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or following of any opinion good or bad in religion, or any other learning: and thus not only in heathen authors, but in the New Testament itself, without cenfure or blame; Acts xv, 5, “Certain of the heresy of the Pharisees which believed ;” and xxvi, 5,
“ After the exactest heresy of our religion I lived a Pharisee.” In which sense presbyterian or independent may without reproach be called a heresy. Where it is inentioned with blame, it seems to differ little from schism; 1 Cor. xi, 18, 19, “ I hear that there be fchilis among you, &c. for there must also herefies be among you," &c. Though fome, who write of herefy after their own heads, would make it far worse than schism; whenas on the contrary, fchifin signifies division, and in the worst sense; heresy, choice only of one opinion before another, which may be without discord. In apoftolic times, therefore, ere the scripture was written, herely was a doctrine maintained against the doctrine by them delivered; which in these times can be no otherwile defined than a doétrine maintained against the light, which we now only have, of the scripture. Seeing therefore that no man, no iynod, no lession of men, thongh called the Church, can judge definitively the fenfe of fcripture to another man's conscience, which is well known to be a general inaxim of the protestant religion; it follows plainly, that he who holds in religion that belief, or those opinions, which to his conscience and utmost understanding appear with most evidence or probability in the scripture, though to others he seem erroneous, can no more be juftly censured for a heretic than his censurers; who do but the same thing themtelves, while they cenfure him for fo doing. For ask them, or any protestant, which hath most authority, the Church or the Scripture? They will anfirer, doubtless, that the fcripture: and what hath most authority, that no doubt but they will confels is to be followed. He then, who to his beft apprehenfion follows the scripture, though againft any point of doctrine by the whole church received, is not the heretic; but he who follows the church against his conscience and perfuafion grounded on the icripture. To
make this yet more undeniable, I shall only borrow a plairi fimile, the same which our own writers, when they would demontirate plainett, that we rightly prefer the scripture before the church, use frequently against the papist in this manner. As the Samaritans believed Chrilt, furfi for the woman's word, but next and much rather for his own, so we the scripture: first on the church's word, but afierwards and much more for its own, as the word of God; yea, the church itself we believe then for the scripture. The inference of itself follows: if by the protestant doctrine we believe the fcripture, not for the Church's saying, but for its own as the word of God, then ought we to believe what in our conscience we apprehend the fcripture to tay, though the visible church, with all her doctors, gainlay : and being taught to believe them only for the feripture, they who fo do are not heretics, but the best protestants: and by their opinions, whatever they be, can hurt no protestant, whose rule is not to receive them but from the scripture : which to interpret convincingly to his own conicience, none is able but himself guided by the holy spirit; and not to guided, 'none than he to himself can be a worle deceiver. To protestants, therefore, whole common rule and touchstone is the scripture, nothing can with more conícience, more equity, nothing more protetiantly can be permitted, than a free and lawful debate at all times by writing, conference, or disputation of what opinion foever, disputable by fcripture : concluding, that no man in religion is properly a heretic at this day, but he who maintains traditions or opinions not probable by fcripture, who, for aught I know, is the papist only; he the only heretic, who counts all heretics but himself. Such as these, indeed, were . capitally punished by the law of Moics, as the only true heretics, idolaters, plain and open de erters of God and his known law: but in the gospel such are punified by excommunion only. Tit. ii; 10, “ An heretic, after the firtt and second admonition, reject.”. But they who think not this heavy enough, and understand not that dreadful awe and spiritual efficacy, which the Apostle hath expreiled so highly
to be in church-discipline, 2 Cor. x, of which anon, and think weakly that the church of God cannot long fubfist but in a bodily fear, for want of other proof will needs wrest that place of St. Paul, Rom. xiii, to fet up civil inquisition, and give power to the magiftrate both of civil judgment, and punishment in caules ecclefiaftical. But let us see with what strength of argument ; “ let every foul be subject to the higher powers. First, how prove they that the Apostle means other powers, than fuch as they to whom he writes were then under; who meddled not at all in ecclefiaftical caules, unless as tyrants and persecuters? And from them, I hope, they will not derive either the right of magistrates to judge in spiritual things, or the duty of such our obedience. How prove they next, that he entitles them here to fpiritual causes, from whom he withheld, as much as in him lay, the judging of civil? 1 Cor. vi, 1, &c. If he himtelf appealed to Cæfar, it was to judge his innocence, not his religion. “ For rulers are not a terrour to good works, but to the evil:" then are they not a terrour to conscience, which is the rule or judge of good works grounded on the scripture. But herely, they say, is reckoned among evil works, Gal. v, 20, as if all evil works were to be punished by the magiltrate; whereof this place, their own citation, reckons up besides herely a fufficient number to confute them; “ uncleanneis, wantonnels, enmity, strife, emulations, animofities, contentions, envyings;" all which are far more manifest to be judged by him than herely, as they define it; and yet I fuppose they will not subject thele evil works, nor many more fuchlike, to his cognizance and punishment. “ Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou thalt have praile of the fame.” This thows that religious matters are not here meant; wherein from the power here fpoken of, they could have no praise : “ For he is the minitter of God to thee for good :” True; but in that office, and to that end, and by those means which in this place must be clearly found, if from this place they intend to argue. And how, for thy good by forcing, oppressing, Y 4
and ensnaring thy conscience ? Many are the ministers of God, and their offices no less different than many : none more different than state and church-government. Who seeks to govern both, must needs be worse than any lord prelate, or church-pluralist: for he in his own faculty and profession, the other not in his own, and for the most part not thoroughly understood, makes himself supreme lord or pope of the church, as far as his civil jurisdiction ftretches; and all the ministers of God therein, his ministers, or his curates rather in the function only, not in the government; while he himfelf affumes to rule by civil power things to be ruled only by fpiritual: whenas this very chapter, verse 6, appointing him his peculiar office, which requires utmoft attendance, forbids him this worse than churchplurality from that full and weighty charge, wherein alone he is “ the minister of God, attending continually on this very thing.” To little purpose will they here instance Notes, who did all by immediate divine direction; no nor yet Ala, Jeholaphat, or Jofiah, who both might, when they pleased, receive anfwer from God, and had a commonwealth by him delivered them, incorporated with a national church, exercised more in bodily than in fpiritual worthip: so as that the church might be called a commonwealth, and the whole commonwealth a church: nothing of which can be faid of christianity, delivered without the help of magistrates, yea, in the midst of their opposition; how little then with any reference to them, or mention of them, fave only of our obedience to their civil laws, as they countenance good, and deter evil? which is the proper work of the magistrate, following in the fame verse, and Thows distinctly wherein he is the minister of God, “a revenger to execute wrath on him that doth evil.” But we must first know who it is that doth evil: the heretic they say among the first. Let it be known then certainly who is a heretic; and that he who holds opinions in religion profeffedly from tradition, or his own inventions, and not from scripture, but rather against it, is the only heretic: and yet though such, not always punishable by the magiftrate, unless he do evil againti a 5
civil law, properly so called, hath been already proved, without need of repetition. “ But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid.” To do by scripture and the gotpel, according to conscience, is not to do evil; if we thereof ought not to be afraid, he ought not by his judging to give cause : causes therefore of religion are not here meant. “ For he beareth not the sword in vain.” Yes, altogether in vain, if it imite he knows not what ; if that for herety, which not the church itself, much less he can determine absolutely to be fo; if truth for errour, being hirtelf to often fallible, he bears the sword not in vain only, but unjustly and to evil. “ Be subject not only for wrath, but for conscience fake:" How for conscience fake, against conscience? By all these reasons it appears plainly, that the Apostle in this place gives no judgment or coercive power to magistrates, neither to those then, nor these now, in matters of religion; and exhorts us no otherwife than he exhorted thote Romans.
It hath now twice befallen me to atfert, through God's assistance, this moft wrested and vexed place of fcripture; heretofore againti Salmafius, and regal tyranny over the state; now against Eraftus, and state-tyranny over the church. If from such uncertain, or rather such improbable grounds as these, they endue magistracy with fpiritual judgment, they may as well inveft him in the fame fpiritual kind with power of utmost punishment, excommunication; and then turn spiritual into corporal, as no worse authors did than Chryfoftom, Jerome, and Austin, whoin Eralmus and others in their notes on the New Testament have cited, to interpret that cutting off which St. Paul wished to them who had brought back the Galatians to circumcifion, no less than the amercernent of their whole virility: and Grotius adds, that this conciting punishment of circumcifers became a penal law thereupon among the Visigoths: a dangerous example of beginning in the spirit to end so in the flesh; whereas that cutting off' much likelier feems meant a cutting off from the church, not unusually so termed in fcripture, and a zealous imprecation, not a command. But I have mentioned this paffage to fhow