Page images
PDF
EPUB

same term by which constantly the subjection due to secular powers, in all the precepts enjoining it, is expressed : 'Opoiws veurepor únoráynte #peopurépous, In like manner,' (or correspondently,) saith St. Peter, ‘ye younger submit yourselves to the elder;' (that is, as the context shows, ye inferiors in the church obey your superiors ; ó veurepos both there and otherwhere doth signify the state of inferiority, as ó mpeoßúrepos importeth dignity and authority.) And, únordogeole rois tocouτοις, , • submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboreth,' saith St. Paul; and, d'Andous Únota coóueroi, submitting yourselves to one another in the fear of God,' that is, yielding conscientiously that submission, which established order requireth from one to another : whence we may collect that the duty consisteth in yielding submission and compliance to all laws, rules, and orders enacted by spiritual governors for the due celebration of God's worship, the promoting edification, the conserving decency, the maintenance of peace; as also to the judgments and censures in order to the same purposes administered by them.

This obedience to be due to them may likewise be inferred from the various names and titles attributed to them ; such as those of prelates, superintendents, pastors, supervisors, governors, and leaders ; which terms (more largely touched before) do imply command and authority of all sorts, legislative, judicial, and executive.

Such obedience also primitive practice doth assert to them: for what authority the holy Apostles did assume and exercise, the same we may reasonably suppose derived to them; the same in kind, although not in peculiarity of manner, (by immediate commission from Christ, with supply of extraordinary gifts and graces) and in unlimitedness of extent: for they do succeed to the Apostles in charge and care over the church, each in his precinct, the apostolical office being distributed among them all. The same titles which the Apostles assumed to themselves they ascribe to their sympresbyters, requiring the same duties from them, and prescribing obedience to them in the same terms; they claimed no more power than was needful to further edification, and this is requisite that present governors also should have; their practice in government may also well be presumed exemplary to all future governors.

As then we see them Siardosely, to order things, and frame ecclesiastical constitutions ; dopoūv, to rectify things, or reform defects, to impose observances necessary, or expedient to the time ; to judge causes and persons, being ready to avenge, or punish, every disobedience; to use severity on occasions; with the spiritual rod to chastise scandalous offenders, disorderly walkers, persons contumacious and unconformable to their injunctions; to reject heretics, and banish notorious sinners from communion, warning the faithful to forbear conversation with them : as they did challenge to themselves an authority from Christ to exercise these and the like acts of spiritual dominion and jurisdiction, exacting punctual obedience to them; as we also see the like acts exercised by bishops, whom they did constitute to feed and rule the church; so we may reasonably conceive all governors of the church (the heirs of their office) invested with like authority in order to the same purposes, and that correspondent obedience is due to them ; so that what blame, what punishment was due to those, who disobeyed the Apostles, doth in proportion belong to the transgressors of their duty toward the present governors of the church; especially considering that our Lord promised his perpetual presence and assistance to the Apostles.

We may farther observe that accordingly, in continual succession from the first ages, the good primitive bishops (the great patrons and propagators of our religion) did generally assume such power, and the people readily did yield obedience; wherein that one did wrongfully usurp, the other did weakly comply, were neither probable nor just to suppose : whence general tradition doth also confirm our obligation to this duty. That this kind of obedience is required doth also farther ap

from considering the reason of things, the condition of the church, the design of Christian religion.

1. Every Christian church is a society; no society can abide in any comely order, any steady quiet, any desirable prosperity, without government; no government can stand without correspondent obligation to submit thereto.

2. Again; the state of religion under the gospel is the kingdom of heaven; Christ our Lord is king of the Church ; it he

pear

6

visibly governeth and ordereth by the spiritual governors, as his substitutes and lieutenants; (whence they peculiarly are styled his ministers, his officers, his stewards, his legates, his co-workers.) When he ascending up to God's right hand was invested with intire possession of that royal state, he settled them to administer affairs concerning that government in his place and name : Ascending up on high he gave gifts unto men.--He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers :' he gave them, that is, he appointed them in their office, subordinate to himself, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.' As to him, therefore, ruling by them, by them enacting laws, dispensing justice, maintaining order and peace, obedience is due.

3. Again; for the honor of God, the commendation of religion, and benefit of the people, it is needful that in all religious performances things should, according to St. Paul's rule, be performed decently, and according to order, without unhandsome confusion and troublesome distraction : this cannot be accomplished without a determination of persons, of modes, of circumstances appertaining to those performances ; (for how can any thing be performed decently, if every person hath not his rank and station, his office and work allotted to him; if to every thing to be done, its time, its place, its manner of

performance be not assigned, so that each one may know what, when, where, and how he must do ?) Such determination must be committed to the discretion and care of some persons, empowered to frame standing laws or rules concerning it, and to see them duly executed ; (for all persons without delay, strife, confusion, and disturbance, cannot meddle in it :) with these persons all the rest of the body must be obliged to comply; otherwise all such determinations will be vain and ineffectual. Such order reason doth recommend in every proceeding; such order especially becometh the grandeur and importance of sacred things ; such order God hath declared himself to approve and love, especially in his own house, among his people, in matters relating to his service ; for, · He is not, as St. Paul saith, arguing to this purpose, the God of confusion, but of peace, in all churches of the saints.' BAR.

VOL. III.

• 4. Again; it is requisite that all Christian brethren should conspire in serving God with mutual charity, hearty concord, harmonious consent; that, as the Apostles so often prescribed, they should endeavor to keep unity of spirit in the bond of peace;' that they should be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind, standing fast in one spirit, with one mind; that they should walk by the same rule, and mind the same thing; that with one mind and one mouth they should glorify God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; that they should all speak the same thing; and that there be no divisions among them, but that they be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment; (like those in the Acts, of whom it is said, “The multitude of believers had one heart and one soul ;') that there should be no schisms (divisions or factions) in the body; that all dissensions, all murmurings, all emulations should be discarded from the church : the which precepts, secluding an obligation to obedience, would be impossible and vain; for (without continual miracle, and transforming human nature, things not to be expected from God, who apparently designeth to manage religion by ordinary ways of human prudence, his gracious assistance concurring) no durable concord in any society can ever effectually be maintained otherwise than by one public reason, will, and sentence, which may represent, connect, and comprise all; in defect of that every one will be of a several opinion about what is best, each will be earnest for the prevalence of his model and way; there will be so many lawgivers as persons, so many differences as matters incident; nothing will pass smoothly and quietly, without bickering and jangling, and consequently without animosities and feuds : whence no unanimity, no concord, scarce any charity or good-will can subsist,

5. Farther; in consequence of these things common edification requireth such obedience : it is the duty of governors to order all things to this end, that is, to the maintenance, encou• ragement, and improvement of piety; for this purpose their authority was given them, as St. Paul saith, and therefore it must be deemed thereto conducible: it is indeed very necessary to edification, which, without discipline guiding the simple and ignorant, reclaiming the erroneous and presumptuous, cherishing the regular, and correcting the refractory, can nowise be promoted.

Excluding it, there can be no means of checking or redressing scandals, which to the reproach of religion, to the disgrace of the church, to the corrupting the minds, and infecting the manners of men, will spring up and spread. Neither can there be any way to prevent the rise and growth of pernicious errors or heresies; the which assuredly in a state of unrestrained liberty the wanton and wicked minds of men will breed, their licentious practice will foster and propagate, to the increase of all impiety :'their mouths must be stopped,' otherwise they will subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not for filthy lucre's sake ;' the word of naughty seducers will spread like a gangrene,' if there be no corrosive or corrective remedy to stay its progress.

Where things are not managed in a stable, quiet, orderly way, no good practice can florish or thrive ; dissension will choke all good affections, confusion will obstruct all good proceedings; from anarchy, emulation and strife will certainly grow, and from them all sorts of wickedness : for where,' saith St. James, there is • emulation and strife, there is confusion and every evil thing.'

All those benefits, which arise from holy communion in offices of piety and charity, (from common prayers and praises to God, from participation in all sacred ordinances, from mutual advice, admonition, encouragement, consolation, good example,) will together vanish with discipline; these depend on the friendly union and correspondence of the members; and no such union can abide without the ligament of discipline, no such correspondence can be upheld without unanimous compliance to public order. The cement of discipline wanting, the Church will not be like a spiritual house,' compacted of

lively stones' into one goodly pile; but like a company of scattered pebbles, or a heap of rubbish.

So considering the reason of things, this obedience will appear

needful: to enforce the practice thereof we may adjoin several weighty considerations.

Consider obedience, what it is, whence it springs, what it produceth ; each of those respects will engage us to it.

&

« PreviousContinue »