« PreviousContinue »
such things; all this will tell you that the most serious and religious Christians, are the best members of the civil societies upon earth.
II. Having done with the first part of my last Direction, I shall say but this little of the second; let Christians see that they be Christians indeed, and abuse not that which is most excellent to be a cloak to that which is most vile. 1. In reading politics, swallow not all that every author writeth in conformity to the polity that he liveth under what perverse things shall you read in the Popish politics, (Contzen, and abundance such!) What usurpation on principalities, and cruelties to Christians, under the pretence of defending the church, and suppressing heresies!
2. Take heed in reading history that you suffer not the spirit of your author to infect you with any of that partiality which he expresseth to the cause which he espouseth. Consider in what times and places all your authors lived, and read them accordingly with the just allowance. The name of liberty was so precious, and the name of a king was so odious to the Romans, Athenians, &c., that it is no wonder if their historians be unfriendly unto kings.
3. Abuse not learning itself to lift you up with self-conceitedness against governors! Learned men may be ignorant of polity; or at least unexperienced, and almost as unfit to judge, as of matters of war or navigation.
4. Take heed of giving the magistrate's power to the clergy, and setting up secular, coercive power under the name of the power of the keys: and it had been happy for the church if God had persuaded magistrates in all ages to have kept the sword in their own hands, and not have put it into the clergy's hands, to fulfil their wills by: for 1. By this means the clergy had escaped the odium of usurpation and domineering, by which atheistical politicians would make religion odious to magistrates for their sakes. 2. And
P See Bilson of Subjection, pp. 525, 526. Proving from Chrysostom, Hilary, Origen, that pastors may use no force or terror, but only persuasion, to recover their wandering sheep. Bilson, ibid. p. 541. Parliaments have been kept by the king and his barons, the clergy wholly excluded, and yet their acts and statutes good: and when the bishops were present, their voices from the Conquest to this day were never negative. By God's law you have nothing to do with making laws, for kingdoms and commonwealths: you may teach, you may not command: persuasion is your part, compulsion is the prince's, &c. Thus Bishop Bilson. So p. 358.
by this means greater unity had been preserved in the church, while one faction is not armed with the sword to tread down the rest for if divines contend only by dint of argument, when they have talked themselves and others aweary they will have done but when they go to it with dint of sword, it so ill becometh them, that it seldom doth good, but the party often that trusteth least to their reason, must destroy the other, and make their cause good by iron arguments. 3. And then the Romish clergy had not been armed against princes to the terrible concussions of the Christian world, which histories at large relate, if princes had not first lent them the sword which they turned against them. 4. And then church-discipline would have been better understood, and have been more effectual; which is corrupted and turned to another thing and so cast out, when the sword is used instead of the keys, under pretence of making it effectual: none but consenters are capable of church-communion: no man can be a Christian, or godly, or saved against his will; and therefore consenters and volunteers only are capable of church-discipline: as a sword will not make a sermon effectual, no more will it make discipline effectual: which is but the management of God's Word to work upon the conscience. So far as men are to be driven by the sword to the use of means, or restrained from offering injury to religion, the magistrate himself is fittest to do it. It is noted by historians as the dishonour of Cyril of Alexandria (though a famous bishop) that he was the first bishop that like a magistrate used the sword there, and used violence against heretics and dis
5. Above all, abuse not the name of religion for the resistance of your lawful governors: religion must be defended and propagated by no irreligious means. It is easy before you are aware, to catch the fever of such a passionate zeal as James and John had, when they would have had fire from heaven to consume the refusers and resisters of the Gospel: and then you will think that any thing almost is lawful, which doth but seem necessary to the prosperity of religion. But no means but those of God's allowance do use to prosper, or bring home that which men expect: they may seem to do wonders for awhile, but they come to no
thing in the latter end, and spoil the work, and leave all worse than it was before.
Direct. XL. Take heed of mistaking the nature of that liberty of the people, which is truly valuable and desirable, and of contending for an undesirable liberty in its stead '.' It is desirable to have liberty to do good, and to possess our own, and enjoy God's mercies, and live in peace: but it is not desirable to have liberty to sin, and abuse one another, and hinder the Gospel, and contemn our governors. Some mistake liberty for government itself; and think it is the people's liberty to be governors: and some mistake liberty for an exemption from government, and think they are most free, when they are most ungoverned, and may do what they list but this is a misery, and not a mercy, and therefore was never purchased for us by Christ. Many desire servitude and calamity under the name of liberty: "optima est reipublicæ forma," saith Seneca, "ubi nulla libertas deest, nisi licentia pereundi." As Mr. R. Hooker saith, lib. viii. p. 195, "I am not of opinion, that simply in kings the most, but the best limited, power is best, both for them and the people the most limited power is that which may deal in fewest things: the best, that which in dealing is tied to the soundest, most perfect and indifferent rule, which rule is the law; I mean not only the law of nature and of God, but the national law consonant thereunto; happier that people whose law is their king in the greatest things, than that whose king is himself their law."
Yet no doubt, that the lawgivers are as such, above the law as an authoritative instrument of government, but under it, as a man is under the obligation of his own consent and word; it ruleth subjects in the former sense; it bindeth thesummam potestatem' in the latter.
Direct. XLI. When you have done all that you can in just obedience, look for your reward from God alone.' Let it satisfy you that he knoweth and approveth your sincerity. You make it a holy work if you do it to please God; and you will be fixed and constant, if you take heaven for your reward, (which is enough, and will not fail you;) but you make it but a selfish, carnal work, if you do it only to please your governors, or get preferment, or escape some hurt
1 Pet. ii. 16. Gal. v. 13. 2 Pet. ii. 12. Gal. iv. 26. 2 Cor. iii. 17.
which they may do you, and are subject only in flattery, or for fear of wrath, and not for conscience sake. And such obedience is uncertain and inconstant; for when you fail of your hopes, or think rulers deal unjustly or unthankfully with you, your subjection will be turned into passionate desires of revenge. Remember still the example of your Saviour, who suffered death as an enemy to Cæsar, when he had not failed of his duty so much as in one thought or word. And are you better than your Lord and Master? If God be all to you, and you have laid up all your hopes in heaven, it is then but little of your concernment, (further than God is concerned.in it) whether rulers do use you well or ill, and whether they interpret your actions rightly, or what they take you for, or how they call you; but it is your concernment that God account you loyal, and will judge. you so, and justify you from men's accusations of disloyalty, and reward you with more than man can give you. Nothing is well done, especially of so high a nature as this, which is not done for God and heaven, and which the crown of glory is not the motive to.
I have purposely been the larger on this subject, because the times in which we live require it, both for the settling of some, and for the confuting the false accusations of others, who would persuade the world that our doctrine is not what it is; when through the sinful practices of some, the way of truth is evil spoken of3.
A fuller resolution of the Cases, 1. Whether the Laws of Men do bind the Conscience? 2. Especially smaller and penal Laws?
The word 'conscience' signifieth either, 1. In general according to the notation of the word, The knowledge of our own matters; Conscire;' the knowledge of ourselves, our duties, our faults, our fears, our hopes, our diseases, &c. 2. Or more limitedly and narrowly, The knowledge of ourselves and our own matters in relation to God's law and judgment; 'Judicium hominis de seipso prout subjicitur judicio Dei,' as Amesius defineth it.
2. Conscience is taken, 1. Sometimes for the act of self
8 2 Pet. ii. 2.
knowing. 2. Sometimes for the habit. 3. Sometimes for the faculty, that is, for the intellect itself, as it is a faculty of self-knowing. In all these senses it is taken properly. 4. And sometimes it is used (by custom) improperly, for the person himself, that doth 'conscire;' or for his will (another faculty).
3. The conscience may be said to be bound, 1. Subjectively, as the subjectum quod,' or the faculty obliged. Or objectively, as 'conscire,' the act of conscience, is the thing 'ad quod,' to which we are obliged.
And upon these necessary distinctions I thus answer to the first question.
Prop. 1. The act or the habit of conscience is not capable of being the subject obliged; no more than any other act or duty the act or duty is not bound, but the man to the act or duty.
2. The faculty or judgment is not capable of being the object, or materia ad quam,' the thing to which we are bound. A man is not bound to be a man, or to have an intellect, but is made such.
3. The faculty of conscience (that is, the intellect) is not capable of being the immediate or nearest subjectum quod,' or subject obliged. The reason is, Because the intellect of itself is not a free-working faculty, but acteth necessarily 'per modum naturæ' further than it is under the empire of the will; and therefore intellectual and moral habits are by all men distinguished.
4. All legal or moral obligation falleth directly upon the will only and so upon the person as a voluntary agent; so that it is proper to say, 'The will is bound,' and The person is bound.'
5. Improperly and remotely it may be said, 'The intellect (or faculty of conscience) is bound, or the tongue, or hand, or foot is bound;' as the man is bound to use them.
6. Though it be not proper to say, 'That the conscience is bound,' it is proper to say, 'That the man is bound to the act or habit of conscience, or to the exercise of the faculty.'
7. The common meaning of the phrase, that we are 'bound in conscience,' or that conscience is bound,' is that we are bound to a thing by God,' or 'by a divine obligation,' and that it is 'a sin against God to violate it;' so