« PreviousContinue »
The Execution of the Laws not here in Question.
THE SECOND BOOK.
CONCERNING THEIR FIRST POSITION WHO URGE REFORMATION
IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND: NAMELY, THAT SCRIPTURE
MAY BE DONE BY MEN.
THE MATTER CONTAINED IN THIS SECOND BOOK.
I. An answer to their first proof brought out of Scripture, Prov. ii. 9.
of Holy Scripture.
authority negatively. VII. An examination of their opinion concerning the force of arguments
taken from human authority for the ordering of men's actions and
persuasions. VIII. A declaration what the truth is in this matter.
Ch. i. 1.
S that which in the title hath been proposed for the matter BOOK II.
whereof we treat, is only the ecclesiastical law whereby we are governed ; so neither is it my purpose to maintain any other thing than that which therein truth and reason shall approve. For concerning the dealings of men who administer government, and unto whom the execution of that law belongeth ; they have their Judge who sitteth in heaven, and before whose tribunal-seat they are accountable for whatsoever abuse or corruption, which (being worthily misliked in this church) the want either of care or of conscience in them hath bred. We are no patrons of those things therefore, the best defence whereof is speedy redress and amendment. That which is of God we defend, to the uttermost of that ability which He hath given; that which is otherwise, let it wither even in the root from whence it hath sprung *. Wherefore all these abuses being severed and set apart,
* (Acts v. 38, 39.]
230 First Puritan Principle : Scripture the only Rule. BOOK 11. which rise from the corruption of men and not from the laws Ch. I. 2.
themselves; come we to those things which in the very whole entire form of our church polity have been (as we persuade ourselves) injuriously blamed by them, who endeavour to overthrow the same, and instead thereof to establish a much worse ; only through a strong misconceit they have, that the same is grounded on divine authority.
Now whether it be that through an earnest longing desire to see things brought to a peaceable end, I do but imagine the matters whereof we contend to be fewer than indeed they are ; or else for that in truth they are fewer when they come to be discussed by reason, than otherwise they seem when by heat of contention they are divided into many slips, and of every branch an heap is made: surely, as now we have drawn them together, choosing out those things which are requisite to be severally all discussed, and omitting such mean specialties as are likely (without any great labour) to fall afterwards of themselves; I know no cause why either the number or the length of these controversies should diminish our hope of seeing them end with concord and love on all sides ; which of his infinite love and goodness the Father of all peace and unity grant.
[2.] Unto which scope that our endeavour may the more directly tend, it seemeth fittest that first those things be examined, which are as seeds from whence the rest that ensue have grown. And of such the most general is that wherewith we are here to make our entrance : a question not moved (I think) any where in other churches, and therefore in ours the more likely to be soon (I trust) determined. The rather, for that it hath grown from no other root, than only a desire to enlarge the necessary use of the Word of God; which desire hath begotten an error enlarging it further than (as we are persuaded) soundness of truth will bear. For whereas God hath left sundry kinds of laws unto men, and by all those laws the actions of men are in some sort directed ; they hold that one only law, the Scripture, must be the rule to direct in all things, even so far as to the “ taking up of a rush or “straw *.” About which point there should not need any question to grow, and that which is grown might presently
* T.C. 1. ii. p. 59, 60.
Ch. i. 3.
Exclusive Use of Scripture as a Rule of Life. 231 end, if they did yield but to these two restraints: the first is, BOOK II. not to extend the actions whereof they speak so low as that instance doth import of taking up a straw, but rather keep themselves at the least within the compass of moral actions, actions which have in them vice or virtue: the second, not to exact at our hands for every action the knowledge of some place of Scripture out of which we stand bound to deduce it, as by divers testimonies they seek to enforce; but rather as the truth is, so to acknowledge, that it sufficeth if such actions be framed according to the law of Reason; the general axioms, rules, and principles of which law being so frequent in Holy Scripture, there is no let but in that regard even out of Scripture such duties may be deduced by some kind of consequence,
, (as by long circuit of deduction it may be that even all truth out of any truth may be concluded,) howbeit no man bound in such sort to deduce all his actions out of Scripture, as if either the place be to him unknown whereon they may be concluded, or the reference unto that place not presently considered of, the action shall in that respect be condemned as unlawful. In this we dissent, and this we are presently to examine.
[3.] In all parts of knowledge rightly so termed things The first premost general are most strong. Thus it must be, inasmuch as of the first the certainty of our persuasion touching particulars dependeth of Scripture, altogether upon the credit of those generalities out of which they grow. Albeit therefore every cause admit not such infallible evidence of proof, as leaveth no possibility of doubt or scruple behind it; yet they who claim the general assent of the whole world unto that which they teach, and do not fear to give very hard and heavy sentence upon as many as refuse to embrace the same, must have special regard that their first foundations and grounds be more than slender probabilities. This whole question which hath been moved about the kind of church regiment, we could not but for our own resolution's sake endeavour to unrip and sift; following therein as near as we might the conduct of that judicial method which serveth best for invention of truth. By means whereof, having found this the head theorem of all their discourses, who plead for the change of ecclesiastical government in England, namely, “ That the Scripture of God is
Prov. ii. 9.
232 Scripture not proved the only Rule of Life.
soever we do and are not by it directed thereunto, the " same is sin;" we hold it necessary that the proofs hereof be weighed. Be they of weight sufficient or otherwise, it is not ours to judge and determine; only what difficulties there are which as yet withhold our assent, till we be further and better satisfied, I hope no indifferent amongst them will scorn or refuse to hear.
[4.] First therefore whereas they allege, “ That Wisdom” doth teach men “every good way*;" and have thereupon inferred that no way is good in any kind of action unless wisdom do by Scripture lead unto it; see they not plainly how they restrain the manifold ways which wisdom hath to teach men by unto one only way of teaching, which is by Scripture? The bounds of wisdom are large, and within them much is contained. Wisdom was Adam's instructor in Paradise; wisdom endued the fathers who lived before the law with the knowledge of holy things; by the wisdom of the law of God David attained to excel others in understanding t; and Solomon likewise to excel David by the selfsame wisdom of God teaching him many things besides the law. The ways of well-doing are in number even as many as are the kinds of voluntary actions; so that whatsoever we do in this world and may do it ill, we shew ourselves therein by well-doing to be wise. Now if wisdom did teach men by Scripture not only all the ways that are right and good in some certain kind, according to that of St. Paul I concerning the use of Scripture, but did simply without any manner of exception, restraint, or distinction, teach every
* T. C. 1. i. p. 20. “I say, that man of God may be absolute, “ the word of God containeth what- - being made perfect unto all good
soever things can fall into any “works.” He meaneth all and only
part of man's life. For so Solomon those good works, which belong " saith in the second chapter of the unto us as we are men of God, and
Proverbs, ‘My son, if thou receive which unto salvation are necessary. "my words, &c. then thou shalt Or if we understand by men of God, “understand justice, and judgment, God's ministers, there is not required “ and equity, and every good way.' in them an universal skill of every † Psalm cxix. 99.
good work or way, but an ability to I 2 Tim. iii. 16. “ The whole teach whatsoever men are bound to
Scripture is given by inspiration do that they may be saved. And “ of God, and is profitable to teach, with this kind of knowledge the " to improve, to correct, and to in- Scripture sufficeth to furnish them “ struci in righteousness, that the as touching matter.
Ch. ii. 1.
by the Command to glorify God in all things. 233 way of doing well; there is no Art but Scripture should BOOK 11. teach it, because every art doth teach the way how to do something or other well. To teach men therefore wisdom professeth, and to teach them every good way; but not every good way by one way of teaching. Whatsoever either men on earth or the Angels of heaven do know, it is as a drop of that unemptiable fountain of wisdom; which wisdom hath diversely imparted her treasures unto the world. As her ways are of sundry kinds, so her manner of teaching is not merely one and the same. Some things she openeth by the sacred books of Scripture; some things by the glorious works of Nature: with some things she inspireth them from above by spiritual influence; in some things she leadeth and traineth them only by worldly experience and practice. We may not so in any one special kind admire her, that we disgrace her in any other ; but let all her ways be according unto their place and degree adored.
II. That “all things be done to the glory of God *,” the The second blessed Apostle (it is true) exhorteth. The glory of God is Scripture. the admirable excellency of that virtue divine, which being made manifest, causeth men and Angels to extol his greatness, and in regard thereof to fear him. By “being glorified” it is not meant that he doth receive any augmentation of glory at our hands, but his name we glorify when we testify our acknowledgment of his glory. Which albeit we most effectually do by the virtue of obedience ; nevertheless it may be perhaps a question, whether St. Paul did mean that we sin as oft as ever we go about any thing, without an express intent and purpose to obey God therein. He saith of himself, “ I do in all things please all men, seeking not mine own “ commodity but” rather the good “ of many, that they may “ be saved f.” Shall it hereupon be thought that St. Paul did not move either hand or foot, but with express intent even thereby to further the common salvation of men? We move, we sleep, we take the cup at the hand of our friend,
proof out of
1 Cor. x. 31.
* T. C. 1. i.
26. [14.] “ Paul saith, “That whether we eat
or drink, or whatsoever we do, we “ must do it to the glory of God.' “ But no man can glorify God in "any thing but by obedience; and
“ there is no obedience but in respect “ of the commandment and word of “ God: therefore it followeth that “ the word of God directeth a man “ in all his actions.”
t 1 Cor. x. 33.