Page images


That prelatical jurisdiction opposeth the reason and end of the gospel and of


THE third and last consideration remains, whether the prelates in their function do work according to the gospel, practising to subdue the mighty things of this world by things weak, which St. Paul hath set forth to be the power and excellence of the gospel; or whether in more likelihood they band themselves with the prevalent things of this world, to overrun the weak things which Christ hath made choice to work by: and this will soonest be discerned by the course of their jurisdiction. But here again I find my thoughts almost in suspense betwixt yea and no, and am nigh turning mine eye which way I may best retire, and not proceed in this subject, blaming the ardency of my mind that fixed me too attentively to come thus far. For truth, I know not how, hath this unhappiness fatal to her, ere she can come to the trial and inspection of the understanding; being to pass through many little wards and limits of the several affections and desires, she cannot shift it, but must put on such colours and attire, as those pathetic handmaids of the soul please to lead her in to their queen: and if she find so much favour with them, they let her pass in her own likeness; if not, they bring her into the presence habited and coloured like a notorious falsehood. And contrary, when any falsehood comes that way, if they like the errand she brings, they are so artful to counterfeit the very shape and visage of truth, that the understanding not being able to discern the fucus which these inchantresses with such cunning have laid upon the feature sometimes of truth, sometimes of falsehood interchangeably, sentences for the most part one for the other at the first blush, according to the subtle imposture of these sensual mistresses, that keep the ports and passages between her and the object. So that were it not for leaving imperfect that which is already said, I should go near to relinquish that which is to follow. And because I see that most men, as it happens in this world, either weakly or falsely principled, what through ignorance, and what through custom of licence, both in discourse and writing, by what hath been of late written in vulgar, have not seemed to attain the decision of this point: I shall likewise assay those wily arbitresses who in most men have, as was heard, the sole ushering of truth and falsehood between the sense and the soul, with

hat loyalty they will use me in convoying this truth to my understanding; the rather for that by as much acquaintance as I can obtain with them, I do not find them engaged either one way or other. Concerning therefore ecclesiastical jurisdiction, I find still more controversy, who should administer it, than diligent inquiry made to learn what it is: for had the pains been taken to search out that, it had been long ago enrolled to be nothing else but a pure tyrannical forgery of the prelates; and that jurisdictive power in the church there ought to be none at all. It cannot be conceived that what men now call jurisdiction in the church, should be other thing than at Christian censorship; and therefore it is most commonly and truly named ecclesiastical censure. Now if the Roman censor, a civil function, to that severe assize of surveying and controlling the privatest and slyest manners of all men and all degrees, had no jurisdiction, no courts of plea or inditement, no punitive force annexed; whether it were that to this manner of correction the intanglement of suits was improper, or that the notice of those upright inquisitors extended to such the most covert and spirituous vices

as would slip easily between the wider and more material grasp of the law, or that it stood more with the majesty of that office to have no other sergeants or maces about them but those invisible ones of terror and shame; or, lastly, were it their fear, lest the greatness of this authority and honour, armed with jurisdiction, might step with ease into a tyranny: in all these respects, with much more reason undoubtedly ought the censure of the church be quite divested and disentailed of all jurisdiction whatsoever. For if the course of judicature to a political censorship seem either too tedious, or too contentious, much more may it to the discipline of the church, whose definitive decrees are to be speedy, but the execution of rigour slow, contrary to what in legal proceedings is most usual; and by how much the less contentious it is, by so much will it be the more Christian. And if the censor, in his moral episcopacy, being to judge most in matters not answerable by writ or action, could not use an instrument so gross and bodily as jurisdiction is, how can the minister of the gospel manage the corpulent and secular trial of bill and process in things merely spiritual? Or could that Roman office, without this juridical sword or saw, strike such a reverence of itself into the most undaunted hearts, as with one single dash of ignominy to put all the senate and knighthood of Rome into a tremble? Surely much rather might the heavenly ministry of the evangel bind herself about with far more piercing beams of majesty and awe, by wanting the beggarly help of halings and amercements in the use of her powerful keys. For when the church without temporal support is able to do her great works upon the unforced obedience of men, it argues a divinity about her. But when she thinks to credit and better her spiritual efficacy, and to win herself respect and dread by strutting in the false vizard of worldly authority, it is evident that God is not there, but that her apostolic virtue is departed from her, and hath left her key-cold; which she perceiving as in a decayed nature, seeks to the outward fomentations and chafings of worldly help, and external flourishes, to fetch, if it be possible, some motion into her extreme parts, or to hatch a counterfeit life with the crafty and artificial heat of jurisdiction. But it is observable, that so long as the church, in true imitation of Christ, can be content to ride upon an ass, carrying herself and her government along in a mean and simple guise, she may be, as he is, a lion of the tribe of Judah; and in her humility all men with loud hosannas will confess her greatness. But when despising the mighty operation of the Spirit by the weak things of this world, she thinks to make herself bigger and more. considerable, by using the way of civil force and jurisdiction, as she sits upon this lion, she changes into an ass, and instead of hosannas, every man pelts her with stones and dirt. Lastly, if the wisdom of the Romans feared to commit jurisdiction to an office of so high esteem and dread as was the censor's, we may see what a solecism in the art of policy it hath been, all this while through Christendom to give jurisdiction to ecclesiastical censure. For that strength, joined with religion, abused and pretended to ambitious ends, must of necessity breed the heaviest and most quelling tyranny not only upon the necks, but even to the souls of men: which if Christian Rome had been so cautelous to prevent in her church, as pagan Rome was in her state, we had not had such a lamentable experience thereof as now we have from thence upon all Christendom. For although I said before, that the church coveting to ride upon the lionly form of jurisdiction, makes a transformation of herself into an ass, and becomes despicable, that is, to those whom God hath enlightened with true knowledge; but where they remain. yet in the relics of superstition, this is the extremity of their bondage and blindness, that while they think they do obeisance to the lordly vision of a

lion, they do it to an ass, that through the just judgment of God is permitted to play the dragon among them because of their wilful stupidity. And let England here well rub her eyes, lest by leaving jurisdiction and churchcensure to the same persons, now that God hath been so long medicining her eyesight, she do not with her over-politic fetches mar all, and bring herself back again to worship this ass bestriding a lion. Having hitherto explained, that to ecclesiastical censure no jurisdictive power can be added, without a childish and dangerous oversight in policy, and a pernicious contradiction in evangelical discipline, as anon more fully; it will be next to declare wherein the true reason and force of church-censure consists, which by then it shall be laid open to the root; so little is it that I fear lest any crookedness, any wrinkle or spot should be found in presbyterian government, that if Bodin the famous French writer, though a papist, yet affirms that the commonwealta which maintains this discipline will certainly flourish in virtue and piety; I dare assure myself, that every true protestant will admire the integrity, the uprightness, the divine and gracious purposes thereof, and even for the reason of it so coherent with the doctrine of the gospel, beside the evidence of command in Scripture, will confess it to be the only true church-government; and that contrary to the whole end and mystery of Christ's coming in the flesh, a false appearance of the same is exercised by prelaty. But because some count it rigorous, and that hereby men shall be liable to a double punishment, I will begin somewhat higher, and speak of punishment; which, as it is an evil, I esteem to be of two sorts, or rather two degrees only, a reprobate conscience in this life, and hell in the other world. Whatever else men call punishment or censure, is not properly an evil, so it be not an illegal violence, but a saving medicine ordained of God both for the public and private good of man; who consisting of two parts, the inward and the outward, was by the eternal Providence left under two sorts of cure, the church and the magistrate. The magistrate hath only to deal with the outward part, I mean not of the body alone, but of the mind in all her outward acts, which in Scripture is called the outward man. So that it would be helpful to us if we might borrow such authority as the rhetoricians by patent may give us, with a kind of promethean skill to shape and fashion this outward man into the similitude of a body, and set him visible before us, imagining the inner man only as the soul. Thus then the civil magistrate looking only upon the outward man, (I say as a magistrate, for what he doth further, he doth it as a member of the church,) if he find in his complexion, ski, or outward temperature, the signs and marks, or in his doings the effects of injustice, rapine, lust, cruelty, or the like, sometimes he shuts up as in frenetic or infectious diseases; or confines within doors as in every sickly estate. Sometimes he shaves by penalty or mulct, or else to cool and take down those luxuriant humours which wealth and excess have caused to abound. Otherwhiles he sears, he cauterizes, he scarifies, lets blood; and finally, for utmost remedy cuts off. The patients, which most an end are brought into his hospital, are such as are far gone, and beside themselves, (unless they be falsely accused,) so that force is necessary to tame and quiet them in their unruly fits, before they can be made capable of a more humane cure. His general end is the outward peace and welfare of the commonwealth, and civil happiness in this life. His particular end in every man is, by the infliction of pain, damage, and disgrace, that the senses and common perceivance might carry this message to the soul within, that it is neither easeful, profitable, nor praiseworthy in this life to do evil. Which must needs tend to the good of man, whether he be to live or die; and be undoubtedly the first means

to a natural man, especially an offender, which might open his eyes to a higher consideration of good and evil, as it is taught in religion. This is seen in the often penitence of those that suffer, who, had they escaped, had gone on sinning to an immeasurable heap, which is one of the extremest punishments. And this is all that the civil magistrate, as so being, confers to the healing of man's mind, working only by terrifying plasters upon the rind and orifice of the sore; and by all outward appliances, as the logicians say, a posteriori, at the effect, and not from the cause; not once touching the inward bed of corruption, and that hectic disposition to evil, the source of all vice and obliquity against the rule of law. Which how insufficient it is to cure the soul of man, we cannot better guess than by the art of bodily physic. Therefore God, to the intent of further healing man's depraved mind, to this power of the magistrate, which contents itself with the restraint of evil-doing in the external man, added that which we call censure, to purge it, and remove it clean out of the inmost soul.

In the beginning this authority seems to have been placed, as all both civil and religious rites once were, only in each father of a family; afterwards among the heathen, in the wise men and philosophers of the age; but so as it was a thing voluntary, and no set government. More distinctly among the Jews, as being God's peculiar people, where the priests, Levites, prophets, and at last the scribes and pharisees, took charge of instructing and overseeing the lives of the people. But in the gospel, which is the straightest and the dearest covenant can be made between God and man, we being now his adopted sons, and nothing fitter for us to think on than to be like him, united to him, and, as he pleases to express it, to have fellowship with him; it is all necessity that we should expect this blessed efficacy of healing our inward man to be ministered to us in a more familiar and effectual method than ever before. God being now no more a judge after the sentence of the law, nor, as it were, a schoolmaster of perishable rites, but a most indulgent father, governing his church as a family of sons in their discreet age: and therefore, in the sweetest and mildest manner of paternal discipline, he hath committed his other office of preserving in healthful constitution the inner man, which may be termed the spirit of the soul, to his spiritual deputy the minister of each congregation; who being best acquainted with his own fleck, hath best reason to know all the secretest diseases likely to be there. And look by how much the internal man is more excellent and noble than the external, by so much is his cure more exactly, and more thoroughly, and more particularly to be performed. For which cause the Holy Ghost by the apostles joined to the minister, as assistant in this great office, sometimes a certain number of grave and faithful brethren, (for neither doth the physician do all in restoring his patient, he prescribes, another prepares the medicine, some tend, some watch, some visit,) much more may a minister partly not see all, partly err as a man: besides, that nothing can be more for the mutual honour and love of the people to their pastor, and his to them, than when in select numbers and courses they are seen partaking and doing reverence to the holy duties of discipline by their serviceable and solemn presence, and receiving honour again from their employment, not now any more to be separated in the church by veils and partitions as laics and unclean, but admitted to wait upon the tabernacle as the rightful clergy of Christ, a chosen generation, a* royal priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifice in that meet place, to which God and the congregation shall call and assign them. And this all Christians ought to know, that the title of clergy St. Peter gave to all God's people, till pope Higinus and the succeeding prelates took it from them,

appropriating that name to themselves and their priests only; and condemning the rest of God's inheritance to an injurious and alienate condition of laity, they separated from them by local partitions in churches, through their gross ignorance and pride imitating the old temple, and excluding the members of Christ from the property of being members, the bearing of orderly and fit offices in the ecclesiastical body; as if they had meant to sew up that Jewish veil, which Christ by his death on the cross rent in sunder. Although these usurpers could not so presently overmaster the liberties and lawful titles of God's freeborn church; but that Origen, being yet a layman, expounded the Scriptures publicly, and was therein defended by Alexander of Jerusalem, and Theoctistus of Cæsarea, producing in his behalf divers examples, that the privilege of teaching was anciently permitted to many worthy laymen: and Cyprian in his epistles professes he will do nothing without the advice and assent of his assistant laics. Neither did the first Nicene council, as great and learned as it was, think it any robbery to receive in, and require the help and presence of many learned lay brethren, as they were then called. Many other authorities to confirm this assertion, both out of Scripture and the writings of next antiquity, Golartius hath collected in his notes upon Cyprian; whereby it will be evident, that the laity, not only by apostolic permission, but by consent of many of the ancientest prelates, did participate in church-offices as much as is desired any lay elder should now do. Sometimes also not the elders alone, but the whole body of the church is interested in the work of discipline, as oft as public satisfaction is given by those that have given public scandal. Not to speak now of her right in elections. But another reason there is in it, which though religion did not commend to us, yet moral and civil prudence could not but extol. It was thought of old in philosophy, that shame, or to call it better, the reverence of our elders, our brethren, and friends, was the greatest incitement to virtuous deeds, and the greatest dissuasion from unworthy attempts that might be. Hence we may read in the Iliad, where Hector being wished to retire from the battle, many of his forces being routed, makes answer, that he durst not for shame, lest the Trojan knights and dames should think he did ignobly. And certain it is, that whereas terror is thought such a great stickler in a commonwealth, honourable shame is a far greater, and has more reason: for where shame is, there is fear; but where fear is, there is not presently shame. And if any thing may be done to inbreed in us this generous and Christianly reverence one of another, the very nurse and guardian of piety and virtue, it cannot sooner be than by such a discipline in the church, as may use us to have in awe the assemblies of the faithful, and to count it a thing most grievous, next to the grieving of God's Spirit, to offend those whom he hath put in authority, as a healing superintendence over our lives and behaviours, both to our own happiness, and that we may not give offence to good men, who, without amends by us made, dare not, against God's command, hold communion. with us in holy things. And this will be accompanied with a religious dread of being outcast from the company of saints, and from the fatherly protection of God in his church, to consort with the devil and his angels. But there is yet a more ingenuous and noble degree of honest shame, or, call it, if you will, an esteem, whereby men bear an inward reverence toward their own persons. And if the love of God, as a fire sent from heaven to be ever kept alive upon the altars of our hearts, be the first principle of all godly and virtuous actions in men, this pious and just nonouring of ourselves is the second, and may be thought as the radical moisture and fountain-head, whence every laudable and worthy enterprise issues forth. And

« PreviousContinue »