« PreviousContinue »
Where is the magistrate intrusted with such a power ? where are rules prescribed to him in his proceedings ?
[2dly.] Is not a judiciary determination concerning truth and error (I mean truths of the gospel) a mere church act ? and that church power whereby it is effected ? Must not, then, the magistrate, “quâ talis," be a church officer? Will men of this mind tolerate Erastianism?
[3dly.] If there be a twofold judicature appointed for the same person, for the same crime, is it not because one crime may in divers respects fall under several considerations? and must not these considerations be preserved immixed, that the formal reason of proceeding in one court may not be of any weight in the other? We proved before, and it is granted of all, that the church is judge in case of heresy and error, as such, to proceed against them, as contrary to the gospel;their opposition to the faith delivered to the saints is the formal reason upon which that proceedeth to censure. If, now, this be afterward brought under another sentence, of another judicature, must it not be under another consideration ? Now, what can this be, but its disturbance of civil society; which, when it doth so,-not in pretence, but really and actually,-none denies it to be the magistrate's duty to interpose with his power.
[4thly.] If the magistrate be judge of spiritual offences, and it be left to him to determine and execute judgment, in such proportion as
he shall think meet, according to the quality and degrees thereof,—. • it is a very strange and unlimited arbitrariness over the lives and
estates of men: and surely they ought to produce very clear testimonies that they are intrusted from the Lord herewith, or they can have no great quiet in acting.
[5thly.] It seems strange to me, that the Lord Jesus Christ should commit this architectonical power in his house unto magistrates, foreseeing of what sort the greatest number of them would be, yea, determining that they should be such, for the trial and affliction of his own.
View the times that are past, consult the stories of former ages, take a catalogue of the kings and rulers that have been, since first magistrates outwardly embraced Christian religion in this and other nations where the gospel hath been planted; and ask your own consciences whether these be the men to whom this high trust in the house of God is committed? The truth is, they no sooner left serving the dragon in the persecution of the Pagans, but presently, in very few years, they gave up their power to the beast, to set up another state in opposition to the Lord Jesus Christ and his gospel; in the supportment whereof the most of them continue labouring till this very day. “Hæ manus Trojam exigent?" What may be added in this case, I refer to another opportunity.
2dly. Gospel constitutions in the case of heresy or error seem not to favour any course of violence, I mean, of civil penalties. Foretold it is that heresies must be, 1 Cor. xi. 19; but this for the manifesting of those that are approved, not the destroying of those that are not;—I say destroying, I mean with temporal punishment, that I may add this by the way; for,--all the arguments produced for the punishment of heretics, holding out capital censures, and these being the tendence of all beginnings in this kind, -I mention only the greatest, including all other arbitrary penalties, being but steps of walking to the utmost censures. Admonitions, and excommunication upon jection of admonition, are the highest constitutions (I suppose) against such persons: "Waiting with all patience upon them that oppose
: themselves, if at any time God will give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth.” Imprisoning, banishing, slaying, is scarcely a patient waiting. God doth not so wait upon unbelievers. Perhaps those who call for the sword on earth are as unacquainted with their own spirits as those that called for fire from heaven, Luke ix. 54. And perhaps the parable of the tares gives in a positive rule as to this whole business: occasion may be given of handling it at large; for the present I shall not fear to assert, that the answers unto it, borrowed by our divines from Bellarmine, will not endure the trial. We hope that spiritual quiet, and inoffensiveness in the whole mountain of the Lord, which is wrapped up in the womb of many promises, will at length be brought forth to the joy of all the children of Zion.
3dly. Sundry other arguments, taken from the nature of faith, heresy, liberty of conscience, the way of illumination, means of communication of truth, nature of spiritual things, pravitious tendence of the doctrine opposed, if it should be actually embraced by all enjoying authority, and the like, I thought at present to have added; but I am gone already beyond my purposed resting-place.
(2.) Come we, in a few words, to the last thing proposed (wherein I shall be very brief, the main of what I intended being already set down),—the power of the magistrate to compel others to the embracing of that religion and way of worship which he shall establish and set up; which, for the greater advantage, we shall suppose to be the very same, both for the things proposed to be believed and also practised, which God himself hath revealed, and requireth all men everywhere to embrace. What is to be done for the settling and establishing of the profession of the gospel, and the right apprehension of the mind of God therein, contradistinct from all those false and erroneous persuasions which, in these or former days, [are] or have been held forth in opposition thereunto, was before declared ;-how it is to be supported, maintained, protected, defended, safe-guarded from all oppositions, disturbances, blasphemings, was then and there set down.
Now, supposing that sundry persons, living under the power, and owning civil obedience to the magistrate, will not consent to sound doctrine, nor receive in some things (fewer or more, less or greater) that form of wholesome words which he holds forth and owns as the mind of Christ in the gospel, nor communicate with him in the worship which, by the authority of those words or that truth, he hath as before established, it is inquired, What is the duty of the magistrate in reference to the bringing of them into that subjection which is due unto, and an acknowledgment of, the truth?
And to this I shall briefly give in my answer in these following positions :
[1.] In reference unto us in this nation, the greatest difficulty in giving a full return to this question ariseth from the great disorder of the churches of God amongst us. Were the precious distinguished from the vile, churches rightly established, and church discipline (so] exercised that Christians were under some orderly view, and men might be considered in their several capacities wherein they stand, an easy finger would untie the knot of this query. But being in that confusion wherein we are, gathering into any order being the great work in hand, I suppose, under favour, that the time is scarce come for the
I proposal of this question; but yet something may be given in unto it, though not so clear as the former supposal, being effected, would cause it to be.
[2.] The constant practice of the churches in former ages, in all their meetings for advice and counsel, to consent unto some form of wholesome words, that might be a discriminating “tessera” (symbol] of their communion in doctrine, being used in prime antiquity,—as is manifest in that ancient symbol commonly esteemed apostolical (of the chief heads whereof mention in the like summary is made in the very first writers among them),-having also warrant from the word of God, and being of singular use to hold out unto all other churches of the world our apprehensions of the mind of God in the chief heads of religion, may be considered. If this be done by the authority of the magistrate, -I mean, if such a declaration of the truth wherein the churches by him owned and protected do consent be held out as the confession of that truth which he embraceth,-it will be of singular use unto, yea, indeed, must necessarily precede, any determination of the former question. Of the nature and use of confessions, &c., so much hath of late been learnedly disputed, that I shall not pour out any of mine own conceptions for the present about them in that hasty, tumultuary manner wherein I am enforced to
expose essay. [3.] Those who dissent from the truth so owned, so established, so decreed, do so either in less matters of small consequence, and about things generally confessed not fundamental; or in great and
more weighty heads of doctrine, acts of worship, and the like;both agreeing in this, that they will not hold communion, either as to all or some parts and duties thereof, with those churches and persons who do embrace the truth so owned, as before, and act accordingly.
1st, For the first of these, or such as dissent about things of no great concernment, in comparison of those other things wherein they do agree with them from whom they do dissent, I am bold positively to assert, that, saving and reserving the rules and qualifications set down under the second head, the magistrate hath no warrant from the word of God, nor command, rule, or precept, to enable him io force such persons to submit unto the truth as by him established, in those things wherein they express a conscientious dissent, or to molest them with any civil penalty in case of refusal or non-submission; nor yet did I ever in my life meet with any thing in the shape of reason to prove it, although the great present clamour of this nation is punctually as to this head:—whatever be pretended, this is the Helena about which is the great contest.
What, I pray, will warrant him, then, to proceed? Will the laws against idolatry and blasphemy, with their sanctions towards the persons of blasphemers and idolaters? (For I must ingenuously confess, all that which, in my poor judgment, looks with any appearance of pressing towards Hæreticidium is the everlasting equity of those judicial laws, and the arbitrariness of magistrates from a divine rule in things of the greatest concernment to the glory of God, if free from them; and that [as] these laws, I doubt, will scarcely be accommodated unto any thing under contest now in this age of the world among Christians.)—But shall I say a warrant [may be) taken from hence for the compelling of men sound in so many fundamentals as, were it not for the contest with them, we would acknowledge sufficient for the entertainment of the Lord Jesus in their bosoms, to subject [themselves] to, and close with, the things contrary to their present light and apprehension (though under a promise of being taught of God), or to inflict penalties upon a refusal so to do?—“Credat Apella!"
Shall the examples of extraordinary judgments upon idolaters, false prophets, by sword and fire from heaven, on magicians, apostates, and the like, be here produced? Though such arguments as these have made thousands weep tears of blood, yet the consequence, in reason, cannot but provoke laughter to all men not wholly forsaken of directing principles.
What, then, shall be done? they will say. They have been admonished, rebuked, convinced,-must they now be let alone?
Something as to this I shall add in the close of this discourse;for the present, let learned Whitaker answer for me. And first, to
the first of their being confuted: "Possunt quidem controversiæ ad externum forum deferri, et ibi definiri; sed conscientia in eo foro non acquiescit, non enim potest conscientia sedari sine Spiritu sancto." Let controversies (saith he) be determined how you please, until the conscience be quieted by the Holy Spirit, there will be little peace Unto which I shall not add any thing, considering what I said before of conviction. And to the latter,--of letting them alone to their own ways, “ Ecclesiæ quidem optatius est levibus quibusdam dissensionibus ad tempus agitari, quam in perfida pace acquiescere; non ergo sufficit aliquo modo pacem conservari, nisi illam esse sanctam pacem constiterit,” Whit., Con. 4 de Rom. Pont. qu. 1, cap. 1, sect. 2. Better some trouble, than a perfidious, compelled peace. See him handle this more at large, with some excellent conclusions to this purpose, Con. 4 de Rom. Pont. qu. 1, cap. 1, sect. 19, pp. 48 et 50.
For these, then (and under this head I compare all such persons as, keeping in practice within the bounds before laid forth, do so far hold the foundation, as that, neither by believing what is not, nor disbelieving what indeed is, they do take in or keep off any such thing as wherewithal being embraced, or without which being rejected, the life of Christ cannot in any case possibly consist, nor salvation by him be obtained), as the magistrate is not bound by any rule or precept to assist and maintain them in the practice of those things wherein they dissent from the truth; so he is bound to protect them in peace and quietness in the enjoyment of all civil rights and liberties;-nor hath he either warrant or allowance to proceed against them, as to the least penalty, for their dissent in those things they cannot receive. Attempts for uniformity among saints, or such as, for aught we can conclude either from their opinions or practices, may be so, by externa, force, are purely antichristian.
2dly. Now, for those that stand at a greater distance from the publicly owned and declared truths, such as before we spake of,—the orderly way of dealing with such is, in the first place, to bring them off from the error of the way which they have embraced; and until that be done, all thoughts of drawing in their assent to that from which at such a distance they stand is vain and bootless. Now, what course is to be taken for the effecting of this? Spiritual ways of healing are known to all,—let them be used; and in case they prove fruitless, for aught that yet I can perceive, the persons of men so erring must be left in the state and condition we described under the second head.
And now, to drive on this business any farther by way of contest, I will not. My intention at the beginning was only positively to assert, and to give in briefly, the scriptural and rational bottoms and proofs of those assertions; wherein I have gone aside, to pull or thrust