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all may be exhorted." If some one person shall always speak in the church, and no man at any time may contradict him, it will be a very strange thing if that one man be not puffed up, if he do not fall into such a conceit of himself, as to think that he is the only man, that he only hath understanding, he alone is wise; that all the rest are a company of brute animals as it were, who ought to depend only upon him, and to do nothing but learn of him: and if any man shall think that himself likewise hath some ability to teach, he will account that man an heinous offender, But what says the apostle to this? "Did the word of God come from you? or came it unto you only? If any seem to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge what I write unto you to be the commands of the Lord. But if any one be ignorant, let him be ignorant. Wherefore, brethren, labour that ye may prophecy, and forbid not to speak with tongues; let all things be done decently and in order." It is exceedingly to be lamented, that this custom, and the practice of this command of the Lord, is not again restored unto the churches, and brought into use. But some men may say, such is the rashness of this age of ours, such the boldness, such the impudence, that if it were allowed to every one to speak in the congregation, there will be no end of brawls and contention. Why so? Is man another kind of creature now, than what he was of old? Thou wilt say, he is; for mankind hath continually degenerated, grown worse and worse, and seems now to have attained the top of corruption. Is it so indeed? But suppose it to be so; thou art the teacher of the people, art not thou also thyself made of the same mould? Art not thou born in the same age? Inasmuch as this ordinance principally was intended to keep pastors within the bounds of modesty, that they may understand that they are not the authors of the word of God, that they have not alone received the spirit; by how much the more mankind hath degenerated, by so much the greater need is there thereof, for that there is now more rashness, arrogance, and pride, than of old: this is true, as well of the pastors and teachers, as of the rest of the people. Art thou a prophet? Hast thou any portion of the spirit? If thou hast not, so unfitting it is that thou alone shouldest speak in the congregation, that there will hardly be found any that deserves rather to be silenced, than thyself. But if thou art a prophet, if thou hast the spirit, mark what the apostle says, "Acknowledge (quoth he) that those things which I write, are the commandments of the Lord." Go to, then on the one side we have the judgment of our Lord, willing that prophecy (for this is a word that we are obliged to use)
should be common to all, and that not for the destruction, but the salvation of the church on the other side we have thy judgment, who fearest lest that may breed contention and confusion: whose judgment now ought we rather to stand to? If thou shalt conceive we must stand to thine, consider what thou assumest unto thyself, and what will become of thy modesty. Our Lord, it should seem, understood not what a kind of creature man was; he wanted thy wisdom, belike, to admonish him of the danger; or haply he thought not upon that corruption which should befal mankind, whereby such a liberty might prove unprofitable. But Paul answers thee, "That God is not the author of contention, but of peace:" who well knowing what might move contentions, what begat peace, and not loving nor wil ling to have contention, but peace, willed that this liberty of prophecy should be in the church. What canst thou say to the contrary? What hast thou to object against God himself, wilt thou accuse him of indiscretion? No man hath so wicked a tongue, as to dare to do it. Yet if thou shalt diligently search thine heart, thou shalt find there a certain disposition ready to contend even with God himself: which motion of thy heart must by no means be hearkened unto, but sharply repressed, and wholly subjected to the spirit of God. It may seem, peradventure, an absurd thing, that after some very learned person hath spoken, some contemptible person shall be allowed to contradict him. Can such a person so do without great rashness and temerity? Were I to speak according to the judgment of man, verily I could not deny it. But if we be really persuaded, that the knowledge of matters divine ought not to be attributed to our watchings, studies, wits, but to God and to his spirit, wherewith he can in a moment endue the simplest person in the world, and that with no more labour or difficulty than if he were to give it to one that had spent Nestor's age in study; what reason is there for me to judge that this man does rashly and unadvisedly, if he shall arise and contradict? Is not the spirit able to reveal somewhat to him, which he hath hidden from thee? Now, if the spirit have revealed somewhat to him, and to that end revealed it that he might contradict, that by his means the thing may be revealed to the church; shall I say that he hath done rashly in obeying the Holy Ghost? And if thou think otherwise, verily thou art not persuaded that the spirit is the author and teacher of this knowledge, but that all the praise thereof is due to studies, watchings, and the wits of men. And if this be thy judgment, I tell thee again, that thou art not only unworthy to be sole speaker, VOL. III
but worthy rather to be the only person not permitted to speak, in the congregation.
C And that thou mayest the better understand that the most unlearned ought to be allowed to speak, consider, God will have himself to be acknowledged the author of his own gifts: he will not have his praise attributed unto our studies or wits, but unto himself. But if the man that hath spent all his life in study, speak wisely, it is not attributed to God, but to study: in word, perhaps, it may be attribu ted to God, yet not without a vehement reluctancy of our judgment; and this is that, which I say God will not abide. But if so be thou shalt hear a wise word come out of the mouth of some unlearned person, thou must needs, whether thou wilt or no, acknowledge God to be the author thereof. So when God was minded to give unto Israel a victory against the Midianites, under the conduct of Gideon, and Gideon had gathered together thirty thousand men; lest the Israelites should boast that they had gotten the victory by their own strength, and not by the assistance of God, (which might have been conceived, if Gideon had fought with so numerous an army) he would not suffer him to have above three hundred, that it might appear that he was the cause of the victory, and not the number or valour of those that fought. Now, besides the glory of God, hereby great profit does accrue to the church. For if the people shall see now one man, now another, endued with the spirit, beyond all expectation, many will thereby be encouraged to hope for the same gift, if they shall ask it; many will learn and profit; and it will thereby come to pass, that when occasion shall be to choose a minister, the church shall not need to call strange and unknown persons to that office, but she may have of her own such as are fit to be chosen ; men whose conversation and manners are sufficiently known. And when the number of such as are able to prophecy shall be great, the church will not be forced to use such pastors, as from their very childhood have proposed to themselves such office as the reward of their studies; and addicted themselves to the study of scripture and religion, no otherwise than they would have done to some trade, whereby they meant in time to get their living: so that a man can expect but very few of them to prove other than mercenary or hireling pastors.
Now, that it was the custom of the jewish church that all might thus prophesy, we may hence conjecture, in that it is upon record, how our Lord, upon the sabbath-day, according to the custom, came into the synagogue, took a book and expounded a place of Esay; and how, being twelve
* Luke iv.
years of age, he sate at Jerusalem in the temple among the doctors, and did dispute. For he could not so do by virtue of any ordinary office, forasmuch as his age was uncapable, neither did the doctors know who he was. Yea, rather, our Lord in so doing must needs make use of the power which was granted to every one to speak. It remained in the Christians' congregations until the times of Constantine, at the least. Forasmuch as we have these words of Eusebius, the writer of church affairs, to that effect:+"If any man, inspired by the grace of God, should speak unto the people, they all, with great silence, fixing their eyes upon him, gave such attention, as if he had brought them some errand from heaven." So great was the reverence of the hearers, such order was seen among the ministers. One after another, another after him. Neither were there only two or three that prophesied, according to what the apostle said, but to all was given to speak; so that the wish of Moses seems rather to have been fulfilled in them, when he said, "Would God all the people might prophecy." There was no spleen, no envy; the gifts of God were dispensed; every one, according to his ability, contributing his assistance for the confirmation of the church and all was done with love, in such sort, that they strove mutually to honour each other, and every one to prefer another before himself. But to the end this common prophesying may be profitable to the church, we must diligently mark what the apostle advises. For a sure thing it is, that the pride of man is so great, that whatever hath once fallen from him, he will by any means have it stand for a truth; neither can he suffer that any man should infringe the same. So that if he might be permitted to judge, that last spake, it will be a miracle if a man in his life-time should see any one give way to him that contradicts him: what is Paul's advice therefore in this case? "Let two or three prophets speak, and let the rest judge." He will not therefore have the same persons to be parties and judges. And he adds a little after, "And the spirit of the prophets is subject to the prophets; for God is not the author of dissension, but of peace." So that as soon as any man hath spoken his own mind, he ought to rest himself satisfied with the judgment of the rest, and not obstinately to make no end of contending. If this be not done, a sure thing it is, there will be no end of strife. But what if any man will not be content to submit to the judgment of the rest: verily I would avouch, that being sharply admonished that he disturb not the congregation, and that he go not against the command of the apostle, or rather of our Lord,
Eccl. Hist. lib. 9.
commanding the spirits of the prophets to be subject to the prophets, he ought to be cast out of the society, though he should hold the prime place in the congregation. The people likewise must frequently be admonished, that liberty for any one to speak in the congregation, is not therefore granted by the apostle, to the end every one should speak what comes to his tongue's end, as if he were in a market; but whereas he gives liberty to him to speak to whom any thing is revealed, he would have all rashness and impudence to be laid aside. He that reverences not the church of God, let that man know he despiseth the spirit of God, who is presi dent there; and shall be sure not to escape unpunished. Before a man propounds any thing to the church, he ought to consider, again and again, how sure a manifestation he hath of that thing; and whatever the matter be, let him be sure not to forget a sober, modest, bashful behaviour; without which virtues, doubtless no good can be effected. But here we must attentively consider, both how far a man ought to submit to the judgment of the congregation, and who may deservedly be accounted a troubler of the church. Verily I conceive a man ought so far to give way, as that, after I have alleged what I had to say for my opinion, if yet the rest shall not allow of my judgment, I ought to give over defending it, and cease to be troublesome to the congregation concerning the same: but I ought not to be compelled to con→ fess that I have erred, nor to deprecate any fault, while I do not yet understand that I have erred, for so I shall sin against God. He therefore is a troubler of the church, that will not, so far as we have expressed, submit to the judgment of the church, but goeth on to be troublesome; but especially that man who would exact of another that which he ought not to do; viz. to recant, being not persuaded that he is in an error. But those men are commonly reputed troublers of the church, who refuse to ratify whatever shall any ways fall out of the pastors' mouths. Again, in this place it may reasonably be demanded, whether, when that a matter hath been once or twice debated, and some man, knowing the judgment of the congregation, would again re duce it into controversy, he ought to be heard, or enjoined silence, and take the matter for determined. But of this we shall in another place more conveniently dispute. That which remains, therefore, is, that we wrestle with God, by daily prayers, to grant that we may have the use of this so sovereign and saving liberty, so profitable to the church, and that thereby we may reap abundance of fruit: and that he would, to that end, break and tame our spirits with his spirit, and render them mild and gentle; and not suffer what he hath ordained for the confirmation and establish