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self of the benefit of God's blessed ordinances: notwithstanding all
this unpleasing encumbrance, you are welcome, and may be happy.

CASE IV.
Whether vows be not out of season, now, under the Gospel : of what

things they may be made: how far they oblige us : and, whether,

and how far, they may be capable of release.
It is a wrongful imputation, that is cast upon us by the Roman Doc-
tors, that we abandon all vows under the Gospel.

They well see, that we allow and profess that common vow, as
Lessius terms it, in baptism; which yet both Bellarmin, and he,
with other of their consorts, deny to be properly such. It is true,
that, as infants make it by their proxies, there may seem some im-
propriety of the engagement as to their persons ; but, if the party
Christened be of mature age, the express vow is made absolutely
by and for himself.

Besides this, we allow of the renovation of all those holy vows, relating to the first, which may bind us to a more strict obedience to our God.

Yet more: though we do not now allow the rows of things in their nature indifferent, to be parts of God's worship; as they were formerly under the Law : yet we do willingly approve of them, as good helps and furtherances to us; for the avoiding of such sins as we are obnoxious unto, and for the better forwarding of our holy obedience.

Thus, the charge is of eternal use: Vow unto God, and perform it ; Ps. Ixxvi. 11.

Not that we are bound to row: that act is free and voluntary: but that, when we have vowed, we are straitly bound to performance. It is with us for our vows, as it was with Ananias and Sapphira for their substance: While it remained, saith St. Peter, was it not thine own ? Acts v. 4. He needed not to sell it: he needed not to give it: but, if he will give, he may not reserve: if he profess to give all, it is death to save some: he lies to the Holy Ghost, that defalks from that, which he engaged himself to bestow.

It mainly concerns us, therefore, to look carefully, in the first place, to what we vow; and to our intentions in vowing: and to see that our vow be not rash and unadvised; of things, either trivial, or unlawful, or impossible, or out of our power to perform: for every vow is a promise made to God; and to promise unto that Great and Holy God, that, which either we cannot or ought not to do, what is it other, than to mock and abuse that Sacred Majesty, which will not hold him guiltless, that taketh his Name in vain? It is the charge, to this purpose, of wise Solomon: Be not rash with thy mouth; and let not ihy heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth; therefore, let thy words be fewi

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Eccl. v. 2. Your vow, therefore, must be either of things morally good, for the quickening you in that duty, which you are bound to do; or of things indifferent in themselves, the refraining or doing whereof may tend, either to the restraint from sin, or the furtherance of your holy obedience: as a man, that finds his brains weak, and his inclination too strong to pleasing liquor, binds himself by a vow, to drink no wine, save only at God's table; or a man, that find himself apt to be miscarried by his appetite, confines himself by his vow to one dish, or to one meal for the day; or a man, that finds himself given to the pleasure of gaming, to the loss of his time, and the weakening of his estate, curbs himself by his vow never to play for money; or a man, that fiuds his prayers weak and his flesh rebellious, vows to tame his unruly desires, and to stir up his duller devotions by fasting,

And, as the matter of your vow must be carefully regarded, so also your intentions in vowing: for, if you vow to do good to an ill end, your thank is lost, and danger of judgment incurred. As, if you vow to give alms for vain-glory or ostentation; or, if God shall prosper your usurious or monopolizing project, you will build a hospital; your vow is like to be so accepted, as the story tells us * the prayers were of that bold courtezan, who, coming to the shrine of St. Thomas of Canterbury, as that traitor was styled, devoutly begged, that, through the intercession of that saint, she might be graced with so winning a beauty, that might allure her paramours to a gainful courting of so pleasing a mistress; when, suddenly, as my author tells me, she was stricken blind : and, certainly, so it might well be; for, if a supposed saint were invoked, it was God that was highly provoked by the sinful petition of a shameless harlot; and it was most just for him to revenge it: and so we may well expect it shall be, with whosoever shall dare to make use of his Sacred Name, to their own wicked or unwarrantable purposes.

Since, therefore, our vows must be, for their matter, as Casuists well determine, De meliore bono; and, for intentions, holy and directed only to good; it plainly appears, that many idle purposes, promises, resolutions, are wont to pass with men for vows, which bave no just claim to that holy title. One says, he vows never to be friends with such a one, that hath highly abused him ; another, that he will never come under the roof of such an unkind neighbour: one, that he will drink so many healths to his honoured friend; another, that he will not give the wall or the way to any passenger: one, that he will never wear suit but of such a colour; another, that he will never cut his hair till such an event. These, and such like, may be foolish, unjust, ridiculous self-engagements; but vows, they are not : neither, therefore, do bind the conscience, others wise, than as Sampson's cords and withes, which he may break as a thread of tow; Judges xvi. 9, 12.

But, as for true vows, certainly they are so binding, that you shall sin heinously, in not performing them. It is no better than

* Brom. Sum. Prædic.

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PRACTICAL WORKS. dishonesty, to fail in what we have promised to men; but, to disappoint God in our vows, is no less than sacrilege. That of Solomon's is weighty: When thou vowest a cow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools : pay that, which thou hast vowed. Better it is, that thou shouldst not vow, than that thou shouldst vow and not pay it. Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say before the angel, that it was an error : wherefore should God be angry at thy vow, and destroy the work of thy hands ? Eccl. v. 4, 5, 6. If, therefore, a lawful and just vow have passed your lips, you may not be false to God and yourself, in not keeping it.

But, if it shall so fall out, that there proves to be some main inconvenience or impossibility, in the fulfilling of this your solema promise unto God; whether through the extreme prejudice of your health and life, or the overswaying difficulty of the times; what is to be done? Surely, as under the Law it was left in the power

of the parent to overrule the vow of the child; Num. xxx. 3, 4, 5: so I doubt not, but, under the Gospel, it is left in the power of your spiritual fathers to order or dispense with the performance of those vows, which you would, but cannot well fulfil. Neither was it spoken in vain, nor in matter of sins only, which our Saviour, in way of authorization, said to his apostles and their successors, Il'haisoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be looscd in heaven ; Matt. xviii. 18. In this case, therefore, I should advise you to make your address to your spiritual pastor, and freely lay open your condition before him; and humbly to submit yourself to his fatherly directions in that course, which shall be found best and safest for your soul. Think it not safe, in a business of so high nature, to rely upon your own judgment; and to carve out your own satisfaction: but regard carefully what God hath said of old, The priest's lips should keep knowledge; and they should seek the Law at his mouth : for he is the messenger of the Lord of Hosts; Mal. ij. 7.

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CASE V.
Whom may we justly hold a heretic ? and what is to be done in the

case of heresy?
There is no one point, wherein the Church of God hath suffered
more, than in the misunderstanding of this question. How many
thousand innocents have, in these latter ages of the Church, pe-
rished in this unhappy quarrel ! yea, how many famous Churches
have been most unjustly thunderstruck, with direful censures of
excommunication, down to the pit of hell, upon pretence of this
crime, which have been less guilty than their anathematizers ! And,
even amongst ourselves, how apt we are to brand one another with
this hateful mark, where there is no true merit of such a reproach!

It much imports us, therefore, to know who may be deservedly thus stigmatized by us. I have, elsewhere, somewhat largely in

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sisted on this theme: whither I might spare some lines to refer you. But, in short, thus: To let pass the original sense and divers acceptions of the word, a Heresy is none other than an obstinate error against the foundation. All truths are precious; but some, withal, necessary. All errors are faulty ; but some damnable: the heinousness of the error is according to the worth of the truth impugned. There are theological verities, fit for us to know and believe : there are Articles of Christian Faith, needful to be known and believed. There are truths of meet and decent superstructure, without which the fabric may stand: there are truths of the foundation, so essential, as that without them it cannot stand. It is a maim to the house, if but a tile be pulled off from the roof; but, if the foundation be razed, the building is overthrown: this is the endeavour and act of Heresy.

But now, the next question will be, what doctrines they are, which must be accounted to be of the foundation.

Our countryman, Fisher the Jesuit, and his associates, will tell you roundly, That all those things, which are defined by the Church to be believed, are fundamental * : a large ground-work of faith!

Doubtless, the Church hath defined all things contained in the Scripture, to be believed : and theirs, which they call Catholic, hath defined all those traditional points, which they have added to the Creed, upon the same necessity of salvation to be believed. Now if all these be the foundation, which is the building? What an imperfect fabric do they make of Christian Religion: all foundation; no walls ; nd roof!

Surely, it cannot, without too much absurdity, be denied, that there is great difference of truths ; some, more important than others : which could not be, if all were alike fundamental. If there were not some special truths, the belief whereof makes and distinguisheth a Christian, the authors of the Creed Apostolic, besides the other Symbols received anciently by the Church, were much deceived in their ain.

He, therefore, that believes the Holy Scriptures (which must be a principle presupposed) to be inspired by God: and, as an abstract of the chief particulars thereof, professeth, to believe and embrace the Articles of the Christian Faith ; to regulate his life by the Law of God's Commandments, and his devotion by the rule of Christ prescribed; and, lastly, to acknowledge and receive the Sacraments expressly instituted by Christ: doubtless, this man is by profession a Christian, and cannot be denied to hold the fouiidation.

And, whosoever shall wilfully impugn any of these, comes within the of Heresy : wilfully, I say; for mere error makes not a Heretic. If, out of simplicity or gross ignorance, a man shall take upon him to maintain a contradiction to a point of faith, being ready

verge

* Relat. of the Third Confer. p. 6.

to relent upon better light, he may not be thus branded : eviction and contumacy must improve his error, to be heretical.

The Church of Rome, therefore, bath been too cruelly liberal of her censures, this way; having bestowed this livery upon many thousand Christians, whom God hath owned for his Saints; and upon some Churches, more orthodox than herself: presuming upon a power, which was never granted her from heaven, to state new Articles of Faith; and to excommunicate and bar all, that shall dare to gainsay her oracles.

Whereas, the great Doctor of the Gentiles hath told us from the Spirit of God, that there is but one Lord, one Faith, one Baptisin ; Eph. iv. 5. And what faith is that ? St. Jude tells us, the faith that was once delivered to the saints ? Jude 3 : so that, as well may they make more reiterations of Baptism, and multiplicities of Lords, as more Faiths than one. Some explications there may be of that one faith, made by the Church, upon occasion of newsprung errors : but such, as must have their grounds from forewritten truths; and such, as may not extend to the condemnation of them, whom God hath left free. New Articles of Faith, they may not be; nor bind farther, than God hath reached them.

Heretics then they are, and only they, that pertinaciously raze the foundation of the Christian Faith.

What now must be done with them?

Surely, first, if they cannot be reclaimed, they must be avoided. It is the charge of the Beloved Disciple to the Élect Lady, If any man come unto you, and bring not (that is, by an ordinary Hebraisni, opposes) this doctrine, receive him not into your houses, neither bid him God speed ; 2 John 10. But the Apostle of the Gentiles goes yet higher: for, writing to Titus, the great Superintendent of Crete, his charge is, A man, that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition reject; Titus iii, 10.

Now, when we compare the charge with the person, we cannot but find that this rejection is not a mere negative act, of refraining company; but a positive act of censure: so as he, who had power to admonish, had also power to reject, in an authoritative or jud:catory way.

He says then, Devita, Reject, or Avoid ; not, as Erasmus too truly but bitterly scoffs the Romish practice, De vitá tolle. This, of killing the Heretic, as it was out of the power of a spiritual supervisor; so was it no less far from the thoughts of him, that desired to come in the spirit of meekness. Faggots were never ordained by the Apostle, for arguments to confute Heretics. This bloody logic and divinity was of a much later brood ; and is for a Dominic, not a Paul, to own : for, certainly, Faith is of the same nature with Love: it cannot be compelled: persuasions may more it; not force.

These intellectual sins must look for remedies of their own kind. But if either they be, as it is often, accompanied with damnable blasphemies against God, whether in his essence or attributes, or

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