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in constraining; in forbidding men to preach against approved doctrines or practices of the church, than in forcing them to preach for them, or to subscribe or speak their approbation or assent:' if they be not points or practices of great necessity, a man may be fit for the ministry and church communion, who meddleth not with them, but preacheth the wholesome truths of the Gospel, and lets them alone. And, because no duty is at all times a duty, a sober man's judgment will allow him to be silent at many an error, when he dare not subscribe to or approve the least. But if here any proud and cruel pastors, shall come in with their lesser, selfish incommodities, and say, if they do not approve of what we say and do, they will secretly foment a faction against us; I should answer them, that as good men will foment no faction, so if such proud, impatient, turbulent men, will endure none that subscribe not to all their opinions, or differ from them in a circumstance or ceremony, they shall raise a greater faction (if they will call it so) against themselves, and make the people look on them as tyrants and not as pastors, and they shall see in the end, when they have bought their wit by dear experience, that they have but torn the church in pieces, by preventing divisions by carnal means, and that they have lost themselves, by being over zealous for themselves; and that Doctrine and Love are the instruments of a wise shepherd, that loveth the flock, and understands his work.
Direct. xxxvI. 'Distinguish between the making of new laws or articles of belief, and the punishing of men for the laws already made.' And think not that we must have new laws or canons, every time the old ones are broken: or that any law can be made which can keep itself from being broken. Perverseness in this error hath brought the church to the misery which it endureth. God hath made an universal law sufficient for the universal church, in matters of faith and holy practice; leaving it to men to determine of necessary circumstances which were unfit for an universal law and if the sufficiency of God's law, were acknowledged in men's practices, the churches would have had more peace but when particular countries have their particular volumes of articles, confessions, liturgies, and I know not what else to be subscribed to, and none must preach that
will not say or swear, That he believeth all this to be true and good, and nothing in it to be against the Word of God,' this engine racks the limbs of the churches all to pieces; and then what is the pretence for this epidemical calamity? Why no better than this, Every heretic will subscribe to the Scriptures, and take it in his own sense:' and what followeth? Must we needs therefore have new laws which heretics will not subscribe to, or which they cannot break? It is the commendation of God's law, as fit to be the means of unity, that all are so easily agreed to it in terms, and therefore would agree in the sense if they understood it. But they will not do so by the laws of men; all or many heretics in the primitive times, would profess assent to the church's creed; no doubt in a corrupt and private sense; but the churches therefore did not make new creeds; till about three hundred years after Christ, they began to put in some particular words to obviate heretics, which Hilary complained of as the cause of their divisions! And what if heretics will subscribe to all you bid them, and take it in their own corrupted sense? Must you therefore be still making new laws and articles, till you meet with some which they cannot misunderstand, or dare not thus abuse? What if men will misinterpret and break the laws of the land? Must they be made new till none can misexpound or violate them? Sure there is a wiser way than this: God's Word containeth in sufficient expressions, all that is necessary to be subscribed to; require none therefore to subscribe to any more, (in matters of faith or holy practice ;) but if you think any articles need a special interpretation, let the church give her sense of those articles; and if any man preach against that sense, and corrupt the Word of God which he hath subscribed, let his fault be proved, and let him be admonished and censured as it deserves: censured, I say, not for not subscribing more than Scripture, but for corrupting the Scriptures to which he hath subscribed, or breaking God's laws which he promised to observe.
Direct. XXXVII. The good of men, and not their ruin must be intended in all the discipline of the church:' or the good of the church, when we have but little hope of theirs. If this were done, it would easily be perceived, that persecution is an unlikely means to do good by.
Direct. XXXVIII. Neither unlimited liberty in matters of religion must be allowed, nor unnecessary force and rigour used, but tolerable differences and parties must be tolerated, and intolerable ones by the wisest means suppressed.' And to this end, by the counsel of the most prudent, peaceable divines, the tolerable and the intolerable must be statedly distinguished! And those that are only tolerated must be under a law for their toleration, prescribing them their terms of good beliaviour; and those that are approved, must moreover have countenance and maintenance of the magistrate: and if this were done, 1. The advantage of the said encouragement from governors, 2. With the regulation of the toleration, and the magistrates' careful government of the tolerated, would prevent both persecution, and most of the divisions and calamities of the church. Thus did the ancient Christian emperors and bishops: (and was their experience nothing?) The Novatians (as good and orthodox men) were allowed their own churches and bishops even in Constantinople, at the emperor's nose. Especially if it be made the work of some justices, 1. To judge of persons to be tolerated, and grant them patents, 2. And to overrule them and punish them when they deserve it; no other way would avoid so many inconveniences.
Direct. XXXIX. 'The things intolerable are these two: 1. (Not the believing, but) the preaching and propagating of principles contrary to the essentials of godliness or Christianity, or government, justice, charity or peace. 2. The turbulent, unpeaceable management of those opinions which in themselves are tolerable. If any would preach against the articles of the creed, the petitions of the Lord's prayer, or any of the ten commandments, he is not to be suffered; and if any that are orthodox do in their separated meetings, make it their business to revile at others, and destroy men's charity, or to stir men up to rebellion or sedition, or contempt of magistracy; none of this should be endured.
As for those libertines that under the name of liberty of conscience do plead for a liberty of such vicious practices, and in order thereto would prove that the magistrate hath nothing to do in matters of religion, I have preached and wrote so much against them, whilst that error reigned, and I find it so unseasonable, now the constitution of things
looks another way, that I will not weary myself and the reader with so unnecessary a task as to confute them. Only I shall say, that Rom. xiii. telleth us that rulers are a terror to them that do evil; and that heretics and turbulent firebrands do evil; therefore rulers should be a terror to them; and that if all things are to be done to the glory of God, and his interest is to be set highest in the world, then magistrates and government are for the same end; and if no action which we do, is of so base a nature, as ultimately to be terminated in the concernments of the flesh, much less is government so vile a thing, when rulers are in Scripture called Gods, as being the officers of God.
Direct. XL. Remember death, and live together as men that are near dying, and must live together in another world.' The foolish expectation of prosperity and long life, is it which setteth men together by the ears; when Ridley and Hooper were both in prison, and preparing for the flames, their contentions were soon ended, and Ridley repented of his persecuting way. If the persecutors and persecuted were shut up together in one house that hath the plague, in the time of this lamentable contagion, it is two to one but they would be reconciled. When men see that they are going into another world, it takes off the edge of their bitterness and violence, and the apprehensions of the righteous judgment of God, doth awe them into a patience and forbearance with each other; can you persecute that man on earth, with whom you look to dwell in heaven? (But to restrain a man from damning souls, by heresy or turbulency, or any such course, my conscience would not forbid it me if I were dying.)
Direct. XLI. Let the proud themselves who will regard no higher motives, remember how fame and history will represent them to posterity when they are dead.' There is no man that desireth his name should stink and be odious to future generations: there is nothing that an ambitious man desireth more, than a great surviving name. And will you knowingly and wilfully then expose it to perpetual contempt and hatred? Read over what history you please, and find out the name of one persecutor if you can, that is not now a word of ignominy, and doth not rot, as God hath threatened? If you say, that it is only in the esteem of such as
I, or the persecuted party; neither your opinion shall be judge nor mine; but the opinion and language of historians, and of the wisest men, who are the masters of fame. Certainly that report of Holy Scripture and history which hath prevailed, will still prevail; and while there are wise, and good, and merciful men in the world, the names and manners of the foolish, and wicked, and cruel will be odious, as they continue at this day.
I have wrote these Directions to discharge my duty, for those that are willing to escape the guilt of so desperate a sin; but not with any expectation at all, that it should do much good with any considerable number of persecutors; for they will not read such things as these; and God seldom giveth professed Christians over to this sin, till they have grievously blinded their minds, and hardened their hearts, and by malignity and obstinacy are prepared for his sorest judgments; and I know that whoever will live godly in Christ Jesus (it is not said, "who professeth to believe in Christ Jesus," but, "to live godly") shall suffer persecution, and that the cross must still be the passage to the crown".
Directions against Scandal as given.
SCANDAL being a murdering of souls, is a violation of the general law of charity, and of the sixth commandment in particular. In handling this subject, I shall 1. Shew you what is true scandal given to another. 2. What things go under the name of scandal, which are not it, but are falsely so named. 3. What are the particular ways and sorts of scandal. 4. The greatness of this sin. 5. Directions to avoid it.
I. I shall not need to stand upon the etymology of the word'scandal;' whether it come from 'okál,'' claudico,' as Erasmus thought, or from 'okáußov,' 'curvum,' &c. Martinius, Stephanus, Lyserus, &c. have sufficiently done it, whither I refer you; as for the sense of the word it is past doubt, that the ordinary use of it in Scripture is for a stum
h2 Tim. iii. 11, 12. Matt. v. 11, 12. Luke xiv. 26. 33.