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Quest, cxv. Is it ever unlawful to use the known symbols and badges of idolatry?Answ. 1. Ordinarily it is unlawful, as being the thing forbidden in the second commandment. For he that useth them, 1. Is corporally idolatrous, whatever his secret thoughts may be. 2. And he is interpretatively an idolater, and actually persuadeth others to be so. 2. But yet though no man may ever use such symbols of idolatry formally, ' qua tales,' as such; yet materially he may use them in some cases. As 1. When an idolater will take an ordinance of God, and an appointed duty, and turn it into a symbol of his idolatry: (as in the foregoing instance of the Mahometans). We may not therefore forsake that duty; but we must do it in such a manner, as may sufficiently disclaim the idolater's use of it. As if any idolaters will make a symbol of some Scripture texts, or of the Lord's day, or of the sacramental bread and wine, &c.; we must not therefore disuse them. 2. When a thing indifferent is made an idolatrous symbol or badge, though I must not use it as idolaters do, yet if any act of Divine providence make it become necessary as a moral duty, I may be obliged to use it, disclaiming the idolater's manner and end: and then it will be known that I use it not as their symbol. As if a man, by famine or a swoon, were dying in an idol's temple, I might give him meat or drink there to save his life, though such as was a badge of their idolatry, while I disclaim their ends and use. The reason is, 1. Because at such a time it is a natural duty, and therefore may not be omitted for fear of scandal, or seeming sin, which at that time is no sin. 2. Because Christ hath taught us in the instance of himself and his disciples, that positive commands give place to natural, 'cseteris paribus.' And that the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath; and that we must learn what this meaneth, " I will have mercy and not sacrifice." And if we must break the rest of the sabbath for the life, yea, the feeding of an ox or ass, much more of a man: and the positives of the second commandment must be regulated as the positives of the fourth. 3. And the scandal in such a case mav
be avoided, by declaring that I do disclaim their use and ends. In a country where kneeling or being uncovered to the prince is a civil, honouring custom, if the prince should be a Caligula, and command the subjects to worship him and his image as a god, and make bowing, kneeling, or being uncovered the badge or symbol of it; here I would ordinarily avoid even that which before was a duty, because it was but by accident a duty, and now interpreted a heinous sin. But in case that the life of any man lay on it, or that the scandal on religion for my denying civil honour to the prince, would be greater and of more perilous consequence, than the scandal of seeming idolatry, I would perform that civil honour which I did before, and which God enjoineth me to perform to my prince. But I would avoid the scandal, by open protesting (seasonably) against the idolatry.
Quest, cxvi. Is it unlawful to use the badge or symbol of any error or sect in the worship of God?Answ. 1. It is unlawful to use it formally as such. 2. But not materially, when, 1. There are just and weighty reasons for it. 2. And I may disown the error. For 1. All sects and erroneous persons may turn holy words and duties into symbols of their errors. 2. All Christians in the world being imperfect, do sometimes err in matter or manner in their worship. And he that will materially avoid all the badges or symbols of their errors, shall have no communion with any church or Christian. 3. As we must do our best so to avoid all their errors, that we choose them not, and make them not formally our own practice; (as tautologies, vain repetitions, disorders, unfit phrases, &c. We must ourselves when we are the speakers do as much better as we can). So we must not therefore separate from them that do use them, nor deny them our communion when they use them; else we must separate from all others, and all others from us. 4. But when we are present with them, our minds must disown all the faults of the holiest prayer in the world which we join in: we may be bound to stay with them, and join in all that is good and warrantable, and yet as we go along, to disown in our minds all that we know to be amiss.
Quest, exvii. Are all indifferent things made unlawful to us, which shall be abused to idolatrous worship?Answ. You must distinguish, 1. Of the symbols of idolatry before spoken of, and other bye-abuses. 2. Of an abuse done in former ages or remote countries, and in our own age and country. 3. Of the reasons inviting us to use them, whether necessary or not. 1. The case of symbols or badges is not here spoken of, but other abuses. 2. An abuse committed in the age and place we live in, or any other, which will by the scandal embolden others to the like, may not be complied in without so great reason, as will notably preponderate the evil consequents. 3. But yet in many cases such abused, indifferent things, may after be lawfully used by believers. For instance:1. Names may be things indifferent, abused to idolatry, and yet lawfully used by us: as the name 'God, Deus, Lord, Holy, Just, Good, temple, altar, sacrifice, priest, heaven, sun, moon, Jupiter, Saturn,' and a hundred such: I mean these letters and syllables in these languages. That these names are all in themselves indifferent appeareth in that they are neither naturally necessary, nor by God's institution, but arbitrary signs of human invention and choice: for we may easily and lawfully make new words to signify all the same things that these do: and that they are abused to idolatry is notoriously known: and that yet they are lawfully used, the practice of all Christians, English and Latin, even the most scrupulous themselves doth judge. 2. And the use of temples (those individuals which have been used to idolatry) is lawful. 3. So also of bells, pulpits, cups, tables, and fonts, and other utensils. 4. The Bible itself, as it is this individual book rather than another, is a thing indifferent. Yet it may be read in after it hath been abused to idolatry. 5. If the king would give not only the garments, but the money, lands, lordships, houses, which have been consecrated or otherwise abused to idolatry, to any poor people, or most of the scrupulous, they would think it lawful to receive and use them; yea, it is lawful to dedicate the same lands and money afterwards to holy uses, and to maintain religious worship. 6. Otherwise it were in the power of any idolater whenever he pleased, to deprive all the Christian world of their Christian liberty, and to make nothing indifferent to us, seeing they can abuse them all. 7. Yea, almost nothing is then already indifferent, there being few things that some person in some time and place hath not abused to idolatry. 8. If the question be only of all individual things abused to idolatry, the decision now given will hold good; but if it be also of all species of such things, it will be a dishonour to a man's reason to make a question of it.
Quest, cxviii. May we use the names of week-days which idolatry honoured their idols with; as Sunday, Monday, Saturday, and the rest? And so the months?Answ. 1. It were to be wished that the custom were changed; 1. Because the names have been so grossly abused: 2. And we have no need of them: 3. And as the Papists say, 'Our monuments, temple-names, and other relics among you prove ours to be the old religion, and keep possession for us till it be restored.' So the heathens say to all the Christians, 'Your very names of your days and months prove our religion to be older than yours, and keep possession for us, till it be restored.' 2. It is meet that we wisely do our duty towards the reformation of this abuse. 3. But yet long custom and sound doctrine hath so far taken away the scandal and ill effects, that rather than be an offence to any by seeming singularity, it is as lawful still to use these names, as it was to Luke to use the names of Castor and Pollux, Jupiter and Mercury, historically. 4. In such cases, the true solution of the question must be, by weighing accidents and foreseen consequents together wisely and impartially; and he that can foresee which way is likely to do most good or hurt, may satisfactorily know his duty.
Quest, cxix. Is it lawful to pray secretly when we come first into the church, especially when the church is otherwise employed?Answ. 1. This is a thing which God hath given us no particular law about; but the general laws must regulate us, "Let all be done decently, in order, and to edification." 2. Our great and principal business in coming to the church-assembly, is to join with them in the public worship; and this is that accordingly, as our great business, we must intend and do. 3. In a place where superstition makes ignorant people think it a matter of necessity, so to begin with secret prayer, when the church is otherwise employed, the use of it is the more scandalous, as encouraging them in their error. 4. It is the best way to come before the public worship begin, and then they that think it most decent may do it without scruple or just offence. 5. But as a man's heart may put up a short ejaculation as he walketh up the church, without losing what else he might hear, so a man may on his knees be so brief, as that his loss shall be but small; and whether his profit preponderate that little time's loss, he can judge better than another. Therefore though I like best keeping to concord with the assembly in our devotion, yet these are things in which it ill beseemeth Christians to judge or despise each other; and I shall take on either side the judging and despising of those that differ from us, to be a far greater sin, than the doing or not doing of the thing. Object. ' Is it not called, in Eccles. v. 1, 2. "The sacrifice of fools who know not they do evil?"'
Answ. No: I have wondered to hear that text so ordinarily thus perverted. The text is, " Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to offer the sacrifice of fools. "Which is no more,