I. THE CAUSE OF THIS TREATISE
This work is written in the hope of preserving the present state of the Church of God among us, but also so that, if that state should be lost, future generations may know that there were those who did their best to preserve it. I address it to my friends of the contrary persuasion (for I count as my friends all those who acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord, God, and Savior, whether they so count me or not). Your enthusiasm for the form of Church government which you call the Lord's discipline made me suppose that you had powerful arguments for it. But having studied the matter, I do not find your arguments convincing, and I am about to say why. I beg you to consider my statements with an eye for truth, not for victory, and to regard me, not as an adversary, but as one who, like yourselves, seeks to know and do the will of God. Let me begin by recounting how your form of Church government began.
II. CALVIN'S DISCIPLINE IN GENEVA
John Calvin, a brilliant theologian to whose insights we are all indebted, being forced to leave his native France, came to Geneva, which, like other Swiss cities, was a republic. Geneva had just turned from Romanism to Protestantism, and its (Roman) Bishop had fled, leaving the city with no organized form of church government. Calvin and two other clerics persuaded the people to take an oath that (1) they would never return to their old Romish ways, and (2) they would agree to be governed in religious matters by the Bible-based rules set down by their clergy. No sooner had this arrangement been adopted than it produced dissension. The churches of that part of Switzerland had all gone Protestant, one by one, and each, without consulting the others, had devised and adopted some form or other of doctrine and discipline. Each in its turn tried to be more unlike Rome than all the previous ones, and instead of labeling its arrangements, "Tentative, subject to amendment on further advice," each called them, "The Right Way, Bible-Based, and Therefore Not Subject to Question." This made it difficult for any local Church to change, or to tolerate any of the others. Thus the new Geneva rules produced a quarrel, and Calvin was banished. A few years after, during which Calvin's reputation as a theologian was steadily growing, the people of Geneva were resolved to have him back, and he agreed, but set a condition. He proposed that the Church in Geneva should be governed by a Council (known as the Consistory), consisting of one-third clergymen, serving for life, and two-thirds laymen, elected by the congregation for one-year terms. This arrangement I call (meaning I the writer of this condensed version of the preface -- not Hooker) for brevity the Calvin Plan. Under the circumstances, this was doubtless the best arrangement possible. For their Bishop had "departed by moonlight," and the people were unwilling to have another; and a proposal that the clergy should be the sole rulers would have seemed self-serving. But giving the people a two-thirds majority in the Consistory seemed a guarantee against clerical tyranny. Some doubters may have supposed that the lay delegates, knowing that they held power for only a year, would be overawed by the clergy, and that the clergy in turn might come to vote at the behest of one of their number who seemed like a neutral leader, and was both learned and confident, and so what looked like popular government would in fact be one-man rule. But this was only speculation, and the town would look silly if it turned down so reasonable a proposal. So Geneva agreed to accept Calvin's return on his own terms. Soon it happened that one Berthelier was excommunicated by the Consistory, and received permission from the city Senate to receive the Sacrament anyway. The Senate further decreed (contrary to its earlier vows) that the Senate, not the Consistory, was the final authority on excommunications. Calvin responded by saying, "Kill me if ever this hand do reach forth the things that are holy to them which the Church hath adjudged despisers of the same." Berthelier did not come forward to receive the Sacrament. Calvin, it seemed, had won. But just as things were quieting down, Calvin ended a sermon with the statement that he had learned not to strive with such as are in authority, and that he was accordingly about to leave Geneva. Sometimes, the readiest way a wise man has to conquer, is to fly. The Senate panicked at the thought of losing Calvin again, and voted to suspend its own decree, until it had consulted four neighboring towns on the merits of the Calvin Plan. It wrote them asking: (1) What does the Bible say about who decides on excommunication? (2) Does it have to be done by the Consistory? (3) What rules does the church in your town follow in these matters? Calvin wrote privately to each town and urged its leaders to write back simply, "We have heard of the Calvin Plan, and think it good by Scriptural standards, and advise the Church of Geneva not to abandon it." This, of course, did not answer the questions put to them, but the Senate saw that it was defeated, and gave in. That the Calvin Plan was expedient for the particular situation that Calvin faced, I do not deny. But once it was in place, Calvin was then tempted to argue that it was not only expedient, but clearly outlined in Holy Scripture, and commanded by God to be followed by all Churches. Calvin was a great man, and his INSTITUTES OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION and his multi-volume COMMENTARY ON THE HOLY SCRIPTURES have placed us all in his debt. It is not surprising that those who learned their doctrine from him should be disposed to follow his lead in discipline. So the Calvin Plan (which could not have lasted even in Geneva without a helping hand from neighboring churches which did not themselves follow it) became standard throughout Protestant Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Scotland. The Church in Heidelburg was troubled with demands that it adopt the Calvin Plan. During the reign of Queen Mary, many English Protestants fled to Geneva, and returned in the reign of our present Queen Elizabeth, completely committed to the Calvin Plan. Their insistence that God wills the immediate adoption of said plan requires means that we must look for some means of deciding between us.
III. WHY CALVINISTIC DISCIPLINE IS POPULAR WITH THE UNLEARNED
The first method we use for deciding such questions is our own powers of judgment and discretion. When the answer is not obvious to the common sense of everyone, the second method is to consult those with specialized skills or knowledge or judgment in the relevant field. Faced with a question of law, we ask a lawyer; of building, an architect; of medicine, a physician; of matters spiritual, our clergy. You will say that we must not follow even expert guides when we plainly see them to be wrong; but you have been encouraged to think the matter plainer than in fact it is. In matters of civil government, we would not allow the Constitution to be overthrown by a handful of men with no special credentials who were convinced that they knew a better form of government, and should the question of Church government be more casually dealt with? Ask yourselves why the Calvin Plan is so fervidly supported by so many unlearned persons. First, your orators bewail the sad moral climate of our society, thereby establishing their credentials as men of tender consciences, lofty ideals, and strict standards for their own conduct. Second, they declare that the root of all these ills is the form of church government. Third, they commend their alternate plan, which, like snake-oil, commends itself to those who perceive that they are ill, who seek a remedy, and have not tried this one yet. Fourth, they teach their hearers that the words of Holy Scripture refer to them and their doctrines. Once a man gets it into his head that the "Comforter" spoken of in John 114:16 is the leader of his sect, it will seem to him beyond question that the Scriptures testify plainly to the truth of his doctrines, and that to deny them is to deny Scripture. Teach him that "thy kingdom come" in the Lord's Prayer means, "we pray that the Calvin Plan will be established in all churches," and he will have no doubts that the Calvin Plan is taught in Holy Scripture. Fifth, they teach their hearers that the meaning of the Scriptures is to be known, not by reason, but by the work of the Spirit in the heart of the believer, and that seeing that the Scriptures teach the Calvin Plan is a principal indication that the Spirit is present in someone. They accordingly teach them to refer to all who favor the Calvin Plan as "the brethren," "the godly," and such like, and to all others as "the worldly," "the man-pleasers," and the like. Finally, they teach them that they are living lives pleasing to God in direct proportion as they devote themselves to advancing the spread of the Calvin Plan, associating (except for conversion's sake) with none but those who agree with them on this matter, neglecting their own affairs in its service (see Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42), giving all their money to the preachers of the cause, and so forth. Note, that they chiefly seek to convert women, who have less experience in discussing affairs of government, civil or ecclesiastical, and so are less likely to see the flaws in their arguments, and who are more inclined to an automatic sympathy for the underdog. But all their converts, male and female alike, are proof against reasoning, replying simply, "We are of God; he that knoweth God heareth us. (John 4:6)" Reproach them, or restrain their disorderly conduct by law, and they cry, "Blessed are the persecuted!" These, then, are the ways you have enticed the unlearned to be of your party.
IV. REASONS WHY THE LEARNED APPROVE IT
Now I ask the learned among you, why you hold this doctrine. It cannot be said to be plainly taught in Holy Scripture. The texts that you urge on its behalf would not move anyone not already persuaded on other grounds. And if it is plainly taught there, is it not remarkable that no one before Calvin ever noticed it there? Can you name one Church anywhere in the world, in fifteen centuries, that followed the Calvin Plan before Calvin? You say that you wish to restore the Church as it was in the first few centuries. But when pressed on this, you back away from it, and claim instead that the church became corrupt immediately after the death of the Apostles. Many of your laymen have it as their chief aim that the clergy should be as penniless, like the Apostles. (They do not, however, apply a like rule to themselves.) Your clergy are insistent that our form of Church government must be exactly like that found in the time of the Apostles. But the Scriptures do not provide us with enough detail to make this feasible. Also, you teach that even within the lifetime of the Apostles things began to go awry. Also, you ignore the fact that a custom may date back to the Apostles and yet be abolished with good reason. In the early Church, members greeted one another with a kiss on the mouth. No one thinks it apostacy that this has been discontinued. But, I repeat, you have no evidence that in the Apostolic times, Churches were governed by councils that included laymen, or that teachers were a different order from pastors. Failing to prove your point from antiquity, you produce instead lists of learned men who believe as you do. Now, some of the men on your list ought to be omitted because they are not learned men. Others ought to be omitted because they agree with you only in part, but not on your chief points. Of those that remain, most are simply deferring to the judgment of Calvin, and Calvin has reasons, as shown above, for being biased. It is not remarkable that the Calvin Plan has spread. For, when a local Church is debating what form of government to adopt, a plan already in use by other congregations that the people admire, and that seems to give the laity an important voice in the affairs of the Church, and that can be implemented quickly, has a natural advantage. It is also natural, that those who admire Calvin for his doctrine should be predisposed to agree with his views on discipline.
V. THE DEMAND FOR A DISPUTATION
You eagerly demand a public disputation. Our universities schedule many debates on many subjects, and I am confident that their facilities will be open to you. If you mean an extraordinary conference, with the Laws of the Realm and the Operations of the Church suspended pending the outcome, I do not think that either Church or State will accept the principle that a law duly passed shall be set to one side until all who doubt its wisdom have conceded the point in a public debate. However, since our cause has nothing to fear from a debate, I should like to see one, on certain conditions. First, since you seek to alter the status quo, and to impose new disciplines on us, that you accept the burden of proof. Second, that the points at issue be debated one at a time. Third, that on each point, you agree on a spokesman authorized to speak for all of you. Fourth, that there be a transcript of the debate, to be signed by both sides and published in full.
VI. THE NECESSITY OF SOME AUTHORITY
Experience shows that contentions are seldom settled but by being submitted to some judge whose decisions both sides are bound to observe. Is there a court on earth to whose judgment you will submit? If not I see nothing but trouble ahead. God established courts for the Israelites, and commanded them to accept the judgement of the court [Deut 17:8-12]. Thus, a man wrongly convicted, say, of stealing a sheep, and commanded to pay fourfold, was obligated to do so, even though he knew he was innocent. The early Church settled the question of circumcising Gentile converts by the Council of Jerusalem, to which all were bound to submit, even those who were not convinced by the reasoning of the Council. Ought you not to submit to a properly constituted court? You will say that you cannot submit, since you know that you are right. You will quote the Apostle Paul, "Though an angel from heaven should teach otherwise, let him be accursed. [Gal 1:8]" But Paul knew that he was right because God had revealed the matter directly to him. Your confidence depends on your judgement in interpreting certain passages of Scripture. What was faith in Paul is rashness in you. When God told the Israelites to establish courts for the settling of disputes, He was not ignorant that the courts would sometimes decide wrongly. He judged it better that an erroneous sentence should sometime prevail, than that a quarrel, once begun, should never cease. You say that you cannot do other than as God would have you do. But what God wills is that there should be a means of ending controversy, and therefore He wills that you should submit to the decisions of a lawful authority. You have already made it clear that you will not accept the judgement of any court now existing. Will an assembly especially constituted for that purpose serve? And what shall you do in the meantime, if not agitate? You might consider occupying yourselves with the "weightier matters of the law, justice, and mercy, and fidelity [Mt 23:23]." You say that you cannot obey laws that you know to be contrary to the will of God. I answer that a demonstrative argument for your point would free you to disobey the law. But a demonstrative argument convinces everyone who sees it. Yours do not. They are at best probable arguments. Ought probable arguments, probable opinions, to suffice to suspend the laws? Ought every law to be set at naught by everyone who thinks it probable that the law was unwise? Would you, or anyone else, be content to live in such a society?
VII. THE MATTER OF THESE BOOKS
My only purpose in writing, is to defend my conviction that the ecclesiastical laws of this realm are such that there is great reason to keep them, and no greater reason to amend them. Since we are here concerned with laws, Book One discusses kinds of laws, and how each operates. Since it is your chief point, that "Scripture ought to be the only rule of all our actions," Book Two examines this point at length. You also hold that God must have given complete laws for the operations of His Church, and that therefore such laws must be findable in Holy Scripture. This assertion we consider in Book Three. You object to many of our customs as being too like those of Rome, or not like enough to those of Geneva. Book Four considers these objections. The four remaining books are more specific. Book Five considers your various objections to the ordering of our public prayers, and to our orders of ministers. Book Six considers whether laymen (such as your governing elders) ought necessarily to hold such power in every church. [NOTE: Book Six as we now have it does not cover this subject.] Book Seven deals with the powers of Bishops, and Book Eight with the powers of monarchs. So now you know the outline of my argument.
VIII. DANGERS OF THE PURITAN MOVEMENT
If you think that the governors are too harsh with you, consider, not just your position, but what is likely to come of it. Already many men have left the Church as a result of your teaching, and have formed their own congregations. You disavow them, and disclaim responsibility for their actions, but they say that it is from your teaching that they have learned to "have no fellowship with the works of darkness," and that you ought to applaud them, and indeed to join them. Nor is it clear what reply you can make. And indeed, your program, consistently carried out, would involve far greater restructuring of our society than anyone has yet attempted to put into practice. Your principles appear to be utterly hostile to the continued existence of our universities, the loss of which our realm would sorely feel. Your statements suggest that you wish to abolish the civil law and the civil courts, and have all disputes settled before the church Consistories, with the Bible as the only law book. You say that the will of God must be carried out, without asking whether it will be inconvenient, or even leave society in ruins. But when men identify their own political programs with the will of God, they are likely to be lax in examining their arguments for flaws, and ruthless in carrying out their programs. Any error in such matters is thus an extraordinarily dangerous error. If you want to see what principles like yours can lead to, consider the Anabaptists in the Netherlands, and one sect in particular. They quoted the words of Jesus, "Every plant that my Father has not planted shall be rooted up." From this they inferred that every religious practice not plainly commanded in Holy Scripture was of Antichrist. They taught that men must show their repentance by giving away their wealth, by resigning all offices, by deliberately dressing as much out of fashion as could be contrived (one must not follow the ways of the world), by much fasting, by never being cheerful ("Woe to you who laugh now, for ye shall lament" (Luke 6:25)), by refusing to use the usual names of the days and months, these having pagan origins, and the like. From the reformation of private lives, they proceeded to that of public practices. They rebuked clergy who attached importance to Bible reading, saying that we learn the will of God, not by reading, but by hearing the Spirit speak to us. However, they valued the Bible, and urged those who owned any other book whatsoever, to bring it to be burned. Every day, some one of them would announce some new doctrine or rule of conduct. Thus their statements were every changing, which they called "growing from faith to faith." Since each had private revelations, no two of them had exactly the same creed. They called all ministers other than their own "Scribes and Pharisees." In civil matters, their announced goal was that Christ should be the only King. They sought to abolish all courts and all legal punishments, because Christ had said, "Resist not evil." They sought to abolish private property, because the early Christians held their goods in common. These men were at first tolerated, for there seemed no harm in them. So they grew unchecked in numbers and power. They led men to them, by weeping copiously over every complaint of any prospective convert, applying to him every Biblical reference to suffering innocence, and every Biblical curse against oppressors to his opponents. Thus many were ready to hail them as true prophets, and thousands flocked to them. Comparing themselves to the Israelites of old, and all others to the Canaanites, they came to believe that it was their duty to increase their numbers by polygamy, and the mere fact that some of them found the idea attractive was to them sufficient proof that God had spoken. Once men have formed a clear picture of what the Kingdom of God on earth is to be like, they will not rest until they have attempted to erect such a kingdom. So these men, who at first thought it wrong to appeal to the courts for the return of anything wrongfully taken from them, and could not endure that violence should be used even against a condemned murderer, now concluded that the time had come when the meek should inherit the earth, and so they formed armies to exterminate all not of their party and to seize their goods. With the memory of these events still fresh, it is not surprising if men look warily at your proposals. You have already begun to debate among yourselves how far you are justified in defying or circumventing authority, and your leaders now claim that you may rightly refuse to disclose under oath anything that would discommode any of your fellows. The consideration of all these actual or probable results of following principles like the ones you embrace gives us reason to approach your proposals with utmost caution, lest they lead to irreversible harm.
I therefore urge you, my dear brethren, to re-examine your position anew, starting from the beginning, and taking no part of it for granted. "Think ye are men, deem it not impossible for you to err; sift impartially your own hearts, whether it be force of reason or vehemence of affection, which hath bred and still doth feed these opinions in you. If truth do anywhere manifest itself,...acknowledge the greatness thereof, and think it your best victory when the same doth prevail over you." "Amongst so many so huge volumes as the infinite pains of St Augustine have brought forth, what one hath gotten him greater love commendation, and honor than the book [RETRACTIONUM] wherein he carefully collecteth his own oversights, and sincerely condemneth them?" Sooner than be contending with you, I would far rather that we were working together in the service of our common Master, bound together in mutual love. By the grace of God, I trust that that day will soon come. And for your part in bringing it about, may God bless you.
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DIGEST OF RICHARD HOOKER'S OF THE LAWS OF ECCLESIASTICAL POLITY
by the Rev J B Smith, D.D. of Christ College, Cambridge London, 1840 Gilbert & Rivington, Printers St John's Square
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CONCERNING LAWS, AND THEIR SEVERAL KINDS, IN GENERAL
I. The Cause of writing on Laws IN GENERAL.
DECLAIMERS on the defects of government will always meet with attentive and favourable hearers, amongst the shallow and prejudiced multitude. Their plausible, though unsound objections, will readily be received by those who have not time or capacity to investigate the numerous difficulties that accompany all human arrangements; and the objectors themselves will be esteemed as patriots; while the prudent conservators of established laws will, on the contrary, through men's natural proneness to find fault, be decried, as interested self-seeking betrayers of the public weal. Moreover, also, objections can be briefly and popularly advanced, which require sometimes an extensive, and perhaps tedious exhibition of arguments, to expose and confute. Hence, the writer on the side of existing institutions has not only to contend against prejudice, but to draw upon the patience of his readers. Now, though it be true, that many enjoy the comfort and advantages of good laws, without much reflection on their origin; yet, when they disobey those laws, under a pretext of their being corrupt, then it becomes necessary to enter upon an investigation as to their source; and however wearisome such a subject may at first appear, yet by degrees it will become familiar, and even interesting. The Laws of our Church, whereby for so many ages we have been guided in the exercise of the Christian religion,-her rites and customs,-have been called in question; and an accusation has been raised against us, as rejecting the statutes of Christ, hating to be reformed, and made subject to the sceptre of His discipline. As, therefore, the accusation is founded upon the alleged faultiness of our Laws, the investigation may be suitably commenced, by an inquiry concerning Law in general; and especially concerning that which gives life to all the rest, namely, the Law whereby the Eternal Himself works; and thence we can proceed to the Law of Nature, and of Scripture.
II. Of the Law which GOD prescribes to HIMSELF.
ALL things operate for some preconceived end or object; and whatever regulates the mode or power of operation, is called a Law. Now, whereas all other things work according to a law appointed by a superior, yet, in the works of God, he himself is both the Operator, and the Law to his own operations; and the intrinsic perfection of his nature gives perfection to all his works. [The nature and perfections of the Deity come not within the scope of this work; but it may be observed, that in the unity of God a personal Trinity subsists; and all His works are such that each Person has some peculiar share in them; from the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit all things are.] Hence the wise amongst the very heathens admitted a Great First Cause, whereon all things depended; who, working after counsel, reason, and order, was of necessity a law unto Himself; inasmuch as there was no superior to control Him. Now, though God's power be infinite, yet He seems to have set a certain bound or limit to His own works; and every act of His has some definite end; while the ultimate object of all His various operations is, the exhibition of His own glorious attributes, and of the most abundant virtue. Hence they err, who suppose that God's will simply, is the measure of His actions. Though we may not perceive it, no doubt there is a reason for every act of God; for it is not stated in Scripture that God acts simply "according to his own will," but "according to the counsel of His own will [Eph 1:11]." And whatever is done with wise counsel or forethought, necessarily implies something more than mere absolute will. This Law Eternal, however, which God has made for Himself, and whereby he works all things, being one of such vast and immeasurable extent, and embracing within its provisions the amazing fabric of the universe, cannot be comprehended or scanned by the puny intellect of man. What little of it, however, we are able, though it be even but darkly, to apprehend, we admire; the rest, in religious ignorance, we humbly adore,-in full assurance that all things are regulated by a Law, which, because proceeding from Him, is therefore absolutely perfect, just, and immutable; free also, because imposed voluntarily upon Himself; and eternal, because laid down by Him before all ages.
III. Of the Law which Natural agents observe from NECESSITY.
BUT besides this Law which God has made for Himself, there is another which He has laid down to be observed by all His creatures, according to their several conditions and capacities; and which therefore branches out into different kinds. That part which orders natural agents, is called "The Law of Nature;" that whereby angelic beings are governed, is "Heavenly Law;" that which reason suggests or dictates, is "The Law of Reason;" and that which, being undiscoverable by reason, binds them by especial Revelation, is termed "Divine Law;" while what is termed "Human Law," is a sort of combination of what may be gathered from the law both of reason and of God. [And indeed where things do not conform to this second Law Eternal, they will be acted upon in the general operation of the first Law Eternal, and thus be subject to it; "Etiam legi aeternae subjicitur peccatum." (Even sin is subject to the eternal law.)] [Comment by C S Lewis: According to Hooker, whatever does not obey the law proper to its nature is governed by a lower law. Thus, when you are walking on an icy path, if you neglect the Law of Prudence, you will find yourself obeying the Law of Gravity.] With regard then to the Law of Nature; in strictness of speech it may be considered as applicable not to intellectual and voluntary agents, but to those which unconsciously keep the law of their kind,-as the heavens and elements of the world,-and which can act no otherwise than they do. This law was imposed upon them at their first creation, and its edict they have since then continually obeyed; the sun has run his course in splendour; the moon has walked in brightness; the stars have moved in their spheres; and the seasons have observed their periods, ever since that edict went forth: the original creation of things, and their subsequent exact preservation, both combining to manifest the force of the Law that governs them. Other unintellectual creatures also may be here included, such as perform their functions and fulfill their office, though what they do, they know not [What keeps Nature in obedience to her own law is obviously the higher first Eternal Law; the God of Nature is the guide of Nature; "in Him we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17:28):" and Nature is but an instrument, as it were, wherewith He works. Hence Providence, Destiny, Nature, are only names often applied to express the same thing.]; and if there be amongst these any occasional deviation, it arises from the malediction which came upon their nature for man's sin; such deviations, however, are slight, and contravene not the general proposition, that a general law directs the whole. And not only so; but while obeying this very law, whereby their own specific actions are governed, all these agents seem to be at the same time acting in concert with some General System for the common good of Creation, taken as a whole. These natural agents, then, so admirably, exactly, and constantly fulfilling their parts, being at the same time unintellectual agents, are therefore but instruments in the hands of the God of Nature, who orders them severally after the counsel of His own will: and consequently the Law of Nature is but a branch, or emanation from that Eternal Law, which God has appointed for Himself.
IV. Of the Law by which ANGELS are governed.
Heavenly Law is that influence which pervades angelic natures, the operation whereof is of a different description from Natural Law. For God, who moves natural agents as an efficient only, moves intellectual creatures, and especially angelic beings, after another manner. They are inclined to the pure and perfect obedience of the Most High by feelings of love and adoration, which prompt them to imitate the perfections they admire. And hence, not only do they rapturously proclaim His glorious attributes in Heaven; but after the example of His ineffable goodness, are the ready and joyful ministers of His will to the children of men, with whom they do not disdain to consider themselves as conjoined fellow-servants of the LORD. [Some angels have fallen; and the only possible solution of their fall is, that it was caused by a reflex of their intelligence upon themselves; being taken with an admiration of their own sublimity and honour they forgot their subordination and dependence,-the bond of love was broken by self-love, and consequently their pride cast them from heaven; and being rebels, they delight in tempting others to be assimilated to themselves.]
V. Of the Law whereby MEN are led to imitate GOD.
WE now come to the Law whereby Men are governed. And here we may premise, that God alone is supremely and immutably perfect; while in all other things there exists a sort of appetency, to assimilate themselves to that Eternal Perfection from which they sprung. The modes in which this is exhibited, are, 1st, By a desire of continuance in being; which, since this cannot be in the case of their own mortal persons, is in some sort accomplished by their having an offspring, to keep their name in being: 2ndly, By a desire after all that is most complete and excellent in its kind; wherein they imitate in some degree these perfections of the Deity: 3rdly, But the mode wherein men may chiefly be said to imitate God, is in intellectual powers, by the knowledge and practice of truth and virtue.
VI. How men are GRADUALLY brought to comprehend the Law which they are to observe.
Now, in this latter branch, man differs from angelic beings; for these have full and complete knowledge of God already; whereas, man advances by a gradual process, from a state of utter vacuity, till he ultimately shall be perfect in knowledge even as the angels themselves. At first he is conversant only with what he receives through the medium of his senses; and herein he is at first inferior to animal creation, which have their sensible perfections earlier and more complete than he. But he subsequently rises in thoughts and views above the meaner creatures, and by the aid of reason, is conversant with loftier subjects than those connected with the mere senses. [Were proper aids to instruction readier, human reason might be much more improved and advanced; for education and instruction are the means whereby the reason is able to arrive at an earlier and sounder judgment between truth and error, good and evil.]
VII. How Laws of Action primarily have respect to Man's WILL.
IN the attaining of this knowledge, there must be some incentive to action; and this is supplied by the expectation of good, either arising in the actual performance, or as the regular result thereof. Man in this respect resembles his Maker, and is not bound down, as natural agents, to a definite line of action, but works freely; having a power of action, or non-action, as he pleases. This constitutes what is called Choice. To choose, is to will one thing before another; and to will, is to bend our souls to the pursuit of what seems to us to be good. Goodness is discovered by the understanding; and the light thereof is reason; and hence the springs of human action are knowledge and will. A distinction, however, is here to be made between will and appetite. This latter is a mere animal instinctive desire for any sensible good; as that of food when hungry; or the feeling of sundry emotions, as fear, joy, grief, anger; which seem to be involuntary, and out of our power to control entirely. Whereas Will, in the proper meaning of the term, is the "determination of the mind, founded upon the understanding;" and the actions resulting therefrom may be performed or stayed, at the choice of the intelligent agent. Our reason, then, discovering that which is good, prompts the will to a course of action for its attainment. [In the common satisfying of the appetites, as of hunger and thirst, which seem to be done involuntarily, there is, however, a sort of tacit acquiescence of reason in intelligent creatures, which constitutes it a voluntary action after all. (See Book III. A$$$. 8)] But it must be here observed, that things manifestly unattainable have no power to excite the will; even though, as being good in themselves, the natural appetite might desire them. And this is also the case where the difficulties in the attainment seem to overbalance the ultimate good. And hence, as there is no particular object so good, but it may have some appearance of difficulty, or unpleasantness annexed to it; and as there is likewise no evil, but it has some apparent pleasantness; so the Will sometimes chooses actually what is evil, from an erroneous impression and prejudice as to the present superior value of the one above the other. This, however, is no excuse for sin; inasmuch as there never was sin committed, wherein the less good was not preferred before the greater; and if reason had had her proper office, and not been overborne or weakened by appetite, it would have previously appeared so to the will of the sinner; and hence he is inexcusable. But yet this is too often the case; for the search after knowledge is painful, often disinclining the will to its pursuit, and overcoming that natural thirst after it which is ingrafted in us; and thus men are content to remain in consequent ignorance and error, leading unto sin.
VIII. How far REASON avails to guide the WILL to what is good.
SINCE then a correct knowledge of what is really good or evil, is so highly important-(for if reason err, we fall into evil),-it is of special concern, that the best methods of attaining it be investigated. Now there are but two methods whereby goodness can be ascertained; the first is by an investigation into its intrinsic causes; the surest, but at the same time, the most difficult; and hence generally neglected. The other is by the external signs which generally accompany goodness, and which, where they are, give us a sort of general warranty of its existence therein; and this latter more obvious and facile mode is usually adopted, though it be not absolutely infallible. Of these external signs, the most to be depended upon is "the general consent of all men;" the "vox populi" may in some sense be taken as the "vox Dei;" inasmuch as what universal experience has taught men, is, as it were, the voice of nature speaking in them, and, consequently, of nature's God. And hence St. Paul said of the heathen, unenlightened by revelation, that "they were a law unto themselves;" inasmuch as by the light of natural reason they were enabled to learn, in many things, the will of God. Now to judge of goodness is the province of reason, and in so doing many things are to be taken into the account. Certain matters are so obviously true, that they are admitted at once; e.g. "that the greater good is to be preferred to the less." But from this general principle there flow others of a more complicated nature; and reason has to look through the intricacy, to form her determination aright. Hence the remote and superior good is to be preferred, though its pursuit be accompanied with present unpleasantness; and temporary pleasures are to be shunned when they draw after them more injurious hurt. Hence, therefore, as a man's immortal soul is of more value to him than all the world beside, and nothing that the world could give him can make up for its loss; so present temporary afflictions are to be preferred, and patiently endured, if so be that they may work for us a subsequent eternal weight of glory. There are other axioms, which, though not so strikingly obvious, are, nevertheless, at once admitted, when propounded; as "that worship is due to God; honour to parents; equitable dealing to all." Of these and all other principles of action, man's knowledge of himself, and of his relative position to others, is the foundation; and hence, as observation teaches us that things which are best produce the best results, we are led to submit the body (as being inferior) to the guidance of its superior, the soul: this is the first principle of action; and its chief mandates are comprehended in "love to God and man;" the one, because He is the fountain of all good; and the other, because as each one desires good from his fellow-men, he must, therefore, be careful to satisfy that same desire in others which he entertains for himself. To look at the matter more specially. Reason may be considered as giving a mandate, when things are absolutely good or evil; a permission, when of two evils, the least is to be chosen; an admonition, when the greater good is to be preferred to the less. And this law of reason is not only universally admitted, but comprehends all things, which men, by the light of understanding, may evidently know (if they choose) to be good or evil for them to do. We say may know, because by the force of evil custom, or utter negligence, they may not trouble themselves to know, and hence remain in evil, but, at the same time, sinful ignorance; and the light of their natural understanding may be smothered. In all this, however, it must be remembered, that there is no faculty in any creature but what is derived from God, and needs His perpetual aid; and should that ever in justice be withdrawn, then man walks in a vain shadow, and the light that is in him is darkness. Hence (for one instance out of many, in respect of mental blindness) sprung idolatry, when, in the emphatic language of scripture, "God having shut their eyes," men bowed down even to the stock of a tree.
IX. The ADVANTAGES of keeping the Law of Reason.
THE observance of this law of reason necessarily produces good; while the departure from it, as doing violence to the natural constitution of things, cannot but be productive of evil. This departure, however, in intelligent and voluntary agents is properly termed sin, and the evil result is punishment; while their obedience is righteousness, and the good result is reward: for rewards and punishments do in themselves imply a power of choice and voluntary action; whereas good or harm resulting from an involuntary action is only a blessing or a hurt. What is done under absolute necessity is not culpable in the agent, his will not consenting [Hence madmen and imbeciles, being devoid of right reasoning faculties, are not accountable for their actions.]; neither when the constraint or impulsive force is of a violent character, is the deviation so culpable, as under other circumstances it would be, his will being thereby overborne. [Yet if we place ourselves in such circumstances as necessarily to prevent the will from coming to a reasonable choice, e.g. in a state of drunkenness, this palliates not the crime.] Hence, from the sundry dispositions of man's will, and the variety of circumstances in which he is placed, there arises a difference in voluntary actions causing a variety in rewards and punishments. These are inflicted by those empowered to judge our actions; and how this authority is vested in men will be subsequently examined. In the mean time, it may be observed, that, irrespective of all external judgment, every man carries an internal judge of his actions, in that he has a "conscience, approving the good and condemning the bad," and causing an involuntary expectation of reward or punishment from the Great Author of Nature. [Hence the Roman laws of the Twelve Tables threaten those sins which the eye of man could not detect, with punishment from the gods: "Divos caste adeunto, pietate adhibento; qui secus faxit, Deus ipse vindex erit." Cicero, de Legibus 2: 8.]
X. How Reason leads men to frame HUMAN LAWS for the government of Bodies Politic and Social Communities.
IT is evident, then, that religion and virtue are something more than mere names; and that there is in them an intrinsic excellence, which does not arise from men's mere opinion, but is founded in the very constitution and laws of nature. These laws of nature, moreover, affect men simply as men, irrespectively of their being social creatures. But man is framed for society, and his character could not fully develop itself in a state of solitude; and hence springs a necessity for politic societies, and for a consequent political law, by which they may be governed; of a different kind from the natural law, which has already been discussed. Now laws politic, or the regulations by which only a commonwealth can be held together, must be framed on the presumption that man is a depraved character, and averse in his nature to all that is good. Unless their provisions are calculated to coerce him in that respect, they are not perfect, and will be inefficient for the common good; and hence we must investigate how laws may be framed to regulate our fallen nature in a good and right course. All men desire a happy life; and that is the most happy wherein virtue is exercised with the least interruption. Now the first requisite in life is the means of subsistence; for even to live virtuously is impossible, except we do live; hence the first impediment to happiness is penury, and want of necessaries of life; and the removal of it by a competency becomes a primary object. Absolute necessaries being obtained, there seems naturally to arise a further desire for what may contribute to the comforts and satisfactions of life: and hence spring mechanical arts and inventions. But in the midst of this desire, there nevertheless exists a natural admiration of what is religious, virtuous, and wise, as being superior in itself to mere sensible gratifications. This mental and moral wealth, (if it may be so termed,) however, is no more born with us than natural riches, and must be the result of gradual acquisition, in which we may be materially assisted by the experience and help of others, and by being permitted to follow our pursuits in peace and quietude. But men's powers, either of wit or valour, may be used for evil, as well as good; of which there is too lamentable proof in the world's history. And to secure, therefore, such an orderly state of things as is necessary for happiness, there must be some sort of general compact entered into, wherein by common consent a power of government, for a restraint of the evil and defense of the good, might be vested in some individuals, to be directors and judges over the rest. Fathers, by the voice of nature, have the rule over their own families, and are, as it were, kings in their own household; but public Magistrates appointed to rule over multitudes, can only be invested with their power originally by the common consent of those governed; unless, indeed, they receive an appointment from that God to whom the whole world is subject. When first invested with this public authority, their magisterial office most probably was of the regal kind: as heads of families were a sort of kings and priests in their household, so the heads of whole nations were the kings thereof, and not improbably exercised priestly functions also.[Hence we read in Scripture of Melchisedec being king and priest, (Heb 7:1) and hence the name of fathers being given to kings, those who originally exercised rule being, fathers of families, or patriarchs.] Other modes of government arose out of various circumstances; but whatever kinds there may have been, all seem evidently to have had their origin in some sort of general compact and agreement, such as bas been mentioned, and to have been rendered necessary by the corruption of our nature. When, however, experience had taught men that absolute power given unto a single individual, or even to a few, did, from the evil propensities of our nature, lead to evil and tyranny; then Laws were found necessary for the common good of all, for the guidance of governors, and for the information of the governed in the matter of their duties, and their protection against the caprice of their rulers. Now laws may be divided into natural and positive. Natural law is that which binds universally; e.g. that "theft deserves punishment." But Positive laws are those which, being constituted by the opinion and discretion of men, have not so universal a force; e. g. "the kind of punishment with which particular thefts may be visited." Positive laws, therefore, as they put a constraint upon men to conform themselves to certain regulations, sometimes irksome and unpleasant, should be framed by those who have a character for wisdom, in order to ensure the more respectful and ready obedience of the governed. They do not receive their constraining force, indeed, from the talents of their Framers, but from the power that gave them the strength of laws. What applied to the appointment of governors, here applies to the formation of laws; as in the one case the common consent established a king, and invested him with authority; so the same sort of public approval appoints framers of laws, and gives their edicts a constraining power. This approval is not necessary to be given personally, but it may be done by representatives or agents (in councils or parliaments for instance) as effectually and as bindingly as if by our own expressed consent. And, indeed, our assent is virtually given on many occasions, when it is not done so actually; e.g. when we keep an established law of our country, to which our consent was never asked, or which was passed before we were born. For the laws of society continue in force upon the successors, in each generation, as strongly as upon their predecessors, by whom they were actually established; and we of the present day were federally represented by our forefathers. Hence human laws, of whatever kind, are available by common consent, and bind in succeeding times. Positive laws may be divided into what are mixed, and what are merely human. Mixed law is that which, being founded in reason, has also a positive enactment to enforce its observance; so that what men were bound to, in foro conscientiae, they are now constrained to observe through the penalties of human law. As for the laws merely human, they are such as order things abstractedly indifferent in themselves; e.g. as the laws of succession and inheritance, which differ in different societies of people. And hence we see the reason why laws merely human are not every where exactly alike; different local circumstances causing different, and sometimes opposite, enactments. [Lands are by human law divided, for instance, in some places amongst all the deceased proprietor's children, in others they go to the eldest son.] But besides the law which concerns men, as men, and that which binds them as social beings, there is a third, which regulates the intercourse of one nation or body politic with another; and this is styled the "law of nations." For the same social feeling which prompts us to unite nationally, also leads us to desire a sort of universal fellowship with other nations. And here again conventional laws are necessary to regulate the conduct of fallen man in this sort of intercourse; as well with reference to peaceful visits, as also in regard to the usage of arms and practices of war; and no nation is at liberty to weaken or violate them by any peculiar regulations of their own, any more than any individual is at liberty to break the laws of his own commonwealth, merely in consequence of his own peculiar views. And herein especially Christian nations have peculiar laws obligatory upon them as such. Hence the singular benefit of General Councils appears; both to regulate the spiritual intercourse between nations, and also to preserve that unity so desirable amongst the Churches of Christ, which have all "one faith, one Lord, one baptism." Such Councils were of Divine origin [Acts 15:28], of Apostolic practice, and every way calculated to preserve uniformity of doctrine and discipline. And though abuses did arise out of them subsequently, from men's evil passions, yet this is no valid argument against them abstractedly; nor yet against their revival, freed from the blemishes they had formerly contracted: inasmuch as they might be the happy means of removing many scandalous stumbling-blocks arising from party strifes, and of leading men also to a closer following of heavenly precepts and Christian charity, and settling them in firm and steady principles of faith. The subject, therefore, now leads us to another consideration, viz. the laws which God has in Scripture revealed for the guidance of men's actions.
XI. Why God has revealed SUPERNATURAL LAWS for Man's guidance.
IT having already been shown that all things (God only excepted) may receive some addition of good from other external objects, even of the lowest degree, we may now remark that the perfection of bliss to which our nature may attain is termed our "sovereign good;" and is such, as being once attained unto, leaves nothing further to be desired. Now objects of desire are various; some are sought, riches for instance, as being simply aids towards obtaining others; some, as health and knowledge, for their own sakes: yet these do not constitute that perfection wherein the soul can so absolutely rest, as not to aspire after something further. To these aspirations, however, there must be some limit, some ultimate object to be desired simply for itself; and beyond and beside which there is nothing to wish for: and as for such a good, our desires must be infinite [Every good is desirable in proportion to its value; therefore that which is supreme and incomparably excellent must be incomparably desired, i.e. infinitely.]; the good itself must necessarily be infinite, i.e. must be GOD, who is, therefore, the supreme object of our felicity. Moreover a desire for an object tends to union therewith; and as the simple possession of it cannot confer happiness apart from the enjoyment thereof, hence we can only be perfectly happy when being united to God, we enjoy Him as an object wherein our souls are satisfied with everlasting delight. This is happiness, wherein we fully possess and enjoy that which is desirable simply for itself, and which contains the perfect contentation of all our wishes. Of this happiness, however, we are not capable in this life, our imperfections both of mind and body (whereby our very pursuit of good must be impeded and interrupted) prevent that complete union and devotion of every faculty of the soul to God wherein it consists. Of such union and devotion, however, our souls will be capable; and when attained unto, then shall we love good purely for itself, and through the gracious goodness of God that love and fruition of perfect good shall be perpetual. Now the fact that all men desire happiness, shows that the desire is a natural one; and as natural desires are implanted by God, they cannot be utterly frustrate [It is absurd to suppose that God would implant a desire in the hearts of all for what is absolutely unattainable.]; hence the object of such desire must be attainable. But as it is evident that neither the attainment of sensual perfection, including all things appertaining to the support and comfort of animal life; nor of moral and intellectual, as comprising virtue and knowledge; can absolutely satisfy the soul, so as that it does not aspire and long after something further,-something which, though it cannot fully comprehend, it can yet conceive of and imagine: this natural desire of the soul, therefore, proclaims of itself that there is an attainable perfection, superior either to sensual or intellectual,-i. e. a divine or spiritual perfection, such as has been just before described. This perfection of happiness has been revealed to us, and is set forth in the nature of a reward. Now rewards always pre-suppose the performance of rewardable duties, and generally include a sort of proportionate arrangement between the duty and its recompense; and our works, therefore, are the only natural means of attaining unto blessedness. But, admitting the consideration that the excellence of the reward on the part of God infinitely overpays and exceeds all the merit of even a perfect performance of duty on the side of man; since it is manifest that no man living either does or can perfectly fulfill the law of God; and that so far from it, every one is a transgressor thereof, and all flesh is thus guilty before God, and liable to the eternal punishment denounced for its violation: there remains clearly, therefore, either no salvation for him, or such a one as was utterly beyond his imagination to conceive, and which only could be known by revelation from God Himself. And this supernatural way, this mystery of salvation, God has been pleased to reveal; even redemption from the condemning power of sin, through the merits and death of a mighty Saviour, who is "the Way" that leads from misery unto life eternal: a way grounded upon the guiltiness of sin, and consequent condemnation and death through sin; and on man's utter inability to save himself by his own deeds. Instead of man's work, it is the "work of God;" and "this is the work of God, that ye believe in Him, whom He has sent [John 6:29].: Not indeed that a naked belief of itself will save, but that without belief, all things else are as nothing. This belief or Faith, coupled with the exercise of Hope and Charity, whereby we implicitly receive as absolute truth all the declarations of God, look forward confidently to the consummation of glory, and have our hearts knit to Him in love, was only made known as the essential condition of salvation, by supernatural communication from God; and therefore all laws connected therewith are necessarily (both as to the mode of their delivery and the matter whereof they treat) supernatural.
XII. Why many NATURAL or RATIONAL laws are in Scripture.
BUT though the supernatural law requires duties of its own kind, yet natural duties are not excluded therefrom. Hence the law of God is fraught with laws of nature also; as well for the more ready discovery of those things which by the natural process would be difficult, as also for our confirmation in those that are obvious, by the super-added sanction of God's authority. Moreover, the corruption of our nature is prone, in respect of our individual sinful propensities, to palliate, and sometimes even approve them; so that human laws could not possibly reach to the conviction of them, except the Law of God, "sharp as a two-edged sword," came in to its support, and laid those things open and clear, which else had been buried in moral darkness to the ruin of immortal souls. It is manifest, therefore, that our "Sovereign good" is desired naturally; that God has appointed natural means of attaining it; that man having utterly disabled himself for those means, has had other methods revealed unto him by God, who has given him a law to teach him how that which is desired naturally must be obtained supernatnrally: and that along with such supernatural duties as could not be known by the light of nature, the same law teaches them such natural duties also, as could not otherwise easily be known.
XIII. The benefit of having Divine Laws WRITTEN.
LAWS thus supernaturally revealed were, in primitive ages of men, orally communicated; and though the lengthened period of human life rendered Divine traditions less liable to corruption, yet we find even then that they were frequently re-iterated, in order to preserve them in their purity. When man's days were shortened, written records of the Divine will were necessary; and Moses, therefore, under God's special direction, "wrote all the words of God [Ex 24:4]. Hence this singular benefit arises, that although God's revealed will, under any mode of communication, demands our submissive acquiescence; yet thus possessing the will of God, pure and uncorrupt, recorded in Sacred Scripture, we can confidently appeal to it as our safe and only guide; a blessing we shall value the more highly on considering the uncertainty of tradition, and how Truth itself has been deformed thereby; and on looking also at the miserable corruptions which such portions of things Divine have suffered, as have been spread amongst the heathen, and been mixed up with their vain mythologies. What would the condition of our Church have been now, had we only the uncertain traditions of predecessors to support us? And though the Scripture may contain not only all things in point of doctrine and duty absolutely necessary for man's salvation, but sundry other precepts whereof haply we might be ignorant and yet be saved; yet nothing therein is superfluous; all is beneficial, and contributes to man's edification and happiness, just as the various parts of man's body are necessary to his comfort, though he might lose many of them, without prejudice to his essential existence.
XIV. The SUFFICIENCY of Scripture for its object.
WHEN, however, Scripture is said to contain all things necessary to salvation, it must be understood with a certain degree of limitation, and not be taken in its widest and most absolute sense. Thus, therefore, when the inquiry is, "What books are we to consider Scripture?" the Scripture cannot in this sense prove itself. Hence such knowledge, on our part, as to the authenticity of Scripture, is pre-supposed, as may be attained by other methods. [Even as it is in other sciences; just as instruction in eloquence, for instance, pre-supposes the learner to have a previous acquaintance with the principles and rules of grammar.] Being then persuaded by these other means, that the Scriptures are the oracles of God, then they themselves do teach us the rest, and lay before us all things necessary for salvation. Now many truths are contained in Scripture, not so much by express words, as by deduction or comprehension; e.g. the doctrine of the Trinity, the coeternity of Christ with God, the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son, and infant-baptism; all which, though not literally set down, are yet clearly implied. Yet this mode must not be pushed too far, nor pursued after every conjectural surmise of man's ingenuity, but soberly and discreetly, avoiding all useless disquisitions. As then a revelation from God was required, to acquaint man with that, which, being undiscoverable naturally, was yet necessary for salvation; God, therefore, has supernaturally revealed the way of Life so far as is sufficient. And this has been done both orally, and also more particularly by writing; which latter mode has this advantage, that it is not so liable to corruption as oral tradition; and as each book of the Holy Scripture accords to the exigence under which it was written, it may contain not only supernatural truths, but also those which are purely natural or historical. And the very fact of the ceasing of further revelation since the publication of the Gospel, is a manifest token that it is sufficient, and that nothing further is necessary to salvation. Now both the Old Testament and the New have the single object of salvation in view; the former teaching its attainment through a Saviour which should come, the latter through that Saviour, Christ, which has come; and that Jesus whom the Jews did crucify, and whom God did raise again from the dead, is HE. As, however, the two Testaments, Old and New, thus harmonize with each other; and yet the Apostle, though speaking of the Old Testament Scripture as being able to make "men wise unto salvation [2 Tim 3:15]," did not mean that the Old alone could do this for those under the Gospel dispensation, but that it must be conjoined with "faith in Christ:" so when the entire body of Holy Scripture is asserted as being sufficient for salvation, it is not meant that the light of nature is necessarily excluded; but that the latter is so aided and perfected by the light divine, as to be complete for our everlasting felicity. When, however, some allege the divine authority of Traditions, we do not maintain that any thing from God is to be rejected simply because it is not in Scripture; for His commands, in any form, are to be obeyed. But oral traditions must be proved to be of God, in order to have the same validity as His written word. Indeed, rites and customs instituted by the Apostles, though not written, are still retained in our Church; for it is not the mode of delivery, but the Author whence they proceed, that gives both the Scriptures and the rites their force.
XV. Of the POSITIVE Laws in Scripture; the mutability of some of them; and the general use of Scripture.
Now Laws are imposed either, 1st, by each man upon himself, as in promises to man, or in vows to God; or, 2nd, by Society upon its individual members; or, 3rd, by Nations upon societies; or, lastly, by God upon any or every of these; e.g. His laws to the Israelites: and they all severally comprehend both natural and positive laws. Natural laws are always binding; but positive ones are mutable or not, according to circumstances, whether they be imposed by God or man; for it is a mistake to suppose that positive laws are only such as men establish. [Hence the Ceremonial Law of the Israelites was a positive law, mutable when God ordered it to be changed.] For, indeed, laws concerning supernatural duties (i.e. duties which we could not discover by the light of nature) are all positive, and concern men supernaturally, as men; or, supernaturally, as a society, called the Church. In the former instance the duties are styled supernatural, inasmuch as though belonging to all, yet they are subjects of Revelation, and specially appointed by God; in the latter, inasmuch as the Church is a special society differing from the natural society between men, in the circumstance of the union being between God, angels, and saints. Supernatural duties are those which (over and above the usual rules of all politic societies) God Himself has revealed concerning His appointed mode of worship; and which, therefore, must not be subject to man's device, but must flow from and be constituted by Him alone. Hence all Divine Laws, belonging naturally or supernaturally either to men as men, or as members of politic society, or of Church society, are as immutable (abstractedly considered) as their unchangeable Author. [Even positive ones are so, except He change them.] But Laws instituted by God, for particular periods or circumstances, either of societies or Churches, are mutable according to those circumstances. And hence the way of salvation by Christ is styled "an Eternal Gospel [Rev 14:6]," because its requirements will continue as long as the world lasts; whereas the Levitical rites and ceremonies being for a temporary object, were abolished when that was answered. With reference, then, to the origin of all other Laws, as likewise of those of Scripture, given by Him who confessedly can neither err nor deceive: although in matters obvious to common sense it would seem superfluous to search for higher authority; yet herein, after all, it is better to be superstitious, so as to consult the Scripture in small matters, than to be profane, neglecting and caring nothing at all about God's laws even in mightier concerns. Did the very heathens account so much of their gods, which in truth were no gods, and shall we neglect the oracles of the true and living God, given to His Church, and accessible to all? Rather, since He has endowed us with sense for our natural necessities; with reason, for higher matters both of time and futurity; and has given a revelation, still further to disclose what was necessary for the attainment of eternal good; let us use His precious gifts, searching what the will of God is, in order to our faithful performance of it.
XVI. Conclusion: showing how all the foregoing points bear upon the present enquiry.
THUS have been exhibited the nature and force of various kinds of Laws: the law which God has appointed for Himself in his works, and that which He has made for His creatures; the law of natural and necessary agents; the law which angels obey; the law whereunto reason binds men as men, that which guides them as forming politic societies; that belonging to nations; and that which concerns the fellowship of all: and, finally, the law which God has supernaturally revealed. And the object of this is, by tracing the origin of good and reasonable laws up to their great source, the Father of lights, to show their great importance and efficacy; and also to afford a method of reducing such laws as are controverted, to their original causes, with a view to ascertain whether they be reasonable and just. And as nothing can be thoroughly understood till its first principles be investigated and known, so an inquiry into Ecclesiastical Law seems properly preceded by an exposition of Laws in general, inasmuch as it has more or less a connection in principles or operation with them all. It requires a sound judgment to determine correctly about any law; and if we undertake to examine those under which we live, it would be well to do so under a serious impression on our minds of that Eternal Law, whose benefits are so manifest, and of which all obviously good and righteous laws are but the copies as it were, although men may not designedly have framed them therefrom. And in those laws which do not appear so obviously good, we should yet exercise a reserve and caution before we pronounce against them, lest we should, through ignorance, be found, after all, as dishonoring Him to whom we owe all submission. Contumelious invectives indeed against laws generally arise from an ignorance how laws inferior are derived from that Supreme Law of all. For even the Natural Law, whereby necessary agents are influenced, is not, as some imagine, entirely unconnected with the reasonable and even the supernatural law, whereby the moral and spiritual conduct of men is guided; the rule of Christ's love towards His church (whereon our salvation depends) is compared by the Apostle to the natural love which every being entertains for "his own flesh, which he loves and cherishes [Eph 5:;29];" showing that the axioms of the law natural are applicable to that which is moral and spiritual. And, moreover, the rule for the actions of angels seems to have a connection with our own. They are styled in Scripture as being "fellow-servants [Rev 19:10];" and are represented as having interest and joy in the affairs and prosperity of the Church [1 Pet 1:12; Eph 3:10]. Now as men's operations are diverse, being natural, rational, supernatural, politic, and ecclesiastical, so, to avoid confusion, each must be estimated by its own proper law; and hence arises the error of those who imagine that although God is confessedly to be glorified by the conformity of men's actions to His law, yet that such law is only the Scripture. Whereas, even in our character of natural agents, we glorify the law of God insensibly as it were [Psalm 148:7-9]; and as reasonable beings we glorify Him still further, acting not from a scripture law, but according to the law impressed in our hearts [Rom 1:21]: only it requires a revealed law to direct us fully how to honour Him as we entirely ought. So that in moral actions, the revealed law aids that of reason; whereas in supernatural duties, it is the only guide. But when men are united in societies, whether civil or spiritual, there is evidently a necessity for a still further law, to guide them in their social capacity: and it must be binding upon all, unless it enjoin aught contrary to the law of reason or of God. Hence the scriptural injunction, "Let every soul be subject to the higher powers [Rom 13:1];" for otherwise all social life must be destroyed. For want of considering this, men, individually good, are often socially bad; from a peculiarity of temper they are slow to perceive, and still more so to admit, the force which the several kinds of law ought to have over them, they set up their own opinions as the test of right action; and by following the law of private reason instead of the law of public institution, they breed disturbances, and especially in the Church of Christ. To illustrate this. In the article of food, nothing more is required than natural instinct for its selection and use. And yet in our rational capacity, moderation in its use, and praise to God for its bestowal, is the law of reason. Moreover, to some sorts of food, a religious and holy character has been given by supernatural law, as to the Paschal Lamb of the Jews, and the Eucharist of Christians. Again, politic society has fixed laws as to food, which, as living in society, we are bound to observe: and likewise in the Church, certain regulations (as fastings, etc.) have been instituted, to which our private discretion must bend, unless we would be the authors of confusion. And just in the same manner one individual Church must bow to the regulations of the Churches in general; as in the direction given to "abstain from things strangled and from blood [Acts 15:20];" in order that the fellowship and unity of Christian Churches may be maintained. Hence, briefly to conclude: "of LAW there can be no less acknowledged, than that her seat is the bosom of God, her voice the harmony of the world: all things in heaven and earth do her homage,-the very least, as feeling her care, and the greatest as not exempted from her power; both angels and men, and creatures of what condition soever; though each in a different sort and manner, yet all with uniform consent, admiring her as the mother of their peace and joy."
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CONCERNING THE POSITION HELD BY THOSE WHO URGE REFORMATION IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND, THAT "SCRIPTURE IS THE ONLY RULE OF ALL THINGS WHICH MAY BE DONE BY MEN IN THIS LIFE."
I. An Answer to the First objection, as supported by an alleged proof from Scripture in Prov 2:9.
THE object of this treatise being a consideration of Ecclesiastical Law, and not a defense of any abuses or corruptions, for which those that introduce and uphold them will be awfully responsible; it is now proposed to examine the entire form of our Church Polity, and to investigate what mistaken people, as we think them, endeavour to overthrow, through a false conceit that what they would substitute is grounded on Divine authority. Neither are the points thus presented for investigation so numerous as would at first sight appear. Now to examine the sources of error seems the best way to extirpate them. And one of the first that meets us, as held by the opponents of our Church Polity, is an overstraining of the necessary use of God's Word. For, whereas He has ordained sundry kinds of laws whereby to rule the diverse actions of men, yet they hold "that one only law, the Scripture, must be the rule to direct us in all things;" even so far as to "the taking up of a rush or straw." Two reasonable considerations would at once explode this: first, to restrain their views to moral actions, or such as have in them virtue or vice; secondly, not to demand warrant of Scripture for every action, but, provided it be conformed to the law of reason, to let that suffice; inasmuch as from the connection between the law of reason and of Scripture such actions may be proved proper, although it might be done only by a long deduction unsuited to the purposes of ordinary life. From the exclusive use of Scripture as a sole rule of life we dissent, and shall proceed to investigate the point. In all parts of knowledge properly so called, things most general are most strong, because our credence of particulars depends upon the credibility of the generalities from whence they spring. Hence they who claim the general assent of mankind to their doctrines, and are severe on those who differ from them, ought to see that their own premises at least are sound. Now, in looking into the arguments of those who object to our Church government, their chief and primary position seems to be this, "That the Scripture of God is in such sort the rule of human actions, that simply whatsoever we do, and are not by it directed thereunto, is sin:" in other words, that Scripture is exclusively, and in every particular, the absolute rule of human life. In proof of this, they allege "that Wisdom teaches men every good way [Prov 2:9];" and hence that nothing can be good unless Scripture specifically direct it. Now herein they manifestly err, in limiting all knowledge to the teaching of scripture-wisdom; for in that case there is no way of well doing, nay even no art or science, but Scripture should teach it. Whereas, since there are various actions, by the well-doing of which we may show ourselves to be wise, so there are sundry methods by which Wisdom imparts her stores unto man. Some things she opens indeed by the books of Scripture; but others from the glorious works of Nature: some she inspires by spiritual influence; others she communicates by the process of experience and practice.
II. An Answer to the Second objection, as supported by an alleged proof from Scripture, in I Cor 10:31.
THE second position they put forth is, "That all things be done to the glory of God [1 Cor 10:31];" and hence that every action should specifically be directed to that end. Now, strictly speaking, God's glory is incapable of increase at the hands of man; and hence the phrase "being glorified" can only mean, that we testify our acknowledgment of His glory: and this we effectually do by a general course of obedience. In one sense, indeed, we glorify Him in every right action, natural as well as moral and spiritual; inasmuch as all the instincts of nature proceed from Him, and manifest His power: but it does not follow that we sin as oft as we do any thing without an express intention thereby to glorify God; or that we should not move, or sleep, or satisfy any natural desire, without especial reference to Him. Indeed, as has already been shown (Book I:16), there are other kinds of laws notifying the will of God besides those of Scripture, by our obedience to which we may testify His glory. And hence, as when the Apostle says, "I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved," we are not to infer that he did not move hand or foot except with an express view to their salvation: so, on the other hand, we conclude that when we do anything disobediently to God, or offensively against the good of men, whose benefit we ought to seek, even as our own, then we glorify Him not. In fact, St. Peter's direction to the Christian converts to act so, that the "Gentiles, seeing their good works, might glorify God," shows this; inasmuch as the Gentiles, being without Scripture knowledge, might, notwithstanding, be right judges of Christian men's actions, and thereby testify God's glory.
III. An Answer to the Third objection, as supported by an alleged proof from Scripture, in I Tim 4:5.
THE third position they maintain is, "That meats and drinks are sanctified by the word of God and by prayer;" and hence, that in all things whatsoever which we have given to us, we must needs sin in the use thereof, unless we have the special appointment of Scripture thereunto. Whereas the Apostle's meaning in the passage quoted is simply, that the Gospel, by removing the legal distinctions as to clean meats and unclean, did sanctify generally unto all men what each must sanctify to himself by a reverend, grateful, and proper use.
IV. An Answer to the Fourth objection, as supported by an alleged proof from Scripture, in Rom 14:23.
BUT the fourth and chief position on which they take their stand is, "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin:" and hence, that as faith exists not but in reference to the Word of God, therefore whatsoever is not done by the word of God is sin. Now, though in strict speech, faith has only reference to Scripture, yet there are manifestly other grounds of credence besides this. The Saviour's words, "Though ye believe not me, believe my works;" and Thomas's answer, that "except he saw the print of the nails he would not believe;" show that we may be said to believe not only what we know by the relation of another, but also what we are assured of by our own reason and sense. And inasmuch as the objectors allow that St. Paul, by the word faith (as above quoted), means only "a full persuasion that that which we do is well done," hence their position may be fairly questioned. For might not the Jews have done well in believing Christ's divine mission simply on the ground of His works? And did not Thomas do well in believing fully that Christ's actual body was raised, though his belief was grounded on the evidence of his senses? Besides, we all incontrovertibly do well in believing the Scripture to be from God; and yet, evidently, it is not Scripture that gives us this assurance; or, in other words, (as has already been remarked,) Scripture cannot in this respect prove itself and accredit its own authenticity. And here the argument might rest. But the objectors urge again, "That wheresoever faith is wanting, there is sin; and in every action not commanded, faith is wanting; therefore in every action not commanded there is sin." To this it may be replied, that, as the nature of things indifferent is neither to be commanded nor forbidden, but to be left free; so at least this their position must have an addition made to it, and it must stand thus "in every action not commanded of God, or permitted with approbation, faith is wanting." For it is manifest that some things are permitted or left to our choice; e.g. food and clothing are necessary and enjoined, but the sorts and fashions thereof are left free; unto the Jew all meats were indifferent, except some particular sorts prohibited: and St. Paul, illustrating Gentile Christian liberty in this particular, says, "All things are lawful to me, but all things are not expedient;" implying a choice left to his own discretion even in indifferent things. And, indeed, it is self-evident that what God neither prohibits nor commands, He permits with approbation, either to be done or left undone, chosen or not chosen. Now some things being thus admitted to be indifferent, the objectors even here urge that in our selection of any in preference to the rest, "the word of Christ is only able, through faith, to give us assurance and resolution." This is a pure assertion, incapable of proof. Indeed, were the Scripture so to direct, the things would no longer be indifferent, but commanded; being, however, indifferent, man's sound discretion enables him to select; and even by the exercise of that discretion, God is in some sense glorified, inasmuch as it is a proper use of the faculty wherewith He has blessed us. Moreover, this position of the objectors is one, if true, that is of perpetual force; and then recurring to the primitive times of the world, we find that Seth, Noah, Abraham, and others, who lived before a syllable of Scripture was given, were in some specific actions indeed admonished by God in supernatural communications; but yet in all other actions of an ordinary kind, wherein they were not so directed, they did, according to this position, actually and constantly sin: a thing too absurd to discuss. Neither, again, can it be urged, that "although it was different before Scripture was delivered, yet after it was given, then the case was altered; and that unless every thing be brought to the test and direction of Scripture now, it is sin;" for this would be to assert that Scripture quenches, as it were, all the light of nature; an assertion which the Prophets and Apostles themselves contradict, by using natural arguments in corroboration or illustration of Scripture. The safest direction herein seems to be that of Augustine, who would credit nothing unless confirmed by the Scriptures, or by some reason not contrary to them."
V. An Answer to alleged Proofs out of the Fathers, who dispute NEGATIVELY from Holy Scriptures.
IN order, however, to support their positions, they urge the practice of the Fathers, in using negative arguments from Scripture against what is evil; e.g. "Scriptures teach it not, avoid it therefore." And hence they draw conversely the positive argument, "that whatsoever we may lawfully do, Scripture must teach it." Now no force of any negative argument is so great as to prove that all things whatsoever which Scripture affirms not, or prescribes not, are sinful. Indeed, on looking into the works of the Fathers, we shall find them speaking as strongly in matters of opinion as they do of action, e.g. "Of what thing soever," says St. Augustine, "the question be, I say not if we, but if an angel from heaven, shall tell us any thing beside that you have received in Scripture under the Law and the Gospel, let him be accursed." [Aug. cont. Liter. Petil. lib 3, c 6] Again St. Jerome, "We believe it not, because we read it not." Nay, St. Hilary even says, We ought not so much as to know the things which the Book of the Law contains not." Is it then fairly to be deduced from these, and similar statements, that all knowledge of arts and sciences, except what may be learned in Holy Scripture, is to be condemned? This would be, indeed, an extravagant wresting of their words and meaning. What they manifestly intend to convey is this, "That to urge any thing for our religious Christian belief; and to require the same assent thereto, as that wherewith the words of inspiration are received, and not to show it in Scripture, is utterly unlawful and execrable." Under this limited interpretation, it is evident that their words must be taken, as to matters of doctrine; and if in doctrine, so, by consequence, as to matters of action and practice also. Neither is there any passage in the Ancient Fathers, which they allege [particularly from Tertullian] in support of their position, but which, when examined with its context and general scope, evidently fails to bear them out in their assertion. Nay, Tertullian himself even argues that many things are necessary from Christian custom, although no Scripture be found to require them [De Coron. Milit. c 4].
VI. An Answer to alleged proofs from NEGATIVE arguments in Scripture.
IT is, however, still further alleged, that in the Scriptures themselves we have arguments from Divine authority for negative as well as positive reasoning; as "He has commanded, and therefore it must be;" and again, "He has not, and therefore it must not be." But though this may be, and is at once admitted; yea, and though from His perfections every thing proceeding from Him, even negatively argued, is most strong and cogent; yet in this case negative arguments can only be so allowed, on condition that the scope and meaning of the whole passage, with its context, be taken into consideration. Thus in the passage, "Woe to those rebellious children," says the Lord, "which walk forth to go down into Egypt, and have not asked counsel at my mouth, to strengthen themselves with the strength of Pharaoh [Isa 30:1f]:"-and again, when Joshua's league with the Gibeonites was blamed, because he "sought not counsel at the mouth of the Lord [Josh 9:14]:"-in these matters we must consider that the negative argument applies solely because of the peculiar position of the Jews with God. They were His chosen people; and in all difficult cases had extraordinary direction from Him; and hence, when they presumed to act from their own opinion, as to whether aid should be sought from the Egyptians, without consulting God, although that special case might not have been mentioned, they did wrong; and precisely so in the matter of the Gibeonites. The question, however, is, not whether the Israelites, peculiarly situated, did wrong at any time in acting from their own minds without Scripture direction, or express counsel from God; but whether all things done by others, under other circumstances, be sin, unless done by the direction of Scripture: and this is an utterly untenable position whenever the whole Scripture meaning is investigated. Thus, then, though in some cases, as has already been admitted, and as some of the Fathers, and also of the ornaments of our own times [Bishop Jewel particularly is adverted to here, who, in a controversy with Harding, showed that negative arguments, whereat the latter utterly scoffed, might, nevertheless, be good and sound under certain circumstances.] have asserted, a negative argument from Scripture may be, and is very cogent in certain cases, yet it by no means follows that it is thus forcible and applicable in all general cases whatever; but much the contrary.
VII. An Examination into the opinion of objectors respecting the force of HUMAN AUTHORITY.
BUT the objectors are thus anxious to weaken the force of human authority, and to bring all things whatever to the determination of Scripture, for the obvious purpose of thereby overthrowing the Laws and Constitutions of our Church. Their assertion, "that man's authority avails neither affirmatively nor negatively," is untrue. For the weightiest affairs in the course of life often depend upon human affirmation; and even the Law of God says, in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established [Deut 19:15; Matt 18:16]." And not only so as to matters of fact, but likewise in matters of opinion and judgment, human testimony is of weight, wherein the sentences of wise and experienced men are much esteemed; so that the opinion of one acknowledged man of understanding may sway even whole nations. Nor yet is it that the simpler sort merely are thus moved; but the wise and learned are constantly seen more readily bowing to the opinion of others, whose superior talents they can the more readily discern and appreciate. Indeed, human authority can give weight even to negative arguments; as in the matter of history, for instance: for whereas the records only mention six kings of England bearing the name of Edward, therefore we at once assert there were no more. Nor yet can man's infirmity be pleaded as a bar to human authority. For though he be beset with ignorance and error often, yet this does not invalidate his testimony in all things. In fact all history, sacred and profane, receives its credit with us upon human testimony. The Scripture, for instance, could not teach us the things that are of God, unless we credit the men who have taught us that the words of Scripture itself do signify those things. Although, from such arguments as these, it is shown that human authority avails in matters of history or art and science; yet it is denied to be valid in all "affairs divine," in matters of "faith and religion." But here it is presumed, that if because of their judgment and experience, some men's opinion may seem weighty to others who have not the same advantages natural or acquired; even so the same sort of judgment, diligently exercised in the study of Scripture, and aided by God's grace, may fairly be allowed to give a force to their grave and deliberate opinions on religious matters. There is a sort of innate desire for a solid foundation of credence in all things, which prompts us to seek every mode of certainty we can; so that if ocular proof, or reasonable demonstration, be not attainable, then we incline even to what is most probable. Now Scripture, being the Word of God, is super-eminent herein, and at once weightier with us than even ocular or demonstrative proof. But our assent even to Scripture is only demanded in proportion to the evidence it specifically contains e. g. in reference to the time of the fall of angels and of man, and other matters, (Scripture not positively declaring,) our judgments may be in suspense, and incline various ways; and men's consciences are only best settled, when they have possessed themselves of the best grounds of credence that are attainable. Though the weight of human judgments even in religious matters, may thus be to a certain extent cogent, yet it is only so in absence of that highest of all, Scripture proof; so that the judgment of ten thousand fallible Councils could not controvert one single demonstration from God's infallible Word. But where this is wanting, then the opinion of learned, serious, and pious divines must necessarily weigh with us, even in cases where they have not set down all the processes of reasoning whereby they arrived at their conclusions. It is sometimes asserted, that human authority ought not to prevail, especially at least "with the Church, and those that are called and persuaded of the authority of God's word." Now with them it ought evidently to have weight also, as with others, in a proportionable degree, provided it urge nothing contrary to reason or sound sense. The Fathers themselves have never disowned the opinion, that learned men's judgments are of weight in opening the truth and explicating Scripture. Indeed, the contrary practice with some, of considering all human authority in matters divine as of nothing worth, has led the foolish and headstrong into desperate errors, and may be the very bane of Christian religion. Our Saviour also seemed to countenance human authority when his disciples put the question, "Why say the Scribes that Elias must first come?" They well knew that the Scribes did err on many points; but, nevertheless, they thought that their erroneous opinion simply on this point, though even appearing to contradict His word of truth, was of some weight: and in His reply He did not reprove them for their deference to human opinion. Indeed the very practice of the objectors themselves invalidates their own position. For when judgments of learned men are pleaded against them, they at once array on their own side the opinions of others whom they allege to be as learned; or they apply epithets of respect and honour to such as may not be already celebrated; which circumstances at once show their ingrafted persuasion of the cogency of human authority, even while they are arguing against it. In fact their very Scripture-arguments themselves often disprove their position. If the Scripture be positive and express, then indeed no further argument remains. But if, as in very many instances is the case, the conclusion they arrive at is only an inferential and conjectural one, then they clearly at once take their ground upon human authority, even in matters divine. Thus as to the very point in question, "the discipline of God," which they say all Christians ought to maintain; it is only (to use their own words) that "some things which they maintain, as far as some men can probably conjecture, do seem to have been not absurdly gathered out of Scripture." In short, if the objectors absolutely acted on their own principles, and if human authority were absolutely of no force, why should they be so anxious to make it appear that the wisest and most learned have been on their side? Or why endeavour by depreciation to strip their opponents of the value of great names, if, in fact, there were no value in them? Human authority being valueless need not be regarded, whether for or against them.
VIII. A declaration of what is the Truth in the foregoing matters.
To conclude. All the actions of beings endued with reason, are good or evil. For though it may be said that things are only good or evil, which are the result of deliberation and consequent voluntary action; and, therefore, what things done constantly and daily without deliberation, naturally as it were, can have no moral good or evil: yet even in those things, which seem thus to be done undeliberately, there is after all, deliberation and choice connected with them, although the process is so rapid between the volition and the performance from daily custom, that they might be mistaken for involuntary actions [Thus, for instance, animals naturally take food and rest; but man may, if he choose, stay his inclinations for these; hence the force of the Saviour's rebuke to His disciples, "Could ye not watch with me one hour?"]. Now, whatsoever is good, is approved by God, in proportion to the goodness thereof. Some things, however, may have so low a grade in goodness, as simply not to merit God's disapproval, and to these the light of Nature alone may often be our guide. Other things, however, are not only allowed, but required as strictly necessary to salvation; and in these Scripture must be our chief guide, Nature being insufficient, without the super-added and effectual light of God's word. Moreover, other things there are, which, though not so required of necessity, that to leave them undone excludes from salvation, are notwithstanding of such acceptance with God, that an ample reward is laid up for them in heaven; such as, though not strictly exacted by Nature or in Scripture, our minds prompt us unto. Of this kind, was that love of primitive Christians, which prompted them to sell their possessions and lay the price at the Apostles' feet; and which induced St. Paul to abridge his own liberty by voluntary choice, in his Christian ministrations. Since, then, there can be no evil in those various actions whereof God approves, and He approves more than He specifically commands; and obedience to His precepts known only by the law of Nature must be acceptable to Him; it seems unreasonable to make Scripture only the rule of moral action. All God's testimonies are indeed perfect, i.e. sufficient for the end designed by them; and so is Scripture for its specific object, but no farther. Now its object is, to deliver full and complete instruction in all things necessary to salvation, the knowledge whereof man could not naturally attain unto. This it does; and whoever considers it incomplete, and thence either looks for a further revelation, or presumes to eke out its imagined deficiency by man's traditions, is in great error. On the other hand, those are equally mistaken, who would enlarge and stretch the scope of Scripture to such an extent, as that every thing lawful to be done and practiced, must necessarily be contained within it. Indeed, most perplexing and absurd results would follow this latter view: for if the whole of natural law were thereby abrogated, and men were called upon to regulate every the most minute action by Scripture, nay even to search it previously, in order to find sentences specially to guide them, lest otherwise they should commit sin: if this were so, the very business of life must stand still; natural instincts, and reasonable discretion being of no avail, men in every relation of life would be in doubt and difficulty, and those of weak conscience in absolute despair. Two opposite opinions have been held as to the sufficiency of Scripture. The schools of Rome erroneously teach, that it is insufficient of itself, without the superadded force of Traditions. Others, running into the opposite extreme, hold that it contains not only all things necessary for salvation, but everything else, so that anything done without its warrant, is sin. Which latter opinion, by an overstraining for the honour of Scripture as it were, and claiming for it that which does not legitimately belong to it, tends even to weaken the reverend regard which it ought to have of all men; and hence the upholders of it may injure the very cause they wish to exalt.
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CONCERNING THE SECOND ASSERTION "THAT IN SCRIPTURE THERE MUST BE OF NECESSITY CONTAINED A FORM OF CHURCH POLITY, THE LAWS WHEREOF MAY IN NO WISE BE ALTERED."
I. What THE CHURCH is; and in what respect Laws of Polity are required.
OUR attention being directed to Church Government or Polity, it may be as well here to consider the true nature of the Church of Christ, and wherein it consists. And first, it may be divided into the Church Mystical and the Church Visible. That Church of Christ which is properly termed His body mystical, can be but one; yet it cannot be sensibly discerned, inasmuch as one part thereof is already in heaven with Him; and of the other part which is on earth, our bodily senses do not enable us to discern the inward graces and virtues which constitute them true members. Our minds can however readily apprehend the existence of such a body, and likewise that it may be very numerous; although, the spiritual marks, whereby they are distinguished, be known only to God Himself, the searcher of hearts. Unto this Church mystical it is, that all the Scripture promises of the endless love and saving mercy of God in Christ belong. In like manner, the Visible Church of God is but one; commencing in the beginning, and to be continued to the end of the world. It is, however, divided in point of time, into two portions; the one before, the other after the coming of Christ; and all professed believers in Him constitute the Visible Church, properly so called, of Christ. Their unity consists in having "one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism." Christians those are not, who confess not Jesus to be "their Lord [Acts 2:36]." Neither will this acknowledgment, simply of itself, be sufficient, unless they embrace that faith [Rev 2:13]" which He published to the world. Nor yet again, can they be of Christ's visible Church, unless admitted therein by the door of Baptism;" as were, for instance, the eunuch by Philip [Acts 8:38]; Paul by Ananias [Acts 22:16]; and the three thousand souls by Peter [Acts 1:41]. But wherever these outward signs exist, of "one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism," there is the Visible Church of Christ; the professors whereof, if they bear the external marks [For want of these marks it is, that Saracens, Jews, and Infidels are excluded from the visible Christian Church.], are still members, although they may be wicked livers, or heretical and impious. True it is, that such conduct will exclude from salvation, and that wicked nominal professors cannot possibly belong to the mystical body of Christ's Church; still to the visible Church they do belong; even as Christ Himself likens the kingdom of heaven to a net, wherein good and bad fishes were caught [Matt 13:47]; or to a field, wherein tares and wheat grew together [Matt 13:24]: which state of things, or the intermingling of the bad with the good, shall continue till the final consummation of all things. Indeed, God has ever had, and will have, His visible Church upon earth. The Israelites, for instance, even when backsliding, rebelling, and suffering punishment, were still His Church. Retaining, as they did, His law, and the seals of His covenant, the sheep of His flock they still continued to be, in the very depth of their disobedience. Many errors have arisen, for want of duly observing this distinction between the visible and the mystical Church. Hence the error of the African Council at Carthage (A.D. 256), who, supposing that heretics and men of corrupt belief, could not administer the true sacrament of Baptism, ordered rebaptizing in certain cases, before admission into the Church. [See more on this point in Book V. Section 62.] Their reasoning was correct, which went to show that Baptism belongs to the Church only, and can only be validly administered therein; but their error lay in assuming that heretics were in no sort any part of the visible Church of Christ. And this opinion was therefore subsequently condemned by the Council of Nice; and, indeed, revoked by the chief authors of it themselves. And truly it is in the spirit of the same error, that the question is sometimes now put to us, "Where was your Church before the time of Luther?" The Church of Christ, which was from the beginning, is, and continues unto the end. Luther erected no new Church. But, as in the different periods of the Jewish Church, it did not continue always alike in point of soundness; or, as amongst the churches of different places in apostolic times, there was not the same integrity and zeal; but occasionally a lapsing and lukewarmness: so, to reform ourselves, if at any time we have done amiss, is not to sever ourselves from the Church, which we were of before. In the Church we were, and in the Church we still are; even as Judah, which having been sometime addicted to idolatry,-but still far more free from pollution than Israel,-and, becoming soundly religious, renounced idolatry, and still continued to be the Church of God. [Hosea 4:15-17; Josh. 24:16.] And hence as the direction was given, "If Israel play the harlot, let not Judah sin;" so if the Church of Rome reform not herself, we must not therefore neglect our part of duty to God. Although from their corruptions and abominations we entirely revolt, at the same time we may hold fellowship with them, and may acknowledge them to be of the family of Christ, so far as they hold the main truths of Christianity; praying that through grace, they may be brought to a better mind, and thus that "all might be made one." Indeed, the same argument that is alleged to make the Church of Rome no Church at all, because of her corruptions, is also alleged by some against the Church of England, because of what they choose to call her corruptions. Heretics, therefore, may be a part, though a maimed part, of the visible Church, and are not utterly cut off therefrom. And if the Fathers (as is sometimes done) seem to make a distinction between the visible Church and heretical companies, they are not to be construed as excluding them entirely from the company of Believers, but as separating them from the fellowship of sound Believers. Where professed unbelief is, there can be no Church: but there may be, where the belief is not altogether sound. Hence, is seen the soundness of the answer of the College of Geneva to Knox, who held (as likewise Calvin did) that children of papists, who were idolaters as they said, ought not to be baptized, till either their parents repented, or the children themselves came to years of discretion. The sentence was, "Wheresoever the profession of Christianity has not utterly perished, and been extinct, infants are beguiled of their right, if the common seal be denied them." From which the conclusion may be drawn, that men remain in the visible Church until they utterly renounce all profession of Christianity; and hence the children of such have a title to the Signs and seals of the Christian covenant. Though, therefore, heresies and crimes (if not repented of and forsaken) exclude from the mystical Church of Christ; and do also make a separation from the sound part of the visible Church; yet they do not sever from the latter entirely: even Excommunication itself only excludes from association in visible holy duties. Hence the error of Papists, who exclude all the opponents of their Church from the Church of Christ. Since they themselves admit, that their own head, the Pope, may, as an individual, become heretical in faith, and may commit acts diabolical, even being the Pope; how can they exclude us from the Church of Christ, on the ground of alleged heresy, when they may have not only in their own Church, but at the very Head of it, an heretical individual? In this Treatise, therefore, by the term Church, we understand visible Church, in which, for the preservation of Christianity, mutual association is absolutely needful. And, as the sea being one, has yet divers names given to divers portions; so also the Catholic Church is divided into a number of societies, every one of which is termed a Church within itself. The Church, however, is not a mere assembly of men, which being congregated for some public act, dissolves when the object is accomplished; but it is a Society, or a number of men belonging unto some Christian fellowship, within certain places and limits, and having communion in the public exercise of such duties as are mentioned by the Apostles, viz. "instruction, breaking of bread, and prayer [Acts 2:42]." As then, those of the mystical body of Christ have inward graces, whereby they differ from all others; and as those appertaining to the visible body of His Church have external marks of profession to distinguish them; so, the several Christian societies to which the name of Church is severally given, as the Church of Rome, of Corinth, of England, must have some corresponding general properties belonging to them as Christian societies. And one chief property is evidently, Church Polity, or a Form of ordering the public spiritual affairs of the Church of God.
II. Whether the Scripture ought necessarily to contain a particular SET FORM of Church Polity; the things thereof not being necessary to salvation.
AS however language seems necessary for mankind, and yet all speak not the same; so, though Church Polity be necessary for all churches, yet it does not therefore follow, that the same form thereof should be used for all. And though the polity must be from God originally; yet it does not seem absolutely necessary that it should be supernaturally revealed by Him in all cases, as it was under the Mosaic dispensation. If it be framed according to that light of Nature, which God has given to man, it is, nevertheless ultimately from Him. Those, therefore, who object to any form of Church Polity, except it be set down in Scripture, should explain whether they mean it to be expressly and literally so noted in Scripture; or only deduced therefrom inferentially. The former evidently cannot be asserted of any, not even of their own form; and in the latter case, it is equally evident, that general precepts may be complied with in forms varying from each other, and yet all equally consonant to the axioms of Scripture. It has been stated [In Whitgift's Answer to the "Admonition,"] that matters of Faith are of a different character from Ceremonial observances and polity; that the former being necessary to salvation, must be contained in Scripture, or collected from it; whereas, it is only necessary that the latter should contain nothing contrary to the Scripture. And here two objections are next urged; first, "That we misdistinguish, because matters of discipline and church government are (as the objectors say) necessary to faith and salvation; whereas, we put a difference between them." And, secondly, "That we are guilty of injurious dealing with the Scripture, as if it contained only the principal points, the rude and unfashioned matters of building the church, but had left out that which belongs to the form and fashion of it: as if there were in the Scripture no more than only to cover the Church's nakedness, and not chains, bracelets, rings, jewels, to adorn her!"
III. That Church Polity, and matters of Faith and Salvation are DISTINCT things.
MUCH mischief arises from want of correctly distinguishing; rightly to do so, is to sever things different in nature, and to discern wherein they do differ; and to imagine a difference where none exists, is to misdistinguish. Of matters belonging to the Church, all are not exactly alike. Some things are merely of faith; e.g. the doctrine of the Trinity, which it is sufficient that we know and believe. Others, as the works of charity, require not only to be known, but to be done. Indeed, the objectors themselves divide the Gospel into doctrine and discipline; and hence, as by the term doctrine, they evidently mean matters of faith, and by discipline, church regulation, it would seem that their charge against us of misdistinguishing, because we separate between faith and polity, is idle cavilling. With respect to the second charge of injurious dealing: We hold, that what the Church of God ought to know or do, is learned partly from the law of nature. But, inasmuch as her teaching is not fully sufficient, God has collected in Scripture the most important points of her teaching; and also has given therein the super-added instruction, by revelation, of such things necessary to salvation, as we could not otherwise have known. Hence, therefore, Scripture contains all things needful to salvation: and, indeed, whatsoever matter there is, whereof it may be said, "This not to believe is eternal death and damnation;" or, "This, every soul that will live, must do;" of which sort are the articles of the Christian faith, and the sacraments of Christ's Church:-all such matters if the Scripture did not contain, it would not be a sufficient guide and rule for the Church. But, on the contrary, in whatever is merely accessory, and what our own discretion may teach, as being meet and convenient, the Church is no further tied to Scripture, than that nothing be admitted which is contrary thereto. Now, it may be asked, what becomes of the charge of injurious dealing, in this making some things, as matters of faith, necessary; and some, as matters of polity, only accessory and appendent? Our Lord Himself even made the difference when he termed judgment, mercy, and fidelity "the greater and weightier matters of the law." And the objectors themselves overthrow their own argument, by their own comparison, in likening the one to the garments necessary to cover the body, and the other to the accidental superfluities of "rings and jewels," that merely adorn it.
IV. That hereby we do not DEROGATE from the Authority of Scripture.
AS it is no disparagement to Nature, that she provides all things needful, but leaves her creatures to furnish themselves with others by their own efforts; as man, for instance, to clothe himself; even so it is no valid imputation against the perfection of Scripture, that it leaves some few things to man's discretion. And if we hold, that Scripture contains not only all things absolutely necessary, but infinite treasures besides; that it throws a light upon almost every part of knowledge; that even as to the point in question, Church government, it contains the general principles thereof, gives many precepts thereto, and furnishes many examples thereof, though it does not descend to particulars, and prescribe any special form and fashion of it, leaving that to man's judgment and discretion: -when all this is admitted by us, what becomes of the accusation that we deal injuriously with Scripture?
V. Of the assertion, "That nothing should be established in the Church beyond what Scripture EXPRESSLY commands."
BUT it is humiliating to confess error; and therefore the objectors betake themselves to another refuge, and quote the words of the law, "Ye shall put nothing unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye take aught therefrom [Deut 4:2]," as proving their position, that nothing should be established in the Church without command of Scripture. And hence, that various rites, observances, offices, and dignities in the Church of England, are wrong, being unscriptural. Now, to endeavour by any argument to make that seem divine, which is not so; or, vice versa, to make that not to seem so, which is, must be accounted a heinous sin. And it would be well, did the objectors in this matter look to their own practice of often quoting words from historical narrations of Scripture, as specially applicable to the ordinary affairs of their own life.
VI. The injurious CONSEQUENCE of the foregoing assertion.
BUT, admitting, for the sake of argument, that their objection be valid; in that case it will go to condemn all Christian Churches in the world; inasmuch as there is not one which does not contain many things which Scripture does not command, and yet which it would be wrong in us to condemn. Even in the Church of God in our Saviour's time, there were rites and observances; to mention but one, "the fasting on festival days till the sixth hour [Acts 2:15]," not anywhere commanded in Scripture.
VII. The Consequence sought to be evaded, by confining it to IMPORTANT matters.
IT is, however, again urged, that though there be in Scripture no special and specific direction for every thing, yet there are general rules for all things towards one end; and that to prevent men's acting according to their own fancy, the Apostle has set down four general rules, and that all things in the Church must be appointed not only not against, but by and according to them. The rules are, "Nothing scandalous or offensive unto any, especially unto the Church of God [1 Cor 10:32]." "All things in order and with seemliness [1 Cor 14:40];" "All unto edification 1 Cor 14:26];" and, "All things unto the glory of God [Rom 14:6f; 1 Cor 10:31]." These rules being alleged to prove that nothing may be done in the Church but what Scripture commands, must be admitted by the objectors as being binding, only because set down by the Spirit of God; and on their own hypothesis, therefore, had they not been so set down, we should as much sin by observing them, as we now do (it is said) by not observing them. Now, in the Jewish Church, many things were observed, not being expressly set down in Scripture, e.g. the fixing of the hour for daily sacrifice; the building of synagogues, order of burial, rites of marriage, etc. And will it be said, that the Jews sinned therein? or rather, is it not clear, that in thus acting, they rightly followed that natural law written on all men's hearts, and which is binding at all times and in every age of the Church? And hence, that we are as inculpable in following it, as ever the Jews were; and also that many things, so they be not against Scripture, may be lawfully done in the Church by the light of reason and discretion. Indeed, it would seem, according to their argument, to matter little whether the Scripture commands be general or special; for if by a particular application, a general rule may be constrained to have such a specific line of direction as that no other could be right, then it is clear that the Church has no discretionary choice left her to establish any thing. If, then, they grant (as they cannot but do) that these are only rules of general direction, and not restricting in specialities, so as to prevent the establishment of any devout custom, tending to edification, provided no specific command of Scripture be violated thereby, their argument is at an end. That which only could support it, is for them to prove, "That men ought not to make laws for church government, but are bound for ever to keep those only which they find already made in Scripture." This, indeed, after all, is the position they have taken; although they have somewhat inconsistently, or rather unwittingly, alleged the afore-mentioned four general rules to be followed, in making laws for the Church; inasmuch as this very allegation of theirs implies the power of making laws to be vested in her members, as also the very supposition of a general law implies that there may be sundry modes of executing it.
VIII. The same attempted by construing "commanded" to mean "grounded upon" Scripture, as opposed to the light of Nature.
IT is, however, lastly urged, in defense of their position, "That all Church orders should be grounded on the word of God." Now, there is evidently much difference between a thing being positively commanded, and being only grounded, e.g. St. Paul's recommending celibacy, under particular circumstances [1 Cor 7:8-26], is grounded on Scripture, but no where commanded. Besides, the will of God being partly known by the light of Nature, and not by Scripture alone, if the Church in some things following the former (it being equally from God, as well as the light of revelation), establish any thing not repugnant to Scripture, and thereby fulfill the will of God naturally known, who shall be bold enough to denounce it? There are many, however, who, under the impression that our estimate of the power and authority of God's Word will be weakened, in proportion as we attribute any thing to human reason, disparage her altogether. From certain passages of Holy Writ, teaching "that the natural man perceives not the things of God [1 Cor 2:14];" warning to "beware of philosophy [Col 2:8];" and asserting "that the foolishness of preaching" (so termed in opposition to the pretended wisdom of man) "saves believers [1 Cor 1:19]:" from such passages of Scripture, and from allegations of their own, that "the admirers of human wisdom have been generally opposers of the Gospel," and that "it must be the Spirit of God, and not the reason of man that shall convert our soul,"- they seem to draw a sort of conclusion, that to be ripe in faith we must be raw in judgment, and that reason is an enemy to religion, and childish simplicity the mother of divine wisdom. Now this disparagement of reason seems to have arisen, as well from its being put in an undue comparison, as it were, with the Divine wisdom on the one hand,-whereby it is totally eclipsed in the glory that excels; as also by its being improperly confounded with the false philosophy of man on the other,- whereby it is mistakenly depreciated. That there are, however, some divine things which human reason is able of itself to discern, St. Paul shows, when speaking of men in their natural state, he says, "They knew both God, and the law of God [Rom 1:21]." And there are also other things divine, which are beyond the power of reason to attain to, without the aid of God's Spirit; and which even when they are proclaimed, require His grace to make them objects of faith; as when Paul preached the doctrine of the resurrection to Festus [Acts 15:19], it seemed to him as an idle fancy. When, however, Nature is shown thus to require the aid of grace, it by no means follows that grace is denied the use of Nature. And when we are cautioned to beware of philosophy, it is not the sound exercise of our natural reason that is discountenanced, but only that specious mode of argument which throws a false gloss over things; and against which it is even necessary for us to be armed by a knowledge of true philosophy that we may detect its fallacy. Indeed, when it is considered that heresies prevailed, by the use of false philosophy wresting the Truth through its logical subtleties, the only remedy (humanly speaking) was a competent skill in sound philosophic reasoning, to expose and confute them. Hence we find the heretic Cresconius complaining of St. Augustine, as being too logical. When St. Paul required of Titus [Tit 1:9-11] ability to convict heretics, we may readily suppose he did not condemn the use of reason. And indeed, the Catholic Fathers upheld the cause of truth by combating heretics with their own weapons, and foiling them in their endeavours to pervert Scripture, in order to uphold their own vain fancies or corrupt affections. And with respect to worldly knowledge; every part thereof, whereby truth is elicited, is precious, and may in some degree contribute to illustrate even Scripture truth itself. The Egyptian wisdom in Moses, and the Chaldean in Daniel; the moral and civil wisdom in Solomon; the oratorial Grecian wisdom that Paul brought from Tarsus, or the Judaical which he learned from Gamaliel at Jerusalem;-all contributed in various ways to prepare and fit them for their several divine appointments. It is only where this knowledge is vainly abused by men, to the maintenance of their own self-willed notions, in opposition to the counsel of God, and the rejection of His revelation, that it is condemned; as in the case of unbelieving Jews and Gentiles, whose natural wisdom, by their abuse of it, became folly. As, however, the word of God is absolutely perfect for its object, reason is not used to supply any defect therein, but simply as an instrument whereby to obtain the fruit thereof; it is as a two-edged sword, when in the hands of reason to apply it. And hence the twelve Apostles of our Saviour, being naturally simple and illiterate, were endowed with miraculous powers to confirm their doctrine; as they were also with wisdom and eloquence from above to teach and enforce it. With St. Paul, the case was indeed different somewhat; he needed not the miraculous endowment of eloquent argument, inasmuch as he was already learned in it by study: but when it was objected by gainsayers, that his success in converting the Gentiles was owing solely to his learning, he proves the contrary, and that it was in the "demonstration of the Spirit and of power [1 Cor 2:4]:" and yet at the same time, the whole scope of his argument goes to show that, though not in any way depending upon it, still he did not neglect his power of natural ability and persuasion, but that God accredited it, as He also did the supernaturally-given eloquence of the others, by the force of miracles. Hence the wisdom of man may add considerably to our ability, as merely Christian men, both of learning and teaching the truth of Christ. Indeed, either in the matter of conversion, or for the confirmation of faith, the force and value of natural reason is great. For though without grace it be nothing, yet nevertheless reason is necessary as a recipient, whereby man is enabled to apprehend the things which grace discovers to him, and to feel the reasonableness of God's service. Hence none but men, because being possessed of reason, are capable of receiving religious knowledge and impressions; and not even they, until their reason has acquired a certain maturity. The Scripture teaches the science of divine things; and like every other science, it requires reason for its comprehension: even as the Apostle called upon his hearers to exercise this faculty, saying to them, "Judge ye what I speak." It is true, that Scripture teaches some things above our natural powers; but these things become objects of our belief, because our reason has previously led us to acquiesce in Scripture, as being the word of God. Whereas Scripture is said to contain all things necessary to salvation, it has been sometimes absurdly asked, what Scripture teaches the authority of Scripture? As if Scripture might thus prove itself. But as all other sciences pre-suppose some first general principles being understood, so Scripture teaches us supernatural truth, presuming on or being already persuaded of its own divine authority by other means. Now, the first means in effecting this, is Tradition; our predecessors in succession have received it constantly, as being the word of God; and the weight of authority in the whole church of God is a strong moving cause for our reception of it as such. And this is strengthened by our reading or hearing of its contents, so correspondent to our first opinion thereof. Hence the first thing which the Fathers laboured to prove to unbelievers, was the divine authority of Scripture, by such arguments as they themselves might fairly allow, and which they could not deny without compromising all principles of fair reasoning. Reason, therefore, is manifestly of great use, as well for our conversion, as for our confirmation in the faith after having been converted. And whereas, it has been alleged by some, that there is no proof of the authority of Scripture, but by the testimony of the Spirit assuring their hearts; it would seem that they can only properly mean, that no other proof can be effectual where the enlightening of the Spirit is wanting. For (to say nothing of the argument by which we might plead the influence of the Spirit upon us, against its impressions upon them), the operations of the Spirit are acknowledged so secret and undiscernible, that great caution is necessary, lest we should mistake the spirit of error for that of truth; and therefore, although it be the Spirit that guides into all truth, yet it is more satisfactory to gather by reason, from the quality of things to be believed or done, that the Spirit is so directing us, than implicitly to act upon mere imagination. Besides, we find the Apostles constantly urging their reasoning powers to show the meaning of Scripture; e.g. in the passage out of the Psalms, St. Peter reasons that David spoke not of his own resurrection, but of Christ's. [Acts 2:34; 13:36] The same Apostle also calls upon Christians to be prepared to "give a reason of the hope that is in them [1 Pet 3:15]." And if it be thus necessary for all disciples, it is surely still more so for their teachers. Moreover, Christ himself reasoned frequently with the Jews; e.g. "If Christ be the son of David, how then does he call him Lord? [Matt 22:43]" And Paul and Barnabas reasoned with the idolatrous men of Athens [Acts 14:15]. Neither did the Apostles confine the use of their reasoning faculty for the purpose of converting and convincing unbelievers alone; they equally employed it amongst believers, to establish matters of faith and practice; e.g. the admission of the Gentiles into the Church of Christ [Acts 15:8]. But though the use of natural reason is thus clearly shown to be required in matters of religion, yet it is not by any means to be inferred, that reason is at all available without the grace of God's Spirit. The only thing here intended is, to show that under the guidance of the Spirit, the light of reason may be employed in discovering what laws may be fitting and expedient for the Church. And thus as human legislators probably draw their ordinances, by a reasoning process from the laws of nature and of God; so, of ecclesiastical canons it may be said, "that by the instinct of the Holy Ghost they have been made, and consecrated by the reverent acceptation of all the world."
IX. How MEN may frame laws of Church Polity, which, if not repugnant to God's word, may be acceptable to Him.
As to those Laws for the Church, which are already contained in Scripture, it is only for us simply to observe them. But, inasmuch as there are many matters, for which Scripture has not provided any law; and many exigencies occurring, which are left to our own reason and discretion to provide for; the Church, therefore, is to make proper provision herein, having recourse to Scripture and reason in her choice. For no laws of the Church can ever be what they ought, unless the framers thereof follow the guidance of Scripture; the province of reason being to see how far such laws are consonant to Scripture examples, and not repugnant to its natural or its positive laws: and if there be none such bearing upon any particular case, then what may be most edifying to the Church. Hence, "to refuse the conduct of the light of nature (says St. Augustine), is not folly alone, but accompanied with impiety." [De Trinitate 4:6] The editor has been unable to verify this quotation.] But as human law has been well defined to be "that which man's reason deduces as to particulars from the law of nature in general, and authoritatively publishes;" so ecclesiastical law may be said to be "that which reason, following Scripture, may have been thereby enabled to form for the Church; care having been had herein, first, to follow the general moral law of Scripture, and next not to violate any particular or positive law which that Scripture may also contain." And unto the laws thus authoritatively made by a whole Church, it is incumbent upon all within her bosom to yield obedience; and when the laws of God and of the Church are not repugnant (for if they be, the latter have no force), it is equally our duty to observe both: God being indirectly the author of the latter as He is positively of the former. For the Author of our reason is virtually the Author of all the good we do by its light; even as the Apostle states with respect to the laws of the heathens [Rom 1:19], that He was the writer of them "on the tablet of their hearts." How much more then may He be accounted the Author of those laws which have been made by His saints endued with the grace of His Spirit, and guided by the instruction of His word? Surely, such laws, therefore, have every claim to our reverent observation, as being a most acceptable way of service unto God.
X. How Laws, even instituted by God, and recorded in Scripture, may admit of CHANGE or ADDITION.
WITH respect to the mutability of ecclesiastical laws, they are changed when either entirely abrogated, or partly repealed, or partly augmented. This mutability, however, seems only applicable to positive laws, the sanctions of which cause that to be good or evil which in itself may be indifferent. The duration of these laws is sometimes expressly set down; and if this be not done, then we can only judge of their mutability, by a reference to the objects or circumstances for or under which they were enacted. [It may be impossible for man's reason to perceive the intent why some positive laws were given; and then, perhaps, He only who constituted has power to abrogate them.] If their object appear one of continual necessity, then they are unchangeable; unless, indeed, from circumstances they become manifestly ineffectual for that object. In whatever way God constituted laws, whether directly by Himself, or mediately through man's agency, the mutability of their end causes a mutability of such laws. Hence the Ceremonial Law, though recorded by Moses at God's express command, in Scripture, where it even yet remains, has ceased; inasmuch as the end for which it was ordained, has been fulfilled; otherwise it would have been the height of presumption to abolish what God had thus established. This is evident from the law which the Apostles, assembled at Jerusalem, delivered unto the Church of Christ [Acts 15:26]. In the preface to that law it is said, "To the Holy Ghost and to us it has seemed good;" implying that the Apostles were merely the publishers of the law, but that the Spirit was its author, and under His holy motions they were led to pronounce it. But some, admitting this reasoning, nevertheless stumble at another point; they cannot allow of any change in a Divine law, if the end and object for which it was constituted still remain; although it may be, that the means appointed by that law are, through change of circumstances, inadequate to attain that end. And thus they contend for orders and offices ever remaining, as originally appointed by God; inasmuch as the end, viz. the government of the Church, being perpetual, it would be impious to change a divine appointment. But laws are, after all, merely instruments to an end; and evidently occasions may arise, to cause a fresh adaptation of the instrument in order to accomplish the same end. Thus, for instance, a law was promulgated [Ex 22:1] to check theft, by ordering a quadruple restitution. Now theft is yet, and will probably always continue; but the law of quadruple restitution is evidently inadequate now as a check, and therefore requires alteration to accomplish its end. Hence, of the three descriptions of law which the Jews received, viz. moral, ceremonial, and judicial,- the moral, in the nature of things, remains unchanged, and unchangeable; the ceremonial has ceased, the end thereof having been fulfilled: and the judicial, though the end remains, yet the original method being, by alteration of times and circumstances inadequate, may in those particulars be changed, wherein it is obviously required. It is not, that men can presume to improve upon what God has ordained; all that He determines, is the best possible for its object: but many things of His have been changed for the better; although what now succeeds better, would have been worse when that which is now changed was instituted. And hence, in this case it is, not that men presume, but only yield to God's ordinance itself, in its own nature requiring a change. It is however argued, that the doctrines of the Gospel and its precepts of discipline, form a whole, and that Discipline is therefore "part of the Gospel," and may not be altered. Now in reference to points of doctrine, as the Unity of God, the Trinity of Persons, salvation by Christ, and the like,-these must necessarily continue immutable: articles of faith and moral precept, either expressly set down in Scripture, or plainly deducible therefrom, are ever necessary to be believed and followed in order to attain salvation. But things with respect to outward discipline, and Church polity, are clearly of a different kind, and may be changed, as we see even in the Apostles' time and practice [Acts 15:27-30]. It is, indeed, admitted by the objectors, that things of mere circumstance and not of substance, in discipline, are variable according to exigencies of things: and if this be so,-no matter how trifling the affairs be,-then the argument that a law of discipline must, simply because made by God, for ever remain, is at an end. And there is no reason why laws for Church government must be necessarily permanent and unchangeable. [Neither is the argument as to the mutability of divine law, pursued to prop our own cause; indeed, were the contrary proved, it might be clearly shown to make still more against the Puritan cause than the present one.]
XI. Whether Christ meant His Laws to be utterly UNCHANGEABLE, and not susceptible of addition.
But laws changeable in themselves, are nevertheless not to be changed, should there be any express prohibition against it, and therefore if there should be any form of Church polity so immutably set down in Scripture, we are under perpetual obligation to observe it. Now the objectors allege, that if Moses, being inferior to Christ, did establish perpetual laws of Church government, then a fortiori, Christ's ought to be permanent; otherwise He is either inferior, or less faithful than Moses. But we have the Apostle's testimony that both were equally faithful; only the one was so as a servant in charge, the other as a Master over his own possession [Heb 3:5f]. And as to the allegation, that inasmuch as God gave settled laws of government to the Mosaic Church, it would argue a diminution of regard, to leave the Christian Church without; we must not reason on such accidental difference. For were the argument sound, it would hold equally as to the laws which He gave for the secular and civil guidance of the Jews; whereas Christ manifestly gives none of that sort for Christians. Yet we are not to imagine therefrom that God has less regard for the temporal estate of Christians than He had for that of the Jews. Moreover, the very mode of delivery of positive laws by Moses, being systematic and in set form, shows a striking difference to that incidental and occasional manner in which positive precepts are given in the Gospel. And it is further remarkable, that the positive laws of Moses were, generally speaking, restricted to their residence in Judaea. He distinguishes plainly between the moral laws of the Two Tables, and the positive precepts of ordinances and ceremonies; e.g. "The Lord spoke unto you, out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but no similitude: only ye heard a voice. And He declared unto you his covenant, which He commanded you to perform, even the ten commandments; and He wrote them upon two tables of stone. And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that ye might do them in the land, whither ye go to possess it [Deut 4:12-14]." Here there is an evident difference made between the two. The Moral Law was uttered by the voice of God himself to the assembled Israelites; written with the finger of God; and called by the name of Covenant: the Positive Precepts were neither written nor promulgated by God himself; but were made known to the people through Moses; were termed merely ordinances, and were restrained to "the land whither they should go to possess it." And the same distinction precisely is observed in the following chapter. Indeed, the positive laws being thus framed in reference to the persons and the places of their residence, then, seeing that nations and people differ materially, it is unreasonable to suppose that positive laws should be alike for all. Moreover, we find that on many occasions, matters occurred among the Jews, for which no law had been expressly provided; e.g. though blasphemy and sabbath-breaking were forbidden, yet no specific punishment was denounced for each; and, therefore, when instances arose, they were obliged specially to consult the oracle of God [Lev 24:12; Num 15:33]. Now, the occurrence of peculiar cases must equally take place amongst us, as amongst them: but it is evident that we have not the same source of remedy to avail ourselves of as they had, viz. the oracle of God, or the Prophet through whom to consult Him: and therefore it is also plain, that their case is not to be taken as an exact parallel of our own, in reference to the making of laws. Again: the Jews were to continue until the coming of Christ, and the gathering of nations unto Him [Gen 49:10]; in the safety of their outward State, until that period, was involved the fulfillment of prophecy, and consequently the salvation of the world. Hence it was necessary to provide for its preservation, as well against foreign foes, as against internal divisions. And here we see a peculiar government exercised to accomplish this. In all their wars, or compacts of peace with other nations, they were to be entirely guided by the oracles of God or His prophets; and in their civil polity they had special positive laws given, and rulers appointed by God himself, as occasion required. And thus, though of an obstinate self-willed temperament, and generally disliked by other nations, they continued unsubverted until the appointed times of the Messiah. Hence we see a sufficient cause of dissimilitude between the Jewish nation before Christ, and the kingdoms of the world since. As to the allegation, that because God has shown less care to us in providing for our temporal polity, than for that of the Jews, so on that account, and by way of balance, as it were, the provision for our spiritual condition must be more express, and its directions, therefore, more exact and binding; it is a mere assumption, grounded only on men's fancies. In brief, godliness has, unto us as to them, "the promise of this life and of that which is to come;" God spoke unto them by His prophets, unto us by His Son; the mysteries of grace and salvation but dimly shadowed forth to them, have clearly shone unto us. But for outward government of the Church, since Christ manifestly has not given positive laws, nor gone into particulars with us, as Moses did with them; neither has appointed any extraordinary methods, such as they had in the oracles and prophets, for extraordinary occasions; it seems a clear deduction that we must have (what they required not) a freedom to make such laws as are expedient. It is, however, here objected, that St. Paul solemnly charges Timothy (and by consequence the whole Church of Christ), "to keep what was committed to him safe and sound, till the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ [1 Tim 4:13];" and hence, that as this charge included laws for Church government, these ought invariably to be observed till the coming of Christ. But on investigation it appears that the original has no reference to ordinances and ceremonies, but simply is "keep TEN ENTOLEN (the commandment); one especial amongst many, the great commandment of his calling, viz. "the faithful preaching of the Gospel;" even as the same Apostle solemnly urges the same Timothy again, "I charge thee in the sight of God,- preach the word of God [2 Tim 4:1]." And with reference to the phrase, "till the appearance of Christ," it seems to import, not the time during which it was to be kept, but rather the time whereunto the final reward for its faithful keeping was reserved; and the disciples were to keep going on in sound doctrine and patient obedience, till their Master should finally reward their faithfulness in well-doing. And even if any admit not this interpretation, it is clear that the ENTOLEN cannot be, even by the objectors, taken so largely, as to comprehend every thing the Apostle commanded Timothy; e.g. the precept concerning the choice of widows [1 Tim 5:9]; and thus their argument fails, and they cannot hence maintain that all things positively commanded in the Church were of perpetual obligation. We admit that some were. Indeed, we have sundry Church laws which the objectors hold to be inconvenient; therefore they cannot be Christ's, but must be men's additions: and yet they do not style these additions,-e.g. prescript attire and funeral rites,-unlawful, but only inconvenient. Hence it is clear, on their own admission, that it is not unlawful to add to the laws of Christ, and consequently Christ does not prohibit addition to Church laws. Now even Calvin himself (to whose opinion they profess great reverence) states that the Church has power to make laws for ceremonies and external discipline. But they attempt to explain this away, by saying, that all discipline and ceremonies (amongst which they presume to reckon Baptism and the Lord's Supper) are not in the power of the Church to alter or abrogate. Now first, in this answer they, by implication, insinuate falsely, that we hold the very Sacraments as changeable ordinances; as also that we give the Church power to change all ordinances whatever. Whereas, in the matter of merely external rites and discipline, we do not deny that there are some which are of perpetual obligation: only we hold that some are changeable, according to the exigence of the case; a position which they themselves hold as to what they call matters of circumstance and not of substance. And hence, the question resolves itself into one, not of principle, but of extent merely. And after all, it only remains for them to show whether we have exceeded the limits of a just discretion, and abrogated or added beyond what we ought: and herein we think that they will not be able to succeed; for whatever Christ has commanded for ever to be observed in His Church, we have not presumed to abrogate; whatever has been changed has been only in things changeable, and to such extent and in such manner, as difference of times and manners required; and what we have added, is only such as we hope no law of Christ anywhere condemns. To recapitulate somewhat. So far as the Church is considered in a spiritual sense, as Christ's mystical body, it needs no external polity; the divine law of faith and works being sufficient. But as a visible society and body politic, it necessarily requires laws of polity. It follows, then,-What laws are fittest for the Church? Now certain objectors set up a position, that Divine authority alone is to be followed therein, and that no laws are allowable, but such as Holy Scripture commanded: herein differing not only from the opinion of the Fathers, but from the practice of the Jews, even as sanctioned by Christ Himself; e.g. in their appointment of the Feast of Dedication, and in other ceremonial observances. Having, however, assumed this position, it followed necessarily, that there must be a complete form of Church polity set down in Holy Writ. And here arose the difficulty on their part. Now we allege a difference between matters essential to salvation, and those of ecclesiastical polity; which even themselves tacitly acknowledge [Book 3:3]. And we moreover admit that Scripture not only contains all things necessary for salvation, but something beyond, and connected with Church polity; still that many things may be requisite for complete Church polity, not set down in Scripture, and even that some things in it may become unnecessary from change of circumstances [Ch 4]. It has also been shown [Ch 5,6] how injurious it is to apply their own construction of Scripture herein, generally to all times and places: and how unsatisfactory their method is, of general directions, in contradistinction to special [Ch 7]; and of the exclusion of reason, in selection [Ch 8]. Next it has been set forth, how the Church may frame laws [Ch 9]; and how God's giving certain laws in Scripture does not preclude their being altered in any respect whatever [Ch 10]; and how absurd is the parallel in this case attempted to be set up between Moses and Christ [Ch 11] in alleging that the latter ought to have established a complete Church polity. And whereas, the objectors further allege, that as the Church is the city and the house of the living God, so it must have a complete polity and regular government, appointed by Him its head and king, permanent and unchangeable; though at the same time, when brought to a point, they admit that this can only be applicable to some things of greater moment and weight, and that minor matters may be changed: it is hence evident that these grave and weighty matters of theirs after all, are doctors, pastors, lay-elders, elderships, synods, women-church-servants, etc. etc.; and it seems, therefore, that the argument has been with them somewhat uselessly maintained. For we also contend, that there are some matters whereto the Church is perpetually bound, such as the public religious duties of the administration of the Word, Prayer, Sacraments, etc.; but that the laws of polity merely appoint the times and manner wherein they are to be performed, and therefore are not immutably permanent. Now, in an orderly public service, all cannot be engaged alike; therefore the first thing in a polity, is a difference of persons, to perform different functions: and hence clergy are required as leaders; who, although their qualifications be not equal to their office, yet for the office's sake respect is due to them. And as a body of clergy contains numbers, here again there must be distinctions among them; and hence bishops (succeeding to the office of Apostles), and priests subordinate to them, have plainly been appointed, as we read in Scripture, since the earliest times of the Church; into which orders there must evidently be some special solemn admission; it not being left to any and every man's conceit, to enter as he pleases. Hence it seems clear, that in our forms there is nothing repugnant to Scripture; and that where it gives directions, they are more closely followed by us than by the objectors themselves; indeed, their polity is faulty, in making no distinction, as is done in Scripture, between the grades of ministers; as it is also in holding that such things as lay-elders, women-church-servants, etc. are things immutable, whereas Scripture does not even mention them. As to their a priori argument, that God must needs have constituted a Church polity; why should they labour to establish that, if as they assert God has done so? Does not this very conduct show a suspicion of the weakness of their own cause? How much better simply to receive, and meekly to acquiesce in what God has plainly condescended to make known, than presumptuously to set up imaginary schemes as to what He ought to have done!
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CONCERNING THE THIRD ASSERTION "THAT OUR FORM OF CHURCH POLITY IS CORRUPTED WITH POPISH ORDERS, RITES, AND CEREMONIES, BANISHED OUT OF CERTAIN REFORMED CHURCHES, WHOSE EXAMPLE THEREIN WE OUGHT TO HAVE FOLLOWED."
I. The GREAT USE of Ceremonies in the Church.
THE simplicity of manners and spirit in former times did not lead to captiousness in minor matters; and even men of acknowledged talent felt a reverent reserve in reflecting upon the practices of the Church, unless they were notoriously requiring remedy. But in the present age, zeal seems to have drowned charity, and pride of intellect, meekness; so that her own children may be seen forward to deride those very rites and ceremonies, which holy and virtuous men of old strenuously maintained against profane adversaries. Without further remark, however, we shall proceed to inquire into the ceremonies of our Church as a general question, not entering at present into special details. Now in every great public duty in God's Church, besides the matter and form wherein the essence consists, there must be some outward fashion wherein it may be decently administered; e.g. the sacrament of the Lord's Supper requires bread and wine, as the matter thereof, and certain words of blessing as the form; but to its decent administration more is required than simply these. The end of all religious actions is edification; and men are edified, either when their understandings are informed, or their hearts suitably moved, or their minds reverently excited. Hence, not only speech has been employed; but sundry methods addressed to the other senses, especially visible signs to the eye,-the impressions conveyed by that sense being often vivid and lasting. And this is so natural, that in every nation, no public actions of importance, whether spiritual or temporal, are permitted to pass without some visible solemnity, which makes a more durable impression upon the witnesses thereof, than mere words might do. Hence it does not become anyone to condemn as idle follies various ceremonial observances, simply because he knows not the reasons why they were instituted. It was the custom, in giving an oath among the Jews, not merely to attest the God of Heaven, but to add the ceremony of "putting the hand under the thigh [Gen 24:2]." Amongst the Romans, in manumitting a slave, not only was his master before a magistrate in public court, to say, "I will that this man be free;" but to strike him on the head, shave his hair, touch him thrice with a rod, and give him a white garment and a cap. All which things probably had some significant use and force. And in like manner, "the sensible things (or visible signs which religion has hallowed) are resemblances framed according to things spiritually understood, whereunto they serve as a hand to lead, and a way to direct." [Dionysius, Ecclesiastical Hierarchy 2:3:2] Neither let it be said, that "to add to such religious duties any significant ceremonies, is to institute new sacraments;" for the persons who sometimes put forward this plea, afford the best answer to it by their own practice; inasmuch as their own ceremony of imposition of hands they deny to be a sacrament; but say that it is "a solemn reminding" of the person, that he was separated to the work of the Lord. Some significant ceremonies are, indeed, sacraments, but only those which are signs and tokens of some promised grace of God, really given to those that duly receive them. Others are no sacraments. But yet, though not sacraments, some may (to use the objectors' own phrase) be "as sacraments." [Hooker evidently attached a holiness of character to some of these significant rites; those which he terms "as sacraments" have been not unaptly designated sacramentals.]
II. Our Ceremonies accused of departing from ANCIENT SIMPLICITY, and being too pompous.
Now ceremonies may be disputed, either as to their number or their character. And it is objected, that we have departed in the character of ours, from the simplicity of primitive times; that we have more stateliness and orders, than the devout men of old, and that as religion was purest, and the Scripture best understood, in those times, the ceremonies devised since cannot be good; that they had better be rescinded, and matters brought back to ancient discipline. This rule however is somewhat difficult of execution; inasmuch as we have nowhere any precise account of all the orders and rites of Apostolic times. Some things, indeed, are declared in the Apostles' writings, some incidentally alluded to, and others to be inferentially deduced. But nowhere is there to be found any specific and complete account; neither, indeed, does it seem necessary that all the rites then in use should be recorded; so that, in tying the Church to such rites only as are to be found in the Apostles' writings (and none other will they admit to be apostolical), the objectors lay down a very insufficient and uncertain rule. Now our end ought always to be the same, viz. "the glory of God;" but then the means thereunto may vary; and some rites and orders may be more available at one time than at another. There is no occasion now, for instance, to assemble secretly as in primitive times; nor to baptize in brooks and rivers; nor that the Eucharist should be administered in the evening; nor that ministers should be dependent on voluntary contributions. Hence, change to suit existing circumstances is evidently allowable, even in apostolical practices, provided what is adopted be not repugnant thereto. Indeed, this may be illustrated by a comparison of the different circumstances of the Jews at different periods; in Egypt, in the wilderness, and in Canaan. Their worship of God when slaves, was performed in mean huts; when wanderers, in a tabernacle; when a settled nation, in a magnificently glorious temple.
III. Our Ceremonies blamed, because being many of them THE SAME as the Church of Rome has.
IT has been made a matter of serious accusation, that all our rites and ceremonies are Papistical, and framed after the fashion of the Church of Rome; and that our Church founders were not sufficiently careful herein, but contented themselves with such discipline as they found in the Romish Church. Whereas, as the objectors allege, "there ought to be no communion or fellowship with papists, neither in doctrine, ceremonies, nor government." In short, in their view, whatever is Popish, must be utterly done away with; and whatever we have from them, "even if it be not unlawful, and not disagreeing with the word of God," still, because being from them, must of necessity be abrogated. Here then is the point on which we are at issue; inasmuch as we deny any such necessity. They support their argument by alleging, 1st, That in things not scripturally specified, we ought (according to Augustine) to follow the customs of God's people and our forefathers, which the Papists are not: 2ndly, That Papists being heretics, and so near about us, we ought the more diligently to sever ourselves from them, and not adopt any thing belonging to them: for that thus God acted, in reference to the Israelites, in guarding them generally from other nations, but more especially from the idolatrous Egyptians and nearest neighboring nations, because from their proximity there was greater fear of infection. So that (as they allege) it is even "safer to conform in indifferent rites to Turks at a distance, than to Papists who are near." They further allege the decrees of primitive councils, which forbade many rites and ceremonies, merely because they resembled in some points those of heathens; from whom Christians ought to be as much severed as possible. And that, in point of fact, as an evil habit is generally cured by adopting a diametrically opposite one; so utter inconformity with the Church of Rome is the surest policy our Church can use, to avoid contamination from her. For if there be but the slightest remnant of Papistry, it will insensibly increase and ramify, to the damage of pure religion.
IV. The objectors by their explanation CONFUTE their own argument.
IT will be as well in the outset to observe, that since our rites and ceremonies are only retained as seeming good and profitable, the better mode would have been for the objectors to show at once, "that all such ceremonies as they would abrogate, either are hurtful to the Church, or that their abolition would be more beneficial to her." But forasmuch as this would be difficult, they take advantage of the deep-rooted dislike which is entertained against Popery, and endeavour to prejudice men's minds against the Church of England, by insinuating that some of her ceremonies are papistical. Whereas, they themselves, being pressed with the stringency of a question, "whether it be lawful to use any ceremonies such as the Church of Rome does, although not of special scripture direction,"-to which they dare not give a negative,-evade the matter by talking of "such ceremonies as are unprofitable," or "that as good or better may be established;" in point of fact, thus invalidating their own argument, which went to show that none were profitable, but all utterly bad. Here, then, it is reduced to a mere matter of opinion, as to what are profitable. For, until they can establish a claim as infallible judges, their assertion goes for nothing, unless supported by evidence. And when we plead the sanction of long custom and public approbation, for our rites, as being conducive to edification, the onus probandi rests upon the objectors; theirs it is to show the contrary, and not to suppose that we must give them up, merely because they presume to brand them as foolish, of their own mere will and fancy. Now, the objectors admit that they hold things, in doctrine and discipline, as good, which are yet common to the Church of Rome; but that those things are "perpetual commandments, in whose place no other can come." Whereas, all other things then those unchangeably fixed by Scripture, we ought "to do away, forasmuch as they are their ceremonies." So that, as was said before, this is the simple question to be considered, "Whether it be lawful to use any ceremonies such as the Church of Rome does, although not of special Scripture direction."
V. An answer to the argument, that in allowing the customs of our Fathers in the Church, we must not admit Popish rites, because Papists are NOT OUR FATHERS.
WHATEVER the character of the Church of Rome may be, whether those belonging to her be our fathers in the faith or not, is not here material. Neither does Augustine's rule apply here, when he says that "the customs of the people of God and our forefathers are to be kept, touching those things whereof Scripture has not given us any specific charge." For it manifestly means no more, than "if we have no divine precept, and have a primitive custom, then we are to follow it;" but at the same time, it does not preclude churches from framing such new constitutions as circumstances may require for their own government; nor yet from adopting those of any other churches, even though not our fathers, if they seem profitable; and therefore, a fortiori, we may receive from the Papists what they received from those whom we must acknowledge to have been the people of God and our forefathers, unless we disdain the race of Christ.
VI. An answer to the assertion, "That the ANALOGY of God's dealings with His people forbids our conformity with Popish rites."
THE rites, however, wherein we follow the customs of the Romish Church are, after all, only of the same kind as the Church of Geneva follows them in [the use of wafer cakes, and of godfathers and godmothers, for instance, in the two Sacraments]. So that the argument is not as to principle, but merely extent; we having followed more largely. Hence it behooves the objectors to be cautious in their condemnation, lest they inflict a blow where perhaps they intended not, when they say that the Romish Church ought in no respect whatever to be followed. Very true, Papists are heretics; and also they are our neighbors: but it follows not, therefore, that no rite of theirs is to be followed, if not forbidden in Scripture. And as to the argument, whereby they support this position, "that God severed his people from the heathens, and especially from the Egyptians, by express prohibitions against the adoption of any of their customs, however innocent in themselves, either as to habits of dress, or articles of food; and therefore the same is of equal force between Protestants and Papists:" it may be replied that their argument in the first place, is not quite certain. It does not seem clear in a perusal of the prohibitions [Lev 28:3], that God forbade them to imitate them in every thing without exception; it would seem rather, on a careful perusal, that He limited the prohibition to an imitation in such things as were repugnant to the ordinances, and statutes, and laws which He had given; and particularly against any thing connected with idolatry. And the Egyptians and Canaanites are specially mentioned, because amongst the one nation they had resided, and amongst the other they were about to do so. So that in things indifferent, it would seem there was no prohibition with reference to them, more than to other nations. Indeed, on examination, we find that some things specially forbidden, such as rounding the corners of the hair, cutting of the flesh, and making bald parts upon the head, were not so forbidden, because being in themselves indifferent, they were used by heathens; but because they were contrary to the law, as being tokens of that immoderate sorrow for the dead, with which they sorrow "who have no hope." And as to other things, such as that no garment of mixed linen and woolen should be worn [Lev 19:19]; as, also, that no swine's flesh should be eaten [Deut 14:7]; though they seem indifferent, and we have no particular knowledge why they were forbidden [It seems, however, that this particular sort of garment was worn by heathens in honour of certain of their deities; and hence it was forbidden as connected with idolatry.]; yet there may have been some reasons, beyond the mere fact that they were practices of the heathens. For in reference to the latter, surely they ate the flesh of other animals, sheep for instance; and yet if one was forbidden to the Jews merely on that ground, why not the other! Hence, even if the Church of Rome were to us as the Egyptians and Canaanites were to Israel, the argument from analogy would not hold, that we should abstain from things indifferent, simply because Papists use them.
VII. In answer to the example of ELDER CHURCHES herein.
WITH respect to the alleged cautions of the primitive Churches, that in framing of their rules, "they always had in view a sort of line of demarcation between heathens and themselves;" it may be remarked, that blindly to follow those whose judgment generally is unsound, and their practice evil, is unquestionably wrong. We have the advantage of superior light, and better examples in our Church, than they. And yet, it is not under every circumstance evil, simply to concur with heathens either in opinion or action; but only when we follow them in that wherein they do amiss; or generally adopt their customs merely from the force of imitation, without any peculiar assignable reason; inasmuch as we seem thereby to give unto them a universal sort of approbation. Indeed, Augustine evinces this, in his answer to Faustus the Manichee, who objected that many of Christian rites were analogous to heathen ceremonies, in their having temples, offerings, altars, priests, etc. He replied, that the Christians did not hold the same things as heathens, simply because the heathens held them; but because, from the very nature of the case, such things must of necessity be common to both. And whenever the primitive Church seemed to object to conformity in things indifferent, it arose from the peculiar circumstances of the times, wherein it was necessary for the faith and constancy of disciples to be clearly evinced, and held even above the slightest suspicion; e.g. when they forbade Christians to decorate their houses with boughs, as the pagans did, on their festivals; lest there should be even the semblance of conformity with their idolatrous practices. Were this not so, and were the argument of the objectors sound, that the Church did forbid such things merely because idolaters have practiced them; then it would follow, that we should be blamable now, for decking our houses, sending gifts, or holding feasts on such days as the heathens do; and the rule would hold, were we never so far disjoined, in time and place, from them. And as to the assertion, that when the children of God and Belial are near neighbors, a more stringent line of demarcation is necessary; and that in fact we ought to guard against imitating the ceremonies of Papists, because of their nearness, more carefully even than against those of the Turks: this seems to be utterly wrong. Surely the infection of Turkish or heathenish principles would be worse than that of Papistry. The Papists are much nearer to us in Christ, than Turks are; indeed, we were once a part of them: and when, through God's good Spirit, we reformed ourselves from them and from their corruptions, it was our duty rather to seek their reformation in such things, than by absolute severance from them because of things indifferent, to prejudice them so as to prevent our future usefulness in that respect. As Judah might, in things indifferent, choose conformity with Israel rather than with pagans, so might we with Papists, rather than with Turks.
VIII. It is not our best policy, as alleged, to have NO AGREEMENT at all with the Church of Rome herein.
BUT to resume. They allege that extreme contrariety is our best safeguard against the infection of Popery. Whereas, we think that, as in natural disorders, any sudden violent contrariety may be fatal, so here it is rather by properly-applied contrariety, that the evil is to be cured. We may carry our prejudices herein to an evil extent; as the Arians did, who from their utter antipathy, imagined that Papists could not entertain a sound belief in any religious doctrine; and hence that their notion of the Trinity was an antichristian corruption! and that the Pope's triple crown was the mark of the mystical beast in the Revelation, in no respect more than this, that he maintained the doctrine of the Trinity. Hence, it requires skill to know and point out where, and to what extent, Popish corruptions exist; for that they do exist grievously, we admit. But, though a corruption pervades all their ordinances, yet a judicious discernment is necessary, to distinguish accurately in the matter. And with those amongst whom there is judgment, nevertheless a difference exists, whether in the excision of the unsound portions of Romish practices, those things that are indifferent should be also taken away, so that no rite or ceremony remain but such as are recognized in Scripture. Those that maintain this, which we think extreme, allege that an extreme opposite is the only cure; even as a crooked stick must be bent to an extreme on the opposite side, in order to reduce it to straightness. Whereas, this very simile would lead us to infer, from analogy, that after a time, when the object was accomplished, we might come back to that middle state of moderate conformity which they so strongly object to.
IX. We are not to abolish our Ceremonies, merely because Papists allege, that we have BORROWED FROM THEM; or because of any VAIN HOPES which they may hence entertain.
As to the boasted assertion of the Romish Church, that we were obliged to prop up our religion by the aid of their rites; it is of no weight as an argumentative objection against our Church-independence, inasmuch as the ceremonies we retain from them did not belong to them solely as a separate sect, but were ancient rites common to the whole Church of Christ, and a sort of common property to all. Nor yet, is the alleged hope of Papists themselves, that by retaining some of their rites we may eventually be drawn back to them, of any avail. We trust our sound judgment and experience will ever be a safeguard against this. In the exercise of a sober and undistempered discretion, we selected certain rites, which seemed calculated to promote God's glory, and the good of His Church; not rejecting them merely because Papists might glory therein. Indeed, we envy them not this gratification, provided that we may retain what we think thus profitable. Again, though on some occasions Popery, for want of utter extirpation, is said to have sprouted again, yet of two evils we would choose the least, and after all, rather run this remote risk (as seems to us) than by utter extirpation, to endanger the very existence of our religion itself, and open a way for paganism or utter barbarity. Neither yet can the objectors prove what they assert, "that the most strenuous upholders of our rites are popishly inclined;" but even if it were so, their assertion may be met by a counter one, viz. "that many who are clamorous for the abrogation of Popish orders,-including, for instance, Episcopacy as one,- are so chiefly from their hope of spoliation accruing, and of the overthrow of religion altogether."
X. The alleged GRIEF OF THE GODLY at our conformity with Popish Rites.
AS to the alleged grief of mind which is caused to the godly by our rites, we simply remark, that till they can prove the things wrong in themselves, we should be as much pained by the removal, as they allege they are by the retention of them. And, indeed, we might simply point out to them how the Church of Geneva has the good old Popish rites of godfathers and godmothers, and of wafer-cakes in the Eucharist; which things their godly brethren can put up with there: why should not themselves do it here? and rather in Christian patience possess their souls, than be perpetually harassing us with their fancied grievances! This would be a much better course: for after all it does not seem so certain that the infection of Papistry can so much spread, by our merely adopting things from them, indifferent in themselves; and, at all events, it is incumbent on them to show this by fair argument, rather than mere assertion: moreover, to show it, not as a simple possibility (for it were endless to provide for every possible case), but as a probability. Nor yet will their quotation from Jeremiah [Jer 51:9] here apply, which they urge to maintain their axiom, "That the sound Church of Christ must not be like any heretical Church even in things indifferent." Bread, for instance, is prescribed for the Eucharist; but the kind of bread is left indifferent. Now, the Papists use unleavened bread, therefore we may not follow them: but the Greek Church uses leavened; and therefore (if their axiom be worth aught) we may not follow them: and hence we may not have a Sacrament at all. [Nor yet can they escape by the plea of distance or nearness; let them imagine a reformed Church in Venice, where a Greek Church and a Popish one are, and their axiom is destroyed at once.]
XI. An objection against the alleged JEWISH nature of our Rites.
HAVING thus disposed of the argument as to its general bearing, there are, however, some specific points remaining; such as, that some of the rites we have adopted from Papists were either taken by them improperly from the Jewish ordinances, or had a tendency to idolatry; and, therefore, they ought to be removed,-even as Constantine held in respect of keeping of Easter, that Christians ought not therein to follow the Jews: or as the Council of Laodicaea decreed, that "Christians should not take unleavened bread of the Jews, or communicate with their impiety." Now, though the Jews were deadly enemies to Christianity, and therefore least fit to be taken as our patterns; yet there is no absolute prohibition herein as to every thing: and though the Jewish ordinances were solemnly abrogated, yet the exact extent to which this reaches is not quite agreed upon; and to those points where it reaches not, there honor is due, were it only on the ground of God being originally the author of them. It is clear that Jewish ordinances had some natural obligations in them; such, therefore, were of perpetuity. Their positive ones were, by the coming of Christ, rendered either necessary to be abrogated, or remained indifferent; circumcision and sacrifice being of the abrogated ones necessarily. And yet the Apostles did not so teach the absolute abrogation of these latter, but that Jewish Christians might for a time continue them. And hence there were fifteen Christian bishops in Jerusalem, of the circumcision, before the Episcopacy of Mark, who was the first that was uncircumcised, in the days of Adrian. At first, indeed, Jewish Christians imagined that Gentile Christians were bound to observe the whole law, and disputes arose in consequence, that led to a public Council at Jerusalem [Acts 15], which determined against it. And when Paul's preaching as to the freedom of the Gentiles herein was misrepresented, as though he held the Jews equally free, he had to appear and clear himself at Jerusalem, before James and others of the Church [Acts 21:20]. Hence we see that Gentiles were not made conformable to Jews in those positive things, which were necessarily to cease at Christ's coming. And as to those that were indifferent, we find the Apostles only requiring Gentile Christians "to abstain from things offered unto idols, from blood, from things strangled;" binding them in these points rather on account of their convenience and fitness for the Church as it then stood; that they might not give unnecessary offense to the Jewish converts; while at the same time the latter were not to lay upon them unnecessary burdens. It was a commonly received opinion that the sons of Noah had seven precepts given them by God; 1. To have regular government; 2. To worship God; 3 To shun idolatry; 4. Not to permit effusion of blood; 5. To avoid fornication; 6. To commit no rapine; 7. Not to eat flesh with the blood therein. And as the Gentiles were received into the household of faith equally with the Jews, it might seem but reasonable to the Council to bind them to the third, fifth, and seventh of these, being positive precepts, which in fact were in force before Moses' time; while to the observance of the others they were bound by natural law. It may, however, be asked, how should the fifth be thus mentioned? Were they not bound by Nature to avoid fornication? Now, perhaps, a little consideration may show, that this term may not mean what it at first sight seems. The Jews, more than other nations, were accustomed to consider near alliances in blood as impure; and an incestuous marriage is termed by St. Paul, fornication. [1 Cor 5:1] As the "abstaining from blood" might be taken to avoid shedding of blood, but in this place we know it only means eating blood; so the phrase, "avoiding of fornication" being thus mentioned along with positive ordinances, may in the same manner mean "marriage within the Jewish prohibited degrees:" and thus all is consistent. Hence, in some things the Gentiles were to conform to the Jews, and in some not, and some were left indifferent to them. Many and various have been the controversies in the Christian Church, as to Judaism. Some condemning it absolutely; others considering it as requiring speedy abrogation; others urging it as of perpetual obligation, and this even after the Council of Jerusalem. To control such slanderers of the Law and the Prophets, however, as the Marcionites and Manichees, our Church in her Liturgy has intermingled lessons from the Old Testament with those from the New. Now, the Law, though good, had an end in Christ; and yet it had not an end immediately on Christ's appearance; the Christian Jews themselves continued their legal services till the temple was destroyed. Neither after that, was it so far bad (as objectors aver) in itself, that its very names of altar, priest, and sacrifice were therefore to be abolished: they are retained, only under a metaphorical sense, however; our Saviour's functions having been typified by them. And as some names are thus lawfully retained, so some rites may be, provided they be not specifically abrogated under the Gospel, and be indifferent in themselves. At the same time, we see by the practice of St. Paul and of the primitive Church, that great caution was exercised to prevent Judaizers from weakening or perverting the great truths of the Gospel; so that, even after the overthrow of the Jewish state, the council of Laodicea, for instance, decreed "From the Jews let not men receive their unleavened (bread) nor communicate with their impieties." From which, when compared with other decrees, we learn, not that Christians were forbidden unleavened bread, simply because used by the Jews, but that they were to be withdrawn from any thing that might, under existing circumstances, lead them to a "communion of faith and fellowship" with them. Now, that these decrees were not founded either on the belief that we ought not to communicate with Jews, even in things indifferent; or that every portion of their ritual was utterly abrogated, is shown by the fact, that the framers of them kept Easter according to the Jewish mode of computation, and contrary to the practice of the Western Church: and again, this latter Church used unleavened bread, as the Jews did, being herein opposed to the Eastern one. Had it been otherwise, each Church would have respectively abstained from imitating the Jews in each of these points.
XII. Another objection, because some of our rites have been abused to Idolatry.
BUT the gravest objection urged, is against what are said to be serious scandals, which have been caused by adopting certain gross abuses from the Church of Rome; and this requires some investigation. First, for the term, Scandal: it may be defined to be "any thing that is offensive, whereby men may be encouraged in sin;" e.g. David's conduct in the matter of Uriah, which was a scandal simply per se, and in its own nature. Some things become however, scandals, or matters of offense, incidentally; as some heathen ceremonies which, indifferent in themselves, could not yet be viewed by a condemner of idolatry without dislike. Again, others may become so constructively, as it were; as when, for instance, Eunomian heretics laid the water of baptism on but once, in order to cross the custom of the Trinitarians, who did it thrice. Now, whereas, it is asserted, that certain ceremonies, as crossing at Baptism, kneeling at the Eucharist, etc., have been grossly abused to evil; the question therefore is, "Whether of necessity they must be removed." No one will, however, say they are evil, per se. Were they then abused to evil at their very commencement? Even in this case, we often see that customs, bad in their origin, and once much objected to, have by degrees lost their obnoxious character, and are still retained; e.g. the heathenish names of our months, and days of the week: and so, also, religious rites, as, for instance, the Eunomian practice of baptism just referred to. But this latter objection does not apply to such Romish rites as are most cavilled at; they were not originally instituted for evil, but for good; and therefore can only have become evil by perversion. If we then use them to their original good purpose, they cannot be a scandal to ourselves; nor yet to the Papists, who are rather grieved at our apostacy, than encouraged in error by us; nor yet to our opponents, whose anti-Popish feelings are surely a sufficient safeguard against any papistical leaven from them. And if the weakness of some few (and few they hence must be) leads them to misconstrue, are we therefore to abolish utterly all such rites, merely on their account? The objectors reply "Yes," and plead St. Paul's rule of "not abusing our liberty to the injury of a weak brother;" alleging, that as the "eating of meats" was to the weak Jews, so the "use of papistical rites" is, to such weak ones as are above-mentioned. But the parallel does not hold: 1st, because in proportion of numbers; inasmuch as the prejudice was held by the Jews generally, whereas in our case it is only by a very few: nor, 2ndly, in kind; for eating of meats was to them an affair of private concern, whereas rites form a portion of the public constitution of the Church. And it is not meet, that what is judged fittest for a whole body, should be abrogated for a few weak dissentients; particularly when the remedy is at hand, of removing their scruples by better light of instruction. Singularly enough, however, the cavillers against the ceremonies (the particulars whereof will be treated of in the next book) object to men's time being occupied with curing scruples on these points by preaching, when more important matter is before them. If other matters be so much more important, why then do they raise a turmoil, as they have always done, about matters, by their own admission, so unimportant; and represent things as so grievous a snare to men's minds, whereon, after all, it is not worth while to spend time in setting them right?
XIII. Blame imputed because we follow not the EXAMPLE of Elder reformed Churches.
LASTLY, we are charged with neglect of Christian duty, in not cherishing a spirit of amity, and conforming to the practice of other Churches that preceded us in the work of reformation, according to St. Paul's directions to the Church of Corinth [1 Cor. 16:1], or that of the council of Nice, in reference to standing at prayers, -- "that one custom should be kept in all the Churches." And therefore we ought to discontinue papistical rites, and assimilate ourselves to the practice of reformed Churches, as the younger to the elder. To the argument of the preservation of peace and unity we willingly defer: the only question is how far, and by what means? The objectors say, "as much as possibly may be:" but this, if taken literally, seems far too stringent a rule, as to things indifferent in themselves, and which after all must be regulated by a certain degree of expediency. Indeed, Augustine admits on this point, that "if there be unity of faith, it suffers no let or impediment from a variety of ordinances." And Calvin actually says, "it sometimes profits that there be a difference of ceremonies, lest men should think that religion was tied to outward ceremonies." They who admit that diversity of indifferent rites ought not to breed dissension or schism between Churches, do, by that very admission, destroy all ground of their objections on this head; and prove themselves needless disturbers of Church concord, when they urge a conformity in all things, except where an utter impossibility exists. As to the argument taken from St. Paul's direction, it avails not here; for it merely applies to the collections for the poor being made regularly, as a matter of convenience, not having the slightest bearing upon Church rites. And with reference to the decree of Nice, it makes for us; inasmuch as there having been a long practice in the Church, during Pentecost and on Sundays, to stand at prayers, some few began to alter their custom herein, and to kneel; whereupon they enjoined all to conform in standing posture; clearly showing that the opinion of the Church in general must not be conceded to a few individuals in it. Since Scripture does not prescribe all particular ceremonies; and so many modes in things indifferent might occur to the natural mind, the only practicable method of procuring uniformity, seems to be, from the deliberate consultation and decision of the Church in general council hereupon; and not from the utterly impracticable suggestion of Churches mutually adopting from each other, till all come to a similarity. As to the alleged duty of the later Churches in the Reformation to follow those that led the way, for which they plead St. Paul's argument: the Apostle answers their position himself, saying in effect to the Corinthians [1 Cor 4:36], "Men instructed in the knowledge of Jesus Christ there were both before you, and are besides you in the world;" clearly showing that precedence in time did not confer superiority. Indeed, example can only prevail to induce, where other circumstances make indifferent things advisable, but it has no binding power. Our not choosing to adopt practices of other Churches, by no means, however, proves that we condemn them, any more than it proves us wrong; each may be safely left to the charitable construction of the other.
XIV. A declaration of the proceedings of the CHURCH OF ENGLAND in establishing her present rites.
But omitting reformed Churches abroad, to consider the Church of England. Resolving to reform her religious constitutions, caution was necessary for her. For though laws may become, in course of time, unsuitable, and necessary to be altered; yet, considering how men become the creatures of custom, the change or abolition even of a useless, or ill-working law, is often attended with inconvenience, and sometimes causes a suspicion of the soundness of those laws that remain, and so far impairs the respect in which they ought to be held. The change of Laws, however, is admitted to be sometimes necessary. But when the Apostles were commissioned by our Saviour to establish new constitutions of religion, they were supernaturally endowed with wisdom from above to arrange them, and with miraculous powers to convince men of their authority. If we, therefore, have no such directions, we can only proceed to the change of laws upon clear and undeniable proof of its necessity; and not from mere opinion: nor yet even for apparent slight advantages, lest the remedy prove even more hurtful than the disease. Hence our Reformers prudently resolved only to cut off at first such things as might be well spared; retaining the residue either partially to fall into desuetude by time, or to be retained, as circumstances might show expedient. And in doing this they determined that the least needful, and those of latest introduction, should be first rescinded, as saints'-days, etc. By degrees, our liturgy, articles, canons, and catechisms being framed, and the Church purged of idle and burdensome ceremonies, all was brought to that happy condition wherein we now stand. Yet in thus acting, they have not, however, escaped (what man can?) the censure of the self-opinionated, because, forsooth, they did not in hasty zeal pluck up root and branch, and change even those customs, which being established in primitive times, had received the sanctions both of councils and of time! It is true, that in indifferent things, no antiquity or council can sanction what may prove inexpedient, so as to prevent the Church from abrogating it. At the same time, till they be abolished by proper authority, it might be well to submit to their observance. And it would have been an unwise proceeding in our Reformers, through blind hatred of papal superstition, to tear up the most indifferent things merely from having the name of papistical, though of never so long and revered continuance; and even as some zealots would have it to have adopted Turkish ceremonies in preference! But God Almighty providentially endued them with wisdom and right understanding herein, and saved us from those consequences of extreme measures, arising from violence on the one hand, and desperation on the other, which other States have experienced; and which after all ended in what had better have been at first, viz. a General Consultation as to what might be best for all. And herein is the wisdom of their proceedings shown the more clearly, by contrasting the troubled state of Foreign Churches with the happy one of our own. How much better then is it, to exercise forbearance of Christian charity, than to raise the turmoil of hot controversy herein: and to be warmly thankful to that Providence, which, when Superstition had risen to its utmost height, raised up His own instruments, to work out, through various difficulties, and amidst sundry interruptions, the glorious REFORMATION, after so wise and godly a fashion, that we cannot but perceive the applicability of the words of Zecharias therein, "Neither by an army, nor strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts!" [Zech. 4:6]
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