Page images

"bodily exercise," (which the apostle says, "profits little") nor in times nor places, but in faith, and that worship which Christ tells us is "in spirit and in truth."* To this no worldly compulsion can bring or force men; it is only the power of that King of righteousness whose kingdom is in the minds and souls of the just; and he rules by the law of his own free Spirit, which, like the wind, "bloweth where it listeth." And as without this Spirit of regeneration, no man can be made a member of Christ's church or kingdom, and less a minister, so neither is it in the power of man to command or give it; and consequently all worldly force, employed to make men members of Christ's church and kingdom, is as ineffectual as unnatural. I could be very large upon this point: for it is very fruitful, and so much the cause of persecution, that if there were never another to be asssigned, this were enough; and upon due consideration it must needs meet with every man's judgment and experience. I will here add the sense of memorable Hales of Eton upon this subject.

'When our Saviour, in the Acts, after his resurrection, was discoursing to his disciples concerning the kingdom of God, they presently brake forth into this question," Wilt thou now restore the kingdom unto Israel?" Certainly this question betrays their ignorance: their thoughts still ran upon a kingdom, like unto the kingdoms of the world, notwithstanding they had so long and so often heard our Saviour to the contrary. Our Saviour therefore shortly takes them up, Non est vestrum; your question is nothing to the purpose; the kingdom that I have spoken of is another manner of kingdom than you conceive. Sixteen hundred years, et quod excurrit, hath the gospel been preached unto the world, and is this stain spunged out yet? I doubt it. Whence arise those novel and late disputes, de notis ecclesiæ, of the notes and visibility of the church? Is it not from hence, they of Rome take the world and the church to be like Mercury and Sosia in Plautus, his comedies, so like one another, that one of them must wear a toy in his cap, that so the spectators might distinguish them. Whence comes it, that they stand so much upon state and ceremony in the church? Is it not from hence, that they think that the church must come in like Agrippa and Bernice in the Acts, μerà wolins parracias, as St. Luke speaks, with a great deal of pomp, train, and show, and vanity? And that the service of God doth necessarily require this noise and tumult of outward state and ceremony? Whence comes it, that we are at our wits end, when we see persecution, and sword, and fire, to

* 1 Tim. iv. 8. John iv. 23, 24.

+ John iii. 8.


rage against the true professors of the gospel? Is it not because, as these bring ruin and desolation upon the kingdoms of the world, so we suppose they work no other effect in the kingdom of Christ? All these conceits, and many more of the like nature, spring out of no other fountain than that old inveterate error, which is so hardly wiped out of our hearts, that the state of the church and kingdom of Christ, doth hold some proportion, some likeness, with the state and managing of temporal kingdoms. Wherefore to pluck out of our hearts, opinionem tam insitam, tam vetustam, a conceit so ancient, so deeply rooted in us, our Saviour spake most excellently, and most pertinently, and most fully, when he tells us that his church, that his kingdom is not of this world.*

'In which words of his, there is contained the true art of discovering and knowing the true nature and essence of the church. For as they which make statues, cut and pare away all superfluities of the matter upon which they work; so our Saviour, to show us the true proportion and features of the church, prunes away the world, and all superfluous excrescences, and sends her to be seen, as he did our first parents in paradise, stark-naked: as those elders in the apocryphal story of Susanna, when they would see her beauty, commanded to take off her mask; so he that longs to see the beauty of the church, must pull off that mask of the world, and outward show. For as Juda, in the book of Genesis, when Thamar sat veiled by the way-side, knew not his daughter from an whore; so whilst the church, the daughter and spouse of Christ, sits veiled with the world, and pomp. and show, it will be an hard matter to discern her from an harlot. But yet farther, to make the difference betwixt these kingdoms the more plainly to appear, and so better to fix in your memories, I will briefly touch some of those heads, in which they are most notoriously differenced.

The first head wherein the difference is seen, are the persons and subjects of this kingdom: for as the kingdom of Christ is not of this world, so the subjects of this kingdom are men of another world, and not of this. Every one of us bears a double person, and accordingly is the subject of a double kingdom: the Holy Ghost, by the Psalmist, divides heaven and earth betwixt God and man, and tells us, as for God, "He is in heaven; but the earth has he given to the children of men :" so hath the same Spirit, by the apostle St. Paul, divided every one of our persons into heaven and earth, into an outward and earthly man, and into an inward and heavenly man: this earth, that is, this body of

* John xviii. 36.

clay, hath he given to the sons of men, to the princes under whose government we live; but heaven, that is, the inward and spiritual man, hath he reserved unto himself: they can restrain the outward man, and moderate our outward actions, by edicts and laws; they can tie our hands and our tongues; illa se jactet in aula Eolus: thus far they can go; and when they are gone thus far, they can go no farther: but to rule the inward man in our hearts and souls, to set up an impartial throne in our understandings and wills, this part of our government belongs to God and to Christ,: these are the subjects, this the government, of his kingdom. Men may be kings of earth and bodies; but Christ alone is the King of spirits and souls. Yet this inward government hath influence upon our outward actions: for the authority of kings over our outward man is not so absolute, but that it suffers a great restraint; it must stretch no farther than the Prince of our inward man pleases: for if secular princes stretch out the skirts of their authority to command aught by which our souls are prejudiced, the King of souls hath in this case given us a greater command, "That we rather obey God than men.


III. A third great cause of persecution for religion is this, "That men make too many things necessary to be believed to salvation and communion.' Persecution entered with creed-making: for it so falls out, that those who distinguish the tree in the bulk, cannot with the like ease discern every branch or leaf that grows upon it: and to run out the neces sary articles of faith to every good or true thing that the wit of man may deduce from the text, and so too, as that I ought to have a distinct idea or apprehension of every one of them, and must run them over in my mind, as a child would con a lesson by heart, of which I must not miss a tittle upon my salvation; this I think to be a temptation upon men to fall into dispute and division: and then we are taught, by long experience, that he that has most power will oppress his opinion that is weaker; whence comes persecution. This certainly puts unity and peace too much upon the hazard. Mary's choice therefore was not of many things, but the one thing necessary, as Christ, the Lord of the true divinity, terms it, Luke x. 42. And pray what was this one needful thing, but Christ Jesus himself, and her faith, love and obedience in and to him? Here is no perplexed creed to subscribe, no system of divinity to charge the head with this one needful thing was Mary's choice and blessing: may it be ours! and then I should hope a quick end to controversies, and consequently to persecutions.

IV. Another cause of persecution, is The prejudice of

education, and that bias tradition gives to those men, who have not made their religion the religion of their judg ment:' for such will forbid all the inquiry which might question the weakness or falsehood of their religion, and had rather be deceived in an honourable descent, than be so uncivil to the memory of their ancestors as to seek the truth; which found, must reprove the ignorance of their ages of this, the vainest of all honours! they are extremely careful; and at the very mention of any thing, to them new, though as old as truth, and older than this world, are easily urged into a tempest, and are not appeased but by a sacrifice. This ignorance, and want of inquiry, helps on persecution.


V. Another reason, and that no small one, is self-love, and impatience of men under contradiction,' be it of ignorance, that they are angry with what they cannot refute, or out of private interest, it matters not: their opinion must reign alone; they are tenacious of their own sense, and cannot endure to have it questioned, be there never so much reason for it. Men of their passions are yet to learn that they are ignorant of religion, by the want they have of mortification; such persons can easily let go their hold on charity, to lay violent hands upon their opposers: if they have power, they rarely fail to use it so; not remembering, that when they absolved themselves from the tie of love, meekness, and patience, they abandoned true religion, and contended not for the faith once delivered to the saints, which stood therein, but for mere words.

It is here that proud flesh, and a capricious head, disputes for religion, and not an humble heart and a divine frame of spirit. Men that are angry for God, passionate for Christ, that can call names for religion, and fling stones for faith, may tell us they are Christians if they will, but nobody would know them to be such by their fruits; to be sure they are no Christians of Christ's making.

I would to God that the disputants of our time did but calmly weigh the irreligiousness of their own heats for religion, and see if what they contend for will quit the cost, will countervail the charge of departing from charity, and making a sacrifice of peace, to gain their point. Upon so seasonable a reflection I am confident they would find that they rather show their love to opinion than truth, and seek victory more than concord.

Čould men be contented, as he whom they call their Lord was, to declare their message, and not to strive for proselytes, nor vex for conquest, they would recommend all to the conscience; and, if it must be so, patiently endure

[ocr errors]

contradiction too, and so lay their religion, as he did his, not in violence, but suffering: but I must freely profess, and in duty and conscience I do it, that I cannot call that religion, which is introduced against the laws of love, meekness, and friendship: superstition, interest, or faction, I may.

There is a zeal without knowledge; that is superstition : there is a zeal against knowledge; that is interest or faction, the true heresy: there is a zeal with knowledge; that is religion therefore blind obedience may be superstition, it cannot be religion; and if you will view the countries of cruelty, you shall find them superstitious rather than religious. Religion is gentle, it makes men better, more friendly, loving, and patient, than before. And the success. which followed Christianity, whilst the ancient professors of it betook themselves to no other defence, plainly proves both the force of those passive arguments above all corporal punishments, and that we must never hope for the same prosperity, till we fall into the same methods, Gal. v. 22. James iii. 17- Are men impatient of having their conceits owned ? They are then most to be suspected. Error and superstition, liked cracked titles, only fear to be searched, and run and cry for authority and number. Truth is plain and stedfast, without arts or tricks: will you receive her? well; if not, there is no compulsion. But pray tell me, what is that desired uniformity that has not unity, and that unity, which. has not love, meekness, and patience in it? I beseech you hear me; for those men depart from the spirit of Christianity that seek with anger and frowardness to promote it., Let us not put so miserable a cheat upon ourselves, nor such an affront upon Christianity, as to think that a most gentle and patient religion can be advanced by most ungentle and impatient ways. I should sooner submit to an humble opposition, than to the greatest zealot in the world; and rather deliver up myself to him that would modestly drop a contro. verted truth, than to such as seek tempestuously to carry it: for even error, bashfully and patiently defended, endangers truth, in the management of imprudent and hasty zeal; and gives to it that lustre, which only good eyes can see from gold. Alas! it is for want of considering that men do not see, that to disorder the mind in controversy is a greater mischief, than to carry the point can be a benefit; inasmuch as it is not to be religious to apprehend rightly, but to do well the latter can scarcely be without the former, but the former often is without the latter; which brings me to my sixth cause of persecution.

VI. Another, and that no small cause of persecution, is a VOL. III.


« PreviousContinue »