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Quest, Clxxi. What is sacrilege, and what not f
Answ. I. Sacrilege is robbing God by the unjust alienation of holy things. And it is measured according as things are diversified in holiness; as, 1. The greatest sacrilege is a profane, unholy alienating a person to the flesh and the world, from God, and his love, and his service, who by baptism was devoted to him. And so all wicked Christians are grossly sacrilegious. 2. The next is alienating consecrated persons from the sacred work and office, by deposing kings, or by unjust silencing or suspending true ministers, or their casting off God's work themselves. This is far greater sacrilege than alienating lands or utensils. 3. The next is the unjust alienating of temples, utensils, lands, days, which were separated by God himself"1.
4. And next such as were justly consecrated by man; as is aforesaid in the degrees of holiness. II. It is not sacrilege, 1. To cease from the ministry or other holy service, when sickness, disability of body, or violence utterly disable us. 2. Nor to alienate temples, lands, goods, or utensils, when providence maketh it needful to the church's good; so the fire in London hath caused a diminution of the number of churches: so some bishops of old, sold the church plate to relieve the poor: and some princes have sold some church-lands to save the church and state in the necessities of a lawful war. 3. It is not sacrilege to alienate that which man devoted, but God accepted not, nor owned as appropriate to him (which his prohibition of such a dedication is a proof of). As if a man devote his wife to chastity, or his son to the ministry against their wills: or if a man vow himself to the ministry that is unable and hath no call: or if so much lands or goods be consecrated, as is superfluous, useless, and injurious to the common welfare and the state. Alienation in these cases is no sin.
»" Rom. U. 22. 2 Pet. ii. 20—22. Heb. vi. 6, 7. x. 26—29. 1 Thess. ii. 15,16. Lev. six. 8. Heb. xii. 16. Acts v. 5, &c. Exek. xxii. 26. xlii. 20. xliv. 29.
Quest, Clxxii. Are all religious and private meetings, forbidden by rulers, unlawful conventicles? Or are any such necessary?Answ. Though both such meetings and our prisons tell us how greatly we now differ about this point, in the application of it to persons and our present case, yet I know no difference in the doctrinal resolution of it among most sober Christians at all: (which makes our case strange.) For aught I know, we are agreed, 1. 1. That it is more to the honour of the church, and of religion, and of God, and more to our safety and edification, to have God's worship performed solemnly, publicly, and in great assemblies, than in a corner, secretly, and with few n.
2. That it is a great mercy therefore where the rulers allow the church such public worship. 3. That 'caeteris paribus' all Christians should prefer such public worship before private; and no private meetings should be kept up, which are opposite or prejudicial to such public meetings. 4. And therefore if such meetings (or any that are unnecessary to the ends of the ministry, the service of God and good of souls,) be forbidden by lawful rulers, they must be forborne. II. But we are also agreed, 1. That it is not the place but the presence of the true pastors and people that make the church °.
2. That God may be acceptably worshipped in all places when it is our duty. 3. That the ancient churches and Christians in times of persecutions, ordinarily met in secret against the ruler's will, and their meetings were called conventicles, (and slandered, which occasioned Pliny's examination, and the right he did them). 4. That no minister must forsake and give over his work while there is need, and he can do if.
"Psal. i. 2. 4,5. xxii. 25. xxxv. 18. xl.9, 10. Acts xxviii. uJt. Hit,, x. 25. Acts xx. 7. i. 15. ii. 44. 1 Cor. xiv. 23.
» 1 Cor. xvi. 19. Rom. xvi.5. Actsxii. 12. Col. iv. 15.
v Matt. xviii. 20. 1 Cor. ix. 16. 1 Thess. ii. 15, 16. Acts iv. 19. Sec Dr. Hammond in loc.
5. That where there are many thousands of ignorant and ungodly persons, and the public ministers, either through their paucity, (proportioned to the people,) or their disability, unwillingness, or negligence, or all, are insufficient for all that public and private ministerial work, which God hath appointed for the instruction, persuasion, and salvation of such necessitous souls, there is need of more ministerial help i.
6. That in cases of real (not counterfeit) necessity, they that are hindered from exercising their ministerial office publicly, should do it privately, if they have true ordination, and the call of the people's necessity, desire, and of opportunity; so be it they do it in that peaceable, orderly, and quiet manner, as may truly promote the interest of religion, and detract not from the lawful public ministry and work. 7. That they that are forbidden to worship God publicly, unless they will commit some certain sin, are so prohibited as that they ought not to do it on such termsr. 8. That the private meetings which are held on these forementioned terms, in such cases of necessity, are not to be forsaken, though prohibited: though still the honour of the magistrate is to be preserved, and obedience given him in all lawful things. And such meetings are not sinful nor dishonourable (to the assemblers;) for as Tertullian (and Dr. Heylin after him) saith, 'Cum pii, cum boni coeunt, non factio dicenda est, sed curia:' 'when pious, and good people meet, (especially as aforesaid,) it is not to be called a faction, but a court.' Thus far I think we all agree. And that the church of England is really of this mind is certain; 1. In that they did congregate in private themselves, in the time of Cromwell's usurpation, towards the end when he began to restrain the use of the Common Prayer. 2. In that they wrote for it: see Dr. Hide " Of the Church," in the beginning. 3. Because both in the reign of former princes, since the reformation, and to this day, many laborious conforming ministers, have still used to repeat their sermons in their houses, where many of the people came to hear them. 4. Because the liturgy alloweth private baptism, and restraineth not any number from being pre4 lTim.il. 8. Acts viii. 4. 1 John iii. 17. 2 Tim. iv. 1—3. Heb. x. 25. 'See much of this case handled before Quest. 109, 110. sent, nor the minister from instructing them in the use of baptism, (which is the sum of Christianity). 5. Because the liturgy commandeth the visitation of the sick, and alloweth the minister there to pray and instruct the person according to his own ability, about repentance, faith in Christ, and preparation for death and the life to come, and forbiddeth not the friends and neighbours of the sick to be present. 6. Because the liturgy and canons allow private communion with the sick, lame, or aged that cannot come to the assembly; where the nature of that holy work is to be opened, and the eucharistical work to be performed; and some must be present, and the number not limited. 7. And as these are express testimonies, that all private meetings are not disallowed by the church of England, so there are other instances of such natural necessity as they are not to be supposed to be against. As, (1.) For a captain to pray, and read Scripture or good books, and sing psalms with his soldiers, and with mariners at sea, when they have no minister. (2.) There are many thousands and hundred thousands in England, that some live so far from the church, and some are so weak that they can seldom go, and some churches have not room for a quarter of the parish; and none of the thousands now meant can read, and so neither can help themselves, nor have a minister that will do it; and thousands that when they have heard a sermon cannot remember it, but lose it presently. If these that cannot read or remember, nor teach their own families, nor go to church, do take their families, many of them, to some one neighbour's house where the sermon is repeated, or the Bible or liturgy read, methinks the church should not be against it. But it must be still remembered, that, 1. Rulers that are infidels, Papists, heretics, or persecutors, that restrain church-meetings to the injury of men's souls, must be distinguished from pious princes that only restrain heretics and real schismatics for the church's good. 2. And that times of heresy and schism may make private meetings more dangerous than quiet times. And so even the Scottish church forbad private meetings in the Separatists' days of late. And when they do more hurt than good, and are justly forbidden, no doubt in that case, it is a duty to obey and to forbear them, as is aforesaid.
Quest, Clxxiii. What particular directions for order of studies, and books should be observed by young students?Because disorder is so great a disadvantage to young students, and because many have importuned me to name them some few of the best books, because they have no time to read, nor money to buy many, I shall here answer these two demands. I. The order of their studies is such as respecteth their whole lives, or such as respecteth every day. It is the first which I now intend.
Direct, i. The knowledge of so much of theology as is necessary to your own duty and salvation, is the first thing which you are to learn, (when you have learnt to speak). Children have souls to save; and their reason is given them to use for their Creator's service and their salvation. 1. They can never begin to learn that too soon which they were made and redeemed to learn, and which their whole lives must be employed in practising. 2. And that which absolute necessity requireth, and without which there is no salvation. 3. And that which must tell a man the only ultimate end which he must intend, in all the moral actions of his life. For the right intention of our end is antecedent to all right use of means; and till this be done, a man hath not well begun to live, nor to use his reason; nor hath he any other work for his reason, till this be first done. He liveth but in a continual sin, that doth not make God and the public good, and his salvation his end. Therefore they that would not have children begin with divinity, would have them serve the devil and the flesh Gad must be our first and last, and all. Not that any exact or full body or method of divinity is to be learnt so early. But 1. The baptismal covenant must be well opened betime, and frequently urged upon their hearts. 2. Therefore the creed, the Lord's prayer, and decalogue, must be opened to such betime; that is, they must be wisely catechised. 3. They must be taught the Scripture history, especially Genesis and the Gospel of Christ. 4. They must with the other Scriptures, read the most plain and suitable books of practical divines (after named). 5. They must be kept in the company of suitable, wise, and