« AnteriorContinuar »
rying "doing well," because it was not against any universal law, and it was a state that was suitable to some; but he calls not marrying "doing better," because it was then more ordinarily suited to the ends of Christianity. Now God maketh not a distinct law for every individual person in the church; but one universal law for all: and this being a thing variable according to the various cases of individual persons, was unfit to be particularly determined by an universal law. But if the question had been only of any one individual person, then the decision would have been thus: though marrying is a thing not directly commanded or forbidden, yet to some it is helpful as to moral ends, to some it is hurtful, and to some it is so equal or indifferent, that it is neither discernibly helpful nor hurtful; now by the general laws or rules of Scripture to them that 'consideratis considerandis' it is discernibly helpful, it is not indifferent, but a duty; to them that it is discernibly hurtful, it is not indifferent, but a sin; to them that it is neither discernibly helpful or hurtful as to moral ends, it is indifferent, as being neither duty nor sin; for it is not a thing of moral choice or nature at all. But the light of nature telleth us that God hath not left it indifferent to men to hinder themselves or to help themselves as to moral ends; else why pray we, "Lead us not into temptation 1" And marriage is so great a help to some, and so great a hurt to others, that no man can say that it is morally indifferent to all men in the world: and therefore that being none of the apostle's meaning, it followeth that his meaning is as aforesaid.
Object, v. ' But there are many things indifferent in themselves, though not as clothed with all their accidents and circumstances: and these actions being good in their accidents, maybe the matter of avow.' Answ. True, but those actions are commanded duties, and not things indifferent as so circumstantiated. It is very few actions in the world that are made simply duties or sins, in their simple nature without their circumstances and accidents: the commonest matter of all God's laws, is actions or dispositions which are good or evil in their circumstances and accidents. Therefore I conclude, things wholly indifferent are not to be vowed.
Direct, v. ' It is not every duty that is the matter of a lawful vow.' Else you might have as many vows as duties: every good thought, and word, and deed might have a vow. And then every sin which you commit would be accompanied and aggravated with the guilt of perjury. And no wise man will run his soul into such a snare. Object. ' But do we not in baptism vow obedience to God? And doth not obedience contain every particular duty V Answ. We vow sincere obedience, but not perfect obedience. We do not vow that we will never sin, nor neglect a duty (nor ought we to do so). So that as sincere obedience respecteth every known duty as that which we shall practise in the bent of our lives, but not in perfect constancy or degree, so far our vow in baptism hath respect to all known duties, but no further.
Direct, vi. 'To make a vow lawful, besides the goodness of the thing which we vow, there must be a rational, discernible probability that the act of vowing it will do more good than hurt: and this to a wise, foreseeing judgment.' For this vowing is not an ordinary worship to be offered to God (except the baptismal vow renewed in the Lord's supper and at other seasons); but it is left as an extraordinary means, for certain ends which cannot by ordinary means be attained: and therefore we must discern the season, by discerning the necessity or usefulness of it. Swearing is a part of the service of God, butnot of his daily worship, nor frequently and rashly to be used, by any that would not be held guilty of taking the name of God in vain: and so it is in the case of vowing. Therefore he that will make a lawful vow, must see beforehand what is the probable benefit of it, and what is the probable hurt or danger: and without this foresight it must be rash, and cannot be lawful. And therefore no one can make a lawful vow, but wise, foreseeing persons, and those that advise with such, and are guided by them, if they be not such themselves: unless in a case where God hath prescribed by his own determining commands (as in the covenant of Christianity). Therefore to one man the same vow may be a sin, that to another may be a duty; because one may have more reason for it, or necessity of it, and less danger by it than another. One man may foresee that vowing (in case where there is no necessity) may ensnare him either in perplexing doubts, or terrors, which will make all his life after more irregular or uncomfortable. Another man may discern that he is liable to no such danger1.
Direct, vn. ' No man should pretend danger or scruple against his renewing the vow of Christianity, or any one essential part of it; viz. To take God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost for my God, and Saviour, and Sanctifier, my Owner, Governor, and Father; renouncing the devil, the world, and the flesh.' Because there is an absolute necessity ' praecepti et medii,' of performing this, and he that doth it not shall certainly be damned; and therefore no worse matter can stand up against it: he that denieth it, giveth up himself despairingly to damnation. Yet I have heard many say, I dare not promise to turn to God, and live a holy life, lest I break this promise, and be worse than before. But dost thou not know, that it must be both made and kept, if thou wilt be saved? Wilt thou choose to be damned, for fear of worse? There is but one remedy for thy soul, and all the hope of thy salvation lieth upon that alone. And wilt thou refuse that one, for fear lest thou cast it up and die? when thou shalt certainly die unless thou both take it, and keep it, and digest it.
Direct, vm. ' About particular sins and duties, deliberate resolutions are the ordinary means of governing our lives; and vows must not be used where these will do the work without them.' For extraordinary means must not be used, when ordinary will serve the turn. Nor must you needlessly draw a double guilt upon yourselves in case of sinning. And in mutable or doubtful cases, a resolution may be changed, when a vow cannot. Try therefore what deliberate resolutions will do, with the help of other ordinary means, before you go any further.
Direct, ix. 'When ordinary resolutions and other helps will not serve the turn, to engage the will to the forbearance 1 Plutarch. Quest. Roman. 44. Why may not priests swear? Resp. Is it because an oath put to free-born men, is as it were the rack and torture offered them? For certain it is that the soul as well as the body of the priest, ought to continue free, and not be forced by any torture. Or that we must not distrust them in small matters, who are to be believed in great and divine things? Or because the peril of perjury would reach in common to the whole Commonwealth, if a wicked, and ungodly, and forsworn person should have the charge and superintendency of the prayers, vows, and sacrifices made in behalf of the city? Page 866. of a known sin, or the performance of a known duty, but temptations are so strong as to bear down all, then it is seasonable to bind ourselves by a solemn vow, so it be cautelouslyand deliberately done, and no greater danger like to follow.' In such a case of necessity, 1. You must deliberate on the benefits and need. 2. You must foresee all the assaults that you are like to have to tempt you to perjury, that they come not unexpected. 3. You must join the use of all other means for the keeping of your vows.
Direct, x. 'Make not a law and religion to yourselves by your voluntary vows, which God never made you by his authority: nor bind yourselves for futurity to all that is a duty at present, where it is possible that the change of things may change your duty.' God is our King and Governor, and not we ourselves: it is not we, but he that must give laws to us. We have work enough to do of his appointing: we need not make more to ourselves, as if he had not given us enough. Vows are not to make us new duties or religions, but to further us in the obedience of that which our Lord hath imposed on us. It is a self-condemning sin of foolish will-worshippers, to be busy in laying more burdens on themselves, when they know, they cannot do so much as God requireth of them. Yea, some of them mur mur at God's laws as too strict, and at the observers of them as too precise, (though they come far short of what is their duty); and yet will be cutting out more work for themselves. And it is not enough that what you vow be your duty at the present, but you must bind yourselves to it by vows no longer than it shall remain your duty. It may be your duty at the present to live a single life; but if you will vow therefore that you will never marry, you may bind yourselves to that which may prove your sin: you know not what alterations may befall you in your body or estate, that may invite you to it. Are you sure that no change shall make it necessary to you? Or will you presume to bind God himself by your vows, that he shall make no such alteration? Or if you were never so confident of your own unchangeableness, you know not what fond and violent affections another maybe possessed with, which may make an alteration in your duty. At the present it may be your duty to live retiredly, and avoid magistracy and public employments; but you may not therefore vow it for continuance: for you know not but God may make such alterations, as may make it so great and plain a duty, as without flat impiety or cruelty you cannot refuse: perhaps at the present it may be your duty to give half your yearly revenues to charitable and pious uses; but you must not therefore vow it for continuance (without some special cause to warrant it): for perhaps the next year it may be your duty to give but a fourth or a tenth part, or none at all, according as the providence of God shall dispose of your estate and you. Perhaps God may impose a clear necessity on you, of using your estate some other way.
Direct, xi. 'If you be under government, you may not lawfully vow without your governor's consent, to do any thing which you may not lawfully do without their consent, in case you had not vowed it.' For that were, 1. Actually to disobey them at the present, by making a vow without the direction and consent of your governors. 2. And thereby to bind yourselves to disobey them for the future, by doing that without them, which you should not do without them. But if it be a thing that you may do, or must do, though your governors forbid you, then you may vow it though they forbid you, (if you have a call from the necessity of the vow).
Direct, xn. 'If oaths be commanded us by usurpers that have no authority to impose them, we must not take them in formal obedience to their commands.' For that were to own their usurpation and encourage them in their sin: if we owe them no obedience in any thing, we must not obey them in so great a thing: or if they have some authority over us in other matters, but none in this (as a constable hath no power to give an oath), we must not obey them in the point where they have no authority. But yet it is possible that there may be other reasons that may make it our duty to do it, though not as an act of formal obedience: as I may take an oath when a thief or murderer requireth it, not to obey him, but to save my life. And if any man command me to do that which God commandeth me, I must do it, because God commandeth it.
Direct, xm. ' If a lawful magistrate impose an oath or
Vol. v. F