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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 done or not done; and so likewise must needs appear to every man as the prçcept is underttood. Whence I here mean by coutüicnce or religion that full persuasion, whereby we are afsured, 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 diétate of reason tells us. Actu iv. 19. “Whether it be right in the light 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 distrust not, through God's implored allistance, to make plain by these tollowing argunents.
Firt, it cannot be denied, being the main foundation of our proteftant religion, that we of these ages, harimg 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 undertiood 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 contciences but their own. And therefore those Bercans are commended, Als xvii. 11. who after the preaching even of St. Paul, fearched the
Scriptures 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 fhall bear his own burden.” If then we count it fo ignorant and irreligious in the papist, to think hiinself 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 content of all found protestant writers, that neither traditions, councils, nor canons of any visible church, much less edicts of any magistrate or civil seffion, 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, 1 John iii, 20? But if any man shall 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 : 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.
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he inwardly neither knows nor can know; at least knows nothing of them more fure than this one thing, that they cannot be his judges in religion. 1 Cor. ii, 15, “ The Diritual man judgeth all things, but he himself is judged of no man. Chiefly for this cause do all true proteftants account the pope Antichrift, for that he atsumes to himtelf this infallibility over both the contcience and the scripture; “ sitting in the temple of God," as it were opposite to God, himself above all that is called God, or is worthipped, 2 Thefl, ii, 4. That is to fay, not only above all judges and magiftrates, 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 fave and to deftroy: Who art thou that judgett 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 shall 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 prelumest to impose other law or judgment in religion than the only lawgiver and judge Chrift, who only can fave 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 Antichriftianisin, no less a pope or popedom than he at Rome, if not much more, by setting up fupreme interpreters of scripture either those doctors whom they follow, or, which is far worse, them, felves as a civil papacy assuming unaccountable fupremacy to themselves, not in civil only, but in ecclefiaftical čaules. Seeing then that in matters of religion, as hath been proved, none can judge or determine here
on earth, no not Church-governors themselves a rain't 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 ule constraint, left they run rathly on a pernicious coniequence, forewarned in that parable, Matt. xiii, from the 29th to the 31st verse : 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 say 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 feason, 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 minifters, 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 cenfure of errours, if no man can determine. My answer is, that what they hear is plain fcripture, which forbids not church-lentence or determining, but as it ends in violence upon the conscience upconvinced. Let whoso will interpret or determine, to 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 inforcement or forfeiture of money, which in all spiritual things are the two arms of Antichrift, 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 fatisfied eternally; a popith commuting of penity, 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 express commandment in the gospel, as hath been shewn). 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 lets have civil magiftrates 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 ecclefiaftical, 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 convincernent, how can force be lawful? But fome are ready to cry out, what Thall 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 molt usual and common word in that language to signify any Dander, any malicious or evil speaking, whether against God or man, or any thing to good belonging: Blafphemy or evil speaking againlt God malicioully, is far from confcierce 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 blasphemy againit God, as far as it is a crime belonging to civil judicature, plenius ac melius Chryfippo & Crantore; in plain English, 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, thould 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 thould first interpret to them, that Herefy, by what it fignifies in that language, is no word of evil note, meaning only the choice