, and conversations; what then have those to do with it, or it with those, who, as Calvin saith, in 1 Cor. v., live not bat with God's dishonour? For they, as the same author, on Rom. ii. 24, both truly and holily affirmeth, who are called, and accounted the people of God, to bear as it were in their foreheads, Rev. vii. 3, the name of God, whereupon it cannot but come to pass, that before men, even God himself, after a sort should be stained with their filth. And this I deem the rather to be observed, seeing that there are to be found, and these not a few, who would thrust upon the churches of our thrice holy Lord, a very stage-like holiness: stoutly striving to make it good, that to constitute a true and lawful member of the visible church, no more is required, than that a man with his mouth confess Christ, although in his works he plainly declare himself to be of the synagogue of Satan. But what saith the Holy Spirit of these impure spirits? “They profess they know God,” saith the apostle, “but in their works they deny him, being abominable, and rebellious, and to every good work reprobate.” Tit. i. 16. Are abominable persons to be brought into the temple of God? rebellious persons into the kingdom of God? such as are reprobate unto every good work into the family of God, which is as it were the storehouse of all good works? “If any one that is called a brother, be a fornicator, or covetous, or idolater, or railer, or drunkard, or extortioner,” 1 Cor. v. 11, or any way a wicked one, such a one by the apostle's direction, is to be expelled, and driven out of the church's confines. And seeing that, as one truly saith, “It is a matter of greater contumely to thrust out, than to keep out a guest,” with what conscience can such plagues be received into the church, to the purging out whereof the same church, furnished for that end with the power of Christ, stands in conscience bound? or by what authority, I pray, can such persons be compelled into the bosom of the spouse of Christ, as for the expelling of whom far from her fellowship, and in embracing all authority ought to conspire? “He that saith he hath fellowship with God, and walks in darkness, is a liar, and doth not truly.” 1 John i. 6. Profession of Christ therefore with the mouth, in those that work the works of darkness, and so by consequence, that by which a man is rather branded for a natural child of the devil, John viii. 44, than marked for a true member of the church. Lastly, David, that holy man of God, and type of Christ, doth holily profess, that “he who works deceit, shall not continue in his house,” Psa. ci. 7. And shall the workers of deceit, and of all wickedness, not only be admitted, but even constrained into the house of the living God, which the church is? “O Jehovah, holiness becometh thine house to length of days.” Psa. xciii. 5. Which notwithstanding (a sickness desperate of all remedy) that so it stands with the Church of England, no man to whom England is known, can be ignorant: seeing that all the natives there, and subjects of die kingdom, although never such strangers from all show of true piety, and goodness, and fraught never so full with many most heinous impieties and vices (of which rank, whether there be not an infinite, and far the greater number, I would to God it could with any reason be doubted,) are without difference compelled and enforced by most severe laws, civil and ecclesiastical, into the body of that church. And of this confused heap, a few, compared with the rest, godly persons mingled among, is that national church, commonly called the Church of England, collected and framed. And such is the material constitution of that church. But if now you demand of me, how it is formally constituted; and whether upon profession of faith and repentance, in word at least, made by them of years, any combination and consociation of the members into particular congregations, (which consociation doth formally constitute the ministerial church, and members thereof, as both the Scriptures and reason manifest) either is, or hath been made, since the universal and antichristian apostacy and defection in popery? Nothing less; but only by their parish perambulation, as they call it, and standing of the houses in which they dwell. Every subject of the kingdom dwelling in this or that parish, whether in city, or country, whether in his own or other man's house, is thereby, ipso facto, made legally a member of the same parish in which that house is situated: and bound, will he, nill he, fit, or unfit, as with iron bonds, and all his with him, to participate in all holy things, and some unholy also, in that same parish church.
If any object, that yet the minister of the parish may suspend from the Supper of the Lord flagitious persons, and so by complaint made to Mr. Chancellor, or Mr. Official, procure their excommunication; to let pass, that this is merely a matter of form for the most part, and a remedy as ill as the disease, I do answer, that even by this is proved undeniably that which I intend: viz. that all these parishioners before mentioned, are not without, but within, and members of the church (and the same as before constituted) whom she judgeth, 1 Cor. v. 12, 13.
There is besides these a third evil in the way, and the same as predominant, and overtopping all other things in that church, as was Saul higher than all the rest of the people: and with whose Rehoboam-like finger we miserable men are pressed and oppressed: and that is, the hierarchical church-government in the hands of the lord bishops and their substitutes: the very same with that of Rome, the pope the head only cut off, upon whose shoulders also many, though not without notable injury, would place the supreme magistrate, and administered by the self-same canon law.
Now this vast and insatiable hierarchical gulf, swallowing up and devouring the whole order, and use of the presbytery, and therewith the people's liberty, and withal, by Mr. Parker's testimony, with whom “a bishop in England is the pastor of the whole diocese, and the priests or ministers, only his delegates and helpers,” the very office of the pastors themselves, as did the seven lean and evil-favoured kine the seven fat, and the seven wizened ears the seven full that went before them, Gen. xli. 20, 24; and so by consequence, not being of Christ the Lord, but of him rather, who opposeth and advanceth himself against whatsoever is called God, or is worshipped; 2 Thes. ii. 4; so as lie sits in the temple of God, as God, (for unto God alone dwelling in his temple it appertains to appoint the offices of the ministers, 1 Chron. xxix. 11–13, 19; and to prescribe the people's bonds) our hands are bound by that supreme, and sole authority of Jesus Christ in his churches, upon which both the order of presbytery, and liberty of people, and office of pastor are founded, and from whom as the one only Lord, 1 Cor. v. 4, all ecclesiastical power floweth, and by whom all ministries, 1 Cor. xii. 5, 28, are instituted, from giving any the least honour or obedience to the same hierarchical exaltation in itself, or its subordinates, which, as philosophy teacheth, are one with it.
Wherein yet I would not so be understood, as if we were at any defiance with the persons of the bishops, much less with the king's civil authority whereof they are possessed, whether in matters civil or ecclesiastical. Of their persons, their own lords shall judge, to whom they stand or fall. Rom. xiv. 4. There have been of that rank, who in our Marian days have preferred the profession of the truth of the gospel before their lives: I hope there are also of their successors, who, if pressed with the same necessity (which God forbid) would give the same testimony, though at the same rate, unto the same truth of God revealed unto them.
Now as concerning their civil authority; albeit we do not believe, that the same is at all competent to the true ministers of the gospel, especially in that emineny, external glory, and pomp of this world, in which they far exceed many worldly princes, and rather seem to represent the triumphant, than the militant church; yet forsomuch as they both obtain the same, by the gift of the king, and exercise it in his name, we do not unwillingly yield honour and obedience unto it, and to his majesty in it.
But, whereas, it seems unto many, plain and evident, that we may adjoin ourselves to the Church of England without any subjection, or relation unto the spiritual government, and governors thereof; that is altogether beyond our capacities: neither can we comprehend it, how it may be that he who subjects and joins himself to any public and politic body, or community, whether spiritual or civil, becomes not in so doing, ipso facto, subject to the public government, and governors thereof, and undergoes not a relation and respect actually unto them. They rather are, with all seriousness, to consider, how faithfully and sincerely they quit themselves and their consciences before God and men, who contending, and proving in and by so many words and arguments, that the hierarchical government is papal and antichristian, do nevertheless submit themselves thereunto both in the respect, and relation political formerly mentioned, and also in acts properly ecclesiastical, into which the ecclesiastical government, and spiritual policy of the church doth necessarily diffuse itself. Now I do earnestly entreat thee, whosoever thou art, acquainted with Belgic, or rather Christian liberty, and either free from the mists of prejudice, or if any way prejudiced, “yet not choosing rather to serve a preconceived opinion, than to follow an apparent truth,” that thou wouldest truly and ingenuously tell, whether if the magistrates here (from which they are far) should by public edict, under severe penalty constrain all and every the native subjects of the country into the bosom of the church, without any difference made, either in respect of faith or manners, according to the place of their habitation; and should set over this church so collected and constituted, an hierarchical bishop provincial or diocesan, in whose hands alone, with his officials, chancellors, commissaries, archdeacons, and other court-keepers, canonical authority should be placed, to constitute and depose ministers, excommunicate and absolve both ministers and people, yea, whole churches (yea, with the living, the dead that they may obtain Christian burial): whether now in this confused heap, and under this spiritual lordship, thou wouldst endure to remain either pastor or member. I suppose not. You, brethren, have not so learned Christ; whom you acknowledge both for the author of your faith, and instituter of your order ecclesiastical. Col. ii. 5. Neither yet we, having learned otherwise by the grace of God. Christ the king doth gather and form unto himself another kind of kingdom amongst men, and the same to be administered by other officers, and according to other laws. And if no place upon the face of the earth should be free for us, poor creatures, refusing upon mere conscience of God, as thou God the judge and searcher of hearts knowest! to commingle, and prostitute ourselves in and unto this confusion and domination hierarchical, we have most assured hope, that heaven itself is open for us by Christ, who is the way, and whom in this duty also we do serve, in which we shall, at the length, be fully free from this, and all other incumbrances.
Our adversaries bear in hand not only others, but even us ourselves also, that we do for certain trifling matters, and as they speak, circumstantial corruptions, sequester ourselves from the Church of England. And as nurses use to lisp with children, so they, that they might descend to our capacities, do oft and much instruct us, that unworthy members must be born in the church, especially of private persons; that some corruptions at least in the discipline and external rites, are to be tolerated; that there may be the temple of God, though profaned; the holy city though without a wall; the field of the Lord, though the enemy sow tares amongst the wheat; also a heap of wheat, though much chaff commingled therewithal. And that we, dul-bayards as we are, may at the length conceive those things, they very seriously inculcate and whet upon us in these and the like considerations: as that the Israelitish church in its time was stained with almost all enormities, both for manners and faith: that into the same all Israelites and Jews whatsoever without difference, were violently compelled by King Josiah and others; as also, that in the parable, all were compelled to come to the marriage, good and bad, that the house might be filled. Lastly, that in the apostolic churches themselves, there were not wanting some who practised, and others who taught vile, and evil things: that in one place the discipline was neglected, in another the very doctrine of faith corrupted, and many the like matters, which it were too long to repeat.
Surely, foolish were we if we knew not these things, impudent, if we denied them to be true for the most part; and lastly, unequal, if we acknowledged not, that many the same, or like blemishes after a sort, will, and do creep into the churches of our days: which yet to disclaim as unlawful for the same, stood neither with wisdom, nor charity. But the prudent reader may plainly observe by the premises, that they are other matters, and of greater weight, for the most part, wherewith we, and our consciences are pressed.
We do not judge it an evil intolerable, though greatly to be bewailed, that evil men should be suffered in the church; but that all of most vile, and desperate condition, that such, and so great a kingdom affords, should thereinto, will they, nill they, be compelled: nor that the discipline, as they call it, or ecclesiastical government instituted by Christ, is neglected or violated, but that another plain contrary unto it is set up by law, and fully and publicly everywhere exercised. Neither lies our exception against any personal, or accidentary profanation of the temple, but against the faulty frame of it, in respect of the causes constitutive, matter and form. Neither strive we about the walls of the city, but about the true and lawful citizens, the policy and government of the city of God, and essential administration of the same.
But to give more full satisfaction to the indifferent reader, it seems worth the labour to descend particularly to a few, and the same the chiefest objections made on the contrary behalf. And of them, that which may and ought to be said touching the church of Israel, and its condition compared with the Christian churches seems to deserve the first place. And touching it; first, the constitution of the church of Israel is not to be considered in that whole, much less apostatical nation, but in holy Abraham, from whom it came, and in whom it was holy, as the lump in the first fruits, and the branches in the holy root, Rom. xi. 16: and that by virtue of the gracious covenant, “I will be thy God, and the God of thy seed,” Gen. xvii. 7, first contracted with Abraham himself, and after renewed with his seed, whole Israel. But now to affirm any such thing of the whole English nation were foolish; to prove it impossible.
2. God doth not now-a-days select and sever from others as his peculiar, any whole nation or people, as sometimes he did the people of Israel, both ecclesiastically and civilly, Exod. xix. 6; Lev. xx. 85: “but in every nation, they who fear God, and work righteousness are accepted of him.” Acts x. 35. These, in what nation soever combining together in holy covenant, and worshipping God after the prescript of his Holy Word are that holy nation, the commonwealth of Israel, the Israel of God, the temple and tabernacle of the living God, in which he hath promised to dwell: these he would have scattered in all places of the world, and to hold intercourse with the men of the world in the common affairs of this life, 1 Cor. v. 10, for their gaining if it may be unto Christ: “God adding daily unto the church such as should be saved.” Acts ii. 42. Whereas on the contrary, unto the Church of England, whereof all natural English are together, and at once made members, it can hardly be, if at all, that any at any time should be added.
3. The very land of Canaan was legally holy, and the land of the Lord's inheritance, and whose fruit was to be circumcised, and her sabbaths kept, by the Lord's appointment, Amos vii. 17; Josh. xxii. 22; Lev. xix. 23, 25: and in which alone by Divine right tithes were to be paid. Gen. xiv.20; xxviii. 23; Lev. xxvii. 30. And as holy things are not to be mingled with, or prostituted unto profane, so neither was any place in this land to be permitted unto profane persons to dwell in. The seven profane nations, which formerly had inhabited it, were altogether to be destroyed by the Israelites being to possess it for their inheritance, neither was mercy to be showed them. After, if any, whether born in the land, or strangers, did aught with an high hand, he was to be cut off from among his people. Deut.vii.1,2; Numb. xv. 13. Herewith accords that of David the king, “I will betime destroy all the wicked of the land.” Psa. ci. 8. Lastly, He that did not seek the Lord God of Israel with all his heart, was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. 2 Chron. xv. 12,13. Far be it from godly princes, and other potentates in the world, to think, that it behoveth them in this rigorous manner to deal with their subjects: although there want not, who partly from a preposterous, and Judaizing zeal, and partly to serve their own ambition, cease not to inculcate unto the kings of the earth, above that is meet, the examples of the kings of Judah.
4. It is not true that the kings of Judah or Israel did constrain any into the church by force, or compel them to undergo the condition of members, but only being members, to do their duty. All the Israelites and posterity of Jacob, had their part in the Lord's covenant: unto which also they were bound to stand under peril of cutting off from the Lord's people, both spiritually and bodily, according to the dispensation of the old testament in the land of Canaan. But of this our question is not for the present: That neither is to be considered, whether king David, Solomon, Jehoshaphat and others did force circumcision, and other Mosaical institutions upon the Edomites, Ammonites, and others by them subdued, and held in civil subjection; or whether they compelled them by co-active laws, would they, nould they, fit or unfit into the church of God. That this was so, cannot be affirmed with modesty: which yet except it so were, hath nothing in it, which either can hurt our cause, or help our adversaries.
Lastly, He who well weigheth with himself what legal and typical holiness was in use of old in Israel, shadowing out the true and spiritual holiness; and withal by how much, both the more clear revelation of heavenly things, and more plenteous grace of the Spirit is afforded to the churches since Christ, than was formerly to Israel, he shall see many things making for the tolerating of much in Israel; which, in us is plainly intolerable: and that God will not use that patience and long-suffering towards any church now, Rev. ii. 5; iii. 16, nor permit, or wink at those things in it, which for the hardness of their hearts, he bore in that ancient people.
The parable of the tares, Matt. xiii., followeth; with which as with some thunderbolt, men both learned and unlearned think us beaten all to fritters.
But first, these words, “Let both grow together till the harvest,” ver. 30, (from which alone they do dispute) Christ the Lord doth not expound nor meddle with, in the opening of the parable: from them therefore nothing firm can be concluded. 2. Christ himself interprets the field, not the church, but the world, ver. 38, as also the harvest not the end of the church, but of the world, ver. 39. And if by the world, you understand the church, you must needs say, that Christ hi the expounding of one parable, used another. 3. Both the text itself, ver. 28–31, and reason of the thing do plainly teach that he doth not speak at all of excommunication, which serves for the bettering of the tares, but of their final rooting up to perdition. Lastly, Admit Christ spake of men apparently wicked in the church, either not to be excommunicated in certain cases, which with Gellius Snecanus I confidently deny, or not excommunicated as they ought to be, and therefore to be born of private members; the former of which is too ordinary, especially in churches enjoying peace and prosperity: the latter of which, the church not being desperately bent on evil, I easily assent to, yet doth this place afford no medicine for our grief; which ariseth not from any corrupt or negligent administration of the church's discipline, through the carelessness or want of wisdom, it may be too much wisdom such as it is, of the administrators thereof, which are personal things; but from the very constitution of the church itself, and subject of ecclesiastical both government and power. Yea, I add unto all these things, that we for our parts are willing in the business, and controversy in hand to appeal unto the tribunal of this very parable, and that expounded by our adversaries themselves, and do willingly condescend, that by it alone judgment be given on this matter.
Our Saviour Christ doth plainly teach, that this field was sown with good seed alone; and that after, “whilst men slept, the enemy, the devil, came and sowed tares amongst the wheat.” But on the contrary, in the sowing the English field, whether we respect the national or parochial churches, together with the wheat, the tares, and that exceeding the other infinitely, were at first, and yet are sown, and that of purpose and under most severe penalties. And hence is the first and principal prejudice to our English harvest, and from which I conceive all the rest to come. For unto this church, thus clapped and clouted together of all persons, of all sorts, and spirits without difference, no man equally and prudently weighing things, can deny, but that the pompous and imperious hierarchical government, together with all its accessories, doth right well accord.
To the things objected, from the parable of the marriage, Luke xiv. and Matt. xxii., I only answer, that those servants were the prophets and apostles; the son, Christ himself; the compulsion to be made, no otherwise than by the preaching of the Word: “by which,” as Calvin hath it, on Matt. xxii. 9, “God doth importunately solicit our slothfulness, not only pricking us with exhortations, but compelling us with threatenings to come unto him:” which Word of God, as it is by some wholly contemned, so doth it extort from others only an external and hypocritical obedience; but by many is received, through the blessing of God, with all holy and devout affection.
Now unto these parables of Christ many are wont, and that very busily, to annex one of their own. A heap, say they, of wheat, although it have much chaff mixed with it, and the same more in quantity than the wheat is, remains notwithstanding truly, and is rightly termed, a heap of wheat; according to the philosophers’ rule,—The denomination is not of the greater but better part.
I answer, first, that this axiom is not simply true: for if in the church, or any other convention popular, or in which things pass by voices, the greater part happen to exceed the better, the denomination of that passage or decree, and so the whole process of the matter, is according to the greater, though the worser part.
Second. The chaff in that wheat is either of the same wheat or of other, and brought from elsewhere; if of that same, then it makes nothing to the present purpose, since wicked men appertain not to the persons of the godly, nor are their chaff; if of other, and from elsewhere, it may easily be added in that quantity and proportion, as that neither it may deserve the name of a heap of wheat, but of chaff; nor he that sells it for wheat, of an honest merchant, but of a deceitful impostor.
Third. The things objected for the apostolical churches, are altogether personal and accidental; from which that the churches gathered of men, and by men governed, should be exempted, is rather to be desired than hoped for. But for us, the things which most afflict us in the Church of England, and press us in the respect fore-mentioned to a secession, from the same, do concern the very material and formal constitution of the ministerial church, together with the essential administration of the church policy. And how different these things are, who seeth not?
Lastly, It is objected, that in the Church of England lively faith, and true piety, are both begotten and nourished, in the hearts of many, by the preaching of the gospel ‘there. God forbid! that we should not acknowledge that, and withal that infinite thanks for the same are due to God's great power and goodness, both in respect of ourselves and others; who, notwithstanding the great confusion both of persons and things, there to be found, vouhsafeth to his elect so plentiful grace; covering under the veil of his superabundant goodness and mercy, by their sincere faith in Christ Jesus, their sins and aberrations, whether of ignorance or infirmity. What, then, must be done? Should we continue in sin, that grace might abound? or, shall we against knowledge go on to walk inordinately, because in our ignorance God hath vouchsafed us of his grace in that disordered state of things? without the ministerial church, of which we speak, the preaching of the gospel both may, and useth to be had, and by it faith to be ingenerated, except Christian churches be to be gathered of infidels and unbelievers. Besides, what Minos, or Rhadamant will deny, that even in the bosom of the Romish church some faithful persons may be found? how much more in that of England, in which the main truths of the gospel, the most and greatest errors of popery being banished, are taught by so many godly and learned men, with such zeal and earnestness? Now what of these things? Is it therefore lawful for a Christian, either to content himself with himself, without joining to any Christian congregation; or to continue still in the bosom of the Church of Rome, as a member under the Pope, the head? I therefore conclude out of Mr. Brightman, on Rev. ii. 20, whose words I had rather use than mine own, speaking of the government and ministry of the Church of England, “The fruit,” to wit, of the word preached, “doth no more exempt from blame our corruptions, than a true child doth adultery.”
And here thou hast, Christian reader, the whole order of our conversation in the work of Christian religion, set down both as briefly and plainly as I could. If in any thing we err, advertise us brotherly, with desire of our information, and not, as our countrymen's manner for the most part is, with a mind of reproaching us, or gratifying of others: and whom thou findest in error, thou shalt not leave in obstinacy, nor as having a mind prone, to schism. Err we may, alas! too easily: but heretics, by the grace of God, we will not be. But and if the things which we do, seem right in thine eyes, as to us certainly they do, I do earnestly, and by the Lord Jesus admonish and exhort thy godly mind, that thou wilt neither withhold thy due obedience from his truth, nor just succour from thy distressed brethren. Neither do thou endure, that either the smallness of the number, or meanness of the condition of those that profess it, should prejudice with thee the profession of the truth: but have in mind that of Tertullian, “Do we measure men's faith by their persons, or their persons by their faith?” as also that of Austin, “Let matter weigh with matter, and cause with cause, and reason with reason:” but especially that of the apostle, “My brethren, have not the faith of our glorious Lord Jesus Christ in respect of persons.” James ii. 1. But now, if it so come to pass, which God forbid, that the most being either forestalled by prejudice, or by prosperity made secure, there be few found, especially men of learning, who will so far vouchsafe to stoop, as to look upon so despised creatures, and their cause; this alone remaineth, that we turn our faces and mouths unto thee O most powerful Lord, and gracious Father, humbly imploring help from God towards those who are by men left desolate. There is with thee no respect of persons, neither are men less regarders of thee if regarders of thee for the world's disregarding them. They who truly fear thee, and work righteousness, although constrained to live by leave in a foreign land, exiled from country, spoiled of goods, destitute of friends, few in number, and mean hi condition, are for all that unto thee (O gracious God) nothing the less acceptable. Thou numberest all their wanderings, and puttest their tears into thy bottles. Are they not written in thy book? Towards thee, O Lord, are our eyes; confirm our hearts, and bend thine ear, and suffer not our feet to slip, or our face to be ashamed, O thou both just and merciful God. To him through Christ be praise, for ever, in the church of saints; and to thee, loving and Christian reader, grace, peace, and eternal happiness. Amen.