Page images
PDF
EPUB

wit, and subtlety of a knowing head. He comprised the truths which were of necessity to salvation in a narrow room : so that the Christian faith was a matter of great plainness and simplicity. As long as Christians were such and held to this, the Gospel rode in triumph through the world, and an omnipotency of the Spirit accompanied it, bearing down all before it. Princes and sceptreš stooped ; subtle philosophy was nonplust; and all useful sciences came down, and acknowledged themselves servants, and took their places, and were well contented to attend the pleasure of Christ. As Mr. Herbert saith in his “ Church Militant;"

Religiou thence fled into Greece, where arts
Gave her the highest place in all men's hearts:
Learning was proposed; philosophy was set;
Sophisters taken in a fisher's net.
Plato and Aristotle were at a loss,
And wheeled about again to spell Christ's cross.
Prayers chas'd syllogisms into their den,
And'ergo' was transformed into Amen.

The serpent envying this happiness of the church, hath no way to undo us, but by drawing us from our Christian simplicity. By the occasion of heretics' quarrel and errors, the serpent steps in, and will needs be a spirit of zeal in the church; and he will so overdo against heretics, that be persuades them they must enlarge their creed,and add this clause against one, and that against another, and all was but for the perfecting and preserving of the Christian faith. And so he brings it to be a matter of so much wit to be a Christian, (as Erasmus complains,) that ordinary heads were not able to reach it. He had got them with a religious, zealous cruelty to their own and others' souls, to lay all their salvation, and the peace of the church, upon some unsearchable mysteries about the Trinity, which God either never revealed, or never clearly revealed, or never laid so great a stress upon : yet he persuades them that there was Scripture-proof enough for these; only the Scripture spoke it but in the premises, or in darker terms, and they must but gather into their creed the consequences, and put it into plainer expressions, which heretics might not so easily corrupt, pervert, or evade. Was not this reverent zeal ? And was not the devil

[ocr errors]

VOL. IX.

seemingly now a Christian of the most judicious and forward sort? But what got he at this one game? 1. He necessitated implicit faith even in fundamentals, when he had got points beyond a vulgar reach among fundamentals. 2. He necessitated some living judge for the determining of fundamentals 'quoad nos,' though not' in se' (the soul of Popish wickedness), that is, what it is in sense that the people must take for fundamentals. 3. He got a standing verdict against the perfection and sufficiency of Scripture, (and consequently against Christ, his Spirit, his apostles, and the Christian faith ;) that it will not afford us so much as a creed or system of fundamentals, or points absolutely neoessary to salvation and brotherly communion, in fit or tolerable phrases; but we must mend the language at least. 4. He opened a gap for human additions, at which he might afterwards bring in more at his pleasure. 5. He framed an engine for an infallible division, and to tear in pieces the church, casting out all as heretics that could not subscribe to his additions, and necessitating separation by all dissenters, to the world's end, till the devil's engine be overthrown. 6. And hereby he lays a ground upon the divisions of Christians, to bring men into doubt of all religion, as not knowing which is the right. 7. And he lays the ground of certain heart-burnings, and mutual hatred, contentions, revilings, and enmity. Is not here enough got at one cast? Doth there need any more to the establishing of the Romish and hellish darkness? Did not this one act found the seat of Rome? Did not the devil get more in his gown in a day than he could get by his sword in three hundred years? And yet the Holy Ghost gave them full warning of this beforehand; “ For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy; for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve, through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ;" 2 Cor. xi. 2, 3.

"* Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations ;" Rom. xiv. 1. “ The law of the Lord is perfect;' Psal. xix. “ All Scripture is given by inspiration from God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works;" 2 Tim.

[ocr errors]

:

[ocr errors]

iii. 16, 17. “ To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to these, it is because there is no truth in them;" Isa. viii. 20. With many the like.

This plot the serpent hath found so successful, that he hath followed it on to this day. He hath made it the great engine to get Rome on his side, and to make them the great dividers of Christ's church. He made the pope and the council of Trent believe, that when they had owned the ancient creed of the church, they must put in as many

and more additional articles of their own, and anathematize all gainsayers; and these additions must be the peculiar mark of their church as Romish; and then all that are not of that church, that is, that own not those superadded points, are not of the true church of Christ, if they must be judges. Yea, among ourselves hath the devil used successfully this plot! What confession of the purest church hath not some more than is in Scripture? The most modest must mend the phrase and speak plainer, and somewhat of their own in it, not excepting our own most reformed confession.

Yea, and where modesty restrains men from putting all such inventions 'and explications in their creed, the devil persuades men, that they being the judgments of godly, reverend divines (no doubt to be reverenced, valued, and heard), it is almost as much as if it were in the creed, and therefore whoever dissenteth must be noted with a black coal, and you must disgrace him, and avoid communion with hiin as an heretic. Hence lately is your union, communion, and the church's peace, laid upon certain unsearch

, able mysteries about predestination, the order and objects of God's decrees, the manner of the Spirit's most secret operations on the soul, the nature of the will's essential liberty, and its power of self-determining the Divine concourse, determination or predestination of man's, and all other creature's actions, &c. That he is scarcely to be accounted a fit member for our fraternal communion that differs from us herein. Had it not been for this one plot, the Christian faith had been kept pure ; religion had been one; the church had been one ; and the hearts of Christians had been more one than they are. Had not the devil turned orthodox, he had not made so many true Christians heretics, as Epiphanius and Austin have enrolled in the black list. Had not the enemy of truth and peace got into the chair, and made

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

80 pathetic an oration as to inflame the minds of the lovers of truth to be over zealous for it, and to do too much, we might have had truth and peace to this day. Yea, still, if he see any man of experience and moderation stand up to reduce men to the ancient simplicity, he presently seems the most zealous for Christ, and tells the inexperienced leaders of the flocks, that it is in favour of some heresy that such a man speaks ; he is plotting a carnal syncretism, and attempting the reconcilement of Christ and Belial; he is tainted with Popery, or Socinianism, or Arminianism, or Calvinism, or whatsoever may make him odious with those he speaks to. O what the devil hath got by over-doing !

And as this is true in doctrines, so is it in worship and discipline, and pastoral authority, and government. When the serpent could not get the world to despise the poor fishermen that published the Gospel (the devil being judged, and the world convinced by the power of the Holy Ghost, the Agent, Advocate, and Vicar of Christ on earth), he will then be the most forward to honour and promote them. And if he cannot make Constantine a persecutor of them, he will persuade him to raise them in worldly glory to the stars, and make them lords of Rome, and possess them with princely dignities and revenues. And he hath got as much by over-honouring them, as ever he did by persecuting and despising them. And now in England, when this plot is descried, and we had taken down that superfluous honour, as antichristian, what doth the devil but set in again on the other side? And none is so zealous a reformer as he. He cries down all as antichristian, which he desireth should fall. Their tithes and maintenance are antichristian and oppressive (O pious, merciful devil), down with them! These church-lands were given by Papists to Popish uses, to maintain bishops, and deans, and chapters, down with them. These college-lands, these cathedrals, nay, these churchhouses, or temples (for so I will call them, whether the devil will or no), all come from idolaters, and are abused to idolatry, down with them. Nay, think you but he hath taken the boldness to cry out, these priests, these ministers, are all antichristian, seducers, needless, enviers of the spirit of prophesy, and of the gifts of their brethren, monopolizers of preaching, down with them too! So that though he yet have not what he would have, the old serpent hath done

а.

more as a reformer by overdoing, than he did in many a year as a deformer or hinderer of reformation. Yet if he do but see that there is a Sovereign Power that can do him a mischief, he is ready to tell them, they must be merciful, and not deal cruelly with sinners ! Nay, it belongs not to them to reform, or to judge who are heretics and who not, or to restrain false doctrine, or church-disturbers. Christ is sufficient for this himself. How oft hath the devil preached thus, to tie the hands of those that might wound him.

Would you see any further how he hath played this successful game of overdoing? Why, he hath done as much by it in worship and discipline, as almost in any thing. When he cannot have discipline neglected, he is an overzealous spirit in the breasts of the clergy; and he persuades them to appoint men penance, and pilgrimages, and to put the necks of princes under their feet. But if this tyranny must be abated, he cries down all discipline, and tells them it is all but tyranny and human inventions; and this confessing sin to ministers for relief of conscience, and this open confessing in the congregation for a due manifestation of repentance, and satisfaction to the church, that they may hold communion with them, it is all but Popery and priestly domineering

And in matter of worship, worst of all. When he could not persuade the world to persecute Christ, and to refuse him and his worship, the serpent will be the most zealous worshipper, and saith, as Herod, and with the same mind, "Come and tell me, that I may worship him.” He persuades men to do and overdo. He sets them on laying out their revenues in sumptuous fabrics, in fighting to be masters of the holy land and sepulchre of Christ; on going pilgrimages; worshipping saints, angels, shrines, relics, ador ing the very bread of the sacrament as God, excessive fastings, choice of meats, numbered prayers on beads, repetitions of words, so may Ave Maries, Pater Nosters, the name Jesus so oft repeated in a breath, so many holidays to saints, canonical hours, even at midnight to pray, and that in Latin for greater reverence, crossings, holy garments, variety of prescribed gestures, kneeling and worshipping before images, sacrificing Christ again to his Father in the mass; forswearing marriage ; living retiredly, as separate from the world ; ; multitudes of new, prescribed rules and orders of life ; vow

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »