« PreviousContinue »
preachers of the everlasting gospel seem to have lost their zeal. O that there were the same mind in us that was in Jesus Christ, -who counted it his meat and drink to do his Father's will, in gaining souls!
(2.) Of the magistrates, I mean, of this honourable assembly,—to turn themselves every lawful way for the help of poor Macedonians. The truth is, in this I could speak more than I intend; for perhaps my zeal and some men's judgments would scarce make good harmony This only I shall say, that if Jesus Christ might be preached, though with some defects in some circumstances, I should rejoice therein. O that you would labour to let all the parts of the kingdom taste of the sweetness of your successes, in carrying to them the gospel of the Lord Jesus; that the doctrine of the gospel might make way for the discipline of the gospel, without which it will be a very skeleton! When manna fell in the wilderness from the hand of the Lord, every one had an equal share. I would there were not now too great an inequality in the scattering of manna, when secondarily in the hand of men; whereby some have all
, and others none;—some sheep daily picking the choice flowers of every pasture, others wandering upon the barren mountains, without guide or food. I make no doubt but the best ways for the furtherance of this are known full well unto you; and you therefore have as little need to be petitioned in this as
; other things. What, then, remains, but that for this, and all other necessary blessings, we all set our hearts and hands to petition the throne of grace?
A SHORT DEFENSATIVE
ABOUT CHURCH GOVERNMENT, TOLERATION, AND PETITIONS
ABOUT THESE THINGS.
READER, This, be it what it will, thou hast no cause to thank or blame 'me for. Had I been mine own, it had not been thine; my submission unto others’ judgments being the only cause of submitting this unto thy censure. The substance of it is concerning things now doing, in some whereof I heretofore thought it my wisdom modestly hơsitare (or at least not with the most, peremptorily to dictate to others my apprehensions), as wiser men have done in weightier things; and yet this not so much for want of persuasion in my own mind, as out of opinion that we have already had too many needless and fruitless discourses about these matters. Would we could agree to spare perishing paper ! $ and for my own part, had not the opportunity of a few lines in the close of this sermon, and the importunity of not a few friends, urged, I could have slighted all occasions and accusations provoking to publish those thoughts which I shall now impart. The truth is, in things concerning the church (I mean things purely external, of form, order, and the like), so many ways have I been spoken, that I often resolved to speak myself, desiring rather to appear (though conscious to myself of innumerable failings) what indeed I am, than what others incuriously suppose. But yet the many I ever thought unworthy of an apology, and some of satisfaction,-especially those who would make their own judgments a rule for themselves and others, impatient that any should know what they do not, or conceive otherwise than they of what they do, in the meantime, placing almost all religion in that which may be perhaps a hinderance of it, and being so valued, or rather overvalued,—is certainly the greatest. Nay, would they would make their judgments only so far as they are convinced, and are able to make out their conceptions to others, and not also their impotent desires, to be the rule; that so they might condemn only that which complies not with their minds, and not all that also which they find to thwart their aims and designs! But so it must be. Once more conformity is grown the touchstone (and that not in practice, but opinion) amongst the greatest part of men, however otherwise of different persuasions. Dissent is the only crime;* and where that is all that is culpable, it shall be made all that is so. From such as these, who almost hath not suffered? but towards such the best defence is silence. Besides, my judgment commands me to make no known quarrel my own; but rather if it be possible, and as much as in me lieth, live peaceably with all men. 'Ispór różopor, I proclaim to none
1 “Laudatur ab his, culpatur ab illis."—[Hor. Sat., lib. i. 2, 11.]
See August., Ep. 7, 28, 157, De Orig. Anim. 3 “ Deferar in vicum rendentem thus et odores,
Et piper, et quicquid chartis amicitur ineptis."-[Hor. Epist., lib. ii. 1.) “ Occidit miseros crambe repetita magistros."- [Juv.]
Semper ego auditor tantum ?"--[Juv. Sat. i.)
Ardet adhuc, Ombos et Tentyra. Summus utrinque
Odit uterque locus."-Juven., (xv. 35.]
but men whose bowels are full of gall. In this spring of humours, lenitives for our own spirits may perhaps be as necessary as purges for others' brains. Farther, I desire to provoke 1 none; more stings than combs are got at a nest of wasps ; even cold stones, smitten together, sparkle out fire: “ The wringing of the nose bringeth forth blood.” Neither do I conceive it wisdom, in these quarrelsome days, to intrust more of a man's self with others than is very necessary. The heart of man is deceitful; some that have smooth tongues have sharp teeth: such can give titles on the one side and wounds on the other. Any of these considerations would easily have prevailed with me “stultitiâ hac caruisse,” had not mine ears been filled, presently after the preaching of the precedent sermon, with sad complaints of some, and false reports of others, neither of the lowest rank of men, as though I had helped to open a gate for that which is now called a Trojan horse; though heretofore counted an engine likelier to batter the walls of Babylon than to betray the towers of Zion. This urged some to be urgent with me for a word or two about church government, according to the former suggestions, undermined, and a toleration of different persuasions, as they said, asserted. Now, truly, to put the accusers to prove the crimination—for so it was, and held forth a grievous crime in their apprehensions (what is really so God will judge)—had been sufficient. But I could not so evade; and therefore, after my sermon was printed to the last sheet, I was forced to set apart a few hours,' to give an account of what hath passed from me in both these things, which have been so variously reported; hoping that the reading may not be unuseful to some, as the writing was very necessary to me. And here, at the entrance, I shall desire at the hands of men that shall cast an eye on this heap of good meaning, these few, as I suppose, equitable demands:
First, Not to prosecute men into odious appellations, and then themselves, who feigned the crime, pronounce the sentence,—like him who said of one brought before him, If he be not guilty, it is fit he should be ;-involving themselves in a double guilt, of falsehood and malice; and the aspersed parties in a double misery, of being belied in what they are, and hated for what they are not. If a man be not what such men would have him, it is odds but they will make him what he is not ;—if what he really is do not please, and that be not enough to render him odious, he shall sure enough be more. Ithacius will make all Priscillianists who are any thing more devout than himself. If men do but desire to see with their own eyes, presently they are enrolled of this or that sect; every mispersuasion being beforehand, in petitions, sermons, &c., rendered odious and intolerable ;-in such a course, innocency itself cannot go long free. Christians deal with one another in earnest, as children in their plays clap another's coat upon their fellow's shoulders, and pretending to beat that, cudgel him they have clothed with it. “ What shall be given unto thee, thou false tongue?" If we cannot be more charitable, let us be more ingenuous. Many a man hath been brought to a more favourable opinion of such as are called by dreadful names than formerly, by the experience of false impositions on himself.
Secondly, Not to clothe our differences with expressions fitting them no better than Saul's armour did David; nor make them like a little man in a bombast coat upon stilts, walking about like a giant. Our little differences may be met at every stall
, and in too many pulpits, swelled by unbefitting expressions into such a formidable bulk as poor creatures are even startled at their horrid looks and appearance; whilst our own persuasions are set out púpao Buodívous, with silken words
Si lapides teras nonne ignis erumpit?"-Ambros., lib. i. cap. 2); Prov. xxx. 33; Job xiii. 13; Prov. xxv. 18. Vid. Remed. contra Gravam. Nationis Germanicæ. Luth. præfat. ad Lib. de Concil. Protest. 34 ministrorum. 4. Conclus. And generally all writers at the beginning of the Reformation,
? Si accusasse sufficiet, quis erit innocens ?
Sufficimus."-(Virg. Æ. v. 21.] * Sulp. Sever. Epist. Hist. Eccles. 3 Plut. Apophth.
1 « Noli irritare crabrones.
and gorgeous apparel, as if we sent them into the world a-wooing. Hence, what-
, punishments come upon us. To such things as
Thirdly, Not to measure men's judgments by their subscribing or refusing to subscribe petitions in these days about church government. For subscribers, would that every one could not see, with what a zealous nescience and implicit judgment many are led! And for refusers, though perhaps they could close with the general words wherewith usually they are expressed, yet there are so many known circumstances restraining those words to particular significations, directing them to by and secondary tendencies, as must needs make some abstain. For mine own part, from subscribing late petitions about church government, I have been withheld by such reasons as these :
1. I dare not absolutely assert, maintain, and abide by it (as rational men ought to do every clause in any thing owned by their subscription), that the cause of all the evils usually enumerated in such petitions is the want of church government, taking it for any government that ever yet was established amongst men, or in notion otherwise made known unto me; yea, I am confident that more probable causes in this juncture of time might be assigned of them. Neither can any be ignorant how plentifully such evils abounded when church discipline was most severely executed.? And, lastly, I am confident that whoever lives to see them suppressed by any outward means (when spiritual weapons shall be judged insufficient), will find it to be, not any thing either included in, or necessarily annexed unto, church discipline that must do it; but some other thing, not unlike that which, in days of yore, when all the world wondered after the beast, suppressed all truth and error, but only what the arch enemy of Jesus Christ was pleased to hold out to be believed. But of this afterward.
2. I dare not affirm that the Parliament hath not established a government already, for the essentials of it; themselves affirming that they have," and their ordinances about rulers, rules, and persons to be ruled (the “requisita ” and materials of guvernment), being long since extant. Now, to require a thing to be done by them who affirm that they have already done it, argues either much weakness or supine negligence in ourselves, not to understand what is effected; or a strong imputation on those that have done it, either fraudulently to pretend that which is false, or foolishly to aver what they do not understand. Yet, though I have
Vid. catal. hæret. apud Tertul. de præscript. Epiphan. Aug. Vincent. 9 « Ego ancillæ tuæ fidem habui: nonne tu impudens, qui nec mihi ipsi credis ? "-Philos, apud Plut. Apophth.