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“On these four scriptural reasons, as on a firm square, this truth, the right of Christian and evangelic liberty, will stand immovable against all those pretended consequences of licence and confusion, which, for the most part, men most licentious and confused themselves, or such as whose severity would be wiser than divine wisdom, are ever aptest to object against the ways of God: as if God, without them, when he gave us this liberty, knew not of the worst which these men in their arrogance pretend will follow: yet knowing all their worst, he gave us this liberty as by him judged best. As to those magistrates who think it their work to settle religion, and those ministers or others who so oft call upon them to do so, I trust, that having well considered what hath been here argued, neither they will continue in that intention, nor these in that expectation from them ; when they shall find that the settlement of religion belongs only to each particular church by persuasive and spiritual means within itself, and that the defence only of the church belongs to the magistrate. Had he once learned not further to concern himself with church affairs, half his labour might be spared, and the commonwealth better tended."*
The treatise of “Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Causes" was addressed to the Parliament of the Commonwealth of England, and contains one wise admonition, to which it would have been well if other parliaments besides that had borne in mind :
:-“ Yet not for this cause only do I require or trust to find acceptance, but in a twofold respect besides : first, as bringing clear evidence of scripture and protestant maxims to the parliament of England, who in all their late acts, upon occasion, have professed to assert only the true protestant Christian religion, as it is contained in the Holy Scriptures: next, in regard that your power being but for a time, and having in yourselves a Christian liberty of your own, which at one time or other may be oppressed, thereof
* Prose Works, vol. ii. pp. 546, 547.
truly sensible, it will concern you while you are in power, so to regard other men's consciences, as you would your own should be regarded in the power of others; and to consider that any law against conscience is alike in force against any conscience, and so may one way or other justly redound upon yourselves.”
Very shortly after the publication of this work appeared the companion treatise, entitled “Considerations touching the Likeliest Means to remove Hirelings out of the Church." This, like the former, was addressed to the Parliament, and its positions are entirely supported by scriptural arguments.
His general proposition is as follows:
“ Hire of itself is neither a thing unlawful, nor a word of any evil note, signifying no more than a due recompense or reward; as when our Saviour saith, “The labourer is worthy of his hire. That which makes it so dangerous in the church, and properly makes the hireling a word always of evil signification, is either the excess thereof, or the undue manner of giving and taking it. What harm the excess thereof brought to the church, perhaps was not found by experience till the days of Constantine; who out of his zeal thinking he could be never too liberally a nursing father of the church, might be not unfitly said to have either overlaid it or choked it in the nursing. Which was foretold, as is recorded in ecclesiastical traditions, by a voice heard from heaven, on the very day that those great donations and church revenues were given, crying aloud, “This day is poison poured into the church.'
Which the event soon after verified, as appears by another no less ancient observation, “That religion brought forth wealth, and the daughter devoured the mother.'”+
In pursuance of his main object, he proposes to consider, first, what recompense God hath ordained should be given to ministers of the church—for that a recompense ought to
* Prose Works, vol. ii. p. 521. + Ibid. vol. iii. p. 5.
be given them, and may by them justly be received, our Saviour himself, from the very light of reason and of equity hath declared, Luke x. 7: “The labourer is worthy of his hire;" next, by whom; and, lastly, in what manner. The first of these divisions is designed to prove that the imposition of tithes is inconsistent with the spirit and constitution of the Christian religion. “ What recompense,” he says, “ought to be given to church ministers, God hath answerably ordained according to that difference which he hath manifestly put between those his two great dispensations, the law and the gospel.
Under the law, he gave them tithes; under the gospel, having left all things in his church to charity and Christian freedom, he hath given them only what is justly given them. That, as well under the gospel as under the law, say our English divines, and they only of all protestants, is tithes; and they say true, if any man be so minded as to give them of his own the tenth or twentieth; but that the law therefore of tithes is in force under the gospel, all other protestant divines, though equally concerned, yet constantly deny. For although hire to the labourer be of moral and perpetual right, yet that special kind of hire, the tenth, can be of no right or necessity, but to that special labour for which God ordained it. That special labour was the Levitical and ceremonial service of the tabernacle, Numb. xviii. 21, 31, which is now abolished: the right, therefore, of that special hire must needs be withal abolished, as being also ceremonial. That tithes were ceremonial, is plain, not being given to the Levites till they had been first offered a heave-offering to the Lord, ver. 24, 28. He, then, who by that law brings tithes into the gospel, of necessity brings in withal a sacrifice and an altar; without which tithes by that law were unsanctified and polluted, ver. 42, and therefore never thought on in the first Christian times, till ceremonies, altars, and oblations, by an ancienter corruption, were brought back long before. And yet the Jews, ever since their temple was destroyed,
though they have rabbies and teachers of their law, yet pay no tithes, as having no Levites to whom, no temple where, to pay them, no altar whereon to hallow them; which argues that the Jews themselves never thought tithes moral, but ceremonial only. That Christians, therefore, should take them
when Jews have laid them down, must needs be very absurd and preposterous."*
After supporting this position with great ability, and answering all the objections of his opponents, by appealing to the authority of Scripture, he proceeds to his second topic:
“ The next thing to be considered in the maintenance of ministers, is by whom it should be given. Wherein though the light of reason might sufficiently inform us, it will be best to consult the Scripture. Gal. vi. 6, 'Let him that is taught in the word, communicate to him that teacheth, in all good things :' that is to say, in all manner of gratitude, to his ability. 1 Cor. ix. 11, · If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great matter if we reap your carnal things? To whom therefore hath not been sown, from him wherefore should be reaped ? 1 Tim. v. 17, · Let the elders that rule well, be counted worthy of double honour ; especially they who labour in word and doctrine.' By these places, we see that recompense was given either by every one in particular who had been instructed, or by them all in common, brought into the church-treasury, and distributed to the ministers according to their several labours : and that was judged either by some extraordinary person, as Timothy, who by the apostle was then left evangelist at Ephesus, 2 Tim. iv. 5, or by some to whom the church deputed that care. This is so agreeable to reason, and so clear, that any one may perceive what iniquity and violence hath prevailed since in the church, whereby it hath been so ordered, that they also shall be compelled to recompense the parochial minister, who neither chose him
* Prose Works, vol. iii. pp. 6, 7,
for their teacher, nor have received instruction from him, as being either insufficient, or not resident, or inferior to whom they follow ; wherein to bar them their choice, is to violate Christian liberty."
Under this head, he cites extensively the testimony of Scripture, and the practice of the apostolic and reformed churches, and concludes as follows:
“Forced consecrations out of another man's estate are no better than forced vows, hateful to God, who loves a cheerful giver;' but much more hateful, wrung out of men's purses to maintain a disapproved ministry against their conscience; however unholy, infamous, and dishonourable to his ministers and the free gospel, maintained in such unworthy manner as by violence and extortion. If he give it as to his teacher, what justice or equity compels him to pay for learning that religion which leaves freely to his choice whether he will learn it or no, whether of this teacher or another, and especially to pay for what he never learned, or approves not; whereby, besides the wound of his conscience, he becomes the less able to recompense his true teacher? Thus far hath been inquired by whom churchministers ought to be maintained, and hath been proved most natural, most equal and agreeable with Scripture, to be by them who receive their teaching; and by whom, if they be unable, Which ways well observed, can discourage none but hirelings, and will much lessen the number in the church.”+
The last topic of consideration is in what manner God has ordained that recompense be given to ministers of the Gospel; “and,” says Milton, “ by all scripture it will appear that he hath given it them not by civil law and freehold, as they claim, but by the benevolence and free gratitude of such as receive them.” In proof of this, he heaps scripture upon scripture, and answers with great severity the objection, that the oppressive charges of the church are necessary * Prose Works, vol. iii. pp. 22, 23.
+ Ibid. vol. iii. p. 30.