Page images
PDF
EPUB

believed, where, by the laws of the church, he is not bound to pass under any public discipline. For no man can tell, but that he says true; and because every degree of repentance is accepted to some dispositions and proportions of pardon, and God hath not told us the just period of his being reconciled; and his mercy is divisible as our return, and unknown to us; he that knows, that, without repentance, he eats damnation, and professes upon that very account that he is penitent,-may be taught as many more things as the curate please, or as he is supposed to need; but must not be rejected from the holy communion, if he cannot be persuaded. For this judgment is secret, and is to pass between God and the soul alone; for because no man can tell, no man can judge; and the curate, who knows not how it is, cannot give a definitive sentence..

4. But if there come any accidental obligation upon criminals; as if by the laws of a church, to which they are subjected, it be appointed they shall give public evidence and amends, they are to be judged by those measures, and are not to be restored ordinarily, till they have, by public measures, proved their repentance. This relies upon all those grounds, upon which obedience to ecclesiastical rulers is built.

5. It is lawful for the guides of souls to admit to the communion such persons, whom they believe not to be fit and worthily prepared, if they will not be persuaded to retire: it is evident in the case of kings, and all supreme powers, and great communities, and such who, being rejected, will be provoked into malice and persecution. "Such, indeed, the church sometimes tolerates, lest, being provoked, they disturb the people of God: but what does it profit them, not to be cast out of the assemblies of the godly, if they deserve to be cast out? To deserve ejection is the highest evil; and to no purpose he is mingled in the congregations of the faithful, who is excluded from the society of God, and the mystical body of Christ." And it is also evident in the societies of the church, which, we know by the words of

↑ See Rule of Conscience, lib. iii. c. 1 et 4.

St. Cyprian, sive quicunque sit auctor libri de duplice Martyrio.'

Christ, and by experience, are a mixed multitude. And, "since the Scripture does not exempt a secret sinner from the communion, why wilt thou endeavour to exempt him?" It is St. Austin's" argument. And who shall reject every man that he believes to be proud, or covetous, or envious? Who shall define pride, or convince a single person of a proud heart, or of his latent envy? And who shall give rules, by which every single man that is to blame, can be convinced of covetousness? If it be permitted to the discretion of the parish-priest, you erect a gibbet and a rack, by which he shall be enabled to torment any man, and you give him power to slander or reproach all his neighbours: if you go about to give him measures, you shall never do it wisely or piously; for no rules can be sufficient to convince any proud man: and if you make the parish-curate judge of these rules, you had as good leave it to his discretion; for he will use them as he please: and, after all, you shall never have all the people good; and if not, you shall certainly have them hypocrites; and, therefore, it cannot be avoided, but unfit persons will be admitted: for since the kingdom of grace is within us, and God's chosen ones are his secret ones, and he only knows who are his, it will be strange that visible sacraments should be given only to an invisible society and after all, if to communicate evil men be unavoidable, it cannot be unlawful.

I do not say that persons unprepared may come, for they' ought not; and if they do, they die for it: but I say, if they will come, it is at their peril, and to no man's prejudice, but their own, if they be plainly and severely admonished of their duty and their danger; and, therefore, that every man must judge of his own case, with very great severity and fear, even then when the guides of souls must judge with more gentleness, and an easier charity; when we must suspect our little faults to be worse than they seem, and our

h Ad hoc enim altare quod nunc in ecclesia est, in terra positum ad mysteriorum divinorum signacula celebranda, multi etiam scelerati possunt accedere; quoniam Deus commendat in hoc tempore patientiam suam, ut in futuro exserat severitatem suam. Ad illud autem altare, quo præcursor pro nobis introivit Jesus, quo caput ecclesiæ præcessit, membris cæteris secuturis, nullus eorum accedere poterit, de quibus dixit apostolus, 'quoniam qui talia agunt, regnum Dei non possidebunt.' — St. Aug. homil. 50. c. 9.

negligences more inexcusable, and fear a sin when there is none, and are ready to accuse ourselves for every indiscretion, and think no repentance great enough for the foulness of our sins at the same time, when we judge for others, we ought to esteem their certain good things better than they do, and their certain evils less, and their disputable good things certain, and their uncertain evils none at all, or very excusable. And, therefore, it was to very great purpose, that the apostle gave command, that "every man should examine himself, and so let him eat;" that is, let it be done as it may be done thoroughly; let him do it whose case it is, and who is most concerned that it be done well; let it be done so, that it may not be allayed and lessened by the judgment of charity; and, therefore, let a man do it himself. For when the curate comes to do it, he cannot do it well, unless he do it with mercy; for he must make abatements, which the sinner's case does not often need in order to his reconciliation and returns to God, where severity is much better than gentle sentences. But the minister of religion must receive, in some cases, such persons, who ought not to come, and who should abstain, when themselves give righteous judgment upon themselves.

For if it be lawful for Christian people to communicate with evil persons, it is lawful for Christian priests to minister it it being commanded to the people, in some cases, 'to withdraw themselves from a brother that walks inordinately;*

:

6

In hâc ergo pœnitentiâ, majorem quisque in se severitatem debet exercere, ut à seipso judicatus non judicetur à Deo, sicut idem apostolus ait, ‹ Si enim nos judicaremus, à Domino non judicaremur.' Ascendat itaque homo adversum se tribunal mentis suæ, si timet illud quod oportet nos exhiberi ante tribunal Christi, ut illud recipiat unusquisque, quod per corpus gessit, sive bonum, sive malum;' constituat se ante faciem suam, ne hoc ei postea fiat. Nam minatur hoc Deus peccatori, dicens, arguam te, et statuam te ante faciem tuam. Atque ita constituto in corde judicio, adsit accusatrix cogitatio, testis conscientia, carnifex timor. Inde quidam sanguis animi. confitentis per lacrymas profluat. Postremo ab ipsa mente talis sententia proferatur, ut se indignum homo judicet participatione corporis et sanguinis Domini; ut qui separari à regno cœlorum timet per ultimam sententiam summi judicis, per ecclesiasticam disciplinam à sacramento cœlestis panis interim separetur. Versetur ante oculos imago futuri judicii, ut com alii accedunt ad altare Dei, quo ipse non accedit, cogitet quam sit contremiscenda illa pœna, quâ, recipientibus aliis vitam æternam, alii in mortem præcipitantar æternam.—S. Aug, homil. 50. c. 9.

[ocr errors]

"

but no where commanded, that a minister of religion shall refuse to give it to him that requires it, and is within the communion of the church, and is not yet as a heathen and a publican:' and it is evident, that in the churches of Corinth, the communion was given to persons, who for unworthiness fell under the divine anger; and yet no man was reproved, but the unworthy communicants, and themselves only commanded to take care of it. For he that says, 'the people may not communicate with wicked persons,' falls into the error of the Donatists, which St. Austin, and others, have infinitely confuted: but he that says, the people may,' ought not to deny but that the priests may; and if he may communicate with him, it cannot be denied but that he may minister to him. But this was the case of the sons of Israel, who did eat manna, and drank of the rock"; and yet that rock was Christ, and that manna was also his sacrament; and yet "with many of these God was angry, and they fell in the wilderness." And baptism was given às soon as ever men were converted, in the very day of their change, and that by the apostles themselves, and yet the same Christ is there consigned and exhibited. We may remember, that, in Scripture, we find no difference in the two sacraments, as to this particular. But in this there needs not much to be said; they that think things can be otherwise, and have tried, have declared to all the world by the event of things, that although the guides of souls may, by wise and seasonable discourses, persuade and prevail with some few persons, yet no man can reform the world. And if all were rejected, whose life does not please the curate, some will not care, and will let it quite alone; and others that do care, will never the more be mended, but turn hypocrites; and they are the worst of men, but most readily communicated: some other evils do also follow; and when we have reckoned schisms, partialities, reproaches, animosities, and immortal hatreds between priest and people, we have not reckoned the one half'.

Quemadmodum tu comedis Christi corpus, sic illi manna; et quomodo tu bibis sanguinem, sic illi aquam ex petra. —S. Chrysost. homil. 18. in 2 Corinth.

1 Ne dum purgatissimam' ecclesiam volunt instituere, brevi nullam habeant. Bullinger ad Bezam.

[ocr errors]

6. When to separate criminals can be prudent and useful, and is orderly, limited, and legal, it ought not to be omitted" upon any consideration, because it is the sinews and whole strength of ecclesiastical discipline, and is a most charitable ministry to souls, and brings great regard to the holy sacrament, and produces reverence in the communicants, and is a deletory to sin, and was the perpetual practice of the best ages of the church, and was blessed with an excellent corresponding piety in their congregations; upon which account, and of other considerations, St. Cyprian", St. Basil ̊, St. Chrysostom P, and divers others, call upon prelates and people, to exercise and undergo respectively this ecclesiastical discipline.

1

C

"

But this hath in it some variety 9. 1. For if the person be notorious, a great and incorrigible criminal, refusing to hear, the church proceeding against him upon complaint, confession, or notoriety, and consequently to be esteemed as a heathen and a publican; then come in the apostolical rules, with such a one not to eat;' and, withdraw from such a one, for there is no accord between Christ and Belial,' between a Christian and a heathen, or an unbeliever; that is, one who is thrust into the place and condition of an infidel; and 'give not that which is holy, unto dogs.' 2. But if he be within the communion of the church, and yet a criminal, not delated, not convict, not legally condemned, and yet privately known to be such, or publicly suspected and scandalous; the minister of religion must separate him by the word of his ministry, and tell him his danger, and use all the means he can to bring him to repentance and amends before he admits him. If the minister of religion omits this duty, he falls under the curse threatened by God in the prophet," If he does not warn him, if he does not speak to the wicked, to give him warning to save his life; his blood shall be upon him." 3. If there be a regular jurisdiction established, and

The

Quantum ruboris civitati turpiter se gerendo incusserunt, tantum laudis graviter puniti adferant. Valer. Max.

De lapsis, lib. iii. et ep. 15.

⚫ Epist. ad Amphil. c. 2. 84. 85. P Non parva vobis imminet ultio, si quem, cujuspiam conscium nequitiæ, hujus mensæ participem concedatis: sanguis ejus de vestris manibus exquiretur.-S. Chrysost. homil. 60. ad Pop. Antioch.

* See Rule of Conscience, lib. iii. c. 4. rule 9. 1 Cor. v. 11. 2 Thess. iii. 6.

Ezek. iii. 18.

« PreviousContinue »