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If it should be objected, secondly, that all things ought to be done decently and in order, in the affemblies of the saints; and that therefore the pastors, in Christ's church, must be invefred with authority to make such laws as are necessary thereto, and the people must be obliged, in conscience, to pay active obedience to them, because decency and order cannot otherways be provided for; and consequently, without such an authority, the church of Christ would be no other than a Babei of confuston. I answer, That all things ought to be done decently and in order, and to edification in the assemblies of the faints, I readily grant; but that this cannot otherways be provided
for, than by the selves a power to make laws, which in reality they have no authority to do, this I deny. For as Christ is the sole head and governour of his people; and as all his subjects, as such, stand upon a level in point of authority, one member not having a right of dominion over another in his church; so, where any thing is necessary to be determin'd, with respect to order, decency, and edification, which Christ hath not determin'd, there every particular church may and ought to lay down such rules to themselves, as are necellary thereto, according to St. Paul's direction to the church at Corinth, 1 Cor. xiv. 40. And so decency and order may
be sufficiently provided for in the assemblies of the faints, without the pastors of Christ's church assuming to themselves a power, properly speaking, over their brethren, which they have no right to.
Thus, Sir, I have given you my observations, with relation to the question before-mentioned. í fubmit them to your consideration, and beg leave to subscribe myself, SIR,
Decemb. 50 1717
PART of a
L E T T E R
To another Gentleman, relating to
the foregoing Enquiry.
HETHER I have truly stated the cale, with respect to the grounds of obedience, and the measures of au
thority, Sir, I submit to your judgment. And as this is a case, in which the happiness and misery of human society is very nearly concern'd; so it seems to me to be beneath the wisdom and goodness of that God, who hath made this earth a convenient habitation for a multitude of creatures, and hath made a plentiful provision for their comfort and well-being ; I say, it seems to be beneath his wisdom and goodness, to put the happiness and misery of the bulk of mankind, into the hands, and leave it at the will and pleafure of a few of that species; which he must have done, if he hath given a general commision to governours to make what laws they please, and make it the duty of their people to pay active obedience to all their commands. Besides,
Such a general commission would not only leave the present happiness of human fociety at the mercy of governours, but might also be a great hindrance to our eternal well-being. For upon fupposition that governours are invested with authority to make what laws they please, and that their people are bound, in conscience, to obey them, then it will follow, that the way to eternal life is
so much the straiter ; because our eternal happiness would as much depend upon our sincere obedience to all our governours commands, as it doth upon our sincere obedience to all God's commands, notwithstanding we may be under powerful temptations to transgress. For, suppose our governours should command us to make a confession of all our secret fins to the parochial pastor every Lord's-day? I chuse to put this case, because such an instance of our obedience is not contradictory to the commands of God, he having no-where forbid us to make such a confeffion. This would make confession to the pastox as necessary to falvation, as repentance towards God. And forasmuch as the perochial pastors are of like passions with other men, and some of them are not only capable, but disposed to make as bad use of such knowledge, as any other men, what a strong and powerful temptation must men be under, when they have done amiss (if they have not a great degree of confidence in their pastor, that he will not use the knowledge of their faults to their hurt : I say, what a strong and powerful temptation must men be under in such a case ) to adventure the loss of their fouls, in another world, by concealing their faults, in order to preserve their reputation in this, or prevent any other great evil, which the knowledge of their faults mights expose them to ? they would be tempted to conceal all such faults from their pastor, as they had reason to fear he would make use of the knowledge of them to their peril. „And tho', in this case, governours cannot be judges, whether their laws are obeyed or not, because they cannot discover the secrets of men's hearts, and consequently cannot punith the transgreffors of them, yet this defect of knowledge and power, in them, A a
doch ver his
doth not lessen our obligation to obedience. For, if they have authority to command, it must be our duty to obey, whether they have the knowledge of, or can punish our faults, or not. And tho they cannot punish men in another world, for transgressing their laws in this, yet the case is much the same, with respect to the transgressors ; because if God hath required us to obey all the commands of our governours, and if he will pu. nish our disobedience (which is here supposed ) then our punishment is as certain, as if it were in the governour's hand to inflict it; except our fincere repentance doth prevent it. But blessed be God, that he hath not put such a stumling-block in the way of our present or future well-being. For tho' magistracy is, in a general or natural sense, the ordinance of God, because the nature and reason of things make the use of it necessary to the support and well-being of human society (as every thing is, which the nature and reason of things makes necessary to be done) yet it is no farther the ordinance of God, than as it is a proper means to answer that end; because the natun ral use and neceflity of it (which alone constitutes it a divine ordinance ) arises wholly from that relation, viz. as it is a proper means to obtain the aforesaid end. And therefore the most absolute Prince upon earth, how great and extensive foe
power may ; yet his authority or right to command, as it is the ordinance of God, can extend only to such things wherein the good or hurt, the safety or danger, of human society is concern'd. This may perhaps more plainly appear, from an instance of like kind. Eating and drinking are the ordinance of God, in the same fenfe as magistracy is; because the nature and reason of things makes the ufe of these necessary to the support and comfort of our natura] life. Now if
a person should eat or drink (either for quantity or quality) that which is no way necessary to the support or comfort of his natural life; such eat-". ing and drinking would not be the ordinance of God, because it would be defective and wanting in that very point in which the ordinance of God, in this case, doth confift, viz. in being a proper means to attain the aforesaid end; which is the only thing that constitutes it a divine ordinance, because its natural use and neceflity.wholly arifes from its relation as a proper means to its end, So in like manner, magistrący is the ordinance of God; because the nature and reason of things makes the use of it necessary to the support and well-being of human society ; but if magistrates should take upon them to command, or forbid that, wherein the interest of the society is not at all concern'd, this would not be the ordinance of God, because it would be defective and wanting in that very point, in which the ordinance of God in this café, doth confist, viz, in being a proper means to attain the aforesaid end, which is tha only thing that constitutes it a divịne ordinances because its natural use and necessity wholly arises from its relation as a proper means to its end.
To persue this argument farther, would exceed the bounds of a common letter, and therefore I defist.