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FROM THE TREATISE
OF PRELATICAL EPISCOPACY.
F it be of divine constitution, to satisfy us fully in that, the Scripture only is able, it being the only book left us of divine authority, not in anything more divine than in the all-sufficiency it hath to furnish us, as with all other spiritual knowledge, so with this in particular, setting out to us a perfect man of God, accomplished to all the good works of his charge. To verify that which St. Paul foretold of succeeding times, when men began to have itching ears, then, not contented with the plentifu and wholesome fountains of the Gospel, they began after their own lusts to heap to themselves teachers, and as if the Divine Scripture wanted a supplement, and were to be eked out, they cannot think any doubt resolved, and any doctrine confirmed, unless they run to that indigested heap and fry of authors which they call antiquity. Whatsoever time, or the heedless hand of blind chance, hath drawn down from of old to this pres
ent, in her huge drag-net, whether fish or sea. weed, shells or shrubs, unpicked, unchosen, those are the fathers.
How can they bring satisfaction from such an author, to whose every essence the reader must be fain to contribute his own understanding? Had God ever intended that we should have sought any part of useful instruction from Ignatius, doubtless he would not have so ill provided for our knowledge as to send him to our hands in this broken and disjointed plight; and if he intended no such thing, we do injuriously in thinking to taste better the pure evangelic manna, by seasoning our mouths with the tainted scraps and fragments of an unknown table, and searching among the verminous and polluted rags dropped overworn from the toiling shoulders of time, with these deformedly to quilt and interlace the entire, the spotless, and undecaying robe of truth, the daughter not of time, but of Heaven, only bred up here below in Christian hearts, between two grave and holy nurses, the doctrine and discipline of the Gospel..
He that thinks it the part of a well-learned man to have read diligently the ancient stories of the Church, and to be no stranger in the volumes of the fathers, shall have all judicious men consenting with him; not hereby to control and newfangle the Scripture, God forbid! but to mark how corruption and apostasy crept in by degrees, and
to gather up wherever we find the remaining sparks of original truth, wherewith to stop the mouths of our adversaries, and to bridle them with their own curb, who willingly pass by that which is orthodoxal in them, and studiously cull out that which is commentitious, and best for their turns, not weighing the fathers in the balance of Scripture, but Scripture in the balance of the fathers. If we, therefore, making first the Gospel our rule and oracle, shall take the good which we light on in the fathers, and set it to oppose the evil which other men seek from them, in this way of skirmish we shall easily master all superstition and false doctrine; but if we turn this our discreet and wary usage of them into a blind devotion towards them, and whatsoever we find written by them, we both forsake our own grounds and reasons which led us at first to part from Rome, that is, to hold to the Scriptures against all antiquity; we remove our cause into our adversaries' own court, and take up there those cast principles which will soon cause us to solder up with them again; inasmuch as, believing antiquity for itself in any one point, we bring an engagement upon ourselves of assenting to all that it charges upon us.
REASON OF CHURCH GOVERNMENT URGED AGAINST PRELATY.
N the publishing of human laws, which for the most part aim not beyond the good of civil society, to set them barely forth to the people without reason or preface, like a physical prescript, or only with threatenings, as it were a lordly command, in the judgment of Plato was thought to be done neither generously nor wisely. His advice was, seeing that persuasion certainly is a more winning and more manlike way to keep men in obedience than fear, that to such laws as were of principal moment, there should be used as an induction some well-tempered discourse, showing how good, how gainful, how happy it must needs be to live according to honesty and justice; which being uttered with those native colors and graces of speech, as true eloquence, the daughter of vir tue, can best bestow upon her mother's praises, would so incite, and in a manner charm, the mul
titude into the love of that which is really good, as to embrace it ever after, not of custom and awe, which most men do, but of choice and purpose, with true and constant delight. But this practice we may learn from a better and more ancient authority than any heathen writer hath to give us; and, indeed, being a point of so high wisdom and worth, how could it be but we should find it in that book within whose sacred context all wisdom is unfolded? Moses, therefore, the only lawgiver that we can believe to have been visibly taught of God, knowing how vain it was to write laws to men whose hearts were not first seasoned with the knowledge of God and of his works, began from the book of Genesis, as a prologue to his laws; which Josephus right well hath noted: that the nation of the Jews, reading therein the universal goodness of God to all creatures in the creation, and his peculiar favor to them in his election of Abraham, their ancestor, from whom they could derive so many blessings upon themselves, might be moved to obey sincerely, by knowing so good a reason of their obedience. If, then, in the administration of civil justice, and under the obscurity of ceremonial rites, such care was had by the wisest of the heathen, and by Moses among the Jews, to instruct them at least in a general reason of that government to which their subjection was required, how much more ought the members of the Church, under the