as soon apprehended as defined, such things as belong chiefly to the knowledge and service of God; and are either above the reach and light of nature without revelation from above, and therefore liable to be variously understood by human reason, or such things as are enjoined or forbidden by divine precept, which else by the light of reason would seem indifferent to be donc or not done; and so likewise must needs appear to every man as the precept is understood. “Whence I here mean by couscience or religion that full persuasion, whereby we are affured, that our belief and practice, as far as we are able to apprehend and probably make appear, is according to the will of God and his holy spirit within us, which we ought to follow much rather than any law of man, as not only his word every where bids us, but the very dictate of reason tells us. Acts iv. 19. “Whether it be right in the fight of God, to hearken to you more than to God, judge ye.” That for belief or practice in religion, according to this conscientious persuasion, no man ought to be punished or moletted by any outward force on earth whatsoever, I diftrust not, through God's implored assistance, to make plain by these following argunents.

Firft, it cannot be denied, being the main foundation of our protestant religion, that we of these ages, haring no other divine rule or authority from without us, warrantable to one another as a common ground, but the Holy Scripture, and no other within us but the illumination of the holy spirit so interpreting that fcripture as warrantable only to ourselves, and to such whole consciences we can fo persuade, can have no other ground in matters of religion but only from the Scriptures. And these being not possible to be underttood without this divine illumination, which no man can know at all times to be in himtelf, 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. And therefore those Bercans are commended, Afts xvii. 11. who after the preaching even of St. Paul, searched the



in thellitters

Scriptures daily, whether those things were fo.” Nor did they more than what God himself in many places commands us by the same Apostle, to search, to try, to judge of these things ourselves : and gives us reason also, Gal. vi, 4, 5. “Let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another: for every man shall bear his own burden.” If then we count it fo ignorant and irreligious in the papift, to think himself discharged in God's account, believing only as the Church believes, how much greater condemnation will it be to the protestant his condemner, to think himself justified, believing only as the state believes ? With good cause, therefore, it is the general consent of all found protestant writers, that neither traditions, councils, nor canons of any visible church, much less edicts of any magistrate or civil session, but the scripture only, can be the final judge or rule in matters of religion, and that only in the conscience of every christian to himself. Which protestation made by the first public reformers of our religion against the imperial edicts of Charles the fifth, impofing church-traditions without fcripture, gave first beginning to the name of Protestant; and with that name hath ever been received this doctrine, which prefers the fcripture before the church, and acknowledges none but the scripture fole interpreter of itself to the conscience. For if the church be not fufficient to be implicitly believed, as we hold it is not, what can there else be named of more authority than the church but the conscience, than which God only is greater, i John iii, 20? But if any man fhall pretend that the scripture judges to his conscience for other men, he makes himself greater not only than the church, but also than the scripture, than the consciences of other men: a presumption too high for any mortal, fince every true christian, able to give a reason of his faith, hath the word of God before him, the promised holy spirit, and the mind of Christ within him, i Cor. ii, 16; a much better and safer guide of conscience, which as far as concerns himself he may far more certainly know than any outward rule imposed upon him by others, whom VOL. III.



he inwardly neither knows nor can know; at least knows nothing of them more sure than this one thing, that they cannot be his judges in religion. 1 Cor. ii, 15, “ The spiritual man judgeth all things, but he himself is judged of no man.” Chiefly for this caufe do all true protestants account the pope Antichrist, for that he affumes to himlelf this infallibility over both the conscience and the scripture; “ fitting in the temple of God," as it were opposite to God, “ and exalting himself above all that is called God, or is worshipped,” 2 Thess, ii, 4. That is to say, not only above all judges and magistrates, who though they be called Gods, are far beneath infallible; but also above God himself, by giving law both to the scripture, to the conscience, and to the spirit itself of God within us. Whenas we find, Janes iv, 12, “ There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: Who art thou that judgest another?” That Christ is the only lawgiver of his church, and that it is here meant in religious matters, no wellgrounded christian will deny. Thus allo St. Paul, Rom. xiv, 4, “Who art thou that judgeft the servant of another? to his own lord he standeth or falleth : but he fall stand; for God is able to make him stand.” As therefore of one beyond expression bold and prefumptuous, both these Apostles demand, “Who art thou,” that pretumest to impose other law or judgment in religion than the only lawgiver and judge Chrift, who only can save and destroy, gives to the conscience? And the forecited place to the Thessalonians, by compared effects, resolves us, that be he or they who or wherever they be or can be, they are of far less authority than the church, whom in these things as protestants they receive not, and yet no less Antichrist in this main point of Antichriftianism, no less a pope or popedom than he at Rome, if not much more, by setting up supreme interpreters of scripture either those doctors whom they follow, or, which is far worse, them, selves as a civil papacy assuming unaccountable supremacy to themselves, not in civil only, but in ecclefiaftical causes. Seeing then that in matters of religion, as hath been proved, none can judge or determine here


[ocr errors]

also the Left while tatt. xiii, tros

on earth, no not. Church-governors themselves against the consciences of other believers, my inference is, or rather not mine but our Saviour's own, that in those matters they neither can command nor use constraint,' left they run rathly on a pernicious consequence, forewarned in that parable, Matt. xiii, from the 29th to: the zift verfe: “ Left while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will fay to the reapers, gather ye together first the tares,” &c. Whereby he declares, that this work neither his own ministers nor any else can discerningly. enough or judgingly perform without his own immediate direction, in his own fit season, and that they ought till then not to attempt it. Which is further confirmed 2 Cor. i, 24, “ Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy." If apostles had no dominion or constraining power over faith or conscience, much less have ordinary ministers, 1 Pet. v, 2, 3, “ Feed the flock of God, &c. not by constraint, neither as being lords over God's heritage.” But fome will object, that this overthrows all church-discipline, all censure of errours, if no man can determine. My answer is, that what they hear is plain fcripture, which forbids not church-sentence or determining, but as it ends in violence upon the conscience upconvinced. 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 reft, proceeds never to any corporal intorcement 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 fin for money, whether by the church exacted or by the magistrate; both the one and the other a temporal fatisfaction 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

Y 2


religion, besides what I most insist on, the violation of God's express commandment in the gospel, as hath been shewn). Thus then, if church-governors cannot ufe 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 fum up all in brief, if we must believe as the magistrate appoints, why not rather as the church? If not as either without convincernent, how can force be lawful ? But some are ready to cry out, what shall then be done to blasphemy? Them I would first exhort not thus to terrify and pole the people with a Greek word; but to teach them better what it is, being a most usual and common word in that language to fignify any lavder, any malicious or evil speaking, whether against God or man, or any thing to good belonging: Blafphemy or evil speaking against God maliciously, is far from conscience in religion, according to that of Mar. ix, 39, “ There is none who doth a powerful work in my name, and can likely speak evil of me.” If this fuffice not, I refer them to that prudent and well-deliberated act, August 9, 1650, where the parliament defines blafphemy against God, as far as it is a crime belonging to civil judicature, plenius ac melius Chryfippo & Crantore; in plain Englifh, more warily, more judiciously, more orthodoxally than twice their number of divines have done in many a prolix volume: although in all likelihood they whole whole study and profeffion these things are, should be most intelligent and authentic therein, as they are for the most part, yet neither they nor these unerring always, or infallible. But we shall not carry it thus; another Greek apparition stands in our way, Herely and Heretic; in like manner also railed at to the people as in a tongue unknown. They should first interpret to them, that Heresy, by what it fignities in that language, is no word of evil note, meaning only the choice

number Judiciously, moje in plain En


« VorigeDoorgaan »