1. That the Affection and esteem we ought to have for our Religion does not consist in damning all to the pit of Hell that are not of it. 2. The unseasonable inculcation of this Principle to Christians. 3. That it is better becoming the Spirit of a Christian to allow what is good and commendable in other Religions, then so foully to reproach them. 4. What are the due demonstrations of our Affection to the Gospel of Christ. 5. How small a part of the World is styled Christians, and how few real Christians in that part that is so styled. 6. That there has been some unskilfull or treacherous tampering with the powerfull Engine of the Gospel, that it has done so little execution hitherto against the Kingdome of the Devil. 7. The Author's purpose of bringing into view the main Impediments of the due Effects thereof.
1. THE Fourth and last Derivative Property of the Mystery of Godliness, which arises from the Usefullness thereof, and that great concernment it is of in relation not only to this present and transitory, but that future and everlasting Happiness of mankind, is that Appretiation and high Value it deservedly wins or should win from us. Which is not to be expressed, as usually is done, by vilifying and reproaching all other Religions, in damning the very best and most consciencious Turks, Jews and Pagans to the pit of Hell, and then to double lock the door upon them, or to stand there to watch with long poles to beat them down again, if any of them should offer to emerge and endeavour to crawl out. This Fervour is but a false zeal and of no service to the Gospel, To make it impossible to all men to scape Hell, that are not born under or visibly converted to Christianity, when they never had the opportunity to hear the true sound thereof. For if Providence be represented so severe and arbitrarious, it will rather beget a misbelief of all Religions then advance our own, especially with all free and intelligent Spirits.
2. And what need they tell such sad stories to them that hear the Gospel concerning them that hear it not, nor ever were in a capacity of hearing it? it touches not them, but disturbs these that hear it, and makes Divine Providence more unintelligible then before. Were it not sufficient for their Auditors to understand, That they that doe hear the Gospel and yet refuse it, that they are indeed in a damnable condition, the belief thereof being the very Touchstone of Salvation to them that it is offered to? But if they will be curious, (which is no commendable quality,) they can onely adde, That none shall be saved but by virtue of that Truth which is comprehended in the Gospel, that is, before they come under that one Head of the Church, which is Christ <491> Jesus; there being no other Name under the Heavens whereby we can be saved, as the Apostle has declared. But how the consciencious Jews, Pagans and Turks, that seemed not to die Christians, may be gathered to this Head, it will be a becoming piece of Modesty in us to profess our Ignorance.
3. Certainly it were far better and more becoming the Spirit of the Gospel, to admit and commend what is laudable and praise-worthy in either Judaisme, Turcisme or Paganisme, and with kindness and compassion to tell them wherein they are mistaken, and wherein they fall short; then to fly in their faces and to exprobrate to them the most consummate wickedness that humane nature is lapsable into in matters of Religion, and thus from an immoderate depression of all other Religions to magnifie a mans own. Which is as ridiculous a Scheme of Rhetorick, in my apprehension, as if one should compare Solomon with all the natural fools in the world, and then vaunt how exceeding much he out-stripped them all in Wisdom; or Helena with all the ugly deformed Females that ever were, and so argue the excellency of her Beauty, because she so far surpassed these mishapen wretches: which in my judgment is a very small commendation.
4. But such demonstrations of our affections as these are very sorry and injudicious. He that professes he believes the Truth of the Gospel, and has entred into this New Covenant, if he will give a solid testimony of his sincere affection to it indeed, he must doe it by his life and conversation. For if he like it and believe it, he must needs follow the counsel conteined in it; which if he do closely and faithfully, he will finde it of that unspeakable excellency and important concernment, that he cannot rest quiet in reaping the fruit thereof himself, but will be truly desirous that the same good may be communicated, if it were possible, to all the world.
5. And truly for my own part, when I seriously consider with my self and undeniable clearness and evidence of Truth in the Gospel of Christ above all the Religions in the world, and the mighty and almost irresistible power and efficacy that lies in it for the making of men holy and vertuous; I cannot but with much fervencie of desire wish it were further spred in the World, and am much amazed that it has made no further progress then it has. For as Brerewood has probably collected in his Enquiries, Pagan Idolatry still possesses two thirds of the known world, Mahometisme one fifth part, and Christianisme but a sixth. And (what is a thing more deplorable) a very great part of the Christian Church has been overrun with the Turk, and does lie at this very day in miserable bondage under him. And that there may be nothing wanting to encrease wonderment, even those parts of the world that are purely Christian, as to Title, so great share of them, whether they go under the name of Reform'd or Catholicks, are tainted with so gross Hypocrisy, such open Prophaneness and professed Atheisme amongst their own Crews and loose Conventicles, that it is something hard to finde a cordial Christian in the most pretending Churches of Christendome, that does not deny his profession either in heart or practice or in both.
6. Which sad Scene of things cannot but move any thoughtful Christian, that does in good earnest wish well to his Religion, to sift out, if it be possible, the true Causes of his lamentable condition of Christendome, and what are the Impediments that hinder the Gospel (which of it self is so powerful an Instrument as it is of Salvation) from taking effect with out selves, or from having freer passage into other Countries that are yet Pagan. That it is our Sinnes, every well-meaning man will be ready to reply. But the question still remains, there being amongst us the most effectual Engine that the Wisdome of God could contrive for the destroying of Sin out of the world, why there is no more execution done thereby against the power of Sin and the Kingdome of Darkness then there is. The enquiry therefore must be what tampering there has been with this Engine, what adding or taking from it, to spoil its efficacy, what mistakes of the use thereof; and the like. For that there is something most wretchedly amiss in the use of the Gospel throughout all Christendome, is very plain, in that the Purpose of it is almost totally frustrated every where; and Prophaneness, Infidelity and Atheisme have in a manner seized the hearts of all. Which most men are ready to confess, some with a true Christian sorrow or hearty indignation, others with a tacit joy or exteriour flearing, as being glad their corrupt thoughts and practices have the countenance of so many suffrages.
7. To omit therefore such Principles as are unintelligible and are for ever seal'd up out of our sight; let us look upon what is intelligible and visible. Let us produce such Causes into view, which no man can deny but that they are as general as these horrid diseases, and are extremely inclining, if not absolutely effectual and necessitating the Christian world into this abominable condition it is found in at this day, and many Ages before.
1. The most fundamental Mistake and Root of all the Corruptions in the Church of Christ. 2. That there maybe a Superstition also in opposing of Ceremonies, and in long Prayers and Preachments. 3. That self-chosen Religion extinguishes true Godliness every where. 4. The unwholsome and windy food of affected Orthodoxality; with the mischievous consequences thereof. 5. That Hypocrisy of Professours fills the World with Atheists. 6. That the Authoritative Obtrusion of gross falsities upon men begets a misbelief of the whole Mystery of Piety. 7. That all the Churches of Christendome stand guilty of this mischievous miscarriage. 8. The infinite inconvenience of the Superlapsarian doctrine.
1. WHerefore freely to profess what I think in my own conscience to be true; The most universal and most fundamental Mistake in Christendome, and that from whence all the Corruption of the <493> Church began and is still continued and increased, is that conceited estimation of Orthodox opinions and external Ceremony, before the indispensable practice of the Precepts of Christ, and a faithful endeavour to attain to the due degrees of the real Renovation of our inward man into true and living Holiness and Righteousness: in stead whereof there is generally substituted Curiosity of Opinion in points imperscrutable and unprofitable, Obtrusion of Ceremonies, numerous, cumbersome, and not onely needless, but much unbeseeming the unsuspected modesty of the Spouse of Christ, who should take heed of symbolizing any way with Idolatry, which is spiritual Adultery or Fornication. For while the Heart goes a whoring after those outward shows, and an over-value be put upon them, the inward life of Godliness will easily be extinguished, and Love to the indispensable Law of Christ grow cold and dead. Nay they that have the greatest zeal and fierceness, as I may so speak, towards Religion, there is invented such an heap and cumbersome load of external performances, that such a Zelot as this may spend all his strength upon the mere Outworks of Piety, before he can come near to take the Fort Royal, or enter the Law of perfect Liberty, the Divine Life, which consists in true Humility, perfect Purity and sincere Charity. For all such Ceremonies make but a show in the flesh, nor can reach to the Regeneration of our Mindes into the unfeigned Love of our brethren. Whence the most seemingly religious this way may be the most accursedly cruel and unjust, the most implacable and uncharitable that can be. And yet according to that false model of Religion that humane invention has set out to the world, he may both take himself, and others also may take him to be Seraphically pious; though in the judgment of Christ and of his true Church he lie in the gall of Bitterness and bond of Iniquity.
2. And in other parts of Christendome where the pomp of Ceremonies and exteriour Superstition is not so much urged, though a man at first sight might hope that things would be much better, yet experience will teach him that there is little amendment, and that the Causes of Degeneracy, of gross Hypocrisy and Wickedness, are even as operative and as well appointed to work their effect there as in other places. For this also is Superstition, to place our Religion in opposing external Ceremonies, and to think every man the more pious by how much the more zealous he is against them. Wherefore our affections being drawn out in this hot Antipathy, our hearts grow cold to the indispensable duties of the Gospel; which are Love, Patience, Meekness and brotherly-Kindness, with the rest of those fruits that demonstrate that the Tree of life, that the Life of Christ is planted in us, and that the Spirit of God abideth in us. Besides that we are to remember that we may idolize long Prayers and frequent Preachments, and that they may make up an external Religion to us in stead of that Godliness that is indispensable and internal, and an ever-flowing fountain of all comely and profitable Actions and deportments towards God and towards men.
3. I say therefore that this Self-chosen Religion in all the parts of Christendome (though it be but such as a wicked man may perform <494> as dexterously and plausibly as the most truly righteous and regenerate) being so highly extolled and recommended to the people, is almost an irresistible temptation to make them really and morally wicked. For that natural inclination and appetite in mankinde to Religion being satisfied or eluded by this unwholsome food, they can have no desire to that which is true Religion indeed; and will be very glad to be excus'd from it, it being more hard at first to embrace or practice, whence it is in a manner necessary for them to let it alone.
4. And they will the more easily abstain from it, there being another poisonous Viand that swells them so that they are ready to burst again, which is that highly-esteemed Knowledge called Orthodoxness or Rightness of Opinion. Of which the Apostle, Knowledge puffeth up, but Charity edifieth. This seems so glorious in their eyes, that they phansy themselves Angels of light, and fit to enter into the presence of God, if they be but neatly & elegantly trimm'd up in these fine ornaments of Orthodoxality. Besotted fools! blinde and carnal! that think to recommend themselves to the Majesty of Heaven by being array'd in these motly coats, this strip'd stuff of their own spinning. While they thus affect the favour of God by opinionative Knowledge, how do they betray their gross Ignorance! For how can that which is more pleasing to the natural man, nay, I may say, to the Devil himself, then to a regenerate Soul, how can that render any one acceptable to God? And yet in all the Divisions of the Churches they lay the greatest stress upon this, bear the greatest zeal toward it, recommend it the most vehemently to the people, who following the example of their Pastours, if they be but busie & hot in these rending points, they think themselves fully possest of the life of Christ, and that they are very choicely religious, though in the mean time Charity to their neighbour be cold, & they have attain'd to no measure of true Righteousness and Holiness. Herein chiefly lies the mystery of Hypocrisy in all the Churches of Christendome, counting all pious that are but zealous for the waies and opinions of their Sect; and those that are not for it, be they never so unblameable and cordial Christians, they are either hated as Hereticks, or at best pitied for poor Moralists, mere Natural Men.
5. These are the most general and very potent Impediments for the hindring the Gospel of taking that effect which it would otherwise have in the Christian World, and for making most of the professours of Christianity Hypocrites, that is, such as make a great show of Godliness, but deny the power thereof, which should mainly appear in our duty to our Neighbour and in a sober and just conversation, doing all things as in the sight of God. Now this Hypocrisy in Professours begets Prophaneness, Atheisme, and Unbelief in such persons as naturally have not so strong propension to matters of Religion, that is to say, that have not so superstitious a Complexion as to be tied to Religion upon any termes in any dress and from any kinde of Recommenders of it. For their natural Nasuteness suggests, that if there be any Religion at all, most certainly it is not to be divided from sound Morality, to which truly both the Prophets, Apostles, and Precepts of Christ do plentifully witness. But they observing that they that make the greatest noise about Religion, <495> and are the most zealous therein, do neglect the Laws of Honesty and common Humanity, that they can easily invade other mens rights, that they can juggle, dissemble and lie for advantage, that they are proud and conceited and love the applause of the People, that they are envious, fierce and implacable, that they are unclean and sensual, that they are merciless and cruel, and care not to have Kingdomes to flow in bloud for the maintaining of their Tyranny over the consciences of poor deluded Souls; (when yet the contest is nothing but about hay and stubble, the combustible superstructures of Humane Invention: of which every vainglorious Superstitionist, that would make a show in the flesh, has cast on his handfull, if not his arm-full, for the hiding and smothering of the indispensable Truths of the Gospel, and to put men into perplexities and labours for that which is not bread, to rack their heads with Nonsense, Contradictions and Impossibilities, to weary out their bodies with the thankless toyle of endless and needless Ceremonies, and to carry out their heart to toyes and trifles, and so make them neglect the holy and weighty commands of our Saviour, which are intelligible to all men, and in some measure approved by all; such as are, To deal as we would be dealt with, To love our neighbours as our selves, and the like) I say, those that are not of so religious a Complexion naturally, but have wit and sagacity enough to smell out the Corruptions and discern the Incoherences of the Actions of Professors, making observation of these things, are by this Scandal exceedingly tempted (and very hardly escape the being quite overcome by so perverse a Scene of pretended Piety) to think that the whole Business of Religion is nothing but Humour and Madness, or, at the best, but a Plot to enrich the Priest and keep the People in awe.
6. This is one great Scandal and effectual counterplot against the power of the Gospel, the Vilifying and despising of Moral honesty by those that are great Zelots and high Pretenders to Religion. This does advance Atheisme and Prophaneness very much. But there is another Miscarriage which I have hinted at already as Epidemical and Universal, and at least as effectual to this evil purpose as the former. There is scarce any Church in Christendome at this day that does not obtrude not only Falshoods, but such Falshoods that will appear to any free spirit pure Contradictions and Impossibilities, and that with the same Gravity, Authority and Importunity that they doe the holy Oracles of God. Now the consequence of this must needs be fad. For what knowing and consciencious man but will be driven off, if he cannot profess the truth without open asserting of a gross lie? If he sees good wine poured out of one bottle, but rank poison out of another into the same cup, who can perswade him to drink thereof? This is a heavy sight to the truly-Religious, but the joy and triumph of the Prophane, who willingly take this advantage against the whole Mystery of Piety, as if there were no truth at all in it, because that so gross Falshoods are urg'd upon them with the same Indispensableness, with the same Solemness & Devoutness, as those things that (were it not for the serious Impudence of the Priest in other open falsities) might pass with them for true. But <496> they being not at leisure to perpend things to the bottom, but it may be not altogether indisposed to believe a faithfull report from an honest man, they finding the Relater foully tripping in some things that he so earnestly urges, discredit the whole Narration, and so become perfect Atheists and Unbelievers; though, for their own security, they juggle with the Juglers, that is, comply and doe outward reverence and devotion, though they cannot but laugh in their sleeves at either the Ignorance or cunning Deceitfulness of their Ghostly Leaders.
7. And that I may not seem to slander the state of Christendome, I mean of the whole visible Church in what Nation soever under Heaven; if we may believe Historians, there is none, neither Greek nor Roman, neither Lutheran nor Calvinist, but will be found guilty of this fault. I shall particularize in some one thing in all. The Greek as well as the Roman hold Transsubstantiation, the Lutheran Consubstantiation; things that have no ground in Scripture, and are a palpable contradiction to Reason. And yet not more contradictious then Absolute Reprobation according as our rigid Reprobationers have defined it: namely, That God has irresistibly decreed from all Eternity to bring into Being innumerable Myriads of Souls of men exceeding far the number of them that shall be saved; who as without their own consent they were thus thrust into the World, so let them doe what they will, are certainly determined to unspeakable torment so soon as they go out of it, and at the last day shall be adjudged to an higher degree of misery, so great and so exceeding, that all the racks and tortures that the Wit or Cruelty of the most enraged Tyrants could ever invent or execute, would be ease and pleasure in Comparison of it, and that these Pangs and Torments shall remain fresh upon them for ever and ever.
8. This is the Representation of that sour Dogma. Which to Reason is as contradictious as if one should name a square Circle or black Light; and as harsh and horrid to the eares of the truly-Regenerate into the nature of God, who is Love it self, as the highest blasphemie that can be uttered. Nor is the nature of those that are irreligious enough so much estranged from the Knowledge of God, but that they think, if there be any at all, he cannot be such a one that laid such dark plots from all eternity for the everlasting misery of his poor impotent and unresisting Creature, that never did any thing but what the Divine Decrees determined he should doe, and therefore was alwaies the Almighties obedient servant: For which at last he must be condemned to eternall punishment by him whom he did ever obey. The serious and imperious obtrusion of such a dismal Conceit as this for one of the greatest Arcanums of Religion, will make the free Spirit and over-inclinable to Prophaneness confidently to conclude, That the whole frame of Religion is nothing but a mere Scar-crow to affright Fools, and that there is no Hell at all, since such Innocent Persons and constant Obeyers of the Divine Decrees must be the Inhabiters of it.
1. The true Measure of Opinions to be taken from the designe of the Gospel, which in general is, The setting out the exceeding great Mercy and Goodness of God towards mankinde. 2. And then Secondly, The Triumph of the Divine Life in the Person of Christ, in the warrantableness of doing Divine Honour to him. 3. Thirdly, The advancement of the Divine Life in his members upon Earth. 4. The Fourth and last Rule to try Opinions by, The Recommendableness of our Religion to Strangers or those those that are without.
1. I Might adde several other Opinions in several parts of Christendome, that tend very much to the defeating and eluding the serious End and purpose of Religion: but before I go any further, I shall set down the main designes of the Gospel of Christ, that we may have a more plain and sure Rule and Measure to try all Opinions by. The designe therefore of the Gospel in general is the magnifying of the Goodness and Loving-kindness of God, that he has afforded mankinde so glorious a light to walk by, so effectual means to redeem them from the love of the perishing vanities of this present world, and to recall them back again to himself and to the participation of the ineffable joyes & pleasures of his celestial Kingdom. For God so loved the World, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the World to condemn the World, but that the World through him should be saved. And Titus 3. For we our selves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the Kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of Righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour. To which sense also the Apostle speaks, Ephes. chap. 2. And you who were dead in trespasses and sins, Wherein in times past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the Prince of the power of the Aire, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience; Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past, in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of our fleshly minde, and were by nature the children of wrath even as others. But God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in Heavenly places in Christ Jesus; That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness towards us, through Jesus Christ. To which lastly you may adde Tit. 2.11. For the grace of God that bringeth salvation, hath appeared to all men; Teaching us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world, &c. These <498> Scriptures give plain testimony of this more general designe of the Gospel.
2. The next designe is an external exaltation of the Divine Life that did so mightily and conspicuously appear in the Person of our Saviour Christ; as I have already abundantly declared, How the mystery of Christianity comprehends in it chiefly this designe of exalting into Triumph the Divine Life above the Animal and Natural: and that either externally, in the religious worship we do our Saviour, and is done even by Hypocrites and wicked Persons; or else internally, in the advancing of true Faith and Holiness in his living members and sincere followers of his doctrine. Philip. 2. Let the same minde be in you which was in Christ Jesus, Who being in the forme of God, thought it no robbery to be equal with God; But emptied himself and took upon him the forme of a servant, and was made in likeness of men; And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to the death, even the death of the Cross. Wherefore hath God also exalted him, and given him a name above every name; That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in Heaven and things in Earth and things under the Earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. And Hebr. 1. Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; the Scepter of righteousness is the Scepter of thy Kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God even thy God hath anointed thee with the oile of gladness above thy fellows, that is to say, hath exalted thee to this due honour and rule, having put all things under his feet, Angels themselves not excepted, as S. Peter tells us, 1 Epist. 3.22. Who is gone into Heaven, and is on the right hand of God, Angels and Authorities and Powers being made subject unto him. There is a further enumeration of the Angelical classes, Colos. 1. where the Apostle speaking of this high exaltation of the Person of Christ, he intimates not only the Subjection of the Orders of Angels to him, but their Reconciliation to God by him, and, as some would have it, a fuller Confirmation of them in his favour, vers. 15. Who is the Image of the invisible God, the First-born of every Creature. For by him were all things created that are in Heaven, and that are in Earth, visible and invisible; whether they be Thrones, or Dominions, or Principalities, or Powers: all things were created by him and for him; and he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the Head of the body the Church. He is the Beginning, the First-born from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell: And making peace through the bloud of his Crosse, to reconcile all things by him unto himself, whether they be things in Earth or things in Heaven. So mighty and wonderfull was the result of the Humiliation of our Saviour; and so clear and warrantable an Object is he of Divine Adoration.
3. Thus is the Divine Life Triumphant in the Person of Christ the Head of his Church. But another main design of the Gospel is, That the Divine Life may be advanced in us, that is, that Faith in God through Christ, that Humility, Love and Purity may have their due growth in <499> us here; that thereby we may be fitted to receive that immortal Crown of Glory which he will bestow upon all true believers at the last day, when he shall carry his whole Church with songs of Joy and Triumph into his celestial Kingdome. That this is the main purpose of the Gospell I have already sufficiently proved, and therefore need adde nothing in this place.
4. The fourth and last Rule or Measure of Opinions is, The Recommendableness of our Religion to those which are without; that is to say, We must have a special care of affixing thereto any of our own Inventions or Interpretations of Scripture for Christian Truths, which may seem uncouth and irrational to strangers and such as are as yet disengaged. For though those that by reason of their education have had full acquaintance with Christianity will adhere to their Religion, though it may be corrupted with many false glosses and fond opinions of men as indispensably obtruded as the undoubted Scripture it self: yet strangers that are free and unaccustomed to them, will not fail to boggle at them; and being offered to them also with equal Authority with the very Word of God, they will be necessitated to fly back, and to relinquish the Holy Truth by reason of the indissoluble intertexture of the gross falshoods they find interwoven with it. A thing that is seriously to be considered by all those that bear any love to the Gospel, and desire that it may be propagated and promoted in the World. For certainly it was intended for a more general good and larger diffusion then has been hitherto by reason of its having fallen into faithless and treacherous hands, who make it only an instrument of gaining wealth and power to themselves and of riding the people, and not of gaining souls to God.
1. The general use of the foregoing Rules. 2. A special use of them in favour of one anothers persons in matters of opinion. 3. The examination of Election and Reprobation according to these Rules. And how well they agree with that Branch of the Divine Life which we call Humility. 4. The disagreement of absolute Reprobation with the first Rule; 5. As also with the third, 6 And with the second and fourth.
1. THese are the four main Rules which I conceive very usefull to examine either other mens Opinions or our own. And if the heat of our spirits or the confidence of others would urge upon us pretended Truths (for to admit of open falsities or forgeries for what advantage soever is intolerable,) that are not subservient to these designs above named, we may well look upon them as idle curiosities; and if they pretend also to Revelation or Inspiration, that it is nothing but Madness and fanatick Delusion. But if they do not only not promote but countermine those designs above mentioned, they are to be looked upon <500> then not as frivolous, but dangerous and impious, and so to be declined by all means possible. And lastly, though they appear such as may contribute something to those designs if followed and embraced, yet I must adde also this caution, that they are not to be forc'd so as that unless a man will profess them, he must be accounted no good Christian. For they coming from a fallible and doubtfull hand, they ought not in reason to infringe that undoubted right of Christian liberty; the Scripture alone being full enough to perfect a Christian both in life and doctrine.
2. There is also a further use to be made of these Rules in favour of one anothers persons though of different Opinions, that is, by taking notice what good they drive at, as well as what evil they tend to: which makes much for peace and brotherly kindness, and may blunt the edge of eager and bitter zeal, that makes the over-fervid Zelot think that he that is of a contrary opinion to him intends nothing but mischief by his opposite doctrine. In examining therefore every Opinion, we are to observe what design of the Gospel it agrees with, as well as what it crosses. And that the Use of our Rules may the better appear, I shall now shew the practice of them by trying some few Opinions of no small note by this Touchstone: For it were an endless business to examine all, and needless, because by these examples he that lists may examine the rest, indeed any that either has been or ever will offer it self to the World in matters of Religion.
3. The first that occurrs is such an Election and Reprobation that wholly excludes Free will. The Controversie is so well known that I need not state it. Applying this doctrine to the four Rules I have set down, I find in the Third that it has some compliance with that choice branch of the Divine Life, namely Humility, and a submission of a mans self and all the World to the will of God. It is the Lord, let him doe what he pleases. And that therefore a serious and humble Soul being much taken up and transported with this consideration, may think of nothing else, but take this Doctrine to be very Truth, nay live and die in it, and go to heaven when he has done. Whence it were a piece of Satanical Fury to persecute any such Opinionist; and want of Charity, these living as well as other Christians, not to bear as good affection to them as to others; nay to advance our affection with the superaddition of pity, they living in something a more dark mansion then others; which will plainly appear if we applie their Opinion to the rest of the Rules and the Particulars of them, which we have set down.
4. For if we make application to the First, that tells us that the design of the Gospel is the Manifestation of the exceeding superabundant Loving-kindness of God to the World, who would not any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, as S. Peter speaks. This sad Opinion of the Predestinatours does confront this design at the very first sight, making the Goodness of God such an half-faced thing, nay I may say of a more thin and sparing aspect then the sharpest new Moon, nay an infinitely less proportion, if their dolefull stories be true. For to speak summarily of the business; Some very exceeding small number shall ne <501> cessarily by the free grace of God, be eternally saved, but the rest necessarily damned to ineffable, eternal and unsupportable torture. This is that glorious redundant Grace of the Gospel according to them. Which free Spirits will think the worst news and most mischievous that ever was communicated to the World. The worst, because so extreme few shall be saved. The most mischievous, because it will hazzard all men to be damned according to the ordinary course of Reason. For, whenas things are determined already, who need stir a foot unless to please himself and reap the present joies of this life?
5. For it is very irrational for us to be sollicitous and trouble our selves to bring that to pass which will every jot as soon come to pass without our trouble. So that unless a man be, beyond all conceit, foolish and sottish, and cannot reason concerning things, he will be necessitated almost, I am sure, very strongly invited, to be as loose and wicked as his own heart or the temptations of the World can suggest to him. Whence it is plain that this doctrin in it self, though it may impose upon some by the shew of Humility, is a Supplanter and Destroier of the whole Divine Life Root and Branch, that is, It weakens mens Faith also in the Gospel, if this be peremptorily obtruded upon them to be all the Design of it; it slakes all endeavour of good practice, takes them off from the aspiring to that blessed Regeneration and Renovation of their minds into Purity, Love, and Humility it self, which they most pretend to. And therefore most generally, though they seem to crouch to God, yet are they very prone to be too-too rigid, sour, and even cruel to men, full of Pride, Dissension and Confusion. So that the Unworthiness of this Opinion is discernible also by the Third Rule.
6. And does entrench something also upon the Second. For whereas, according to their own concession, the value of the bloud of the Son of God was such that it might have been a Ransome for ten thousand Worlds; what a check would this be to a mans more affectionate Veneration of him upon the Cross, when he thinks he has restrained the purpose of his suffering to so exceeding few? Nothing but Self-Love and Self-Flattery can well bear up a mans devotion. What an adorable thing have they made the tender Compassion of God in Jesus Christ, whenas he is represented to us, according to their explication of the Mystery, at the same time to have found out a full satisfaction to his Justice for the sins of the whole World, and yet at that very moment to have decreed in a manner all the World to eternal damnation; and this forsooth to make manifest his Justice, which is sufficiently manifested by the death of his Son? Is not that freer grace that is intended for all, and they put in a capacity of receiving it, if they be not wanting to themselves, then that which is only necessitated on some very few, and for want of which the rest must necessarily perish? Wherefore upon these terms a man cannot conciliate that venerable affection which is due to our Saviour, nor indeed beget a belief of the Narration in more nasute and sagacious men. Which is an entrenchment against the Fourth Rule also, which should awe us from peremptorily affixing any thing to our Religion that will make it less recommendable to them that are <502> without, as certainly this Opinion does to all indifferent men. Which makes me amaz'd at the sedulous obtrusion of it by some men, whom I can charitably conclude to be, as well as hey are accounted, in their way religious and godly. For it is a piece of unsufferable Pride and Conceitedness to think themselves infallible in a point where free men, at least as pious and religious, if not more, have seriously and industriously concluded the contrary; especially when such gross inconveniences are discernible therein.
1. That Election and Reprobation conferrs something to Humility. 2. That some men are saved irresistibly by virtue of Discriminative Grace. 3. That the rest of Mankind have Grace sufficient, and that several of them are saved. 4. The excellent use of this middle way betwixt Calvinisme and Arminianisme. 5, 6. The exceeding great danger and mischief of the former Extremes.
1. THere is nothing makes this Opinion pardonable, but that shew, as I said, that it bears of Humility; and haply it is in some regard really serviceable thereto. And I should take it to be very instrumental to take away all Pride and Arrogance, or attributing any thing to our selves, or contemning our neighbours, if the Professours of it were generally of so meek, so humble and so lowly a Spirit; whenas they are too often over-harsh, fierce, and contemptuous of others. But this may not be the fault of the Opinion, but of the Opinionist, though that sad severity of God tied up in this same pretended Mystery is no enforcing example of Kindness and Humanity.
2. But to the end that choice and lovely vertue of Christian Humility may want no motives nor encouragement, and that that pleasure that some Souls may justly take in the free acknowledgment of God's irresistible Grace and over-powering Operations upon their Spirits may not be suffocated nor extinguished; we shall make such an accomodation betwixt both parties, that unless Envy and Repining at the Goodness of God toward mankinde make them still dissatisfied, I question not but that they will rest contented. I profess therefore and do verily think, That there is such a thing as Discriminative Grace, as they call it, in the World, and that to such a difference for good, that some few of Mankinde by virtue thereof will be irresistibly saved, but that the rest of the world are Probationers, that is, have free will and are in a capacity of being saved, some greater, some less; and that whosoever is damn'd, it is long of himself. For (as Siracides saith) God has no need of the wicked man.
3. And that this may not seem to be a mere Subterfuge, like that of some others, I further add, touching all this rest of Mankind which I speak <503> of, That there is Grace sufficient offered to them some way or other, some time or other, and that several of them, according to their faithfulness to that light and power which God has given them, shall be actually saved. At which sentence neither the Arminian ought to repine nor the Calvinist. For whatever good Arminianism pretends concerning all mankind, is exhibited to this part not absolutely elected, and to the other part the Goodness of God is greater then is allotted by Arminius. And whatever good there is pretended in Calvinism to that part that is absolutely elected, the same Goodness is here exhibited, and besides that direfull vizard pull'd off that Ignorance and Melancholy had put upon Divine Providence and on the lovely Face of the Gospel.
4. I may adde to this, That he that finds himself in an extraordinary powerfull manner carried to that which is good, may as fully ascribe it to God's free grace, as in the Calvinistical Hypothesis; and he that has no mind to Goodness cannot lay the fault on God but himself. Nor can Satan tempt by that forcible stratagem to either despair or dissoluteness, suggesting that if a man shall be saved, he shall be saved, or if damned, he shall be damned, and that he can neither help on the one nor hinder the other. For unless a man be very deeply radicated in Faith and sincere Obedience, I should hold it a piece of fond Self-Flattery to take himself for one of the Elect, whenas he may hold of a more seasonable Tenure, and act accordingly as a Probationer: and when he has got to that irrelapsable condition of those whose Souls are after a manner perfected in Faith and Holiness, it will better become him then to entitle God alone to all those Transactions wrought in him, and to take up that saying of Jacob, Verily God was in this place, and I knew it not, and name the place he slept in Bethel, The Temple of God: For such is the body of every Regenerate Christian, and especially of the Elect.
5. This Concession of ours thus far, as it is most true, and certainly not unserviceable for the promoting that thankfull and humble frame of Spirit that would attribute all to the Irresistibleness of free Grace and to the force of their particular and irrevocable Predestination and Election; so is it also a mighty safeguard from those dangerous miscarriages that too often happen the other way. Wherein there being no mean, but one must be either Elect or Reprobate, how prone is it out of Self-love to take up a stout and peremptory conceit that a man is the Childe of God destinated thereto before the foundation of the World, and that he can no more miss to be saved then he did to be born? But as for others, poor Offalls and Out-casts of the Creation, that they can never find out the way to Heaven and Salvation, do what they can, let them importune God and vex and weary Nature never so much; but are like Sampson, with his eyes put out, brought upon the stage of this World only to make the Philistims merry, or at best to be mere foils and blacks to set off the beauty and lustre of the secure Saints: who being unavoidably caught as it were in a nooze or fast snare of Salvation laid for them from all eternity, so soon as they once phansy themselves taken by the leg, do so bounce and dance in the string with that enormity and violence, as if they tried by their wild tugs and jerks, <504> whether the force of their Corruption or the Decretall thread be the stronger.
6. Nay do grow up to such a pitch of Fool-hardiness, as to think themselves not possibly able to run themselves out of breath by the most wild and dissolute courses imaginable, nor remove themselves one hairs breadth out of God's favour for all this. In fine, do proceed so far as to acknowledge no Law but their own Lust and the fulfilling their own masterless will, and consequently do conclude that they cannot sin. Thus imitating a false Pattern, and making themselves compendious Puppets or Pocket-medals of that great Idol of theirs (for it is no God) that wills, as they say, merely because he wills. And so they dance and sport about the imagination of their own heart, as the children of Israel, in the Law-givers absence did about the molten Calf. Thus has this dark Conceit, which some rash spirits have endeavoured to make essential to Christianity, led many one into secure Libertinism first, and after into most desperate Atheism.
1. The Scholastick Opinions concerning the Divinity of Christ applied to the foregoing Rules. 2. As also concerning the Trinity. 3. The Application of the Antitrinitarian Doctrine to the said Rules. Its disagreement with the third, 4. As also with the second. 5. The Antitrinitarians plea. 6. An answer to their plea. 7. How grosly the denying the Divinity of Christ disagrees with the third Rule.
1. THE next Opinions that occur are those concerning the Divinity of Christ and the holy Trinity. And first, those of the Schools, of which I shall only say in general, That though their industry and sincerity of their design may be commendable, which was to unite the Humanity of Christ of Hypostatically to the Divinity, that there should be no suspicion of Idolatry in doing the highest divine Honour to Him we call the Son of God, and that therefore what they drive at is very agreeable to the second Rule we have set down; yet for my own part I think they have made so little proficiency to the main End, that that one plain expression in Athanasius, As the Body and Soul is one man, so God and Man is one Christ, is better then all their curious definitions of things, which reach to no greater Hypostatical union then that of the Body and Soul; whenas I dare say, if it were searched to the bottom, the Union betwixt the Divinity and Humanity in Christ is more one and more exact then that of Soul and Body, which they call Hypostatical. But they have defined things so unskilfully and perplexedly, that though their design be agreeable to our second Rule, yet their performance does clash much with the third and fourth: Such contradictions or unintelligible spinofities weakening Faith, and hindring the passage of the Gospel to them that are without.
2. Which may be rightly said also concerning their subtil and inconsistent disquisitions and conclusions touching the Trinity. Wherein though their design be in the same respect commendable as before, yet they have made the mystery so intricate and contradictious, that they weaken the Christian Faith to those that are within, and make it less passable and recommendable to strangers; and have given occasion thereby to some bold Spirits, it being so disadvantageously represented to them, to deny the whole Mystery, whereby they have purchas'd to themselves the Title of Antitrinitarians.
3. Whose Opinion I look upon as fundamentally repugnant to Christianity it self, if the New Testament be the foundation of Christianity. For I know nothing more express then that in those Writings. And therefore the denying of the Trinity is the denying of the Authority of the New Testament. Or if they will pretend they can interpret things there so as to evade this doctrine, by the same reason I think they may evade any, and so still the sacred Writ shall stand for a cypher, and signifie nothing; which tends mainly to the enervating of our Faith, and is a gross entrenchment upon the third Rule.
4. And truly I think it may be made to appear that it is also particularly against the second. For the Divinity of Christ does not fall in so handsomly and kindly without the supposition of a Trinity, as I have elswhere intimated; and therefore I look upon it as a special piece of Providence, that so explicite a knowledge of the Godhead in the Triunity thereof was so generally made known to the world together with Christianity, that the Eternal Son of God might be worshipped through Christ, and the whole Deity, as I may so say, distinctly honour'd and adored.
5. But they will reply, that though they deny the Trinity and Divinity of Christ, namely that the Eternal Word was made Flesh, yet they assert that Divine Honour is due unto him, and therefore do not transgress against the second Rule. For they acknowledge that though Christ be but man, yet God has given him all power in Heaven and in Earth, and that he shall return visibly to judge the quick and the dead, and that as the Father has life in himself, so has he given him to have life in himself, that is, the power of enlivening us and quickening us at the last, and of changing these vile bodies of ours into the similitude of his glorious body. And therefore that their Opinion serves the End of Christianity as well as the other in reference to Divine Worship due to Christ, and is more sutable to the fourth Rule; these perplexities of Christs Divinity and the Triunity of the Godhead making our Religion less passable and recommendable to those that are without.
6. But to this I answer, First, as before, That to take away the Trinity and Divinity of Christ is to take away the Authority of the New Testament, or to take such a liberty of forcing and distorting the sense of things, as will make it contemptible and useless; then which what can be of more dangerous consequence? It will be a Trespass not only against one, but against all the Rules I have set down, and make the Gospel pass very ill not only with strangers, but our selves too, and turn Christendome back to Infidelity and Paganisme.
But Secondly, I deny that the Scripture declares any thing concerning the Divinity of Christ, or the holy Trinity, that is impossible, contradictious, or more unintelligible then things that men do ordinarily assent to, that are free Philosophers, and admit nothing upon force or Superstition, but upon Reason; and That the Union of the Eternal Word with the humane Nature of Christ is as conceivable for the Modus as the Union of the Soul and Body: That the Intricacies of the Schools are fooleries, and not to be taken into our Religion: That the Scripture only sets forth a Triunity in the Godhead in general, not obscured by any terme that can entangle any one of a tolerable wit and understanding, unless he will be so blockish as to think, because the second Hypostasis in this Trinity is called Son, that the Father was married and had a wife, as the Turks fondly object; whenas nothing else is signified but that the Son is from the Father, and the Holy Ghost from both.
Thirdly, That the first Author & Beginner, or at least the most eminent Renewer of this Sect that so boldly and stoutly denies the Trinity, was one, though of a leguleious Wit, yet so inept and averse from Divine matters, that he flatly denies that the Existence of God is discoverable by the light of Nature and Reason. And after he has found him by help of Scripture, as he thinks, yet he has missed him. For that which is not Infinite in Essence, cannot be God. And therefore it is no wonder if he hangs off so heavily from the admission of that more distinct and full knowledge of him manifested in the holy Oracles, & that those that symbolize so much with his Genius in other things follow him also in this.
Fourthly, The noblest Spirits & best Philosophers that ever appear'd in the world for the Knowledge of Nature and of God, and that some Ages before Christ, of their own choice without force or obtrusion held the Triunity of the Godhead; which though I will not avouch to be perfectly right in all things, (they being even over-accurate in the describing of it, & therefore well may trip) yet for the main is such that there is reason for it, but none at all against it, & it is very sutable in the general to those general intimations in the Scripture. Nor do I believe any Christian bound to hold the Theory in the set formes of humane Invention, though he may peruse them & believe as much as he thinks good, and do think it a decent thing, that his Reason cannot perfectly reach nor exhaust so profound a Mystery, & that therefore he is to make up the rest in humble Adoration.
Fifthly and lastly, By denying the Triunity of the Godhead and Divinity of Christ, other Articles of our Faith are made incredible, and that Divine Adoration we give to Christ suspected of Idolatry. For it will not seem credible to strangers, especially that abhor such superstitions, that God ever exalted any mere man to such a pitch as the Socinians themselves acknowledge Christ is exalted; but that it is some cunning plot to lapse the World or retain it in Idolatrous Worship. It will also seem to them incredible, if Christ be mere man, that he should by a power in himself, as he professes, be able to perform his promise at the last day, that is, to raise us all to a glorious and immortall life, changing these bodies of flesh into a pure celestial substance; which is an act for none but the Deity to doe. And therefore if it be done by any thing in himself, it is <507> by the Deity residing in him, by the Eternal Word by whom all things were created: Who was said to be the Son of God before the Incarnation; and after the Incarnation both he that was born in time and this Eternal Word is look'd upon as one Son of God by real and Physical union. From whence that is easily understood which we alluded to before, As the Father has life in himself, so has he given to the Son to have life in himself. But our Adversaries way is very unconceivable and unintelligible, and therefore doth plainly transgress against the Rule he pretends it most agrees with, the making Christian Religion recommendable to them that are without.
7. As also he does herein against the third Rule in no small measure. For by spoiling Christ of his Divinity and of being acknowledged in very truth the Son of God, all those condescensions of his which he stooped to for our good, the esteem of them is much slackned and relaxed, and will not stick the mark so strongly as upon this ancient and universal Hypothesis of the Church of Christ, who did acknowledge that he was really the Son of God; which must needs enhance the esteem of his Sufferings exceedingly, and therefore more effectually melt our affections into the greater remorse for Sin, and stouter resolutions to mortifie and kill all inordinate motions and desires, all perverse and corrupt suggestions of our Natures, be it never so harsh to us, and bring them under the scepter of the crucified Jesus. Which this Sect so little considers, that they very hardly are drawn to acknowledge Christs death a Sacrifice for sin; and so by their dry, harsh and rash reasonings expunge one of the chiefest Powers and choicest Artifices of the Gospel for the making men good.
1. Imputative Righteousness, Invincible Infirmity and Solifidianism, in what sense they seem to complie with the second and last Rule, and how disagreeing with the third. 2. The groundlesness of mens Zeal for Imputative Righteousness, 3. And for Solifidianisme. 4. The conspiracy of Imputative Righteousness, Solifidianism and Invincible Infirmity to exclude all Holiness out of the Conversation of Christians. 5. That large confessions of Sins and Infirmities without any purpose of amending our lives is a mere mocking of God to his very face. With the great danger of that Affront.
1. THE last Examples of applying and examining of Opinions according to the Rules we have set down shall be in Imputative Righteousness, in Perfection and Infirmity, in Justification by Faith alone, and in the Reign of Christ upon Earth. And as for Imputative Righteousness, Infirmity and the Opinion of the Solifidians, I must confess, they seem to pretend much to the exaltation of the Person of Christ, and to make <508> men sensible of their great need of him; and seeming to promise ease and security to careless sinners, may also make the Gospel more passable to those that are without, that have a minde to enjoy this world as well as that which is to come, and is as plausible to such kinde of people as Roman Indulgences and Pardons, Absolution upon slight Penances, and the like. To which kinde of errours and miscarriages I cannot but impute a great part of the degeneracy of Christendome at this day. Nor can I imagine how the more perfectly Reform'd Churches could have failed of proving generally excellent Christians indeed, if these Opinions of Imaginary Righteousnesse, Empty Faith, and the Invinciblenesse of Sin, had not stept into the room of those Follies and Errours they had fled from. Whence it is apparent how highly they transgress against the third Rule, and consequently how cautious men should be of either receiving them or communicating them to others.
2. For as for Imputative Righteousness it is very suspicious, seeing the Scripture is silent therein, that it is the suggestion of Hypocrisie and Deceit to undermine that due measure of Sanctification whereunto we are called. For otherwise this invention is utterly needless, the Sacrifice of Christs Passion being sufficient to expiate whatever sins we fall into from any pardonable Principle. Which Sacrifice were utterly needless, if the perfect Righteousness of Christ were so imputed to us as that we might reckon it our own. For then were we as righteous as Christ, for he has no greater Righteousnesse then his own whereby he is righteous. And this Righteousness consisting as well of abstaining from sins as doing acts of Righteousnesse, it is plain that all this is imputed to us, and that therefore hereby we are to be accounted of God as never to have sinned, and therefore there wanted no Expiation for sin; and so Christ died in vain. For the imputation of his Righteousness will serve for all. Wherefore an opinion so absurd one cannot imagine why any should be so well pleased with, unless they intended it a shelter for sin, and to excuse themselves from real Holinesse and Righteousnesse.
3. Neither do I know to what end but this men should so zealously press the Opinion of being saved by Faith alone, in such a perverse sense as some do, not meaning thereby a living Faith working by Love, but we must be justified by Faith prescinding from Charity, Obedience, and whatever is accounted Holy and Just. But it is plain, that unless a man will say he is justified by a dead Faith, which is no more true Faith then a dead corps is a man, that real Sanctity will as surely accompany Faith as Light does the Sun; and that the controversie is as ridiculously raised of Faith, whether it alone justifie, as if one should move a question whether the Sun alone makes it day. For if they mean the Sun without the raies, it is evidently false; but if they mean the Sun alone without the Moon or Stars, it is as evidently true. But by prescinding life from Faith, and contending that it justifies, is as incongruous as to assert that the Sun without Light makes day, and as mischievous as to insinuate that inward Sanctity is not necessary to Salvation. And therefore when they talk of Faith alone, they ought to explain themselves so as <509> that they may not be understood to exclude Christian Holiness, but Judaicall, and what other needless, imperfect and superstitious Principles of Justification men have stood upon in the world, and withall to urge an operative Christian Love, which is the fulfilling of the Law.
4. To this Imputative Righteousnesse and Justifying Faith, from which they would fain disjoyn real Sanctity, they adde Christian Infirmity, whereby they would insinuate the Invinciblenesse of Sin. So that two of these Opinions suggesting That that due degree of Righteousness we have spoken of (nay indeed any degree thereof) is needlesse, and this other, That it is impossible, what can this tend to but an utter neglect of all Holiness in Christian Conversation? The profession of which frame of Religion, though some take it to be a great piece of service of God, yet that Apostle whose expressions they too often abuse, declares that it is a mere mocking of him, as if they did naso suspendere adunco; Μὴ πλανᾶσθε, θεὸς οὐ μηκτηρὶζουται, Be not deceived, God is not mocked; as a man sows, so shall he also reap. For this abuse and perverse application of the Mystery of Christianity to lewdness and secure wickedness is a mere deluding and mocking of the benigne counsel of God in Christ. It is to flear in the face of Heaven, and under pretence of extolling Christ, really to subvert his Kingdom upon earth.
5. Is not this a mere mocking and confronting of the Divine Majesty, whenas he has sent Christ into the World on purpose to redeem the world from their vain Conversation, and to abolish or destroy the works of the flesh and the devil, to tell God in our devotions a long story of our own Fleshliness and Devilishness, and to intimate to him to his face, that however his Free-Graciousness is content it should be so, and that in the application of Christs Righteousness God cannot nor will not see any Unrighteousness of ours; and therefore, which is worst of all, after many long and tedious narrations, of which the greatest part is a very foul and black Catalogue of our faults, to depart out of his presence without either Hope, Resolution or Endeavour of being any thing better then we are: Is not this, I say, to pervert and make ridiculous the good counsel of God even in his own hearing, and to jeer him to his face? But however he may connive for a while at these follies or affronts, yet he will not alwaies keep silence and hold his hands: Non semper stolidam præbebit vellere barbam Jupiter. He will not alwaies be put off with solemn whimperings, Hypocritical Confessions, ruful faces, sore arms and legs tied up and set on wooden stumps, with dolefull acknowledgements of but wilful Misery and Poverty, of feigned and counterfeited Maimedness and Inability. If his Indignation be kindled, yea but a little, it will burn off our wood, and force us to finde our legs, yea, and use our arms too, to fly or fend off, if it were possible, the strokes of Divine Vengeance that will justly finde us out.
1. The flaunting Hypocrisie of the Perfectionists, and from whence it comes. 2. The easie Laws whereby they measure their Perfection. And the sad result of their Apostasie from the Person of Christ. 3. That there is far more Perfection in many thousands of those that abhorre the name of Perfection then in these great Boasters of it. 4. In what consists that sound and comely frame of a true Christian Spirit.
1. ANd thus much of that creeping Hypocrisie that walks with a still and demure pace in these Opinions of Imputative Righteousnesse, Empty Faith and Invincible Infirmity: Contrary to which is that flaunting Hypocrisie of the high-flown Perfectionists, whose Constitutions yet are ordinarily as unsound as the former, and far more opposite and repugnant to the very frame and spirit of the Gospel; nay, I dare adde that it is an Opinion cunningly urg'd by the envy of the Devil himself upon hot, fierce, eager and melancholy Spirits, that fly high and are exceeding subject to Self-Pride and Arrogance, to obliterate in them the remembrance of the Passion of Christ, and to elude the use of that precious Sacrifice, to slake the affections of men to him, and to draw them off from dependence any way on his Person. Which we may be the better assured of, if we consider what easie Laws they measure their Perfection by and their Freedom from Sin.
2. For any ill Motions, though never so strong, if not assented to, they have no shame nor conscience of; and if they be carried by the strength of Temptation to commit the act, then they lay the blame on the impetuosity of the assault, conceit themselves to be only as ravished Virgins (according to the softness of their phansie and favourable opinion of their own sincerity) deflowred against their own will, and still stand upon Self-Justification. And what is yet more execrable, when they are come to the height of their begodded Condition, and arrived to the state of full Perfection, then like the Indian Abduti or Spanish Illuminati, they cannot sin, do what they will; let them commit what Foulness they will, what Injustice or Cruelty soever is suggested to them, these unclean and proud Fanaticks take it all to be Inspiration; or else are emboldened at last (by the upshot of their Luciferian Apostasie from the simplicity of the Truth of the Gospel) to hold that there is no Difference of Good and Evil, and that Sin is but a Conceit, no real Miscarriage, but to those that know not their own Liberty. Which final Result of things does plainly indigitate, who moved at the bottom of the business in their first alienation from the Person of our Saviour. And the Justice of God is very observable in such Apostates, how they are strucken with Blindeness, how silly and weak they are in their Reason and Imagination, and their Lives and Actions odious and abominable.
3. But that the Religion of these Perfectionists is not merely a surprisal by the sleights of Satan, but a studied and premeditated Revolt <511> from their allegiance to our blessed Saviour, though first suggested by the envy of Lucifer against the Son of God, is too-too plain in this; That when they seem most tolerable and to have some conscience of their waies, yet what Christians are troubled at and asham'd of, they will not acknowledge to be Sin, lest they should seem to want the Sacrifice of Christ or be beholden to him for his Sufferings. Which is a sign, as I have already said, that Familisme was invented by the malice of the Devil to lay aside the Office and Person of Christ: let them talk as highly and gloriously of their begodded Estate as they will; which their Infernal Teacher has taught them to boast of so much, that Christ may seem lesse God then he is. But I dare pronounce, that thousands of poor modest Christians that abhorre the name of Perfection, and speak much of Justification by Faith alone, of the Imputation of Christs Righteousness, and complain of their own Infirmity very sadly and seriously, have yet arriv'd to a far greater degree of Perfection then these Self-Magnifiers and rude Insulters over these humble and contrite Spirits: who having no ill meaning by those frames of speech that are taught them, are affectionate Adherers to their Saviour, and out of their due reverence to God, and hearty abhorrence from all shew of or least approach toward sin and wickedness, take Sanctuary in Christ, and ease their Souls by their reliance on his Atonement and Intercession for such Infirmities as these bold and fanatical Boasters would bear men in hand and perswade themselves not to be at all sinful.
And now whether these rampant Enthusiasts or the humble and orthodox Christian be of the sounder complexion, let any man that is not wilfully blinde give sentence, and how allowable the Doctrine of these Perfectionists is, whenas it traiterously strikes at the Person of our Saviour and at the antiquating the office of his Royal Priesthood, and is cross to that lovely and decorous frame of spirit which is required of all men, and most of all of Christians, that they be humble and lowly of minde, which the Death of Christ, and our reliance upon his Intercession and Sufferings for favour at the hands of God, does naturally nourish, and keep off that swollen unwholsome distemper of Arrogance and Self-weening.
4. In which, that no man may mistake me to his own prejudice, I say that the sound and comely frame of a Christian spirit is this; Unfeignedly to endeavour the perfecting of all Holiness both in Heart and Actions, and not to allow a mans self in any thing that he thinks is a sin; and when he is arriv'd at that height of Sanctity, that he is not conscious to himself that he does any thing that is unlawful, to give the whole praise to God, and to His Merits and Intercession that has procured him the assistance of his holy Spirit, and by virtue of his Death has so powerfully engaged him to warre against his lusts and to mortifie all his immoderate Passions; and withall to remember, that though he know nothing by himself, yet he is not thereby justified, and that a man cannot be sure but that he may mistake himself in some thing or other, though he never sin against his own light; and to impute it rather to the mercy of God, that he has not led him into such violent Temptations as some have been, <512> that he finds himself not to have submitted to evil motions, then to ostentate his own strength, and contemn the Protection of so kind a Saviour, who being acquainted with humane infirmity, may justly be thought to have kept off those tempestuous Assaults that otherwise might have invaded us. Besides that, let us be never so perfect now, yet it cannot pay the old score, because we ought to have been alwaies without sin; and therefore our recourse to so compassionate a Saviour is never out of date. Which is a Truth indispensable both for the maintaining of the honour of Christ, and keeping our selves in a submiss and humble frame of Spirit towards God and towards men. So that the Opinion of these Enthusiastick Perfectionists does plainly transgress against both the second and third Rule we have set down.
1 Sincerity the middle way betwixt pretended Infirmity and the boast of Perfection: with the description thereof. 2. A more full character of the Sincere Christian. 3. That they that endeavour not after that state are Hypocrites, and they that pretend to be above it, Conspiratours against the everlasting Priesthood of Christ. 4. The Personal Reign of Christ upon Earth, and the Millenium in the more sober meaning thereof applied to the above-nam'd Rules.
1. TO stear our course right therefore betwixt those Hypocritical Pretenders of Invincible Infirmity and these High-flown Boasters of absolute Perfection, we must keep in that safe middle path of Unfeigned Sincerity. Which therefore wil neither charge the condition of Nature, as being utterly uncorrigible, that cannot be reduc'd to Obedience, no not by the power of the Spirit of God; nor cast it upon God himself, as being unwilling or not caring that Nature should be thus reduc'd and brought under to the obedience of Christ: But a man will charge himself in all his miscarriages, and hold it his duty (and such as by Gods assistance he may perform, if he be not wanting on his part) to yield his Members as Instruments of Righteousness to God, as well as he did before yield them as Instruments of Unrighteousness to Sin. For Sincerity implying a faithful purpose and will of doing what is right, Christ has hereby wone the Castle or Fort of his enemy; and all the Ammunition and Engines therein will certainly then be used for right designes.
The Eyes that before suck'd in rotten corruptive thoughts from false alluring Objects, and so set the Heart on fire with filthy lusts, are now made Inlets of the light and brightness of the unspotted Wisdome of God, fairly pourtraied out in the visible Creature. Those Ears that could before drink in with delight the smooth tales of Detraction and Calumny, stand now open onely to the sighs of the poor or honest reports of our Neighbour. Those Feet that before were swift to shed <513> bloud, are now much more ready to rescue the innocent. Those Hands that before were onely exercised in griping and pulling from others, are now ever open for Alms-deeds and bountiful distribution to the needy. That Tongue that in secret would not spare to strike his Friend, will now in a just cause defend his Enemy.
In brief, there is no external Action of true Sanctity and Righteousness but the sincere Christian both believes and findes he has a power to perform it, and therefore does constantly the good and refuses the evil, that his conscience tells him is so indeed, and is in his power to do and refrain: that is to say, He will be sure to refrain from whatsoever is unjust, he will never deal with another otherwise then himself would be dealt with, he will most certainly abstein from Extortion, Adultery, Fornication, he will never doe any envious or revengeful Actions. And not onely so, but he does believe that through the grace of God he may be quite devoid of all Envy and Malice, and not so much as bear any ill will against any man, no not against his Enemies; and the same of all other inordinate affections, which though they move strongly and rebelliously, yet he never assents so far to them as to be willing to doe them, though he had a secure opportunity thereof.
2. And yet he does not think himself perfect, though he thus assents to no Sin while he thinks it so; nor at all doubts of his Salvation, though he be imperfect. And if by the boisterousness and importunity of a Temptation or some unavoidable Inadvertency he falls into any evil action, the pleasure he finds from it will be like that which a child gets by falling with his forehead against sharp stones or with his hands into the fire. Wherefore his sincere Love to Righteousness and hearty abhorrence from Sin will make him alwaies circumspect. For he holds himself bound not onely not to commit sin when it appears to be so, which he thinks then impossible for him to do; but charges himself with a perpetual watchfulness, that he may not commit it when it would insinuate it self under some more specious shape.
And though by Divine Assistance and faithful Adhesion thereto, he finde himself arriv'd to that pitch that he has conquered all corruptions, so that he cannot charge himself with either Pride, or Lust, or Envy, or Covetousness, or any such like Vice, or that he does misbelieve the Promises of God, or does not depend upon his Providence, or is not willing to submit to his will in all things to whatever condition he shall call him: yet he knowing himself withall not infallible, nor unconquerable, especially without the assistance of Christ, as also actually beset with many inconveniences of humane Nature (such as are Straying of thoughts, Unevenness in Devotion, Indisposedness of minde by reason of this Tabernacle of Earth we live in) and reflecting on the old reckoning of the Follies of our Life past, which nothing but ignorance can conceit to have been without Sin, and how all these things (though ordinary Philosophy pronounces them to be no Faults, but mere Infirmities of Nature) they having been contracted by our Lapse, may justly by Religion be set on our score; This Sincere Christian, whose Character I have given, will be so far from setting the Person of Christ at defiance, and vilifying his <514> Passion, Intercession and holy Priesthood, that he will with the greatest reverence of Devotion that can be imagined love him and adore him, and will not quit that sweet Repose of minde he findes in the recounting with himself what an inestimable Friend he has with God, for all the Pleasures and greatest Interests of this present life; nor presume to be justified by his own Life or Works, but by Faith in Christ, whom he rejoices to think that he shall see his Judge at the last Day.
3. This is the true and sound complexion of a Sincere Christian; and he that does not faithfully endeavour to arrive at this state, discovers himself to be an halting Hypocrite, and one that is no Lover of the Divine Life, nor has tasted the sweetness of Sanctity, and of the holy Spirit of God, nor known the power of his operations. He that pretends to be above it, he is self-condemned, and betraies himself of what Kingdome he is, that he is inacted by the envy of Satan against the Kingdome of Christ, to antiquate his Offices and to lay aside his Person: which he perswades sundry fanatical Souls to do, puffing them up with the conceit of Self-perfection, on purpose to exclude our Saviour. The danger of which errour is no less then the utter forfeiture of their Eternal Salvation. For no man shall inherit eternal life but by the donation of the crucified Jesus, whom God has appointed Judge at the last day. Besides that the very life and moral temper in these Revolters from the Son of God, if we compare it with that of the Sincere Christian, there is as much difference, to them that can tast, as betwixt the wilde grape and the sweet. So hard a thing is it for either Nature or the Devil to imitate the true tincture of the Spirit of Christ. Their vine is the vine of Sodom, and their fruit as the clusters of Gomorrah, and their Churches as a field whom the Lord hath blasted, there is the smell of the Sulphurous Lake and of the pit of Hell amongst them.
4. The last thing I propounded was the Personal Reign of Christ upon Earth. Of which Opinion as the reasons are slender or none at all, so the Usefulness thereof to me invisible, not knowing that it promotes any End of the Gospel which I can take notice of.
But that there may be a Millennium, as they usually call it, or a Long Period of time wherein a more excellent Reign of Christ then has manifested it self yet to the World may take place, truly it seems so reasonable in it self, and there are such shrewd places of Scripture seem to speak that way, that it is hard for an indifferent man to gainsay it. But I conceive then that the Renovation of the state of things will be, as S. Peter speaks, into new Heavens and new Earth wherein Righteousness shall dwell; wherein real Sanctity and universal Peacefulness shall bear sway; wherein the crucified Jesus shall not be onely complemented aloof off, and saluted in Statues and Pictures, both himself and his Mother and all his Apostles and most eminent Adherents (whenas in the mean time Mars, Venus and Pluto and other Idols of the Heathen are cordially lov'd and serv'd, all Christendome giving themselves enormously to War and Bloudshed, to Lust and Luxury, to Wealth and Covetousness, worshipping these Deities in Spirit and in truth:) but as the Divine honour done to our Saviours person shall not then cease, so the <515> power of His spirit shall be more potently felt for the unpaganizing of the World, and for the destroying of this spiritual Idolatry, which is the Inordinate Affections and fierce endeavours of the Animal Life; and shall implant such a love and liking of the life of Christ, that Peace and Righteousness shall overflow all.
Contentions about Opinions shall then cease, they being priz'd onely by the Pride and Curiosity of the Natural man, and all the goodly Inventions of nice Theologers shall then cease, and all the foolish and perplexing Arguments of the disputacious Schools shall be laid aside, and the Gospel alone shall be exalted in that day. And truly the Millennium being in such a sense as this stated, it is both probable and very desirable, and an opinion that agrees with, nay such as may very well further, all the designes of the Gospel; as any one may discern by making application to the Rules I have set down.
Of which Rules these few Examples may serve to shew the use, and to teach a man how to extricate himself from that mighty cumbersomeness of the numerosity of Opinions, whether they be suggested from his own thoughts or offer'd by other men. For if he applies them to these Rules, he will finde most of them either so little to the designes of the Gospel, or so much against them, that he will account some not worth the sifting, others not worthy the naming, much less the entertaining by a sober Christian.
Which practises and considerations cannot but tend much to the advancement of the Gospel of Christ, if diligently observ'd though but by private Christians. I shall onely give some brief touch what is proper for the Magistrate to contribute for the Advancement of Christianity, and then we shall conclude.
1 That in those that believe There is a God, and a Life to come, there is an antecedent Right of Liberty of Conscience not to be invaded by the Civil Magistrate. 2. Object. That no false Religion is the command of God; with the Answer thereto. 3. That there is no incongruity to admit That God may command contrary Religions in the world. 4, 5. The utmost Difficulty in that Position, with the Answer thereto. 6. That God may introduce a false perswasion into the mind of man as well for probation as punishment. 7. That simple falsities in Religion are no forfeiture of Liberty of Conscience. 8. That though no falsities in Religion were the command of God, yet upon other considerations it is demonstrated that the Religionist ought to be free. 9. A further demonstration of this Truth from the gross absurdities that follow the contrary Position.
1. BEfore we can well understand the Power of the Magistrate in matters of Religion, we must first consider the Common Right of Mankind in this point, provided they be not degenerated into Atheisme and Prophaneness. For he that believes there is no God, nor Reward, nor Punishment after this life, what plea can he have to Liberty of Conscience? or how unproper is it to talk of his Right in matters of Religion, who professedly has no Religion at all, nor any tie of Conscience upon him to make that wicked profession? For Atheisme as it is very coursely false in it self to any man that has the clear exercise of his Reason, so is it intolerably mischievous and destructive even to the present Happiness of States and Kingdomes, and therefore to be shunned and repressed as the very plague and pest of humane Polities. But for those that seriously make profession of the Existence of God Creator of all things, and of his Providence, and acknowledge that there is a life to come wherein the wicked shall be punished and the vertuous rewarded; it seems to me that there does naturally accrew such a Right to these men of freedome in their Religion as is inviolable, and such as the power of the Magistrate ought not to invade, unless there be some perverse mixture in it that forfeits their Right.
In the mean time supposing there be nothing but simple mistake, which they of the contrary Religion will call Superstition, yet the Conscience of the other party being bound up to this, it is his natural Right to have his Freedome therein; because his Conscience is necessarily subjected thereby to a greater power then any is on earth: and therefore not to give him the Liberty of his Religion is both a piece of Inhumanity and Injustice towards him, and a kind of Rebellion against God whose liege subject he is.
2. Nor can any thing that I know weaken the solidity of this Truth, unless you will say that no False Religion is the command of God, or at least that it is countermanded by the Promulgation of the True. To which I answer, That there is so much Truth in those Religions I speak of, that they contain a belief of the Existence of God & that there is a Life to come; which is a demonstration that the rest of their Religion, in the belief and exercise whereof they seriously and sincerely seek the favour of God and Eternal happiness, does bind their Conscience most severely and indispensably to obedience. Which immediate Dictate of Conscience in a soul that is sincere, what is it but the Command of God? and before his voice be heard here, his will is not promulgated to that person. For nothing but Conviction of Conscience that this or that is the Will of God is properly the promulgation of his Will to every particular soul: Otherwise it is but as a recital of the Law in a language the People understand not, and therefore can take no hold upon them.
Again, how can an Erroneous Conscience oblige to obedience, if its Dictate be but as from it self, and not the command of God? For it is <517> improper to say a man is obliged to obey himself, especially in matters of Religion. Wherefore it is plain that the Obligation is to God, and from God, who has proclaimed in the heart of every man that is conscienciously and sincerely religious how he will be served and worshipped, and by inevitable trains of Providence has for a time fixt him to this or that perswasion. Which being the most express, the most complete and articulate way that God can promulgate his Law by, namely, the Conviction of mens Reason and Conscience (for I speak of such as are in their wits, not mad-men and Fanaticks, nor yet such as embrace for Religion Precepts contrary to the Light and Law of Nature, which is the highest and most uncontrovertible Law of God, as being not Topical but Universal, and therefore there can be no perswasion against that, but it is to be imputed to the villany of man, not to the command of God, who in all Nations by the inward Light of Nature commands to the contrary, be their Topical Religion what it will;) In these things, I say, whose falseness is not easily discoverable by the Light of Nature (such as are sundry matters of fact done many Ages ago, and Religious Precepts and Ceremonies thereupon depending) if there be this Conviction of Conscience concerning them, there is necessarily implied the command of God to that people so convicted. For when can God be said to command a person, if not then when he conveys a practical perswasion so unto him (be it by the intervention of what Providence it will) that there is no place left to doubt but that it is his Command? For if he spoke to him face to face (which he does not doe to one of infinite thousands, nor it may be properly to any) there could be no greater assurance of receiving a command from him. Wherefore a man being as fully assured that he has received a command from God as he can be assured, and this assurance being contrived into him by the Providence of God himself; it is evident that the command is truly from God. To which a man is still obliged till he does in as express a manner receive a Countermand from the same Soveraign Power.
3. Which Countermand, according to what I have already laid down, is not received nor promulgated till the Conscience be convinced, but is still as a Law repeated in a strange language; and therefore being not understood, is not obligatory. Nor does the great Law-giver of the Universe contradict himself in this variety, nay contrariety, if you will, of Religions. For he does not command them all to the same people at the same time; but every one according as his Conscience is convicted receives a new command, and where they are inconsistent, relinquishes the old. And truly there seems no harshnesse nor incongruity at all in admitting variety and contrariety of Religions in the world, and all commanded by God, if this Diversity and Opposition were discoverable only in several degrees of Perfection, or in the manner of Worship and Ceremony: but they being contradictory one to another in the very Articles of their Creeds, this seems an insuperable difficulty, how God should command them to believe Contradictions, of which one part must of necessity be false. As for example, It is impossible, That Christ died on the Crosse, and, That he died not on the Crosse, or, That he rose again <518> from the dead, and, That he did not rise again from the dead, should both parts be true. In the former of which examples the Turks, in the latter the Jews Belief is opposite to ours.
4. This truly at first sight seems a very hard knot. But the difficulty will not prove so formidable, after we have considered wherein it lies and how it may be answered. And surely it lies mainly in this, Whether it be consistent with the Nature of God to conveigh a false Perswasion into the minde of man or no. This is the utmost of the intricacy. To which methinks the Answer is not difficult. I freely therefore do affirm, That it is not inconsistent with Gods nature so to do. For he is thereby neither the Authour of any sin committed by us, nor doth he commit any thing himself herein unworthy of his Divinity. He is not the Authour of Sin in us, in that invincible ignorance is no sin, nor any act that proceeds therefrom. There is indeed lesse perfection in these actions, but every imperfection is not sin; for they may be such imperfections as are utterly involuntary and unavoidable, as we suppose this false persuasion is and all the effects of it.
5. Nor does God do any thing unworthy of himself in introducing such an invincible or unavoidable perswasion, though it be false. For to cause another to think that which is not true, is not simply evil in it self. Otherwise it were unlawful to fence, and to use ordinary stratagems of warre, wherein the Enemy endeavours to deceive each other; which is not done but by bringing them into a false belief. And we are the worst kinde of Enemies against God, being Rebels and Apostates from him: And therefore though he needs insinuate no mistakes into us by way of stratagem, yet he may fix upon us the belief of such things as are false by way of punishment; and though he command homage from us as his Subjects, yet he may do it with several badges of disgrace, as some offended Prince might command a Rebel for a time to wear some sordid token of his Rebellion upon his outward garments whenever he went abroad, or an incensed High Priest for Penance adjudge some offender to do his devotions alwaies in some dark pit or dungeon, in stead of a convenient closet or well-adorned Church. Which things though they be but ugly in themselves, yet they being part of that duty they are tied up to by them that ought to command, they are free from the molestations of others that are inferiour to that Power that commanded them; nor are these Offenders the one to be drag'd into the Church to do his devotions there, nor is any one to pull off by violence from the other the badge of dishonour that he is commanded to wear.
Now the dishonourable badges of the Soul are those grosse Errours and Ignorances with which God may justly be deemed, by way of reproach and punishment, to command those to worship him that are convinced so to do, nor know yet any thing better. And the dark pit may be any blinde dispensation which Divine Providence has adjudged men to, till their conviction to the contrary. For Conviction is the immediate Command of God in the Conscience; as I have often repeated.
6. And as God by way of Punishment may introduce a false perswasion into the Minde of man, so also by way of Probation. For if to introduce <519> a false perswasion in it self be not simply evil, how can it be evil when used for a good End, and by an unerring Wisedom, and from an infinite Goodness? Which powers if we were invested with, none could make any controversie of it, but that we might also take the liberty to do so too. And people hold it ordinarily very pardonable, if not allowable, to impose upon children and sick persons by false stories for their health, and to save the spilling of innocent bloud by concealing the pursued from the knowledge of him that would murther him. Nay, in smaller exigencies, as in the trial of a servants trust, no man would be much offended if one made his servant believe he trusted him further then he did, either to encourage his faithfulness or to detect his fraud: as if he should in his presence put up into a box some false Jewels that made a great show, but of small value, and should commit them unto his servants custody carefully sealed up as a most precious Treasure, thereby to try if he will run away with them; adding thereunto a sealed bag of Counters with an old inscription of so much in Gold. Such a Trial as this, which implies an introducing of a false opinion into the minde of the servant, few or none would hold culpable in his cautious Master. What injustice therefore can it be in God, if he try the Souls of men first in a false Religion, perswading them that it is true, and thereby commanding the practice thereof; since by this means their faithfulness is discovered, whether they will be sincere when that is committed to them which is wholly true indeed?
7. It is plain therefore that some falsehoods in a Religion which has so much Truth in it as to engage a man in the exercise thereof in hope of Eternal life, doe not hinder but that this whole Religion that obliges the Conscience is the command of God to them whose Conscience it does oblige; and therefore that they are free from the commands of any external power, if some other things of another nature do not make them forfeit their liberty. For the simple falsities in Religion are not enough, that is, are not sufficient to detect that such a Religion is not commanded to such and such persons by God himself; who thought good to try Abraham's Faith by that false perswasion, that he was actually to sacrifice his son to him, whenas God intended no such matter. Which Example does prove that God has not only a power, but has put also into act this right that he has of causing men to think otherwise then what is really true. But what is that to thee? they must stand or fall to their own Master, nor hast thou any power to countermand them till they have a countermand from God by clear conviction that the way they are in is false: For then onely ceases it to be the Command of God to them.
8. But if thou wilt be so humour some for all this as to deny that such a Conviction of Conscience, so stated as I have stated it, is the real command of God in every particular, namely, in the apprehensions which are false; yet, though this were admitted, it will notwithstanding be evident that it is a piece of Rudeness and Barbarity to incommodate a person thus perswaded for the profession of his Religion. For first, his speaking and acting according to the unavoidable perswasions of his minde is not a sin, it arising according to our hypothesis out of invincible Ignorance; nor <520> is he supposed to act any thing against the known laws of Nature; and therefore no just right of any one is endamaged: but in the mean time the Soveraignty of the Godhead is fully acknowledged, and the Loyalty and Sincerity of the Religionist exercised therein.
Wherefore what reason can there be that any one for so good an action, that is not exceptionable for any thing that is properly sinful, should be rudely treated, punished, or any way disturbed or hindred? For whosoever endeavours his forcible hindrance, does not only suppress an innocent and laudable action, but he does necessarily perpetrate a foul and sinful one. For such is the solicitation of others to the omission of that duty of Loyalty our own Conscience tels us we owe to God. Wherefore he that hinders the sincere Religionist from the Profession of his Religion, tempts him to a sin against God: which no Powers in the World have a right to do, but are ipso facto guilty of rebellion against their Maker, by corrupting his liege Subjects, and urging them to faithlesness and neglect of their duty. How culpable are they then in forcing them and haling them to such actions as they are perswaded God has severely forbid them? Verily if this be not unjustly to command him who is under the power of another, I cannot imagine what is; nor what can be deemed a sin against God, if urging others to sin against him be not. So that again, even upon our Adversaries own terms, it is plain that the Soveraign power of God sets the sincere Religionist free in matters of Religion from any external force or power whatsoever.
9. Now as this Position recommends it self sufficiently from its own native concinnity and solidity; so will it also appear still more solid and more consonous to Reason, if we consider the absurdity of the contrary Position, namely, That liberty of Conscience is by no means to be granted in Religion. For from hence it follows that every Religion may, nay ought to keep out all other Religions with all care possible. For every mans Conscience tels him His is the best, or else he would not be of it; nay, that there is none true and saving but his own. For if they will say they may be saved in others, then is our former argument a perfect demonstration against them, that they are not only injurious to men but absolute rebels against God indeed, in treating those ill that are his liege people, and whom he loves so well that he intends to save them, and in persecuting them even for those very actions wherein they do most seriously express their obedience to him.
But if there be but one true and saving Religion at once in the world, this is the greatest disinterest to it that can be imagined. For upon this Position it will be as carefully kept out and as forcibly as any of the rest; which in my apprehension is very foul play, and therefore this is another evidence of the truth of our Thesis, viz. That the contrary is the greatest injury and disinterest to the True Religion that can be supposed, which nothing but external force hinders from spreading over all. For Magna est veritas, & prævalebit, I mean in the Mindes and Consciences of those men where she may have free audience, not in the noise and terrour of tyrannical impositions and obtrusions. Besides the frequent misery and <521> calamity this Position brings upon Nations and Kingdoms, viz. Wars, bloud-shed, subversion of Families, deposing, stabbing or poisoning of Princes, perpetual enmity and hatred, and all the works and actions of the kingdom of Darkness. Of so mischievous consequence is this Opinion we do oppose. Whenas if it were acknowledged universally, That Liberty of Religion is the natural right of mankinde, all these mischiefs would be prevented; The Prince could not pretend any quarrel against the People, nor the People against the Prince or against one another, but in Civil Rights that are more plain and intelligible.
1. That there is a Right in every Nation and Person to examine their Religion, to hear the Religion of Strangers, and to change their own, if they be convinced. 2. That those Nations that acknowledge this Right and act accordingly, have naturally a Right to send out Agents into other Nations. Their demeanour there, and the right of revenging their injuries. And how this Method had justified the Spaniards Invasion of the Indians. 3. The unpracticablenesse of the present Theory by reason of the general perverseness of the World. The advantageousnesse of it to Christendome, and suitablenesse of it to the Spirit of a Christian. 4. That Religion corruptive of manners is coercible by the Magistrate. 5. And that which would plainly destroy the defence of the Countrey. 6. As also whatever Religion is inseparably interwoven with Principles of Persecution. 7. An Answer to that Objection, That all Sects are persecutive, and that therefore there can be no Liberty of Conscience given.
1. IT is manifest therefore That Liberty of Religion is the common and natural Right of all Nations and Persons, that is to say, That they have a power, as they are Rational men, and believe that there is a God, and a Life to come, to examine what is the best way to serve him for their future advantage; and not to be tied up so to that Religion is first proposed to them, but that they have a Right to suspect, especially if they do not like it, that there is some better, and therefore that they may confer with those of other Religions, send for them out of one Nation into another, and entertain them when they are arrived, hear them diligently, and, if they be convinced, openly profess it. Or if they come of their own accord, they are to be entertained with the same security that an Agent of State is, and may freely converse with them of the Nation that have a minde to hear them. For this is a piece of their Right of Liberty, to speak as well as the others to hear. Which Transactions would breed no disturbance at all, if this Right of Liberty of Religion was universally understood and acknowledged by all the Nations of the World: as certainly it is their Right.
2. And it being so, it seems plainly to follow, That any Nation or People that do heartily ackowledge the Reasonableness of this Right, and their practice is accordingly, that there accrues to them this part of the Right also, that they may send of those of the Religion themselves are into their neighbouring Nations to communicate their Religion to them, and to try if they can convince them of that which they are perswaded is true, and to shew them the errours of their own; but at seasonable times, and without reproach or tumult, or any way confronting them in the exercise of their Religion; a thing very barbarous and insufferable at home, much more abroad in Countreys where they are Strangers.
For the avoiding of which wilde enormities it seems reasonable in it self, and a thing to be agreed upon, that there shall be no security to any stranger that takes upon him to gather the people together under pretence of instructing them in a more perfect Religion, unless he be an Agent from his own Nation for that purpose. Nor is he to begin with the rude people, but to act above-board, and to make his applications to the Governours of the places where he arrives; and not to pretend to the Juglings of Inspirations, and the irresistible blusters and impetuosities of an unaccountable Conscience: but first with a discreet candour to allow and commend what is good and praise-worthy in the Religion of the place; and then, after an unaffected profession of the love and kindeness of them that sent him, towards the Nation, with all prudent insinuations possible to lay before them the groundlesness or gross falsities which are in their Religion; and after that to shew the most demonstrative Reasons he has for the recommending of his own, namely, such as are agreed upon by the mature deliberation and counsel of them that sent him upon this errand, to which it should be criminall to adde, upon their authority, any foolish inventions of his own.
And if these Agents for Religion neither injuring nor defrauding any one of their Civil rights, shall be evilly entreated by those they offer to instruct, if they abuse them by imprisonment or any other hard dealing, or finally put them to death; that State or Kingdom to which they belong may require their bloud at their hands, as having grosly and barbarously transgressed against the Law of Nations, and the common Right of all mankinde that have not forfeited it some way or other: As these have not, they allowing this Liberty among themselves, and to all others that have a sense and conscience of the same Right, and being firmly resolved, if it should come to a war, and they be Conquerours of their ill Neighbours, to use no other means to turn their new Subjects from their old Religion, but by peaceably and patiently shewing them the vanity thereof, and the excellency and solidity of their own. Which cannot by any means be called the Propagation of Religion by the Sword, when there shall not be so much force put upon them to change their former Religion, if they be found conscientious, as to compell them to be present at the Solemnities of the New. Only they shall swear fealty to their Conquerours, and be well indoctrinated in that common Right of Mankinde, That no man is to be persecuted for Religion, if he have not <523> forfeited that Right by taking upon him the liberty of persecuting others. And therefore they may enjoy their Religion if they can still like it, upon equal termes with the conquerours, as to their private capacities. If the Spaniard had made himself master of the Indies upon these conditions, and had abstained from his execrable cruelties, he might have justified himself to all the World. For this had not been to propagate Religion by the sword, but to maintain a mans natural right.
3. This Theory I think is very sound at the bottome, and that it is very clear what ought to be; but hugely unpracticable by reason of that general perverseness and corruption of men. Yet I thought it worth the while to expose it to view, the acknowledgement thereof being the greatest advantage to Christian Religion that can possibly be conceived, there being nothing so effectual for the easie fall of Turcisme and Paganisme into the profession of Christ as this Principle we have explained; our Religion being not onely solid in it self, but incomparably more demonstrable to all Rational spirits then any Religion ever extant in the World. Besides, though its use will not extend so farre at the first, yet it may be something serviceable to these parts of the world whose eyes are more open to Truth then others are. And verily in my judgement, this Principle I do thus recommend, as it seems to me to deserve the reception of all men as true, so of all Christians especially, not onely upon point of Policy, but as more sutable to that spirit they are of, abhorring from force and cruelty; who are therefore to permit full Liberty of Conscience to all those that do not forfeit it by mixing with their Religion such Principles as are contrary to good manners and civil Right, or repugnant to this very Principle of Liberty we speak of.
4. Wherefore those that under pretence of Religion would corrupt the people with such doctrines as plainly countenance Vice and tend to the rooting out of the sense of true Honour and Vertue out of a Nation, have lost this Common Right we contend for, as being infecters and poisoners of the people amongst whom they live; and therefore the therefore the publick Magistrate of what Nation or Religion soever has a power to restrain them, their doctrine being so dangerous to the welfare of a State, and contrary to the light of Nature and suffrage of the wisest men in all places of the World and in all Ages. No Religion fraught with such rotten ware as this, is to be received in any coast where they would put in, but to be kept out by Strangers and suppressed at home.
5. Again, those also would forfeit this Right of Liberty, whose Religion should contain any thing in it that would weaken the State which received it. As if there were some such absurd Superstition, as upon pretence of an high esteem fo Virginity and extreme abhorrence from warre should urge the emasculation of every third male-child, or the luxation or cutting off their fore-finger or thumb, whereby the Country would be depopulated, and the Inhabitants made unserviceable for the defence thereof: there is no question but the Magistrate might inhibit such a Religion as this.
6. As he might in the last place all such as have intermixed with them that wolvish and ferine humour of persecuting others for their Religion, <524> that would live quietly by them, and would not force any one to their own Faith, nor disturb the publick exercise of Religion in others. For these have no right to be suffered further then at the discretion of the Magistrate; nor can more reasonably plead for Liberty then the Wolfe and Fox crave leave to have their kennels or holes in the midst of a Sheepfold, or the Owle or Night-Raven to put in their note amidst a Quire of Nightingales.
7. But you'l say, all Religions and Sects are such Foxes and Wolves, and therefore there is no Liberty of Religion at all to be given. Those that are so, I confess, are at the mercy of the Magistrate, as having forfeited their Right. Which forfeiture he may exact more or less severely accordingly as he has more or less security that these crafty and wild Creatures may do no mischief. But I do not believe that all men that do profess Religion are of this partial nature; nay on the contrary, I do verily believe That they that are the most truly religious, are the most abhorrent from persecution of conscience sake. Wherefore as many as are ready to profess, and that upon Oath, if it be required, That it is their judgement (and their Practice does not contradict it) that no man is to be incommodated in his Civil rights, in his Liberty, Estate or Life, for the cause of such a Religion as whose principles teach not to incommodate others, and do avow that theirs is such, and that they will be as faithful to the Prince or State in which they live as those of his own Religion; these having in no wise forfeited their Right of liberty, neither this way nor any other, by intermingling Practices or Principles against the light of Nature and laudable Morality; it were the highest piece of Injustice that can be committed to abridge them of the safe profession thereof.
1. To what Persons and with what Circumstances the Christian Magistrate is to give Liberty of Conscience. And the great advantage thereof to the Truth of Christianity. 2. That those that are not Christians, are not to be admitted into places of trust by the Christian Magistrate, if he can supply himself with those that are. 3. That the Christian Magistrate is to lay aside the fallible opinions of men, and promote every one in Church and State, according to his merit in the Christian life, and his ability promoting the interest of the Church of Christ and the Nation he serves. 4. That he is to continue or provide an honourable and competent allowance for them that labour in the word and doctrine. 5. That the vigilancy of the Christian Magistrate is to keep under such Sects as pretend to Immediate Inspiration unaccountable and unintelligible to sober Reason, and why? 6. That the endeavour of impoverishing the Clergy smels rank of Prophaneness, Atheisme and Infidelity. 7. That the Christian Magistrate is either to erect or keep up Schools of Humane Learning, with the weighty grounds thereof. 8. A further enforcement of those <525> grounds upon the fanatick Perfectionists. 9. The hideous danger of casting away the History of the Gospel upon pretence of keeping to the Light within us.
1. TO come to a Conclusion therefore, and to touch the Point we have aimed at all this time, What a Christian Prince or the Supreme Magistracy may contribute to the advancement of the Gospel of Christ: From these general Principles we may inferre, First, that he is to give Liberty of Conscience to all such as have not forfeited it, namely such as I have last of all described, especially if they be Natives of the place, were it possible for them to be of any Religion then Christian. But withall to require a publick and solemn account of their change of Religion; wherein it may appear whether it be Conscience or Design or humour that makes them Apostatize. Which either fraud or giddiness shall make the party obnoxious to such rebuke and penalty as may probably deterre the people from the like causeless revolts. But if the person be of a serious life, and shall be found to have changed his opinion upon such grounds of Reason as, though false, yet may possibly mislead a wel-meaning man; yet for sureness he shall be put upon his Oath: Which test though it be abused to over-petty matters, yet certainly must not loose its due use in causes of so solemn importance.
In which kind of cases if any refuse upon a pretended scrupulosity of swearing at all, and in an affectation of seeming more precisely holy then others, without question it is not Religion but some fathomless depth of knavery that lies at the bottom; and they may justly be suspected of some treasonable and treacherous design against the Religion and Government under which they live. Wherefore before they should have liberty to profess themselves of another Religion, they should be required to take a solemn Oath, with a deep Imprecation of Divine vengeance upon Soul and Body, that nothing moves them thereto but mere conviction of Conscience, and that they have no secular design at all in their change, nor desire any more liberty then what they think themselves bound in conscience to allow to others. Which publick Examination and Oath is very useful also and justifiable upon mens relinquishing of the publick worship of God in the Churches, though they do not professedly declare themselves to be no Christians. For not to joyn with them in publick worship, is the next door to that Apostasy.
This practice would be of infinite advantage for the Truth of Christianity. For hereby the Priesthood will be more cautious how they clogge the Gospel with unwarrantable trumperies; and those that would revolt, by this calling them to an account first, shall be forced to feel the strength and solidity of that Religion they would bid adieu to, and their secret designes prevented by the solemnity of an Oath. And lastly the Christian Magistrate by giving this liberty after these due circumstances (which assuredly he will have very seldome occasion for by reason of the Evidence of our Religion) will avoid the justifying <526> the iniquity of other Religions who not by power of Reason and Conscience, but by outward Force, hinder their Natives from turning Christians.
2. But Secondly, Though these serious people shall not be deprived of their Liberty, Lives or Estates, nor any way impaired in their private fortunes; yet they shall be disabled from bearing any Office of trust in the Commonwealth, especially if there be of the Christian Religion that will manage them with equal skil and fidelity. For it is plainly unnaturall, if not impossible, that a man that is serious in his Religion should not prefer one of his own Faith before a Stranger, if in other things they be equal. Besides that the Lawes of Caution and Prudence cannot fail to suggest so reasonable a choice; which are very much to be listned to in things of this nature. For present possession of power is better assurance then the Oath of well-meaning but withall of temptable and lapsable Mortals.
3. Thirdly, The Christian Magistrate is to give no assistance of his power nor countenance any further then Christianity it self is concerned: that is to say, He is to give that assistance which is due from a Magistrate for the defending and promoting of our Religion, so far forth as it is plainly discoverable in the written Word of God in the Literal and Historical meaning thereof: For to cant onely in Allegories, is to deny the Faith of Christ. And as for Opinions, though some may be better then othersome, yet none should exclude from the fullest enjoyment of either private or publick Rights, suppose there be no venome of the Persecutive spirit mingled with them. But every one that professes the Faith of Christ and believeth the Scripture in the Historical sense thereof, let his Opinions be otherwise what they will, he is according to his life, worth and ability every where to be preferred in either Church or State. Which is absolutely the most advantageous way for the advancing of the Gospel and making the World good that the Wit of man can find out.
And External Force being so unfitting in it self, and most of all unbecoming the Christian Magistrate, in matters of Religion, what one might fancy lost in laying aside Persecution, would in as great a measure be regained by countenancing this free and naked Representation of the Beauty and Perfection of the Gospel quite rid of all pretended Traditions and whatever obfuscations and entanglements of humane Invention. For then the Truth of God would be like an unsheathed sword, bright and glittering, sharp and cutting, and irresistibly convincing the rational Spirit of a man. Whenas now our Religion is wrapt up in so many wreathes of hay and straw, that mo man can see nor feel the edge of it.
4. Fourthly, Being Compulsion is not to be used nor Prudence excluded, (For it is the same fanatical madness to exile Prudence out of affairs of Church and State as to exclude Reason and Mathematicks out of Philosophy) it is very plain that the Christian Magistrate is engaged to adde to Liberty of Conscience the advantage of an honourable and comfortable subsistence for those that labour in the word and doctrine; that is to say, he is obliged in all reason and conscience to continue it where it <527> is, and to raise it whereever it is wanting. And I am very confident it is either gross Fanatical ignorance, or the hidden malice of Satan against the kingdome of Christ, acting either in profane and Atheistical persons or such as are not cordially Christians, that suggests any thing to the contrary. For the less any Religion is underpropped by External force, the more able ought their Heads and Tongues to be that are only by their learning, eloquence and innocency of life to support it: And the present Ages having so much wit and so little sense of Piety, he that will undertake to give a good account of his Religion and to answer all Opposers, though the Scruples and Controversies be but concerning that which is plainly in the Scripture, he ought to have leisure and vacancy from the affairs of the World to prepare himself, and continue his dexterity in this kinde.
For that tedious buzz and noise of the Spirit has now, I think, made it self so ridiculous, that no prudent man will listen to such lazy Impostures. Every one is to give a reason of his faith; but Priests or Ministers more punctually then any; their Province being to make good every sentence of the Bible to a rational Enquirer into the Truth of those Oracles. Who therefore can sufficiently attend these things, and be to seek for bread for himself and his Family? How unjust and sordid a temper therefore are those persons of, that could be content to leave the Clergy to work for their living? Any inferiour fellow may talk and prate phrases and make faces, but when a sober man would be satisfied of the grounds from whence they speak, we shall hear no news of any thing but the Spirit, and railing against carnal Reason, though it be no soft flesh but hard and penetrant steel, and such as pierces them to the very heart, for all their contempt and slighting of it.
5. And verily while I consider the unreasonableness and ill consequence of this kinde of Enthusiasme, I cannot but think the Vigilancy of the Christian Magistrate should extend to this also amongst other things, to suppress and keep under all Sects and Religions that hold of so Fanatick a tenour, that is to say, that profess they believe against the Christian Faith from the illumination of such a Spirit as they can give no account of, viz. such as does not illuminate their Reason, whereby their doctrine may be accountable and intelligible to others, but only heat them and make them furious against the Christian Church. For besides the hazarding of making a whole Nation mad (for seriously it is an infectious disease, if not the very possession of the Devil) there may some damnable plot lie under it against Christianity and the State. For it is a more easie thing to heat the Phansies of the vulgar, then to inform their Judgements; though this tends to sober edification, that to confusion and destruction. In brief, there are these two very bad things in this resolving of matters into the immediate suggestion of the Spirit not acting upon our Understandings. First, it defaces and makes useless that part of the Image of God in us which we call Reason; and secondly, it takes away that special advantage that Christianity has above all other Religions, that she dare appeal to so solid a Faculty. And therefore he that takes away the use of Reason in Re <528> ligion, undermines Christianity, and laies it as low as the basest Superstition that ever appeared in the World.
6. Now therefore to return, I say, To talk at the rate of these blinde Illuminati, that do not so much as pretend to any solid satisfaction in what they say, requires no study, nothing but heat and impudency, and a careless insensibility of what they said last, or whether one thing will hold with another: But he that so speaks as ready to give a reason of what he delivers, and indeed of all things that are already delivered in the Scriptures so plainly as that it appears what the meaning is, (for it is no prejudice that there be some depths beyond the present reach of men) this man certainly ought not to be tied up to the cares of the world by being put to labour for his bread; but ought to have a liberal, certain and honourable allowance. But to contemn the Christian Clergy, or to endeavour to make them contemptible by impoverishing them and forcing them to base terms of living, smels exceeding rank of Prophanenesse, Atheisme, and Infidelity: and the railing at them and calling them Mercenary because they have a just maintenance allowed them, is assuredly the voice of that envious Accuser of the brethren, who by those villainous reproaches and calumnies would undermine and pull down the Kingdom of Christ in the world, by striking at the necessary props and supporters of it, the Ministry of the Gospel; whose subsistence ought to be independent of the People, that may reprove the more freely, and that there may be no temptation to either unworthy connivances, or to the sophisticating the doctrine of Christ by sweet poison, to inveigle the rich, and to untie their purse-strings; what they thus pay, being the price of their own Souls, betraied into the hands of such canting Mountebanks.
7. Fifthly, The Christian Magistrate ought also to continue, and erect where there wants, publick Schools of Learning. For the more knowing his Subjects are, the more certainly will they keep to Christianity, and the more easily will others come off to the same Faith. Nothing comparable to this for the preventing all delusions and impostures in Religion. Mahometisme could never have been set on foot but in a rude and illiterate Nation. But Christianity got its first foot-hold in the most civilized parts of the world, though persecuted and opposed. Besides that it is a piece of unspeakable madness to think that any man can be a fit Interpreter of Scripture without that which some in contempt call Humane Learning, as Logick or the known Principles of Reasoning; I will adde Mathematicks and Philosophy, and skill in Tongues and History: no man without the knowledge of these can make good the Truth of those holy Oracles to knowing and understanding men. And therefore they that decry these helps, are either very ignorant, or out of their wits, or have a treacherous plot against the flourishing of Christianity, and would bring in some Fanatick Religion, or else are enemies to all Religion whatsoever.
8. For tell me, O ye high-flown Perfectionists, and ye great boasters of the Light within you, could the highest Perfection of your inward Light ever shew to you the Histories of past Ages, the universal state of the <529> World at present, the knowledge of Arts and Tongues, without some external helps of either Books or Teachers? How then can you understand the Providence of God, the purpose of Prophecies and the Authority of that Religion which God has peculiarly appointed us to walk in, without external assistances? How can you make a due judgement of the Truth of Christianity, without a rational explication of the Prophecies that foretold the coming of Christ, without weighing what may be said concerning the authentickness and uncorruptedness of his History in the Gospels, and without considering the Reasonableness of all those Miraculous matters there recorded concerning him, and of what is behinde for him to perform at his visible return to judge the quick and the dead? No light within you, unassisted of helps without, and of the knowledge of History, Tongues and Sciences, and carefull exercise of Reason, that excellent gift of God to mankinde, can ever make you competent Judges of this matter.
9. And as you do thus forfeit the knowledge of the Truth by this sullen Self-sufficiency of yours within, so do you also endanger your eternal Salvation. For you cannot justly excuse your selves by the close following the light within you, if you do it in such a contemptuous manner that you will listen to nothing offered you from without, though never so accommodate and agreeable to those rational Faculties God has given you. Wherefore it being no necessitated ignorance, but your own wilfulness, that has made you Apostates from the Law of Christ, your unbelief is no abrogation of that Law to you; but, stop your ears as hard against it as you can, yet you shall be judged by it at the last day; when, you having not served God as he would be served, he will assuredly reward you as you would not be rewarded. For there is no other Name under Heaven whereby we must be saved but that of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom the Jews crucified and God raised from the dead. Wherefore you who make it the chiefest point of your Religion to crucifie him again by celebrating that execrable Pascha or Phase, which is your detestable killing of Christ according to the flesh, that it to say, according to the Letter or History, which is to put Christ out of all his Offices assigned to him by his Father, and to turn mere Pagans and Infidels, think as smoothly and favourably of your selves as you will, that doom must pass upon you at last (not according to your self-flattering Mysteries, but according to the truth of the Letter) which shall adjudge all the wicked to that everlasting fire which is prepared for the Devil and his Angels.
1. The Authours application to the better-minded Quakers. 2. He desires them of that Sect to search the grounds and compute the gains of their Revolt from Christ. 3. That there are no peculiar Effects of the Spirit of God in the Sect of the Quakers, but rather of Pythonisme. 4. That their Inspirations are not divine, but diabolicall. 5. The vanity of their boasting of the knowledge of their mysterious Allegories. 6. The grounds of their insufferable bitterness against the Ministers of Christ. 7. That he was urged by the light within him to give witnesse to the Truth of the History of the Gospel, and to admonish the Quakers. His caution to the simple-minded among them how they turn in to Familisme. 8. His ease and satisfaction of minde from disburdening himself of this duty. 9. The compassionablenesse of their condition, 10. And hope of their return to Christ.
1. KNowing therefore the terrour of the Lord, we were earnestly moved in minde to forewarn you and exhort you, I mean, as many of you are curable and reducible to the Truth. For some have celebrated that accursed Pascha so fully and obdurately, that they are become past feeling, having not any sense nor hope left of the concerns of another life, God having justly given them up to a reprobate sense for the denying of the Lord that bought them. But for you whose defection is not compleated, nor your eyes sealed up to perfect infidelity, let me desire you to make a stand awhile, to lay your hands upon your own hearts, and impartially examine your selves, what you would have, where you would be, and what good thing you would seek, that is not plainly exposed to your view in the Gospel of Christ. You had begun well: Who has hindred you? What has tempted you out of the way? Do you now sincerely seek the kingdom of Heaven, or gape after a booty upon Earth? Examine your own Consciences, and answer to your selves. I desire not to broach your shame. But I hope you will not account me injurious, if I take notice of such things as you conceal from none.
2. Search therefore your own hearts, and try your selves, what manner of Spirit has taken hold upon you, since you have been so imbittered against the School of Christ. There is no Vertue you can pretend to that is not comprehended in his Life and Doctrine in the highest perfection and clearnesse. How can you then take a new guide, unless it be to be led into some pleasing errour? And truly it is no small pleasure to the proud to have something separate and peculiar of their own, to seem wiser and holier then other men. And I desire you to appeal to your own Conscience, how great a stroke this Vice has had in furthering on your Apostasy; and beseech you to compute, if you be still serious in Religion, what you have gained by your revolt. Is your Reason any thing more improved? nay certainly, that ye have cut off <531> and cast from you as carnal and unholy. Are you more humble and more charitable? If you be, you do ill to conceal your Vertues, who would have the World believe so highly of you. You affect indeed to be very homely and sordid in your habits; but you do not perceive how sowr your affected sordidness smels of the leven of the Pharisees, who loved to be seen of men; and how you have but licked up what Diogenes that Pagan Sophist left in his Tub, and have chosen rather to be proud Cynicks then civil Christians.
And if your Humility have so strong a sent of Pride, how noisomely does your Pride it self stink in the nostrils of all men, your disrespect to your betters, your sawciness, your censoriousness, quite contrary to the precepts and practice of all holy men in all Ages? Your Humility therefore being so little, your Charity certainly cannot be great. For indeed you count all besides your selves a rude unsanctified mass, the Weeds of the World, fit for nothing but the fire of your Fanatick wrath to burn up.
I but you will say, though you have forgone your Reason and good manners, yet you have the Spirit of God amongst you, which is worth all. If you have, shew me the fruit thereof. For Pharisaical sowrnesse, Contest with the Magistrate, affronting the Minister in his publick Function, these are no fruits of the Spirit of God; but these alone with certain clownish forms of calling Thou for You, and keeping on the Hat when others in civil respect put it off, are the main Effects of that Spirit that distinguisheth you from others of the Nation.
3. Is this therefore the great purchase you have obtained by turning your back on Christ and contemning of his Person, to grow rude and clownish to all the World beside? But methinks I hear you answer again, As for this man, we know not what is become of him; but behold the Spirit is sensibly present amongst us even at this day. But I demand by what Signs. O, we shiver and quake every joynt of us. But that is no certain signe of the Spirit of God. Was not the winde suddenly turned into the North, or had you not an Ephemera, or was not your over-excited Choler entangled or turned out of the way by Phlegme or Melancholy? What miraculous power is there in all this? O, but there are also amongst us that have fallen down into a trance, that have foamed and swelled till their buttons break off. Wherefore of a truth these men could not but be full of the Spirit, and this be a Miracle indeed. If your Religion oweth not its growth to the tricks of Juglers and Tumblers, or to artificial Epilepsies I do confesse, it is a Miracle from these Symptomes, if Satan himself drives not on the designe. For these are plainly the passions of Pythonicks, such a kinde of possession as seized the Pagan-Prophets and Priests of old, who were no better then the worshippers of Devils, whose Oracles Christ has silenced long since. Wherefore examine your selves if you glory not in your shame: See how you tread: look behinde you, or rather search within you, who is the Prompter or first Mover in this new Scene of things.
4. For tell me (I beseech you) what did your foaming Prophets, when they vented themselves, discharge into your ears, whereby they may <532> be deemed more Divine then those Fanatick Pagans? Was not their continual song, so soon as they got upon their feet, the burning up of all Ordinances? From whence therefore could this voice come but out of the flames of hell? or what could swell the bodies of your Inspired, but the venome and poison of the Devil, which at last working up to their mouths he spit out enviously against the worship of Christs Person and all his holy Offices? Which is another evidence against you that your pretended Inspirations are not divine but diabolical, and that the mystery of Satan worketh amongst you, who would fain pull down Him whom of a truth God hath set up to be a King and Priest to the Nations for ever.
5. But the sweetest satisfaction of all is, that you are so extraordinarily illuminated, that you understand all the Mysteries of Christs kingdom better then any one else, and can in a supercilious pity bemoan the ignorance of the World, or with an imperious bitterness fly in their faces and reproach them for it, especially the Teachers of the people, that they have not taken up your Allegorical knacks, nor know how to give a mystical meaning of the Gospel from the preaching of John the Baptist to the coming of Christ to Judgement.
But you are indeed so unilluminated as not to understand that such devices as these are merely Allusions of humane Wit, and help very little to the enforcing of that they are made to signifie, namely, Repentance and Mortification of every evil lust and concupiscence, and a renovation of our mindes into the perfect image of Christ, that his spirit may rule in us, and that the works of death and darknesse may be utterly destroied. For this Truth is plainly and literally contained in the Scripture; so that if your mindes were not more set upon fancies then savoury instruction, you need not run a gadding after any new Guide for the attainment of this light. And, God be thanked, many honest plain-hearted Christians, that do not swagger and make such a noise with Mystical phrases as you, both hear and live according to these Gospel-Precepts, using a secret and silent severity upon themselves, not acting the rough and hairy Baptist upon others as you do, who love to ostentate your self-chosen austerities to the eyes of the world, like the Pharisees, who made sowr faces for fear the people should not take notice that they afflicted their bodies with fasting.
What purchase therefore have you got by your Allegorical Mysteries? unlesse you have been emboldned thereby to let go the Historical truth of the Gospel, and have found your selves much at ease, that your belief is not charged with such miraculous things as are written of Christ, partly done already and partly to be done at the end of the World. For hereby you do proclaim your selves Infidels, and that for all your boasting, your spirits are so foul and impure, that they are no fit receptacles of the holy Christian Faith, but that you have levelled your selves as low as Epicures and Atheists, who are no more capable of the belief of these things then the Beasts of the Field.
6. If it be thus with you, I dare appeal unto you whether you keep so precisely to the light within you, but that you have consulted with <533> that blinde Guide H. Nicolas, and tasted of the treacherous sops of his abhorred Passover, whose Fanatick boldness has led the dance to this mad Apostasy. Have you not celebrated his detestable Phase, who has gone about to perswade the World that the greatest and truest Arcanum of the Lords Supper is Judas-like to betray their Master, to kill Christ according to the flesh, that is, to lay aside and misbelieve the Truth of his History? Ask your own hearts, if the warmth of this sop has not so encouraged you, nay inflamed you with insufferable bitternesse against the Ministers of Christ as teaching nothing but lies, because they have not ceased to believe the Truth. Has not this with him that entred in with it so intoxicated you with rage, that you have trampled the holy Bible under your feet? Is it not this that hath made you so often roar against and revile the Preacher in the Pulpit, and disturb the publick Assemblies by your rude and frantick interpellations? Which Extravagancies demonstrate by what Spirit you are led, and that you are plainly Rebels against Christ, and are revolted to the Powers of the dark Kingdom.
7. These things I could not forbear to write, as being very much pressed in Spirit thereunto. For the Light within me, that is, my Reason and Conscience, does assure me that the ancient and Apostolick Faith according to the Historical meaning thereof is very solid and true; and that the Offices of Christ are never to be antiquated till his visible return to Judgement according to the literal sense of the Creed; and that Familisme is a mere Flam of the Devil, a smooth tale to seduce the simple from their Allegeance to Christ.
And therefore I beseech every man in these daies of Liberty to take heed how they turn in thither, especially those that are of an Enthusiastick temper, such as are most of the honester and better-meaning Quakers. For if in their bewildred wandrings they take up their Inne here, let them look to it that they be not robbed of all the Articles of the Christian Faith, and be stripped into naked Infidelity and Paganisme, and (which is worst of all) be so intoxicated with the cup of this Inchantress, as to think this injury their gain, and to prefer false Liberty before their Christian Simplicity, and those gaudy and phantastick Titles of being Deified and begodded before the real possession of Christian Truth and Godliness.
8. These things both here and elsewhere I have been forced to utter to the world; for it was as fire within me, and the discharging of my burden as it is mine own ease and satisfaction, so I do not despair but if there be that sincere Zeal to Truth and Holiness that is pretended, that it will redound to the safety of these melancholy Wanderers that look up and down for Truth with that candle of the Lord, the Spirit that he has lighted in them. But however where it shall not take effect, I shall neverthelesse be excused, and their bloud will be upon themselves and their accursed Seducers.
9. I know the haughty and covetous, that rellish nothing but the tearing to themselves undeserved respect from men, and clawing of money to them any way with their crooked talons, will hardly abstain <534> even from open derision of my zeal and solicitude for so contemned a people, and look upon me as a man of very mean designs, that would any way intermeddle with these poor despised Pilgrims. But these worldly Sophists consider not that the gaining of the meanest Soul to Eternal Salvation is really a greater prize then purchasing whole Kingdoms upon Earth, and infinitely above all the pains of any mans applications thereto.
And besides, for mine own part, I have ever had so right a sense and touch upon my spirit of their condition, that I think none more worthy of a mans best direction then they; the most imperious Sects having put such unhandsome vizards upon Christianity, that they have frighted away these babes that seem to me very desirous of the sincere milk of the Word. Which having been every where so sophisticated by the humours and inventions of men, it has driven these anxious Melancholists to seek for a Teacher within, and to cast themselves upon him who they know will not deceive them, the voice of the Eternall Word within them; to which if they be faithfull, they assure themselves he will be faithfull to them again. Which is no groundless presumption of theirs, it supposing nothing but what is very closely consistent with the Nature of God and his Providence. And truly as many of them as do persist in that serious and impartial desire of such knowledge as tends to Life and Godliness, I do not question but that God will in his due time lead them into the Truth, and that they will be more confirmed Christians then ever.
10. Which success of theirs will be more speedy and sure, if (as they set themselves against other vices, so) they mainly bend their force against Spiritual Pride and affectation of peculiarity in Religion, and of finding themselves wiser in the mysteries thereof then the best of Christians have pretended to. And above all things if they beware of Enthusiasme either in themselves or others, or of thinking that the gift of the Spirit can be any Revelation that is contrary to Reason or the acknowledged History of Christ, the truth thereof being so rationally evincible to all such as apply themselves without prejudice to examine it to the bottom. If in pursuance of their sincere intentions they keep off from these rocks, I doubt not but they will return safe again to Jesus Christ the great Pastor and Bishop of their Souls.
1. That Publick Worship is essential to Religion, and inseparable when free from Persecution. The right measure of the Circumstances thereof. 2. Of the Fabrick and Beauty of Churches according to that measure. 3. The main things he intends to touch upon concerning Publick Worship. 4. That the Churches of Christians are not Temples, the excellency of our Religion being incompliable with that Notion. 5. The vanity of the Sectari <535> ans exception against the word Church applied to the appointed places of Publick Worship. 6. That though the Church be no Temple, yet it is in some sense holy, and what respect there is to be had of it, and what reverence to be used there. 7. Of Catechizing, Expounding and Preaching. 8. Of Prayer, and what is the true praying by the Spirit. 9. The Excellency of publick Liturgies. 10. What is the right End of the Ministry. 11. Certain special uses of Sermons, and of the excellency of our Saviour Christs Sermon on the Mount. 12. The best way for one to magnifie his Ministry. 13. Of the Holy Communion, who are to be excluded, and of the posture of receiving it. 14. Of the time of Baptism, and the Signe of the Crosse. 15. Of Songs and Hymns to be composed by the Church, and of Holy-daies. 16. Of the celebrating the Passion-day and the Holy Communion. 17. Of Images and Pictures in places of Publick Worship. 18. A summary advertisement concerning Ceremonies and Opinions.
1. AFter this charitable Digression to meet with the Quakers, let us resume our business in hand, and make an end. The sixth and last thing that concerns the Care of the Christian Magistrate is Publick Worship. Which seems to me so natural and essential to Religion, that it cannot fail to appear, unless some force hinder it; in which case they will venture to meet in private Conventicles; that is, they will exercise their Acts of Religion as publickly as they dare, and will not be content to be confined to their Closets at home. Joint-exercise therefore of Religion is confessed of all sides, which therefore must necessarily be external and visible. Now no visible actions can be done without visible Circumstances, and amongst these Circumstances some are more fit and decorous, some less; as is manifest at the first sight. Nor will it be hard to judge of the fitness or decorum of these Circumstances, if we can finde out a measure of them; which certainly is the End and meaning of them: Which is, the expression of our Honour and Reverence to God and to his Son Jesus Christ, and the Edification of our Neighbour.
2. By which Rule we shall discover concerning the Meeting-House, as some had rather call it then the Church, that it ought to be of a comely structure, proportionably magnificent to the number of the People that are to have recourse to it in the common exercise of their Devotions. For though men of equal condition may make bold with themselves and meet in what place they please, yet it would be thought a piece of grosse unmannerliness to expect a Prince to give an inferiour Peasant the meeting in a Barn or Cow-stable. Would it not look then like a piece of irreligious rudeness, which is truly a kinde of Prophaneness, to expect that Almighty God and his Son Jesus Christ should give us the meeting in squalid and sordid places, even then when we pretend most to shew our Reverence and Devotion to him? For though we may make bold one with another to meet where we please, yet we making our approaches to God in those places, and he thereby making his special approaches to us (for in a Philosophical sense he is every where alike) questionless it cannot but be an expression of our Reverence unto him to have the Structure of the place proportionably capacious, well and fairly built, and <536> handsomely adorned, and as properly and significantly of our Religion and devotional homages we owe to our crucified Saviour, as can be without suspicion of Idolatry or any scandalous Superstition. For it is true from the very light of Nature, which the knowledge of Christ does not extinguish, but direct and perfect, That Houses of Publick worship ought to have some Stateliness and Splendour in them expressive of the Reverence we bear to the Godhead we do adore. And therefore the Christian Magistrate, for the honour of his Saviour who suffered so much shame for him, as also for making Christian Religion more recommendable to them that are without, (for Religion will not seem Religion to any without Publick worship, nor a desirable Religion unless this Publick worship be performed with inoffensive Splendour and Decency) ought to assist and abett such good practices as these.
3. It is beyond the limits of my present Discourse to make any curious inquisition or determination concerning the particularities of this Publick Worship; though I cannot abstain from giving some general hints concerning the due managements of the chief matters thereof, such as are most obvious to think of and most useful to consider. And such are the Enquiries into the nature of the Place of this Publick worship, and the Holiness thereof, and our Demeanour therein, and especially of those chief performances of Preaching, Praying, Receiving the Sacrament, of Baptisme also and of Holy-days: To which we may adde those accessory helps of Devotion, as some account them, Musick and Pictures. Concerning which I shall rather simply declare my sense of things, then solicitously endeavour to demonstrate my Conclusions by over-operose Reasonings; which will but raise a dust and provoke the Polemical Rabble.
4. Concerning therefore this House of Publick Worship the Christians meet in, I conceive there is no need to phansie it a Temple; nay rather it seems fit to look upon it as no Temple, the use of that Ceremony being antiquated by the excellency and supereminency of our Religion. For the famed Jehovah is not now a Topical Deity, nor Christ confined to this or that City or People, but is the declared Worship of the whole Earth, and is not contained within the wals of any Temple, but has his personal Residence in Heaven, whither our Devotions are to be directed, and our Mindes suspended and lifted up thitherward, not debased nor defixed to the corners of any earthly Edifice, into which when a man looks he findes nothing worthy of adoration. To which Truth both Stephen and Paul give their suffrage, the one declaring to the Jews, the other to the Areopagites, That the most High, who is Lord of Heaven and Earth, dwelleth not in Temples made with hands. And our Saviour himself to the Samaritan woman who was solicitous which of those Temples, that of Samaria or that of Jerusalem, was the right place of Worship, he tels her plainly that such Topical or Figurative worshipping of God was shortly to cease; That the hour was coming, and then was, when the true Worshippers shall worship the Father in Spirit and in truth. For the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in Spirit and in truth, that is, by the inward Sanctity of their <537> Souls, and with the true service of Prayers and Praises and Alms-deeds, of which Incense and Sacrifices were but the figures and shadows. Let my prayer be set forth before thee as Incense, and the lifting up of my hands as the Evening Sacrifice. To do good and to communicate, forget not; for with such Sacrifices God is well pleased. And lastly, S. John in his Apocalyps describing the condition of the New Jerusalem, which is the Church of Christ in her best state, I saw, saith he, no Temple there, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the Temple of it: That is, their worship is directed immediatly towards God and Christ, not to any place, as the Jews ever worshipped toward the Temple of Jerusalem.
5. But though the nature and name of a Temple does not belong to this House of Publick worship according to the sense of Scripture (which made also the Primitive Christians carefully abstain from that nomination) yet I do not see any ground at all why some of our phanciful Sects should take offence at the name of Church applied thereto. For the Church being an house wherein we meet to serve the Lord, whether God the Father or Christ his Son, both which are called κύριοι, this house is naturally there from denominated κύριακὸν in Greek, whence is our English word Church, as every trivial Grammarian can tell them.
6. But now it being thus plain, that it is an house for Divine worship, and therefore has a special relation to God, though it be not dedicated in such a solemn manner as Solomon's Temple, yet it does necessarily contract a kinde of Holiness hereby, and by this Holiness some measure of respect, namely, that it should be kept in handsome repair, and be carefully defended from all foulness and nastiness both within and without. And because Custome has appropriated it to the service of God, unless very great necessity urge, it is not to be made use of to any other purposes. Those that are otherwise affected in this matter, may justly seem guilty of a kinde of Incivility against God, as I may so call it, and hazard the being accounted Clowns in the sight of the Court of Heaven and all the holy Angels: As that also might be reputed a piece of unskilfulness and obsolete Courtship, to complement any one part of this House, as if there were the ναὸς there, and the Ark of the Covenant. For this would be to turn the Church of Christ into a Temple. Wherefore those that at their entrance into the Congregation either kneel down, or standing do their private devotion, and continue bare-headed before Divine Service begin, they mean not this Devotion to the Edifice, but testifie only with what fear and reverence they make their approaches to God; and their Hearts being in preparation to a nearer approach, shew their sense of his coming nearer to them by this reverential observance. For Veneration is done at the coming of great persons at great distances off; nor doth cease till a due distance after the congress.
7. Concerning Preaching, that which is most remarkable is this, That whereas there are three chief kindes thereof, namely, Catechizing, Expounding a Chapter, and Preaching usually so called, whereof the first is the best, and the last the least considerable of them all; this worst and last is the very Idol of some men, and the other rejected as things of lit <538> tle worth, But assuredly they are of most virtue for the effectual implanting the Gospel of Christ in the mindes of men, and of the two as I said, Catechizing the better; because it enforces the catechized to take notice of what is taught him, and what is thus taught him is not so voluminous but that he can carry it away and remember it for ever: and withall the most Useful, as being the very Fundamentals comprized in the Christian Creed, or the first and most natural results from them tending to indispensable duties of life; and therefore will alone, if sincerely believed and faithfully practised, carry a man to Heaven.
But the next profitable way of Preaching is Expounding of a Chapter, provided that he that does so, makes it his only business (without any vain excursions to shew his reading) to render those places of the Chapter that are obscure, easie and intelligible to the capacity of the Auditors, with some brief, but earnest, urging of their duties from such passages as most necessarily tend thereto. This will make the private Reading of Scripture pleasant to his charge: And it will prove the more effectual for their good, if he contain himself within the New Testament, and fetch only so much out of the Old as will be subservient for the full understanding of the New. There is nothing so likely to convince the Conscience as this, when men are able to reade and understand the Text of Scripture it self, and are sensibly beat upon by the power of that Spirit that is found in those Writings, far beyond all the fine Speeches and Phrases of humane Eloquence. Which yet is the greatest matter in this Third way of Preaching, and the truest use that can be made of it, namely, not to fill the peoples head with unprofitable or hurtful Opinions, but by the artifice of a more florid and flowing style, to raise the affections of the Auditors to the love and pursuit of such things as are commanded us by the Precepts of the Gospel.
I confess therefore, This exercise may be of laudable use in such a Congregation where all the people are throughly grounded in the Fundamentals of Christianity, and are well skilled in the knowledge of the Bible: otherwise if the other Two necessary wayes of Preaching be silenced by this more overly and plausible way, it is to the unspeakable detriment of the flock of Christ. Which will happen even then when it is performed after the very best manner. How great then is the evil, think you, when the exercise of their popular Eloquence is nothing but a Stage of ostentation and vain-glory to the Speaker, and begets nothing but an unsound blotedness and ventosity of Spirit in his hearers and admirers, they being intoxicated with lushious and poisonous Opinions, which tend to nothing but the extinguishing of the love and endeavour after true Righteousness and Holiness, and the begetting in them a false security of minde and abhorred Libertinisme? Had it not been far better that they had rested in the Fundamentals of their Faith comprised in the Apostles Creed, with an obligation on their Conscience to live according to the Laws of Christ and his holy Precepts, then to be led about and infatuated by the heat and noise of such false Guides?
8. Concerning Praying, it is an Epidemical mistake, That men think extemporary Prayers are by the Spirit, and that the Spirit is not in a Set <539> Form: Whenas in truth the Spirit may be absent in the highest extemporary heats, and present in the use of set Forms, where there may appear greater calmness and coolness. For the Spirit of Praier does not consist in the invention of words and phrases (which is rather a Gift of Nature, as the Faculty of extemporary speaking in other cases is, proceeding from heat and phansy and copiousness of the Animal Spirits) but in a firm belief in God through Christ, and in an hearty liking and sincere desire of having those holy things communicated to us that we pray for. And therefore he that reads, or hears a publick Liturgy read, in such a frame of minde as I have described, does as truly pray by the Spirit as he that invents words and phrases of his own. For there is nothing Divine but this holy Faith and Desire, the rest is mere Nature. And it is a demonstration how ignorant these men are that talk so loud of the Spirit, whenas they cannot so much as discern what is truly Spiritual from what is but Animal and Natural. To which you may adde, That if none pray by the Spirit but those that invent their own words, the whole Congregation are very Spiritless Prayers, they all hanging upon the lips of the Minister, who alone will be acknowledged to pray by the Spirit: Whose pretended assistance is not yet always so powerful as to protect him from the incurring of the danger of Non-sense, and of making the Publick Worship of God insipid or else distasteful and loathsome, or, which is even as ill, contemptible and ridiculous.
9. Wherefore it is far more safe, as it is undoubtedly more solemn, to use a publick Liturgy that bears the authority of the whole Church, then to venture so holy and devotional a performance upon the uncertainty of any mans private spirit, who will be but tempted to ostentate his own conceited Eloquence, or forced to discover his own weakness and folly. Whenas a set Form will prevent all Pride and knackishness, and preserve the publick worship in its due reverence and honour, especially where it is contrived with that cautiousness, that nothing is expressed therein that engages the Minde in controverted Opinions, but speaks according to the known tenour of Scripture undepraved by humane glosses.
10. But you will say, if a Minister be cut so short in these performances of extemporary Praier and expatiating Preachments, how shall he be able to give any eximious Testimony of his abilities in his calling? how shall he have the opportunity of shewing his Gifts? To which I answer, That the end of the Ministry is not the Ostentation of any mans particular Gifts, but the Edification of the People; which are better edified by diligent catechizing and faithful and judicious expounding of the Scripture, then by loose and ranging Discourses out of the Pulpit, where he that speaks having taken leave of his short Text, may fill the ears of his Auditors with nothing but the noise of his own conceits and inventions: whenas in the Exposition of a whole Chapter (suppose) at a time, the peoples mindes will be kept closer to those infallible Oracles, and will more easily discern the prevarications of their Teacher. But for the greater assurance against any foul play of this kinde, his misinterpretations of these Holy Writings to Loosnesse and Libertinism should be the forfeiture of the exercise of his Function.
11. Besides, I do not speak so much to exclude Preaching, as to bring Catechizing and Expounding into more request, which are abundantly more useful and edifying. Nay, I think that some well-tuned strains of unaffected Eloquence at the chief Festivals of the Year, and in occasional Exhortations to the people upon observation of what is most amiss amongst them, done with a great deal of seriousness and gravity, as also at publick Fasts and Thanksgivings, were a thing of excellent use, and of the more efficacy, it being the more seldom. But for other days, If our Saviour Christs Sermon on the Mount were read with much reverence and emphatick distinctness; it being the advice of so sacred and infallible a person, in whose mouth there was neither Errour nor Guile, who was the Son of God clothed with the formalities of our flesh, on purpose to take the chair awhile amongst us, and to read us sound and warrantable Lectures of Divinity; in whose behalf God the Father condescended to do the Office of a Præco, and commanded silence out of the Clouds, saying, This is my beloved Son, hear him; who was so faithful and compassionate a Pastour to his Flock, that he laid down his life for his Sheep, and so beloved of his Father, that he was miraculously raised from the dead, and taken up into heaven; and lastly, who shall visibly descend thence, and judge every man according to his works; If this Sermon, I say, of wholsome advice and holy Precepts, were read distinctly and reverently to the people, how can it but be more edifying and work more upon their spirits for their good, then the sophisticated and affected Rhetorick of a fallible Mortal? Besides the keeping out the danger of being either choaked with the crooked and spinose Controversies of Polemical Divinity, or of being poisoned or intoxicated with the unwholsome sugar-sops of Antinomianism and Libertinism.
12. And lastly, to answer still more home to the point, If thou hast a desire to magnifie thy Ministry in an eximious manner, in stead of ostentating thy Gifts, exercise and improve thy Graces to the highest thou canst. Endeavour to the utmost to be an unblemished Example to thy flock of Humility, of Brotherly kindeness, of Obedience to the Magistrate, of Temperance, of exact Justness in thy dealing, of Compassion to the poor and needy. Use thy best Prudence to keep Peace and Love amongst thy charge, as it becomes Christians, and to invite the more able to a charitable relief and help of those that are in want and necessity, that no unsupportable distresse may make the lives of our fellow-members comfortless: as also privately to reprove those that are guilty of any scandalous miscarriages, but with the wisest and discreetest applications that may be; that thy Reprehensions, as they ought, so they may appear to proceed from nothing but from love, and from care and conscience of thy duty. In which if thou wouldest not lose thine authority and confidence, thou must live exactly in the indispensable Laws of Christ thy self, nor make these solemn Reproofs but for the breach of such. But if thou be really vitious thy self in these, or, to make thy self seem more holy, rebuke for the neglect of some petty mock-vertues of thine own chusing, thou shalt not fail to be either odious or ridiculous.
But here the great Hypocrisie is this, That to compensate their neglect in these indispensable and highly-concerning Duties of the Ministry, they abound in empty Lip-labour, and endeavour to conciliate authority to themselves by their pretended spiritual Gifts of extemporary Praying and Preaching, in stead of that unblemished Sanctity of life, of useful Prudence in behalf of their Charge, and of Christian Goodnesse and Charity. And that they may keep up their credit more certainly with the people, they lay their foundation wisely, namely, by giving them to understand that there is no hope of living as we should do, or any need thereof; and so making their whole flock as rotten as themselves both in Principles and Practice, there being none left to reprove the false Prophet by either example of life or contrariety of doctrine, he thus secures to himself his authority entire by his admired clack of the Tongue, which some call The knack of preaching and praying. Which yet, where better intended, is of as little efficacy as a Tar-bottle hung out on a Thorn-bush, if compared with personal application and private information and reproof. For that is like the Adfriction of the pastoral medicine to a diseased Sheep, without which the formality of the Bottle on the Bush will do no cure, let the flock be gathered about it never so solemnly.
13. Touching the Communion; None are to be excluded therefrom that professe their belief of the Holy Scriptures & of the Apostles Creed in the plain literal and Historical sense thereof; unless they stand guilty of some gross and scandalous sins (which are to be nominated in some known Law concerning this matter, and not to be left to the uncertainty of any private Ministers Judgement) and do persist therein impenitent and unreclaimed. For it were the greatest treachery to the party that could be, by admitting him to this Holy Communion, to make him more secure in such sins as will be sure, while they are unrepented of, to exclude him from that Heavenly Communion of Saints for ever. Besides the Scandal and Offence to the rest of the serious and sincere-hearted Communicants, to whom the sight will appear as ugly as if one having fallen over head and ears into the dirt, should in that black miry hue, droppingly dirty, place himself at table amongst persons of quality, whom the Master of the Feast had invited upon some special entertainment.
And as for the Posture of the Communicant, as there are none that are so curious as to reduce it to that in which Christ and his Disciples celebrated his last Supper, so none ought to be so captious as to take offence if one receive the Communion kneeling, in devotion to God and humble thankfulnesse for that great Benefit that is signified thereby, namely, the Death of Christ with the Results thereof, and the participation of his body and bloud in that sense I have spoken of elsewhere; nor if another take it sitting, as it is a celebration of a Supper, or that he may clear himself of the suspicion of Idolizing the outward Elements of Bread and Wine. For it is as well unjust as uncharitable to be at all scandalized at actions that have such innocent and allowable grounds, and the most unsufferable at the celebrating of such a Mystery as is wholly made up of love and affection to Christ and to one another. I confess an Uniformity would look better in outward shew, but is not worth the least stir or violence in <542> diversities of actions or rather circumstances interpretable to so good a meaning. And the reall exercise of our Charity in leaving every one free, is every whit as suitable to this solemn performance as the most exquisite Uniformity, if devoid of the spirit of Meekness and mutual Forbearance.
14. Concerning Baptisme; The more seriously a man looks into it, the more certain he will find it, That the Scripture has defined nothing concerning the time of baptising those that are born of believing Parents. Some adventure further, and affirm there is no Precept for baptizing them at all, and that they are Members already of the Church by being born of them that are. To the latter of which I answer, That if they be capable of Membership, how can they be uncapable of the Sign thereof? But to those that acknowledge that they must be baptized, it being plain that no time is set down in Scripture, I say, it is naturally left to the power of the Church to appoint that time which she thinks to be most convenient. For though it may seem more excusable to call the Churches authority into question, of appointing new Ceremonies or such circumstances of the old as are not necessary; yet it cannot but be judged an unsufferable piece of temerity to question it here concerning such a circumstance as the substance cannot be performed without it. For if any one be baptized, he must be baptized some time or other. And in my judgement, though the Arguments of our adversaries make a bold shew, she has pitched upon the safest. For I am very inclinable to believe, though I think I am as little superstitious as another, that there does some reall good accrew to an Infant from thus early being dedicated to Christ by the sincere devotion of his Parents. Which dedication he himself is more fully to ratifie and complete publickly in the Church, when he comes to years of discretion, when he will be able to make distinct Answers to such Questions as it is over-obvious to imagine were unseasonably asked him when he could not speak.
But for the Cross in Baptisme, it was so seasonable at the first Institution thereof, while professed Pagans were mingled among the Christians, and so significant alwaies, that if the Church cannot make such an additional as this, she cannot make any at all. But Unity of hearts being better then Uniformity in actions indifferent, there ought to be no breach nor quarrel about these things. But if the Parents conscientiously deferre the Childs Baptisme till years of discretion, or desire it should be baptized in its infancy, if they like the signing of it with the sign of the Cross or the omission of it, the Minister will conciliate more authority to himself by professing his indifferency in these things, and his high value of the Indispensables of Christianity and of his tender regard to the Consciences of men, (which is a thing more sacred then any Ceremony that is not of Gods own institution,) then if he drew too hard to an Uniforme compliance in things where Christ has left us free. For the visible exercise of professed Charity and kind forbearance is a more comely ornament of the Church then constrained Uniformity. Nay I will adde, That a constant profession of an Indifferency may sooner <543> make the Church Uniforme, then the placing Religion in these things. For contestation ceaseth when the Object is judged of little value.
15. Touching Musick, it is evident that Hymns and Songs were the timeliest piece of Publick worship that was offered to Christ. And truly I think the Church having Authority to frame a publick Liturgy in prose, they should do well not to confine their singing to David's Psalms, but also to compose Songs of their own, in an easie and unaffected Style, but in warrantable both language and meeter; and get Tunes set to them, not over-operose and artificial, nor over-plain and languid; which need not be many in number, and might be taught children betimes, so that there might be no need of the unsanctified throats of mere Mercenaries to fill up the Quire, but that all Musical devotions might be performed by the whole congregation, every Christian making it a piece of the Education of his children to learn the Tunes of the Church, who therefore would be near-upon as soon fit to sing as to pray with the rest of the Assembly.
These Hymns composed by the Church should be chiefly for the main Holy-days thereof, appointed for the celebrating (suppose) of the Nativity, of the Passion, of the Resurrection and Ascension of our Saviour, and of the Mission of the Holy Ghost. For it seems to me a thing almost beyond belief, That a Nation should believe the History of Christ, that he was God incarnate at such a time, and that the same incarnate Deity suffered, &c. and yet not be so much transported with the consideration, as to celebrate such stupendious passages by Anniversary Solemnities; since that to adorn the year with Festivals and Holy-days is according to the very dictate of Nature and practice of all Nations. Wherefore those that pretend to so much Spirituality as to cast out all observation of dayes, I wish it be not a symptome of Infidelity in them, and of a secret quarrell they have to the truth of Christianity it self. For those that are most perfect in Divine accomplishments, cannot enjoy the actual enravishments that may arise from this perfection without vacancy from secular emploiments, for which these Holy-dayes therefore are most fit: and those that are less perfect, by their vacation from worldly drudgery have the opportunity of searching more closely into the state and condition of their Souls, and of more serious Meditations and resolutions of composing their life to the most perfect patterns of Truth and Sanctity.
And for this very purpose The observation of every Seventh day should be inviolable, not to be profaned by either secular imploiments or foolish pastimes; but spent in Religious exercises either publick or private; not as placing any Sanctity in dayes, but in laying hold of so good an opportunity for the completing of the work of Godliness in us, and meditating upon the infinite Goodness of God in the Mystery of the Creation and Redemption of mankind.
16. The knowledge of the latter of which being so appropriate to us Christians, that we are acquainted with the main strokes of the process thereof, it is more worthy and becoming us not to huddle up all in one day, but distinctly to celebrate the main Particularities of so concerning a Mystery, such as are, the Nativity of Christ, his Passion, Resur <544> rection, and the rest; amongst which the celebration of his Passion being most useful and edifying, the solemnity thereof ought to be at least as sacred and as frequented and as religiously celebrated with preaching, praying and singing, as any other day, and that in a way appropriate to that solemnity with Hymnes and Songs also proper for the Passion of Christ, and mournful and melting Tunes proper to these Songs composed by the Church.
Which Passion-songs would be also usefull upon Communion-dayes, they containing in them Devotional desires and resolutions of crucifying our affections and lusts, and of faithful love to Christ and to one another; which are the Great things that the Passion of Christ points us to and would enforce upon us. Wherefore the Morning-singings on a Communion-day may very well be supplied by these Passion-songs. But at the Receiving of the Communion, while the Bread and the Cup pass about, some Psalmes of David that appear most proper, and that declare the great Goodness and Mercies of God, or some Songs of the Churche's composing appropriate to the purpose, full of thankfull acknowledgments and holy resolutions, may be sung all the time in more chearful Tunes, such as the Ascension-songs and Resurrection-songs are sung in. All which Songs of the Church are to urge duty upon men and press on holiness, upon considerations naturally flowing from the belief of the things we do solemnize.
If to the singing of these skilfully-composed Songs and choice Psalmes, there were added also the help of an Organ, for the more certain regulating of this singing part of Devotion and the more affectionate performance thereof; it will not be easie to imagine what is wanting to a due and unexceptionable filling up of all comely circumstances of that Publick worship that is fit to be practised by professed Christians, unless you would bring in also Images and Pictures.
17. But to speak my sense and judgment of things freely; The mere placing of Images or Statues in a Church is a very bold and daring Spectacle: but the bowing towards them, or praying with bended knees and eyes devoutly lift up to them, is intolerable, if Pagan Idolatry be so; nay in some regard worse, that is, more irrationall and ridiculous, forasmuch as these Statues are not supposed to be the Receptacle of the Spirit of him they pray to: So that their way of Devotion is utterly groundless, senseless and sottish, as well as impious and Idolatrous.
Pictures I must confess are a more modest Representation; and the consideration of the vile reproaches some foul mouths have heretofore, and do sometimes still cast upon the crucified Jesus, may tempt the devotional Lovers of his Person to a conceit that if there were a Representation of his Crucifixion in picture, and that they bowed to it at their coming into the Church, it were but an innocent satisfaction to themselves so publickly to do their homage to their Saviour in that Representation that he is most scorned and reproached in, and but a just compensation to him for the reproaches that vile and wicked persons cast out against him.
But to this I answer, first, That the determining our Worship to any part of the Church would look like the turning of our Christian Meeting-Houses into Temples, contrary to what is written, I saw no Temple there. And then in the second place, Though the fetches of mans Wit are very fine and subtile in these cases, yet it is expresly said that God is a jealous God, and there are many scrupulous and jealous men, as well in Christendome as out of Christendome; and therefore a practice that is not right in it self, and so exceeding scandalous to others, ought by no means to obtain in the publick Worship of Christians.
If there be any permission of Pictures therefore in the Church, it must not be for worship but for ornament, which they will scarce be without considerable cost; nor that cost again well placed, unless there be some Edification by them. And therefore I doe not conceive how they will be tolerable at all without some proper Inscriptions also adjoyned: As upon the Picture of the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ some such Inscription as that of Saint Paul, If you be risen with Christ, seek those things that are above. Upon the Picture of the Passion of Christ some such as these, When I am lifted up, I shall draw all men unto me. Those that are of Christ, have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. Greater love hath no man then this, that he lay down his life for his friends. This is my commandement, that as I have loved you, so you would likewise love one another.
And thus every Piece, which are not to be many, should have their proper Inscriptions, without which they should not be permitted in the Church, as being fit for nothing but to amuze the sight. But now they are no sooner seen, but they set a mans Mind awork, and cause him to think of the most important meaning of the chief passages of the History of Christ. Of which none are more effectuall then that of his Passion; which together with the Passion-songs and Tunes and Organs may wound the Heart of a man, and let out more corrupt bloud at one touch, then the faint hackings of a dry Discourse of an hour or two long. Which helps and ornaments of Publick worship will fill up all the numbers of all warrantable splendour and comeliness, and keep out, if precisely kept to, all shadow and suspicion of either Superstition or Idolatry.
But if any should be so weak or scrupulous as to take offence at so unexceptionable use of Pictures in the Church, and particularly, if our Religion should be the less recommendable thereby to either Jews or Turks, whose conversion we are not onely to desire, but with seriousness and faithfulness to apply our selves to, at least to remove all scandals and stumbling-blocks out of their way; rather then any such dispensable Punctilios should hinder the enlargement of Christs Kingdome in the essential Soveraignty thereof comprehended in the express Precepts of the written Word, a full Pencil of white directed by Charities own hand should wipe out all these well-meant delineations and Inscriptions, and to compensate the loss, that one of S. Paul should succeed, If any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custome, neither the Churches of God.
18. To conclude, Such is the Truth and Simplicity of Christian Religion, that if the authority of the Church think good to recommend any Additional circumstances of divine Worship, they must not be for ineffectual Pomp and Show, but for real Use and Edification; affecting such a beauty and comeliness as Nature does in living Creatures, whose pulchritude is the result of such a Symmetry of Parts and tenour of Spirits as implies vigour and ability to all the functions of life. And truly there should be no more Ceremony in the Church, then the Use thereof may be obvious to understand, and the Life and Power of Holiness may throughly actuate; that our Minds may not be amused, lost, sunk in, or fixed upon any Outward things here, but be carried from all Visible pomps to the love and admiration of our Blessed Saviour in Heaven, and of that Heavenly and Divine Life that he came into the world to beget in the hearts of all true Believers.
And what we have said of additional Ceremonies, there is the same reason of deductional Opinions, they are to have their recommendation from their Use and Efficacy in promoting Life and Godliness in the Souls of men. But their obtrusion is as unwarrantable as of the other, if not more. Forasmuch as Ceremonies are most-what indifferent, Opinions never, but determinately true or false, or to be held so by them that either doubt or think the contrary: Which therefore is a greater violence to ingenuous Natures. As also the Usurpation greater to intrude into either the Prophetick or Legislative office of Christ, then to affect to be onely the master of the Ceremonies; and the Superstition alike, since Superstition is nothing else but a fear and scrupulosity about such things as bear no estimate in the eyes of God: as certainly neither of these do one way nor other, neither Opinions that concern not Life and Godliness, nor Ceremonies that are of an indifferent nature, and may of themselves be either practised or omitted. And therefore for men to be affected timorously and meticulously in these things, it is a sign they understand not the royal Law of Christian Liberty, and commit that which is the main vice included in Δεισιδαιμονία or Superstition, in that they phansy to themselves a pettish and captious Deity.
Whence it is manifest that the over-careful using or scrupulously omitting of indifferent Ceremonies, as also over-much solicitude in the rejecting or embracing of useless and uncertain Opinions, is no commendable Worship or Service, but rather an implicite Reproach of the Holy Godhead they profess to adore.
 1 Cor. 8.1.
 John 3.16, 17
 1 Sam. 3.18.
 2 Pet. 3.9.
 Eccles. 15.12.
 Gen. 28.19.
 Book 1. c. 4, 5.
 John 5.26.
 John 5.26.
 Gal. 6.7.
 1 Pet. 1.18.
 1 Cor. 4.4
 Rom. 6.13.
 Which qualification is all along supposed in this question, otherwise the falsities of a Religion cannot so rightly be conceived any commands of God, but a blindness and darkness the Religionist has brought upon or continues to himself through his own Hypocrisie and wickedness.
 So it is to them that are sincere, but in those that are not it is like the stopping of the ears against the reading of the Law in a Known Language.
 Act. 4.12.
 See Chap. 12. sect. 7.
 Act. 7.48. Act. 17.24.
 Joh. 4.23, 24.
 Psa. 141.2.
 Heb. 13.6.
 Rev. 21.22.
 See Book 2. Chap. 11. sect. 5.
 Book 8. c. 9. sect. 2. also c. 10. sect. 2, 3.
 Rev. 21. 22.
 Coloss. 3.1.
 John 12. 32.
 Gal. 5.24.
 John 15.13.
 John 13.34.
 1 Cor. 11.16.
Cite as: Henry More, An Explanation of the Grand Mystery of Godliness (1660), pp. 490-546, https://www.cambridge-platonism.divinity.cam.ac.uk/view/texts/diplomatic/More1660-excerpt006, accessed 2023-12-01.