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faulty, as the consequent or effect of our common, culpable imperfection. But we may say, that we know no fault or error in it, if indeed we do not know of any. 3. It is lawful to profess or subscribe our assent and consent to any human writing which we judge to be true and good, according to the measure of its truth and goodness; as if church-confessiono that are sound be offered us for our consent, we may say or subscribe, 'I hold all the doctrine in this book to be true and good.' And by so doing I do not assert the infallibility of the authors, but only the verity of the writing. 1 do not say that he cannot err, or that he never erreth; but that he erreth not in this, as far as I am able to discern.
Quest, Cliii. May we lawfully swear obedience in all things lawful and honest, either to usurpers, or to our lawful pastors?Answ. 1. If the question were of imposing such oaths, I would say, that it was many a hundred years before the churches of Christ (either under persecution, or in their prosperity and glory) did ever know of any such practice, as the people or the presbyters swearing obedience to the bishops And when it came up, the magistracy, princes, and emperors fell under the feet of the pope; and the clergy grew to what we see it in the Roman kingdom, called a church. And far should I be from desiring such oaths to be imposed. 2. But the question being only of the taking such oaths, and not the imposing of them, I say, that (1.) It is not lawful to swear obedience to an usurper, civil or ecclesiastical, 'in licitis et honestis;' because it is a subjecting ourselves to him, and an acknowledging that authority which he hath not; for we can swear no further to obey the king himself but in things lawful and honest; and to do so by an usurper is an injury to the king, and unto Christ. (2.) But if the king himself shall command us to swear obedience to a subordinate civil usurper, he thereby ceaseth to be an usurper, and receiveth authority, and it becometh our duty. And if he that was an ecclesiastical usurper, 'quoad personam,' that had no true call to a lawful office, shall after have a call, or if any thing fall out, which shall make it our duty to consent and call him, then the impediment from his usurpation is removed. (3.) It is not lawful, though the civil magistrate command us to swear obedience even 'in licitis et honestis,' to such an usurper, whose office itself is unlawful, or forbidden by Christ, as he is such an officer. No Protestant thinketh it lawful to swear obedience to the pope as pope; nor do any that take lay-elders to be an unlawful office, think it lawful to swear obedience to them as such. (4.) If one that is in an unlawful ecclesiastical office, be also at once in another that is lawful, we may swear obedience to him in respect of the lawful office. So it is lawful to swear obedience to the pope in Italy, as a temporal prince in his own dominions; and to a cardinal, (as Richelieu, Mazarine, Ximenes, &c.) as the king's ministers, exercising a power derived from him: so it is lawful for a tenant, where law and custom requireth it, to swear fidelity to a lay-elder, as his landlord or temporal lord and master. And so the old nonconformists, who thought the English prelacy an unlawful office, yet maintained that it is lawful to take the oath of canonical obedience, because they thought it was imposed by the king and laws, and that we swear to them not as officers claiming a Divine right in the spiritual government, but as ordinaries, or officers made by the king to exercise so much of ecclesiastical jurisdiction under him, as he can delegate; according to the oath of supremacy, in which we all acknowledge the king to be supreme in all ecclesiastical causes; that is, not the supreme pastor, bishop, or spiritual key-bearer or ruler, but the supreme civil ruler of the church, who hath the power of the sword, and of determining all things extrinsic to the pastoral office; and so of the coercive government of all pastors and churches, as well as of other subjects. And if prelacy were proved never so unlawful, no doubt but by the king's command we may swear or perform formal obedience to a prelate, as he is the king's officer. Of the nonconformists' judgment in this, read Bradshaw against Canne, &c. (5.) But in such a case no oath to inferiors is lawful without the consent of the sovereign power, or at least against his will. (6.) Though it be a duty for the flock to obey every presbyter, yet if they would make all the people swear obedience to them, all wise and conscionable Christians should dissent from the introduction of such a custom, and deny such oaths as far as lawfully they may: that is, 1. If the king be against it, we must refuse it. 2. If he be neutral or merely passive in it, we must refuse, unless some apparent necessity for the church's good require it. 1. Because it savoureth of pride in such presbyters. 2. Because it is a new custom in the church, and contrary to the ancient practice. 3. It is not only without any authority given them by Christ, that they exact such oaths, but also contrary to the great humility, lowliness, and condescension, in which he describeth his ministers, who must be great, by being the servants of all \ 4. And it tendeth to corrupt the clergy for the future. 5. And such new impositions give just reason to princes and to the people to suspect that the presbyters are aspiring after some inordinate exaltation, or have some ill project for the advancement of themselves. (7.) But yet if it be not only their own ambition which imposeth it, but either the king and laws command it, or necessity require it for the avoidance of a greater evil, it may be lawful and a duty to take an oath of obedience to a lawful presbyter or bishop; because, 1. It is a duty to obey them. 2. And it is not forbidden us by Christ to promise or swear to do our duty, (even when they may sin in demanding such an oath). (8.) If an office be lawful in the essential parts, and yet have unlawful integrals, or adjuncts, or be abused in exercise, it will not by such additions or abuses be made unlawful to swear obedience to the officer as such. (9.) If one presbyter or bishop would make another presbyter or bishop to swear obedience to him without authority, the case is the same as of the usurpers before mentioned.
'Malt. xxii. 4. 10. Luke xxii. 27, &c. Mark ix. 35. 1 Pet. v. 2, 3. 1 Cor. ix. 19. iv. 1. t Cor. iv. 5.
Quest, Cliv. Must all our preaching be upon a text of Scripture? Answ. 1. In many cases it may be lawful to preach without a text"; to make sacred orations like Gregory Nazianzen's, and homilies like Macarius's, Ephrem Syrus's, and many other ancients, and like our own church-homilies. 2. But ordinarily it is the fittest way to preach upon a text of Scripture'. 1. Because it is our very office to teach the people the Scripture. The prophets brought a new word or message from God; but the priests did but keep, interpret, and preach the law already received: and we are not successors of the inspired prophets, but as the priests were, teachers of God's received Word. And this practice will help the people to understand our office. 2. And it will preserve the due esteem and reverence of the Holy Scriptures, which the contrary practice may diminish.
Quest, Clv. Is not the law of Moses abrogated, and the whole Old Testament out of date, and therefore not to be read publicly and preached onf
Answ. 1. The covenant of innocency is ceased ' cessante subditorum capacitate,' as a covenant or promise. And so are the positive laws proper to Adam, in that state, and to many particular persons since. 2. The covenant mixt of grace and works, proper to the Jews, with all the Jewish law as such, was never made to us, or to the rest of the world; and to the Jews it is ceased by the coming and more perfect laws and covenant of Christ. 3. The prophecies and types of Christ, and the promises made to Adam, Abraham, and others of his coming in the flesh, are all fulfilled, and therefore not useful to all the ends of their first making: and the many prophecies of particular things and persons past and gone are accomplished. 4. But the law of nature is still Christ's law: and that law is much expounded to us in the Old Testament: and if God once, for another use, did say,' this is the law of na
"Acts ii. iii. Luke iv. 18. 'Mai. ii. 7. ture,' the truth of these words as a Divine doctrine and exposition of the law of nature is still the same. 5. The covenant of grace made with Adam and Noah for all mankind, is still in force as to the great benefits and main condition, that is, as to pardon given by it to true penitent believers, with a right to everlasting life, and as to the obligation to sincere obedience for salvation: though not as to the yet future coming of Christ in the flesh. And this law of grace was never yet repealed any further than Christ's coming did fulfil it and perfect it: therefore to the rest of the world who never can have the Gospel or more perfect testament as Christians have, the former law of grace is yet in force. And that is the law, conjoined with the law of nature, which now the world without the church is under: under, I say, as to the force of the law, and a former promulgation made to Adam and Noah, and some common intimations of it in merciful forbearances, pardons, and benefits; though how many are under it as to the knowledge, reception, and belief, and obedience of it, and consequently are saved by it, is more than I or any man knoweth. 6. There are many prophecies of Christ and the Christian church in the Old Testament yet to be fulfilled, and therefore are still God's Word for us. 7. There are many precepts of God to the Jews and to particular persons, given them on reasons common to them with us; where parity of reason will help thence to gather our own duty now. 8. There are many holy expressions (as in the Psalms), which are fitted to persons in our condition, and came from the Spirit of God; and therefore as such are fit for us now. 9. Even the fulfilled promises, types, and prophecies, are still God's words, that is, his Word given to their several proper uses: and though much of their use be changed or ceased, so is not all: they are yet useful to us, to confirm our faith, while we see their accomplishment, and see how much God still led his church to happiness in one and the same way. 10. On all these accounts therefore we may still read Vol. v. N N