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&c., to make the man of God perfect. It is the incorruptible seed by which we are born again, and the sincere milk, by which we are nourished. 2. And is it not as true, 1. That the law of the land is abused by every false pretender, lawyer, and corrupt judge? What title so bad, that is not defended in Westminster Hall sometimes, under pretence of law 1 And what action so bad, that some pretend not law for? What then? Must the law be forbidden the common people for this?2. Nay, what is so much abused to unrighteousness and sin as reason itself? What heresy or crime do not men plead reason for? Must reason therefore be forbidden the vulgar?3. Yea, contrarily, this signifieth that law and reason are so far from being things to be forbidden men, that they are indeed those things by which nature and necessity have taught all the world to try and discern right from wrong, good from bad; otherwise good and bad men would not all thus agree in pretending to them, and appealing to their decisions. 4. If many men are poisoned or killed in eating or drinking; if many men's eye-sight is abused to mislead them into sin, &c., the way is not, to eat nothing but what is put into our mouths; nor to put out our eyes, or wink, and be led only by a priest; but to use both the more cautiously, with the best advice and help that we can get. 5. And do not these deceivers see, that their reason pleadeth as strongly that priests and prelates themselves should never read the Scripture, (and consequently that it should be banished out of the world)? For who that is awake in the world can be ignorant, that it is priests and prelates, who have been the leaders of almost all heresies and sects; who differ in their expositions and opinions? and lead the vulgar into all the heresies which they fall into? Who then should be forbidden to read the Scripture, but priests and prelates, who wrest them to their own and other men's destruction?
Quest, Cxlvu. Hmo far is tradition, and men's words and ministry to be used or trusted in, in the exercise of faith?
Arisw. 1. The churches and ministers received the Gospel in Scripture from the apostles, and the creed as the summary of faith; and they delivered it down to others, and they to us. 2. The ministers by office are the instructors of the people in the meaning of it: and the keepers of the Scriptures, as lawyers are of the laws of the landq.
Quest, Cxlvin. Hov) know we the true canon of Scripture from apocrypha?Answ. By these means set together: 1. There is for the most part, a special venerable excellency in the books themselves, which helpeth us in the distinct reception of them. 2. The tradition of infallible church-history telleth us, which books they are which were written by men inspired by the Holy Ghost, and who sealed their doctrine with miracles in those times; it being but matter of fact (which books such men wrote whom God bare witness to) infallible church-history (such as we have to know which are the statutes of the land, and which are counterfeit) is a sufficient notification and proof. 3. The sanctifying Spirit still in all ages and Christians, attesteth the Divinity and truth of the doctrine of the main body of the Bible, especially the Gospel; and then if we should err about the authority of a particular book, it would not overthrow our faith. It is not necessary to salvation to believe this particular text to be Divine , but it is sin and folly to doubt causelessly of the parts, when the Spirit attesteth the doctrine and the body of the book. I pass these things briefly, because I have more largely handled them elsewhere.
Quest, Cxlix. Is the public reading of the Scripture the proper work of a minister? or may a layman ordinarily do it? or another officer?
Ansxo. In such cases as I before shewed that a layman
•I Heb. ii. 3, 4. 2 Pet. i. 17—tl. 2 John i. 1—6. iv. 6. 2 Tito. ii. 2. Titus i. 5.
may preach, he may also read the Scriptures. Of which look back. 2. No doubt but it is a work well beseeming the ordained ministers or pastors, and an integral part of their office; and should not be put off by them when they can doit. 3. When they need help, the deacons are ordained ministers, authorized to help them in such work, and most fit to do it. 4. Whether in a case of necessity a layman may not ordinarily read the Scripture to the congregation, is a case that I am loath to determine, being loath to suppose such a necessity. But if the minister cannot, and there be no deacon, I cannot prove it unlawful for a layman to do it under the direction of the pastor. I lived some time under an old minister of about eighty years of age (who never preached himself), whose eye-sight failing him, and having not maintenance to keep an assistant, he did by memory say the Common-prayer himself, and got a tailor one year, and a thresher or poor day-labourer another year to read all the Scriptures. Whether that were not better than nothing, I leave to consideration. And I think it is commonly agreed on, that where there is no minister, it is better for the people to meet and hear a layman read the Scriptures and some good books, than to have no public helps and worship.
Quest, Cl. Is it lawful to read the apocrypha, or any good books besides the Scriptures to the church? As homilies, %c.?
Answ. 1. It is not lawful to read them as God's Word, or to pretend them to be the Holy Scriptures, for that is a falsehood, and an addition to God's Word. 2. It is not lawful to read them scandalously, in a title and manner tending to draw the people to believe that they are God's Word, or without a sufficient distinguishing of them from the Holy Scriptures. 3. If any one of the apocryphal books, (as Judith, Tobit, Bel and the Dragon, &c.) be as fabulous, false, and bad as our Protestant writers (Reignoldus, Amesius, Whitakers, Chamier, and abundance more) affirm them to be, it is not lawful ordinarily to read them, in that honourable way as chapters called lessons are usually read in the assemblies. Nor is it lawful so to read heretical, fabulous, or erroneous books. But it is lawful to read publicly, apocryphal and human writings, homilies, or edifying sermons, on these conditions following. 1. So be it they be indeed sound doctrine, holy, and fitted to the people's edification. 2. So be it they be not read scandalously without sufficient differencing them from God's Book. 3. So they be not read to exclude or hinder the reading of the Scriptures, or any other necessary churchduty. 4. So they be not read to keep up an ignorant, lazy ministry that can or will do no better; nor to exercise the minister's sloth, and hinder him from preaching. 5. And especially if authority command it, and the church's agreement require it, as a signification what doctrine it is which they profess. 6. Or if the church's necessities require it; as if they have no minister, or no one that can do so much to their edification any other way. 7. Therefore the use of catechisms is confessed lawful in the church, by almost all.
Quest, Cli. May church-assemblies be held where there is no minister? Or what public worship may be so performed by laymen? (As among infidels, or Papists, where persecution hath killed, imprisoned, or expelled the ministers,)
Amw. 1. Such an assembly as hath no pastor, or minister of Christ, is not a church, in a political sense, as the word signifieth a society consisting of pastor and flock; but it may be a church in a larger sense, as the word signifieth only a community or association of private Christians for mutual help in holy things. 2. Such an assembly ought on the Lord's days, and at other fit times to meet together for mutual help, and the public worshipping of God, as they may, rather than not to meet at all. 3. In those meetings they may do all that followeth. 1. They may pray together; a layman being the speaker. 2. They may sing psalms. 3. They may read the Scriptures. 4. They may read some holy, edifying writings of Divines, or repeat some minister's sermons. 5. Some that are most able may speak to the instruction and exhortation of the rest, as a master may do in his family, or neighbours to stir up God's graces in each other, as was opened before. And some such may catechize the younger and more ignorant. 6. They may by mutual conferences open their cases to each other, and communicate what knowledge and experience they have, to the praise of God and each other's edification. 7. They may make a solemn profession of their faith, covenant, and subjection to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: and all this is better than nothing at all. But, 1. None of them may do any of this as a pastor, ruler, priest, or office-teacher of the church. 2. Nor may they baptize. 3. Nor administer the Lord's supper. 4. Nor excommunicate by sentence, (but only executively agree to avoid the notoriously impenitent). 5. Nor absolve ministerially, or as by authority; nor exercise any of the power of the keys, that is, of government. 6. And they must do their best to get a pastor as soon as they are able.
Quest, Clii. Is it lawful to subscribe or profess full assent and consent to any religious books besides the Scripture, seeing all are fallible?Answ. 1. It is not lawful to profess or subscribe that any book is more true or better than it is; or that there is no fault in any that is faulty; or to profess that we believe any mortal man to be totally infallible in all that he shall write or say, or impeccable in all that he shall do. 2. Because all men are fallible, and so are we in judging, it is not lawful to say of any large and dubious books, in which we know no fault, that there is no fault or error in them; we being uncertain, and it being usual for the best men even in their best writings, prayers, or works to be