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A TREATISE OF CIVIL POWER IN ECCLESIASTICAL CAUSES.

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WO things there be, which have been ever found working much mischief to the Church of God and the advance. ment of truth: force on one side restraining, and hire on the other side corrupting, the teachers thereof. Few ages have been since the ascension of our Saviour, wherein the one of these two, or both together, have not prevailed. It can be at no time, therefore, unseasonable to speak of these things; since by them the Church. is either in continual detriment and oppression, or in continual danger.

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It will require no great labor of exposition to unfold what is here meant by matters of religion; being 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 nust needs appear to every man as the precept is understood. Whence I here mean by conscience or religion that full persuasion, whereby we are assured, 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 everywhere bids us, but the very dictate of reason tells us.

It cannot be denied, being the main foundation of our Protestant religion, that we of these ages, having 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 Scripture as warrantable only to ourselves, and to such whose consciences we can so persuade, can have no other ground in matters of religion but only from the Scriptures. And these being not possible to be understood 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 consciences but their

own. · •

Seeing, therefore, that no man, no synod, no session of men, though called the Church, can judge definitely the sense of Scripture to another man's conscience, which is well known to be a general maxim 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 justly censured for a heretic than his censurers; who do but the same thing themselves, while they censure him for so doing. For ask them, or any Protestant, which hath most authority, the Church or the Scripture? They will answer, doubtless, that the Scripture and what hath most authority, that no doubt but they will confess is to be followed. He then, who to his best apprehension follows the Scripture, though against any point of doctrine by the whole Church received, is not the heretic; but he who follows the Church against his conscience and persuasion grounded on the Scripture. To make this yet more undeniable, I shall only borrow a plain simile, the same which our own writers, when they would demonstrate plainest, that we rightly prefer the Scripture before the Church, use frequently against the Papist in this manner. the Samaritans believed Christ, first for the woman's word, but next and much rather for his own, sc we the Scripture: first on the Church's

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As

word, but afterwards 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 Scripture, 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 Scripture to say, though the visible Church, with all her doctors, gainsay: and being taught to believe them only for the Scripture, they who so 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 conscience, none is able but himself, guided by the Holy Spirit; and not so guided, none than he to himself can be a worse deceiver. To Protestants, therefore, whose common rule and touchstone is the Scripture, nothing can with more conscience, more equity, nothing more Protestantly can be permitted, than a free and lawful debate at all times by writing, conference, or disputation of what opinion soever, disputable by Scripture: concluding that no man in religion is properly a heretic at this day, but he who maintains traditions or opinions not probable by Scripture, who, for aught I know, is the Papist only; he the only heretic, who counts all heretics but himself.

How many persecutions, then, imprisonments, banishments, penalties, and stripes; how much

bloodshed have the forcers of conscience to answer for, and Protestants rather than Papists! For the Papist, judging by his principles, punishes them who believe not as the Church believes, though against the Scripture; but the Protestant, teaching every one to believe the Scripture, though against the Church, counts heretical, and persecutes against his own principles, them who in any particular so believe as he in general teaches them; them who most honor and believe divine Scripture, but not against it any human interpretation, though universal; them who interpret Scripture only to themselves, which, by his own position, none but they to themselves can interpret: them who use the Scripture no otherwise by his own doctrine to their edification, than he himself uses it to their punishing; and so whom his doctrine acknowledges a true believer, his discipline persecutes as a heretic. The Papist exacts our belief as to the Church due above Scripture; and by the Church, which is the whole people of God, understands the pope, the general councils, prelatical only, and the surnamed fathers but the forcing Protestant, though he deny such belief to any Church whatsoever, yet takes it to himself and his teachers, of far less authority than to be called the Church, and above Scripture believed: which renders his practice both contrary to his belief, and far worse than that belief which he condemns in the Papist. By all which, well considered, the more he professes to be a true

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