Page images

the Three incomprehensible Persons in the All-glorious Deity, or the blessed Mediator betwixt God and Man Jesus Christ in either of his natures; or, else, shall be attended with the public disturbances and dangerous distempers of the kingdom or state, wherein they are broached; the Apostle's wish is but seasonable, in both a spiritual and a bodily sense: Would to God those were cut off, that trouble you ; Gal. v. 12.

In the mean time, for what concerns yourself, if you such, as you love God and your souls, keep aloof from them, as from the pestilence. Epiphanius * well compares Heresy to the biting of a mad dog : which, as it is deadly, if not speedily remedied; so, it is, withal, dangerously infectious : not the tooth only, but the very foam of that envenomed beast carries death in it : you cannot be safe, if

avoid it not.

know any



Whether the laws of men do bind the conscience ; and how far we are

tied to their obedience. Both the extremes of opinion, concerning this point, must needs bring much mischief upon Church and Kingdom. Those, that absolutely hold such a power in human laws, make themselves slaves to men: those, that deny any binding power in them, run loose into all licentiousness.

Know, then, that there is a vast difference betwixt these two : to bind the conscience, in any act; and to bind a man in conscience, to do or omit an act. Human laws cannot do the first of them : the latter they may and must do.

To bind the conscience, is, to make it guilty of a sin, in doing an act forbidden, or omitting an act enjoined, as in itself such ; or making that act in itself an acceptable service to God, which is commanded by men. Thus, human laws cannot bind the conscience: it is God only; 1 John iii. 21. who, as he is greater than the conscience, so hath power to bind or loose it. It is he, that is the only Lawgiver to the conscience; Is. xxxiii. 22. James iv. 12. Princes and Churches may make laws for the outward man; but they can no more bind the heart, than they can make it. In vain is that power, which is not enabled with coercion: now what coercion can any human power claim of the heart, which it can never attain to know? The spirit of man, therefore, is subject only to the Father of Spirits; who only sees and searches the secrets of it, and can both convince and punish it. Besides, well did penitent David know what he said, when he cried out, Against thee only have I sinned; Ps. li. 4. He knew that sin is a transgression of the Law, and that none but God's Law can make a sin. Men may be concerned and injured in our actions : but it is God, who hath forbidden these wrongs to men, that is sinned against, in our acts of injustice and uncharitableness; and who only can inflict the spiritual (which is the highest) revenge upon offenders. The charge of the great Doctor of the Gentiles to his Galatians, was Stand fust in the liberty, wherewith Christ hath made us free; and be not entangled again in the yoke of bondage ; Gal. v. 1. Wbar yoke of bondage was this, but the law of ceremonies? What liberty was this, but a freedom from the bondage of that law? And, certainly, if those ordinances, which had God for their Author, have so little power to bind the conscience, as that the yoke of their bondage must be shaken off, as inconsistent with Christian liberty ; how much less is it to be endured, that we should be the servants of men, in being tied up to sin by their presumptuous impositions !

* Epiphan. Hæres. I. i.

The laws of men, therefore, do not, ought not, cannot bind your conscience, as of themselves; but, if they be just, they bind you in conscience to obedience. They are the words of the Apostle to his Romans : Wherefore, you must needs be subject ; not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake ; Rom. xiii. 5. However, then, their particular constitutions in themselves put no special obligation upon us, under pain of sin and damnation; yet, in a general relation to that God who hath commanded us to obey authority, their neglect or contempt involves us in a guilt of sin. All power is of God: that, which the supreme authority therefore enjoins you, God enjoins you by it: the charge is mediately his, though passing through the hands of men.

How little is this regarded, in these loose times, by those lawless persons, whose practices acknowledge no sovereignty but titular, no obedience but arbitrary ; to whom the strongest laws are as weapons to the Leviathan, who esteems iron as straw, and brass as rotten u'ood ! Job xli. 27.

Surelv, had they not first cast off their obedience to him, that is higher than the highest, they could not, without trembling, hear that weighty charge of the great God of Heaven: Let every soul be subject to the higher powers : for there is no power but of God; and the powers that be, are ordained of God : Rom. xiii. 1: Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man, for the Lord's sake ; 1 Peter li. 13 : and, therefore, should be convinced in themselves, of that awe and duty, which they owe to sovereignty; and know and resolve to obey God in men, and men for God.

You see, then, how requisite it is, that you walk in a middle way, betwixt that excessive power, which flattering Casuists have been wont to give to Popes, Emperors, Kings, and Princes in their several jurisdictions; and a lawless neglect of lawful authority. For the orthodox, wise, and just moderation whereof, these last ages are much indebted to the learned and judicious Chancellor of Paris, John Gerson, who first so checked * that overflowing error of the power of human usurpation, which carried the world before it, as gave a just hint to succeeding times, to draw that stream into the right channel : insomuch as Dominicus à Soto complains * greatly of him, as, in this, little differing from the Lutheran Heresy : but, in the way which they call heresy, we worship the God of our fathers ; Acts xxiv. 14: rendering unto Cæsar the things that are Casar's, and unto God those things that are God's : yielding our bodies to Cæsar; reserving our souls for God: tendering to just laws, our active obedience; to unjust, passive.

* Tact. de Vit. Spec. lect. 4. cit. Dom. à Soto ut infra.

But, in the mean time, far be it from us, to draw this knot of our obligation harder and closer, than authority itself intends it. Whatever popes may do for their Decrees, certainly good princes never meant to say such weight upon all their laws, as to make every breach of them, even in relation to the authority given them by God, to be sinful.

Their laws are commonly shut up, with a sanction of the penalty imposed upon the violation. There is an obedientia bursalis ; as, I remember, Gerson calls it : "an obedience,” if not of the person, yet “ of the purse;" which princes are content to take up withal. We have a world of sins, God knows, upon us, in our hourly transgressions of the royal laws of our Maker: but, woe were us, if we should have so many sius more, as we break statutes. In penal laws, where scandal or contempt find no place, human authority is wont to rest satisfied with the mulct paid, when the duty is not performed.

Not that we may wilfully incur the breach of a good law, because our

hands are upon our purse-strings, ready to stake the forfeiture. This were utterly to frustrate the end of good laws; which do therefore impose a mulct, that they may not be broken : and were highly injurious to sovereign authority; as if it sought for our money, not our obedience; and cared more for gain, than good order; than which there cannot be a more base imputation cast upon government.

As, then, we are wont to say, in relation of our actions to the laws of God; that some things are forbidden because they are sinful, and some things are sinful because they are forbidden: so it holds also in the laws of men ; some things are forbidden because they are justly offensive, and some other things are only therefore offensive because they are forbidden : in the former of these, we must yield our careful obedience, out of respect even to the duty itself; in the latter, out of respect to the will of the lawgiver; yet so, as that if our own important occasions shall enforce us to transgress a penal law without any affront of authority or scaudal to others, our submission to the penalty frees us from a sinful disobedience.

Gersonis positio parùm distat ab hæresi Lutheraná. Dominic, à Soto De Jure, &c. 1. i. qu. 6.


Whether tithes be a lawful maintenance for Ministers, under the Gos

pel; and whether men be bound to pay them accordingly. As the question of “mine” and “thine” hath ever embroiled the world; so this particular concerning tithes hath raised no little dust in the Church of God: while some plead them in the precise, quota parte, due and necessary to be paid, both by the Law of God, and nature itself; others decry them as a Judaical Law; partly ceremonial, partly judicial; and, therefore, either now unlawful, or at least neither obligatory nor convenient.

What is fit to be determined in a business so over agitated, I shall shut up in these ten propositions.

1. The maintenance of the Legal ministry allowed and appointed by God, was exceeding large and liberal. Besides all the tithes of corn, wine, oil, herbs, herds, flocks, they had forty-eight cities set forth for them; with the fields round about them, to the extent of two thousand cubits every way. They had the firstfruits of wine, oil, wool, &c. in a large proportion: he was held to be a man of an evil eye, that gave less than the sixtieth part. They had the firstborn of cattle, sheep, beeves, goats; and the price of the rest, upon redemption : even the firstborn of men must ransom themselves, at five shekels a man. They had the oblations and vows of things dedicated to God. They had the ample loaves, or cakes * rather, of shew-bread, and no small share in meat-offerings, sinofferings, trespass-offerings, heave-offerings, shake-offerings : of sacrifices eucharistical, they had the breast and shoulder; of other, the shoulder and the two cheeks: yea, the very burnt-offerings afforded them a hide. Besides all these, all the males were to appear before the Lord, thrice a year: none were exempted, as their Doctors tell us, but servants, deaf, dumb, idiots, blind, lame, defiled, uncircumcised, old, sick, tender and weak, not able to travel; and no one of these, which came up, might appear empty-handed. What do I offer to particularize? There were no less than twentyfour gifts allotted to the priests, expressly in the Law: the severals whereof whoso desires to see, may find in the learned and profitable Annotations of Mr. Ainsworth, out of Maimonides †.

2. We can have no reason to imagine, that the same God, who was so bountiful in his provisions for the Legal ministry, should hear less respect to the Evangelical; which is far more worthy and excellent, than the other. Justly, therefore, doth St. Paul argue, from the maintenance of the one, a meet proportion for the fit sustentation of the other; 1 Cor. ix. 13.

3. It is not fit for God's ministers to be too intent ou matter of

* Ten hand-breadths long, five broad, seven fingers high.
+ H. Ainsworth in Lev. xxiv. 9. ex Maimonide.

profit: their main care must be the spiritual proficiency of the souls of their people: the secular thoughts of outward provisions must come in only on the by. But, howsoever they may not be entangled in worldly affairs, yet they ought in duty to cast so much eye upon these earthly things, as may free them from neglect. It is to T'imothy that St. Paul writes, that If any man provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel; 1 Tim:v. 8.

4. Under the Law, the tenth part was precisely allotted, by the Owner of All Things, for the maintenance of the sacred tribe: and, if the Wise and Holy God had not found that a meet proportion for those that served at his altar, he had either pitched upon some other or left it arbitrary. Yea, even before the Law, Abraham, and in his loins Levi himself, paid tithes to Melchisedec, the priest of the Most High God; Gen. xiv. 20. Heb. vii. 4. And, whether it were by his example or by some natural instinct, we find the very: heathen nations, after some great victory atchieved, were wont to devote still the tithe of their spoils to their Deities : so Camillus, when he had after a long siege taken the rich city Vejos, (a place of such importance, that, upon the taking of it, be wished some great cross might befal Rome, for the tempering of so high a felicity) he presently offereth the tithe to his Gods *: yea, it was their custom who were most devout, to consecrate the tithe of all their increase to those Gods they were most addicted unto ; insomuch as the Romans noted it in their Lucullus, that he therefore grew up to so vast an estate, because he still devoted the title of his fruits to Hercules: and † Pliny tells us, that, when they gathered their frankincense, none of it might be uttered till the priest had the tithe of it set forth for him.

5. There can be no good reason given, why we may not observe the very same rate of proportion, in laying out the maintenance of the ministry under the Gospel : and, if these rules and examples be not binding, since religion consisteth not now in numbers at all; yet there is no cause why Christian kingdoms or commonwealths may not settle their choice upon the same number and quantity, with both Jews and Gentiles.

6. The national laws of this kingdom have set out the same proportion of tenths, for this purpose: if, therefore, there were no other obligation from the Law of God or of the Church, nor any precedents from the practice of the rest of the world; yet, in obedience to our municipal laws, we are bound to lay forth the tenth part of our increase, to the maintenance of God's service; and that tenth is as truly due to the minister, as the nine parts to the owner.

7. Since the tenth part is, in the intention of the law both civil and ecclesiastical, dedicated to the service of God; and, in the inere intuition thereof, is allotted to God's ministers; there can be

* "oppa Jew dexárny, &c. Clem. Al. Strom. 1.
+ Plin. l. xii. Bongus de num. Myster. nur. 10.

« PreviousContinue »