« Prev A Survey of the First Chapter. Inconsistent… Next »

A Survey of the First Chapter

[Inconsistent expressions of Parker in regard to the power of the magistrate and the rights of conscience — The design of his discourse to prove the magistrate’s authority to govern the consciences of his subjects in affairs of religion — This doctrine inconsistent with British law — Ascribes more power to the magistrate than to Christ — Contrary to the history of the royal prerogative — Alleged necessity of the principle to public peace and order — Evils alleged to spring from liberty of conscience — The principle of Parker no real preventive to these evils — Various pleas refuted.44   No contents to the different sections of this treatise appear in the previous editions. We have prefixed a brief table of them to each section, as far as possible in the words of our author. — Ed.]

The author of this discourse seems, in this first chapter, to design the stating of the controversy which he intendeth to pursue and handle (as he expresseth himself, p. 11); as also, to lay down the main foundations of his ensuing superstructure. Nothing could be more regularly projected, nor more suited to the satisfaction of ingenious inquirers into the matters under debate; for those who have any design in reading beyond a present divertisement of their minds or entertainment of their fancies, desire nothing more than to have the subject-matter which they exercise their thoughts about clearly and distinctly proposed, that a true judgment may be made concerning what men say and whereof they do affirm. But I fear our author hath fallen under the misadventure of a failure in these projections, at least as unto that certainty, clearness, and perspicuity in the declaration of his conceptions and expression of his assertions and principles, without which all other ornaments of speech, in 370matters of moment, are of no use or consideration. His language is good and proper; his periods of speech laboured, full, and even; his expressions poignant towards his adversaries, and, singly taken, appearing to be very significative and expressive of his mind. But I know not how it is come to pass that, what either [whether?] through his own defect as to a due comprehension of the notions whose management he hath undertaken, or out of a design to cloud and obscure his sentiments, and to take the advantage of loose, declamatory expressions, it is very hard, if possible, to gather from what he hath written either what is the true state of the controversy proposed to discussion, or what is the precise, determinate sense of those words wherein he proposeth the principles that he proceeds upon.

Thus, in the title of the book he asserts “the power of the magistrate over the consciences of men;” elsewhere [he] confines “the whole work and duty of conscience to the inward thoughts and persuasions of the mind, over which the magistrate hath no power at all.” “Conscience itself,” he sometimes says, “is every man’s opinion;” sometimes he calls it an “imperious faculty;” — which surely are not the same. Sometimes he pleads for “the uncontrollable power of magistrates over religion and the consciences of men;” sometimes asserts their “ecclesiastical jurisdiction” as the same thing, and seemingly all that he intends; — whereas, I suppose, no man ever yet defined “ecclesiastical jurisdiction” to be “an uncontrollable power over religion and the consciences of men.” The magistrate’s “power over religion” he asserts frequently, and denieth outward worship to be any part of religion, and at last pleads upon the matter only for his power over outward worship. Every particular virtue he affirms to be such, because it is “a resemblance and imitation of some of the divine attributes;” yet [he] also teacheth that there may be more virtues, or new ones that were not so, and that to be virtue in one place which is not so in another. Sometimes he pleads that the magistrate hath power to impose “any religion on the consciences of his subjects that doth not countenance vice or disgrace the Deity,” and then anon pleads for it in indifferent things and circumstances of outward worship only. Also, that the magistrate may” oblige his subjects’ consciences” to the performance of moral duties, and other duties in religious worship, under penalties, and yet “punisheth none for their crime and guilt, but for the example of others. And many other instances of the like nature may be given.

Now, whatever dress of words these things may be set off withal, they savour rankly of crude and undigested notions, not reduced unto such a consistency in his mind as to suffer him to speak evenly, steadily, and constantly to them. Upon the whole matter, it may not be unmeetly said of his discourses, what Tully said of Rullus’s oration 371about the agrarian law: “Concionem … advocari jubet: summâ cum expectatione concurritur. Explicat orationem sanè longam, et verbis valdè bonis. Unum erat quod mihi vitiosum videbatur, quod tantâ ex frequentitâ inveniri nemo potuit, qui intelligere posset, quid diceret. Hoc ille utrum insidiarum causâ fecerit, an hoc genere eloquentiæ delectetur, nescio. Tamen, siqui acutiores in concione steterunt, de lege agraria nescio quid voluisse eum dicere, suspicabantur.” [De Lege Agr., ii. 5] Many good words it is composed of, many sharp reflections are made on others, a great appearance there is of reason; but besides that it is plain that he treats of the Nonconformists and the magistrate’s power, and would have this latter exercised about the punishment or destruction of the former (which almost every page expresseth), it is very hard to gather what is the case he speaks unto, or what are the principles he proceeds upon.

The entrance of his discourse is designed to give an account of the great difficulty which he intends to assail, of the controversy that he will handle and debate, and of the difference which he will compose. Here, if anywhere, accuracy, perspicuity, and a clear, distinct direction of the minds of the reader unto a certain just apprehension of the matter in question and difference, ought to be expected; for if the foundation of discourses of this nature be laid in terms general, ambiguous, loose, rhetorical, and flourishing, giving no particular, determinate sense of the controversy (for so this is called by our author), all that ensues in the pursuit of what is so laid down must needs be of the same complexion. And such appears to be the declamatory entrance of this chapter; for instead of laying a solid foundation to erect his superstructure upon, the author seems in it only to have built a castle in the air, that makes a goodly appearance and show, but is of no validity or use. Can he suppose that any man is the wiser or the more intelligent, in the difference about liberty of conscience, the power and duty of magistrates in granting or denying an indulgence unto the exercise of it, by reading an elegant parabolical discourse of “two supreme powers, the magistrate and conscience, contesting for sovereignty, in and about” no man knows what? What conscience is, what liberty of conscience, what it is pleaded for to extend unto, who are concerned in it, whether its plea be resolved absolutely into its own nature and constitution, or into that respect which it hath to another common rule of the minds and conceptions of men in and about the worship of God, is not declared; nor is it easily discernible what he allows and approves of in his own discourse, and what he introduceth to reflect upon, and so reject. Page 5, he tells us that “conscience is subject and accountable to God alone, that it owns no superior but the Lord of consciences;” and, p. 7, “that those who make it accountable to none but God alone do in effect 372usurp their prince’s crown, defy his authority, and acknowledge no governor but themselves”! If it be pleaded that, in the first place, not what is, but what is unduly pretended, is declared, his words may be as well so expounded in all his ascriptions unto magistrates also, — namely, that it is not with them as he asserts, but only it is unduly pretended so to be, — as to any thing that appears in the discourse. The distinct consideration of the principles of conscience and the outward exercise of it can alone here give any show of relief. But as no distinction of that nature doth as yet appear, and, if rested on, ought to have been produced by any one who understood himself, and intended not to deceive or entangle others, so when it is brought on the stage, its inconsistency to serve the end designed shall be evinced. But that a plea for the consciences of private men (submitting themselves freely and willingly to the supreme power and government of magistrates in all things belonging to public peace and tranquillity) to have liberty to express their obedience unto God in the exercise of his outward worship, should receive such a tragical description, of a “rival supreme power set up against the magistrate, to the usurpation of his crown and dignity,” is a new way of stating controversies, whether in divinity or policy, which this author judgeth conducing to his design and purpose; and I shall say no more but that those who delight in such a way of writing, and do receive light and satisfaction thereby, do seem to be exercised in a logic that I was never acquainted withal, and which I shall not now inquire after.

What seems to be of real difficulty in this matter, which is so rhetorically exaggerated, our blessed Saviour hath stated and determined in one word. “Give,” saith he, “unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s, and to God the things that are God’s;” and this he did when he gave his disciples command not only to think, judge, and believe according to what he should propose and reveal unto them, but also to observe and do in outward practices whatever he should command them. As he requires all subjection unto the magistrate in things of his proper cognizance, — that is, all things necessary to public peace and tranquillity in this world, the great end of his authority; so he asserts also that there are things of God which are to be observed and practised, even all and every one of his own commands, in a neglect whereof, on any pretence or account, we give not unto God that which is his. And he doubted not but that these things, these distinct respects to God and man, were exceedingly well consistent, and together directive to the same end of public good. Wherefore, passing through the flourishes of this frontispiece with the highest unconcernment, we may enter the fabric itself, where, possibly, we may find him declaring directly what it is that he asserts 373in this matter and contendeth for; and this he doth, p. 10: “And, therefore, it is the design of this discourse, by a fair and impartial debate, to compose all these differences, and adjust all these quarrels and contentions, and settle things upon their true and proper foundations; first, by proving it to be absolutely necessary to the peace and government of the world, that the supreme magistrate of every commonwealth should be vested with a power to govern and conduct the consciences of subjects in affairs of religion.”

I am sure our author will not be surprised, if, after he hath reported the whole party whom he opposeth as a company of “silly, foolish, illiterate persons,” one of them should so far acknowledge his own stupidity as to profess that, after the consideration of this declaration of his intention and mind, he is yet to seek for the direct and determinate sense of his words, and for the principle that he designs the confirmation of. I doubt not but that the magistrate hath all that power which is absolutely necessary for the preservation of public peace and tranquillity in the world; but if men may be allowed to fancy what they please to be necessary unto that end, and thence to make their own measures of that power which is to be ascribed unto him, no man knows what bounds will be fixed unto that ocean wherein the leviathans they have framed in their imaginations may sport themselves. Some will, perhaps, think it necessary to this purpose that the magistrate should have power to declare and determine whether there be a God or no; Whether, if there be, it be necessary he should be worshipped or no; whether any religion be needful in, or useful to, the world; and if there be, then to determine what all subjects shall believe and practice from first to last in the whole of it. And our author hopes that some are of this mind. Others may confine it to lesser things, according as their own interest doth call upon them so to do, though they are not able to assign a clear distinction between what is subjected unto him and what may plead an exemption from his authority. He, indeed, who is the fountain and original of all power hath both assigned its proper end, and fully suited it to the attainment thereof; and if the noise of men’s lusts, passions, and interests, were but a little silenced, we should quickly hear the harmonious consenting voice of human nature itself declaring the just proportion that is between the grant of power and its end, and undeniably expressing it in all the instances of it: for as the principle of rule and subjection is natural to us, concreated with us, and indispensably necessary to human society, in all the distinctions it is capable of, and the relations whence those distinctions arise; so nature itself, duly attended unto, will not fail, by the reason of things, to direct us unto all that is essential unto it and necessary unto its end. Arbitrary fictions of ends of government, 374and what is necessary thereunto, influenced by present interest, and arising from circumstances confined to one place, time, or nation, are not to be imposed on the nature of government itself, which hath nothing belonging unto it but what inseparably accompanieth mankind as sociable.

But to let this pass; the authority here particularly asserted is a “power in the supreme magistrate to govern and guide the consciences of his subjects in affairs of religion.” Let any man duly consider these expressions, and if he be satisfied by them as to the sense of the controversy under debate, I shall acknowledge that he is wiser than I, — which is very easy for any one to be. What are the “affairs of religion” here intended, all or some; whether in religion or about it; what are the “consciences of men,” and how exercised about these things; what it is to “govern and conduct” them; with what “power,” by what means, this may be done, — I am at a loss, for aught that yet is here declared. There is a guidance, conduct, yea, government of the consciences of men, by instructions and directions, in a due proposal of rational and spiritual motives, for those ends, such as is that which is vested in and exercised by the guides of the church, and that in subjection to and dependence on Christ alone, as hath been hitherto apprehended, though some now seem to have a mind to change their master, and to take up “præsente Numine,” who may be of more advantage to them. That the magistrate hath also power so to govern and conduct the consciences of his subjects in his way of administration, — that is, by ordering them to be taught, instructed, and guided in their duty, — I know none that doth deny: so did Jehoshaphat, 2 Chron. xvii. 7–9. But it seems to be a government and guidance of another nature that is here intended. To deliver ourselves, therefore, from the deceit and entanglement of these general expressions, and that we may know what to speak unto, we must seek for a declaration of their sense and importance from what is elsewhere, in their pursuit, affirmed and explained by their author.

His general assertion is, as was observed, “That the magistrate hath power over the consciences of his subjects in religion,” as appears in the title of his book; here, p. 10, that power is said to be “to govern and conduct their consciences in religious affairs;” p. 13, that “religion is subject to his dominion, as well as all other affairs of state;” p. 27, that “it is a sovereignty over men’s consciences in matters of religion, and this universal, absolute, and uncontrollable.” Matters of religion are as uncontrollably subject to the supreme power as all other civil concerns: “He may, if he please, reserve the exercise of the priesthood to himself,” p. 32; — that is, what now in religion corresponds unto the ancient priesthood, as the ordering bishops and 375priests, administering sacraments, and the like; as the Papists in Queen Elizabeth’s time did commonly report, in their usual manner, that it was done by a woman amongst us, by a fiction of such principles as begin, it seems, now to be owned. That if this “power of the government of religion be not universal and unlimited, it is useless,” p. 35; that this “power is not derived from Christ, nor any grant of his, but is antecedent to his coming, or any power given unto him or granted by him,” p. 40. “Magistrates have a power to make that a particular of the divine law which God had not made so,” p. 80, and “to introduce new duties in the most important parts of religion: so that there is a public conscience, which men are in things of a public concern (relating to the worship of God) to attend unto, and not to their own; and if there be any sin in the command, he that imposed it shall answer for it, and not I, whose whole duty it is to obey,” p. 308. Hence, the command of “authority will warrant obedience, and obedience will hallow my actions and excuse me from sin,” ibid. Hence it follows, that whatever the magistrate commands in religion, his authority doth so immediately affect the consciences of men that they are bound to observe it, on the pain of the greatest sin and punishment; and he may appoint and command whatever he pleaseth in religion, “that doth not either countenance vice or disgrace the Deity,” p. 85. And many other expressions are there of the general assertion before laid down.

This, therefore, seems to me, and to the most impartial considerations of this discourse that I could bring unto it, to be the doctrine or opinion proposed and advanced for the quieting and composing of the great tumults described in its entrance, — namely, that the supreme magistrate in every nation hath power to order and appoint what religion his subjects shall profess and observe, or what he pleaseth in religion, as to the worship of God required in it, provided that he” enjoineth nothing that doth countenance vice or disgrace the Deity;” and thereby binds their consciences to profess and observe that which is by him so appointed (and nothing else are they to observe), making it their duty in conscience so to do, and the highest crime or sin to do any thing to the contrary, and that whatever the precise truth in these matters be, or whatever be the apprehensions of their own consciences concerning them. Now, if our author can produce any law, usage, or custom of this kingdom, any statute or act of parliament, any authentic record, any acts or declarations of our kings, any publicly-authorized writing, before or since the Reformation, declaring, asserting, or otherwise approving, the power and authority described to belong unto, to be claimed or exercised by, the kings of this nation, I will faithfully promise him never to write one word against it, although I am sure I shall never be of that mind. And, if I mistake 376not, in a transient reflection on these principles, compared with those which the church of England hath formerly pleaded against them who opposed her constitutions, they are utterly by them cast out of all consideration; and this one notion is advanced in the room of all the foundations which, for so many years, her defenders (as wise and as learned as this author) have been building upon. But this is not my concernment to examine; I shall leave it unto them whose it is, and whose it will be made appear to be, if we are again necessitated to engage in this dispute.

For the present be it granted that it is the duty and in the power of every supreme magistrate to order and determine what religion, what way, what modes in religion, shall be allowed, publicly owned, and countenanced, and by public revenue maintained in his dominions; — that is, this is allowed with respect to all pretensions of other sovereigns, or of his own subjects. With respect unto God, it is his truth alone, the religion by him revealed, and the worship by him appointed, that he can so allow or establish. The rule that holds in private persons with respect to the public magistrate holds in him with respect unto God. “Illud possumus quod jure possumus.” It is also agreed that no men, no individual person, no order or society of men, are, either in their persons or any of their outward concerns, exempted, or may be so, on the account of religion, from his power and jurisdiction; nor any causes that are liable unto a legal, political disposal and determination. It is also freely acknowledged that whatever such a magistrate cloth determine about the observances of religion, and under what penalties soever, his subjects are bound to observe what he doth so command and appoint, unless by general or especial rules their consciences are obliged to a dissent or contrary observation, by the authority of God and his word. In this case they are to keep their souls entire in their spiritual subjection unto God, and quietly and peaceably to bear the troubles and inconveniences which on the account thereof may befall them, without the least withdrawing of their obedience from the magistrate. And in this state of things, as there is no necessity or appearance of it that any man should be brought into such a condition as wherein sin on the one hand or the other cannot be avoided, so that state of things will probably occur in the world, as it hath done in all ages hitherto, that men may be necessitated to sin or suffer.

To wind up the state of this controversy, we say, that antecedent to the consideration of the power of the magistrate, and all the influence that it hath upon men or their consciences, there is a superior determination of what is true, what false in religion, what right and what wrong in the worship of God, wherein the guidance of the consciences of men doth principally depend, and whereinto it is 377ultimately resolved. This gives an obligation or liberty unto them antecedent unto the imposition of the magistrate of whose commands, and our actual obedience unto them in these things, it is the rule and measure. And I think there is no principle, no common presumption of nature, nor dictate of reason, more evident, known, or confessed than this, that whatever God commands us, in his worship or otherwise, that we are to do; and whatever he forbids us, that we are not to do, be the things themselves in our eye great or small.

Neither is there any difference, in these things, with respect unto the way or manner of the declaration of the will of God. Whether it be by innate common light or by revelation, all is one; the authority and will of God in all is to be observed. Yea, in command of God, made known by revelation (the way which is most contended about), may suspend, as to any particular instance, the greatest command that we are obliged unto by the law of nature in reference unto one another; as it did in the precept given to Abraham for the sacrificing of his son. And we shall find our author himself setting up the supremacy of conscience in opposition unto and competition with that of the magistrate (though with no great self-consistency), ascribing the pre-eminence and prevalency in obligation unto that of conscience, and that in the principal and most important duties of religion and human life. Such are all those moral virtues which have in their nature a resemblance of the divine perfections, wherein he placeth the substance of religion. With respect unto these, he so setteth up the throne of conscience as to affirm that if any thing be commanded by the magistrate against them, “to disobey him is no sin, but a duty.” And we shall find the case to be the same in matters of mere revelation; for what God commands, that he commands, by what way soever that command be made known to us; and there is no consideration that can add any thing to the obligatory power and efficacy of infinite authority. So that where the will of God is the formal reason of our obedience, it is all one how or by what means it is discovered unto us. Whatever we are instructed in by innate reason or by revelation, the reason why we are bound by it is neither the one nor the other, but the authority of God in both.

But we must return unto the consideration of the sentiments of our author in this matter, as before laid down. The authority ascribed to the civil magistrate being as hath been expressed, it will be very hard for any one to distinguish between it and the sovereignty that the Lord Christ himself hath in and over his church; yea, if there be any advantage on either side, or a comparative pre-eminence, it will be found to be cast upon that of the magistrate. Is the Lord Christ the lord of the souls and consciences of men? hath he dominion over them, to rule them in the things of the worship of God? 378— it is so with the magistrate also; he hath a universal power over the consciences of his subjects.” Doth the Lord Christ require his disciples to do and observe in the worship of God whatever he commanded them? — so also may the magistrate, “the rule and conduct of conscience in these matters belonging unto him,” provided that he command nothing that may “countenance vice or disgrace the Deity;” which, with reverence be it spoken, our Lord Jesus Christ himself, not only on the account of the perfection and rectitude of his own nature, but also of his commission from the Father, could not do. Is the authority of Christ the formal reason making obedience necessary to his commands and precepts? — so is the authority of the magistrate in reference unto what he requires. Do men, therefore, sin if they neglect the observance of the commands of Christ in the worship of God, because of his immediate authority so to command them binding their consciences? — so do men sin if they omit or neglect to do what the magistrate requires in the worship of God, because of his authority, without any farther respect. Hath the Lord Christ instituted two sacraments in the worship of God, that is, “outward visible signs,” or symbols, of inward invisible or spiritual grace?” — the magistrate, if he please, may institute and appoint twenty under the name of “significant ceremonies,” that is, “outward visible signs of inward spiritual grace,” which alone is the significancy contended about. Hath the magistrate this his authority in and over religion and the consciences of men from Jesus Christ? No more than Christ hath his authority from the magistrate, for he holds it by the law of nature, antecedent to the promise and coming of Christ. Might Christ in his own person administer the holy things of the church of God? Not in the church of the Jews, for he “sprang of the tribe of Judah, concerning which nothing was spoken as to the priesthood;” only he might in that of the gospel, but hath judged meet to commit the actual administration of them to others. So it is with the magistrate also.

Thus far, then, Christ and the magistrate seem to stand on even or equal terms. But there are two things remaining that absolutely turn the scale, and cast the advantage on the magistrate’s side; for, first, Men may do and practice many things in the worship of God which the Lord Christ hath nowhere nor by any means required. Yea, to think that his word, or the revelation of his mind and will therein, is “the sole and adequate rule of religious worship,” is reported as an “opinion foolish, absurd, and impious, and destructive of all government.” If this be not supposed, not only the whole design of our author in this book is defeated, but our whole controversy also is composed and at an end. But, on the other hand, no man must do or practice any thing in that way but what is prescribed, appointed, 379and commanded by the magistrate, upon pain of sin, schism, rebellion, and all that follow thereon. To leave this unasserted is all that the Nonconformists would desire in order unto peace. Comprehension and indulgence would ensue thereon. Here, I think, the magistrate hath the advantage. But that which follows will make it yet more evident; for, secondly, Suppose the magistrate require any thing to be done and observed in the worship of God, and the Lord Christ require the quite contrary in a man’s own apprehension, so that he is as well satisfied in his apprehension of his mind as he can be of any thing that is proposed to his faith and conscience in the word of God; in this case he is to obey the magistrate, and not Christ, as far as I can learn, unless all confusion and disorder be admitted an entrance into the world. Yea, but this seems directly contrary to that rule of the apostles, which hath such an evidence and power of rational conviction attending it, that they refer it to the judgment of their adversaries, and those persons of as perverse, corrupt minds and prejudicate engagements against them and their cause as ever lived in the world, — namely, “Whether it be right to obey God or man, judge ye.” But we are told that “this holds only in greater matters,” the logic (by the way) of which distinction is as strange as its divinity; for if the formal reason of the difference intimated arise from the comparison between the authority of God and man, it holds equally as to all things, small or great, that they may be oppositely concerned in. Besides, who shall judge what is small or what is great in things of this nature? “Cave ne titubes.” Grant but the least judgment to private men themselves in this matter, and the whole fabric tumbles. If the magistrate be judge of what is great and of what is little, we are still where we were, without hope of delivery. And this, to me, is a notable instance of the pre-eminence of the magistrate above Christ in this matter. Some of the old Irish have a proverbial speech amongst them, “That if Christ had not been Christ when he was Christ, Patrick had been Christ,” but it seems now, that taking it for granted that he was Christ, yet we have another that is so also, that is lord over the souls and consciences of men; and what can be said more of him “who sits in the temple of God, and shows himself to be God?”

As we formerly said, Nonconformists, who are unacquainted with the mysteries of things of this nature, must needs desire to know whether these be the avowed principles of the church of England, or whether they are only inventions to serve a present turn of the pursuit of some men’s designs. Are all the old pleas of the jus divinum” of episcopacy, of example and direction apostolical, of a parity of reason between the condition of the church whilst under extraordinary officers and whilst under ordinary, of the power of 380the church to appoint ceremonies for decency and order, of the consistency of Christian liberty with the necessary practice of indifferent things, of the pattern of the churches of old, which (whether duly or otherwise we do not now determine) have been insisted on in this cause, swallowed all up in this abyss of magistratical omnipotency, which plainly renders them useless and unprofitable? How unhappy hath it been that the Christian world was not sooner blessed with this great discovery of the only way and means of putting a final end unto all religious contests! that he should not until now appear,

Qui genus humanum ingenio superavit, et omnes

Præstinxit, stellas exortus ut ætherius sol!

[Lucret. of Epicurus, iii. 1056.]

But every age produceth not a Columbus. Many indeed have been the disputes of learned men about the power of magistrates in and concerning religion. With us it is stated in the recorded actings of our sovereign princes, in the oath of supremacy, and the acts of parliament concerning it, with other authentic writings explanatory thereof. Some have denied him any concern herein; our author is none of them, but rather is like the frenetic gentleman, who, when he was accused, in former days, for denying the corporeal presence of Christ in the sacrament, replied, in his own defence, that he “believed him to be present, booted and spurred as he rode to Capernaum.” He hath brought him booted and spurred, yea, armed cap-a-pie, into the church of God, and given all power into his hands, to dispose of the worship of God according to his own will and pleasure; and that not with respect unto outward order only, but with direct obligation upon the consciences of men.

But, doubtless, it is the wisdom of sovereign princes to beware of this sort of enemies, — persons who, to promote their own interest, make ascriptions of such things unto them as they cannot accept of without the utmost hazard of the displeasure of God. Is it meet that, to satisfy the desires of any, they should invade the prerogative of God, or set themselves down at his right hand, in the throne of his only-begotten Son? I confess they are no way concerned in what others, for their advantage’ sake, as they suppose, will ascribe unto them, which they may sufficiently disown by scorn and silence; nor can their sin involve them in any guilt. It was not the vain acclamation of the multitude unto Herod, “The voice of a god, and not of a man,” but his own arrogant satisfaction in that blasphemous assignation of divine glory to him, that exposed him to the judgment and vengeance of God. When the princes of Israel found, by the answer of the Reubenites, that they had not transgressed against the law of God’s worship in adding unto it or altering of it, which they knew would have been a provocation not to have been passed over without 381a recompense of revenge, they replied unto them, “Now ye have delivered the children of Israel out of the hand of the Lord;” and it is to be desired that all the princes of the Israel of God in the world, all Christian potentates, would diligently watch against giving admission unto any such insinuations as would deliver them into the hand of the Lord.

For my own part, such is my ignorance that I know not that any magistrate from the foundation of the world, unless it were Nebuchadnezzar, Caius Caligula, Domitian, and persons like to them, ever claimed, or pretended to exercise, the power here assigned unto them. The instances of the laws and edicts of Constantine in the matters of religion and the worship of God, of Theodosius and Gratian, Arcadius, Marcian, and other emperors of the east, remaining in the Code and Novels; the Capitular of the western emperors, and laws of Gothish kings; the right of ecclesiastical jurisdiction inherent in the imperial crown of this nation, and occasionally exercised in all ages, — are of no concernment in this matter: for no man denies but that it is the duty of the supreme magistrate to protect and further the true religion and right worship of God, by all ways and means suited and appointed of God thereunto. To encourage the professors thereof, to protect them from wrong and violence, to secure them in the performance of their duties, is doubtless incumbent on them. Whatever, under pretence of religion, brings actual disturbance unto the peace of mankind, they may coerce and restrain. When religion, as established in any nation by law, doth or may interest the professors of it, or guides in it, in any privileges, advantages, or secular emoluments, which are subject and liable, as all human concerns, to doubts, controversies, and litigious contests, in their security and disposal, all these things depend merely and solely on the power of the magistrate, by whose authority they are originally granted, and by whose jurisdictive power both the persons vested with them and themselves are disposable. But for an absolute power over the consciences of men, to bind or oblige them formally thereby to do whatever they shall require in the worship of God, so as to make it their sin, deserving eternal damnation, not so to do, without any consideration whether the things are true or false, according to the mind of God or otherwise, yea, though they are apprehended by them who are so obliged to practice them to be contrary to the will of God, — that this hath hitherto been claimed by any magistrate, unless such as those before mentioned, I am yet to seek. And the case is the same with respect unto them who are not satisfied that what is so prescribed unto them will be accepted with God; for whereas, in all that men do in the worship of God, they ought to be fully persuaded of its acceptableness to God in their own minds, seeing “whatsoever is not 382of faith is sin,” he that “doubteth” is in a very little better capacity to serve God on such injunctions than he who apprehendeth them to be directly contrary to his mind.

If an edict were drawn up for the settlement of religion and religious worship in any Christian nation, according to the principles and directions before laid down, it may be there would be no great strife in the world by whom it should be first owned and espoused; for it must be of this importance:—

“Whereas we have a universal and absolute power over the consciences of all our subjects in things appertaining to the worship of God, so that, if we please, we can introduce new duties, never yet heard of, in the most important parts of religion (p. 80), and may impose on them, in the practice of religion and divine worship, what we please, so that, in our judgment, it do not countenance vice nor disgrace the Deity (p. 85): and whereas this power is naturally inherent in us; not given or granted unto us by Jesus Christ, but belonged to us or our predecessors before ever he was born; nor is expressed in the Scripture, but rather supposed; and this being such as that we ourselves, if we would, whether we be man or woman” (here France must be excepted by virtue of the Salique law, though the whole project be principally calculated for that meridian), “might exercise the special offices and duties of religion in our own person, especially that of the priesthood, though we are pleased to transfer the exercise of it unto others: and whereas all our prescriptions, impositions, and injunctions, in these things, do immediately affect and bind the consciences of our subjects, because they are ours, whether they be right or wrong, true or false, so long as in our judgment they neither, as was said, countenance vice nor disgrace the Deity, we do enact and ordain as followeth:”

(Here, if you please, you may intersert the scheme of religion given us by our author in his second chapter, and add unto it, “That because sacrifices were a way found out by honest men of old to express their gratitude unto God thereby, so great and necessary a part of our religious duty, it be enjoined that the use of them be again revived, seeing there is nothing in them that offends against the bounds prescribed to the power to be expressed, and that men in all places do offer up bulls and goats, sheep and fowls, to God,” with as many other institutions of the like nature as shall be thought meet.) Hereunto add, —

“Now, our express will and pleasure is, that every man may and do think and judge what he pleaseth concerning the things enjoined and enacted by us; for what have we to do with their thoughts and judgments? They are under the empire and dominion of conscience, which we cannot invade if we would. They may, if they please, judge 383them inconvenient, foolish, absurd, yea, contrary to the mind, will, and law of God. Our only intention, will, and pleasure is, to bind them to the constant observation and practice of them, and that under the penalties of hanging and damnation.” I know not any expression in such an impious and futilous edict that may not be warranted out of the principles of this discourse, the main parts of it being composed out of the words and phrases of it, and those used, to the best of my understanding, in the sense fixed to them by our author.

Now, as was said before, I suppose Christian princes will not be earnest in their contests who shall first own the authority intimated, and express it in a suitable exercise; and if any one of them should put forth his hand unto it, he will find that

― “Furiarum maxima juxta

Accubat, et manibus prohibet contingere mensas.” ―

[Æn., vi. 605.]

There is one who lays an antecedent claim to a sole interest in this power, and that bottomed on other manner of pretensions than any which as yet have been pleaded in their behalf; for the power and authority here ascribed unto princes is none other but that which is claimed by the pope of Rome, with some few enlargements, and appropriated unto him by his canonists and courtiers. Only here “the old gentleman” (as he is called by our author) hath the advantage, in that, beside the precedency of his claim, it being entered on record at least six or seven hundred years before any proctor or advocate appeared in the behalf of princes, he hath forestalled them all in the pretence of infallibility: which, doubtless, is a matter of singular use in the exercise of the power contended about; for some men are so peevish as to think that thus to deal with religion and the consciences of men belongs to none but him who is absolutely, yea, essentially so, — that is, infallible. For, as we have now often said (as, contrary to their design, men in haste oftentimes speak the same things over and over), as to all ecclesiastical jurisdiction over persons and causes ecclesiastical, and the sovereign disposal of all the civil and political concernments of religion, which is vested in the imperial crown of this nation, and by sundry acts of parliament is declared so to be, I shall be always ready to plead the right of our kings, and all Christian kings whatever, against the absurd pleas and pretences of the pope; so, as to this controversy between him and such princes as shall think meet to contend with him about it, concerning the power over the consciences of men before described, I shall not interpose myself in the scuffle, as being fully satisfied they are contending about that which belongs to neither of them.

But what reason is there why this power should not be extended unto the inward thoughts and apprehensions of men about the worship 384of God, as well as the expression of them in pure, spiritual acts of that worship? The power asserted, I presume, will be acknowledged to be from God, though I can scarce, meet with the communication and derivation of it from him in this discourse. But whereas it is granted on all hands that “the powers that be are of God,” and that none can have authority over another unless it be originally “given him from above,” I desire to be informed why the other part of the power mentioned, — namely, over the thoughts, judgments, and apprehensions of men, in the things of the worship of God, — should not be invested in the magistrate also; that so, he having declared what is to be believed, thought, and judged in such things, all men should be obliged so to believe, think, and judge: for this power God can give, and hath given it unto Jesus Christ. I presume it will be said that this was no way needful for the preservation of peace in human society, which is the end for which all this power is vested in the magistrate; for let men believe, think, and judge what they please, so long as their outward actings are or may be, overruled, there is no danger of any public disturbance. But this seems to be a mighty uneasy condition for mankind, — namely, to live continually in a contradiction between their judgments and their practices; which in this case is allowed to be incident unto them. Constantly to judge one way best and most according to the mind of God in his worship, and constantly to practice another, will, it is to be feared, prove like the conflicting of vehement vapours with their contrary qualities, that at one time or other will produce an earthquake. How, then, if men, weary of this perplexing, distorting condition of things in their minds, should be provoked to run to excesses and inordinate courses for their freedom and rest, such as our author excellently displays in all their hideous colours and appearances, and which are really pernicious to human policy and society? were it not much better that all these inconveniences had been prevented in the first instance, by taking care that the faith, thoughts, persuasions, and judgments of all subjects about the things of God, should be absolutely bound up unto the declared conceptions of their rulers in these matters? Let it not be pretended that this is impossible, and contrary to the natural liberty of the minds of men as rational creatures, guiding and determining themselves according to their own reason of things and understandings; for do but fix the declared will of the ruler in the room and place of divine revelation (which is no hard matter to do, which some actually do universally, and our author as to a great share and proportion), and the obligation sought after to prevent all inconveniences in government falls as full and directly upon the minds, thoughts, and judgments of men, as upon any of their outward actions. And this, for the substance of it, is 385now pleaded for, seeing it is pretended that in all things dubious, where men cannot satisfy themselves that it is the will of God that they should do a thing or no, the declaration of the magistrate determines not only their practice but their judgment also, and gives them that full persuasion of their minds which is indispensably required unto their acting in such things, and that faith which frees them from sin; for “he that doubteth is damned if he eat.”

But it will be said that there will be no need hereof; for let men think and judge what they please, whilst they are convinced and satisfied that it is their duty not to practice any thing outwardly in religion but what is prescribed by their rulers, it is not possible that any public evil should ensue upon their mental conceptions only. We observed before that the condition described is exceedingly uneasy; which, I suppose, will not be denied by men who have seriously considered what it is either to judge or practice any thing that lies before them with reference unto the judgment of God. And that which should tie men up to rest perpetually in such a restless state is, as it seems, a mere conviction of their duty. They ought to be, and are supposed to be, convinced that it is their duty to maintain the liberty of their minds and judgments, but to submit in their outward practice universally to the laws of men that are over them; and this sense and conviction of duty is a sufficient security unto public tranquillity in all that contrariety and opposition of sentiments unto established religion and forms of worship that may be imagined. But if this be so, why will not the same conviction and sense of duty restrain them who do peaceably exercise the worship of God, according to the light and dictates of their consciences, from any actings whatever that may tend to the disturbance of the public peace? Duty, nakedly considered, is even, as such, the greatest obligation on the minds of men; and the great security of others in their actings ariseth from thence. But the more it is influenced and advantaged by outward considerations, the less it is assaulted and opposed by things grievous and perplexing in the way of the discharge of it, the more efficacious will be its operations on the minds of men, and the firmer will be the security unto others that thence ariseth. Now, these advantages lie absolutely on the part of them who practice, or are allowed so to do, according to their own light and persuasion in the worship of God, wherein they are at rest and full satisfaction of mind; and not on theirs who all their days are bound up to a perverse, distorted posture of mind and soul, in judging one thing to be best and most pleasing unto God, and practising of the contrary. Such a one is the man that, of all others, rulers have need, I think, to be most jealous of; for what security can be had of him who hath inured himself unto a continual contradiction between his faith and 386his practice? For my part, I should either expect no other measure from him in any other thing, nor ever judge that his profession and ways of acting are any sufficient indications of his mind (which takes away all security from mankind), or fear that his convictions of light and knowledge, as he apprehends, would, at one time or other, precipitate him into attempts of irregularity and violence, for his own relief.

― “Hic niger est, hunc tu Romane caveto.

It will be said, perhaps, that we need not look farther for the disturbance of public peace from them who practice outwardly any thing in the worship of God but what is prescribed, established, and enjoined, seeing that every such practice is such a disturbance itself. I say, this pretence is miserably ridiculous and contemptible, and contrary to the common experience of mankind. If this were so, the whole world for three hundred years lived in one continual disturbance and tumult upon the account of Christian religion, whose professors constantly practised and performed that in the worship of God which was so far from being established or approved by public authority, that it was proscribed and condemned under penalties of all sorts, pecuniary, corporeal, and sanguinary or capital; But we see no such matter ensued, nor the least disquietment unto the world, but what was given unto it by the rage of bloody persecutors, that introduced the first convulsions into the Roman empire, which were never well quieted, but ended in its dissolution. The experience, also, of the present and next preceding ages casts this frivolous exception out of consideration. And as such a practice, even against legal prohibitions, though it be by the transgression of a penal law, is yet in itself and [by] just consequence remote enough from any disturbance of government (unless we should suppose that every non-observance of a penal statute invalidates the government of a nation, which were to fix it upon such a foundation as will not afford it the steadiness of a weather-cock); so being allowed by way of exemption, it contains no invasion upon or intrusion into the rights of others, but, being accompanied with the abridgment of the privileges of none, or the neglect of any duty required to the good of the commonwealth, it is as consistent with, and may be as conducing to, public good and tranquillity, as any order of religious things in the world, as shall be elsewhere demonstrated.

It remains, therefore, that the only answer to this consideration is, that men who plead for indulgence and liberty of conscience in the worship of God, according to his word and the light which he hath given them therein, have indeed no conscience at all, and so are not to be believed as to what they profess against sinister and evil practices. This flail I know no fence against but this only, that they 387have as good and better grounds to suspect him to have no conscience at all who, upon unjust surmises, shall so injuriously charge them, as finding him in a direct transgression of the principal rules that conscience is to be guided and directed by, than he hath to pronounce such a judgment concerning them and their sincerity in what they profess. And whether such mutual censures tend not to the utter overthrow of all peace, love, and security amongst mankind, it is easy to determine. Certainly, it is the worst game in the world for the public, to have men bandying suspicions one against another, and thereon managing mutual charges of all that they do surmise, or what else they please to give the countenance of surmise unto.

I acknowledge the notion insisted on, — namely, “That whilst men reserve to themselves the freedom and liberty of judging what they please, or what seems good unto them, in matters of religion and the worship of God, they ought to esteem it their duty to practice in all things according to the prescription of their rulers, though every way contrary unto and inconsistent with their own judgments and persuasions, unless it be in things that countenance vice or disgrace the Deity” (whereof yet, it may be, it will not be thought meet that they themselves should judge for themselves and their own practice, seeing they may extend their conceptions about what doth so unto such minute instances as would frustrate the whole design), — is exceedingly accommodated to the corrupt lusts and affections of men, and suited to make provision for their security in this world by an exemption from the indispensable command of professing the truth communicated and known unto them; a sense of the obligation whereof hath hitherto exposed innumerable persons in all ages to great difficulties, dangers, and sufferings, yea, to death, the height and sum of all: for whereas men have been persuaded that “with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation,” the latter clause is in many cases hereby sufficiently superseded, and the troublesome duty seeming to be required in it is removed out of the way. It will not, it may be, be so easy to prove that in the religion of the Mohammedans there is any thing enjoined in practice that will directly fall under the limitations assigned unto the compliance with the commands of superiors contended for; and, therefore, let a man but retain his own apprehensions concerning Jesus Christ and the gospel, it may be lawful for him, yea, be his duty, to observe the worship enjoined by the law of Mohammed, if his lot fall to live under the power of the Grand Seignior or any sovereign prince of the same persuasion! But the case is clear in the religion of the Papists, which is under the protection of the greatest number of supreme magistrates in Europe. It will not be pretended, I suppose, by our author, that 388there is any thing in the confession of the church of Rome, or imposed by it on the practices of men, that directly gives countenance unto any immorality, especially as the sense of that term is by him stated; and it is no easy matter for ordinary men to prove and satisfy themselves that there is aught in their modes of worship of such a tendency as to cast disgrace upon the Deity, especially considering with how much learning and diligence the charge of any such miscarriage is endeavoured to be answered and removed, — all which pleas ought to be satisfied before a man can make sedately a determinate judgment of the contrary. Let, then, men’s judgments be what they will in the matters of difference between Protestants and Papists, it is, on this hypothesis, the duty of all that live under the dominion of sovereign popish princes outwardly to comply with and practice that religious worship that is commanded by them and enjoined! The case is the same, also, as to the religion of the Jews!

Now, as this casts a reflection of incredible folly and inexpiable guilt upon all protestant martyrs, in casting away their own lives and disobeying the commands of their lawful sovereigns, so it exposeth all the Protestants in the world who are still in the same condition of subjection to the severe censures of impiety and rebellion, and must needs exasperate their rulers to pursue them to destruction, under pretence of unwarrantable obstinacy in them: for if we wholly take off the protection of conscience in this matter, and its subjection to the authority of God alone, there is no plea left to excuse dissenting Protestants from the guilt of such crimes as may make men justly cry out against them, as the Jews did against St Paul, “Away with such fellows from the earth; for it is not fit that they should live!” or, “Protestantes ad leones!” according to the old cry of the Pagans against the primitive Christians. But if this should prove to be a way of teaching and justifying the grossest hypocrisy and dissimulation that the nature of man is capable of, a means to cast off all regard unto the authority of God over the ways and lives of men, all the rhetoric in the world shall never persuade me that God hath so moulded and framed the order and state of human affairs that it should be any way needful to the preservation of public peace and tranquillity. Openness, plainness of heart, sincerity in our actions and professions, generous honesty, and a universal respect in all things to the supreme Rector of all, the great Possessor of heaven and earth, with an endeavour to comply with his present revealed mind and future judgment, are far better foundations for and ligaments of public peace and quietness. To make this the foundation of our political superstructure, that “divisum imperium cum Jove Cæsar habet,” God hath immediate and sole power over the minds and inward thoughts of men, but the magistrate 389over the exercise of those thoughts, in things especially belonging to the worship of God, and in the same instances, seems not to prognosticate a stable or durable building. The prophet was not of that mind of old, who, in the name of God, blamed the people for willingly walking after the commandment of their ruler in concerns of worship not warranted by divine appointment; nor was Daniel so, who, notwithstanding the severe prohibition made against his praying in his house, continued to do so three times a day.

But besides all this, I do not see how this hypothesis is necessarily subservient to the principal design of the author, but it may be as well improved to quite distant, yea, contrary ends and purposes. His design, plainly, is to have one fabric of religion erected, one form of external worship enacted and prescribed, which all men should be compelled by penalties to the outward profession and observance of. These penalties he would have to be such as should not fail of their end, — namely, of taking away all professed dissent from his religious establishment; which, if it cannot be effected without the destruction and death of multitudes, they also are not to be forborne. Now, how this ensues from the forementioned principle I know not; for a supreme magistrate, finding that the minds of very many of his subjects are, in their judgments and persuasions, engaged in a dissent unto the religion established by him, or somewhat in it, or some part of it, especially in things of practical worship, though he should be persuaded that he hath so far a power over their consciences as to command them to practice contrary to their judgment, yet, knowing their minds and persuasions to be out of his reach and exempted from his jurisdiction, why may he not think it meet and conducing to public tranquillity and all the ends of his government, even the good of the whole community committed to his charge, rather to indulge them in the quiet and peaceable exercise of the worship of God according to their own light, than always to bind them up unto that unavoidable disquietment which will ensue upon the conflict in their minds between their judgments and their practices, if he should oblige them as is desired? Certainly, as in truth and reality, so according to this principle, he hath power so to do; for to fancy him [to have] such a power over the religion and consciences of his subjects as that he should be inevitably bound, on all occurrences, and in all conditions of affairs, to impose upon them the necessary observation of one form of worship, is that which would quickly expose him to inextricable troubles. And instances of all sorts might be multiplied to show the ridiculous folly of such a conception. Nay, it implies a perfect contradiction to what is disputed, before; for if he be obliged to settle and impose such a form on all, it must be because there was a necessity 390of somewhat antecedent to his imposition, whence his obligation to impose it did arise. And, on such a supposition, it is in vain to inquire after his liberty or his power in these things, seeing by his duty he is absolutely determined; and whatever that be which doth so determine him and put an obligation upon him, it doth indispensably do the same on his subjects also, which, as it is known, utterly excludes the authority pleaded for.

This principle, therefore, indeed asserts his liberty to do what he judgeth meet in these matters, but contains nothing in it to oblige him to judge that it may not be meet and most conducing unto all the ends of his government to indulge unto the consciences of men peaceable (especially if complying with him in all the fundamentals of the religion which himself professeth) the liberty of worshipping God according to what they apprehend of his own mind and will. And let an application of this principle be made to the present state of this nation, wherein there are so great multitudes of persons peaceable, and not unuseful unto public good, who dissent from the present establishment of outward worship, and have it not in their power either to change their judgments or to practice contrary unto them; and as it is in the power of the supreme magistrate to indulge them in their own way, so it will prove to be his interest, as he is the spring and centre of public peace and prosperity.

Neither doth it appear that, in this discourse, our author hath had any regard either to the real principles of the power of the magistrate as stated in this nation, or to his own, which are fictitious, but yet such as ought to be obligatory to himself. His principal assertion is, “That the supreme magistrate hath power to bind the consciences of men in matters of religion;” that is, by laws and edicts to that purpose. Now, the highest and most obligatory way of the supreme magistrate’s speaking in England is by acts of parliament; it is therefore supposed that what is so declared in or about matters of religion should be obligatory to the conscience of this author; but yet quite otherwise, page 59, he sets himself to oppose and condemn a public law of the land, on no other ground than because it stood in his way, and seemed incompliant with his principles: for whereas the law of 2 and 3 Edward VI., which appointed two weekly days for abstinence from flesh, had been, amongst other reasons, prefaced with this, “That the king’s subjects having now a more clear light of the gospel, through the infinite mercy of God” (such “canting” language was then therein used), “and thereby the king’s majesty perceiving that one meat of itself was not more holy than another,” etc., “yet considering that due abstinence was a means to virtue, and to subdue men’s bodies to their souls and spirits,” etc.; and it being after found (it should seem by a farther degree of light) 391that those expressions, meeting with the inveterate opinions of some newly brought out of Popery, had given countenance to them to teach or declare that something of religion was placed therein, thereon, by the law made 5 Eliz., adding another weekly day to be kept with the former for the same purpose, the former clause was omitted, and mention only made therein of the civil and politic reasons inducing the legislators thereunto, and withal a penalty of inflicting punishment on those who should affirm and maintain that there was any concernment of conscience and religion in that matter. This provision hath so distasted our author, that forgetting, it seems, his own design, he reproaches it with the title of “jejunium Cecilianum,”55   In allusion, doubtless, to Cecil, Lord Burleigh, the celebrated prime minister of Elizabeth. — Ed. and thinks it so far from obliging his conscience to acquiesce in the determination therein made, that he will not allow it to give law to his tongue or pen! But (“vexet censura columbas”) it seems they are the fanatics only that are thus to be restrained.

Moreover, on occasion hereof, we might manifest how some other laws of this land do seem carefully to avoid that imposition on conscience which, against law and reason, he pleadeth for. For instance, in that of 21 Jac., touching usury, and the restraint of it unto the sum therein established, it was provided, “That no words in this act contained shall be construed or expounded to allow the practice of usury in point of religion and conscience.” And why did not the supreme magistrate in that law determine and bind the consciences of men by a declaration of their duty in a point of religion, seeing whither way soever the determination had been made, neither would immorality have been countenanced nor the Deity disgraced? But, plainly, it is rather declared that he hath not Cognizance of such things with reference to the consciences of men, to oblige them or set them at liberty, but only power to determine what may be practised in order to public profit and peace. And, therefore, the law would neither bind nor set at liberty the consciences of men in such cases; which is a work for the supreme Lawgiver only.

Neither, as it hath been before observed, do the principles here asserted and contended for either express or represent the supremacy of the kings of this nation in matters ecclesiastical, as it is stated and determined by themselves in parliament, but rather so as to give great offence and scandal to the religion here professed, and advantage to the adversaries thereof; for after there appeared some ambiguity in those words of the oath, enacted 1 Eliz., of “testifying the queen to be supreme governor, as well in all spiritual or ecclesiastical things or causes as in temporal,” and many doubts and scruples had ensued thereon, as though there were assigned to her a power over the 392consciences of her subjects in spiritual things, or that she had a power herself to order and administer spiritual things, in Elizabeth it is enacted, by way of explanation, that the oaths aforesaid shall be expounded in such form as is set forth in the admonition annexed to the queen’s injunctions, published in the first year of her reign; where, disclaiming the power of the ministry of divine offices in the church, or the power of the priesthood here by our author affixed to the supreme magistrate, her power and authority is declared to be a sovereignty over all manner of persons born within this realm, whether they be ecclesiastical or temporal, so that no foreign power hath, or ought to have, any superiority over them. And so is this supremacy stated in the articles, anno 1562, — namely, an authority to rule all estates and degrees committed to the charge of the supreme magistrate by God, whether they be ecclesiastical or temporal, and to restrain the stubborn or evil-doers. Of the things contended for by our author, — the authority of the priesthood, and power over the consciences of men in matters of religion, — there is not one word in our laws, but rather they are both of them rejected and condemned.

I have yet laid the least part of that load upon this principle, which, if it be farther pressed, it must expect to be burdened withal, and that from the common suffrage of Christians in all ages. But yet, that I may not transgress against the design of this short and hasty discourse, I shall proceed no farther in the pursuit of it, but take a little survey of what is here pleaded in its defence. Now, this is undertaken and pursued in the first chapter, with the two next ensuing, where an end is put to this plea: for if I understand any thing of his words and expressions, our author in the beginning of his fourth chapter cuts down all those gourds and wild vines that he had been planting in the three preceding; for he not only grants but disputes also for an obligation on the consciences of men antecedent and superior unto all human laws and their obligation! His words are as followeth, p. 115: “It is not because subjects are in any thing free from the authority of the supreme power on earth, but because they are subject to a superior in heaven, and they are only then excused from the duty of obedience to their sovereign when they cannot give it without rebellion against God: so that it is not originally any right of their own that exempts them from a subjection to the sovereign power in all things; but it is purely God’s right of governing his own creatures that magistrates then invade when they make edicts to violate or control his laws. And those who will take off from the consciences of men all obligations antecedent to those of human laws, instead of making the power of princes supreme, absolute, and uncontrollable, they utterly enervate all their 393authority, and set their subjects at perfect liberty from all their commands.”

I know no men that pretend to exemption from the obligation of human laws but only on this plea, that God by his law requires them to do otherwise; and if this be so, the authority of such laws as to the consciences of men is superseded, by the confession of this author. Allow, therefore, but the principles here expressed, — namely, that men have a superior Power over them in heaven, whose laws and the revelation of whose will concerning them is the supreme rule of their duty, whence an obligation is laid upon their consciences of doing whatever is commanded, or not doing what is forbidden by him, which is superior unto, and actually supersedes, all human commands and laws that interfere therewith, — and I see neither use of nor place for that power of magistrates over the consciences of men which is so earnestly contended for. And our author, also, in his ensuing discourse in that chapter, placeth all the security of government in the respect that the consciences of men have to the will and command of God, and which they profess to have; which in all these chapters he pleads to be a principle of all confusion! But it is the first chapter which alone we are now taking a view of.

The only argument therein insisted on to make good the ascription unto the magistrate of the power over religion and the consciences of men before described, is “the absolute and indispensable necessity of it unto public tranquillity; which is the principal and most important end of government.” In the pursuit of this argument, sometimes, yea often, such expressions are used concerning the magistrate’s power as, in a tolerable construction, declare it to be what no man denies nor will contend about: but it is necessary that they be interpreted according to the genius and tenor of the opinion contended for; and, accordingly, we will consider them. This alone, I say, is that which is here pleaded, or is given in as the subject of the ensuing discourse. But, after all, I think that he who shall set himself seriously to find out how any thing here spoken hath a direct and rational cogency towards the establishment of the conclusion before laid down will find himself engaged in no easy undertaking. We were told, I confess, at the entrance (so as that we may not complain of a surprisal) that we must expect to have invectives twisted with arguments, and some such thing seems here to be aimed at; but if a logical chemist come and make a separation of the elements of this composition, he will find, if I mistake not, a heap of the drossy invective, and scarce the least appearance of any argument ore. Instead of sober, rational arguing,

― “crimina rasis

Librat in antithetis;” ―

Pers. i. 85,

394great aggravations of men’s miscarriages in the pursuit of the dictates of their consciences, either real or feigned, edged against and fiercely rejected upon those whom he makes his adversaries, and these the same for substance, repeated over and over in a great variety of well-placed words, take up the greatest part of his plea in this chapter, especially the beginning of it, wherein alone the controversy, as by himself stated, is concerned.

But if the power and authority over religion and the consciences of men here ascribed unto supreme magistrates be so indispensably necessary to the preservation of public tranquillity as is pretended, a man cannot but wonder how the world hath been in any age past kept in any tolerable peace and quietness, and how it is anywhere blessed with those ends of government at this day; for it will not be an easy task for our author, or any one else, to demonstrate that the power mentioned hath ever been either claimed or exercised by any supreme magistrate in Christendom, or that it is so at this day. The experience of past and present ages is, therefore, abundantly sufficient to defeat this pretence, which is sufficiently asserted, without the least appearance of proof or argument to give it countenance or confirmation, or they must be very charitable to hire, or ignorant in themselves, who will mistake invectives for arguments. The remembrance, indeed, of these severities I would willingly lay aside, especially because the very mention of them seems to express a higher sense of and regret concerning them than I am in the least subject unto, or something that looks like a design of retaliation; but as these things are far from my mind, so the continual returns that almost in every page I meet with of high and contemptuous reproaches will not allow that they be always passed by without any notice or remark.

It is, indeed, indispensably necessary that public peace and tranquillity be preserved; but that there is any thing in point of government necessary hereunto, but that God have all spiritual power over the consciences of men, and rulers political power over their actings, wherein public peace and tranquillity are concerned, the world hath not hitherto esteemed, nor do I expect to find it proved by this author. If these things will not preserve the public peace, it will not be kept if one should rise from the dead to persuade men unto their duty. The power of God over the consciences of men I suppose is acknowledged by all who own any such thing as conscience, or believe there is a God over all. That, also, in the exercise of this authority, he requires of men all that obedience unto rulers that is any way needful or expedient unto the preservation of the ends of their rule, is a truth standing firm on the same foundation of universal consent, derived from the law of creation; and his positive commands to that purpose have an evidence of his will in this matter 395not liable to exception or control. This conscience unto God our author confesseth (as we have observed in his fourth chapter) to be the great preservation and security of government and governors, with respect unto the ends mentioned; and if so, what becomes of all the pretences of disorder and confusion that will ensue unless this power over men’s consciences be given to the magistrate, and taken as it were out of the hands of God? Nor is it to be supposed that men will be more true to their consciences, supposing the reiglement of them in the hand of men, than when they are granted to be in the hand and power of God; for both at present are supposed to require the same things. Certainly, where conscience respects authority, as it always doth, the more absolute and sovereign it apprehends the authority by which it is obliged, the greater and more firm will be the impression of the obligation upon it; and in that capacity of pre-eminence it must look upon the authority of God, compared with the authority of man. Here, then, lies the security of public peace and tranquillity, as it is backed by the authority of the magistrate, to see that all outward actions are suitable unto what conscience toward God doth in this matter openly and unquestionably require.

The pretence, indeed, is, that the placing of this authority over the consciences of men in the supreme ruler doth obviate and take away all grounds and occasions of any such actings on the account of religion as may tend unto public disturbance; for suppose conscience, in things concerning religion and the worship of God, subject to God alone, and the magistrate require such things to be observed in the one or the other as God hath not required, at least in the judgments and consciences of them of whom the things prescribed are required, and to forbid the things that God requires to be observed and done, in this case, it is said, they cannot or will not comply in active obedience with the commands of the magistrate. But, what if it so fall out? Doth it thence follow that such persons must needs rebel and be seditious, and disturb the public peace of the society whereof they are members? Wherefore is it that they do not do or observe what is required of them by the magistrate in religion or the worship of God, or that they do what he forbids? Is it not because of the authority of God over their minds and consciences in these things? and why should it be supposed that men will answer the obligations laid by God on their consciences in one thing and not in another, in the things of his worship and not of obedience unto civil power, concerning which his commands are as express and evident as they can be pretended to be in the things which they avow their obligation unto?

Experience is pretended to the contrary. It is said again and again that “men, under pretence of their consciences unto God in religion, have raised wars and tumults, and brought all things into 396confusion, in this kingdom and nation especially; and what will words avail against the evidence of so open an experience to the contrary?” But what if this also should prove a false and futilous pretence? Fierce and long wars have been in this nation of old, upon the various titles of persons pleading their right unto supreme government in the kingdom against one another; so also have there been about the civil rights and privileges of the subjects in the confusions commonly called “The barons’ wars.” The late troubles, disorders, and wars amongst us must bear the weight of this whole charge. But if any one will take the pains to review the public writings, declarations, treatises, whereby those tumults and wars were begun and carried on, he will easily discern that liberty of conscience in practice, or the exemption of it from the power of the magistrate, as to the rule and conduct of it, now ascribed unto him in the latitude, by sober persons defended or pleaded for, had neither place in nor influence into the beginnings of those troubles. And when such confusions are begun, no man can give assurance or conjecture where they shall end.

Authority, laws, privileges, and I know not what things, wherein private men, of whom alone we treat, have no pretence of interest, were pleaded in those affairs. He that would judge aright of these things must set aside all other considerations, and give his instance of the tumults and seditions that have ensued on the account of men’s keeping their consciences entire for God alone, without any just plea or false pretence of authority, and the interest of men in the civil concerns of nations.

However, it cannot be pretended that liberty of conscience gave the least occasion unto any disorders in those days, for indeed there was none but only that of opinion and judgment, which our author placeth out of the magistrate’s cognizance and dispose, and supposeth it is a thing wherein the public peace neither is nor can be concerned. It is well if it prove so; but this liberty of judgment, constantly pressed with a practice contrary to its own determinations, will, I fear, prove the most dangerous posture of the minds of men, in reference to public tranquillity, that they can be well disposed into. However, we may take a little nearer view of the certain remedy provided for all these evils by our author, and satisfy ourselves in some inquiries about it. Shall, then, according to this expedient, the supreme magistrate govern, rule, and oblige unto obedience the consciences of his subjects universally in all things in religion and the worship of God, so that, appoint what he please, forbid what he please, subjects are bound in conscience to observe them and yield obedience accordingly? His answer, as far as I can gather his meaning, is, that he may and must do so in all things, taking care that what he commands shall neither countenance vice nor disgrace the 397Deity; and then the subjects are obliged according to the inquiry. But there seems another limitation to be given to this power, p. 37, where he affirms that the “Lord Christ hath given severe injunctions to secure the obedience of men to all lawful superiors, except where they run directly cross to the interest of the gospel;” and elsewhere he seems to give the same privilege of exemption where a religion is introduced that is idolatrous or superstitious. I would, then, a little farther inquire, who shall judge whether the things commanded in religion and the worship of God be idolatrous and superstitious? whether they cross directly the interest of the gospel? whether they countenance vice and disgrace the Deity or no? To say that the magistrate is to judge and determine hereof is the highest foppery imaginable; for no magistrate, unless he be distracted, will enjoin such a religion to observance as he judgeth himself to fall under the [dis]qualifications mentioned, and when he hath done so declare that so they do, and yet require obedience unto them. Besides, if this judgment be solely committed unto him indeed, in the issue there neither is nor can be any question for a judgment to be passed upon in this matter, for his injunction doth quite render useless all disquisitions to that purpose. The judgment and determination hereof, therefore, is necessarily to be left unto the subjects from whom obedience is required. So it lies in the letter of the proposal; they must obey in all things but such; and, therefore, surely must judge what is such and what is not. Now, who shall fix bounds to what they will judge to fall under one or other of these limitations? If they determine, according to the best light they have, that the religious observances enjoined by the magistrate do directly cross the interest of the gospel, they are absolved by our author from any obligation in conscience to their observation; and so we are just as before, and this great engine for public tranquillity vanisheth into air and smoke.

Thus this author himself, in way of objection, supposeth a case of a magistrate enjoining, as was said, a religion superstitious and idolatrous. This he acknowledgeth to be an inconvenience, yet such as is far beneath the mischiefs that ensue upon the exemption of the consciences of men in religion from the power of the magistrate! which I confess I cannot but admire at, and can give reasons why I do so admire it, which also may be given in due season. But what, then, is to be done in this case? He answers, “It is to be borne.” True, but how? Is it to be so borne as to practice and observe the things so enjoined, though superstitious and idolatrous? Though his words are dubious, yet I suppose he will not plainly say so, nor can he, unless he will teach men to cast off all respect unto the authority of God, and open such a door to atheism as his rhetorical, prefatory 398invective will not be able to shut. The bearing, then, intended, must be by patient suffering in a refusal to practice what is so commanded, and observing the contrary commands of God. But why in this case ought they to suffer quietly for refusing a compliance with what is commanded, and for their observance of the contrary precepts of the gospel? Why, they must do so because of the command of God, obliging their consciences unto obedience to the magistrate in all things wherein the public peace is concerned; and so that is absolutely secured. Is it not evident to him that hath but half an eye that we are come about again where we were before? Let this be applied to all the concernments of religion and religious worship, and there will arise, with respect unto them, the same security which in this case is deemed sufficient, and all that human affairs are capable of; for if in greater matters men may refuse to act according to the magistrate’s command, out of a sense of the authority of God obliging them to the contrary, and yet their civil peaceableness and obedience be absolutely secured from the respect of their consciences to the command of God requiring it, why should it not be admitted that they may and will have the same respect to that command when they dissent from the magistrate’s constitution in lesser things, on the same account of the authority of God requiring the contrary of them? Shall we suppose that they will cast off the authority of God requiring their obedience, on the account of their dissatisfaction in lesser things of the magistrate’s appointment when they will not do so for all the violence that may be offered unto them in things of greater and higher importance? The principle, therefore, asserted is as useless as it is false, and partakes sufficiently of both these properties to render it inconsiderable and contemptible; and he that can reconcile these things among themselves or make them useful to the author’s design will achieve what I dare not aspire unto.

I know not any thing that remains in the first chapter deserving our farther consideration; what seems to be of real importance, or to have any aspect towards the cause in hand, may undergo some brief remarks, and so leave us at liberty to a farther progress. In general, a supposition is laid down, and it is so vehemently asserted as is evident that it is accompanied with a desire that it should be taken for granted, — namely, that if the consciences of men be not regulated, in the choice and practice of religion, by the authority of the magistrate over them, they will undoubtedly run into principles and practices inconsistent with the safety of human society, and such as will lead them to seditions and tumults; and hence (if I understand him, a matter I am continually jealous about, from the looseness of his expressions, though I am satisfied I constantly take his words in the sense which is received of them by the most intelligent 399persons) he educeth all his reasonings, and not from a mere dissent from the magistrate’s injunctions, without the entertainment of such principles or an engagement into such practices. I cannot, I say, find the arguments that arise from a mere supposition that men, in some things relating to the worship of God, will or do practice otherwise than the magistrate commands, which are used to prove the inconsistency of such a posture of things with public tranquillity; which yet alone was the province our author ought to have managed. But there is another supposition added, — that where conscience is in any thing left unto its own liberty to choose or refuse in the worship of God, there it will embrace, sure enough, such wicked, debauched, and seditious principles as shall dispose men unto commotions, rebellions, and all such evils as will actually evert all rule, order, and policy amongst men. But now this supposition will not be granted him, in reference unto them who profess to take up all their profession of religion from the command of God or the revelation of his will in the Scripture, wherein all such principles and practices as those mentioned are utterly condemned; and the whole profession of Christianity being left for three hundred years without the rule, guidance, and conduct of conscience now contended for, did not once give the least disturbance unto the civil governments of the world. Disturbances, indeed, there were, and dreadful revolutions of governments, in those days and places when and where the professors of it lived; but no concerns of religion being then involved in or with the civil rights and interests of men, as the professors of it had no engagements in them, so from those alterations and troubles no reflection could be made on their profession. And the like peace, the like innocency of religion, the like freedom from all possibility of such imputations as are now cast upon it, occasioned merely by its intertexture with the affairs, rights, and laws of the nations, and the interests of its professors as such therein, will ensue when it shall be separated from that relation wherein it stands to this world, and left at the pure, naked tendency of the souls of men to another, and not before.

But what says our author? “If for the present the minds of men happen to be tainted with such furious and boisterous conceptions of religion as incline them to stubbornness and sedition, and make them unmanageable to the laws of government, shall not a prince be allowed to give check to such unruly and dangerous persuasions?” I answer, That such principles which, being professed and avowed, are in their own nature and just consequence destructive to public peace and human society, are all of them directly opposite to the light of human nature, that common reason and consent of mankind wherein and whereon all government is founded, with the prime fundamental 400laws and dictates of the Scripture, and so may and ought to be restrained in the practices of the persons that profess them; and with reference unto them the magistrate “beareth not the sword in vain:” for human society being inseparably consequent unto, and an effect of, the law of our nature, or concreated principles of it, which hath subdued the whole race of mankind, in all times and places, unto its observance; opinions, persuasions, principles opposite unto it, or destructive of it, manifesting themselves by any sufficient evidence or in overt acts, ought to be no more allowed than such as profess an enmity to the being and providence of God himself. For men’s inclinations, indeed, as in themselves considered, there is no competent judge of them amongst the sons of men; but as to all outward actions that are of the tendency described, they are under public inspection, to be dealt withal according to their demerit.

I shall only add, that the mormo here made use of is not now first composed or erected; it hath, for the substance of it, been flourished by the Papists ever since the beginning of the Reformation. Neither did they use to please themselves more in or to dance more merrily about any thing than this calf: “Let private men have their consciences exempted from a necessary obedience to the prescriptions of the church, and they will quickly run into all pernicious fancies and persuasions.” It is known how this scare-crow hath been cast to the ground, and this calf stamped to powder, by divines of the church of England. It is no pleasant thing, I confess, to see this plea revived now with respect to the magistrate’s authority, and not the pope’s; for I fear that when it shall be manifested, and that by the consent of all parties, that there is no pleadable argument to bottom this pretension for the power of the magistrate upon, some, rather than forego it, will not be unwilling to recur to the fountain from whence it first sprang, and admit the pope’s plea as meet to be revived in this case. And, indeed, if we must come at length, for the security of public peace, to deprive all private persons of the liberty of judging what is right and wrong in religion in reference to their own practice, or what is their duty towards God about his worship, and what is not, there are innumerable advantages attending the design of devolving the absolute determination of these things upon the pope, above that of committing it to each supreme magistrate in his own dominions; for besides the plea of at least better security in his determinations than in that of any magistrate, if not his infallibility, which he hath so long talked of, and so sturdily defended, as to get it a great reputation in the world, the delivering up of the faith and consciences of all men unto him will produce a seeming agreement, at least of incomparably a larger extent than the remitting of all things of this nature to the pleasure of every supreme magistrate, which may probably 401establish as many different religions in the world as there are different nations, kingdoms, or commonwealths.

That which alone remains seeming to give countenance to the assertions before laid down, is our author’s assignation of the priesthood by natural right unto the supreme magistrate, which in no alteration of religion he can be divested of, but by virtue of some positive law of God, as it was for a season in the Mosaical institution and government. But these things seem to be of no force; for it never belonged to the priesthood to govern or to rule the consciences of men with an absolute, uncontrollable power, but only in their name, and for them, to administer the holy things which by common consent were admitted and received amongst them. Besides, our author, by his discourse, seems not to be much acquainted with the rise of the office of the priesthood amongst men; as shall be demonstrated if farther occasion be given thereunto. However, by the way, we may observe what is his judgment in this matter. The magistrate, we are told, hath not his ecclesiastical authority from Christ, and yet this is such as that the power of the priesthood is included therein, the exercise whereof, “as he is pleased to transfer to others, so he may, if he please, reserve it to himself,” p. 32; whence it follows, not only that it cannot be given by Christ unto any other, for it is part of the magistrate’s power, which he hath not limited or confined by any subsequent law, nor can there be a coordinate subject of the same power of several kinds; so that all the interest or right any man or men have in or unto the exercise of it is but transferred to them by the magistrate; and therefore they act therein in his name and by his authority only; and hence the bishops, as such, are said to be “ministers of state,” p. 49. Neither can it be pretended that this was indeed in the power of the magistrate before the coming of Christ, but not since; for he hath, as we are told, all that he ever had, unless there be a restraint put upon him by some express prohibition of our Saviour, p. 41, — which will hardly be found in this matter. I cannot, therefore, see how, in the exercise of the Christian priesthood, there is (on these principles) any the least respect unto Jesus Christ or his authority: for men have only the exercise of it transferred to them by the magistrate, by virtue of a power inherent in him antecedent unto any concessions of Christ; and, therefore, in his name and authority they must act in all the sacred offices of their functions. It is well if men be so far awake as to consider the tendency of these things.

At length Scripture proofs for the confirmation of these opinions are produced, pp. 35, 36; and the first pleaded is that promise, that “kings shall be nursing fathers unto the church.” It is true this is promised, and God accomplish it more and more! but yet 402we do not desire such nurses as beget the children they nurse. The proposing, prescribing, commanding, binding religion on the consciences of men, is rather the begetting of it than its nursing. To take care of the church and religion, that it receive no detriment, by all the ways and means appointed by God and useful thereunto, is the duty of the magistrates: but it is so also, antecedently to their actings unto this purpose, to discern aright which is the church whereunto this promise is made; without which they cannot duly discharge their trust nor fulfil the promise itself. The very words, by the rules of the metaphor, do imply that the church and its religion, and the worship of God observed therein, are constituted, fixed, and regulated by God himself, antecedently unto the magistrate’s duty and power about it. They are to nurse that which is committed to them, and not what themselves have framed or begotten. And we contend for no more but a rule concerning religion and the worship of God antecedent unto the magistrate’s interposing about it, whereby both his actings in his place, and those of subjects in theirs, are to be regulated. Mistakes herein have engaged many sovereign princes, in pursuit of their trust as nursing fathers to the church, to lay out their strength and power for the utter ruin of it; as may be evidenced in instances too many of those who, in a subserviency to and by the direction of the papal interest, have endeavoured to extirpate true religion out of the world. Such a nursing mother we had some time in England, who, in pursuit of her care, burned so many bishops and other holy men to ashes.

He asks farther, “What doth the Scripture mean when it styles our Saviour the King of kings, and maketh princes his vicegerents here on earth?” I confess, according to this gentleman’s principles, I know not what it means in so doing. Kings, he tells us, have not their authority in and over religion and the consciences of men from him, and therefore in the exercise of it cannot be his vicegerents; for none is the vicegerent of another in the exercise of any power and authority, if he have not received that power and authority from him. Otherwise the words have a proper sense, but nothing to our author’s purpose. It is his power over them, and not theirs over the consciences of their subjects, that is intended in the words. Of no more use, in this controversy is the direction of the apostle, that we “should pray for kings, that under them we may lead a quiet and peaceable life;” for no more is intended therein but that, under their peaceable and righteous administration of human affairs, we may live in that godliness and honesty which is required of us. Wherefore, then, are these weak attempts made to confirm and prove what is not? Those, or the most of them, whom our author in this discourse treats with so much severity, do plead that 403it is the duty of all supreme magistrates to find out, receive, embrace, and promote, the truths of the gospel, with the worship of God appointed therein; confirming, protecting, and defending them, and those that embrace them, by their power and authority: and in the discharge of this duty they are to use the liberty of their own judgments, informed by the ways that God hath appointed, independently of the dictates and determinations of any other persons whatever. They affirm, also, that to this end they are intrusted with supreme power over all persons in their respective dominions; who on no pretence can be exempted from the exercise of that power, as occasion, in their judgments, shall require it to be exercised: as also, that all causes wherein the profession of religion in their dominions is concerned, which are determinable in “foro civili,” by coercive umpirage or authority, are subject unto their cognizance and power. The sovereign power over the consciences of men, to institute, appoint, and prescribe religion and the worship of God, they affirm to belong unto Him alone who is the “author and finisher of our faith, who is the head over all things to the church.” The administration of things merely spiritual in the worship of God is, they judge, derived immediately from him to the ministers and administrators of the gospel, possessed of their offices by his command and according to his institution. As to the external practice of religion, and religious worship as such, it is, they say, in the power of the magistrate to regulate all the outward civil concernments of it, with reference unto the preservation of public peace and tranquillity, and the prosperity of his subjects; and herein also they judge that such respect is to be had to the consciences of men as the Scripture, the nature of the thing itself, and the right of the Lord Christ to introduce his spiritual kingdom into all nations, do require.

That which seems to have imposed on the mind of this author is, that if the magistrate may make laws for the regulating of the outward profession of religion, so as public peace and tranquillity may be kept, added to what is his duty to do in the behalf of the truth, then he must have the power over religion and the consciences of men by him ascribed unto him; but there is no privity of interest between these things. The laws which he makes to this purpose are to be regulated by the word of God and the good of the community over which, in the name of God, he doth preside; and whence he will take his warranty to forbid men the exercise of their consciences in the duties of spiritual worship, whilst the principles they profess are suited to the light of nature and the fundamental doctrines of the gospel, with the peace of mankind, and their practices absolutely consistent with the public welfare, I am yet to seek; and so, as far as I can yet perceive, is the author of the discourse under consideration. 404It will not arise, from a parity of reason, from the power that he hath to restrain cursed swearing and blasphemies by penal coercions; for these things are no less against the light of nature, and no less condemned by the common suffrage of mankind (and the persons that contract the guilt of them may be no less effectually brought to judge and condemn themselves), than are the greatest outrages that may be committed in and against human society. That the gospel will give no countenance hereunto he seems to acknowledge, in his assignation of several reasons why the use of the power, and exercise of it in the way of compulsion by penalties, pleaded for by him, is not mentioned therein. That “Christ and his apostles behaved themselves as subjects; that he neither took nor exercised any sovereign power; that he gave his laws to private men as such, and not to the magistrate; that the power that then was was in bad hands,” are pleaded as excuses for the silence of the gospel in this matter. But, lest this should prove farther prejudicial to his present occasion, he adds, p. 42, “The only reason why the Lord Christ bound not the precepts of the gospel upon men’s consciences by any secular compulsories was, not because compulsion was an improper way to put his laws in execution, for then he had never established them with more enforcing sanctions, but only because himself was not vested with any secular power, and so could not use those methods of government which are proper to its jurisdiction.” This in plain English is, that if Christ had had power, he would have ordered the gospel to have been propagated as Mohammed hath done his Alcoran; an assertion untrue and impious, contrary to the whole spirit and genius of the gospel and of the author of it, and the commands and precepts of it. And it is fondly supposed that the Lord Christ suited all the management of the affairs of the gospel unto that state and condition in this world wherein he emptied himself, and took upon him the form of a servant, making himself of no reputation, that he might be obedient unto death, the death of the cross. He lays the foundation of the promulgation and propagation of it in the world in the grant of all power unto him in heaven and earth. “All power,” saith he to his apostles, “is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you,” Matt. xxviii. 18–20. He is considered, in the dispensation of the gospel, as he who is “head over all things to the church,” the “Lord of lords, and King of kings,” whom our author acknowledgeth to be his vicegerents. On this account the gospel, with all the worship instituted therein and required thereby, is accompanied with a right to enter into any of the kingdoms of the earth, and spiritually to make the 405inhabitants of them subject to Jesus Christ, and so to translate them out of the power of darkness into the kingdom of the Son of God; and this right is antecedent and paramount to the right of all earthly kings and princes whatever, who have no power or authority to exclude the gospel out of their dominions, and what they exercise of that kind is done at their peril.

The “penalties that he hath annexed to the final rejection of the gospel and disobedience thereunto” are pleaded by our author to justify the magistrate’s power of binding men to “the observation of his commands in religion on temporal penalties, to be by him inflicted on them.” Unto that is the discourse of this chapter arrived, which was designed unto another end. I see neither the order, method, nor projection of this procedure, nor know

Amphora cum cœpit institui, cur urceus exit.

[Altered from Hor. ad Pison. 21.]

However, the pretence itself is weak and impertinent. Man was originally made under a law and constitution of eternal bliss or woe. This state, with regard to his necessary dependence on God and respect to his utmost end, was absolutely unavoidable unto him. All possibility of attaining eternal happiness by himself he lost by sin, and became inevitably obnoxious to eternal misery and the wrath to come. In this condition the Lord Jesus Christ, the supreme Lord of the souls and consciences of men, interposeth his law of relief, redemption and salvation, the great means of man’s recovery, together with the profession of the way and law hereof. He lets them know that those by whom it is refused shall perish under that wrath of God which before they were obnoxious unto, with a new aggravation of their sin and condemnation, from the contempt of the relief provided for them and tendered to them. This he applies to the souls and consciences of men, and to all the inward secret actings of them in the first place, — such as are exempted not only from the judicature of men, but from the cognizance of angels. This he doth by spiritual means, in a spiritual manner, — with regard to the subjection of the souls of men unto God, and with reference unto their bringing to him and enjoyment of him, or their being eternally rejected by him. Hence to collect and conclude that earthly princes, — who (whatever is pretended) are not the sovereign lords of the souls and consciences of men, nor do any of them, that I know of, plead themselves so to be; who cannot interpose any thing by their absolute authority that should have a necessary respect unto men’s eternal condition; who have no knowledge of, no acquaintance with, nor can judge of, the principal things whereon it doth depend; from whose temporal jurisdiction and punishment the things of the gospel and the worship of God, as purely such, are by the nature of them 406(being spiritual and not of this world, though exercised in it, having their respect only unto eternity), and by their being taken into the sole disposal of the sovereign Lord of consciences, who hath accompanied his commands concerning them with his own promises and threatenings, plainly exempted, — should have power over the consciences of men, so to lay their commands upon them in these spiritual things as to back them with temporal, corporeal restraints and punishments, is a way of arguing that will not be confined unto any of those rules of reasoning which hitherto we have been instructed in. When the magistrate hath “an arm like God,” and can “thunder with a voice like him;” when he “judgeth not after the sight of his eyes, nor reproveth after the hearing of his ears;” when he can “smite the earth with the rod of his mouth,” and “slay the wicked with the breath of his lips;” when he is constituted a judge of the faith, repentance, and obedience of men, and of their efficacy in their tendency unto the pleasing of God here and the enjoyment of him hereafter; when spiritual things, in order to their eternal issues and effects, are made subject unto him; — in brief, when he is Christ let him act as Christ, or rather most unlike him, and guide the consciences of men by rods, axes, and halters (whereunto alone his power can reach), who in the meantime have an express command from the Lord Christ himself not to have their consciences influenced in the least by the consideration of these things.

Of the like complexion is the ensuing discourse, wherein our author, p. 43, having spoken contemptuously of the spiritual institutions of the gospel, as altogether “insufficient for the accomplishment of the ends whereunto they are designed,” — forgetting that they respect only the consciences of men, and are His institutions who is the Lord of their consciences, and who will give them power and efficacy to attain their ends, when administered in his name and according to his mind, and that because they are his, — would prove the necessity of temporal coercions and penalties in things spiritual, from the extraordinary effects of excommunication in the primitive times, in the “vexation and punishment of persons excommunicate, by the devil.” This work the devil now ceasing to attend unto, he would have the magistrate to take upon him to supply his place and office, by punishments of his own appointment and infliction, and so at last, to be sure of giving him full measure, he hath ascribed two extremes unto him about religion, — namely, to act the part of God and the devil! But as this inference is built upon a very uncertain conjecture, — namely, that upon the giving up of persons to Satan in excommunication, there did any visible or corporeal vexation of them by his power ensue, or any other effects but what may yet be justly expected from an influence of his terror on the minds of men who are duly and regularly cast out of the visible kingdom of Christ by 407that censure, — and whereas, if there be any truth in it, it was confined unto the days of the apostles, and is to be reckoned amongst the miraculous operations granted to them for the first confirmation of the gospel, and the continuance of it all the time the church wanted the assistance of the civil magistrate is most unduly pretended, without any colour of proof or instance beyond such as may be evidenced to continue at this day; — supposing it to be true, the inference made from it, as to its consequence, on this concession, is exceeding weak and feeble; for the argument here amounteth to no more but this: God was pleased, in the days of the apostles, to confirm their spiritual censures against stubborn sinners, apostates, blasphemers, and such like heinous offenders, with extraordinary spiritual punishments (so in their own nature, or in the manner or way of their infliction); therefore, the civil magistrate hath power to appoint things to be observed in the worship of God, and forbid other things which the light and consciences of men, directed by the word of God, require the observation of, upon ordinary, standing, corporeal penalties, to be inflicted on the outward man, “quod erat demonstrandum.”

To wind up this debate, I shall commit the umpirage of it to the church, of England, and receive her determination in the words of one who may be supposed to know her sense and judgment as well as any one who lived in his days or since; and this is Dr Bilson, bishop of Winchester, a learned man, skilled in the laws of the land, and a great adversary unto all that dissented from church constitutions. This man, therefore, treating by way of dialogue, in answer to the Jesuits’ Apology and Defence, in the third part, p. 293, thus introduceth Theophilus, a protestant divine, arguing with Philander, a Jesuit, about these matters:— “Theoph. As for the ‘ supreme head of the church,’ it is certain that title was first transferred from the pope to King Henry the Eighth by the bishops of your side, not of ours. And though the pastors in King Edward’s time might not well dislike, much less dissuade, the style of the crown, by reason the king was under years, and so remained until he died; yet as soon as it pleased God to place her majesty in her father’s throne, the nobles and preachers, perceiving the words ‘head of the church’ (which is Christ’s proper and peculiar honour) to be offensive unto many that had vehemently repelled the same in the pope, besought her highness the meaning of that word which her father had used might be expressed in some plainer, apter terms, and so was the prince called supreme governor of the realm, — that is, ruler and bearer of the sword, with lawful authority to command and punish, answerable to the word of God, in all spiritual or ecclesiastical things or causes, as well as in temporal, and no foreign prince or prelate to have any 408jurisdiction, superiority, pre-eminence, or authority to establish, prohibit, correct and chastise, with public laws or temporal pains, any crimes or causes ecclesiastical or spiritual within her realm. Philand. Calvin saith this is sacrilege and blasphemy. Look you, therefore, with what consciences you take that oath which your own master so mightily detesteth. Theoph. Nay, look you with what faces you allege Calvin, who maketh that style to be sacrilegious and blasphemous as well in the pope as in the prince; reason, therefore, you receive or refuse his judgment in both. If it derogate from Christ in the prince, so it doth in the pope. Yet we grant the sense of the word ‘supreme,’ as Calvin perceived it by Stephen Gardiner’s answer and behaviour, is very blasphemous and injurious to Christ and his word, whether it be prince or pope that so shall use it.” What this sense is he declares in the words of Calvin, which are as followeth, in his translation of them: “That juggler, which after was chancellor, I mean the bishop of Winchester, when he was at Rentzburge, neither would stand to reason the matter nor greatly cared for any testimonies of the Scripture, but said it was at the king’s discretion to abrogate that which was in use and appoint new. He said the king might forbid priests’ marriage; the king might bar the people from the cup in the Lord’s supper; the king might determine this or that in his kingdom: and why? forsooth, the king had supreme power. This sacrilege hath taken hold on us, whilst princes think they cannot reign except they abolish all the authority of the church, and be themselves supreme judges, as well in doctrine as in all spiritual regimen.” To which he subjoins: “This was the sense which Calvin affirmed to be sacrilegious and blasphemous, for princes to profess themselves to be supreme judges of doctrine and discipline; and, indeed, it is the blasphemy which all godly hearts reject and abomine in the bishop of Rome. Neither did King Henry take any such thing on him, for aught that we can learn. But this was Gardiner’s stratagem to convey the reproach and shame of the Six Articles66   These Articles are well known by the name of the “Bloody Statute,” 31 Henry VIII., cap. 14, entitled, “An Act for the Abolishing Diversity of Opinions in certain Articles concerning Christian Religion.” They affirmed transubstantiation, communion in one kind, clerical celibacy, vows of chastity, private masses, and auricular confession — Ed. from himself and his fellows, that were the authors of them, and to cast it on the king’s supreme power. Had Calvin been told that ‘supreme’ was first received to declare the prince to be superior to the prelates (which exempted themselves from the king’s authority by their church liberties and immunities) as well as to the laymen of this realm, and not to be subject to the pope the word would never have offended him.” Thus far he; and if these controversies be any farther disputed, it is probable the next defence of what is here 409pleaded will be in the express words of the principal prelates of this realm since the Reformation, until their authority be peremptorily rejected.

Upon my first design to take a brief survey of this discourse, I had not the least intention to undertake the examination of any particular assertions or reasonings that might fall under controversy, but merely to examine the general principles whereon it doth proceed. But passing through these things “currente calamo,” I find myself engaged beyond my thoughts and resolutions; I shall therefore here put an end to the consideration of this chapter, although I see sundry things as yet remaining in it that might immediately be discussed with ease and advantage, as shall be manifest if we are called again to a review of them. I have neither desire nor design “serram reciprocare,” or to engage in any controversial discourses with this author; and I presume himself will not take it amiss that I do at present examine those principles whose novelty justifies a disquisition into them, and whose tendency, as applied by him, is pernicious and destructive to so many quiet and peaceable persons who dissent from him. And yet I will not deny but that I have that valuation and esteem for that sparkling of wit, eloquence, and sundry other abilities of mind which appear in his writing, that if he would lay aside the manner of his treating those from whom he dissents, with revilings, contemptuous reproaches, personal reflections, sarcasms, and satirical expressions, and would candidly and perspicuously state any matter in difference, I should think that what he hath to offer may deserve the consideration of them who have leisure for such a purpose. If he be otherwise minded, and resolved to proceed in the way and after the manner here engaged in, as I shall in the close of this discourse absolutely give him my “salve æternumque vale,” so I hope he will never meet with any one who shall be willing to deal with him at his own weapons.

« Prev A Survey of the First Chapter. Inconsistent… Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection