Page images
PDF
EPUB

rect them, they never would have run into the com- SERM. mission of such enormities.

LVII. It is not to be omitted, that, in the present state of things, the guilt of disobedience to spiritual governors is increased and aggravated by the supervenient guilt of another disobedience to the laws of our prince and country. Before the secular powers (unto whom God hath committed the dispensation of justice, with the maintenance of peace and order, in reference to worldly affairs) did submit to our Lord, and became nursing parents of the church, the power of managing ecclesiastical matters did wholly reside in spiritual guides ;. unto whom Christians, as the peculiar subjects of God, were obliged willingly to yield obedience; and, refusing it, were guilty before God of spiritual disorder, faction, or schism : but now, after that political authority (out of pious zeal for God's service, out of a wise care to prevent the influences of disorder in spiritual matters upon the temporal peace, out of grateful return for the advantages the commonwealth enjoyeth from religion and the church) hath pleased to back and fortify the laws of spiritual governors by civil sanctions, the knot of our obligation is tied faster, its force is redoubled, we by disobedience incur a double guilt, and offend God two ways, both as supreme Governor of the world, and as King of the church; to our schism against the church we add rebellion against our prince, and so become no less bad citizens than bad Christians. Some may perhaps imagine their disobedience hence more excusable, taking themselves now only thereby to transgress a political sanction : but (beside that even that were a great offence, the command of our temporal governors

SERM. being sufficient, out of conscience to God's express LVII.

will, to oblige us in all things not evidently repugnant to God's law) it is a great mistake to think the civil law doth anywise derogate from the ecclesiastical; that doth not swallow this up, but succoureth and corroborateth it; their concurrence yieldeth an accession of weight and strength to each; they do not by conspiring to prescribe the same thing either of them cease to be governors, as to right; but in efficacy the authority of both should thence be augmented, seeing the obligation to obedience is multiplied upon their subjects; and to disobey them is now two crimes, which otherwise should be but SE R M ON

one.

LVIII.

OF OBEDIENCE TO OUR SPIRITUAL GUIDES

AND GOVERNORS.

HEB. xiii. 17.

Obey them that have the rule over you. Such is the nature of this duty, and such are SERM. the reasons enforcing the practice thereof: I shall LVIII. only further remove two impediments of that practice, and so leave this point.

1. One hinderance of obedience is this, that spiritual power is not despotical or compulsory, but parental or pastoral; that it hath no external force to abet it, or to avenge disobedience to its laws: they must not κατεξουσιάζειν, or κατακυριεύειν, (be im- Μatt. xx. perious, or domineer,) they are not allowed to exer-Luke xxii. cise violence, or to inflict bodily correctiona; but must rule in meek and gentle ways, directly influential upon the mind and conscience, (ways of rational persuasion, exhortation, admonition, reproof,) in meekness instructing those that oppose them- 2 Tim. ii. selves;-convincing, rebuking, exhorting with all Tim.3.ii. longsuffering and doctrine; their word is their only weapon, their force of argument all the constraint

26.
1 Pet. v. 3.

4 Μάλιστα γάρ απάντων Χριστιανούς ουκ εφείται προς βίαν επανορθούν Tà Tūv dpapravórtwy TTalouata, &c. Chrys. de Sacerd. 2.

'Ενταύθε ου βιαζόμενον, αλλά πείθοντα δεί ποιεϊν αμείνω τον τοιούτον. Ibid.

SERM. they apply: hence men commonly do not stand in LVIII.

awe of them, nor are so sensible of their obligation to obey them; they cannot understand why they should be frighted by words, or controlled by an unarmed authority.

But this in truth (things being duly considered) is so far from diminishing our obligation, or arguing the authority of our governors to be weak and precarious, that it rendereth our obligation much greater, and their authority more dreadful; for the sweeter and gentler their way of governing is, the more disingenuous and unworthy a thing it is to disobey it; not to be persuaded by reason, not to be allured by kindness, not to admit friendly advice, not to comply with the calmest methods of furthering our own good, is a brutish thing; he that only can be scared and scourged to duty, scarce deserveth the name of a man: it therefore doth the more oblige us, that in this way we are moved to action by love rather than fear. Yet if we would fear wisely and justly, (not like children, being frighted with formidable shapes and appearances, but like men, apprehending the real consequences of things,) we should the more fear these spiritual powers, because they are insensible: for that God hath commanded us to obey them, without assigning visible forces to constrain or chastise, is a manifest argument that he hath reserved the vindication of their authority to his own hand, which therefore will be infallibly certain, and terribly severe; so the nature

of the case requireth, and so God hath declared it Matt. xviii. shall be : the sentence that is upon earth pronounced

by his ministers upon contumacious offenders, he hath declared himself ready to ratify in heaven, and

18.

LVIII.

therefore most assuredly will execute it. As under SERM. the old law God appointed to the transgression of some laws, upon which he laid special stress, the punishment of being cut off from his people; the execution of which punishment he reserved to himself, to be accomplished in his own way and time; so doth he now in like manner take upon him to maintain the cause of his ministers, and to execute the judgments decreed by them; and, if so, we may consider that it is a dreadful thing to fall into Heb. x. 31. the hands of the living God. Ecclesiastical authority therefore is not a shadow, void of substance or force, but hath the greatest power in the world to support and assert it; it hath arms to maintain it most effectual and forcible, (those of which St. Paul saith; The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, 2 Cor. x. 4. but mighty through God,-) it inflicteth chastisements far more dreadful than any secular power can inflict; for these only touch the body, those pierce the soul; these concern only our temporal state, those reach eternity itself; these at most yield a transitory smart, or kill the body, those produce endless torment, and (utterly as to all comfort in being) destroy the soul.

The punishment for extreme contumacy is called Spiritali delivery to Satan; and is not this far worse than perbi et to be put into the hands of any gaoler or hangman? ces necanwhat are any cords of hemp or fetters of iron in tur, dum comparison to those bands, of which it is said, ejiciuntur.

Cypr. Ep. Whatever ye bind on earth shall be bound in 67. heaven; which engage the soul in a guilt never to be loosed, except by sore contrition and serious repentance? what are any scourges to St. Paul's rod, lashing the heart and conscience with stinging re

de ecclesia

« PreviousContinue »