« PreviousContinue »
as warrantable only to ourselves, and to such whose consciences we can so persuade, can have no other ground in matters of religion but only from the Scriptures. And these being not possible to be understood without this Divine illumination, which no man can know at all times to be in himself, much less to be at any time for certain in any other, it follows clearly, that no man or body of men in these times can be the infallible judges or determiners in matters of religion to any other men's consciences but their own.
After demonstrating this position by a variety of scriptural arguments, he says, with reference to the apostles and à fortiori to ordinary ministers, “Having no dominion over the faitht or conscience of the flock whom they are to feed, not by constraint, neither as being lords over God's heritage;" I and then adds, “But some will object, that this overthrows all church discipline, all censure of errors, if no man can determine. My answer is, that what they hear is plain scripture, which forbids not church sentence or determining, but as it ends in violence upon the conscience unconvinced. Let whoso will interpret or determine, so it be according to true church discipline, which is exercised on them only who have willingly joined themselves in that covenant of union, and proceeds only to a separation from the rest, proceeds never to any corporal enforcement or forfeiture of money, which in all spiritual things are the two arms of Antichrist, not of the true church; the one being an inquisition, the other no better than a temporal indulgence of sin for money, whether by the church exacted or by the magistrate ; both the one and the other a temporal satisfaction for what Christ hath satisfied eternally; a popish commuting of penalty, corporal for spiritual; a satisfaction to man, especially to the magistrate, for what and to whom we owe none : these and more are the injustices of force and fining in religion, besides what I most insist on, the violation of God's
+ 2 Cor. i. 24.
* Prose Works, vol. ii. p. 523.
| 1 Pet. v. 2, 3.
express commandment in the gospel, as hath been shown. Thus then, if church governors cannot use force in religion, though but for this reason, because they cannot infallibly determine to the conscience without convincement, much less have civil magistrates authority to use force where they can much less judge; unless they mean only to be the civil executioners of them who have no civil power to give them such commission, no, nor yet ecclesiastical, to any force or violence in religion. To sum up all in brief, if we must believe as the magistrate appoints, why not rather as the church? If not as either without convincement, how can force be lawful ?"*
His second argument is thus stated :-“From the riddance of these objections, I proceed yet to another reason why it is unlawful for the civil magistrate to use force in matters of religion; which is, because to judge in those things, though we should grant him able, which is proved he is not, yet as a civil magistrate he hath no right. Christ ‘nath a government of his own, sufficient of itself to all his ends and purposes in governing his church, but much different from that of the civil magistrate. And the difference in this very thing principally consists, that it governs not by outward force, and that for two reasons : first, because it deals only with the inward man and his actions, which are all spiritual, and to outward force not liable; secondly, to show us the divine excellence of his spiritual kingdom, able without worldly force to subdue all the powers and kingdoms of this world, which are upheld by outward force only.” †
This, again, he substantiates, as he proposed at the outset, by arguments drawn from Scripture only, and proceeds: “I have shown that the civil power hath neither right nor can do right by forcing religious things; I will now show the wrong it doth, by violating the fundamental privilege of the gospel, the new birthright of every true believer—Christian liberty: 2 Cor. ü. 17, • Where the Spirit of the Lord is, * Prose Works, vol. ii. p. 526.
there is liberty;' Gal. iv. 26, “Jerusalem, which is above, is free, which is the mother of us all ;' and ver. 31, “We are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.' It will be sufficient in this place to say no more of Christian liberty than that it sets us free, not only from the bondage of those ceremonies, but also from the forcible imposition of those circumstances, place, and time in the worship of God, which, though by him commanded in the old law, yet in respect of that verity and freedom which is evangelical, St. Paul comprehends both kinds alike: that is to say, both ceremony and circumstance, under one and the same contemptuous name of “weak and beggarly rudiments.'"*
His concluding argument is as follows :
“A fourth reason why the magistrate ought not to use force in religion, I bring from the consideration of all those ends which he can likely pretend to the interposing of his force therein; and those hardly can be other than first the glory of God; next, either the spiritual good of them whom he forces, or the temporal punishment of their scandal to others. As for the promoting of God's glory, none, I think, will say that his glory ought to be promoted in religious things by unwarrantable means, much less by means contrary to what he hath commanded. That outward force is such, and that God's glory in the whole administration of the gospel according to his own will and counsel ought to be fulfilled by wes ness, at least so refuted, not by force; or if by force, inward and spiritual, not outward and corporeal, is already proved at large. That outward force cannot tend to the good of him who is forced in religion, is unquestionable. For, in religion, whatever we do under the gospel, we ought to be thereof persuaded without scruple; and are justified by the faith we have, not by the work we do : Rom. xiv. 5, Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.'” † He says, in conclusion :
* Prose Works, vol. ii. p. 539. + Ibid. p. 542.
“On these four scriptural reasons, as on a firm square, this truth, the right of Christian and evangelic liberty, will stand immovable against all those pretended consequences of licence and confusion, which, for the most part, men most licentious and confused themselves, or such as whose severity would be wiser than divine wisdom, are ever aptest to object against the ways of God: as if God, without them, when he gave us this liberty, knew not of the worst which these men in their arrogance pretend will follow : yet knowing all their worst, he gave us this liberty as by him judged best. As to those magistrates who think it their work to settle religion, and those ministers or others who so oft call upon them to do so, I trust, that having well considered what hath been here argued, neither they will continue in that intention, nor these in that expectation from them; when they shall find that the settlement of religion belongs only to each particular church by persuasive and spiritual means within itself, and that the defence only of the church belongs to the magistrate. Had he once learned not further to concern himself with church affairs, half his labour might be spared, and the commonwealth better tended.”
The treatise of Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Causes” was addressed to the Parliament of the Commonwealth of England, and contains one wise admonition, to which it would have been well if other parliaments besides that had borne in mind : -“ Yet not for this cause only do I require or trust to find acceptance, but in a twofold respect besides : first, as bringing clear evidence of scripture and protestant maxims to the parliament of England, who in all their late acts, upon occasion, have professed to assert only the true protestant Christian religion, as it is contained in the Holy Scriptures : next, in regard that your power being but for a time, and having in yourselves a Christian liberty of your own, which at one time or other may be oppressed, thereof
* Prose Works, vol. ii. pp. 546, 547.
truly sensible, it will concern you
while you are in power, so to regard other men's consciences, as you would your own should be regarded in the power of others; and to consider that any law against conscience is alike in force against any conscience, and so may one way or other justly redound upon yourselves."*
Very shortly after the publication of this work appeared the companion treatise, entitled “Considerations touching the Likeliest Means to remove Hirelings out of the Church.” This, like the former, was addressed to the Parliament, and its positions are entirely supported by scriptural arguments.
His general proposition is as follows :
“Hire of itself is neither a thing unlawful, nor a word of any evil note, signifying no more than a due recompense or reward; as when our Saviour saith, “The labourer is worthy of his hire. That which makes it so dangerous in the church, and properly makes the hireling a word always of evil signification, is either the excess thereof, or the undue manner of giving and taking it. What harm the excess thereof brought to the church, perhaps was not found by experience till the days of Constantine; who out of his zeal thinking he could be never too liberally a nursing father of the church, might be not unfitly said to have either overlaid it or choked it in the nursing. Which was foretold, as is recorded in ecclesiastical traditions, by a voice heard from heaven, on the very day that those great donations and church revenues were given, crying aloud, “This day is poison poured into the church.' Which the event soon after verified, as appears by another no less ancient observation, That religion brought forth wealth, and the daughter devoured the mother.'”+
In pursuance of his main object, he proposes to consider, first, what recompense God hath ordained should be given to ministers of the church—for that a recompense ought to
* Prose Works, vol. ii. p. 521, + Ibid. vol. iii. p. 5.