Four Discourses Delivered to the CLERGY OF THE Diocess of Sarum, CONCERNING

  • I. The Truth of the Christian Religion.
  • II. The Divinity and Death of Christ.
  • III. The Infallibility and Authority of the Church.
  • IV. The Obligations to continue in the Com­munion of the Church.

By the Right Reverend Father in God, GILBERT, Lord Bishop of SARVM.

LONDON, Printed for Richard Chiswell, at the Rose and Crown in St. Paul's Church-yard. MDCXCIV.


Ian. 22. 1693/4.

TO THE CLERGY OF THE Diocess of Sarum.

My Reverend and dear Brethren,

THESE Discourses were at first prepared for you, and were delivered to you among a great many more on other Subjects on several occasions: they were so well received by you, that many of you desired that you might have them copied out for a more lasting use. This has set me on publishing these that follow, they relating to Four different sort of men with whom you may be engaged.

The first is against Atheists and Libertines, who grow to be so bold and insolent, that it is of the last importance, that you should be well furnish'd with Answers to those Objections with which they make the greatest noise. This is the Pest of the Age we live in, the most dangerous as well as the most contagious of all others: It strikes at all, and corrupts the whole Man, as well as it dissolves all the bounds of Nature and Society. This promises such an Indemnity, and gives so entire a liberty, that depraved Inclinations and Affections will be always of its side; and it has some specious things to alledge, the No­velty and Boldness of which, makes them pass for Wit and Good Humour, which will be always taking to those who want and desire supports and excuses for sins, Upon all these ac­counts, and chiefly upon the fatal progress which this Blasphemous Spirit of Infidelity has made among us, it becomes us to consider these matters well, that we may be throughly acquainted with all those depths of Satan, and know what to answer to all those false shews of Wit or Reason, as wall as to the more petulant demands by which that prophane Crew study to undermine and beat down all Religion.

One of their common Topicks, is the decrying all Mysteries; and in this they fall in to the same opposition with the Socinians, tho upon very different designs. For the Socinians run down all Mysteries, and think they can make it appear, That those passages of Scripture by which they are commonly proved, have another meaning; whereas Libertines do it, being persuaded that they are indeed contained in the Scriptures; and therefore they hope that they will gain their main end of decrying all Revealed Religion, if strong prejudices are once formed against Mysteries; and yet they are at the same time consider'd as parts of the Chri­stian [Page II] Religion, and are believed to be contain'd in the Scriptures. I must also do this right to the Socinians, as to own that their Rules and Morality are exact and severe; that they are generally men of Probity, Iustice and Charity, and seem to be very much in earnest in pressing the obligations to very high degrees of Virtue. Yet their denying all secret Assistances, must cut off the Exercises of many Devotions, that give a softness and tenderness to the mind; which if once extinguish'd, it must of necessity draw after it a dry flatness over all a man's thoughts and powers; their denying the certainty of God's foreseeing all future events that depend upon the freedom of a man's Will, must very much weaken our Confidence in God, our patience under all misfortunes, and our expectations of a deliverance in due time. Their Notions of another state, do also take off much of the terror under which Bad men ought to be kept, and lessen the Ioys of Good men; On all these accounts, their Opinions seem to have a great Influence upon practice; but with [...]lation to the great Article of Christianity con­cerning the Person and sufferings of Iesus Christ, their Doctrine gives so different a view of this Religion in its most important Head, that either we have been guilty of a most Irreli­gious prophanation, in esteeming one to be God, and giving him all the Acknowledgments and Adorations that belong to the Great and Eternal God, who yet is a meer Creature; or they must be no less guilty, who if he be the Great and the True God, do look on him only as a Creature, and yet offer him all divine Honour and Worship: and if his Death was only a pattern, or any thing else than a true propitiatory Sacrifice, then we who look on it as our Propitiation and Redemption, who claim and trust to it, as our Ransom and Atone­ment, do very impiously raise its value beyond the Truth, and fix our Confidence, with re­lation to our Peace with God, upon a false foundation. Whereas on the other hand, If God has set forth his death as a Propitiation for the forgiveness of sin, then they are guilty of black Ingratitude, and of defeating the chief design of the Gospel, who so far detract from its value, as to reckon it only a patern of dying, a confirmation of the Gospel, and necessary preliminary to a Resurrection. Upon all these accounts it is that I could never understand the Pacificatory Doctrines of those who think that these are questions in which a diversity of Opinions may well be endured without disturbing the Peace of the Church, or breaking Communion about th [...]m. They seem to be the Fundamentals of Christianity, and therefore I thought it was very neces­sary for me to give you a ful and clear Instruction in this matter.

The 3d. Discourse relates to that upon which the whole Cause of Popery turns; for if they are Infallib [...]e, it is to no purpose to dispute about any thing else: and if they are fallible, their pretending to Infallibility, is of it self a just prejudice against their whole Church, and a­gainst all their other Doctrines, when they claim to so high an authority without good grounds. Since therefore this is the most Important part of all our Controversies with that Church, and since it is that to which they always turn themselves by which they gain Prosclites, and est [...]blish their own Votaries, and set them out of the reach of all Convistion, the understanding of this matter in its full extent, seems to be a very necessary piece of study. We are apt upon a little Interval of quiet to forget the practices of that Church; and because we do not think of them, we may be apt to fancy that they think as little of us: but they do still pursue their point with an unwearied diligence. They never give over, but when one design fails, they either study to retrieve it, or to set another on foot, with an Industry that ought to awaken us, and keep us always on our guard. The Numbers of their Emis [...]aries are great and their Zeal is ever warm and active; therefore we must never lose sight of them; and above all th [...] other points of Controversy, we must study to be most particularly conversant in this, and expert at the management of it.

The Fourth Discourse relates to the various Bodies of the Dissenters among us, and all the different grounds upon which they separate from us. The Toleration that the Law gives them, does not alter the nature of things, nor make an unjust Separation to be one whit the lawfuller than it was when they were under a severe Yoke. The Law only gives a Civil Im­punity, and does not punish: But the Cause of the Separation is the same that it was, and is neither better nor worse, whether the Separation is punished or not. They are now left to themselves, and are so much the freer in their choice, the less restraint is put upon them. Therefore it was never more seasonable than it is now, to set the whole matter in a true light [Page III] before all that may be concerned in it, that they may weigh it the more impartially: And the less uneasy we seem to be, at the ease which the Law gives them, we may have there­by the greater advantages in endeavouring to bring them back to the Communion of the Church, by shewing both their obligations to it, and the weakness of those Reasons which have led them to depart from it.

I think it is not necessary to say more, for justifying the choice that I have made of these four Heads, as the first Essay that I offer you, of a great many other Discouses, with which I have entertained you, when I have desired you to meet in the sever [...]l parts and different Divisions of my Diocess: Some head of Divinity being proposed as the Subject of a Confe­rence, I have enlarged upon a great many among you, and have laid bafore you all that my Studies and Observation could suggest; and after that, have led you to discourse freely upon it, This has seemed to me a proper method for awakening your Enquiries, and for en­creasing your Knowledge: And those meetings have been so well kept by you, and the Dis­courses so carefully attended to, that it has given me no small encouragement to go on still in the same method, And as your thinking that you have profited by my Labours, is a full and rich recompence, that does abundently overbalance any pains they may put me to: So it is for your sake that I do now publish these Discourses; and as they prove acceptable or useful to you, I may, perhaps, publish others hereafter,

Certainly, next to a true sense of Divine Matters, and the inward belief and impressions of Religion, Study, and a desire of useful knowledge, is that which becomes our Profession the best. It is that which enables us both to understand our business, and to do our duty. It is the noblest entertainment, and the best preservative from idleness, and from all that dulness and weariness, all those excesses and disorders that arise out of it. The mind will be always working, and if we do not let it fly at nobler game, it will either sink into a feeble­ness and stupidity, or look out for such Diversions as do offer themselves, without a scru­pulous regard to their unsuitableness to our Caracter. These draw men down to a vicious familiarity with bad men, and do fatally engage many to share with them in bad practices: either they make us much the worse, or at the least we seem to be so to others, when we thow away much of our time in levities, which do often end in gross Immoralities. In which the World will be apt to give us a large share, often without a pretence, but to be sure, if there is the least shadow for it, the chief part of the blame will be cast on us. Nor will it be easy for us to be blameless, and without rebuke, unless we maintain the other part of the Character given by St. Paul, that as becomes the sons of God, We shine as lights in the world. And I may well conclude, That a serious application to study, is the best fence, both of the Probity, and of the Reputation of a Clergy-man: It both teaches himself all the parts of his duty, and creates to him that esteem which is necessary to support him in the discharge of it.

And therefore, my dear Brethren, I do with all possible Earnestness call upon you, to study to maintain the high Reputation for Learning, of which the Clergy of this Church has been so long possessed; and to give your selves time and leisure to peruse and digest the Learned Productions of those Great Men among us; and not to be proud, or to boast that we belong to a Body that has produced Men so deservedly admired, both by Friends and Enemies, while we our selves are so little like them, that we are not a whit the wiser or the learneder for all that they have left us. Some hours every day well placed would soon bring us under such habits, that it would not be easy, if possible, for us to live out of all commerce with Learning, and the learned World. I know the unhappy state of many depauperated Benefices, puts it out of the Incumbent's power to furnish themselves with Books; as much as their narrow Circumstances indispose them for making use of them, if they had them. This is a crying grievance, and looks too like a scorn put on the Gospel, when those who Minister in Spiritual things are so slenderly supplied in Temporals, that nothing but extreme Necessity can induce Men to serve in such Cures, who are put to wrestle still with the same necessity, especially if they have Families that grow upon them. But as we have at present just Grounds to hope, and to give you cause likewise to hope, that if God blesses us with calm and setled times, effectual Remedies should be found out to that great misery, under which [Page IV] many of you languish, which must needs give very sad and afflicting thoughts to those who observe it, and who ought to watch over you, and to take care of you; so the best method to move our Princes, and to dispose the Nation to take pity on you, is for you to take heed to your selves, and to the Flocks that are committed to you; to follow your Studies and your Labours more diligently, and to raise your own Character by your Exemplary Lives, and the painful discharge of your Duties. This, and this only, will draw down the blessings of Heaven upon your Persons, and your Labours; this will make your very Enemies to be at Peace with you, and will force those who do now despise you, to esteem you, and to count you worthy of double Honour, of a larger and easier subsistence.

I will employ the rest of this Discourse in pressing upon you one great part of your duty, in which, as I am glad that so many among you set a good Example to their Brethren, so I do earnestly wish that all the rest may follow it: It is, To express an affectionate and hearty zeal for their Majesties, and their Government; and to endeavour to keep your Peo­ple always in mind of the extream Miseries, as well as of the visible Dangers of Popery and Tyranny. This must still be remembred as a lasting honour to this Church, That some years ago, there was in a day of Trial, so noble an Opposition given to that Religion, and the steps that were then made to bring it in upon us. We are still in the struggle, and are stran­gely mistaken, if we imagine the Danger is past. We plainly see the Clouds return after the Rain; and a Relapse into that State would make the latter end much worse than the begin­ning: The Hope which then supported, and afterwards delivered us, would no more soften our Miseries with the prospect of better Times. The Rage, as well as the Power of our Ene­mies, would be much encreased; and there is no doubt to be made, but that those who have no Religion, whose numbers, God knows, do swell vastly, would hope to atone for all that has been done with the change of their No-Religion, for that to which their Interest should lead them. And if ever God, for our great and crying Sins, is provoked to visit us in so terrible a manner; we, who have been hitherto the most favoured of all the Churches of God, must become the most miserable. Whither can we fly for shelter, or where can we promise our selves either Retreat or Relief?

The prospect of such a Calamity seems to be one of the blackest of all that has been since the World begun; and yet how tamely do many look for it; while others with a fury that is as much without bounds, as it is without sense, are endeavouring to bring on that Evil Day; to make the Nation grow weary of its Deliverance and present Quiet, and return back into Egypt. While they spread so many False Reports, with a Spite that is as restless as it is insolent; shall we at such a time stand as neutral, and unconcerned, while all is at stake? Shall it be said, That whereas some years ago, during the Debates concerning the Exclusion, we sided so openly, and with a Zeal that shewed it self on all occasions, and in Instances which were better forgotten than remembred; yet now when all that can concern us, either as we are Men, and Englishmen, or as we are Christians, and the Ministers of the Church of England, is in such eminent danger, we seem to let all Parties fight it out the best they can, while we only do what is enjoined, and express neither affection nor zeal.

I will not offer to say any thing to convince you of the Lawfulness of the present Con­stitution: For I cannot admit so bad a thought of any of you, as to imagine that you could take the Oaths, and continue to perform Divine Offices, Ordinary and Extraordinary, unless you were fully satisfied in your Consciences concerning the Lawfulness both of the one and of the other. This is so black an Imputation, to suppose that Men of common Probity, not to say, Men that ought to be the Paterns, as well as the Instructers of others, should swear an Oath and adhere so long to it, which is an interpretative renewing of it, ever till it is openly retracted, and should in those frequent returns of daily Prayers, besides the special Offices of Fasts and Thanksgiving-days, offer up Devotions to God contrary to their Persuasions, that no man is capable of so heinous, and so continued a Prevarication, unless he is either a determinate Atheist, or a man of a seared and hardned Conscience. Now as this is of so odious a nature, that indeed it is not easy to find words severe enough to set it out by; so supposing men once convinced of the Lawfulness of our present Scituation, it is very extraordi­nary [Page V] if they are cold and unconcerned in a Point, which when it is once yielded to be lawful, is unquestionably of the greatest importance and consequence possible.

If Liberty and Religion are valuable things; and if they are not, what is valuable? If the maintaining the Purity of the Christian Religion, free from Idolatry and Superstition, from Imposture and Cruelty; if the maintaining a Church that without partiality, is to be preferred to any Church now in the World; and if the keeping out of a Religion, which is without partiality the worst of any that carries the Name of Christ; If the preserving a Government that is just and mild, that is guided by Law, and that maintains Property, and that leaves Mankind to all the Liberties of a free-born Nature, and of a well Consti­tuted Society: And if the withstanding an absolute and Despotical, an Arbitrary and Violent Tyranny, that tramples on all thinge Sacred and Human, that oppresses Liberty, and de­stroys Property, and that makes men Slaves, and treats them as brute Beasts; If, I say, all these things are well weighed, then we must conclude, That we owe the utmost degrees of affection and zeal to Their Majesties, and to Their Government: We ought to make all our People sensible, both of the Happiness that we do now enjoy, and of the Miseries that we are preserved from, by Their means, and under Their Protection. We ought to set Popery and Slavery before them in their true Colours, with all the light and life that we can give them: We ought to set our selves against those false Brethren, that pretend they are of the Church of England, but are not; and are of the Synagogue of Satan, which in its strict notion signifying an Adversary, we may without any breach of Charity affirm, that they associate themselves to the Enemy of our Nation, and of our Religion; whose Per­son, Government, Forces and Successes, they are always magnifying, on design to intimi­date such as can be wrought on by their false Surmises. These things we ought to repress and oppose on all occasions with the Spirit and Courage that such matter require.

It is Stupidity and not Patience to be cold and luke-warm, while England and the Pro­testant Religion are in the last struggles whether they must live or die. If God does not bless so good a Cause in all the steps it makes, with the Success that we ought to desire and pray for; we should teach our people not to murmur, nor aggravate matters, not to sink or despond, but to consider how much our sins have provoked God's Wrath, how small a share we bear of those devouring Calamities that have ruin'd so great a part of Europe; while we only bear the Charge, but feel few of the Miseries of War. If some years are less pros­perous than others have been, we ought to reflect on former Successes, and the ill use that we have made of them, which may have provoked God to change his methods: and yet take all together, it must be acknowledged, that we have had of late more publick Blessings and fewer Misfortunes, than any Nation under Heaven. Can one reflect on the Blasphemy and Infidelity, the dissolution of all good Morals, and the Impieties and Vices of all sorts that are among us, and not wonder rather, that we have not been made a scene of Earth­quakes and Ruins, as Sicily, Malta and Jamaica have of late been. It is to these sins that we ought to turn the minds of our people, when they are at any time dejected with ill success; we ought to call upon them to repent of, and to reform their ways: and when that is done, or even set about, we may then hope that God will change his methods towards us; and continue his Gospel among us, together with the Blessings of a Iust and Wise Government, and of Peace and Plenty.

These are Subjects on which we ought to dwell much, and Preach often. But that I may not dismiss this matter, without any thing that looks like an Argument; I will open to you two great Precedents, which you have often heard me enlarge on with much seeming satis­faction: and because you have thought that I laid them out in a more particular manner, than you had otherwise met with them; I will now spread them out before you: and that the rather, because Arguments from Examples, and authorised practices, have upon many Accounts a stronger Influence, than general reasonings. Matters of Fact are easier appre­hended, and more capable of full proof, than points of speculation; which do more easily bend to any turn, that a Man of Wit may give them, than meer Facts, which are stubborn and sullen.

The first of these is taken from the History of the Maccabees, which I desire you will con­sider [Page VI] by these steps. That the Jews became the Subjects of the Kings of Babylon by the Entire Conquest which Nebuchadnezzar made of that Nation; that after the end of 70 Years, they continu'd to be subject to Cyrus, who tho he sent them back to rebuild their Temple, and tho his Successors suffer'd them both to finish that, and to rebuild and enclose Jerusalem, yet they continu'd still to be the Subjects of the Kings of Persia; this was transferred to Ale­xander the Great, when he conquer'd that Empire: And finally, they fell to the share of the Kings of Syria, and were their Subjects above 140 Years. They proved hard Masters to them: Antiochus Epiphanes robb'd the Temple in the 143 Year of the Seleucida; a great Massacre followed;1 Macc. 1.20, 24, 25. but these were particular Acts of Tyranny; and so tho there was great mourning upon this, yet it was submitted to: For certainly the Peace of Mankind, and the Order of the World require, that special acts of malversation, and even of Trranny, should be born, rather than that we should shake an established Constitution: But in the year 145. he went on to a total Subversion of their Religion, by an Edict which required that they should forsake their Law, V. 41. V. 54. V. 57. and become one People with him: In pursuance os which, the Altar at Jerusalem was defiled; Idolatrous Altars were set up in all their Cities, and every Man was to be put to Death that still adhered to the Law of Moses. Here then were Subjects brought under a general Sentence of Death, unless they should depart from the Laws of God: special Oppressions and violent Acts of Cruelty were submitted to; but when they saw themselves in­volved all in the same common fate, they defended themselves.

Mattathias not only refused to join in the Idolatry that they had set up, but killed both him that went to offer the Sacrifice and likewise the King's Commissioner; upon which the Historian adds this Reflection, Thus dealt he zealously for the Law of God, like Pianehas; he a nimated his Children to follow his Example,2 ch. 24, 25. V. 26. and to trust in God; but he vouched no immediate warrant that he had from God: He charged his Children to be zealous for the Law, and to give their Lives for the Covenant of their Fathers; to be valiant, and to shew th [...]m­selves Men in behalf of it, V. 50. V, 64. V. 67, 68. for by it you shall obtain glory; and he ordered them to take unto them all that observed the Law, and to revenge the wrong of their People; to Re­compence fully the Heathen, and to take heed to the Commandment of the Law. Upon this followed the Wars of the Maccabees, in which they never pretended to any special Au­thority from any Prophet: On the contrary, their History tells us, That they laid up the Stones of the Altar, that had been prophaned by Idolatry, in a convenient place, till a Pro­phet should come to shew what should be done with them. 4 Macc. 46. Thus then we see Subjects de­fend themselves against their Prince, when he designed a total Subversion of their Religion: and for this they vouched no immediate nor extraordinary Authority.

But to give this Argument its entire force, We must next see upon what reason we may conclude, that this was a justifiable, and by consequence an imitable Action. As for this, tho I think it is scarce necessary to enlarge much on an Apology for the Maccabees, their Wars having born such a venerable sound in a course of so many Ages;11 Dan. 31, 32, 33, 34. yet to pursue the matter fully, we find a Prophesy concerning them in Daniel, which is by all Commentators Ancient and Modern, applied to them, that alone seems to import a full Iustification of them; after mention is made of a King that should defile the Sanctuary, and take away the daily Sacrifice, and set upon it the abomination that maketh desolate; to that, this is added, and such as do wickedly against the Covenant, shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the People that do know their God, shall be strong, and do exploits. And they that understand among the People, shall instruct many; yet they shall fall by the Sword, and by flame▪ by capti­vity, and by spoil many days: And when they shall fall, they shall be holpen with a little help; but many shall cleave to them with flatteries. As these words import a plain Pro­diction, in terms of approbation of the Wars of the Maccabees, so all the Commentators that I have yet seen, without exception, do apply them to them

There are also many Commentators who do apply likewise to them, those words of the Epi­stle to the Hebrews, Who out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, and turned to flight the Armies of the Aliens: 11 Heb. 34. And there is a particular resemblance observed be­tween these words, and some Phrases that occur in the Books of the Maccabees: Yet I con­fess those words are not so express as the former, nor are they so Universally expounded in [Page VII] this sense. But to conclude this matter, The Authority of those Books, as it is an Argument of full force against those who acknowledge them to be Canonical; so since by the Articles of our Church, these Books are to be read for example of Life, and for the Instruction of manners; tho it doth not apply them to establish any Doctrine; Art. 6. and since we read so many Lessons taken out of the Apocrypha: These must be acknowledged to be Books of great, tho not of Divine Authority. And tho according to the Article of our Church, the arguing from any one passage in them is not to be allowed; yet if Subjects standing on their own defence, in the case of a total Subversion, is to be esteemed Rebellion, then we bind up with our Bibles, and recommend to our People, two Books that set out a History with great pomp, and with an Air of much Piety, which was no other than a down right Rebellion.

To this, the only answer that I have ever yet seen made, is, That the Iewish Dispensation being founded on Temporal Promises, whereas the Christian Religion is a Doctrine of the Cross, things of this kind might have been Lawful among them, tho they are not so to us: and that the rather, because by a Practice that was authorised, from the Example of Phinehas, and the praise given him for it, private Men might among the Jews, when the Magistrate was remiss, fall upon Offenders, and punish them, especially in the case of Idolatry. This is all that seems to be offered with any colour of Reason, to take off the Argument from the practice of the Maccabees: and therefore the considering and stating it aright, will deter­mine the whole matter. First, then, The true Arguments against Resistance being drawn from the Magistrates having the Sword from God, together with all the Topicks that belong to that head, they are equally obligatory to all Nations, and all Religions; it being no part of any special Doctrine delivered in the New Testament, but arising from the Attributes of God, and the Peace and Order of the World, which did bind Jews as well as Christians: tho there are indeed Specialties in the Christian Religion, that do enforce this the more, and ag­gravate the transgression of it more apparently. So that if Subjects defending themselves in the case of a Total Subversion, (it must ever be remembred, that I am now only arguing upon this Supposition) is the sin of Rebellion, it was a sin to the Jews, to the Maccabees in particular, as well as it is a sin to Christians. As for that of the Zealots, tho at first appearance it seems to be of some force, yet when examined it will be found to have very little in it. If we consider the first Authorities for Zealots, we shall find, that the Jews stretched this matter beyond all bounds; so that to their mistakes about it, they owed a great part of their last fatal Miseries, which ended in their ruin. This matter has been also too implicitly taken by many Christian Writers from them. The first beginning of Zealotism was in the Instance of Phinehas his killing Zimri and Cosbi; but before this was done, Moses, 25 Num. 5. who was the chief Ruler, did command all the Judges of Israel, that every one should slay his men that were joined to Baal-Peor. Phinehas was one of these Judges; 3 Num. 32. 20 Num. 28. for as Eleazar had been set over the Tribe of Levi when his Father was High-Priest, so Aaron being dead at this time, and Eleazar made High-Priest in his stead, Phinehas was now over the Tribe of Levi; and thus Moses Command was in particular directed to him; therefore though the Zeal with which he executed it, was highly acceptable to God, yet it was exactly Regular, since Moses had given a general Order for it.

After this followed some Instances of Men eminently authorized by God, by the Gifts of Pro­phecy and Miracles, who did in some Cases punish Idolaters; such was Samuel's hewing Agag in pieces, in execution of the Divine Command; and Elijah's ordering all the Priests of Baal to be killed,1 Sam. 15.33. after he had by an astonishing Miracle proved that Jehovah was the true God, and that he was his Prophet. This was suitable to their Dispensation, which being a Theocracy, 1 Kings 18.40. an authorized Prophet might well have entred upon the Functions of the Ma­gistrate, when the King himself was in fault, and the Law was openly profaned. Upon the same grounds our Saviour, after his Miracles had openly declared that he was sent of God, did whip the Buyers and Sellers out of the Temple, when they had profaned the Court of the Gentiles, and had made that House of Prayer a Den of Thieves. 21 Mat. 13.

Thus it is plain, That none of the Presidents from the Zealots of the Old Testament, could justify private Men, such as Mattathias and his Children, to do any thing that was of it felf irregular and unlawful. Phinehas his practice was a Precedent for acting in the matters of [Page VIII] their Law with much spirit and courage, but it could not justify any man who should presume to do that, which was not otherwise lawful for him to do; and though the Spirit of the Christian Religion is very different from the Spirit by which Elijah and other Prophets under the Old Testament were acted;9 Luke 55, 56. as our Saviour told his Disciples, particularly in this, that whereas in the one, Prophets did immediately by Miracles, or otherwise, punish some Offenders; in the other, all was to be managed with a Spirit of Gentleness and Charity; yet after all, the lasting Rules of Morality and Human Society, were the same then that they are now.

This Instance, I think, does fully justify those who, seeing a total Subversion of our Religion so far advanced, that the Pope's Authority was publickly owned, and that all the Laws that secured it, were declared to be under a Dispensing Power, which was in it self a total Subver­sion of our Constitution, did think it lawful to accept of a Deliverance, to concur in it, and to assist towards it.

The other Instance is taken from the first beginnings of Christianity's being the Legal and Authorized Religion of the Roman Empire; and from the first Council that is esteemed General, where a Precedent is laid down, that is, no less full for justifying those who tho they did not con­cur in procuring our Deliverance, yet have since closed in it, with all humble Gratitude and Obedience to those whom God made the Instruments in so great a Work.

After Constantine and Licinius had given out those Edicts at Milan, by which the Chri­stians had full liberty both for their Belief and Worship, and had all the Rights and Immu­nities of other Corporations granted them, Licinius being still in his heart an Enemy to that Religion,Eus. Chron Theoph. Anonim. Vales. began in the Year 319, to persecute the Christians: He durst not, for fear of Constantine, fall upon them openly; but his Intentions being well understood by his Ministers, the Governours of the Provinces committed in many places great Cruelties. He likewise turned the Christians first out of his Houshoud, and next out of all his Armies. He made a Law against relieving such as were in Prison,Eus. l. 10. c. 8. by which those who relieved them were to be punished as Complices of their Crimes. He apprehending that most of the Bishops wisht well to Constantine, and that in their hearts they were set against himself, went on by degrees in his design against them,Eus. de Vit. Con. l. 1. c. 5. c 53. he by one Edict, forbade the Bishops to meet together, or to meddle with the Concerns of one another's Churches. By another, he designed to expose them to Scandal and Scorn. He forbade Men and Women to meet together to worship God, or Bishops to visit Women; or Women to come to be instructed in their Schools; and appointed that Women only should instruct Women. He also forbade their holding Assemblies within Cities, and ordered them to meet in the open Fields. Some Churches were pulled down by his Orders,Eus. l. 10. c. 8. and others were shut up; and his first Suc­cesses made him resolve on a general Persecution: For not only Eusebius, but both Socrates, Sozemen, De vit. Con, l. 2. c. 2. cap. 3. and several other Writers, do all affirm, That there was no general Persecution begun, but that there were visible steps made towards it. When all this was represented to Constantine, he was much affected with it; and resolved to help the oppressed, and thought it was a pious and holy Action to save a mulitude, by the destroying of one Person: For he saw no other way was left to relieve the Oppressed; [...]. and his engaging in a War with Licinius, was by the Bishops of the East, that is, Licinius's own Subjects, ascribed to an immediate Conduct and Providence of God.Eus. l. 10. c. 8. It is true, Eutropius puts this upon Constantine's Ambi­tion, and his aspiring to be the single Monarch of the World: This is also insinuated by Aurelius Victor, Lib. 10. Principa­tum totius Orbis af­fectans. and more fully set out by Zosimus; whose hatred both of Constantine, and of the Christian Religion, breaks out into so many Partialities, unbecoming an Historian, and engages him into so many Stories that are evidently false, that little regard is due to any thing he says.

I will not enlarge upon the War that followed, only I must observe, that tho Constantine as the Senior Emperour, had the precedence of Licinius; yet he had no sort of Authority over him: So here two Princes, both equally Sovereigns of the Roman Empire, Colleagues and Brothers-in-Law, for Licinius had maried Constantine's Sister, were engaged in a War: the quarrel was not a general persecution; but such steps made, as did plainly discover there was one intended. A Peace soon after followed. The Cement of it was, The declaring Lici­nius's Son Licinian Caesar, who was then 21 years of Age; this put him in the Succession. [Page IX] But a second Rupture followed quickly after that. Licinius's hatred to the Christians being rather encreased than abated, since he observed that they all loved Constantine; This proved fatal to Licinius, for he was totally defeated at Andrianople the 3d of July 324. and after some fruitless Attempts, he was forced to put himself in Constantines hand, on the 18th. of September following. Whereupon he was sent to live a private man at Thessalonica: but Constantine understanding that he could not rest, ordered him to be put to death, in the be­ginning of the Year 325. Now we are in the next place to see what was the sense of the whole Church, of this Transaction: I confess we ought not to take it singly from Eusebius, for he is rather a perpetual Encomiast of Constantine, than his Historian, but we have a much more certain and Authentical Authority for this: Constantine in the same year in which he had put Licinius to death, and had taken no notice of Lucinian, tho but a year before made Caesar by his own Act, called the first General Council to meet at Nice: Eus. Vit. Const. l, 3 c. 12. For in his Speech to them, he tells them, that he had given Orders to call them together, as soon as he had overcome the Tyranny. The Council made no Exceptions to Constantine as an Invader; they did neither enquire after Lucinian, nor complain of Licinius's Fate: On the contrary, When Constantine came in and harangned them, Eustathius of Antioch did entertain him with a Panegyrick, full of high Commendations; and another seems to have been made by Eusebius, blessing Almighty God upon his account; which Speeches pronounced in full Council,Theod. l. 7 De Vit. Const. l. 3 c. 11. are at least a strong Presumption, that they all approved of the War, and rejoiced in i [...] the deliverance. This is yet more evident from the 11th. Canon of the Council, in which they reflect upon the late Tyranny of Licinius, which shews that tho his death, and the ruin of his Family, must have naturally given some Compassion for one that was then scarce cold, and that had so lately been their Prince: for almost that whole Council consisted of those who had been the Bishops in his share of the Empire; yet they considered the danger they and their Religion had been in under him, and their deliverance by Constantine, as vastly superiour to their Ties to him; so that there was an Universal Ioy over the whole East upon the Successes of Constantine.

The having adhered to Licinius, and taking part with him in the War, tho he was then actually their Prince, was a matter of such Scandal and Infamy, that Constantine in a Letter which he writ to the Nicomedians against Ensebius their Bishop,Theod. l. 1. c. 20. reproaches him with this, ‘That he had been always in Licinius's Councils and Secrets, that he had all along stuck to him, and had treated himself with Reproach; that he had imployed Spies to pro­cure Intelligence to Licinius, and that he had given him all sort of Assistance, except the bearing of Armes for him: all which Constantine affirms he is ready to prove, by some Priest and Deacons who had adher'd to Eusebius, and whom he had taken Prisoners.’ And thus we see what the sense of the whole Church in one of its best Ages, and of the first General Council, was of a Deliverance procured by one Sovereign Prince's attacking, dethroning, and possessing himself of the Empire of another, who had not yet set on foot a General Perse­cution, but had only violated the Laws, which the Christians, had for the security of their Religion, had committed many Acts of Injustice and violence against them; and had declared his Intentions so visibly, that there was all possible reason to conclude that a General Perse­cution was coming on. Not a Bishop, nor a Priest, stood out against Constantine; not so much as a private Christian was of Licinius's Party: All went into the Revolution, and re­joiced in their Deliverance,

I will not go on to sh [...]w how parallel that Case was to ours; the attempt were as needless, as it might seem invidious: Only I may well conclude, That it is not easy to imagine how we can be better assured of the sense of the whole Church in any point, then we are of the sense of the Christians of that Age, in this particular.

I have not said any thing to justify my putting Constantine's prevail [...]ing over Licinius in the Year immediately before the Council of Nice, tho Baronius puts it six before it. But it is visible that he has disordered the whole History of Constantine, on design to maintain his being baptized at Rome, with other unjustifiable things; besides that, Eusebius's Chronology in this particular, as it is of authority of it self, without any other support, so it is fully confirmed by the dates of some Laws in the Code, and several other Circumstances.

[Page X]It should be hoped that so great and so plain a Precedent should conclude those who have made the Primitive Church their Pattern; and who have always reckoned this one of the special Glories of the Church of England, that she built upon, and conformed her self to the first Ages of Christianity. I have now opened these two Precedents very particularly to you; they seemed to weigh much with you when I have laid them out to you in some Conferences that I have held with you upon this Subject. I hope you will both feel the force that is in them, and and will be able to manage them with more advantage now that you have them lying before you.

To conclude all. I do charge you by all the Authority I have over you, and beseech you by all the Interest that I have in you, to set your selves wholly to your Studies and La­bours; to be earnest in Prayer, to continue in it, and to join fasting with it: Search the Scriptures diligently, give your selves to reading and meditation, and be you wholly in them; that so your profiting may appear unto all men; and watch over the Flock committed to your charge: Be instant in season, and out of season; to instruct, admonish, exhort and reprove; and by so doing, you shall both save yourselves, and them that hear you: In doing these things, you shall always have the most constant Assistance, and the most earnest Prayers of,

My Reverend and Dear Brethren,
Your most Affectionate Brother, and Humble Servant in the Lord, G. SARUM.

PART I. Concerning the TRUTH OF THE Christian Religion.

THERE is not any one thing that we ought to enquire into with so peculiar exactness, as the Truth of that Religion which we believe; nor is there any thing in which we ought to be so conversant, and to which we should be so well pre­pared, as to defend this great Argument, the Foundation of our Faith and Hope. It is a very preposterous way of Study to be able to argue about the retail of our Religion; I mean the particular Do­ctrines of it, and the subdivisions into which it is broken, and not to know how to maintain it in gross; when the truth of it is called in question, either in the petulant way of profane Liberty, or with the subtilties of Philosophy and Criticism. We may have to do with both in the Age in which we live.

The Divisions among Christians have made the World conclude, that they had a right to prove all things, that so they may know how to hold fast that which is good. The Enthusiasms and Hypocrisies of some, and the Looseness and Disorders among others; the superstitious magnifying of small matters, and the contending eagerly for them, while the greater, as well as the more useful and more uncontroverted Rules have been too visibly and generally neglected; have furnished them with prejudices, that must be confessed to be but too specious and plausible: And I wish some of us may not have contributed, to make ma­ny think we are scarce in earnest in arguing for the Truth of our Religion, while our Lives do but too openly testifie, that we do not firmly believe our own Arguments.

[Page 2]The great Author of our Religion has left this woe upon the World, that of­fences must come; and the heaviest part of that woe will certainly fall upon those by whom they come. But when we are enquiring into so Important a Matter, it certainly becomes us to free our Minds from Prejudices as much as we can: And neither to suffer our selves to be possessed by the first Impressions that Edu­cation made upon us, nor by our present Stations and Engagements on the one hand; nor to be led away by the fury of our Appetites and Passions, and the bad Examples that the World abounds in on the other hand: That so we may more freely search after Truth, and both find it out, and follow it.

As a Preamble to what is to come afterwards, let us look into our Natures, and see if we do not feel a Principle within us that both thinks and acts freely, which is totally different from matter, which neither thinks nor chuses. This Principle then feels that its thoughts do direct its freedom in all that it does, and therefore is capable of good or evil, of reward and punishment. The more di­stinctly that it thinks, and the more exactly that it follows those Truths which by thinking it discovers, it feels it self become the more perfect; the more that it can resist all the Impressions which arise either from the constitution of the Bo­dy, or from outward Objects and Accidents, it grows to enjoy a perfecter calm within, and is enabled to go through the fatigues and chances of Life with much more ease and patience. The more it resists the furious cravings of the Body, it enjoys a longer life, and perfecter health. There is also a Chain of Rules which arise out of these two Qualities, that in the opinion of all Man­kind are the best our Nature is capable of, which are Veracity and Goodness, which render all the Societies of Men both safe and happy: They establish a confidence, and maintain an entercourse in the World; they give credit, and draw esteem; they endear Men to one another, and make all the Ties, and the whole Neighbourhood and Commerce of Life firm and useful: And there is also a train of thoughts which run through a Man's mind and life, which makes him live with great advantage, and die with much firmness; which give him much courage, and attract much esteem: These are all things that a Man may safely af­firm, since none question them; and as no Man who sees the constant mirth in which some in Bedlam do pass their days, will be from thence tempted to think that they are truly happy; so the mad frolick in which some Libertines waste both their Bodies and Minds, their Lives and Fortunes, has never imposed so far on the World, as to make Men so much as to doubt, whether it were better to be as they are, or to be good and wise, calm and sober.

This then being laid down, it is a great step made in favour of any Religion, if it does exactly quadrat with it all: If the Principles that it contains, and the Rules that it prescribes, are so much of a piece with this, that they do both im­prove and fortifie it. This does not prove it to be true indeed, but it renders it probable; it makes us inclined to believe, or at least to wish it to be true. The thoughts of a Supream Being, who made and preserves all things, who is every­where, and can do whatsoever he pleases, raise vast Idea's in us, and give a sort of opening and enlargement to our Powers: The sense of his knowing all things, begets a composure, and creates an awe; the perswasion of his governing the World, gives a quiet, when we know, that as Infinite Power cannot be withstood, so Sovereign Wisdom cannot be mistaken: Nothing can have such influence, both on our Lives, and in our Death, as the Belief of another World, and of the Account that is to be made after Death: Nothing strikes the hatred [Page 3] of Sin, or the obligations to Vertue deeper, than the whole Theory of the Death and Sufferings of Christ. The Rules given in the Gospel to all the Or­ders of Men, and in all the Relations of Life, would make all Families and Socie­ties both easie and happy; the obligation to strict justice to all others, and to an abatement of what in justice we might demand from others, by doing as we would be done by: The Rules of not only passing by, and forgiving Injuries, but of loving Enemies, and doing good for evil; the tenderness, as well as the extent of our charity, the measures and manner of our bounty to the Poor, the modesty of deportment, the condescending gentleness, as well as the unaffected humility that are enjoined, have all such Characters in them, so suited to our Faculties, and to Human Society; to the calm of a man's mind, as well as to the comforts of his life, to fortifie him against misfortunes, and to support him against the feeble­ness and frailties of his Nature; that he who will suffer himself to weigh all this carefully, must feel a strong disposition to believe a Religion to be true, that agrees with the highest thoughts that we can have of God, and the best Seeds or Principles that we feel within our selves.

All this receives a vast accesfion from the simplicity of the Worship prescribed by it, which consists chiefly in the exercise of the sublimest thoughts that we can entertain of God, and the justest that we ought to have of our selves; all which are to be expressed in the most genuine and simplest manner possible, with the fewest, but the plainest and most significant Rites. Thus a great advance is made, when a Man can be induced to lay all these things together. The whole moral and practical part of Christianity, together with the modesty and reason­ableness of its Worship, are great Inducements, if not Arguments, to believe all the rest of it: And this will appear the more sensibly, if one sets by it the Idola­try and Magick, the Cruelties and Brutalities that have defiled the whole Gentile World, either as we find them anciently, even among the Politest Nations of Greece and Rome; and as they continue to this day in so great a part of the World, which lies still under the darkness of Paganism, according to the Descriptions that Navigators and Travellers have given us.

Here is the first foundation to be laid: To this is to be added, That a Nation which hates our Religion, does yet retain many Books that give a vast strength to it; and so much the greater, as they (the Iews I mean) have preserved those Books with great care. It was a remarkable step, when those Books were put in a Language of greater extent, and more certainly understood, than that in which they were first writ; and that long before our Religion appeared, which was done by the Men of that Nation. That Translation was received, and long used by them, which prevented endless Disputes that must have otherwise arisen in the beginnings of Christianity, concerning the true rendring of many Passages in them, which relate to an extraordinary Person, that was to be sent to them, and was looked for by them, under the name of the Messias: For the Hebrew Language, as it was little known, so it was capable of such different Readings and Interpretations, that if the matter had not been setled before by an Au­thentical and Authorized Translation, it does not well appear how it could have been done. A Christian would not have had credit enough, nor a Iew honesty enough, to have given a Work of this kind, in which the World would have acquiesced. Now in these Books, as there are some Predictions that seem looser and more general, such as those concerning the Seed of the Woman, the Seed of Abraham, and the Issue of David; so some, chiefly of the later Pro­phets, [Page 4] fixed upon a period of time, as that he should come during the Second Temple, and within a limited course of Years; and that he should be cut off, but that afterwards the City and Sanctuary should be destroyed: That Desolations were determined till the War should be at an end. 9. Dan. 24, 25, 26, 27. Now, without entring into the exact adjusting of the time limited of 70 Weeks, we do certainly know that their Temple and City were destroyed many Ages ago; and but a few Years after, that he, whom we believe to be that Messias, had appeared among them, and was cut off by them: So that either it must be owned that this was not a true Prophecy, or the Messias came before the destruction of Ierusalem: This Argument receives a vast strength by those who have made out the point of Chronology of the 70 Weeks of Years, that is 490 Years, which does exactly agree to the interval of time.

This whole Matter receives a great confirmation from that Unvaluable Hi­story which Iosephus a Iewish Priest, and a Man of great Learning and Judgment, well skill'd both in Civil and Military Affairs, and full of zeal both for his Country and Religion, has writ in so particular a manner, he having been an Eye-witness, and a considerable Actor in the whole Affair. Whosoever is at the pains to compare that dismal Scene with our Saviour's Predictions, sees such an agreement between them, that this is no small Argument to prove the truth of the whole Religion. Nor is it to be past over without a special remark, that we have this piece of History writ by a Iew, who cannot be suspected; had a Christian writ it, he might, perhaps, have been thought too partial to his Religion; or had a Roman writ it, he might have been suspected to have ag­gravated matters for raising the Triumphs of his Country; but there lies no possible colour of suspicion against Iosephus: And since he mentions the Sto­ry both of the Forerunner, and of the Disciple of our Saviour, this is a great pre­sumption, either that the Passage relating to our Saviour himself is genuine, or that if he said nothing of him, it was because he knew he could say nothing that could derogate from his Credit, and that he would say nothing to raise it: For it is plain from those Relations concerning St. Iohn Baptist and St. Iames, that he was acquainted with the beginnings of our Religion; besides, that we see a par­ticular Curiosity possessed him, of being well informed concerning all the different Sects that were among them, and their particular Tenets and Cu­stoms.

There are so many Passages in the Gospel, of which the Iews must have had such Full and Authentical Information, that if they had been falsly related, it must have been in their power to have confuted them beyond the possibility of a contradiction. So that as to this part of the Argument, so much is cer­tain, That the Iews looked for their Messias during the Second Temple, and about the time that our Saviour appeared, which disposed them so easily to hearken to every Impostor. Their Temple has been destroyed, their Na­tion dispersed, their Genealogies lost, by which the certainty of their being Abra­ham's Seed, subsists no more, and their Sacrifices have ceased now above 1600. Years. So that their hatred of us, and yet their Books agreeing with ours, when joined together, make no small part of our Argument. But now to come to the strength of our Cause, I lay it thus.

The Gospels were published in the time when many persons were yet alive, who knew, and were appealed to, for the Passages contained in them: Which is made out thus: First, They mention the Temple and Nation of the Iews as [Page 5] still in being, which shews they were written before the Destruction of Ieru­salem: More particularly, St. Luke writ the Acts of the Apostles two Years after St. Paul's going to Rome, with which he ends that Book: And he begins it with the mention of his Gospel, as writ some time before that. His Gospel also be­gins with an Account of some other Gospels that had been then writ. Now St. Paul's going to Rome happened two or three and twenty Years after the time of our Saviour's Passion and Resurrection, so early were these things put in writing. They were no sooner written than they were read in the Assemblies of the Christians, as the Iews were wont to read the Law and the Prophets in their Synagogues. This we do find from St. Iustin's Apology,Justin. Apol. 2. was the practice of his time, which was less than an hundred Years after they were written. So that we clearly see, these Writings were not kept as Secrets to be divulged as the Depositaries of them thought fit, according to the way that the Romans had used about the Sybilline Oracles; but were immediately copied out for the use of all the Churches, and of as many private Christians as could compass the Copying them. The Epistles of the Apostles do carry in them Characters that lead us very near the time in which they were written: And by comparing those of St. Paul with the Books writ by St. Luke, we see when most of his Epistles were writ, many of them being before his going to Rome: Now these Epistles were addressed to whole Bodies and Churches, and they do often appeal to the Life, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Christ, as matters which were then well known, and firmly believed by all Christians: From all which I at present infer no more, but that these things were published in the time, and were known in many remote Provinces, soon after they were transacted; and were not kept close to be published in some other Age, when it might have been easie for bold Impostors to make any thing pass with a credulous multitude. Now all this was published near the Fountain, and was so soon spread, that in Nero's time we know by Tacitus, that there were great numbers of them at Rome, who had fallen under a publick Odium, and on whom Nero, though he had burnt Rome himself, threw the hatred of that Conflagration, and punished them with the severity that such a Crime, if truly proved against them, had well deserved. In the Gospels we have the Relations of our Saviour's Miracles, of many of his Transactions with the Iewish Nation, so circumstantiated, more particularly the Account of his Death and Resurrection, is given so minutely, that the Iews, who might have been easily Masters of the Books in which these were contain­ed, had it in their power to have overthrown the credit of them, in many Instances, if they had found any falshoods in them. If they had not sealed the Se­pulchre, or asked of Pilate a grant to watch it; if that Guard had not run away in the night, and given out a story of their having fallen asleep, the Iews could have well disproved this, upon which the whole depended. Now as the Iews were engaged, both out of their hatred of our Saviour and his Doctrine, and to justifie themselves from the Imputations of having shed his Blood, and that of his Followers, to have pursued this matter so close, as to have convin­ced the World of its falshood; so the progress that it made, did alarm them too much, to make any one imagine that they could despise it. They had it also in their power, by the Registers which were in their hands; and at least, during Agrippa's Reign, they were in so happy and flourishing a condition, that it cannot be said, that the ill state of their Affairs took from them either the heart or the leisure to look after this. All which received a great confirmation [Page 6] from St. Paul's Conversion, who from being one, not only of their Zealots and Pharisees, but of the most furious Persecutors of this Religion, was so strange­ly struck down, and changed, while a company of their own People were about him, that he became afterwards the most successful of all the first Plan­ters of Christianity. He did very frequently appeal to that matter of Fact, in which it had been easie to have taken away his Credit, if they could have denied it. So far then I have gone to shew that this matter was published ear­ly, and in the sight of those who were both most concerned, and most able to have detected any deceit that might have been in it; who did not by any Act, of which there remains the least print, among either the Writings of their own Nation, or of the other Enemies to Christianity, attempt to discredit it.

Had not the Genealogies of Christ been taken exactly out of the Temple-Regi­sters, the bare shewing of them had served to have confuted the whole; for if in any one thing, the Registers of their Genealogies were clear and uncontroverted: Since these proved that they were Abraham's Seed, and likewise made out their Title to the Lands, which from the days of Ioshua were to pass down, either to im­mediate Descendants, or as they failed, to Collateral Degrees. Now this shews plainly, that there was a double Office kept of their Pedigrees, one was na­tural, and might be taken when the Rolls of Circumcision were made up; and the other related to the Division of the Land, in which when the Col­lateral Line came instead of the Natural, then the last was dropt, as extinct, and the other remained: It being thus plain from their Constitution, that they had these two Orders of Tables, we are not at all concerned in the diversity of the two Evangelists on this head, since both might have Copied them out from those two Offices at the Temple; and if they had not done it faithfully, the Iews could have Authentically demonstrated their Error, in entitling our Saviour to that received Character of the Messias, that he was to be the Son of David by a false Pedigree; therefore since no Exceptions were made in the time when the sight of the Rolls must have ended the Enquiry, it is plain that they were faithfully Copied out: Nor are we now bound to answer such difficulties as seem to arise out of them, since they were not questioned in the time in which only an Appeal could be made to the Publick Registers them­selves. If then it is yielded, that those Publick Actions done in the sight of many Witnesses, passed, without being challenged or disproved in that time, here was a series of most wonderful things, done by a man with a word: He calmed Seas and Winds, he fed great multitudes out of a very small Store, which increased vastly as it was distributed; he cured the most desperate Dis­eases, such as Palsies and Leprosies: He gave sight to the Blind, strength to the Lame, and hearing to the Deaf; he healed many of their Infirmities; and which was more than all the rest, he raised some that were dead, to life again: One was indeed but newly dead, but another was led out to be buried, and a third had been four days dead: His own Resurrection, Ascension, and the wonderful Effusion of the Holy Ghost, surpassed all, and were the confirming Seals and Testimonies of his whole Doctrine; and proved that he was sent and Authorised by God. And besides the Miracles which were wrought by those whom he sent to Preach his Doctrine, the Gift of Tongues that they had, as it was absolutely necessary for the discharge of their Commission, of going to teach all Nations; so it was of a nature not to be capable of an Imposture; since it was in the power of every single man to have discovered the truth or [Page 7] falshood of it. In other Miracles it may be suggested, that Witnesses might be so managed, as to carry on the credit of them, true or false: But the Apostles having given this out as a part, and a main part of their History, we cannot suppose but that this was true, otherwise the falshood of it must have been discovered, and with it the whole must have sunk.

If these extraordinary things were really transacted as they are related, it cannot be pretended that they were the effects of some Secrets in Nature, which our Saviour might know: For though the Loadstone may be plaid with so much variety, as to amuse a simple man; and though Jugglers by a slight of hand seem to do wonders; yet the vast variety, as well as the great usefulness of our Saviour's Miracles, shews he was not limited to a few Secrets, which work always one way: Nor were the Wonders he did, shews of Pomp, that do only amuse; but they were things of such use to Mankind, that it very well became one who was sent of God to prove his Mission by them: Nor can it be said that Imagination wrought powerfully, and made People fancy they saw things that they saw not; or that the persuasion which some took up, might so strike their Fancy, as really to cure their Diseases; for though a Hypochon­driacal person may be deceived, especially in the dark or twilight, yet num­bers of People in full daylight could not agree in the same Mistakes: Some Ef­fects were too signal to be so mistaken; such, as for a Man born blind, to be made to see by a word; or for a Storm to be calmed with a Rebuke: And tho' in critical Diseases, such as Feavers, which lie in the fermentations of the Blood, a strong Conceit may have a real Operation; yet Chronical Distempers, and Natural Defects go not off by Fancy. Nor can it be thought that these wonderful Operations could come from the assistance of an Evil Spirit; for since our Saviour's Doctrine tended wholly to pull down the Kingdom of Sa­tan, to destroy Idolatry and Magick, and to root out all Immorality, an Evil Spi­rit could not co-operate to carry on so good a Design; otherwise it had changed its nature, and from being bad, must have grown good; so that our Saviour's Answer to this Objection was full and clear; that if Satan was divided against himself, his kingdom could not stand: For our Saviour's Doctrine being so totally opposite to him, if he had joined his force to give it credit, he must thereby have pulled down his own Kingdom.

But to give Infidelity its utmost advantage, we shall now consider that which is its last refuge, and chief strength; which is, ‘That in all Ages some Men have been so bold and crafty, while the Herd has been so simple and credulous, that many Impostors have past upon the World in such different shapes, that though we cannot discover the conduct of them, yet we are not for that to judge in favour of them; and therefore though it is not easie to assign the method how Christianity came to be received, we may still have reason to mistrust the whole matter.’ This might be tolerably alledged, if there were any one thing in our Religion that gave the least sha­dow to suspicion: if the Teachers of it had pretended either to Authority, Wealth, or Pleasure; if, on the contrary, the Rules that were laid down in it, did not shut out all these: For whatsoever corrupt Men may have brought in since by an after-game, that has no relation to the Beginnings and Doctrines of our Religion, which does directly contradict them. So far were the first Pub­lishers of this from expecting advantages by it, that they knew they were to be exposed to much contempt and hatred, and that by their own Countrymen, in [Page 8] which there is a peculiar sting: They looked for severe Persecutions, nor were they disappointed; they endured great Hardships, by Want and Poverty, by Imprisonments, and Cruel Whippings, and in conclusion, they lost their Lives in the Cause: And they did so certainly reckon for all this, that they warned their first Converts of a fiery trial that was to come upon them,1 Pet. 4.12. and of much tribulation through which they must enter into the kingdom of heaven. [...] Acts 22. Impostors must draw on their Followers by specious Promises, and flattering Hopes; and it argues a great certainty of success, as well as an assurance of the truth of a Cause, when those who promote it, are so far from drawing on Men by Allure­ments, till they are once engaged, that they warn them early of the dangers and difficulties that are before them: With this our Saviour begun, when he said,16. Matth. 16, 25. If any man will come afcer me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and become my disciple. The severe Morals which accompany this Doctrine, and are indeed a main part of it, are a very lively character of Integrity. The true Secret of all Corrupt Religions is, That they propose somewhat to be done for the honour of the Deity, by which their Votaries may compensate with God, and may buy off their Obligations to solid and true Vertue: But a Religion that proposes a simple and naked Worship, with such easie perfor­mances in it, that no Man can suppose the bare doing of them is any way me­ritorious; and that proposes these, not as compensations, but as helps to real Holiness, and that carries the obligation to it, into the secret recesses of the heart, to our very thoughts, words and looks, has nothing of the air or genius of Im­posture in it.

A Religion that flatters no part of Mankind, no not those who are in pos­session of the greatest esteem, has a farther character of truth in it. The Iews valued themselves upon their being Abraham's Posterity, and their having a Law of many Precepts given them by God; among them the most popular were the Pharisees, who valued themselves chiefly upon many voluntary Observances, as fences and outworks to the Law, which kept them out of danger of disobeying. Now a great part of the Doctrine of our Saviour, and his Apostles, was designed to beat them out of these, to discover the Hypocrisie of the Pharisees; to shew them that all the Gentile Nations were now to be set on the same level with them, and that thenceforth the obligation and vertue of all their Legal Per­formances was at an end. The Apostles shewed as little inclination to gratifie or flatter the most admired part of Heathenism, I mean the Philosophers, who de­lighted in lofty Eloquence, refined Subtilty, and sublime Metaphisicks: But nothing of all this appearing among them, they were despised by the Philo­sophers, who esteemed all Inspiration, Madness; and were prepossessed against both Miracles and Prophecies, as no better than Juggleries. There was nothing left to gain, but the Rabble and Herd, and yet these were not flattered neither. They are always struck with Pomp and Magnificence, they love Sights and Shows, and a splendid Exterior in Religion, to which both Iews and Gentiles had been so much accustomed, that besides the difficulty of making them for­sake the Religion of their Fathers, in which they had been educated, which is always a thing of an ill sound, and of a bad appearance; they were to draw them from Pageantry to Simplicity; and from outward and costly Shews, to a naked, plain way of strictness and purity. In all these things it must be con­fessed, that there is nothing of the methods of Imposture: Now to suspect that any Artifice lies hid, when all appearances contradict it, is a very unrea­sonable [Page 9] piece of jealousie, and looks as if Men were resolved to suspect on­ly for suspicion's sake. When therefore there is positive proof brought on the one side, of Miracles publickly done, attested by great numbers of Witnesses, published in the same Age, while great multitudes were yet alive, who were appealed to, and who did so confirm these Books, that they were read in all the Assemblies of the Saints or Christians, as the Text and Rule of their Belief, as well as of their Manners; when, I say, all this is proved, and when there appears nothing, neither in the Doctrine it self, nor in the management of the Apostles, and their first Converts, to furnish us with any colour of apprehending any foul dealing, it is an unreasonable thing, still to stand upon the general Argument, of the possibility of an Imposture.

But though it be not necessary, and indeed in many cases not possible, to prove a Negative, yet this Argument is so full of evidence, that even that may be undertaken here. There are four things possible that may be alledged as methods to support the possibility of a Deceit, put on the World in this matter.

The 1st is, That the Apostles intended a Deceit, which they contrived and managed successfully.

The 2d is, That they themselves were dcceived, and were made Tools to abuse others.

The 3d is, That the whole Matter went about in Tales and Stories, till by every one's magnifying them, they grew to be believed without strict enqui­ry, and due proof made.

And the 4th is, That the Books which contain this Doctrine were at first more sparingly writ, but were afterwards interpolated, many Passages being put in them that had not been in them at first. I have never met with, nor can I ima­gine any other Hypothesis for Infidelity to found upon; and I am not afraid to name all these, because I am very certain I can demonstrate the absolute Incre­dibility of every one of them.

As to the first, Of the Apostles having contrived and managed this, on de­sign to abuse the World. We see nothing in them that looks like this; a plain Simplicity and unaffected Honesty appears in all their Discourses and Actions: They were not bred to Literature, Eloquence, or Policy; some one or all of which are necessary for Men who venture upon such Undertakings: And therefore Persons utterly unfurnished in them are little to be suspected. But if Men be without all these helps, at least they must be naturally subtile and dex­trous, bold and daring: Since Nature, when well moulded, may be capable of great matters, without the refinings of Art. Now the Apostles, as they were all, except St. Paul, of Galilee, which bred the most contemptible Men of all Iudea; so they were Fishermen by their Trade, which of all the Imployments that we know, does naturally flat the Spirits the most: They are in the Wa­ter much, in the Night for most part, and in open Boats, which exposes them to such cold and flegmatick Air, that this must needs dull their Spirits ex­ceedingly. But let us suppose them to be as capable, either of the wickedness of contriving, or of the skill in managing such a Fraud, as prophane Men can fancy them to be. I go next to shew, that the Supposition is absurd. The Resurrection of Christ was the main point upon which all the rest turned. I am now to suppose what shall afterwards be proved, That this matter went [Page 10] abroad at first in the same manner in which we do now read it in the Go­spel; and so in this place I am only to shew, that the Relation which we now have, could not be the contrivance of the Apostles. Our Saviour was laid in a new Tomb, not an Ancient Sepulchre, to which there might have been secret Avenues, that had been so long forgot, that they were known only to some few persons. This was both newly made, and hewen out of a Rock: So it might have been well examined, and a passage could not be wrought into it in a night or two. This happened likewise in the begin­ning of the Paschal Solemnity, when it was Full Moon, which in so pure an Air gives a very bright light. At that time Ierusalem was so full of People, all the Iews coming up to keep the Feast, that it being then their Summer, since we see handfulls of Corn were to be offered up at that time, as the First-fruits of the Years growth; we have reason to believe, that great numbers, who could not be conveniently lodged in Ierusalem, were in so pleasant a time, and at so great a Rendezvous, walking in the Fields in the night-time. These things cannot be denied: The Apostles had also seen, that one of their number, of whom they had suspected no such thing before, had betrayed our Saviour; that the fear with which they themselves were struck upon his-apprehension, had made them all run away, and forsake him; and in particular, that he who had been on other occasions the forwardest of them all, and who had been warned by our Saviour of his danger, and so was, by consequence, on his guard, and less likely to fall, had yet upon a remote apprehension of dan­ger, with repeated Oaths denied that he knew him. Now he who through fear will deny a truth, is much more like, upon the same, or a greater danger, to discover a falshood. This being the state of that matter, let us now see how we can possibly imagine the Apostles, who knew what effects fear had so lately up­on themselves, and who had also seen to what a degree one of them might he corrupted, could so far trust either themselves or one another in such a mat­ter, in which they had reason to believe, that the Iews, who had gone so far with their Master, would spare neither arts nor violenee to fetch out the Secret: Besides, that to venture on an Imposture, which goes so much a­gainst Human Nature, and which naturally strikes Men with fears and jea­lousies, Men must be long practised to boldness, and must have made such es­says upon themselves, and upon one another, as to think they are secure of all that are in the Confidence. But let us pass over all this, and then see how the matter, when resolved on, could have been managed. Either they were to steal away the Body of Christ, or to leave it in the Sepulchre. If they had left it, all must have broke out immediately; the bare exposing the Body must have confuted all that they could have said; so it must be supposed that they carried it away: Now how this could be done when a Watch was set, when the Moon shone bright, and such numbers of Men were wandring about in every corner, is not easie to be imagined. Some persons to a considerable number must be imployed, if it had been to be carried to any distance, and they could not think themselves safe if it had been laid near the place of the Sepulchre: Some trace or print must have remained, if they had broke ground; which they must have expected would have been looked for; and being found out, would have discovered all; not to mention the natural horror that all Men have, at the handling dead Bodies, even in what is necessary for their burial, but most of all Iews, who by their Law became defiled to a high de­gree [Page 11] by it. But suppose the dead Body so disposed of, that they apprehended to hear no more news of it, how is it to be imagined, that those frequent Ap­paritions of our Saviour's, particularly that in Galilee, to Five hundred at once, which is appealed to, while many of them were yet alive, could have been mana­geed. Here then, we have first twelve Witnesses, against whom no just exception lies, even to feed suspicion, who affirm a matter of fact, and call in many others as their Vouchers to support their Testimony: They stand to it to the last, tho' they suffered much for it, and could not possibly gain any thing by it; and yet are supposed by Infidels to contrive and stick to a Forgery, meerly to per­swade the World to Vertue and Purity, and to Sincerity and Truth; which they begin with a train of falshood and deceit, without any other visible Bait but their love to their dead Master; that they might magnifie him, and give him a lasting Name, and wipe off the reproach of his infamous Death, by this bold Contrivance of theirs. A Man that can suppose all this to be possible, will suppose any thing; and shews, that he has no regards, so much as to the co­lours of Truth, but will advance any thing, rather than be beaten out of his Infidelity.

But to follow this matter more home; a part, and a great one, of the History of the Gospel, is, That ten days after our Saviour ascended up into Heaven, in the sight of his Apostles, which with Infidels will pass for a part of the contri­vance, they received such extraordinary Illapses and Powers from Heaven, in con­sequence to the Promises that our Saviour had made them, that they were ena­bled to work Miracles, and to speak with divers Tongues: and the first essay of this appeared at the next Festival of the Iews, in which Ierusalem was again filled, not only with all the Iews of Iudea, but also with those of the dispersion, who from all Quarters were come up at Pentecost, from the East, as far as from Persia and Media, from the West, as far as from Rome and Libia, from the South, as far as from Arabia, and from the North, as far as from Parthia, and many Provinces of Asia the Less, and from several Islands, as well as from the Continent. Here was an astonishing thing, to see unlettered men, all of the sudden break out in speaking of Languages▪ in which they had no sort of Education or Practice: Fevers or Enthusiastical Heats may inflame men so far, as to make them speak those Languages which they understand, tho' they are not otherwise ready at them; for the Prints being already in their Brains, a strong exaltation of their Spirits, may fetch those out much better than they themselves in a cooler and more sedate state could have done; but where there are no previous Impre­ssions, no heat whatsoever can fetch out that which is not within: Now as this was the most necessary of all other things to qualifie men to execute their Com­mission, of going to teach all Nations, in which they must have made a very slow progress, if they must have learned the Language of every Countrey to which they were to go; so it was the most signal of all others,Rom 15.19. and as was for­merly hinted at, was that which must have been presently discover'd if it had not been notoriously and unquestionably true. With these Powers,1 Cor. 14. 2 Cor. 12.12. and those Languages, the Apostles went every where; and promised to confer the like gifts on those that should receive and believe their Gospel:3 Gal. 5. 1 Thes. 1.5. 1 Tim. 1.20. Heb. 2.4. And in the Epistles which they writ afterwards to those Churches, even when their Authority was called in question, they appealed to the gifts of the Holy Ghost conferred by their means; so that either these things were notoriously true, or they must have been despised as the most assuming and impudent of all Impostors: These [Page 12] were their Credentials that procured them a hearing; and as men were disposed to eternal Life, so they received and entertained their Message. Thus we have seen by a great variety of Considerations which this matter presents to us, that not only there is no colour of Reason, to incline a man to think that the Apo­stles designed to impose upon the World, but that there is all possible Reason to the contrary, to persuade us, that they were in no respect capable of pro­jecting any such thing, nor of effecting it if they had intended it.

The 2d. Supposition of Infidelity is, That they themselves might have been deceived by two or three designing persons, who might have imposed upon them: that in the twilight a troubled fancy might be made imagine, that they saw Christ, which being affirmed by those who were on the secret, the rest might so far comply with those who said they saw him, as either to imagine it, or at least to yield to the rest, so as to say, that they saw him; for so conceits do sometimes spread, and whole crouds fancy they see or hear things, being fa­ced down by the boldness of a few impudent persons; and this being once set about, the same Artifices might prevail again and again upon the same weak­nesses. This might look tolerable, if there were no more to be said for the Resurrection of Christ than one or two transient views; but continued discour­ses, the reaching his Hands and Side to be felt to; Christ's appearance to num­bers in full day-light, with all the Series of what passed between him and his Disciples; and finally, his blessing them, and being parted from them, and a­scending up to Heaven; but above all, the wonderful Pentecosts that followed it, the strange Effusion of the Holy Ghost, and the extraordinary Gifts that were then given, were things in which it was not possible for men to be decei­ved. So that the Apostles did either certainly know that all those things which they attested were true, or that they were false; there can be no mean in the matter; and indeed this objection is so slight, that it scarce deserved to be con­sidered.

The 3d. pretence is more specious; That the History of the Gospel passed easily upon the World, without due Examination, that it appears both by some hints that are in the New Testament, and several passages in Iosephus, that the Iews were at that time very credulous, and were apt to follow every Preten­der: they were broken into several Sects, and under great Distractions and Oppressions, which prepare men to hearken after Novelties: so that great numbers might run in upon Rumours, and they being once engaged, they might reckon, that in honour they could not go off, and would stick to it e­ven to the hazard of their Lives. So we see some Enthusiasts and Sectaries in all Ages, have courted Martyrdom, and endured great Misery with a trium­phant Firmness. But to answer all this, a great difference is to be made be­tween points of Speculation, and matters of Fact; in the former, men drink in persuasions, and then they grow to be so full of them, especially when a con­ceit of their own understanding is twisted with them, so that they think it an Affront to their own Reason, at least a detracting from its reputation, to con­fess so publickly that they were mistaken; but in matters of Fact the thing is quite otherwise, these are to be strictly enquired into, and a man's believing them imports no more, but that he had a good Opinion of those that informed him, nor is it any reproch to be too easy in this; it rather argues a man to be candid and good in himself, which makes him to apt too think well of others, and to be­lieve them: and how firm soever men may be to Opinions, when they have [Page 13] once approved themselves, so that Self-love works secretly, yet they are still ready to re-examine matters of Fact, when their first Informations are called in question; especially if they are like to suffer considerably for owning and espousing them. It is very true, that the Iews had so general an expectation of a Messias about this time, that they were apt to run after every Pretender, yet they were as apt to for­sake him, when their hopes failed them. But all their expectations run in so diffe­rent a Channel, from what they saw in our Saviour, that how much soever their Curiosity might have prompted them once to run to him, their prejudices drew them so strongly from him, that nothing but mighty and unanswerable Evidence could make them still adhere to him. They had groaned long under the Sla­very of a bloody Tyrant, they hated Herod and his Family, they could not bear the Roman Yoke, that was coming over them. They fancied a Messias should come, in whom the Characters of a Moses and a David should meet, that he should raise the Honour of their Nation, and establish the Observances of their Laws. There were three things in our Saviour and his Doctrine, any one of which was sufficient to disgust them. 1st. His mean and humble Appear­ance; whereas they looked for a glorious Conquerour and a magnificent Prince. When he made nothing of paying tribute to Caesar, and despised the offers of a Crown, they could not but despise him for it, according to their Notions. 2ly. His seeming to set a low value on the Observances of the Law, and his Dis­ciples setting the Gentiles at liberty from them, was of all things that which appeared to them the most odious and impious: they were so accustomed to a Reverence for those Rites, that no sort of Immorality could strike them, so much as a coldness in them, and therefore they could not bear some Liberties which our Saviour or his Disciples took on the Sabbath day, even tho' those could have well been reconciled to the Letter of the Law; And 3ly. besides the common fondness that all men have for their Countrey, they had so particular a value for their own, for Abraham's Circumcised Posterity, and such a contempt for all the Heathen Nations, who were no better than Dogs in their esteem; that the many broad hints that appeared in our Saviour's Parables and Dis­courses in favour of the Gentiles, and the open Declaration which the Apostles soon after made, of bringing them into an equality of Dignity and Priviledges with themselves, was such a stone of stumbling to every natural Iew, that no­thing besides a full and uncontested Evidence could have ballanced it: Therefore tho' it may be confessed, that the Circumstances the Iews were in, made them easy to be practised upon, and to run as often as any said, see here is the Messias, or there he is; yet their Prejudices and false Notions were so rooted in them, that as a great many of them left our Saviour, and fell off from his Apostles, when they understood the Tendencies of his Doctrine; So those that stuck to him, were without doubt so far shaken by those prejudices, that they made them examine all things the more critically, and particularly look into those wonderful matters of Fact that were believed among them; so that how easy soever their first Credulity might have been, they must have re-consider'd the matter more narrowly before they could overcome Principles and Notions that were so deeply rooted in them. Men are not easily carried to forsake their Friends and Families, to draw upon them the Hatred and Curses of their Coun­treymen. These things have a Charm and Authority in them, which few can withstand; but when it rested not there, but went on to all sorts of Outrages, to the spoiling their Goods, the imprisoning their Persons, to cruel Whippings, [Page 14] to the beheading some, and the Stoning others, when this Fury grew so ge­neral, that even devout and honourable Women in contradiction to the Gentleness and Decencies of their Sex, went in to it; then at least it is reasonable to sup­pose, that they made all possible enquiries into the matters of Fact. I do ac­knowledge that the Martyrdoms in the succeeding Ages, are no concluding proof in the behalf of our Religion, but in the first Age, in which the question was, Whether such things were seen and heard, or not; Mens suffering so much for their persuasions, shews this at least, that they were so persuaded. There­fore when this was the point, Whether they had seen or heard such or such things? Their adhering firmly to it, shewed that they did so believe.

The case was yet more amazing with relation to the Gentiles, who were ge­nerally given up to a sensual as well as to a sensible Religion, that was overrun with Idolatry and Magick; who were not acquainted with the Prophecies that were among the Iews, and despised them as a mean and a factious Na­tion, that had an ill-natur'd Religion; so that they had not that disposition a­mong them, which awaken'd the Curiosity of the Iews. They had been so accustomed to gross and lewd Fables concerning their gods, that it was the moulding them anew, to talk of One Invisible Deity, and of a Spiritual Wor­ship, or a severe Morality, especially in some Particulars, such as the restraint of Appetite, or the loving an Enemy. Add to all this, that the Heathen Priests were soon aware, that this Doctrine would have very ill effects upon their Profits and Authority; therefore they animated the World into a most impla­cable Hatred of them, which broke out soon into most violent Persecutions: and as the Governors of the Provinces and subaltern Magistrates were willing enough to gratify the People in their Fury, so the Emperors themselves were soon set on against them. The restless Tempers of the Iews at that time had so provoked them, that it was crime enough for the Christians to be consider'd as a Sect of the Iews; and so careless were they in Rome, of enquiring exactly into those Matters,Sueton. in Claudio. that we find by Suetonius, that they believed that Christ had set on the Iews to all their Seditions, by which they must have been en­flamed so much the more against the Christians; and if such a Monster as Nero was rightly informed of the exactness of their Morals, that must have sharpned him so much the more against them.Tacit. an­nal. 15. There was in his time a vast multitude of them at Rome, the matter of fact concerning Christ's being put to Death in Tiberius's Reign by Pontius Pilate, Procurator at Iudea, was so well known, that it was put in the Annals of that time; and the Christians appeal'd to the Pu­blick Registers for many other Particulars relating to it. No wonder if the Singularity of their Doctrine, and the Strictness of their Lives, draw a general Hatred upon them; Nero laid hold on this, and he having once fastned the burning of Rome upon them, was obliged to follow that with a severity pro­portion'd to the heaviness of the Imputation. Upon all these Accounts we see how little the Gentiles were disposed to hearken to our Saviour's Doctrine, or to the Testimony of his Apostles; and as for the few Philosophers that were among them, as they were more likely to look into the Proofs that were offer'd, or the Evidence that was given, with an inquisitive Strictness, so they were as strongly prejudic'd against it, as either their Pride or their Principles could make them; they were haughty and scornful men, they despised the vulgar as a contemptible Herd, and undervalued all that were not formed into their Notions, and accustomed to their Cant. They had such a high Opinion [Page 15] of their own Understandings and their Theories, that they were possessed against Inspiration, Miracles and Prophecy; they could not digest Mysteries, nor hear any thing that seem'd to rise above a Man's Understanding: nor could they endure a Doctrine that took in all sorts of People within it; reckoning, that only men of a peculiar frame of Mind, and of a singular Education, were capable of true Philosophy; and they were men that studied both to be popu­lar and safe: so that howsoever Socrates had exposed himself to the fury of the Athenians, by contradicting the received Opinions concerning the Divinity; yet all the later Pretenders had avoided his fate, by complying with receiv'd Opi­nions and Practises. So that upon all these accounts we see, that all sorts of people were at the beginnings of Christianity so strongly prejudic'd against many things in it, that nothing but a very extraordinary Evidence could have overcome it; nothing less than the demonstration of the Spirit, 1 Cor. 2.4. that is of the Inspiration that did actuate them, which was given with power in mighty Signs and Wonders, could have overcome it. It was to this that they always appealed, and this only could conquer such mighty Prejudices. When the love of this World, together with the fears of suffering, made many fall back, chiefly to Judaism, we do not find that they furnish'd the Enemies of this Reli­gion with any thing to object to it, or detract from it; tho' Apostases, who to justifie their own change, and to beat off the Reproaches of those whom they forsake, are observ'd to have a peculiar sharpness against those of whose Sect they once were. They may be apt to forge unjust Slanders and Calumnies, but are not like to suppress any scandalous Truth that they can suggest against them: and yet we find no Prints of any such things alledged by any of them; If there had been either Delusion, Imposture or Magick in those great Performances, those Apostates could have discover'd all such Secrets; some having fallen away that had been partakers of the Holy Ghost, 6 Heb. 4.5. Plin. Lib. 10. Ep. 97. and of the Powers of the World to come; that is of the Dispensation of the Messias. We see by Pliny's Epistle how early Christianity had spread it self over the Northern parts of Asia the Lesser, filling not only their Towns and Cities, but even their Villages and Hamlets, to such a degree, that the Temples of the gods were forsaken, and no more Sacri­fices were offer'd at their Altars: He adds, that many had of their own accord return'd back from that Religion, before he had begun to prosecute them; some three years before, others more, and one five and twenty years before that time: Which is a good Character, to shew us how early Christianity had been spread in those parts; he adds, that an Incredible Multitude was informed a­gainst, and that his severity had brought back a great many; by these he might have been well informed concerning them. He adds, that since he saw such numbers in danger of falling under the severity of the Imperial Edicts, he had tortured two of their Deaconesses, that he might draw from them all the se­crets that were amongst them: but he found nothing, only an inflexible aver­sion to the Worship of the gods, and the Genius of the Emperor; and that they met and Sung Hymns to Christ as a God, and were tied by Vows not to commit Adultery, nor to Steal, or deceive, or commit other Crimes; and that their Feasts were Innocent and harmless. This happening not above Seventy Years after our Saviour's Death, shews us how fast this Doctrine did spread, and what vast number had then embraced it; and yet these being all born and bred with such prejudices against it, cannot be supposed to have received it too rashly, or to have believed it implicitly.

[Page 16]The last supposition of Infidelity yet remains to be consider'd, which is, ‘That something must be yielded to have been published and received con­cerning this Religion, soon after its first appearance; but that in process of time the Books might have been Interpolated, after all the Eye-witnesses were dead, and many Additions of great Importance might have been clapt in af­terwards.’ And this indeed is the plausiblest part of their whole Plea; for if they yield that the Books which we now have, were given out in the same manner as we have them, and that they were receiv'd in the Age in which ma­ny Eye-witnesses were alive to vouch them, then all that can be cavilled at, after this is once yielded, is so poor and slight, that it only shews the incurable obstinacy of those who maintain it. This last has more colour: there were ma­ny Gospels given out at first, as St. Luke informs us, some false Gospels there were; and there was a consierable diversity among some Copies; parcels were in some, that were left out in others: and it could scarce be otherwise, while many were Writing what they themselves knew and saw, and others might Copy these too hastily, and uncorrectly: Yet within a hundred years after our Saviour's Death, we find this matter was so settled, that we see these Books were cited by Iustin, and Iremaeus, not to mention the Epistles of Clemens, Ig­natius and Policarp; and from them downward, in a continued succession of Writers, and they were such as we now have them. I except only such small variations, as might be the mistakes and errours of Copies; all which when put together, amount to nothing that is of any Importance to the matters of our Belief, or the Rule of our Life. Now, when we consider how near St. Iohn lived to that time, and that Irenaeus was instructed by Policarp, who was ordained by St. Iohn, and lived not far from him, when we see what weight Irenaeus lays on the Scriptures, in opposition to all Oral Tradition, and how positively he makes his appeals to them: when we see how soon after that time, both the Greek and Latin, the Roman and Affrican Churches, those of Syria and AEgypt, do all agree to cite the same Books, in the same words, or with inconsiderable variations, we have all reason to conclude, that this great point of the Books was setled much sooner: since by the end of a hundred years they were in all Peoples hands, and were read in all the Assemblies of Christians; they were also read by their Enemies, Trypho in particular, as Iu­stin informs us: we see also soon after this, that Celsus had read them; and in­deed, it is plain from all the Christian Writers in those Ages, that the Books of the N. Testament were in all mens hands; they quote them so often in their Apologies, and other Books, as Writings that were generally read and known: such a spreading of Books, and multiplying of Copies, was a work of time, when all was to be writ out; and this was so near the Fountain, that we have all reason to believe that the Originals at least of St. Paul's Epistles to the Chur­ches, were still preserved: and tho an Oral Tradition of a Doctrine, even for so short a period, is so doubtful a conveyance, that it were not easy to think, that it might not have enlarged a little beyond the truth; yet a Tradition of some Books could hardly in so very short a time have been varied, or altered, chiefly in so important a point, as the Resurrection of Christ, which was the main Article of their belief, and that which runs as a Thread through all the Sermons and Epistles of the Apostles: and indeed, this being once yielded, set­tles all the rest with it. Therefore since we have such a Copious concurrence of Authors that cite those Books all-a-long, from that time downwards, be­sides [Page 17] the Epistles of those Apostolical Men, St. Clement, St. Ignatius, and St. Policarp, the first having writ in that very time, probably before the destructi­on of Ierusalem, and the other two soon after it; in which several of the Books of the N. Testiment are cited, as Writings then well known, and in all mens hands: we must from all this firmly conclude, that the Books, as we now have them, are not altered from the form in which they were at first writ.

They were quickly Copied out for the use of the Churches; they were read at the Assemblies of the Christians; they were Translated into the vulgar Tongues, particularly the Latin and Syriach, very early; so that they becom­ing so soon publick, and getting into so many hands, it was not possible for any one, who might have had the wickedness to have attempted the corrupting them, to have compassed it afterwards. And what noise soever the Enemies of our Faith may make of the various readings, and how much soever the bulk of them, as they are added to the Polyglot Bible, may at first view strike the eye; yet when all these are examined, they amount not to any one variation in any Article of our Faith, and they appear so plainly to be the slips of the Writers, that this can never shake any man who will be at the pains to search it to the bottom. So that I have now gone round all the suppositions of Infidelity, and have, I hope, clearly evinced, that there is not any one of them which is in any sort credible, or even possible.

I will in conclusion consider some few of their Objections, indeed all that I have ever met with, which seem to have any force; ‘Some cannot imagine why our Saviour, after his Resurrection, shewed himself only to a few, and did not come in next day to the Temple, and shew himself to that vast Assembly, which was then to be there; since that must for ever have put an end to all doubting, and have silenced all his Enemies.’ This were a very reasonable Objection, if God's ways were as our ways: our warm tempers that boil with resent­ment, and that pursue eagerly our own Vindication, would have no doubt wrought this way; but if we go to ask an account of all God's Works or Ways, we shall find them very different from our own Notions. A great part of his Creation seems useless to us: much of it seems defective, as well as another part seems superfluously redundant to us: there are many very unac­countable things, both in the structure of our Bodies, and the temper of our Minds; and if we will quarrel with every thing that does not suit our own No­tions, we will be very uneasie in our Thoughts. There are some Sins, for which God gives over all further dealing with Persons and Nations, and upon which he delivers them up to their own reprobate minds: and when he has used such sufficient means, as might well serve to convince and reform them, he lets them alone, and leaves them to their own hearts lusts: Those who had seen so many of our Saviour's Miracles, which, instead of having a good effect on them, did only serve to harden them the more in their opposition to him, did well deserve that God should suffer them to harden themselves still more and more: and it was enough that Christ shewed himself so often to such a competent number of unexceptionable Witnesses, and give them full powers to prove their Testi­mony concerning him, by working such Miracles as he himself had wrought. Why he did it in this way, and in no other, is among the Secrets of his Coun­cils, which are to us unsearchable. When our Souls become more perfect, our Capacities and Faculties more enlarged, and our Thoughts more exalted, then we may come to understand the reason of these things more perfectly [Page 18] than it is possible for us to do in this depressed and darkned state. One thing after all we may gather from our Saviour's words, who has pronounced them blessed who have not seen, and yet have believed; and from the value that in many places of the New Testament is set on faith and on believing, that God did not intend to give the World such an undeniable Evidence, as that it should be out of their power to disbelieve: for to believe either such things as our Sen­ses do plainly perceive, or to believe Mathematical Truths, is that to which our Nature constrains us, and for which we can deserve no sort of commendation. Therefore to make our Faith to be both well grounded, and also highly acceptable to God, it is enough that there are sufficient Reasons offered to us, to persuade our belief, and that there is no good reason to the contrary, tho' we may start possibilities of imaginary reasons against it; and a Man who is so far convinced by those, that he is from thence determin'd to believe all the other parts of that Revelation, both the Promises and the Precepts of it, so that he gives himself up to its conduct in the whole course of his Life, in the assured expectation of the Promises it sets before him; has such a Faith, that must certain­ly be of great value in the sight of God; because it has a great effect on the be­liever himself. There is Beauty enough in the Rules of our Religion, to oblige every Man to examine well the Authority upon which it rests, and to him that will set his thoughts a working upon it, this Authority will soon ap­pear strong enough to determine his assent: and when that has its due ope­ration upon him, then his Faith has had its full effect. So that it is no dull, nor lazy or implicite Faith on which the New Testament sets so high a value; it is a Faith that purifies the Heart, that worketh by Love, that makes us new Crea­tures, and engages us to keep the Commandments of God. So that this Objection has no other force in it but this, That God's Ways are a great depth, and to us are past finding out.

A second Objection is, ‘That if our Saviour and his Apostles gave such Proofs of their Mission, how is it to be imagined, that any Man could be so obstinate, as to stand it out against so full a Conviction? These things were probably enquired into at that time, by Men of all sides; Curiosity might work on some, and Fear on others: and those who had drawn the Guilt of his Blood upon them, were most particularly concern'd to examine the matter carefully, since Blood is apt to raise a Clamour within, which is not easily silenced: Besides, according to the Acts of the Apostles, the Iews, and even their Sanhedrin, seem to have been struck with the Reports of his Resur­rection, so that they knew not how to gainsay it, and were concerned only to stifle and silence it. Now it seems somewhat unaccountable, how it came that they still stood out, and were not overcome with all that Evi­dence, if it was so full as we do now represent it?’ But in answer to this, it is to be considered, That there is a perversness and depravedness in Humane Nature that cannot be accounted for. To some of the Enemies of our Religion, I mean the Iews, this can be no Objection, since Pha­raoh's hardning himself against all Moses's Miracles and Messages, and even the murmurings of their Forefathers the Israelites, in the Wilderness, are every whit as extraordinary Instances of the depravation of Humane Nature, as these we now consider were: but indeed we need not go so far to seek for amazing Characters and Instances of the Madness of Mankind; no Laws, no Rewards, no Punishments, no Experience nor Observation can make Men wise [Page 19] or good. When Men are once engaged in ill Courses, they quickly contract Habits, and are soon hardned in them; and when Pride and Interest are got on the side of that, which of it self was strong enough to overcome them, then they become intractable and fierce against every opposition, and become really the worse, the more they are pursued and dealt with.

Another Objection is, ‘Why do not some of those Miracles that seem to have been with a sort of profusion thrown out abundantly at first, now appear to con­vince the World, for these would certainly have a great effect?’ What was said to the first Objection, belongs in a great measure to this. We are not to ask of God an account of his ways, if he has laid enough before us for our conviction; and if that is rejected by us, we have no reason to expect that he should di­sturb the Order that he has setled in the Creation, to gratifie our humours. It were not suitable to that Order, that he has so wisely and usefully establish'd, that it should be too often put out of its channel: It is enough that at the first openings of the Two Revealed Religions that he delivered to the World, he gave evident Signs, both of his Dominion over the Works of his Hands, and of his having authorised those whom he sent to speak in his Name. That being then fully done, and the Precepts of this Religion bearing such an apparent suitableness to our Natures, and to the Interests of all Humane Societies, there is no sort of reason for us to demand more proof, than that which God was pleas'd to give at first. Besides, that all Ages and Nations have the same pre­tended claim to Miracles, for they are equally his Creatures; and we can fancy no reason why he should be partial to some, more than to others: Now if there were such a constant return of Miracles, the whole Argument from them would in a little time be lost; Men grow accustomed to what they see daily, and it makes no impression, otherwise the Wonders of Day and Night, of Summer and Winter, the ebbing and flowing of the Sea, would work more powerful­ly on us, than they do. A superfetation of Miracles would have no effect, if it were not a bad one, to make the Divine Power in working them be called in question, and to lead Men to impute them to some Natural Cause, or to some Secrets known only to a few. In all which we may conclude, that according to what our Saviour said of Moses and the Prophets, If Men be­lieve not Christ and his Apostles, they would not believe,Luke 16.31. tho' a Man should rise from the dead, or that the most uncontested Miracle that they would call for, should be wrought for their conviction.

‘Another Objection of the Infidels is taken from the differences that are be­tween the Gospels, in which the same passages seem to be variously related in different words, and in another order of time; things being by some set down as done after those things before which they are set by others. Questions and Answers are variously stated; they also find some reasonings that do not seem concluding, even those that are brought to convince gainsayers, where there ought to be more exactness. There is also a lowness and flatness of style, that makes the Books seem but mean; nor are they laid in any exactness of method, but seem to run in a loose ramble; besides, that there are ma­ny passages in them that look staring, as that of Christ's preaching to the Spirits in Prison, that of Melchisedeck, and some other things that we scarce know what to make of. These things look not like the Products of Divine Inspiration.’

[Page 20]But in answer to all this, we are to consider the different Orders of Inspira­tion,Numb. 12.8. according to the different ends for which it is given. Moses had the Law, as the Iews confess, by an immediate Communication with God, as one Man converses with another, expressed by the phrase of face to face, or mouth to mouth; such a degree seemed necessary for one who was to deliver an entire System of a Religion of Sacred Rites, as well as Binding Laws to that Nation. But those who were only sent to call on the People to the obedience of the Law, and to denounce Judgments upon their disobedience, and give out Predictions, received a lower degree of Inspiration; the Will of God being represented to them in Dreams and Visions, in which several Representations were dramma­tically impressed on their Imaginations, and explained by a secret Intimation made by God to them: Others had yet a lower degree, being animated by a Divine Excitation to compose Holy Hymns and Discourses to the edification of the People: now as the Iews divide the Books of the Old Testament in three different Volumes, according to these various degrees of Inspiration; accord­ing to which division our Saviour himself cites the Old Testament; in all of which, we find that those holy Penmen writ in such a diversity, that it is apparent every one was left to his own Way and Geni [...]us, as to Style and Composition, some being much loftier than others. Now to apply this to the New Testament; It was necessary that Men sent to publish such a Doctrine, should be so di­vinely filled with the knowledge of it, and should be so actuated by that same Influence that assisted them miraculously, as neither to be able to mistake, nor misrepresent any part of it; for the Miracles that they wrought, bringing the World under an obligation to believe them, it was not possible that they could be left to themselves, and be subject to mistakes: But after all this, every one acted according to his natural Temper, and writ in his natural Style; so we see a great variety in the whole Composition and Method of their Discourses and Epistles. The Gospels were writ either by Apostles, or by those who were their companions in labour, and whose Books were authoris'd by them; but it does not clearly appear what method they intended to follow, whether to ob­serve the order of Time, or the relation that one Passage might have to another: in this they were left to their natural Faculties; all that was of consequence, was to have the Doctrine and Discourses of Christ, his Action and his Miracles, faithfully stated to us: but in the method of ordering or ex­pressing these, they might be left to their natural Powers; and in this there might be a particular ordering of Providence, that every thing should not be said in the same way by every one as by concert, which might have looked liker a contrivance; it being more genuine, when different persons write in different ways, and all agree in the same account of the Doctrine and Miracles. There may be also many ways of reconciling small diversities, which at this distance may be lost to us: things may appear to be different, that yet may very well agree; of which we find innumerable Instances in Critical Authors: and those passages whose agreement they have made out, give us very good reason to believe, that if we had a greater number of contemporary Books now extant, we might understand many more better than we can do in this want of them. Passages very like one another might have happened in different times of our Saviour's Life; and that which seems to be one story, related two different ways, may be really two different stories, and both may be exactly related. So that all this Objection, instead of derogating from the credit of the Gospel, does really [Page 21] heighten it. As for many Answers and Reasonings that do not seem to us to be very concluding, we are to consider, that in a short Relation, in which hints are only given, it was impossible to open every thing fully: we are also little acquainted with the methods of the Iews Arguings at that time. Philo and Iosephus are the only Writers that remain. The one is short upon their Customs and Notions; and he affecting to write elegantly for the Romans and Greeks, gives us very little light this way. Philo does indeed much more; tho' living long at Alexandria, and studying the Greek Philosophy, he is so mystical and sublime, that it is not easie always to comprehend him; yet in him we plain­ly see, how much the Iews were delighted with very dark allusions and reason­ings: and since it is a just and allowable way of arguing with any, to argue from Suppositions granted by them, and suitably to their Principles and Notions, we who plainly see in Philo, that the Iews used them to explain a great deal of Scri­pture by a dark Cabbala, are not to wonder if some Arguments run in that strain. For instance, we do not see how the last words of the 102 Psalm, concerning God's creating all things, and his Eternity and Unchangeableness, belong to the Messias, which yet are applied to him in the Epistle to the Hebrews;Heb. 1.10, 11, 12. V. 15, 16. but we see clear Characters in that Psalm, to shew us that the Iews did so expound it; Since those words, the Heathen shall fear the Name of the Lord, and all the Kings of the Earth his Glory; and when the Lord shall build up Sion, he shall appear in his Glory; together with several passages that follow, could not according to the Cabbala of the Iews be understood of any thing but of the Messias, and of the Divine Shechinah, that was to rest upon him, and so according to this all the other parts of the Psalm were also applicable to him.

If St. Paul argues, that the Promise was not made to Seeds, but to the Seed of Abraham, which seems a bad inference; since Seed, tho' in the singular,Gal. 3.16. is yet of a plural signification; this may perhaps be bad Greek, unless some cor­rupt form of Speech had made Seed stand for Son; but tho' the Greek is not pure, yet the Sense is true, and the Argument in it self is good; St. Paul's design being to let them see, that their being the Seed of Abraham alone, was not enough to assure them of the favour of God: It was not to all Abraham's Posterity that the Promise was made, since neither Ishmael nor Keturah's Chil­dren were comprehended within it: But it belonged only to Isaac; and in that contracting the Promise to one, an emblem was given of the Messias, in whom singly the blessing of that Covenant was to center, and was not to be spread into the whole Nation that descended from him. So that what fault soever we may find with the Greek, the Sense is true, and the Application is useful; and we do not know, but such a form of Speech might have been then used in common discourse. It is certain, that the Apostles had no Rhe­torick, and often their Grammar is not exact: But this, instead of making a­gainst their Writings, does really make for them; since it shews, that they us'd no enticing Words, nor laboured Periods; no lively Figures, nor studied Senten­ces; all was natural, without Art or Study; which shewed that they knew they needed no borrowed help to support a Cause in which they were sure Heaven would interpose, and promote its own concerns; and the veneration with which their Writings were received, and in which they were held, shews that there was somewhat else than the Skill or Eloquence, the Persuasives or Arguings of the Authors, that begat and maintained their Reputation.

[Page 22]If we find here and there a Passage that we know not well what to make of, this is the fate of all Books that were writ at a great distance from us; The Customs and Manners of Men change strangely in a course of many Ages; and all Speech, especially that which is figurative and dark, has such relation to these, that if in a Book full of many plain, useful and excellent Theories and Rules, some Passages come in amongst them which we plainly see relate to some Practice or Opinion of which we are not sufficiently informed, such as the being baptised for the dead; having power on the head because of the Angels, or the like: This is nothing but what occurs to us in all ancient Books, and what we easily bear with in all other Writings, even of a much later Antiquity: Weare therefore to make the best use we can of that which we do under­stand; and to let those other places lie till we can find out their true mean­ing.

1 Pet. 3.19.That of Christ's going in the Spirit, to Preach to the Spirits now in Prison, is perhaps one of these, unless we believe that by Prison is to be meant, according to the use of that word, and others like it in the Septuagint, the darkned state of the Gentile World,Isa. 61.42. Isa. 7.49. Isa. 9.1, 2. who were shut up in Idolatry, as in a Prison, or in Chains, under the power of the God of this World. In this sense there is nothing easier to be apprehended than that period; which imports only, that Christ by vertue of the Holy Ghost that he had poured out upon his Apostles, was calling the Gentile World out of their Ignorance and Ido­latry: And as in the days of Noah, those who were disobedient perished in the Flood, while there was an Ark prepared for those who would go into it: So says he, our rising out of the Waters, that being the last piece of the Baptismal Ceremony, as it was then practised, and being the representation of our rising again with Christ, was that which now saves us. In all this the sence is clear and good, tho the manner of the expression be a little dark.

The way of all the Easterns, even to this day, in all their discourses, being obscure and involv'd, where a great deal is supposed to be already understood; we are not to wonder, if we should find some parts of the New Testament writ in that strain. As for that of Melchisedeck, as the words lie, they seem to be a riddle indeed; but with a little observation we will find that passage concerning him in the Epistle to the Hebrews, to be as plain as any thing can be. The design of a great part of this Epistle is to shew,Heb. 6.20. Heb. 7.3. that the Messias was to be a Priest, and was to offer up a Sacrifice; but not to be of the Family of Aaron, since he was to spring out of the Tribe of Iudah; nor to be a Priest after that Order, or according to the Rules of that Institution; but according to the Psalm, to be a Priest after the Order of Melchisedeck:Psalm, 110 4. Lev. 21.7, 13.14. Now the Rules or Order of the Aaronical Priesthood were, that every Priest was to be descended from that Line, to be born of a Mother that had not been a Widow, or Divorced; and this gave him who was thus received, a right to transmit his Priesthood to his des­cendants in a Genealogy derived from him. These Priests were also tied to their Turns in attending on the Temple, which were called their Days, in which they were admitted to serve at Thirty, which was therefore the Age of the beginning of their days; and at Fifty they were dismissed and were no more bound to attend, than if they had been naturally dead; so this was the end of their Life, as to their Priesthood. Now in opposition to this, Melchisedeck was a Priest without Father and Mother; that is, He was immediately called to it of [Page 23] God; and it did not devolve on him by descent, nor was he to derive this in a Genealogy to his Posterity: He came [...]ot on to an attendance on the service of God at such an Age, nor went he out at another, but was a Priest of God for ever; that is, of a long continuance, according to the common use of that word, which only imports a constancy in any thing. Melchisedeck was a Priest for term of Life, which answers the signification of the word; but was a Type of him that in the strictest sense was to be a Priest of God for ever. Thus if we conster that verse by a reverse, which is very ordinary, of bringing the last word the govern the whole period, placing the word Priest at the head of it▪ nothing can be plainer and more full to the point that is there driven at. And thus many passages that appear difficult, when they are but slightly looked at, become very intelligible when more attentively examined; and as we can make this out in a great many Instances; so if there are others in which we do still stick, we have all possible reason to impute our Ignorance to our want­ing a sufficient number of helps, and of Books writ in that Country, and at that time, from which we might better collect the Opinions, Customs, Phrases and Allusions of those Parts and Times: For since the Books of our Religion were writ for the use of plain and simple People, to whom they were addrest, and in whose hands they were to be put; they must have been writ in a po­pular, and not in a Rhetorical or Philosophical Style; which tho it is more correct and more lasting, yet it is both drier and more laboured, and shews always more of Art than of Nature.

I have now gone over all the Heads that I thought necessary to make this discourse full in all its parts: I have left nothing behind me that seemed to be material: I have not been afraid to lay open all the secrets of Infidelity, with the utmost strength that I could ever find them urged in; because I was fully satisfied in my own mind, that I could answer them all. There is only one particular remaining, which I have reserved to the last place, because it affords a proper conclusion to this Discourse. ‘One of the main things in which In­fidels support themselves, is, that tho they speak out, yet let others deny or disguise their Thoughts as much as they please, either out of Interest or Mo­desty, since their Doctrine has an ill sound in the World; yet they think with them, because they live with them, and not according to the Doctrine which they espouse: and they seem to conclude with some advantage, That we collect what men think, much more infallibly from what they do, than from what they say;’ And this they urge with much Malice; And would to God that I could add with as much injustice against too many of our selves; Whose arguings upon these Heads are so much the less to be regarded than other Mens, because we have espoused the Cause, and have made it our own, both in point of Reputation and Interest: I wish and pray that we may all resolve on the only effectual Confutation of which this is capable, by setting such a patern to the World, and leading such exemplary Lives, that in these they may see how firmly we believe that to which we endeavour to persuade others, who wait for our halting, and are critical in observing our failings, and malicious in aggravating them. It gave the chief strength to the first Apologies that were made for Christianity, that they durst appeal to the Lives of the Christians, to give the World a right Idea of their Doctrine; whereas we must now decline that Argument, and appeal from the Lives of Christians to their Doctrine: Yet wheresoever numbers embrace any thing, there must espe­cially [Page 24] in a course of many Ages, follow upon it a great declining from what was while they were fewer in number, and that the thing was newer and fresher upon their Thoughts. Besides, that the best Christians are those who are the least known, their Modesty and Humility leading them to hide their best Actions; whereas those who make the most noise, and the greatest show, are for the most part hot or designing Men. A Man may also be really a much better Man than one would take him to be, that sees him only on one side, and does not know him wholly.

The frailties of some Mens natures will hang heavy upon them, and some­times burst out even in scandalous instances, notwithstanding all their princi­ples and struglings to the contrary: Therefore upon the whole matter, tho we cannot deny but that there is too much truth in this prejudice, yet it is but a prejudice, and cannot bear much weight: So that it is a most unaccountable piece of folly to venture Mens Souls and their eternal Concerns upon a reflection, that as it is not generally true, so has no solidity in it: Yet after all, the use that we ought to make of it is, that we ought to frame our own Lives, and the Lives of all that are in our Power, as much as may be to a Conformity to our Doctrines, that so the World may observe in us such a true and unaffected course of solid Vertue and useful Piety, that we may again recover that Argu­ment, which we have too much lost, for the truthand beauty of our Religion, from the Lives of those who believe and practise it; and that so the Apologies now writ, which in all other respects are the strongest that ever were, may again have their full perfection, and their entire effect upon the World.

Concerning the Divinity and Death OF CHRIST.

THE main Articles of the Christian Religion, as it is distin­guished from all other Religions, are those which relate to the Person and Sufferings of Christ; and therefore it is of the last importance for us to have our Notions concerning these, right and truly stated: and that the rather, because in the Age in which we live, the laughing at every thing that is resolved into a Mystery, passes for a piece of Wit, and has the Character of a free and inquisitive Mind. And while some would have every thing taken for a My­stery, others set their strength to the decrying of every thing that is proposed as such, as if that were an Imposition upon Human Nature, and the bringing Mankind under a Yoke that it cannot and ought not to bear.

Therefore, that I may treat of this Matter in a proper method, and with a due clearness, I shall first in general consider this Prejudice against all Mysteries; and when I have thus prepared my way, I shall come to the consideration of those which I intend now to treat upon. Mystery in its first and common signification, stood for some Sacred Rites by which Men were initiated into any form of Religion, which the Priests of corrupt Religions kept as Secrets, that either they might by that concealment, encrease the value of them, which if they had been generally known, might have appeared so slight and mean, as to have become contemptible, or that they might hide some Immoralities or Frauds in the management of them; and all those Theories which were kept up from the Herd, and only communicated to confiding persons, were also gi­ven out under this Name, as things known only to those that were initiated. [Page 26] In this sense there is no secret in Christianity, no hidden Rites, nor concealed Doctrines that are not trusted to the whole body of Christians. But by an ex­tent of the use os this word, it came to be applied among the Christians of the first Ages, to those Holy Rites of our Religion that were Instituted by our Sa­viour, and which they also called Sacraments; because in those, the Vows that tie us to God in this Religion, were both made and renewed: The Venerable Truths of this Faith, and Secrets then made publick, were also by S. Paul ex­pressed by this Name, which as it is now commonly understood, signifies some Theory, or point of Doctrine that we believe; because we are persuaded that it is revealed to us in Scripture, tho' we cannot distinctly apprehend how it can be; and that in the common view which is offered concerning it, it seems to contradict our common Notions.

In this sense it is opposed by many, who say, ‘There can be no such thing in Religion: that every thing of which we can form no distinct Idea, is no­thing to us, and that we cannot believe it: since we can only believe that of which we have some thought; God having made us reasonable Creatures, cannot intend that we should act contrary to our Natures; and believing any thing contrary to our apprehensions, seems to be a flat contradiction to our faculties; and it is a question, whether those who plead for Mysteries, can be­lieve themselves, after all their Zeal for them since a Man can no more think that to be true, of which he has no Idea, than a Man can see in the dark; for let him affirm ever so much that he sees, all other persons who perceive it to be dark, are sure that he sees, nothing. It seems to be the peculiar Character and Beauty of the Christian Religion, that it is our reasonable service, or the Rational way of Worshipping God: and therefore those who would propose it as containing Mysteries, under a pretence of magnifying it, do rather lessen it, and give advantages to the Enemies of it to expose it on that account. For upon this supposition of there being some Mysteries in it, those who corrupt it, seem to have a ground given them for raising a much greater super structure, and for silencing all objections against their unconceivable Doctrines, with this word Mystery, which being so apt to be abused and carried too far, seems to give a just prejudice against it: upon this ground they conclude, that we are to believe nothing but that which we can distinctly apprehend: and that if any word or expression in Scripture seeme to import any other thing, we must soften these to a sense agreable to our faculties, but that we ought ne­ver to yield to a sense that is unconceivable; which as they argue, is still nothing to us.’

This is the Foundation of their Reasonings: and upon this it is that they ju­stify or excuse some expositions that seem forced and unnatural: for they say, they are sure they are not to be understood in the Mysterious sense, because of this general Theory; and therefore they must give them the best sense that they can find that is suited to their Principles. Upon the right stating of this, the whole matter turns; and because this whole Speculation is urged to much worse purposes by Atheists and Deists, it will be necessary to consider it care­fully.

It is certain we can apprehend nothing, but as our faculties represent it to us, no more than we can see Sounds, or hear Colours: it is also certain, that we can receive nothing that contradicts our faculties: for let a Man strain for it as much as he will, he cannot believe that any thing both is, and is not at the same [Page 27] time; or that two and three do not make five, and neither more nor less. The objects of sense do also determine us; for when we see a thing clearly before us, we cannot force our selves to think, or so much as to doubt that we see it not. But after all, there are many things which we believe upon the report of others, or up­on the Consequences of our own Observation, that seem to be so far out of our own reach, that our faculties cannot easily receive them: For instance, let us make a discourse of light, and of seeing, to a Blind-man: Let us tell him, that a vast Globe, called the Sun, which as he feels, creates a great heat in the Air at some Hours, in some Seasons of the Year, gives such pushes to infinite numbers of small parts of matter, that they are upon that put in a vast motion; and that as these strike upon every resisting body, and recoil from it, they carry in them some mould of its figure and bigness; and of another thing too called Colour, of which he can frame no sort of Notion; and that these in this motion, striking up­on that which he can feel to, which is his Eye, do go through it, and enter at a small passage; that is, in a second Coat of his Eye, which an Anatomist may make him feel to: and within it, as they have passed through those humours that he can also feel, those small movers do at last so strike against the most in­ward Coat, that from thence a Man may know the figure, matter, bigness, and distance, of such objects as the blind Man can only feel to, and that a great many Miles of; and that with one glance of his Eye, he can see many Millions of objects at once, and be able to judge concerning them, and concerning their distance from him, and from one another, a great way off: and that he can see the Sun and Stars, tho' distant from us many Millions of Millions of Miles. Now tho' it is to be confessed, that a blind Man can form no true Idea of all this, yet he may be bound to believe it, not only from the testimony of all seeing Men, but from his own observation: for by setting a Man at a considerable distance from him, and holding up towards him all such things as he knows by feeling, he by the other Man's answers may perceive plainly that he knows them, tho' he not only cannot apprehend how this is done, but seems to raise whole Schemes of Impossibilities against it. But to give another Instance of this, that will be more universally sensible; let a Man practis'd in Geometry, shew a Clown a small Quadrant, and tell him that by it he can measure the Compass of the whole Earth, and the distance between the Earth and the Heavenly Orbs: he will laugh at him as a boasting vain Man, or one that intends to impose upon his credulity: but if this Mathematician will, to convince him, take the heigt of any Building, or Precipice that he can measure; the Clown, when he finds that the Observation agrees with the length of his Plumbline, is some­what convinced, and is apt to think, either that the two Stations, and the Computations which he saw him make on Paper, were Magical Spells, or that he has a Method that leads him to this by degrees of which he himself is utterly ignorant: so by all this it is plain, that a Man may be bound from some Authorities and Observations, to believe some things of which he not only has no Notion, but fancies he has very clear ones to the contrary.

From hence I will make another step to shew, that indeed we believe al­most every thing that we do believe, under the like difficulties and disadvan­tages: for Instance, we know that we move, and yet there is something very like a demonstration against Motion; let A. move from B. to C. two supposed contiguous Points in a supposed Instant D. A. when it moves, is supposed to [Page 28] be in B. so in that Instant it cannot go to C. because it is supposed to be in B. and it cannot be in the same Instant both in B. and C. for then it should be in two places at once, that is, in the same Instant; therefore in the Instant in which it is in B. it cannot go to C. and so it cannot do it in any other Instant, because it is still supposed to be in B. When a Man has turned this over and over in his Thoughts, he is indeed very sure that it is false, and is very cer­tain that he moves; yet he feels a contradiction to that in his reasoning, from which it is not so easy for him to free himself, as he might at first view ap­prehend.

This of Motion carries me on to a greater difficulty, whether there are va­cuities in Nature, or not; that is, distances between Bodies in which there is no sort of Body at all. It is very hard to apprehend how things can be either of these ways. Motion it self, Condensation and Rarefaction, Weight, and the crouding of all things to the Centre, can hardly be explained without ad­mitting a Vacuum. And yet as our thoughts cannot receive the Idea of it; so the whole connexion of things, the whole Chain of Matter, and the Com­munication of Motion from the Heavenly Orbs down to us, is all broken and interrupted; nor can we see how the Frame of Nature can hold together, if a Vacuum is once allowed. So that tho' we are certain that either it is, or it is not; yet when one weighs well the difficulties of both Hypotheses, he is so equally ballanced, that he is apt to lean against that whose difficulties were the last, and are the freshest in his thoughts. If from this we go into the Composi­tions of Matter, we are sure that either it is divisible on to Infinity, and that there are no Indivisible Points in it; or that it has Points, either such as have no Parts, or extended Atoms that may have Parts, but that are Indiscernible. It must be one or other of these that must be true: for they may be reduc'd to the terms of a Contradiction, since either Matter is divisible into Infinity, or not; if not, then either those Indivisibles have parts, or they have not: So that it is plain one of them must be true; and yet every one who has gone through that famous question, must see that there are such Insuperable difficulties against every one of them, that they seem to amount to a demonstration.

I shall Instance but in one other particular, which though it is that of all o­thers that we should understand the best; yet carries no fewer nor less difficulties in it, and that is our own Composition. We plainly perceive that we think, and that we act freely: Then either this rises out of meer Matter, or we have ano­ther principle in us of another nature and order of beings, that thinks and moves, both it self and also our Bodies. That meer Matter can have no liberty, and that it cannot think, seems to be evident of it self; all our Observations of Matter shew it to be passive, and to act necessarily, and that it neither has in it self a power of motion, nor liberty, but always goes in a Chain: and thought being perceived by us to be one simple act, it must flow from a single principle that is uncompounded: but on the other hand, what should Chain down such a subtile being, into so gross a one as body; and how a thought should move it, or how the motions of Matter should affect the thinking-prin­ciple; how they should give it either pleasure or pain; how the mind should be furnished from the body with such Images and Figures, by which it remem­bers, imagines, argues and speaks; how these should be so subtile, and yet stick so long, and lie in such order, are things that the more a Man dwells upon them, and spreads them out before himself, he not only comprehends them the [Page 29] less, but seems to find such difficulties against them, that he is lost, and knows not what to think of himself. When a thinking man lays all these, and a great many more, which will arise from these hints, if he has a mind to look for them, together, they shew him how limited our faculties are, how little able we are to dive into the nature of things; and that we can much more easily raise difficulties, than solve them. Yet the use that I plead for in all this is, neither to lead men to be sceptical, and believe nothing, nor to be too implicite to believe every thing: but only to evince this, That we may be bound either from our own Observation, or upon the Authority of other Persons, to believe some things, of which we are not able to give our selves a distinct account, nor to answer the objections that may lie against them.

Great difference is to be made between the believing a thing, and the appre­hending the manner of it. If we have sufficient Authority to guide our Belief, it will be no just objection against it, that the manner of it cannot be explained: And this is yet more evidently true, if the Being in which a thing is proposed to our Belief is of an Order and Rank above us; and most of all, if it is infini­tely above us. We perceive in the gradations of our own being, that a Child is not capable of those Thoughts which he himself will come to have when he is more ripened: And a man of low Education cannot frame those appre­hensions which are easy to those who are born and bred in better circumstances. If then the difference of Age and Education make thoughts that are plain and easy to some, seem unconceivable to others; this ought, when applied to the Divine Essence, make us conclude, that there may be Mysteries in that Being, of infinite Perfection and Elevation above us, far beyond all our apprehensions: And therefore, if God lets out any hints of any such to us, we are to receive them in such a plain sense as the words do naturally bear: And if this should happen to import that which does not at all agree with our Conceptions of other things, we ought not to wrest it to another sense that seems easier to us.

We can frame no distinct Idea of that Infinite Essence, and it were not Infinite if we could. How things were made out of nothing, is above our reach; how it thinks, is an amazing difficulty, whether its Acts are, as is commonly believed, one with the Essence, or distinct from it. This Essence having ne­cessary Existence in its first Conception, those free Acts that might not have been, are not easily apprehended to be one with his Essence; and if those Acts are said not to be free, then all things exist by the same necessity by which God exists; for if the Immanent Acts of God are one with his Essence, then since all the Transient Acts do certainly follow his Immanent ones, there is an Universal Necessity equally spread over the whole frame of Nature; and God can do nothing otherwise than he does: But if those Acts of God are different from his Essence, and distinct from it, such as our Thoughts are; then here are Accidents in God, and a succession of Thoughts, which seem inconsistent with infinite Perfection, that is, all one Eternal and Unchangeable Act. Here is a difficulty that perhaps few reflect on; but it is every whit as great and as un­accountable as any of the Mysteries of Revealed Religion can be pretended to be; tho this arises out of Natural Religion. If to this we add all that we be believe concerning the Attributes of God, his being every where, his know­ing every thing, his Providence in governing all things, together with those unsearchable Methods in which it exerts it self; we must acknowledge that he [Page 30] dwells in a Light to which we cannot approach: But that as the present frame of our Bodies, and structure of our Eyes, cannot bear the looking stedfastly on the Sun, or the being brought much nearer him, of which yet we may be ca­pable in another texture of our Eyes and Bodies; so in this state in which we have narrow Notions, and gross Imaginations, we are not able to frame di­stinct Ideas even of those Attributes of God, of which we make no doubt, but yet we find such difficulties in apprehending them, that they do blind and con­found us, and put us to a stand in all our thinkings about them: But for all that we still go on, believing firmly those his Attributes.

In fine, We are to make a great difference between those plain perceptions we have either of the objects of sense, or of simple Theories, and the difficulties and deductions that belong to them: The one is the voice of our Faculties, and we cannot oppose it, or believe against it, because it is in some sort the voice of God within us, since it is the natural result of those powers that he has put in us; but it is quite another thing when we go to Inferences, and to frame diffi­culties. In this appears our Ignorance of the nature of things, of the several ways and manners in which they may operate, and of the Consequences that seem to belong to them; because we are apt to judge of every Being by our selves, and have not extent enough of thought and observation to reason always true, or to judge exactly: So that this must be setled as a clear difference between plain perceptions, and a train of Consequences; we are always to be determined by the one, but not by the other. To instance it then in that which is now before us; we have a plain perception, that no Being can be both One and Three in the same respect, because we are sure that is a plain Contra­diction, which cannot possibly be true; but if a thing is represented as both One and Three, this in different respects may be true.

Thus I have dispatched this first part, in which it seemed the more necessary to state this matter aright, that so it may appear, that no part of the plea for Mysteries, belongs to Transubstantiation, since here is the fullest evidence of sense, in an object of sense, which plainly represents to us Bread and Wine to be still the same after Consecration, that they were before; and therefore we can never be certain of any thing, if in this case we are bound to believe in contradiction to such a plain and simple perception; but this is not at all ap­plicable to any speculations concerning the Divine Nature.

I go on from this Previous Discourse, to the Subject it self that I am now up­on; in which there have been three different Opinions: the one is, That Christ was a Divine Person, miraculously conceived, and wonderfully qualified for re­vealing the Will of God to the World; which he did in so excellent a manner, and set so perfect a pattern both in his Life and Death, that in Reward of that, God has given him the Government of the World; putting the Divine Autho­rity in him, and commanding him to be Worshipped and Acknowledged as God, and has subjected both Angels and Men to him; tho he had no Existence before he was formed in the Virgin's Womb, and no other nature but that which he derived from his Miraculous Conception.

Others have thought that there was an Essence created by God before all Worlds, by which he made and governs all things, and that this Essence which was like God, dwelt in Christ Iesus, and was by the Gospel revealed to the World: So that all were bound to honour and obey him. Some of these called him a Being of a Nature quite different from, and unlike the Divine Nature; which was [Page 31] found to be of an unacceptable Sound; so others softned it by saying, that he was of an Essence like the Father: But this was only a milder way of speaking, since if this Being was created, so that once it was not, its nature must be essentially unlike the Father; for sure nothing can be more unlike, than created and uncrea­ted. And by Likeness, such Men could only understand a Moral Likeness of imita­tion and resemblance; so that he might be like God, as we are called to be like him, tho' in vastly higher degrees.

The 3d. Opinion is, That the Godhead, by the Eternal Word, the Second in the Blessed Three, dwelt in, and was so inwardly united to the Human Na­ture of Iesus Christ, that by vertue of it, God and Man were truly one Per­son, as our Soul and Body make one Man. And that this Eternal Word was truly God, and as such is worshipped and adored as the proper Object of Divine Adoration. By those of this Perswasion, the Name Person came to be applied to the Three, which the Scripture only calls by the Names of Father, Son, or Word, and Holy Ghost, on design to discover those who thought that these Three were only different names of the same thing: But by Person is not meant such a Being as we commonly understand by that word, a compleat intelli­gent Being, distinct from every other Being: but only that every one of that blessed Three, has a peculiar distinction in himself, by which he is truly different from the other two.

This is the Doctrine that I intend now to explain to you. When I say Ex­plain, I do not mean, that I will pretend to tell you how this is to be un­derstood, and in what respect these Persons are believed to be One, and in what respects they are Three. By explaining a Mystery, can only be meant the shewing how it is laid down and revealed in Scripture; for to pretend to give any further account of it, is to take away its Mysteriousness, when the manner how it is in it self is offered to be made intelligible. In this too many both Ancients and Moderns have perhaps gone beyond due bounds; while some were pleased with the Platonical Notions of Emanations, and a Fe­cundity in the Divine Essence: For we have footsteps of a Tradition as Ancient, even among Heathens, as any we can trace up, which limited the Emanations to Three: And these thought there was a Production, or rather an Eduction of two out of the first: In the same manner that some Philosophers thought that Souls were propagated from Souls; and the figure by which this was explain'd, being that of one Candle's being lighted at another; this seems to have given the rise to those words, Light of Light. It is certain, many of the Fathers fell often into this conceit, and in this way of explaining this matter, they have said many things which intimate that they believed an inequality between the Persons and a Subordination of the Second and Third to the First: So that by the same Substance or Essence, they do in many places express themselves as if they only meant the same Being in a general Sense, as all human Souls are of the same Substance; that is, the same order or sort of Beings; and they seemed to entitle them to different operations; not only in an Oeconomical way, but thought that one did that which the other did not. This was indeed more easily to be apprehended; but it seemed so directly to assert Three Gods, which was very contrary to many most express Declarations both in the Old and New Testament, in which the Unity of the Deity is so often held forth, that therefore others took another way of explaining this; making it their Foun­dation, that the Deity was one Numerical Being. They then observed, that [Page 32] the Sun, besides his own Globe, had an Emanation of Light, and another of Heat, which had different Operations, and all from the same Essence; and that the Soul of Man had both Intellection and Love, which flowed from its Essence: So they conceiv'd that the primary Act of the Divine Essence, was its Wisdom, by which it saw all things, and in which, as in an inward Word, it designed all things: This they thought might be called the Son, as being the Generation of the Eternal Mind; while from the Fountain-Principle, together with this inward Word, there did arise a Love that was to issue forth, and that was to be the Soul of the Creation, and was more particularly to animate the Church: And in this Love, all things were to have Life and Favour. This was rested on, and was afterwards dressed up with a great deal of dark nicety by the Schools, and grew to be the Universally received Explanation: Tho many have thought, that the term Son, did not at all belong to the Blessed Three, but only to our Saviour, as he was the Messias; the Iews having had that No­tion of the Messias, that as he was to be the King of Israel, so he was to be the Son of God: We find Nathanael addressed himself thus to him; and when the High-Priest adjur'd our Saviour to tell if he was the Messias, he knits these two together, Art thou-the Christ the Son of the most High God? which shews, that they did esteem these two as one and the same thing. Now some Criticks do apprehend, that since in many places the term Son of God, has manifestly a re­lation to Christ as the Messias; there is in this an Uniformity in the whole Scrip­ture Style, so that every where by the phrase Son of God, we are to under­stand Iesus, as the Messias, in which the human Nature being the first Concep­tion, they conceive that all the places importing an Inferiority of the Son to the Father, have no difficulty in them, since they are only to be understood of Iesus as the Messias; but that the Divine Principle that was in him, is in the strictness of Speech to be called as St. Iohn does, the Word. So that by this, if true, all the Speculations concerning an Eternal Generation, are cut off in the strict sense of the words, tho in a larger sense every emanation of what sort soever, may be so called. These, and a great deal more of this kind that might be further branched out, and enlarged upon, are the Explanations that Divines have offered at upon this Mystery. But it may be justly questioned, whether by these they have either made it to be better understood, or to be more firmly believed; or whether others have not taken advantage to repre­sent those subtilities as dregs, either of AEones of the Valentinians, or of the Platonical Notions; which last being in so high and just a Reputation among the Greeks, it is plain, that many of the Ancients thought it was no small ser­vice to the Christian Religion, to shew a great Affinity between it and Plato's Theology: and it being long before these Theories were well stated and setled, it is no wonder if many of the Fathers have not only differed from one another, but even from themselves in speaking upon this Argument. While men go about to explain a thing of which they can frame no distinct Idea, it is very natural for them to run out into a vast Multiplicity of words; into great length, and much darkness and confusion. Many improper Similies will be urged, and often impertinent reasonings will be made use of. All which are the unavoidable Consequences of a man's going about to explain to others that which he does not distinctly understand himself.

This in general is the sum of the Received Doctrine, That as there is but One God, so in that undivided Essence, there are Three that are really different [Page 33] from one another, and are more than only three Names, or three outward Oeconomies, and that the Second of these was in a most intimate and uncon­ceivable manner united to a perfect Man; so that from the Human and Di­vine Nature thus united, there did result the Person of the Messias, who was both God and Man.

Here new Subtilties have been found out, to state the formal Notion of a Person, which was supposed to consist in a special Subsistence, so that it has been thought, that the Human Nature in Christ, had no special Subsistence of its own, tho it was not easy to explain this Notion; since if Subsistence belonged to the Human Nature, it might seem that it was not perfect, if it had not a proper Subsistence. A Hypostatical Union was proposed as a term fit to explain this by, that is to say, the Human Nature was believed to subsist by the Subsistence of the Word; but it was not easy to make this the more intelligible, by offering a Notion full as unintelligible as it self, to explain it by. Tho indeed this is a point, in which it is more possible for us to arrive at distinct Ideas, or some­what very like them, than the other. We plainly see, that the Union of our Souls to our Bodies, consists in a Harmony that God has setled between such an Organization of matter, and such Sensations that arise out of the different motions of this Matter so organiz'd: Upon which this Matter is in many things under the power of the Mind, which by its thoughts commands and moves it, and it has from it a continual Influence and Actuation that is called Life; so that the Union of the Soul and Body is the result of such a proper Harmony of the Body, according to the Mechanical Structure of its ne­cessary parts, as makes it fit to give proper Sensations to the Mind, and to receive and obey the Impressions of the Mind, the breaking of which Harmony brings on death.

From hence we may apprehend several degrees of the Union of thinking being with Matter: The lowest, is that if Infants, where there is a thought, but a thought so entirely under the Impressions of Matter, that it is not able to rise above them, and either to think of any thing else, or to stop the Vio­lence of these Impressions: So here is a Spirit wholly immersed in Matter, that is in every thing under its dominion, and is a slave to it; and in this state Ideots continue their whole life long. A second degree is that of men in this Life duly ripened, in which their Minds are as to their Sensations still subject to Matter; that is, they must feel pain or pleasure, according to the dispo­sitions of Matter; but then there is a power in the Soul to govern Matter, and not to yield to those Sensations: So that there is a lasting struggle between the Sensations that arise from the Body, and the Cogitations that spring in the Mind, which have the better of one another by turns. Here the Soul and Body are as it were equally yoked together, only the Soul may by the use of Reason and Liberty be so assisted, as to have the ascendant over the Body for the greatest part.

From these we may conceive two other degrees of Union, which may be between Souls and Bodies. The one is a State in which the Soul shall have an entire Authority over Matter, but yet shall need the assistance of it, as a ne­cessary mean of Motion, and as having in it a repository of Images and Figures, for memory and imagination: So that in such a state, the Body shall have no power at all over the Mind, but shall only serve it as Instruments do a Me­chanick: and this seems to be a Philosophical Notion of the use that our Bodies, [Page 34] shall be of to us in another State; in which they shall be no more clogs upon us, to give us uneasy or grievous sensations, but shall only be the proper Ma­chines for Motion and Memory, and for such like uses, in which the Body when well tuned can serve the Mind. A Fourth degree may be a State in which a Mind may be so entirely perfect in its self, and in its own acts, that it may have no need of a Body upon its own account, but only in order to the mi­nistring to another Spirit that is yet under the power of Matter, to give it either Warnings, or Assistances; which perhaps it cannot communicate, but through the Conveyance, or by the Mechanical Motions and Impressions of one piece of Matter upon another. Upon this account, and for this end, Spirits of the highest form, nay God himself, may at some times, and for some unknown ends, make use of a Body, and put it in such a form, and so actuate it, as thereby to communicate some Light or Influence to minds that are yet much immersed in Matter. These are all the ways that we can apprehend of a Mind's assuming Matter, and being united to it, which is the having it under its Actuation, or Authority; so that the Acts of the Mind give such Im­pressions to the Body, as govern and command it. By the same way of think­ing, we may apprehend yet more easily, how one Spirit may be united to an­other; which is, when a superior Spirit has another of an Inferior Order so entirely under its conduct and Impressions, that the Inferior receives constant Communications of Light and Impulse from the Superior: And as the Body lives by the presence of the Soul, even when it does not by any distinct Act work upon it, or enliven it; so a superior Mind may have a perpetual con­duct of an inferior, even when it leaves it to its own liberty, and does not break in upon it by any immediate enlightning or animating of it. And thus we may conceive the Subsistence of an Intelligent Being to be its acting entirely in it self, or upon Matter united to it, without any other Spirit's being con­stantly present to it, actuating it, or having it under any immediate Vital and inseparable Influence. This seems to give some light towards the Idea of a Sub­sistence, as separated from the Essence, and by consequence, of one person's Sub­sistence in, by, and from another. I do not pretend to say, that this is the strict Notion of Subsistence, but it is the nearest thing that I can imagine to it, which will at least help to form some general Idea of it; for these being all the distinct Notions that we can frame of the Union of Spirits to other Spirits, or of Spirits to Matter, they will help us to a more distinct Ap­prehension of the Union of the Eternal Word to a Human Nature, by which it assumed the Man into such an inward and immediate Oeconomy, that it did always actuate, illuminate and conduct him, as we perceive our Souls do our Bodies.

This is the clearest thought that we give our selves of that Human Nature's subsisting by the Subsistence of the Word that dwelt in it. This also agrees well with the Expressions of the Word's dwelling in Flesh, and of the bodily Indwelling of the Fulness of the Godhead in Christ Iesus. But having now shewed how far these things may become in some sort intelligible to us, I go to my main Design, which is to examine no longers whether this ought to be believed or not, in case we should find it very expresly affirmed in the New Testament, for I hope I have already made that out fully: Therefore the only question that now lies before me, is, Whether this is contained in the New Testament, or not? for if it is in it, and is a part of its Doctrine, then since that Doctrine [Page 35] is proved to be all true, and revelled by God, this must be likewise true, if it is a part of it. This I will also yield, That Authorities brought to prove Arti­cles that are so sublime [...] as to rise above our ways of Apprehension, ought to be made out by a greater fulness of express Proofs, and bare Precepts of Morality, or more easily received Notions; for as among men, every thing requires a proportion'd degree of proof, as it is more or less credible of it self: So in Re­ligion, we ought not to suppose, that if God intended to reveal any thing to us, that should pase our Understandings, he would only do it in hints or in words, and in expressions of doubtful signification; therefore I yield, that those who deny Mysteries, have a right to demand full, express and copious proofs of them. I will therefore only dwell upon those proofs that are very comprehensive, and will not rest upon single passages, which I leave to Books of Controversy or Criticism, in which they are fully opened and made out: My not using these, is not from the distrust that is in them, but I intend to lay this matter before you, in some observations that take in a great deal, and that if they are true, do give a clearer Light, and a more unquestioned Authority to single passages, since those agree with the frame of the whole.

I need not spend many words to prove, that the main Design of Revealed Religion, was to drive all Idolatry out of the World, either the worshipping of other Gods besides the true, or the worshipping the True God under a Bo­dily Representation. This is so expresly set out by Moses, and so much insisted on, and prosecuted by the Prophets, that it will admit of no dispute; nor is there any made about it. To guard this Capital Article of Religion, God, when he sent Moses to be the Deliverer and the Law giver of the Iews, gave himself a particular Name that was to be peculiar to himself; so that the Kings or false Gods might be called by the other Names of the Deity, yet this was never given to any of them. The Old Testament being put in Greek by the Iews, the Name Iehovah was throughout Translated by them [...]. I do not insist upon the Article being prefixed to it; for tho it is so very often, yet I am convinced that there is no arguing from that, since there is such variety in the use of it. Now the Greek Translation of the Old Testament being that which was the most read and us'd by the Iews in our Saviour's time, in the whole Phrasiology of their Sacred reading, [...] and Iehovah were one and the same thing. The Authors of the New Testament, as they were Iews by Birth and Education, so they offered the Gospel first to the Iews. In all that they writ, we see plainly that they had them in their eye, either to convince them, or at least to answer their Prejudices and Objections. And it is certain, that how much soever that Nation was Anciently bent to Idolatry, they were ever after the time of the Maccabees so entirely cured of it, that they could not bear any approachs to it, or shadow of it. Yet the Apostles through the whole New Te­stament call our Saviour by the Name of [...]; sometimes he is called Lord, or the Lord, that is, with or without the Article, and that simply without any Addition; sometimes my Lord, or our Lord; but most frequently the Lord Iesus Christ, or Iesus Christ our Lord: These indeed return so often, especially in the Acts of the Apostles, and in the Epistles, that they could not be all copi'd out in many pages. Now this being so Sacred a Name to the Iews, it is im­possible to imagine that the Apostles could intend other in it, but that the Iehovah dwelt so immediately and bodily in Christ Iesus, that by that Indwelling he was truly Iehovah. This will be more evident, if we consider the Glorious [Page 36] Appearance of God in the Holy of Holies, in which there was a Cloud, and within the Cloud a Glory that did often shine out, to shew an acceptation of their Sacrifices and Prayers, or to give particular Answers, when the Holy Priest came with the Urim in the Breast-plate to consult God. This was a continued Miracle, and a lively Emblem of the Deity, which is full of Light and Glory in it self, but is environ'd with such impenetrable darkness to us, that we can neither comprehend his Nature nor his Operations, but as he is pleased to shine out and shew somewhat of himself to us. But this was yet more than a bare Miracle, it was a constant Presence and Inhabitation of God, who not only kept the Cloud and Light from being dissipated, which otherwise must have hap'ned according to the Laws of Matter and Motion; but he was so signally present in it, that in the wholeStyle of the Old Testament, Iehovah was said to dwell between the Cherubins, to shine out, to shew the Light of his Countenance, or to hide his face, and cover himself with a thick Cloud. He was said to be in his Temple, to sit on his Throne; with a great many other expressions, which relate to this; The Lord of Glory, and the God of Glory, his appearing in Glory, his coming with Glory, do all belong to this. Fron whence it is plain, that a constant and immediate visible In­dwelling of the Iehovah was according to the Scripture-Phrase, said to be Iehovah, which was applied to nothing else. It is further to be observed, That as the Iews called this the Glory simply, or the Schechinah, that is, the Inhabita­tion, so it was wanting in the Second Temple; and this was indeed its greatest want, which no doubt occasion'd the chief Grief of those who mourned when they saw the Second Temple; since to one who was an Israelite indeed, this was the real Glory; the Gold and the Silver being poor matters in comparison with this. These were comforted by the Prophet Haggai, who promised to them in the Name of God,2 Hag. 6.7, 8, 9. that God wouid fill the house with his Glory; he also takes off meaner minds from their opinion of a defect for the want of Gold and Silver, since that was all God's: So they offer'd up nothing in that to him, that was not his already. The Glory that is promis'd, was to exceed the Glory of the former House; to which two great Characters are added, the one, that he would shake all Nations; that is, an Appearance should come, in which the Gentiles should be concerned in an eminent manner: The other is, that in that place he would give Peace. Now let any unprejudic'd man consider, if Herod's re­building the Temple can in any sort be thought to answer this; especially the Glory being both in the true Value of thing, and in the Prophetick Style, to be understood of that signal Presence of God in the Temple, which was its solid and true Glory. Since then the Iews looked for this, and that by many Pro­phecies concerning the Messias, mention was made of his appearing in Glory; this could be meant no other way by them, but that either he was to restore that Glory to the Temple, or that he was to have it in himself; and since it was to be greater than that of the former House, there must have been some eminent Cha­racter in it beyond the former: In particular, the whole World was to be struck with it, which is expressed in the Prophetick Strain, by the shaking the Heavens and the Earth, the Sea and the dry Land; and the shaking of all Nations. I do not argue from that which follows, of the desire of all Nations, because I know it is capable of another Translation, and I will build upon sure grounds. This Glory was likewise to bring Peace with it; which cannot be literally un­derstood, since the Iews had very little Peace, either from the days of Herod, to whom they apply this; or from the days of our Saviour, to whom the [Page 37] Christians apyly it. Now from all this it is to be inferred, that the Apostles applying universally the name [...] to our Saviour, could mean no other, but that he was the true Iehovah by a more perfect Indwelling of the Deity in him, than that had been which was in the Cloud. This Glory was greater than the other; for the other dwelt in a Mass of meer Matter, whereas this dwelt in the Soul and Body of our Saviour; and a Soul is much a perfecter sort of Being than the purest Matter possible. This was also to last for ever, whereas the other had a determined Duration, and came to a period: and the other did shine out only upon special Occasions, whereas in this we all with open face as in a glass beholding the Glory of the Lord, 2 Cor. 3, 18 are changed into the same Image from Glory to Glory; a period made up of the Phraseology that belonged to the Schechinah: as is also that of his being the Brightness of the Father's Glory, 1. Heb. 3. and the express Image, or Character, of his Person; that of the Word which was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his Glory, 1. John 14. the Glory as of the Only Begotten Son of the Father; that of the light of the Glorious Gospel, or rather of the Gospel of the Glory of Christ;2 Cor. 4.4. and that of the light of the knowledge of the Glory of God in the face or person of Iesus Christ; all these, with many more that might be quoted; do so plainly allude to the Phraseology of the Cloud of Glory, Verse 6. that it is not possible for any who consider things carefully, to avoid the Evidence of it. If it had not been so, what can be said to justify this manner of ex­pression, especially the giving the Translation of the Incommunicable Name that was in the Old Testament, in a thread all over the New, to our Saviour? This was the laying snares for the first Believers, and that in the most impor­tant Point of all Religion; so that since our Saviour denounced a Wo to him, by whom Scandals should come; the Apostles were the first that incurred it,18. Mat. 7. if they by a continu'd course of Style led the world to believe that a meer man was the great Iehovah. If that had occurred only now and then, the extent of the signi­fication of the Greek word might be alledged; but it being the Title which they constantly give him, as well as it was that by which the Iews understood the Iehovah to be meant, this cannot in any sort be justified from a gross Abuse put on the World, if the Messias was not the Iehovah. The great Objection that arises against this is, that tho [...] is indeed the common Translation for Iehovah, yet sometimes it is put for the other Hebrew words, both Elohim and Adonai; and that in the New Testament it is used rather in opposition, or more properly in subordination to the Name of God, which seems to be stated very plainly by St. Paul, when he says, there were many that were called Gods, 1 Cor. [...] 5, 6. whether in Heaven or in Earth, as there were Gods many, and Lords many; in op­position to all which he asserts, that to Christians there is but one God the Father, of whom were all things, and we in him; and one Lord Iesus, by whom were all things, and we by him: From hence it seems that the true Notion of this, ac­cording to St. Paul is, That as the Heathen Nations believed some supream Deities, and other deputed or lower Deities, that watch'd over particular Nations; so we Christians do own only one Eternal God, the Creator and Pre­server of all; and one Lord, to whom he hath given the Government of all things: So that this, as it favours the Notion of one exalted to divine Autho­rity and Honor, it does likewise take away quite the whole force of this Ar­gument: and so it cannot be well establish'd without considering this very carefully. It is then to be observed, that through the Old Testament, God is spo­ken of under two different Notions; the one is general, as he created and [Page 38] govern'd all things; and the other is special, as he was in Covenant with the Jewish Nation, and as he govern'd them particularly by his Laws, was pre­sent among them in a Visible Symbol, and watch'd over them by a distin­guishing Providence. In this last sense Iehovah is the Name by which he is strictly express'd, as their Federal God, that had an immediate Care over them, and a Right to them. The Nations that lived in Idolatry, had Notions which seem to be taken from this: For as they believ'd some supream and some subal­tern Deities, so they also fanci'd that some, even of those supream Deities, were more especially related or appropriated to some places: Thus as they conceiv'd them to be Supream, they held them to be Gods; and as they believ'd them to have a special Relation to any Place or Nation, they were esteem'd accord­ing to this piece of Jewish Phraseology here us'd by St. Paul, Lords as well as Gods. In opposition to all which, we Christians own but one Supream God: and we do also believe, that this great God is also our Federal God, or Iehovah, by his dwelling in the Human Nature of Iesus Christ: So that he is our Lord, not by an assumption into high Dignity, or the communi­cating Divine Honor to him, but as the Eternal Word dwelt bodily in him; and thus he is our Lord, not as a Being distinct from, or deputed by the great God, but as the great God manifesting himself in his Flesh or Human Nature; which is the great Mystery of Godliness, or of true Religion: And this will give a clear account of all those other passages of the New Testament, in which the Lord Iesus is mention'd as distinct from, or subordinate to God and his Father. The one is the more extended Notion of God, as the Ma­ker and Preserver of all things, and the other is the more special Notion, as appro­priated to Christians, by which God is federally their God, Lord, or Ie­hovah. This I think does fully establish this Argument, and takes away the whole force of the Objection against it. But to carry this yet further, the A­postles do not only name him thus, in all their Writings, but they do propose him as the proper Object of Adoration, at the same time that they commanded the World to renounce all Idolatry, and to serve the living God. St. Paul gives this Definition of Heathenish Idolatry,1 Thes. 1.9. that it was a worship given to those who by nature were not Gods; yet he prays to Christ, he prays for Grace, Mercy and Peace from him to all the Churches he writes to;4 Gal. 8. he gives him Glory for ever and ever; a Phrase expressing the highest Act of Adoration: he believes in him, he serves him, 2 Phil, 10. he gives Blessing in his Name; he says, That all in Heaven and Earth must confess him, and bow before him; a Phrase importing Adoration; he says, the Angels of God worship him. Heb. 1.6. In other Epistles this is also often mention'd, and in St. Iohn's Visions,Rev, 5.8. all the Hosts above are represented as falling down before him to worship him. Now the bare Incurvation does not import Divine Wor­ship, but may be made [...]o a Creature; yet Incurvation join'd with Prayers, Acts of Faith and Trust, and Praises, is certainly Divine Worship. Since then our Saviour in his Temptation said to the Devil, that according to the Law we must worship the Lord our God, and serve him only; since also the Angel when he reproved St. Iohn for falling down before him,4. Mat. 10. 19 Rev. 10. bids him worship God; then when these things are laid together, and it appears that all the Acts of Adoration by which we worship God, are also ascribed to Christ, and offer­ed up to him, either it must be confess'd, that he is truly God, or that the Christian Religion sets up Idolatry at the same time that it seems to design the pulling it down every where; as if Idolatry had only been to be changed [Page 39] in its object, and to be transfered from all others to the Person of our Saviour.

This point of the worship of Christ is so plainly set forth in the New Testa­ment, that the chief Opposers of the Article of his Divinity have asserted it with so much Zeal, that they deny, that such as refuse to pay it to him, deserve to be called Christians: and yet there is not any one point that is more fully and frequently condemned through the whole Scriptures, than the worshipping a Creature. It is also a main part of all the Exhortations of the Apostles. Angels were often sent on Divine Deputations, as the Instruments of the great God, but yet they were never to be worshipped. Idolatry is an Evil in it self, and is not only the Transgression of a positive precept, but it is a transferring of the Honor and Homage due to the Author of our Being, and the Fountain of all our Blessings, and the ascribing these to a Creature; it is a worshipping the Creature besides the Creator: And if the same Acts of Prayer and Thanksgiving in the same words, can be offered up both to the Creature and the Creator, then how can we still think that God is a jealous God, and that he will not give his Glory to another? Isa. 42.8. In a word, this is that which seems so sensible, that one does not know what to think of those men's Reasons, who cannot bring themselves to believe any thing concerning the Divine Nature, which differs from their own Notions, and yet can swallow down so vast an Absurdity, that is more open to the compass of their Understandings, as that the same Acts in which we acknowledge and adore God, should be at the same time offered up to a Creature.

But to urge this a little more closely, it is well known how averse the Iews were to all the appearances of Idolatry, in our Saviour's time; their Zeal against the figures of the Roman Eagles, set over the Temple-gates by Herod, and against the Statue of Caligula, besides many other Instances, prove this beyond all question. They were much prejudiced against the Apostles, as well as they had been against our Saviour; and the Apostles do in several passages of their Epistles set down these their prejudices, together with their own Answers to them: They excepted to the abrogating the Mosaical Ordinances, and to their calling in the Gentiles, and associating themselves with them; but it does not appear that they did ever charge them with Idolatry, nor do the Apostles in any hint ever offer to vin­dicate themselves from that Aspersion. Now if Christ had been only a Man Defi'd, advanc'd to Divine Honor, or if he had been ever so Noble a part, and even the first part of the Creation, and had been now made the Object of the worship of the Christians, let any Man see, if it is conceivable, that the Iews who were such implacable Enemies to Christianity, should not have held to this as their main Strength & chief Objection: Since as this was a very popular thing, in which it was easy to draw in all their Country men; so it was the easiest, as well as the most important part of their Plea, they might have yielded, that all the Miracles of Christ and his Apostles were true, and yet upon this pretence of Idolatry, they had the express words of their Law on their side. If there ariseth among you a Prophet, or a Dreamer of Dreams, and giveth thee a Sign or a Wonder;Deut. 13.1, 2. and the Sign or the Wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other Gods which thou hast not known, and let us serve them: Thou shalt not hearken to the words of that Prophet, or that Dreamer of Dreams, for the Lord your God pro­veth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your Heart; and with all your Soul. This was such an express and full Decision of the Case, that he may imagine any thing, that can imagine that they could have past it by, and that they should not have objected it, or that the Apostles, if their Doctrine [Page 40] had been either that of the Arians, or of the Socinians, should not have either answer'd or prevented the Objection, since they dwell long upon things that were much less important. Several that join'd themselves to Christianity were scandaliz'd, and fell back to the Iews; but it does not appear, that any of them ever charged them with Idolatry, or that the Iews ever reproach'd them with it; which yet we cannot think they would not have done, if the Christians had offer'd Divine Adoration to a Creature, to one that was a meer Man newly dignifi'd, or that had been made by God before all his other Works. Here a Creature was made a God, and the Christians were guilty of serving other gods, whom their Fathers had not known.

This cannot be retorted on us, who believe that Christ was God by vertue of the Indwelling of the Eternal Word in him. The Iews could make no Ob­jection to this, who knew that their Fathers had worshipped the Cloud of Glory, because of God's resting upon it: So the adoring the Messias upon the supposition of the Godhead's dwelling Bodily in him, 2 Col. 9. could bear no debate among the Iews; and since it was singly upon this point, that they could let it pass without raising Objections or Difficulties about it, and since we find in fact, that they did let it pass, and that the Apostles made no Explanations upon it, we have all possible reason to conclude, that it was thus understood of all hands at that time. I think it is not possible to imagine, that this could be otherwise: so that upon these Reasons, we may well and safely determine, that Christ was truly both God and Man; and that the Godhead did as really dwell in his Human Nature, and became united to it, as our Souls dwell in our Bodies, and are united to them.

Having then laid down this Matter from Authorities that run through the whole New Testament, and that return often in every Book of it, I may now upon greater Advantages refer such as will descend to a more particular Enquiry, to all those passages that assert Christ's having created all things, 1. Çol. 16.17. Angels as well as Men; that he is over all and in all; before all things; in whom all things do subsist; that he is the Lord of Glory, 2 Jam. 1. 1 Cor. 2.8. 2 Tit. 13. 1 John 5.20. the Great God, and the true God; the Lord Almighty; who was, is, and is to come; who knows all things, and can do whatsoever he will; who is the first and the last, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords; who alone hath Im­mortality; who was in the form of God, and thought it no robbery to be equal with God; who will raise the dead at the last day, and judge the World; who is God manifested in the Flesh, 1 Rev. 8.21. Joh. 17. 3 Phil. 21. 1 Tim. 6.17, 18. 2 Phil. 6. 5 John 21. to 29. the great Mystery of Godliness; who is over all God blessed for ever. These and many more such like passages, but above all, the beginning of the Gospel of St. Iohn, on which I need not insist, since that has been done with such Strength and Clearness of Reason by a much better Hand; All these single pas­sages, I say, are so many express Proofs of this great Article of our Religion, that I am confident, those who have clear'd themselves of that great prejudice against it, to which the first part▪ of this Discourse was directed, cannot read them without feeling that they are wrestling against the full current of the whole New Testament, 6 John 54. 1 Tim. 3.16 9 Rom. 5. who oppose this.

I know a great deal has been said to take off the force of every one of them; for if a Man resolves beforehand not to believe a thing, he may easily bring out matter enough to avoid the most express words that can be invented: yet this I dare positively affirm, that at their rate of answering passages, with which we urge them, it were easy to answer the most express words that we could be ca­pable to contrive, for setting out our Doctrine: to which this is likewise to [Page 41] be added, That it will be very hard to preserve any respect for Writings that are filled with such Intimations of so Important a Doctrine; all which at first view seem to carry a Sense which they judge Monstrous and Impious, and that with much labour and difficulty are wrought to another sense. It will not be easy to think, those men had the common degrees of Honesty and Discre­tion, not to speak of Inspiration, who writ in such a Style, with such Phrases, and in such a continu'd Strain, that ordinary Readers must stumble in every step; and that in a point of such vast Consequence, as whether a meer Crea­ture is the great and true God, or not? and that a great deal of Dexterity and Diligence is necessary to give them another sense. I must own, that if I could think so of the Scriptures, I should lose all Esteem for them, and could think no other of the Pen-men of them, but that their great Affection for their Ma­ster had led them to say many things concerning him, that were Excessive and Hyperbolical, and not strictly true. This is literally, and without any aggra­vation, the sense that I have of this Matter: and the prophane Tribe of Liber­tines go all into this, of laughing down all Mysteries; knowing well, that when they have once gain'd that point, the New Testament it self will be laughed down next, in which they are so plainly contain'd: And indeed, the Chri­stian Religion must be the most self-contradicting of all the Religions in the World, since it does so often condemn the worshipping of Creatures, and yet heaps all sorts of Divine Honors on a Creature; and St. Iohn must be a most incongruous Writer, who could at the conclusion of his first Epistle, say of Christ Jesus, This is the true God, and Eternal Life, and in the very next words add, Little Children keep your selves from Idols, when in the very preceding words he had been setting them on to it, if St. Paul's definition must hold true, that Idolatry is a service to those who by nature are not gods.

It is true, upon this they will recriminate and say, That there being nothing more expresly and frequently contain'd in Scripture, and that indeed arises more plainly out of our Idea of God, than that he is One, we destroy that by setting up Three. This would press hard, if we did affirm three distinct Beings; but since that wich is One in it self, may be Three in other respects, it is only a consequence that they infer, but which we deny, That we set up more Gods than one; and no man is to be charg'd with the suppos'd Consequences of his Doctrine, when he himself does not own them, but denies them, and thinks he can plainly show that they do not necessarily follow from it. We do plainly perceive in our selves two, if not three different Principles of Operation, that do not only differ, as Understanding and Will, which are only different modes of thinking, but differ in their Character and way of Operation. All our Cogitations and Reasonings are a sort of Acts, in which we can reflect on the way how we operate; we perceive that we act freely in them, and that we turn our Minds to such Objects and Thoughts as we please. But by another Principle of which we perceive nothing, and can reflect upon no part of it, we live in our Bodies, we animate and actuate them, we receive Sensations from them, and give Motions to them; we live and die, and do not know how all this is done. It seems to be by some Emanation from our Souls, in which we do not feel that we have any liberty, and so we must conclude, that this Principle in us is natural and necessary. In Acts of Memory, Imagination and Discourse, there seems to be a mixture of both Principles, or a third that results out of them: for we feel a freedom in one respect, but as for those Marks [Page 42] that are in our Brain, that set things in our Memory, or furnish us with words, we are necessary Agents, they come in our way, but we do not know how. We cannot call up a Figure of things of words at pleasure. Some disorder in our Mechanism hides or flattens them, which when it goes off, they start up and serve us, but not by any Act of our Understanding or Will: Thus we see that in this single undivided Essence of ours, there are different Principles of Operation, so different as Liberty and Necessity are from one another: I am far from thinking, that this is a proper Explanation or Resemblance of this Mystery; yet it may be called in some sort an Illustration of it, since it shows us from our own Composition, that in one Essence there may be such different Principles, which in their proper Character, may be brought to the terms of a Contradictition, of being free and not free. So in the Divine Essence, which is the simplest and perfectest Unity, there may be Three, that may have a diversity of Operations as well as Oeconomies. By the first, God may be suppos'd to have made and to govern all things: by the second, to have actuated and been most perfectly united to the Humanity of Christ; and by the third, to have Inspir'd the Pen-men of the Scriptures, and the Workers of Miracles, and still to re­new and fortify all good Minds. But tho we cannot explain how they are Three, and have a true diversity from one another, so that they are not barely different Names and Modes; yet we firmly believe that there is but one God; and with this I conclude all that I have intended to say on the Head of the Divi­nity of Christ.

The next Head that I have now before me, is his Death and Sufferings. Which I intend to treat in the same general way in which I consider'd the former. I must first observe, that School-men and the Writers of positive Di­vinity, have upon this Head laid down a great many Subtilties, in which the Scripture is absolutely silent.

They begin with a Position, that is the Foundation of all their Calculations, that God cannot freely forgive sin; that purishing as well as remunerative Ju­stice, are essential to him; that God being Infinite, every Offence against him has an infinite Guilt, and must be expiated either by Acts of infinite Value, or of infinite Duration; and that a Person of an infinite Nature, was only capable of Acts of an infinite Value; that such a one was necessary for expiating sin. But in all this gradation, there is one main defect, That the Scripture sets none of these Speculations before us; nor is it easie to apprehend, that a right of pu­nishing, which is in the Legislator, and a right to a Reward, which passes from him to the person that acquires it, should be equally essential to God. In the one, his Fidelity and Justice are bound, because of the right that accrues to another; but the other of punishing, seems to be a Right that is vested in himself, which he may either use or not, as he pleases: and if every sin, as being of infinite Guilt, must be expiated by an infinite Act, it will not be easy to make this out, how the Acts of Christ, tho infinite in Value, should stand in a strict Equality with all the sins of so many men, every one of which is of infinite guilt. Therefore these being a subtil Contexture of Legal Metaphy­sicks, of which the Scripture is silent, it best becomes us to take our Notions from the Scriptures themselves. It is true Iustice and Iustification being the terms used upon this Head, in some of the Epistles, that seems to give some Autho­rity to those reckonings which are laid down to make out a Justice in all God's Proceedings. But those who observe the Style of the Scriptures more narrowly, [Page 43] will see, that those words import no more but a state of Favour and Acceptation with God; for the Righteousness of the Law, was a man's acceptation that had served God in the Mosaical Dispensation; and the Righteousness of Faith was the Acceptation that a man in the Gospel-Dispensation had in the sight of God; so that the frequent use of those words will be found to have no relation to those subtil weighings of Infinities one against another.

But I go next to shew in what Notion, and under what a set of Phrases this matter is stated to us in the New Testament: It is then to be consider'd, that when the New Testament was writ, there was not any one thing that all people un­derstood better, than the Sacrificatory Style, and all the Phrases that belonged to it. The Iews were much accustom'd to it, and had a great variety of Sacri­fices that they offer'd up to God; and the Gentiles were likewise well acquainted with all the several sorts of Sacrifices that us'd to be offer'd up among them. And this was not one of the secrets of their Religion, that was kept only a­mong the Priests, and was not to be communicated to the people; it was known to them all most particularly, for they were to bring and offer those Victims. Therefore it is plain, that no Forms of Speech were then so fully and so generally understood, as those which related to Sacrifices. The Heathens had their Expiatory and Piacular Sacrifices, by which they did reckon that they transfer'd their sins on the man or beast that was devoted, and that they thereby expiated them; and those they reckon'd aton'd the offended Deity by their death, which they suffer'd in their stead: They also had many Lustra­tions and Ablutions upon their offering their Sacrifices, to import the Atonement that was made by them; and at the making their Covenants, they had Sacri­fices with which they propitiated Heaven, and seal'd their Covenant: This practice of Expiatory Sacrifices had been indeed both so Ancient and so uni­versally spread, that it is not an unreasonable Conjecture, to think that there was a Tradition in favour of it, convey'd down from Noah. We are very sure, that both Greeks and Romans were at the time that the New Testament was written, very full of the Style and Phrases that belong'd to Expiatory Sacri­fices. The Iews were no less acquainted with them; they had both their Sin and Trespass Offerings; their great yearly Expiation by the Sacrifice of a Goat; they burnt a Red-Cow in a peculiar manner, and with its Ashes they were purifi'd and sprinkled. They had also their daily Offerings of two Lambs, and their Peace Offerings, and Free-will Offerings; and in their Law the Sa­crifice was call'd their Atonement, by which their sin was forgiven; it was al­so said to bear their Iniquity, which was among them a Phrase importing Guilt. For while a man stood under the guilt of his sin, liable to punishment, he was said to bear his Iniquity: Their Sin-Offerings were in their Language call'd sim­ply their sins; to which, tho our Translators have added the word Offering, yet in the Hebrew they are call'd Sin or Trespass, and in the Greek, render'd for Sin; and in this all the people of that Nation were certainly well instructed, it being by these that their Consciences were quieted, their Sins pardon'd, and God reconcil'd to them.

So this ground that I lay down is certain, That there was not any one sort of things, which the whole World knew better than all that belong'd to Sacri­fices. At the time of writing the New Testament they certainly were more ac­custom'd to it, and understood it much better than we generally do now, in Ages in which those practices have so long ceas'd, that the Memory of them is [Page 44] quite extinguished. It is indeed very probable, that many particular Phrases belonging to them, might have been by a Poetical Liberty, extended to other Matters: for things of the sacred'st nature are by Poets and Orators made use of to give the liveliest Illustrations, and raise the strongest passions possible: yet after all, an entire Thread of a sacrificatory Style, was a form of description, that the World must have known could belong only to an Expiatory Sacri­fice, that is, to some person or thing that was devoted to God by a Sinner in his own stead, and upon the account of his sin and guilt was to be some way destroy'd, in sign of what he own'd he had deserv'd; and this was to be done in order to the reconciling the guilty Person to God, the Guilt being transfer'd from the Person to the Sacrifice; and God by accepting the Sacrifice, was re­concil'd to the person, whose sin was upon that account forgiven. This being thus laid down, let us look next to the whole strain of the New Testament, particularly to those parts of it in which this matter is more fully treated about.

Here I will again follow the method that I took upon the former Head, and not enter so particularly upon the Criticisms of some passages, but will view the thing in gross, that seeming to be both the most convincing way in it self, and the best suited to my present purpose. I must further observe, that this was a point of vast Consequence, as being that which concern'd men's Peace with God, the pardon of their sins, and their hopes of God's Favour, and of Eter­nal Happiness. Therefore we ought not to imagine, that Rhetorick or Poeti­cal Forms of Speech could be admitted here, to the aggravating of so solemn a piece of our Religion boyond its true value; so that we must conclude, that here, if in any thing, the Apostles writ strictly, besides that their manner of writing is always plain and simple. When then they set forth the Death of Christ with all the Pomp of the sacrificatory Phrases, we must either believe it to be a true Propitiatory Sacrifice, or otherwise we must look upon them as warm indiscreet men, whose Affections to our Saviour heated them so far, as to carry them in this Matter out of all measure far beyond the truth.

Those who oppose this Article, believe that Christ only died for our good, but not in our stead; that by his Death he might fully confirm his Gospel, and give it a great Authority, that so it might have the more Influence upon us: they also believe, that by his dying, he intended to set us a most perfect pattern of bearing the sharpest Sufferings, with the perfectest Patience and Submission to the Will of God, and the most entire Charity to those at whose hands we suffer; and that by doing this, he was to Merit at God's hands that supream Authority, with which he is now vested for our good, that so he might obtain a Power to offer the World the pardon of sin upon their true Repentance; and finally, That he died in order to his Resurrection, and forgiving a sensible Proof of that main Article of his Religion, That we shall all be raised up at the last day; therefore he was to die, and that in such a manner, that no man might question the truth of it, that so his Resurrection might give a most demonstrative Proof both of the possibility of it, and of our being to be raised up by him, who was thus declared to be the Son of God, by his Rising from the dead.

On the other hand, we believe that God intending to pardon sin, and to call the World by the offers of it to Repentance, design'd to do it in such a manner, as should both give us the highest Ideas of the guilt of sin, and [Page 45] also of his own Love and Goodness to us, which he thus order'd: That after that Divine Person in whom dwelt the Eternal Word, had sufficiently opened his Doctrine, and had set a perfect pattern of Holiness to the world, he was to be fallen on by a company of perfidious and cruel men, who after they had loaded him with all the spiteful and reproachful Usage that they could in­vent, they in conclusion Crucified him; he all the while bearing, besides those visible Sufferings in his Person, most inexpressible Agonies in his Mind, both before and during these his Sufferings; and yet bearing them with a most absolute Submission to his Father's Will, and a perfect Charity to those his Persecutors; and that in all this, he willingly offer'd himself to suffer both up­on our account, and in our stead, which was so accepted of God, that he not only raised him from the dead, and exalted him up on high, giving to him even as he was Man, all power both in Heaven and Earth, but that upon the account of it, he offer'd to the World the pardon of sin [...], together with all those other Blessings which accompany it in his Gospel, and that he will have us in all our Prayers for pardon, or other favours, claim them through that Death, and owe them to it.

These are two contrary Doctrines upon this Head. Now let us see which of them come nearest the Manner and Style in which the Scriptures set it out in the New Testament. Christ is said to have reconcil'd us to his Father;1 Joh. 2.2. 1 Pet. 2.24. 1 Cor. 15.3 2 Cor. 5.21 1. Gal. 4. 3. Gal, 13. 2 Tit. 14. 20 Mat. 28. 3 Rom. 25. 4 Rom. 25. 5 Rom. 6.10; 11. and to the end. 1 Cor. 1.30. to be our Propitiation, to have born our sins, and to have been bruis'd for our Iniquities; to have been made sin for us; to have been accursed for us; to have given himself for our sins; that he might redeem us from all Iniquity; he is said to have died for: or in the stead of our sins; to have given his life a ransom for us, or in lieu of us; he is said to have born our sins on his own body; he has appointed a perpetual Remem­brance of his Death in these words, That his body was broken for us; and that his blood was shed for many for the Remission of sins; Remission of sins is offered in his name, and through his blood; God laid upon him the iniquities of us all; he was our justification, our peace and our redemption; He is called the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the World. His Death and intercession are very co­piously compared to the Expiation made on the solemn day of the Atonement for the whole Nation of the Iews, on which after the Sacrifice was offer'd on the Altar, the High Priest carri'd in the Blood to the Holy of Holies, and set it down before the Cloud of Glory, as that which reconcil'd that people to God.1 Eph. 7. 1 Col. 14.20, 21. 1 Joh. 29. 9 Heb. 11, 12, 13, 14. & 8.26.28. 10. Heb. 10, 12, 14, 19. This is done in so full a Discourse, and with such a variety of Expressions, that it is not easy to imagine, how any thing could be more plainly told. He is call'd the High-Priest that was consecrated to offer up Sacrifices for the people; it is said, That he has entred into the Holy Place by his own Blood, having obtain'd Eternal Redemption for us; his Blood purges our Consciences from dead woks, to serve the living God; he hath put away sin by the Sacrifice of himself, and was once offer'd to bear the sins of many; we are Sanctifi'd by the offering of the Body of Christ once for us all; and after he had offer'd one Sacrifice for sins, he for ever sate down on the right hand of God, having by that one Offering for ever perfected them that are sanctified: so that we enter into the holiest by the Blood of Iesus:13. Heb. 12.20. He is also compared to the Sacrifice that was burnt without the Camp; and that he might Sanctify the people with his own Blood, he suffer'd without the Gate; and he is call'd that great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the everlasting Covenant.

Now let it be consider'd, That as this Argument is in some places closely pursu'd in many chosen and strict Expressions, so it returns in a great variety [Page 46] of Phrases through the whole Epistles, in so many different places, and on so many several occasions, that nothing can appear plainer in words, than that the Apostles cosider'd this as the Capital Article of their whole Doctrine, and the Main Point given them in Commission. In their preaching to all Nations they inculcate it chiefly, they repeat it often, and for ought I have been able to judge, they have not left one single Phrase that belong'd to Sacrifices in the Old Testament, which they have not appli'd to the Death of Christ in the New. It is true, they mention his Resurrection often, as the Great and Eminent Proof of Christ's being the Messias; but they never apply that with those lively and inflam'd Expressions to men's Consciences, that they do his Death and Suf­ferings. The Merit is plainly put there; the Resurrection being the Glorious Reward and Consequence of it. Upon his Death and Cross it is that they dwell the most; they set an infinite Value upon his Loving us, and dying for us: Now if he had only di'd, for our good, tho it is not to be deni'd, but that this was a great Evidence of perfect Love; yet the world was full of Stories of men that had di'd for their Country; so that barely the dying for our good, if it had not been likewise in our stead, could not have born such a sublime Strain as that is in which they set this out.

If our Saviour had only been to endure those bodily Torments, how violent so­ever, it does not give any extraordinary Character of him, that the very night be­fore, he was so exceedingly amaz'd at the prospect of what he was entring upon, that he became sorrowful even to the death;22. Luke 44. and was in such a bodily Agony, that his Sweat fell down as great drops of Blood; which shews that his Mind was then in a much more unconceivable and unsupportable Agony;26. Mat. 36, 37, 38. so that an Angel was sent from Heaven to comfort him. Now if there was no more in his Sufferings than that which we see, here is a depression far below what great Heroes have express'd, even during the most extream Sufferings; and yet it was at a distance from them, only upon the prospect of their coming on. All the while before, our Saviour knew they were coming, and yet till then, no Agony is heard of; which intimates, that there was somewhat peculiar in it, which some Churches have in their Liturgies call'd very properly his unspeakable and unutterable Suffer­ings. They are so indeed; for we who have only a Notion of vast Agonies in the Mind, when Rack'd with the Horror of guilt, it cannot bear the appre­hensions of the Wrath of God, and the reproaches that arise from a wounded Conscience; cannot apprehend what could have rais'd such amazing Sorrows in so pure and unspotted a Soul, that was conscious to it self of no sin, and so could fear nothing from a just and good God: therefore we must not pretend to ex­plain what we cannot understand.

But to return to the main Argument: When this whole Collection of the ways in which the Death of Christ is propos'd to the World in the New Testa­ment, is laid together, we must conclude, that either this Death was a pro­pitiatory Sacrifice, or we must for ever despair of finding out the meaning of any thing that can be express'd in words: Nothing could be plainer said, nor oftner repeated in a greater variety of Expressions, proper to signify this, and not proper for any thing else. I do not deny, but those who would turn all this another way, have found to every one of these passages somewhat that seems to favour the diverting them to another signification; but as it was observ'd before, if some of the Sacrificatory Phrases have by some Authors, and upon some occasions been brought down to a signification less important, it will not [Page 47] from thence follow, that Discourses that are a contexture of those Notions and Forms of Speech, should be so wrested from their natural Signification, to a sense so far below the genuine and receiv'd Importance of the words. And in­deed I do not see what we can make of any part of the New Testament, or how much of it we can receive with any degrees of Esteem, if we do not believe the Death of Christ to have been a truly Expiatory Sacrifice offerr'd up to God in our stead.

Nor does this at all contradict the freedom of the Grace of God in pardon­ing sin, which is so much set forth in Scripture, since there is matter enough for Free-Grace to exert it self, notwithstanding the Atonement made by Sa­crifice. For God might have, in the strictness of Justice, demanded satisfa­ction from our selves; so his commuting the matter, and accepting of it in the person of another, is a very high Act of his Grace; then our Saviour's offering himself up so freely for us, was a signal as well as an undeserv'd Act of Love, in that he died for us while we were yet Enemies: and tho this Act belong'd to his Human Nature, yet the Union between it and the Eternal Word that dwelt in him, may very well entitle God to it, so that in that respect this also may be call'd an Act of God's Grace. The offering this to us on such easy terms, and the exacting only a sincere obedience as the condition of it, without insisting on an entire Obedience, is another part of the Grace of it: and finally, The proposing such vast Rewards to our poor services, and the conveying the know­ledge of this to some Nations, when others are left in Darkness and Ignorance, are very great and undeserved Acts of Love and Mercy: so that the sense of our Saviour's dying for us as our Sacrifice, does not at all derogate from, or lessen our acknowledgments of the Love and Goodness of God.

Nor are those Objections of more value that are taken from the shortness of the continuance of Christ's Sufferings, since besides what is commonly urg'd to this purpose from the infinite Dignity of the person, we are to consider, that in Sacrifices it is the Appointment and the Acceptation that makes the satisfaction; for God's accepting a Sacrifice, is an abatement of the Rigour of Justice, and a declaring that he will pardon sins in such a Method, and upon such a Consi­deration: and there appear very good Reasons, even to us, for the method that God thought fit to take in this great Transaction. He intended to call the World to Repentance and Reformation: Now it had been a vain attempt to have persuaded men to repent, without an offer of pardon; for if men are made desperate, there is no great hope of prevailing on them; so an offer of pardon was necessarily to be made; yet this was to be made in such a way, as to have the greatest effect possible on men. If the offer of pardon had been made upon too slight a consideration, the World might have been tempted to have had slight thoughts of sin, as a thing of no such black nature, since it was so easily forgiven: and therefore to heighten the sense of the odiousness of sin, God would pardon it in such a manner, as should show how much he hated it, at the same time that he shew'd such Love and Compassion to sinners. Since then the great Design of this whole Oeconomy was to reform the World, we see in every step of it a tendency to that; a pardon was offer'd to give men hopes, but the consideration of it was so amazing, as to encrease their Horrour at sin, and their strict watchfulness against that, which was so hard, and stood so dear to expiate.

Further, The rule of life that was proposed, was so exactly pure and holy, [Page 48] that it well became a God of Infinite Purity to impose it on us, since it has in all its parts such a tendency to the making us perfect, even as our Heaven­ly Father is perfect. It begins at the cleansing our hearts, and from thence it goes the whole round of our lives, in all our Actions, Circumstances and Relations: It neither dispences with an idle word, a lewd look, nor a defiling thought; but is a Law of life and love, that will sanctify every individual Na­ture, and settle every Society that comes under its conduct. But that, as the holiness of this Rule is no small honour to the Religion of which it is so main a part; so that the strictness of it might not frighten men from embracing it, tho there is no slackning of the obligation of the Law, but that every offence against any part is a sin; yet there is an abatement made, as it is a Condition of Salvation: And thus it is not an entire, but a sincere obedience that is made the Condition upon which we are admitted to the Gospel-Covenant. Every sin gives a wound, and requires repentance to wash and heal it; but every sin does not shut us out from a right to the blessings of this Covenant: So that here is a main distinction never to be forgotten. We are under the whole Gospel, as it is a law and role of life; and every time that we break any part of it, we ought to be humbled for it before God; but no­thing that does not defile our hearts, and make us go off from the sincerity of our Obedience, breaks our Relation to Christ, and dissolves our being in a state of Grace and Salvation,

It may seem a diminution of the Purity of our Religion, that an entire holi­ness is not made the Indispensable Condition, as well as the absolute Duty of Christians; since God might have furnished us with such degrees of Grace, as might have conquered every Corrupt Inclination: Besides, that this Doctrine of the Unattainableness of Perfection, and Invincible Infirmity, does furnish Bad men and cold Christians with many Pretences to hide or excuse their Faults, and makes the greater part sit down contented with very low de­grees, in which they quiet themselves with this seeming Defectiveness of the New Covenant. But it is certain, that every man who deals honestly and impartially by himself, does perceive that he might be much better than he truly is; and that God's assistances are not wanting to him, but that he is wanting to them: Every man feels, that it is by the vicious use of his own Liberty, and not by reason of any Impotency that is in his Nature, that he falls in sin: And the eminent strictness and victory over Sin, that some men arrive at, who shine as Lights in the World, serves to let the rest see what they might come to, if it were not for their own fault: So that God's accepting a sincere Obe­dience, instead of an entire one, is no encouragement to Sin; but is a con­descention to Humane Infirmity: And it seems that God does, while he con­tinues us here on Earth, suffer our Natures still to hang so heavy about us, and sometimes to prevail so fatally over us, that we may be thereby obliged to live in a more constant distrust of our selves, and a more humble dependance on him, to make us feel the necessity of applying our selves often to him for pardon and assistance, and also to beget in us more tender Compassions for the Frailties of others, which we can more easily bear with, and forgive, when we reflect on our selves, and what we are capable of. This gives a more melt­ing Charity than could flow from a severer Vertue, that had never felt the weight of Nature, nor the strength of Temptations: If this is abused by some who turn the Grace of God into Lasciviousness, it is a very ungrateful return [Page 49] to God for his Mercy, and a signal abuse of his Goodness. But if this Gospel is bid, it is bid to them that are lost.

There remains yet one Article to be well stated, relating to this matter, and that is to give the true notion of Iustification, of which there seem to be two such different accounts given by St. Paul and St. Iames, that this has led men into a great many Subtilties. I shall first open this matter, as it is spoke of by these two Apostles: The Design of St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans, was to oppose that Conceit of the Iews, who thought it impossible to be in the favour of God without observing the Mosaical Rites. This he beats down, by leading them up to their Father Abraham, and shewing them how he came into a state of favour with God, before he had received the Covenant of Circumcision; and that his believing in God, was accepted of God, and reckoned to him, or imputed to him for righteousness; or in order to his being in the favour of God.4. Rom. 3. The Inference that he naturally drew from this, was, that he was justified without the works of the law: And by the tenor of the whole Discourse, it is plain, That by the works of the law, 2. Rom. 12. are meant the Mosaical Precepts, and not the Works of Moral Vertue. For St. Paul had divided Mankind into those who were in, or under the law, and those who were without law; that is, into Iew and Gentile. The design of the Epistle was not to give us Metaphysical Abstractions and Distinctions be­tween Faith, as it is a special Grace, and Works or Obedience to the Laws of God; but by Faith he means the entire receiving of the whole Gospel in its Commands, as well as Promises; for so he reckons Abraham's readiness to offer up his Son Isaac, as an Act of his faith; so that faith stands for the complex of all the Duties of Christianity; and therefore his Assertion of our being justified by faith without the works of the law, signifies no more, than that those who received the Gospel, who believed it,3. Rom. 28. and lived according to it, were put in the favour of God by it, without being brought under the obligation of the Mosaical Precepts.

The same Argument is handled by him upon the same grounds in his Epistle to the Galatians, 5. Gal. 6. only there he gives a more explicite notion of that faith which justified, that it was a faith that wrought by love; So that in all St. Paul's Epistles, he understands by faith the compleat receiving the Gospel in all its parts. But whether these Expressions were any of those that St. Peter says, the un­stable wrested to their own perdition, or not, we see plainly by St. Iames's E­pistle, that some began to set up the Notion of a bare believing the Gospel, as that which justified; as if the meer profession of Christianity, or the per­suasion of its truth, without a suitable Conversation, justified. For St. Iames speaks not of the works of law, but of works simply; and as he had just reason to condemn a Doctrine that tended to the total corruption of our Faith; so he plainly shews, that he did not differ from St. Paul, since he takes his chief In­stance from Abraham's Faith,2 James 12. to the end. which made him offer up his Son Isaac upon the Altar, by which he was justified; so that faith wrought in his works, and by works faith was made perfect: And he concludes all, That as the body without the spirit was dead, so faith without works was dead also: From whence it is plain, that faith in St. Iames stands strictly for a believing the Truth of the Christian Religion, and not for an entire receiving the Gospel, which was the faith that St. Paul had treated of. These things will appear so clear to any one who will attentively read and consider the scope of St. Paul's Epistles [Page 50] to the Romans and Galatians, and the Discourse in St. Iames's Epistle, that I am confident no scruple can remain in men, that are not possessed with prejudi­ces, or over-run with a nice sort of Metaphysicks, that some have brought into these matters; by which they have, instead of clearing them, rendred them very intricate and unintelligible: Their stating the instrumentality of faith in Justification; their distinguishing it from Obedience in this, but joining it with it in Sanctification, are niceties, not only without any ground in Scrip­ture, but really very hurtful, by the disquiet they may give good minds: For if the Christian Doctrine is plain in any one thing, it must be in this, which is the foundation of our quiet, and of our hope. It would make a long Article to reckon up all the different Subtilties with which this matter has been per­plexed: As whether Justification is an immanent or transient Act; whether it is a Sentence pronounced in Heaven, or in the Conscience; or whether it is only a Relation, and what constitutes it; what is the efficient, the in­strument, and the condition of it; these, with much more of the like nature, filled many Books some years ago.

The strict sense of Iustification, as it is a legal term, and opposite to Condemna­tion, is the absolution of a Sinner; which is not to be solemnly done till the final Sentence is pronounced after death, or at the day of Judgment: But as men come to be in the state to which those Sentences do belong, they in a freer form of speech are said to be justified or condemned. And as they who do not believe, 3 John 18. are under condemnation, and said to be condemned already; that is, they are liable to that Sentence, and under those Characters that be­long to it, blindness, obduration of heart, and the Wrath and Judgments of God: So such Believers, to whom the Promises of the Gospel belong, and on whom the final Sentence shall be pronounced, justifying them, are said now to be justified, since they are now in the state to which that belongs: They have the Characters of it upon them, Faith, Repentance, and Reno­vation of heart and life, by which they come to be in the favour, and under the protection of God.

The Gospel is of the nature of a publick Amnesty, in which a Pardon is offered to all Rebels, who return to their duty, and live peaceably in obe­dience to the Law; and a day is prefixed to examine who has come in upon it, and who has stood out; upon which final Acts of Grace or Severity are to pass. It is then plain, that though every man is pardoned in the strictness of Law only by the final Sentence, yet he is really in the construction of Law pardoned upon his coming within the Terms on which it is offered; and thus men are justified, who do truly repent of, and forsake their sins, who do sincerely believe not only the truth of the Gospel in general▪ but do so firmly believe every part of it, that acts proportioned to that belief, arise out of it; when they depend so much on the Promises, that they venture all things in hope of them; and do so receive the Rules and Laws given in it, that they set themselves on obeying them in the course of their whole life, and in a most particular manner, when they lay claim to the Death of Christ, as their Sacrifice, and the means of their Reconciliation; with such a Re­pentance as changes their inward Natures and Principles, and such a Faith as purifies their hearts, and makes them become new Creatures.

These are the Conditions of this Covenant; and they are such Conditions, that upon lower than these it became not the Infinite Purity and Holiness of [Page 51] God to offer us pardon, or to receive us into his favour: For without these, the Mercies and Favours of the Gospel had been but the opening a San­ctuary to Criminals, and the giving encouragement to Sin, if a few how­lings to God for mercy, and the earnest imploring it, for the sake of Christ, and on the account of his Death, would serve turn. This every man, under the least agony of thought, will be apt to do, especially when death seems to be near him, and yet be still in all respects as bad as ever, this indeed is so slight a thing, that a greater disparagement cannot de offered to our Reli­gion, nor can a greater strengthning of sin be contrived, than the giving any sort of encouragement to it; for it is one of the greatest, and the most mischievous of all those practical Errors which have corrupted Religion.

These are the most important parts of our whole Commission; and there­fore we ought to state them first aright in our own thoughts, that so we our selves may be fully possessed with them, that they may sink deep into our own minds, and shew their efficacy in the reforming of our Natures and Lives▪ and then we shall be able to open them to others with more clearness, and with better advantages, when our hearts are inflamed with an overcoming sense of the Love and Goodness of God. If the Condition of this New Covenant were deeply impressed on our thoughts, then we should publish them with more life and joy to others, and we might then look for the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel on our selves, and on our labours.


AFTER we are well setled in the Belief of the Christian Religion, our next enquiry must naturally be into the Way and Method of being rightly Instructed in the Doctrine, and other parts of this Religion; and that chiefly in one great Point, Whether we ought to employ our own Faculties in searching into this, and particularly into the meaning of those Books in which it is contain'd? or, Whether we must take it from Oral Tra­dition, and submit to any man, or body of men, as the Infallible Deposita­ries and Declarers of this Tradition.

In this single point consists the Essence of the differences between us and the Church of Rome: While we affirm that the Christian Doctrine is compleatly contain'd in the Scriptures, and that every man ought to examine these with the best helps, and all the skill and application of which he is capable: and that he is bound to believe such Doctrines only, as appear to him to be contain'd in the Scriptures, but may reject all others that are not founded upon that Authority. On the other hand, The foundation upon which the Church of Rome builds, is this, ‘That the Apostles deliver'd their Do­ctrine by word of mouth to the several Churches, as the Sacred Depositum of the Faith: That the Books of the New Testament were written occa­sionally, not with intent that they should be the Standard of this Religion; that we have these Books, and believe them to be Divine, only from the Church, and upon her Testimony; that the Church, with the Books, gives us likewise the Sense and Exposition of them, they being dark in many places; and that therefore the Traditional Conveyance, and the Solemn Decisions of the Church, must be Infallible, and ought to be submitted to [Page 53] as such, otherwise there can be no end of Controversies, while every man takes upon him to expound the Scriptures, which must needs fill mens Minds with Curiosity and Pride, as well as the World with Heresies and Sects, that are unavoidable, unless there is a living speaking Judge: This they also prove from some places of Scripture, such as Christ's words to St. Peter, Vpon this Rock will I build my Church, 16, Mat. 18, 19. 18. Mat. 20 28 Mat. 20. 16. Joh. 13. 1. Tim. 3.16. and the gates of hell shall not prevail a­gainst it; and unto thee will I give the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven: Tell the Church, I am with you alway, even to the end of the World; the Spirit shall lead you into all Truth; and the Church is the Pillar and Ground of Truth. This is their Doctrine, and these are their chief Arguments upon which it is founded.

There is no point in Divinity that we should more clearly understand than this: for it is in it self of great Consequence, and is that which determines all the rest; if it is true, it puts an end to all other Controversies; and if it is false, it leaves us at liberty to examine every thing, and gives us the justest and highest prejudices possible against that Church that pretends to it without just grounds. It is also that which of all others the Missionaries of that Church understand the best, and manage the most dextrously; they are much practised to it, and they begin and end all their practice with this, which has fair ap­pearances, and will bear a great deal both of popular Eloquence, and plau­sible Logick: so if men are not on the other hand as well fortifi'd, and as ready on the other side of the Argument, they will be much entangled as often as they have occasion to deal with any of that Church. There is not in­deed any one point that I know of, that has been open'd and examin'd, both with that Beauty and Force, that is in Chillingworth's Unvaluable Book upon this Subject. Few things of this nature have ever been handled so near a Ma­thematical Evidence, as he has pursu'd this Argument; and his Book is writ with such a thread of Wit and Reason, that I am confident few can enter upon it without going through with it. I shall now endeavour, in as narrow a com­pass as is possible, to set this matter in its true Light.

We must then begin with this, That the freedom of a man's Thoughts and Understanding, is the most Essential Piece of his Liberty, and that in which na­turally he can the least bear to be limited: therefore any Restraints that are laid upon him in this, must be well and fully proved; otherwise it is to be sup­pos'd, that God could never intend to bring us under the yoke in so sensible and so valuable a thing, without giving clear and evident warrants for it: And as every Invasion on the Liberties of the Human nature, ought to be well made out; so every Priviledge which any person claims against the common fate of Mankind, ought to be also fully proved, before others can be bound to submit to it: We perceive in our selves, and we see in all others, such a feebleness of understanding, such an easiness to go too quick, and judge too fast, and such a narrow compass of knowledge, that as we see all Mankind is apt to mistake things, so we have no reason to believe, that any one is exempted from this, but as there are evident Authorities to prove it. Since then this is a Priviledge in those that have it, as well as an Imposition on those that have it not, it ought not to be offer'd at, or obtruded on the world without a full Proof. Probabilities, forced Inferences, or even disputable Proofs, ought not to be made use of here, since we have reason to conclude, that if God had in­tended to put any such thing upon us, he would have done it in so plain [Page 54] and uncontested a way, that there should have been no room to have doubted of it.

Besides, all such things as do naturally give jealousy, and offer specious grounds of mistrust, ought to be very clear. Since then all Companies of men that lodge themselves in any Authority, and more particularly those who manage mens Consciences, and the Concerns of Religion, have been too often observ'd to enlarge their powers, and to make the most of them they could, and that by their means, Religion has been often and much corrupted, the World has from hence a Right to exact very full proofs before they can be bound to believe any such body of men to be exempted from Error. This will yet appear the more evident, if that very Body in which this Infallibility is suppos'd to dwell, has manifestly corrupted the Morals, and the order or discipline of this Religion; if they have fill'd the world with Fables, if they have fallen under gross Igno­rance, and have been over-run with Vice and Disorder; these must afford great occasion of suspecting them in all other things, If Impostures have been set up and promoted with great Zeal in some Ages, which have in other Ages of more Light and Knowledge been thrown out and disclaim'd; and if we find that the same Methods of Craft and Violence which have been pra­ctised in all other Societies, have been more notoriously and scandalously practis'd by the men of Infallibility, then we have from all these things just pre­judices given us against this pretension. Now a just prejudice amounts to this, That we have no reason to believe a thing, unless we see very good grounds to believe it; and it gives us all reason to suspect those grounds, and to exa­mine them well, before we are concluded by them.

Further, This being so great a Matter, and that which must settle all other things, we have just reason to believe, That if God has left such Authorities in the World, that he has also made it plain where they lie, and with whom they are to be found; for it is not imaginable that God should have concluded Mankind under such an Authority, and yet not have explain'd so necessary a Point, as, Who are the Depositaries of it, but to have left men to their shifts to find that out the best way they can: since till this is clear'd, the other is of no use. There is a dormant Infallibility, they say, in the Church, but no body knows where; for it is no Article of Faith in whom it is vested. We are where we were, only with this disadvantage, that if we think we are sure there is an Infallibility in the Church, but are not sure to whom it is trusted, we may be resisting this Infallibility by opposing those who indeed have it, while we adress our selves for it to others who have it not, tho we fancy it belongs to them.

In all Constitutions among men, the most evident thing is this, Where rests the Supreme Authority of that Constitution? And if this is necessary for the order and policy of the World, it is much more necessary, that if God has devolv'd so main a part of his own Authority, and indeed the dispensing of one of his own Attributes, this should be so described and circumstantiated, that there should be no danger of mistaking; and that there should have been such Characters given, by which all the World should have been as in­fallibly directed to this Authority, as it was to be infallible in its Decisions. When God consign'd such a Character to the Jewish Nation, that the Symbol of his presence was to appear, and that Answers were to be given out as he was consulted, it was expresly declar'd with whom it was lodged, and in what [Page 55] Method the High-Priest was to appear before the Lord, with the Vrim in the Breast-plate; that so there might be no room left for Imposture or even for suspicion.

Upon all these reasons, we have a very just right to demand of those who call us to submit to their Infallibility, to give us such plain, express and determinate proofs for it, as are proportion'd to the Importance and Unusual­ness of that which they impose upon us. It is a vain thing to prove that this must be in the Church, because otherwise a great many Absurdities must needs fol­low, if it were not in it. When it is once prov'd that God has given it to his Church, we shall very willingly yield, that he had very good reasons for it; since so extraordinary a Power, which might be easily imploy'd to very bad purposes, certainly was not to be given but for very good ones; but it is a very pre­posterous way to argue, That God must have done such a thing, because we fancy that it is necessary to prevent some great Evil, or to procure some very great Good. For this is only to pretend to prove, that God ought to have done somewhat that he has not done; unless they can at the same time prove, that God has done it: this is to conclude, That his Ways must be as ours are, and that his Thoughts must be as our Thoughts. We may at this rate prove as well, that the Messias should have appear'd much sooner than he did; have shew'd his Miracles, and even his Body after his Resurrection more publickly than he did: This will prove, that the Gospel should have been preach'd to many Nations yet in Paganism; and this will rather, with an advantage in the Argument, prove, that there should be no sin left in the world, and that no man should be left to perish in his sins, and so be damn'd for them. It will require no great Art to make it appear, that these are much more dreadful things, and seem to be much more contrary to God's Nature, to his Love to Mankind, and to his Church: but indeed if we will give our selves scope upon this Argument, to fancy that God must do every thing, which we imagine would be very conve­nient, we should soon frame an Idea both of his Creation and his Provi­dence, that is wholly different from what we perceive it to be.

We are not capable of so vast a Thought, as to take in a Scheme of those great Designs that lie in the Eternal Mind, and that are scatter'd in a seem­ing Confusion through his Works and Ways, but are beautiful and orderly as they are gathered together in his Ideas. We cannot say what is good or evil with relation to the whole; nor what are the properest Methods of bring­ing about the one, or of diverting the other: so, to conclude, the arguing that Christ had dealt ill with his Church, if he had not made her Infallible, unless it is made out that he has done it, is only a reproaching him with this, That he has not done that which he ought to have done, and that he has not been faithful in discharging the Trust committed to him of his Father. Therefore all these are false ways of arguing, which cannot work on any, but such as measure God by themselves. The Argument if true, is Infinite, and has no bounds.

It does seem to agree much better with the Jewish Oeconomy, that an In­fallibility should have been lodg'd among them. Their being Typical, it was much more reasonable to have expected an Oral Tradition of its signification. Their Prophets express'd themselves in a very dark and figurative way, full of strange Allusions, and lofty Phrases; and since these were to lead them to the Messias, and yet seem capable of very different Senses, all this required an [Page 56] Infallible Expounder. They were one Nation, so that Unity was in many re­spects most necessary to their Preservation; they were for many Ages strongly set on Idolatry, so that a solemn, publick and Infallible Authority was the more necessary.17. Deut. 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13. There were also provisions in their Law, much more express than any can be pretended in the New Testament, requiring them when they had any Controversies within their Gates, to come up to the Temple to the Priest that stood there, to minister before the Lord, as well as to the Judge; and they were upon pain of death to submit to their Determinations. This matter is set out in such a variety of large and positive Expressions, that tho perhaps that passage belongs to their Law Suits, (But by the way, that of tell the Church, seems to be limited to the same sort of matters) yet if a parity of Reason, or if the Letter of the Law is consider'd, this will go much further towards an absolute Submission, which seems to suppose an Infallible Autho­rity, than any thing that can be alledged for the like out of the New Testa­ment; not to mention other Expressions of asking the Law at the Priest's mouth, and that his Lips should preserve knowledge, for he was the Minister of the Lord of Hosts: 2. Mal. 7. These things, I say, seem to make out a very fair Title to Infallibi­lity under the Mosaical Dispensation; and they continu'd to be not only the True, but indeed the Only Church that God had on Earth, till the Dispensation of the Gospel was opened: They had still among them the Federal Means of Salvation, which is all that is necessary to the Being of a Church. Our Sa­viour join'd both in Temple and Synagogue-Worship, which alone is enough to prove them to have been a true Church.

In this we plainly see the Sophistry of one Argument, which perhaps makes some Impression on weak minds, That a True Church must be true in its Do­ctrine: it must indeed have those things that are necessary to keep up its Fede­ral Relation to God; so the Iews had their Circumcision and Sacrifices, toge­ther with the rest of the Temple-Service: But yet that Church had fallen under two great Errors, that had a vast Extent, as well as a very fatal Conse­quence. They understood all the Prophecies of the Messias in a literal sense of a Temporal Prince, and a Glorious Conqueror. Here Oral Tradition fail'd, in that, which of all other things was the most important for them to under­stand aright, since their mistakes in this occasion'd their rejecting the True Messias, which drew on their final Ruin. The other Error was also very fatal, for it brought them under a vast Corruption of their Morals. They thought the ritual part of their Religion was of such high Value in the sight of God, that this alone, together with many invented Rites that had been handed down to them by Tradition, were of such Value in the sight of God, that they did compensate for the grossest Immoralities, and excuse from the most important Obligations of the Moral Law. These things had pass'd down among them by Tradition from their Fathers, and had corrupted all their Notions about Reli­gion: so that here we see all the arguings from a seeming necessity of things for an Infallible Authority, are only vain Imaginations, which do not hold in Instances, in which we have all the plausible Reasons of looking for them.

Nor does it appear, that it is any greater Imputation on the Goodness of God, that he has not provided an Infallible Remedy against Error, than that he has not provided an Infallible Remedy against Sin. Sin is that which of its own nature bears the greatest opposition to the Attributes of God, and to his Dominion. and that does defile and corrupt our Souls the most. [Page 57] We can much more easily apprehend, that God can bear with a man that lives in Error, than with one that lives in Sin: The one can consist with good Intentions and a Probity and Integrity of heart: for he who is in Error, may think that he is serving God in it, and so it can dwell in the same breast with the Love of God, and of our Neigbhour, which are driven out by Sin. The true design of Religion, is to give us such degrees of Light and Knowledge, as may preserve us from Sin, and purify our Hearts and Lives. Holiness is a much more certain Character of a man's being in the favour of God, than all the degrees of Knowledge possible. Upon all these grounds we may con­clude, that there is no reason to think, that God should have made a more cer­tain Provision against Error, than he has made against Sin. Now what are the Provisions against Sin? God offers the free pardon of all past sins, to en­courage us to forsake them; he gives us secret Assistances to fortify our Endea­vours against sin; he sets before us unspeakably vast Rewards and Punishments; and he accepts of a sincere, tho imperfect Obedience; so here a great deal is left to the freedom of our Wills. God will not work in us as in necessary Agents; but having made us capable of Liberty, he leaves us to the use of it, and if we perish, our perdition is of our selves. And therefore, if we will not apply our Faculties, and use our best Endeavours to become truly Holy, the blame must lie upon our selves; for God will not convey into us by his Power, such Principles and Dispositions as shall force us to be good; and unless we do what lies in us at the same time, that we pray to him for inward Aid from him, we have no reason to hope that he will hear us.

In like manner, He has call'd us to a Religion that lies in a very little com­pass; he has order'd it to be deliver'd to us in Books, writ in a great simpli­city of Style; he has given us Understandings capable of knowledge, and of great Industry in the pursuit of it; and we feel this difference in our na­tures, in seeking after Truth, from following after Holiness; that there is no natural disposition in us to Error, or against Truth; whereas there are born in us Propensities, that we feel to be deeply rooted in us against Holiness, and in favour of sin. Among men, some are naturally inquisitive, made and fitted to dive deep into profound Searches; these men do in Religion, as well as in all other Arts and Sciences, so open and clear the way to slower and lazier minds, that they render things easy to them. And as we have no reason to imagine, that God should have laid insuperable Difficulties in the way to Divine Knowledge; so those few that are in it, have been so overcome by the men of Labour and Learning, that even the Church that boasts of Infallibility, would have made a small progress without their Endeavours. And why should we imagine, that a Religion which we feel to be so hard in practice, should be made so easy in the speculative part, that we should be in no danger, and need no Industry to understand it.

A Promise of the Spirit is indeed pretended, that the Church should be thereby guided into all Truth. But it is to be consider'd, that this Promise was made personally to the Apostles, who were Inspir'd, and so were infallibly guided, which appears more plainly from the following words,16. John. 13. and he shall shew you things to come; that is clearly a promise of the Spirit of Prophesy, to which, since no Body of men can now pretend, they cannot claim the other neither; for both must go together, according to the force of those works: Nor is there any reason from those words to conclude, that this, any more than [Page 58] the Inspiration of the Apostles, was to descend to others after them; or if any will, through a parity of Reason think, that this was to continue in the Church, why should it not belong to every Christian, and not be confin'd to any Body or Succession of men? especially since those who think that the same parity will hold as to the other effects of the Spirit promis'd there, of its dwelling in them, of bringing things to their remembrance, of giving them Con­fort, Peace, Ioy and Victory over the World, and that these do descend to o­thers after the Apostles, do believe that they belong to all Christians, and are not to be contracted to a small number. Now if all the other promises were to descend thus, why not this of being led into all Truth, as well as the rest? For all promises, even tho express'd in positive words, do carry a con­dition naturally in them: so that when this promise is believ'd to belong to all Christians, yet it is not absolute, but supposes men's using their utmost Endea­vours with an honest and good Mind; in which case no man can deny, but that whether that promise was specially meant to them or not, yet it shall be so far accomplish'd in them, that they shall be left in no Error that shall be fatal to them; but that either they shall be deliver'd from it, or that it shall be forgiven them, since it is inconsistent with the Notion of infinite Goodness, that any man should perish, who is doing all he can in order to his Salvation.

If it be said, That Error does disturb the Peace and Order of the Church, beyond what is to be apprehended from Sin. Error runs men into parties, and out of those, Factions do arise, which break not only the Peace of the Church, but the whole order of the World, and the Quiet of Civil Society: whereas Sin does only harm to those who are guilty of it, or to a few who may be cor­rupted by their ill example. But to this it is to be answer'd, That Sin does naturally much more mischief to Mankind, than Error: he that errs, if he is not Immoral with it, is quiet and peaceable in his Error: therefore still the greatest mischief is from Sin, which corrupts men's Natures through its own Influence. And the mischief that Error does procure, arises chiefly from the pretensions to Infallibility, or something that is near a-kin to it; for if men were suffer'd to go on in their Errors with the same undisturbed quiet that they have for most of their sins, they would probably be much quieter in them; since Sin of its nature is a much fiercer thing than a point of Speculation can be suppos'd to be: but if men apprehend Inquisitions, or other Miseries, up­on the account of their Opinions, then they stand together, and combine for their own Defence and Preservation; so that it is not from the Errors them­selves, but from the methods of treating them, that all those Convulsions have arisen, which have so violently shaken Churches and Kingdoms.

But the last and Main thing that is urg'd on this Head is, That no private Understanding is strong enough to find out Truth, in all the points of Religi­on: that it is an indecent and an insolent thing for private men, for Trades­men perhaps, or for Women, to pretend to expound Scripture, or to judge in points of Religion: This feeds Pride and self-conceit beyond any thing that can be imagin'd; whereas a Spirit of Submission and Humility, of thinking others, particularly Superiours, wiser than our selves, has so great a resemblance to the Spirit of the Gospel, and seems to agree so well with the design of this Religion, that we must believe it to be a part of it. This is indeed specious; but after all, it is to be consider'd, that God has made us of such a nature, that our apprehensions of things must determine us whether we will or not; [Page 59] and it is not likely that God would make us as he has done, and yet at the same time so limit our Faculties, that they should not be imploy'd in the Matters of Religion. We naturally love Freedom, and we believe things the more firmly, the more profoundly we have inquir'd into them; when we come to be once fully satisfi'd about them; when we find our selves oft call'd on in the Scriptures to search them, to prove all things, to try the Spirits; when we see a great part of the New Testament was directed to whole Churches, to all the Saints, that is, to the whole Body of the Christians; when so much of it is writ in the Style of one, that argues, that descends from that Aposto­lical Authority by which he might have commanded those he writes to, to receive and rest in his Decisions; and that lays things in their natural Connexi­ons and Consequences before those he writes to; we see in that such an appeal to their Reasons, and that even in the Age of Miracles, in which there was another sort of Characters of the Divine Commission, that render'd the A­postles Infallible; when I say, this Appeal was made to their Reasons and Un­derstandings at that time, it seems much more reasonable, that in the succeed­ing Ages men should have a right to imploy their Faculties in finding out the Sense, and examining the Books of the New Testament.

Here let us consider the state of every Iew at that time, and see if this reasoning for Authority and Infallibility was not then as strong to keep him in Judaism. There was a Controversy between the Apostles and the Sanhedrim, whether Iesus was the Messias, or not? A decision of this was in a great mea­sure to be made from the Prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the Messias, which were urg'd by the Apostles; but the Rabbies, the Scribes and Pharisees, put other senses on these. Now what was a private Iew to do? Must he take upon him to judge so intricate a Controversy? Must he pre­tend to be wiser than all the Doctors of their Law, or the Conveyers of their Traditions to them? Must he set up his Skill and Reason above theirs? Thus we see that if this Reasoning is true, it being founded on Maxims that are equally true at all times, then it was as true at that time as it is now. It is of no force to say, that the Miracles which our Saviour and his Apostles wrought, gave them such Powers, that the people were upon that account bound to believe them, rather than their Teachers: For one part of the Debate was, both the truth of the Miracles, and the Consequences that arose from them. So the Appeal, according to this way of Reasoning, did still lie to their Sanhedrim.

In a word, In such Matters every man must judge for himself, and every man must answer to God for the Judgment that he has made; he judges for no body else, but for himself. He, and He only can be the Judge; and if he uses a due degree of Industry, and frees himself from every corrupt Biass, from Pride, Vain-glory, and affectation of Singularity, or the pursuing any ill ends; under those appearances of searching for Truth, and the adhering to it, he is doing the best thing, which according to that nature of which God has made him, he can do; and so he may reasenably believe, that he shall succeed in it: Nor is there any pride in this, for a man to think according to his own Understanding, no more than to see with his own Eyes. His Humility ought to make him slow and cautious, modest and fearful; but no humility can oblige him to think otherwise than he feels he must needs think.

Among the Works of the flesh, Heresies or Sects are reckon'd as one sort and species. Now by Works of the flesh, are to be understood the appetites of a [Page 60] vicious and depraved nature: the meaning therefore of reckoning Heresies a­mong these is this,5. Gal. 20. That when a man out of a bad disposition of mind, and on ill designs, chuses to to be of a party, he then is a Heretick; but he that in sincerity of Heart goes into persuasions, from an overcoming sense of their Truth, cannot be one, because he does not chuse his persuasion out of a pre­vious ill design; but is of it, not out of choice, but necessity; since his Under­standing, in which those matters may be variously represented, offers them so to him, that he must believe them to be true; in the same manner in which he apprehends them.

If upon this Principle there happen to be many Sects and Divisions in the Church, this is a part of that Wo that Christ left upon the World, by rea­son of Offences and Scandals; for he forsaw that they must needs come. God has made this present Scene of Life, to be neither regular nor secure: The strange Follies and Corruptions of Mankind must have their Influence on Religion, as well as they have on all other things. God has reserv'd a fulness of Light and of unerring Knowledge to another State: Here we are in the dark, but have light enough, if we have honest Minds to use and improve it aright, to guide us thither; and that is the utmost share that God seems to have design'd for us in this Life: we must therefore be contented, and make the most of it that we can.

I go next to shew; That the same Difficulties, if not greater ones, he upon those who build on Infallibility: for before they can arrive at the use of it, they must have well examin'd and be fully assur'd of two things, either of which has greater Difficulties in it, than all those put together with which they press us. First, They must be convinced that there is an Infallibility in the Church; and next, they must know to which of those many Churches into which Christendom is divided, this Infallibility is fastned. Unless the design is to make all men take their Religion implicitely from their Forefathers, these things must be well consider'd: If men are oblig'd to adhere blindly to the Religion in which they were bred, then Iews, Heathans and Mahometans must continue still where they are. If this had been the Maxim of all times, Chri­stianity had never got into the World.

If then men are allow'd to examine things, they must have very good rea­son given them for it, before they can believe that there is an Infallibility among men: Their own Reason and Observation offers so much against it, that with­out very clear grounds they ought not to receive it. Now the reasons to per­suade it, must be drawn either from Scripture, or from outward visible Cha­racters that evidence it. The Scriptures cannot be urg'd by these men, because the Scriptures, as they teach, have their Authority from the Testimony of the Church; Therefore the Authority of the Church must be first prov'd, for the Church cannot give an Authority to a Book, and then prove its own Au­thority by that Book: This is plainly to prove the Church by her own Te­stimony, which is manifestly absurd; it being all one, whether she affirms it immediately; or if she affirms it, by affirming a Book in which it is contain'd; here a Circle is made to run for ever round in, Why do you believe the Church? because the Scriptures affirm it; and why do you believe the Scrip­tures? because the Church affirms them. I do not deny, but they may urge the Scriptures for this, very pertinently against us, who acknowledge their Au­thority: but I am now considering upon what grounds a man is to be instructed, [Page 61] in the stating the grounds of his own Faith, and resolving it into Principles. In this an Order must be fix'd, and in the progress of it, every step that is made must be prov'd without any relation to that, which is afterwards to be proved out of that: and therefore, either the Church or the Scriptures must be first prov'd, and then other things must be prov'd out of that which is once fix'd and made good.

But in the next place, if we should suffer them to bring Proofs from Scrip­ture, how shall it he prov'd that the true sense of them is that which makes for infallibility? Other senses may be given to them, which may both agree to the Grammatical Construction of the words, to the contexture of the Dis­course, and to the Phraseology of the Scriptures: who shall then decide this Matter? It were very unreasonable to prove what is their true Sense by the Exposition that any Church puts on those passages in her own favour; that were to make her both Judge and Party in too gross a manner. Therefore at least th [...]se passages, and all that relates to them, must fall under the private Judg­ment: and in these Instances, every man must be suffer'd to expound the Scrip­tures for himself; for he cannot be bound to submit to any exposition of them, but that which satisfies his own Reason: and if this step is once ad­mitted, then it will appear as reasonable to leave a man all over, to the use of his Faculties; since these passages, and that which necessarily relates to them, will lead a man into the understanding of the hardest parts of the whole New Testament.

If this method is let go, they must prove the Infallibility of the Church by Arguments drawn from some other Visible Characters, by which a man is to be convinc'd that God has made her Infallible: If there were such eminent ones, as the gift of Tongues, Miracles or Prophecies, that did visibly attest this, here were a proof that were solid indeed; It were the same with that, by which we prove the Truth of the Christian Religion: But then, these Mira­cles must be as uncontestedly and evidently proved; they must also belong to this point, that is, they must be Miracles publickly done to prove the truth of this Assertion. But to this Appeal they will not stand, what use soever they may make of it to amuse the weaker and the more credulous. The Cha­racter of an uninterrupted Succession from the days of the Apostles, is neither an easier nor a surer one, since other Churches whom they condemn, have it likewise; nor can it be search'd into by a private man, unless he would go into that Sea of examining the History▪ the Records and Succession of Churches. This is an Enquiry that has in it, Difficulties vastly greater and more insuperable, than all those that they can object to us. If they will appeal to the vast Extent of a Church, that so many Nations and Societies agree in the same Doctrine, and are of one Communion; this will prove to be a dangerous point; for in the state in which we see Mankind, Numbers make a very bad Argument. It were to risque the Christian Religion too much, to ven­ture on a Poll with the Mahometans: In some Ages the Semi-Arrians had the better at numbers, and it is a question, if at this day, those that are within or without the Roman Communion make the greatest body: Nor must a man be put to chuse his Religion by such a laborious and uncertain way of Calculation.

To plead a continuance in the same Doctrine that was at first deliver'd to the Church by the Apostles, is to put the matter upon a more desperate issue: For as no man can hope to see to the end of this, so it lets a man in, into [Page 62] all Controversies; when he is to compare the present Doctrine with that which was deliver'd by the Apostles. Let then any Character be assign'd that shall oblige a man to believe the Church Infallible, and it will soon appear very evidently, that the searching into that, must put the world on more difficult Enquiries, than any of those, that we are pressed with: and that in the issue of the whole, the determination must be resolv'd into a private Judgment.

Another Difficulty follows close upon this, which is, In what Church this Infallibility is to be found? Suppose a man was born in the Greek Church, at any time since the IX. Century, how shall he know that he must seek the Infallibility in the Roman Communion, and that he cannot find it in his own? He plainly sees, that the Christian Religion began in the Eastern parts; and by every step that he makes into History, he clearly discerns that it flourished for many Ages most eminently there; but now that there is a breach between them and the Latins he cannot judge to which Communion he is to adhere, without he examines the Doctrine: for both have the outward Characters of a Succession of Martyrs and Bishops, of Numbers, and an appearance of conti­nuing in the same Doctrine; only with this difference, that the Greeks have the advantage in every one of these: they have more Apostolical Churches, I mean founded by the Apostles, than the Latins; and they have stuck more firm­ly with fewer Additions and Innovations, to their Ancient Rituals, than the Latins have done: How can he then decide this matter, without exa­mining the grounds of their difference, and making a private Judgment upon a private Examination of the Scriptures or other Authorities? If it be said, that the present depress'd and ignorant state of those Churches makes it now very sensible, that there can be no Infallibility among the Easterns. To this it is to be answer'd, that I have put the case all-along from the 9th. Cen­tury downward; In many of those Ages the Greeks were under as good Circum­stances, and had as fair an appearance as the Latins had, if not better: for the outward appearances of the Roman Communion in the next Centuries, the 10th. and 11th. are not very favourable, even by the Representation that their own Writers have made of them; and if we must judge of the Infallibility of a Church by outward Characters, it may be urg'd with great shews of Reason, that a Church which under all its Poverty and Persecutions, does still adhere to the Christian Religion, has so peculiar a Character of bearing the Cross, and of living in a constant state of Sufferings, that if Infallibility be in the Church as a favour and priviledge from God; and not as the effect of hu­man Learning and other Advantages, I should sooner believe the Greek Church Infallible, than any other now in the World.

But when these difficulties are all got over, there remain yet new and great ones. Suppose one is satisfi'd that it is in the Roman Church; he must know where to find it: without this, it is of no more use to him, than if one should tell a hungry man that there is food enough for him, without directing him where to seek for it; he must starve after all that general Information, if he has not a more particular direction. And therefore it seems very absurd to affirm, that the believing of Infallibility is an Article of Faith, but that the proper Sub­ject in whom it rests, is not likewise an Article of Faith. This is the general Tenet of the whole Roman Communion, who that they may maintain their Union, notwithstanding their difference in this, do all agree in saying, that [Page 63] the subject of this Infallibility is not a matter of Faith. This destroys the whole pretension; for all the Absurdities, of no end of Controversies, of private Judg­ment, and every man's expounding the Scriptures, do return here, and the whole design of Infallibility is defeated: For how can a man be bound to sub­mit to this in any one Instance, or to receive any proposition as coming from an Infailible Authority, if he does not know who has it? Thus, according to that Maxim of Natural Logick, that a Conclusion can have no certainty beyond that which was in both the Premises; if it is not certain with whom the In­fallibility dwells, as well as that there is an Infallibility in the Church, all the noise about it will be quite defeated, and of no use: If a man had many Medecines, of which one was an Infallible Cure of such or such Diseases, can it be sup­pos'd that he would communicate these to the World, and tell that one of them was infallible, without specifying which of these was the infallible one? There are some things that look so extravagant, that really it is an absurd thing to suppose them, of which this seems to be evidently one, That God should have left an Infallibility to his Church, and not have declar'd with whom this, the greatest of all Trusts, to which probably many would pretend, was lodged. So that this, which is the general Doctrine of the whole Roman Com­munion, has an absurdity in it that cannot be reconcil'd to common sense and rea­son. Many among them put it in the whole diffusive body of all Christians; to which purpose the words of Vincentius Lirinensis are perpetually repeated; but after all, this is only to abuse people: for if the sense of the Church in all Places and Ages must be sought for, here come endless enquiries, and some of them cannot possibly be made, the History of many Ages and Churches be­ing lost. If this is made the Standard, as the labour becomes Infinite, so after all, it resolves into private Judgment, since every man must judge as he sees cause, and must collect the sense of Ages and Churches from Authors, which as they are often both dark and defective, so he must understand them as well as he can, by his own Judgment and Observation, unless some Infallible Expounder, or Declarer of their Sense, is set up, and then the Infallibility is translated from hence to the Expounder. And indeed, it is so hard to trace a great many points of Controversy, thro even the first and best Ages, that the Church must fall under great Difficulties, if this Hypothesis is assum'd for maintaining the Infallibility. And when all is done, we see by the performances of the Writers of Controversy, that both sides think they can justify themselves by the Ancient Fathers as well as by the Scriptures: So that all these Absurdi­ties that are urg'd against apealing to the Scriptures, or arguing from them, as that to which all Hereticks do fly and in which they shelter themselves, will return here with the more force; because these Writings are much more Volu­minous, and are writ in a much more entangl'd and darker Style; so that these two Objections lie against this way, That it is both vast, if not impos­sible as to the performance of it; and next, that after all the pains that can be taken in it, it is of no use, for private Judgment will still remain; so that Con­troversies cannot be ended in this way. Others are for the diffusive Church of the present Age, and put Infallibility there: for they reckon thus; That every Age of the Church believes as the former Age believ'd, till this is carried up to the Apostles themselves. This is to resolve all matters into Oral Tradition, and to suppose It infallible: and indeed, if we can believe that the generality of Chri­stians have in all Ages been wise, honest and cautious, and that the gene­rality [Page 64] of the Clergy have in all Ages been faithful and inquisitive, we may rely upon this, and so believe an Infallibility: But at the same time, and upon this Supposition, we shall have no occasion for it; since if Mankind could be brought to such a pitch of Reformation, there would be no Controver­sies, and so no need of a Judge to decide them Infallibly: But if we will admit that, which we see to be true, and know to have been true in all Ages, that men are apt to be both ignorant and careless of Religion; that they go easily into such Opinions as are laid before them by men of Au­thority and Reputation; and that they have a particular liking to superstitious Conceits, to outward Pomp, and to such Doctrines as make them easy in their ill practices; then the supposition of every Age's believing nothing but that which it learn'd from the former, falls quite to the ground. If we can also imagine, that the Clergy have been always careful to examine Matters, and never apt to add explanations or enlargements even in their own favours; or if on the contrary, we see a gross Ignorance running through whole Ages; if we find the Clergy to have been ambitious and quarrelsome, full of Intrigues and Interests, then all this general specious prejudice in favour of Oral Tradition, vanishes to nothing. All this will be easier to be conceiv'd, if we state aright the difference between those times and our own. Now, Printing has made Learning cheap and easy, the disposition of Posts, the commerce of Letters, the daily publication of Gazettes and Journals, fill the World with the know­ledge of such things as are now in agitation. But when all was to be learn'd from Manuscripts, Knowledge was both dear and difficult; and the methods of communicating with the rest of the World, were both slow, and often broken; so that this thread of Oral Tradition will not prove a sure Guide.

There is an humour in men to add to most things, as they pass through their hands; if it were but an Illustration, which seems not only innocent, but some­times necessary: Those Enlargements would very naturally be soon consider'd as parts of the Doctrine: and to these in a constant gradation, new Additions might still be made, and Inferences from Illustrations would in conclusion be­come parts of their Doctrine. If I did not limit my self in this Discourse, it were easy to apply this both to the Doctrines of Redeeming out of Purgatory, to those of praying for the dead, or invocating Saints, and the worship of Ima­ges. It is confest by the Assertors of this Hypothesis, that the whole face of the La­tin Church is chang'd both in her Worship and Discipline; tho these are more sensible things, than points of meer Speculation, which in dark Ages could not be much minded; whereas the other are more visible, and make a more pow­erful Impression; besides, that all those changes arise out of some new Opinions to which they related, and on which they are founded: A change then that is confess'd to be made in the one, does very naturally carry us to believe that a change was also made in the other. We do all plainly see, that some Tradi­tions that come very near the Age of the Apostles, and that seem to be Ex­positions of some parts of the New Testament, were chang'd in other Ages. The belief of Christ's reigning a Thousand years on earth, is one of these; for which, tho it is now laid aside in that Church, there is another face of a Venerable Tradition, than for most of their Doctrines. We see a pra­ctice that was very Ancient, and that continu'd very long, which arose out of the Exposition of those words,6. Joh. 5 3. Except ye eat my Flesh, and drink my Blood, ye [Page 65] have no life in you, by which Infants were made partakers of the Eucharist, was afterwards chang'd in that Church; tho it is much less easy to think how that should be done, than almost how any other should be brought about: for those words being understood of an Indispensible necessity of the Sacrament to Sal­vation, and all Parents having naturally a very tender Concern for their Children, nothing but an absolute Authority, against which no man durst so much as whisper, could have brought the world to have parted with this. It were easy to carry this to many other Instances, and to shew, that not only Ritual Traditions, but Doctrinal ones, such as were found on Explanations of passages of Scripture, have varied. It were perhaps too invidious to send men to Petavius, to find in him how much the Tradition of the several Ages has vari'd in the greatest Articles of the Christian Doctrine. It is no less cer­tain, that Origen laid down a Scheme with relation to the Liberty of man's Will, and the Providence of God, that came to be so universally receiv'd by the Greek Church, that both Nazianzen and Basil drew a sort of System out of his Do­ctrine, in which those Opinions were asserted, and large Quotations were ga­ther'd out of him, explaining them with most of the Difficulties that do arise out of them: and as this Book had not only Origen's own Authority to sup­port it, but likewise that of those two great Men who compil'd it; so it passed down, and was the uncontested Doctrine of the Greek Church: But St. Austin being engag'd into Disputes with Pelagius, fram'd a new System that had never been thought of before him; and yet the Worth and Labours of that Fa­ther gave it so a vast Reputation, that this was look'd on in several Ages as the Doctrine of the Church; and Learning vanishing at that time, the Roman Empire being then over-run by Barbarians, his Book came to be so much read, and so universally receiv'd, that it gave no small suspicion, if any one oppos'd his Tenets: yet Cassian, who was a Greek, and was form'd in their Notions, writ a Book of Conferences, which contain'd the Precepts of a Monastick State of life, that were digested in so good a method, and writ with so true an Elevation, that it is perhaps one of the best Books that the Ancients have left us. This came to be held in such Esteem, that all the Monks read it with a particular Attention and Regard. In it the Do­ctrine of Origen and the Greek Church was so fully set forth, that this, and perhaps this alone, kept up a secret opposition to St. Austin's Doctrine, tho that came to receive a vast strengthening from Aquinas and the Schoolmen that follow'd him: and yet at the time that Luther and Calvin, in opposition to the Church of Rome, built much upon St. Austin's Authority, almost all all that writ against them, argu'd according to the Sentiments of the Greek Church: but those of Louvain, and the Orders of the Dominicans and Au­gustinians did so maintain St. Austins and Aquinas's Doctrine, that tho it was not liked, because it seem'd to be too near theirs who were to be condemn'd as Hereticks; yet the Council of Trent seem'd still to stick to St. Austin. Since that time the Iesuits Order, who tho they at first set up for St. Austin's Do­ctrine, yet since have chang'd their minds, and taken themselves to the other side, have by their Influence both at Rome and in other Courts, so chang'd the Sense of the greater part of that Church, that it is plain, tho St. Austin's Name is too great to be openly disparaged, yet they are now generally in the contrary Hypothesis.

This I only instance to shew, that in Speculative Points it is no hard matter [Page 66] to make multitudes go from one Opinion to another, and to alter the Tra­dition of the Church, that is, to bring one Age of the Church to think other­wise than another did. But after all, Oral Tradition cannot be set up as the Judge of Controversies, much less as the living and speaking Judge, it is no real being, nor do we know where to find it: The Tradition of one Body among them differs from another, as in the point of the Immaculate Con­ception of the Blessed Virgin, in which an Opinion has been lately started, which is now receiv'd into all their Rituals, and has given occasion to many Acts of Worship and publick Devotions, which is most expresly contrary to all Ancient Tradition; and yet is become now so Sacred, that the whole Dominican Order feels no small Inconvenience by their being oblig'd, as the Followers of Aquinas, to maintain the contrary. The Traditions of one Na­tion are question'd by another, particularly in this important Point of the Subject of this Infallibility. It is also impossible for any man to find this out; must he suspend his Opinion till he has gone round the Church, to ask every man what he was bred to? This, as it could not be suffer'd, so it could not be so fully found out, as to put a man in the way to end all Controversies; in this a private Judgment must again come in: For tho it were granted that Oral Tradition is a Rule to judge Controversies by, it can never be pretended that it is the living and speaking Iudge that must determine them.

I come now to the two more receiv'd Opinions in this matter; the one puts it in a General Council, and the other puts it in the Pope; and both the one and the other pretend that the Church Representative is in them. As for the pretence of some who seem to make a Third party, and believe it to be in a Council confirm'd by the Pope; this is only a plausible way of putting it wholly in the Pope; for if the Definitions of a Council have no Infallibility in them, till the Pope's Consent and Approbation is given; then it is plain, that all the Infallibility is in him, and that he only chuses to exert it in that solemn way: For either Christ gave it to St. Peter and his Successors, or he gave it not; if he gave it not, that pretension is out of doors; if he gave it to them, we plainly see no Limitations in the grant; and whatsoever Rules or Methods may have become authoris'd by Practice and Custom, they are only Eccle­siastical Constitutions, but can never be suppos'd to limit Christ's Grant, or to give any share of it to others.

It will be to no purpose to object here, That as some Constitutions, our own in particular, are so fram'd, that the Legislative Authority, tho it flows only from the King, yet is limited to such a Method, that it cannot be ex­erted but with the Concurrence of Lords and Commons, so it may be also in the Church; and thus the Pope can only use his Infallibility in Concurrence with a General Council, or at least, that both together are Infallible. But tho human Societies may model themselves as to their Legislation which way they will, this will only prove, that as to the Government and Administration of the Church, she may put her self into such a method as may be thought most re­gular and expedient; and thus the Council of Nice limited the Bishops of a Pro­vince, to do nothing without the consent of the Metropolitan: yet whatever may be done in sub [...]ltern Bodies, where things that are done amiss may be rectifi'd by Appeals, the Supream and last Resort must be left to the full freedom in which Christ has constituted his Church. It must be further consider'd, That Infallibility is not like ordinary Jurisdiction or Legislation, which may be mould­ed [Page 67] according to the conveniences of Society; it is a Priviledge, which if the Church has it at all, she has it by an immediate Grant from Heaven; and so she must enjoy and apply it according to the Ten or of that Grant, and she cannot expect to have it continu'd to her, but as she observes the nature of the Grant. Indeed if it were given her at large, to be modell'd and lodg'd as she pleases, there might be a power in her to limit the use of it to such forms as should be least liable to Exception or Abuse: But either it is granted to a single person, or to the body in general: If it is granted to a single person, then he, and he only has it. He may indeed, if he pleases, in order to his being better inform'd or obey'd, call a General Council; but their proceedings are only preparatory to his using the Infallibility, which is singly in himself: Nor can the Divine Grant be limited as to the exercise or use of it; all such Rules must still be at the Pope's discretion. On the other hand, If the Grant is given to the Community of the Pastors, then the Infallibility must be in them, and cannot be limited or supposed to stay for the Consent of any one Bishop; for whatsoever regard may he had to any one man, by reason of the Dignity of his See, or his other Circumstances; yet still this must be but a point or form of human Prudence: for the Infallibility must be where Christ has placed it, and cannot be transferr'd from thence, or be put any where else: So unless it is said, that Christ has put this Infallibility between Pope and Council in so express a manner, as all Constitutions do, which are under a mixed Legislation, which is not pretended; then it must be lodged either in a General Council, or in the Pope, and cannot be in both. This then is to be examin'd in the next place.

I begin therefore to examine the Plea for the Infallibility of Councils. It is at first no small prejudice against this Opinion, that the Church was Consti­tuted, and had continu'd 300. years before any thing that has the shadow of a General Council was call'd: so if an infallible Judge of Controversies be ne­cessary to the Church, here we see she subsisted, in her hardest times, in which she was the most distrest both by Heresies and Persecutions, without one. We also see, that she has been these last 130. years without one, tho there are warm Disputes among them, both in Speculative and Practical Doctrines, both sides reproaching one another with Heresy: and as there is little prospect of a Council, neither the Court of Rome, nor the Courts of other Princes, who have among them taken away all the Primitive and Canonical Rights of the Church, which an honest Council must desire to regain, being concern'd ever to have one: So if a Council were necessary, it is not very easy to see how it should be brought together. During the Greatness of the Roman Empire, it was in the Emperor's power to have brought the Bishops together at his plea­sure; but now this depends upon the Pope, who summons them, having ob­tain'd the consent of the Princes of Christendom, which is subdivided into many different Soveraignties, This Matter depending then so entirely upon the See of Rome, there is no reason to look for one from them; for they pretending to have the Infallibility in themselves, should very much derogate from that, if they summon'd a Council for a decision in Doctrinal Matters, they being in pos­session of judging these at Rome: And as for Matters of Discipline, except we can imagine, that they will be content to part with that Authority which they have assum'd over all Sees and Churches, and over all the Canons of the Church, we cannot see reason to fancy that they will ever call one. If they should, the [Page 68] consent of all Soveraigns must likewise be obtain'd; for it being a part of the Civil Authority, to keep Subjects within the Princes Dominions, they cannot be oblig'd to send their Bishops and Divines to a Council, unless they please. This is a power which seems to belong to them, it is certain they claim it, and very probably would put it in execution, if that matter came to be con­tested: So here are very great Contingencies to be conquer'd before a General Council can be brought together. Now it is not very likely that Christ should have left so great and so necessary a power to his Church, by which all Con­troversies must be judged, which yet must be at the mercy of so many Ac­cidents before it can be brought to work; and that the bringuing together of those Councils should depend so entirely upon them, against whose Pretensions or Usurpations it seems to be most necessary.

But to go more closely to this Opinion, If the Infallibility lies in a General Council, it is first necessary that we know who are the Members that must constitute this Council; whether the Laity have a right to be in it, and to Judge, or not? We find the Brethren as well as the Elders join'd with the Apostles in that first Council, to which all subsequent Councils pretend they have succeeded, and whose Style, It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us, 15. Act. 23. to 30. is one of the Foundations of this Authority. Why then are the Brethren, or the whole Church, that is, Lay Christians, whom even the Apostles, tho Inspir'd, took to consult and judge with them; Why, I say, are they now excluded? It is also probable, that by Elders or Presbyters, are to be meant those to whom that name was afterwards appropriated; why then are they shut out? In a word, If by a Divine Grant Infallibility belongs to a General Council, we have a just Right to ask for a Definition of the Council, by the same Authority; otherwise we may ascribe Infallibility to those to whom God never meant to give it. Must this Council consist of all the Bishops of the Christian Church? For tho this is both unreasonable, and scarce possible, yet if the Infallibility is given in common to the Pastors and Bishops of the Church, then it will be hard to shut out any from it, if because of their distance, their Age, or their Poverty, they cannot come to it; and if tho a general Summons is pretended, to give all men a right to come, yet it is certain, that only a few of those who have lived at a distance have come, even in the best Ages; those few will either be men of a greater degree, of Wealth, of Heat, or of Health, and will be probably men pickt out by their Princes, as the fittest to serve their ends. Now if the Divine Grant be to the whole Body, it will not be easy to shew, that even the most nu­merous of those Meetings, that pass for General Councils, were truly such. Or if it is said, that those few of remote Provinces come in the name of the rest, and so represent them; it must first appear, whether such a thing as Infallibility can be deputed: indeed where a Controversy is already known, Churches may send men fully instructed in their Doctrine, who may be thereby well impower'd to declare, how the Doctrine and Tradition has been setled among them: But if a Judgment is to be made upon the hearing of Parties, and the discussing their Reasons on both sides, which must be the case, otherwise here is no Infallible Judge; then in that case, men at a di­stance, who never heard the matter, but very generally and partially, can­not do this: therefore such as come to a Council, must have the full power of Judging. We know, that in Fact such Powers or Instructions are seldom [Page 69] given, and in these latter Ages they will not at all be allow'd; for the Bi­shops so instructed, must be consider'd as the Proxies of their Principals, and vote in their name, which is contrary to the practice of all Councils exept that of Basile, and can never be endured at Rome, where every Italian Bishop, tho his See is in some places but a small Parish, is reckon'd in the Vote equal with any of those few that come from great Provinces.

Now these are all Difficulties of such weight, that it will not be easy to settle them with any Divine Warrants, the Scripture being silent as to all such matters. Nor is it clear, whether the whole Council must agree in the same Sentence; or if a major number, tho exceeding by one single voice, is sufficient. If the Council at Ierusalem is insisted on, as the Precedent to other Councils, we see that All agreed there: And if this Infallibility is a power that Christ has left in his Church, as necessary for her Peace and Preser­vation, it may be reasonable enough to suppose, that for giving their de­cisions the more Authority, he should so order this matter by his Providence, that they should all agree in their Judgments: For after all, when a thing is carri'd but by One vote, tho according to the Rules of all Human Courts, it must be good in Law; yet it is not easy to think, that God would lodge such an Authority, and suffer it to turn upon so small and so despicable an Inequality.

In conclusion, It does not appear from the Scriptures, whether in such deci­sions the Bishops should expect a Divine Inspiration, such as that which set­led the Judgment in the Council of Ierusalem, or not. The meaning of those words, It seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to Vs, seems to be this; That as they of themselves were resolv'd on making that decision, so an immediate Inspiration, which was own'd by them all, did finally determine them in their Resolution: Or it may be suppos'd to relate to that Effusion of the Holy Ghost upon Cornelius and his Friends, that being a solemn Declaration, that men might be accepted of God, while they were yet uncircumcised; and that by consequence, the Gentiles were not bound to the observance of those Precepts, which did not oblige any but such as were circumcised. So that what they then decreed, was only a general Inference which they drew from that particular case: And so they made a decision in favour of all the Gentiles, from that which had happened to Cornelius. This is the clearest account that can be given of these words, which understood otherwise, look as if they had added their decision, as the giving a further weight to that made by the Holy Ghost, or as a Vehicle to convey it, which is too absurd to suppose: Now if any build upon that Council, they must make the parallel just, and shew that the Holy Ghost interposes in their Con­clusions.

To all these Considerations we must add this, That the first Councils are to be supposed to have understood their own Authority; or at least the sense of the Church at that time concerning it. They considered the several Pas­sages of Scripture, and framed their Decisions out of them; which were after­wards defended by some who had been of their Body; not as if their Au­thority or Decision had put an end to the Controversy. They urge indeed the great numbers of the Bishops that made those Decisions;Athan. de Deer. Sin. Nicen. but use that rather as a strong Inducement to beget a prejudice in their favour, than as an Au­thority that could not be contradicted. In this strain does Athanasius defend the [Page 70] Council of Nice: For indeed even that of Numbers was to be sparingly urged, af­ter the Council at Arimini, Aug. con. Maxim. l. 3. c. 19. where Numbers were on the other side. The chief Writers of those times make their Appeals to the Scriptures, they bring ma­ny Passages out of them, and are very short and defective in making out the Doctrine of the Church from Tradition, or Fathers. Athanasius names not above four, and these had lived very near that time; two of them, Origen and Dionysius, were claimed by the other Side. There are but few, and very late Authorities, alledged in the Council of Ephesus; and those at Chalcedon made their definition chiefly upon the Authority and reguard to Pope Leo's Letter, in which there are indeed very many Allegations from Scripture, but not so much as one from any Father. Thus it is plain, both from the Practice of those Councils, and the Disputes of those who writ in defence of their Decisions, that it was not then believed that they had any Infallible Authority, since that is never so much as once claimed by any of that time, that I know of, a great deal being said to the contrary by many of them. It is true, there are some high Expressions, both in some of the Councils, and in some of the Fathers of that time, which import that they believed they were directed by God: But this is no other, than what may be said con­cerning any Body of Good and Learned men, who use a great deal of pious caution in forming their Decisions. Therefore great difference is to be made between a plain assuming an Infallible Authority, and Rhetorical Hints of their being guided by the Holy Ghost; the former does not appear, and the latter shews that such as used those ways of speaking, did not think them in­fallible; but they believing that they had made good Decisions, did upon that presume that they were guided by the Holy Ghost.

And thus it appears in a great variety of Considerations, that we have no reason to believe that there is an Infallibility in a General Council, and that we do not so much as know what is necessary to make one. And to sum up all that belongs to this Head, The Decisions of those Councils must have an Infallible Expounder as well, as it is urged, that the Books of the Scriptures cannot be of use to us, if there is not in the Church a living speaking Iudge to declare their true sense. Now this is rather more necessary with relation to the Decrees of Councils, which as they are Writings, as well as the Scriptures, so they being much more Voluminous, and more artificially contrived, and couched, need a Commentary much more than a few plain and simple Wri­tings, which make up the New Testament. If then the Councils must be ex­pounded, there must be, according to their main reasoning, an Infallibility lodged somewere else, to give their sense: And the necessity of this has ap­peared evidently since the time of the Council of Trent; for both upon the Arti­cle of Divine Grace, and upon their Sacrament of Penance, there have been, and still are, great debates among them concerning the meaning of the De­crees of that Council, both Parties pretending that they are of their side. Who then shall decide these Controversies, and expound those Decrees? This must not be laid over to the next General Council, for then the In­fallibility will be in an Abeyance, and lost during that Interval.

So this Inference leads me to the last Hypothesis, That the Infallibility is in the Pope, and in him only. And it must be confessed, that this is the only Opinion that is consistent to it self in all its parts: Here is a living and speaking Iudge, and if he is not Infallible, it is plain that they have no [Page 71] Infallibility at all among them. And yet his Infallibility, as it is a thing of which no man ever dreamt for the first nine or ten Ages, so it has such violent presumptions against it, that without very express proof it will not be rea­sonable to expect that any should believe it. The Ignorance of most Popes, the Secular Maxims by which they are governed, the Political Methods in which they are elected, the Forgeries, chiefly of their Decretal Epistles, by which their Authority was principally asserted, and which are now as uni­versally rejected as spurious, as they were once owned to be genuine; their aspiring to the same Authority in Temporals, for many Ages, which they have gained in Spirituals; their having dissolved the whole Authority of the Primitive Constitutions, and Ancient Canons of the Church, and all that practice of Corruption that is in all their Courts, by which the whole or­der of the Church is totally reversed: All these are such lawful and violent Prejudices against them, that they must needs fortify a man in opposition to any such Pretensions, till it is very plainly proved.

These Characters agree so very ill with Infallibility, that it is not easy to believe they can be together: Since for above 800 years together the Pa­pacy, as it is represented by their own Writers, was, perhaps, the worst Suc­cession of men that can be found in any History; And it will seem strange, if God has lodged such wonderful Power with such a sort of men, and yet has taken so little care of them, to make them look like the proper Subjects of that Authority. We do plainly see, that the Primitive Church, even when they enlarged their Papal Authority, as to Government, did it, what out of a respect to St. Peter, and St. Paul, who they believed founded that Church, and suffered Martyrdom in it; and what, or most chiefly, out of their regard to the dignity of that City, it being the Head of the Empire, under which they lived; and this appeared by their giving the same Priviledges to Constan­tinople, when it became the Imperial City, which was made second to the other, and equal to it, except only in order and rank: But as for the Do­ctrine of the Church, tho still the regard to St. Peter went far; yet when Liberius subscribed to Semiarianism, it was never pretended that his Authority had in any thing altered the case, which must have been urged, if he had been believed Infallible.

The Case of Honorius does fully discover the sense of the Church in the Sixth Century, concerning their Infallibility: He was condemned as a Mono­thelite, by a General Council, which was confirmed by several Popes, who did by name condemn him. Now we are not, a whit concerned in his Cause and Condemnation, whether it was just or not; and whether it was upon a due examination or not; It is enough for us that a General Council, as well as several Popes in that Age, had never dreamt of Infallibility; other­wise they could not have condemned him, or believe him capable of He­resy. This might be brought down to many later Instances, in which several Popes have been charged with Heresy; one shall suffice.

They have pretended to an Authority from Christ, to depose Kings, and to transfer their Dominions to others: This they have not only done by force and violence, but by many solemn Decisions, in which this Authority has been claimed as founded on several Passages of Scripture, not forgetting those, In the beginning, not, In the beginnings, did God create, and the great light that rules the day; these, with many more, they have urged both from [Page 72] the Old and New Testament. This they did with the utmost pomp of solemn Declarations, and upon this Head they filled the World with Wars: Some few writ against these Pretensions, but the Popes stood to them, and carried them on in a course of five or six Centuries with all possible vigour: And during those Ages this Doctrine grew to be universally received by the Learned and Unlearned, by all the Universities, all the Divines, Canonists, and Casuists, not one single Person daring to oppose so strong a Current: So that Cardinal Perron was in the right, when he affirmed that this was the Doctrine universally re­ceived in the Church for the last six Centuries, without contradiction, before Calvin's days; and those few that seemed to write against it, durst only oppose the Pope's direct Power in Temporals as the Superior Lord, to whom Kings were but Vassals, but durst not contradict his Authority over them in case of Heresy.

This then being so publick and uncontested a Point, as it shakes the Autho­rity of Oral Tradition, and shews how Doctrines, even in points in which mens Interests did strongly oppose them, could get into the Church, though not derived down from the Apostles; so it totally destroys the Pope's Pretensions to Infallibility, in the Opinion of all such as think this to be simply unlawful; and that it subverts the Order which God has setled in the World. For there is not any one Fact in History that can be less contested, than that the Popes have assumed this Authority, and that they have vouched Divine Warrants for it.

To this also we may well add another train of Difficulties, about the Right to chuse this Pope; in whom it is vested; what number is necessary for a Cano­nical Election; and how far Simony voids it; and who is the Competent Judge of the Simony; or in the case of different Elections, who shall judge which of the two pretending Popes was truly chosen. It must also be cleared in what form he is to proceed, when Infallibility accompanies his Decisions; whether he may proceed upon his own sense, or with the advice of others, and who these must be; and what Solemnities in the Publication are necessary to make him speak ex Cathedra. Here a great variety of Difficulties arise, which ought to be well cleared to us, before we can be bound to acquiesce in so great a Point as his Infallibility: And we ought to have these things made out by a Divine Authority; for if Christ has made a special grant of Infallibility to the Bishops of Rome, no Forms nor Rules invented by men can limit that. These may be Rules agreed on as fit to be observed; but after all, if a Pope is Infallible, by a Commission from Jesus Christ, he must be believed Infallible, tho he should break through all those Forms, that men have only invented.

It remains then, that we consider those Proofs that are brought to confirm this; since without very good ones, it is extream unreasonable to urge such a Point, or to expect that it should be submitted to. Here all that was said former­ly against proving this matter from Scripture, is to be remembred: But wa­ving that in this place, the Passages that seem to be formal, for the Church in general, are brought to support the Papal Authority: For if great Powers are given to the Church, and if it does not appear that they are any where else, then they must be found in him, he being the Church-Representative. But this is an absurd Imagination, unless they can shew us, that God has lodged that Representation in that See. As for that of 18. St. Matthew 17. for telling the Church, and that such as do not hear it, shall be to us as Heathens and Publicans, it must be confess'd, that these words barely in themselves, and as separated from all that went before, seem to speak out all that they plead for; but when the [Page 73] occasion of them, and the manner that governs them, is consider'd, nothing is plainer, that our Saviour is here speaking only of such quarrellings and differences as may happen to fall out among Christians, who are by these words oblig'd to try all amicable ways of setling them: First by private endeavours, then by the interposition of Friends, and finally, by the Au­thority of that Body or Church to which they belong'd; and such as could not be prevail'd on by those methods, were to be esteem'd no true Chri­stians, but to be look'd on as Heathens, or as very bad men. They might upon that be excommunicated, and prosecuted afterwards in Civil Courts: since they had no right any more to the Tenderness and Charity that ought to be among the Members of the Church. This Exposition has a fair appearance, and looks like being true, to say no more at present, for that is enough, according to what was formerly laid down, since the proofs of such a matter as this is, ought to be full and home: This seems to look more favourable towards the way of the Congregational Churches, in which the whole Assembly of the Brotherhood govern all their Concerns; but does not so much as by a hint seem to favour the pretensions, either of Popes or Councils.

That Character of the Church given by St. Paul, that it is the Pillar and Ground of Truth, is a figurative form of Speech,1 Tim. 3.15. upon which it is never safe to build, much less to lay so much weight upon it: It is a Description that the Iews gave to their Synagogues, and is by St. Paul appli'd to the Church of Ephesus; for it is visible, that it has no relation to the Catholick Church, it being only an enforcing consideration to oblige Timothy to a greater caution in his Behaviour there. It has visibly a relation to Inscriptions that were made on Pillars: but what ever be the strict Importance of the Phrase, it is clear, that it is but a Phrase, and therefore it cannot bear that which is raised upon it.

Some Reflections have been already made on those Promises of Christ to his Apostles, that the Spirit should lead them into all Truth, which plainly related to the infallible Conduct under which they were to be put; but from these words themselves there is no reason to infer, that the Promises were to descend to any after them, they relate to an immediate Inspiration; so if they prove any thing, they prove too much, That the Church must still have in it a suc­cessive Inspiration. It is urg'd, that a parity of Reason leads us to conclude, That this Promise was still to continue, tho not in the same manner, in the Church: But all such Arguments are only conjectural Inferences, and are at best but probabilities; so that there is no arguing from them, and there­fore this can signify nothing.

Those words of our Saviour's, with which St. Matthew concludes his Gospel, Lo I am with you always, even to the end of the world, infer no Infallibility,28. Mat. 20. but import only a promise of Assistance and Protection, which was a necessary en­couragement to the Apostles, who were sent out upon so hard and laborious, as well as dangerous Commission. In both Testaments, by God's being with any, by his walking with them, his being in the midst of them, 2 Cor. 6.16. 13 Heb. 5. his never leaving them, nor forsaking them, no more is meant, but that he watches over them; that he directs, assists and protects them; and there being a vast difference between all this and Infallibility, it can prove noting of that kind.

So that in conclusion, the whole matter must turn upon the words of Christ [Page 74] to St. Peter; for these do not relate to the Church in general, but seem to belong particularly to him: yet there is not so much as a hint given to lead us to apply them to his Successors; nor does he give any himself when he was writing his Second Epistle, not long before his death, since he mentions a Revelation that he had of its being near him; yet he does not in those last Warnings against the Corrupters of this Holy Religion, give so much as a remote Intimation of any Authority that he was to leave behind him for the Government of the Church, and preserving it pure both from Error and Immorality. Nor were these words of Christ's so much as pretended for many Ages, to import any Authority or Infallibility lodg'd with St. Peter's Suc­cessors. I do not now question his being at Rome, tho that matter is really so doubtful, that even there, we are far from any degree so much as of hu­man Certainty. But to go on with those words of our Saviour's to St. Peter, there is one great presumption that lies against any pecular Authority given to him by them, since we see not the least appearance; either in the Acts of the Apostles, or Epistles, of any peculiar Appeals or References made to him: On the contrary, he seems to be call'd to an account for his going to Corne­lius, and baptizing the Gentiles; he only delivers his Opinion as one person in the Council of Ierusalem, but St. Iames gives the definitive Sentence. St. Paul never makes any Appeal to him, in the Contests of which he writes; He settles matters, and makes Decisions, without ever having recourse to his Au­thority. He seems on the contrary to avoid it, and when probably some of the Judaisers among the Galatians were appealing to him, or at least to some practices of his, St. Paul shews how he had fail'd in those matters: for tho the Apostles were so govern'd by Divine Inspiration, that they could not err nor be mistaken in points of Doctrine; yet as to their Actions, they were left to the freedom of their own Wills, and so humane frailty might in some In­stances have prevail'd over them. It is evident from that Epistle, that St. Paul own'd no dependance upon him, nor did he submit in any sort to him, as having any degrees in his Commission or Authority superiour to his own. These are all such pregnant Intimations, as make it more reasonable to give such a sence to those words, as will import no special Authority given to St. Peter, since it does not appear, that either St. Peter or the Apostles them­selves understood them so: for since they persist afterwards to have their Disputes, which of them was the greatest, it is plain, they did not under­stand this to be the Importance of our Saviour's Words; And it is as plain, that no part of the Scripture-History makes for this, but very much against it.

Now as to the words themselves, they begin with an Allusion to his Name, and Phrases built upon such Allusions, are seldom to be strictly and Gram­matically understood.16. Mat. 18, 19. By, Vpon this Rock will I build my Church, many of the Fathers have understood the Person of Christ; others, which amounts to the same thing, faith in him, or the Confession of that faith; for strictly speak­ing, the Church, can only be said to be founded upon Christ and his Doctrine. In a secondary Sense, it may indeed be said to be founded on the Apostles, and upon St. Peter as the first in Order, as well as the forwardest among them: and since the Apostles are all reckon'd Foundations, tho this should be allow'd to be the meaning of these words,2. Eph. 20. which yet is a sense in which they were not taken for many Ages, it will import nothing peculiar to St. [Page 75] Peter. What follows, of the gates of hell's not being able to prevail against it, may either be understood according to the Greek Phrase, Death, which is of­ten thus represented as the entrance to the Grave, which is the signification of the word rendered Hell; and then the meaning is, That the Church which Christ was to found, was never to come to a period, and to die, as the Iewish Religion was then to do: Or by a Phrase common among the Iews, who understand by Gates, the Wisdom and Strength of a Place, since their Court and Councils were held near their Gates, these words may signify, That all the powers of Darkness, with all their force and spite, should not be able to bear down or destroy this Church; but this does not bar any Errors or Corruptions from creeping into any part of it: for the word rendred prevail, properly signifies an entire Victory, by which it should be conquered and extirpated.

As for the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, that Christ promised to give to him, it must again be consider'd, that these words are figurative; so that it is never safe to argue from them, since Figures are capable of larger and narrower Significations. No man will carry them so far, as to think that the power of giving or denying Eternal Life, is hereby put in St. Peter; for that is singly in the Mediator's hands. This shews how difficult it is to know how much is to be drawn from a Figure.

By Kingdom of Heaven, through the whole Gospels, with very few or no exceptions, we find that the Dispensation of the Messias is to be understood; this appears evident from the first words with which both St. Iohn Baptist, and our Saviour begun their preaching, Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand: and this is the sense in which it is taken in all those Parables to which our Sa­viour compares the Kingdom of Heaven; and in those words, the Kingdom of Heaven is among you, and it cometh not with observation, or the like. This being laid down, as that which will soon appear to every one that shall attentively read the Four Gospels; then by the Keys of the Dispensation of the Messias, the most natural and least forc'd signification, and that which agrees best with those words of the same figure, he that hath the Key of the house of David; he that openeth and no man shutteth; and that shutteth and no man openeth:3. Rev. 7. and also with the Phrase of the Key of knowledge, by which the Lawyers were described; for they had a Key with writing Tables given them as the Badge of their Profession,11. Luke. 52. which naturally imported that they were to open the door for others entring into the knowledge of the Law: With which our Saviour reproach'd them, that they entred not in themselves, and hinder'd those that were entring. From all these hints, I say, we may gather, that according to the Scripture-phrase, by the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, is meant, that St. Peter was first to open the Dispensation of the Gospel; which he did in the first preaching of it to the Iews, after the wonderful Pentecost: and this was yet more eminently perform'd by him, when he first open'd the door to the Gentiles: to which the words of the Kingdom of Heaven seem to have a more particular respect. This Dispensation was committed to him, and executed by him, and seems to be claim'd by him, as his peculiar Priviledge in the Council at Ierusalem; so we may safely conclude, that this is the natural meaning of these words, and is all that was to be imported by them; and those who carry them further▪ must use several distinctions, lest they give St. Peter that which be­longs only to our Saviour himself.

What follows concerning the binding and loosing in Heaven, whatsoever he should [Page 76] bind or loose on earth, is no special Priviledge of St. Peter's, since we find the same words said by our Saviour to all his Apostles; so that this was given in common to all the Apostles.18. Mat. 18. According to the sense now given of the King­dom of Heaven, these words will be easily understood, which are otherwise very dark: but they are full of Figures, and so are not to be too far stretch'd. By binding and loosing, we find the Rabbins do commonly understand the affirm­ing or denying the Obligation of any Precept that was in dispute. This then being a common form of speech among the Iews, a genuine Paraphrase of these words is, That Christ committed to the Apostles the dispensation of his Doctrine to the World; in which they should be authoris'd to dissolve the Obligation of the Mosaical Laws, and to confirm such parts of them as were Moral, and perpetually binding; which the Apostles should do, with such visible Characters of a Divine Authority, empowering and conducting them in it, that it should be very evident, that what they did on Earth was ratified in Heaven. These words thus understood, carry in them a plain sense, which agrees well with the whole design of the Gospel; but what­soever may be their sense, it is plain, that there was nothing here peculiarly given to St. Peter.

As for our Saviour's praying for St. Peter, that his faith might not fail, and his restoring him to his Apostolate by a threefold charge,22. Luke 32. feed my sheep or lambs; it has such a visible relation to his fall, and threefold denial, that it is not worth the while to enlarge on;21. Joh. 15. or to shew, that it is capable of no other signification, and cannot be carried further.

And thus I have gone through all that is brought from the Scriptures, for asserting the Infallibility of the Church, and in particular of the Pope's; and have I hope fully shew'd, that they cannot bear that sense, but that they must genuinely bear a plainly different sense, which does no way differ from our Doctrine. It was necessary to clear all this; for tho, as was before made out, it is no proper way for them to resolve their Faith by passages out of Scripture; yet these are very good objections to us, who upon other Rea­sons do submit to their Authority.

There remains but one thing now to be clear'd, which is this; If the Church is not Infallible, it does not easily appear what certainty we can have concerning the Scriptures, since we believe them upon the Testimony of the Church; and we have no other knowledge concerning them, but what has been handed down to us by Tradition: If therefore this is fallible, we may be deceiv'd in our persuasion even concerning them. But here a great difference is to be made, between the carrying down a Book to us, and the Oral Deli­vering of a Doctrine; it being almost as hard to suppose how the one could sail, as how the other should not fail. The Books being in many hands, spread over the whole Churches, and read in all their Assemblies, makes this to be a very different thing, from discourses that are in the Air, and to which every man that reports them, is apt to give his own Cue.

A great difference is also to be made between the Testimony of a Witness, and the Authority of a Judge. If in any Age of the Church, Councils had examin'd controverted Writings, and had upon that past Sentence, this had been in deed a judging the matter, but no such thing ever was. The Codex of the Scriptures was setled some Ages before any Provincial Council gave out a Catalogue of the Books which they held as Canonical: For no ancient Ge­neral [Page 77] Council ever did it; and tho the Canonical Epistles, of which there not being such a certain Standard, they not being addrest to any particular Body that had preserv'd the Originals, were not so early nor so universally receiv'd as the others were, yet the matter was setled without any Authori­tative Judgment, only by examining Originals, and such other Methods by which all things of that nature can only be made out. But this matter ha­ving been so fully consider'd and stated in another Discourse, I shall dwell no longer on it in this.

As for the Authorities which are brought from some of the Ancients, in favour of the Authority of the Church, and of Tradition; it is to be considered, that though the word Tradition, as it is now used in Books of Controversy, im­ports a sense opposite to that which is written in the Scripture, yet Tradition is of its own signification, a general word, that imports every thing which is delivered: And in this sense the whole Christian Religion, as well as the Books in which it is contained, was naturally called the Tradition of the Apostles: So that a great many things said by Ancients to magnify the Tradition of the Apostles, and by way of Appeal to it, have no relation to this matter. Be­sides, when men were so near the Apostolical Age, that they could name the Persons from whom they had such or such hints, who had received them from the Apostles, or from Apostolical men, Tradition was of another sort of Au­thority, and might have been much more safely appealed to, than at the di­stance of so many Ages: Therefore if any thing is brought either from Irenaeus or Tertullian, that sounds this way, here is a plain difference to be observed between their Age and ours, which does totally diversify it.

But to convince the World how early Tradition might either vary or misrepresent matters, let the Tradition not only in, but before St. Irenaeus's time, concerning the observation of Easter, be considered, which goes up as high as St. Polycarps's time. We find, that as the several Churches adhered to the practices of those Apostles that founded them, so they had quite forgot the grounds on which it seems these various Observations were founded: Since though it is very probable, that those who kept Easter on the Iewish day, did it, that by their condescendence to the Iews in that matter, they might gain upon them, and soften their Prejudices against Chri­stianity; yet it does not appear that their Successors thought of that at all, for they vouched their Custome, and resolved to adhere to it; nor is there any thing mentioned on either side, that give us the account of those early, but different Observations. If then Tradition failed so near its Fountain, we may easily judge what account we ought to make of it at so great a distance.

Many things are brought with great pomp out of St. Austin's Writings, mag­nifying the Authority of the Church, in terms, which after all the allowances that are to be made for his diffuse and African Eloquence, can hardly be justi­fied: Yet when it is considered, that he writ against the Donatists, who had broke the Vnity of the Church upon the pretence of a matter of fact, concerning the Ordainers of Cecilian, which had been, as to the point of fact, often judg­ed against them: And yet as they had distracted the whole African Churches, so they were men of fierce and implacable Tempers, that broke out daily into acts of great fury and violence, and had set up a principle that must for ever break the Peace and Union of the Church; which was, that the vertue of all the publick Acts of Worship, of Sacraments and Ordinances [Page 78] depended upon the personal worth of him that officiated; so that his Errors or Vices did make void all that past through his hands. Now when so warm a man as St. Austin had so bad a Principle, and so ill a disposition of mind in view, it is no wonder if he brought out all that he could think on upon the subject; so no wonder if he raises the Authority and the Priviledges of the Church to a vast height: Yet after all, these were not his setled thoughts; for he goes off from them, whensoever he has an eye on his Disputes against the Pelagians; for the System which he had framed in those Points, could not bear with any other Notion of the Church, but that of the persons predestinated, to whom all the Promises belonged. And thus whatever he himself asserts in his zeal against the Donatists, comes to be thrown down, when the Pelagians are in his view; so we see from hence how much deference is due to his Authority in this Point.

The last head relating to this whole matter, is to explain in what the Au­thority of the Church does consist; what it is both in matters of Faith and Dis­cipline. As to matters of Faith, it is certain, that every Body of men is bound to study to maintain its own Order and Quiet, and must be authoris'd to pre­serve it; otherwise it cannot long continue to be one Body. This binds the Body of Christians yet much more, who are strictly charged to love one another, to worship God with one heart and mouth, to be of the same mind and judgment, to assemble themselves together, and to withdraw from all such as cause divisions, or corrupt the great Trust of the Faith committed to their keeping. It must be therefore a great part of the duty of those that are bound to feed the flock, to observe when any begin to broach new Opinions, that they may confirm the weak, and stop the mouths of gainsayers: which as the Apostles themselves did during their own lives; so by the charges that they gave to the Churches in their Epistles, and more fully by those given to Timothy and Titus, it appears that a main part of their Care and Authority was to be employ'd that way. When therefore any new Doctrines are started, or when there arise Disputes about any part of Religion, the Pastors of the Church ought to consider, whe­ther or not it is in a matter of any great consequence, in which the Faith or Lives of men may be concerned? If the point is not of a great importance, it is a piece of wisdom to connive at lesser matters, and to leave men to a just freedom in things where that freedom is not like to do hurt; only even there, care is to be taken to keep men in temper, that they become not too keen in the management of their Opinions; and that they neither disturb the Peace of the Church, nor State, upon that account.

If the matters appear to be great, either in themselves, or in the consequen­ces that are like to follow upon them, then the Pastors of the Church ought to consider them with an equal and impartial mind; they ought to here Parties fully, and weigh their Arguments carefully; they ought to examine the sense of the Scriptures, and of the best times of the Church, upon those Heads, and finally to give Sentence: In which two things are to be considered; the one is, That great regard is due to a Decision made by a Body of men, who seem to have acted without prejudice or interest. For I confess it will be very hard to maintain such a respect for a Company, in which matters are carried with so much Artifice and Intrigue, as even Cardinal Palavicini represents in the management of the Council of Trent, where Bishops were caressed or threatned, well paid, or ill used, as they gave their Voices: Such a proceeding as this will [Page 79] rather inflame, than allay the opposition; but a fair and equitable, a just and calm way of examining matters of dispute, will naturally beget a respect, even in such as cannot yield a submission to their Decrees.

After all, it must be confessed, That no Man can be bound to a blind Submission, unless we suppose an Infallibility to be in the Church; yet Pri­vate Men owe to Publick Decisions, when decently made, a due respect; they ought to distrust their own judgments, and examine the matter more ac­curately: But if they are still convinc'd that the Decision is wrong, they are bound to persist in their own thoughts, only they ought to oppose modestly; to consider well the Importance of Order and Peace, and whether their Opinion, even suppose it true, is worth the Noise that may be made about it, or the Disorders that may follow upon it. After all, If they are still convinced that their Opinions are true, and that they relate to the indispensible Duties of Religion, or the necessary Articles of Christianity, they must go on, as they will answer it to God, upon the sincerity of their Hearts, and the ful­ness of their Convictions: So that the Definitions of the Church may have very good Effects, even when it is not pretended that they are Infallible.

Another thing to be consider'd in those Decisions is, That though they are not Infallible, yet they may have Authority, in this respect, That they are the established Doctrine of such a Body of Christians, who will have no other to be taught among them, and will admit none to be of their Body, or at least to be a Teacher among them, who is not of the same mind. In this, it is certain, great Tenderness and Prudence is to be used, and the natural liberty of Mankind is not to be too much limited: But yet as any Man may fix and declare his own Opinion; so certainly by a much greater parity of reason, any Society or Body of Men may declare their Opinions, and so far fix them, as to exclude all other Doctrines, and the Favourers of them, from being of their Body, or from bearing any Office in it: So that though such Decisions do not enter into Mens Consciences, nor bind them further than as they are convinced by the Reasons and Authorities upon which they are founded; yet they may have a vast influence on the Order and Peace of Churches and States.

As to Rituals, it is certain that there are many little Circumstances and Decencies that belong to the Worship of God, the Order of Religious Assemblies, and their Administrations; and that in these, the Pastors of a Church, by the Natural Right that all Societies have to keep themselves in order, must have a Power to determine all things of this nature. This be­comes yet clearer in the Christian Societies, from the Rules that the Apo­stles gave to the Churches, To do all things in Order, and for the ends of E­dification and Peace. There is not one of the Rules laid down in Scripture, concerning the Sacraments, or the Officers of the Church, to which many Circumstances do not belong; now either these must be all left to every Man's liberty, which must needs create a jarring disagreement, in the se­veral parts of this Body, that would both breed confusion, and look very ridiculous and absurd; or there must be an Authority in the Pastors of the Church to meet together, and to settle these by mutual consent. All the greater Bodies of those who divide from our Constitutions, have some Ri­tuals of their own; so the Dispute in this, must only be concerning the de­grees and extent of this Power: For if any Authority is allowed, it will not [Page 80] be easy to fix any other Bounds to it, but this, that it must not invade the Divine Authority, nor do any thing beyond the Rules and Limits set in the Scriptures; for if there is the least degree of Authority in the Church, the grounds upon which it is founded, must carry it to every thing that cannot be proved to be unlawful. Bare unfitness, though it ought to be a Consideration of great weight when such things are deliberated about; yet when they are once concluded, can be no reason for disobeying them, since the fitness of Order, and the decency of Unity and Obedience, is certainly of much more value, than any special unfitness that can be supposed to be in any particular Instance. So that one of these two must be admitted, ei­ther that the Pastors of the Church have no sort of Authority, even in the smallest Circumstances, but are limited by the Rules of the Scripture, and can only execute them strictly, and not go beyond them in a title; or this Authority must go to every thing that is lawful. On that I will dwell no longer here, the fuller discussion of this matter belonging to another Dis­course,

It is a natural Consequence of the Authority given to the Pastors of the Church, That they having declared and fixed their Doctrine, and having setled Rules for their Rituals, may excommunicate such as either do not live according to the Rules of their Religion, which are a main part of their Doctrine, or do not obey the Constitutions of their Society. Excommuni­cation, in the Strictness of things, is only the Churches refusing to receive a person into her Communion; now as every Private man is the Master of his own Actions, it is clear that every Body of Men must also be the Masters of theirs: And thus, though Excommunication in some respects is declaratory, it being a solemn denunciation of the Judgments of God, ac­cording to the tenor of the Gospel, against persons who live in an open violation of some one or more of its Laws; so it is also an authoritative Act, by which a Church refuses to communicate with such a Person. In this, it is true, Churches ought to make the terms of Communion with them as large and extensive as may consist with the Rules of Religion, and of Order; but after all, they having a Power over themselves, and their own Actions, must be supposed to be likewise cloathed with a Power to commu­nicate with other Persons, or not to do it, as they shall see cause; in which, great difference is to be made between this Power in it self, and the use and management of it: for any Abuses, whether true, or only pretended, though they may well be urged to procure a proper Reformation of them, yet can­not be alledged against the Power it self, which is both just and necessary.

It is not so very clear to state the Subordination in which the Church is to be put under the Civil Power, and how far all Acts of Church Power are sub­ject to the Laws and Policies of those States to which the several Churches do belong. It is certain, that the Magistrate's being a Christian or not, does not at all alter the Case, that has only a relation to his own salvation; for his Authority is the same, whatever his Belief may be in matters of Religion. His design to protect or to destroy Religion, alters the Case more sensibly; for the regards to that Protection, and to the Peace and Order that follow upon it, together with the Breaches and Disorders that might follow upon an ill un­derstanding between Church and State, are matters of Such Consequence, that it is not only meer Prudence, which may give perhaps too strong a Bias [Page 81] to carnal Fears and Policies; but the Rules of Religion, which oblige the Church to study to preserve that Order and Protection, which is one of the chief Blessings of the Society, and a main Instrument of doing much good. Great difference is to be made between an Authority that acts with a visible design to destroy Religion, and another that intends to protect it, but that errs in its conduct, and does often restrain the Rules of Order, and impose hard and uneasy things: Certainly in the latter much is to be born with, that may be otherwise uneasy, because the main is stil safe; and private slips, when en­dured and submitted to, can never be compared to those publick disorders, that a rigid maintaining of that which is perhaps in it self good, must occa­sion. But when the design is plain, and that the Conduct of the Civil Powers goes against the Truth of Religion, either in whole, or in any main Article of it, then the Body of the Christians of that State ought to fortify them­selves, by maintaining their Order, and their other Rules, in so far as they are necessary to their preservation.

Upon the whole matter, it does not appear that the Church has any Au­thority to act in opposition to the State, but meerly in those things in which the Religion that she professes is plain and positive; so that the Question comes to be really this, Whether is it better to obey God, than Man? There the Rule is clear, and the Decision is soon made: So when the Church acts meerly in obedience to Rules and Laws laid down in Scripture, such as, in declaring the Doctrine, in administring the Sacraments, and maintaining the setled Officers of the Church, she is upon a sure Bottom, and must cast her self upon the Providence of God, whatever may happen, and still obey God; but in all things that have arisen out of ancient Customs and Canons, in every thing where she has not a Law of God to support her, I do not see any Power she has to act in opposition to Law, and to the Su­preme Civil Authority.

In this the constant practice of the Iews is no small Argument; whose Sanhedrin, that was a Civil Court, and the Head of their State, did give Rules and Orders, which their Priests were bound to obey, when not con­trary to the Law of God. We are sure this was the Rule in our Saviour's time; and it was never censured nor reproved by him, nor by the Apostles. The Argument is also strong, that is drawn from the constant practice of the Church, from the time that she first had the protection of the Civil Authority, till the times of the Papal Domination, in which we find, the Emperours all along making Laws concerning all the Administrations of the Church: we find them receiving Appeals in all Church matters, which they appointed such Bishops as hapned to be about their Courts, to examine: This was like our Court of Delegates; for the Bishops, who judged those matters, did not act according to Canon, or by the Ecclesiastical Authority, which had put the Church in a stated line of Subordination, according to the divi­sion of the Provinces of the Empire: They acted only by an Imperial Autho­rity; so that though they were Bishops, they acted by the Emperor's Com­mission. Such Authorities as these, drawn from the practices of the Iewish and the Primitive Church, are at least strong Inducements to believe this to be true. But the Argument that seems to determine it, is, That Men cannot be obliged to obey two different Authorities, that may happen to con­tradict one another; this were a strange distraction in Mens Thoughts and [Page 82] Consciences, and therefore it cannot be supposed that God has put them under such a divided Authority; for all Temporals will easily be fetched within an in ordine ad spiritualia. Since then every Soul is bound under the hazard of damnation to obey the Supreme Powers, we must be bound to obey their Laws in every thing that is not contrary to the Law of God; which seems to be the only Limitation that this can admit of. That settles this whole matter, which otherwise must be ravelled out into vast Intri­cacies; and yet it must be supposed for certain, that the Rule for Mens obedience must be distinct and fixed.

To conclude this whole matter; The best and surest way for preserving the Order and Authority of the Church, as well as its Peace and Prospe­rity, is for the Clergy to live and labour so, to be so humble and mo­dest, so self-denied and heavenly-minded, that from thence the Laity may be brought to see, that whatsoever Power they have, will be employed for the Publick good of the whole. This will make them to be less jea­lous, and more submissive; and this will secure to them, most commonly, the protection and encouragement which they may expect from the Civil Powers; who will be apt to have regard to their Clergy, according to the esteem which they observe their other Subjects have for them.

Concerning the OBLIGATIONS To continue in the COMMUNION of the CHURCH.

THERE is nothing that concerns the Peace and Order of Churches, and indeed the quiet and good Government of Mankind more, than rightly to understand our Obligations to continue in the Communion of that Church in which we were born, or which is the main Body of that Society of Christians among whom we live. The extreams in this matter are dangerous on both hands. A lazy Compliance with every thing that is uppermost, because of the Law and Advantages that may be on its side, and an implicite believing and receiving of every thing that happens to be proposed to us, does on the one hand depress our Faculties, render us so easy to every Form in Religion, that we become at last indifferent to all, and concerned in none; it makes way for tyranny in those that govern, and sinks those that are governed into a sottish stupidity. On the other hand, a wanton cavilling at every thing, thebreaking of an Established Order, the making Divisions, and the drawing of Parties, the quarrelling about nicer points of speculation, or some lesser matters in Rituals, do occasion much passion and animosity, they take men much off from the great ends of Religion, they divide Christians from one another, and sharpen them against one an­other; all which are Evils of so high a nature in themselves, and in their Consequences, that it will be of great advantage to find so true a mean in this matter, that in it we may avoid the mischiefs of both extreams.

The foundation then to be laid here, is first, to consider the natural obli­gation that all men, who are united by any common Bond, come under to maintain a cordial affection, and a mutual good understanding among them­selves; both as it is an instrument to preserve and strengthen their Body, and as it makes such a Body of men easy and happy. But this, that is a consi­deration [Page 84] common to all joint Bodies of men, becomes much stronger in the Christian Religion; one of its main designs being to knit mens hearts to one another, by a tenderness of brotherly kindness and charity, our Saviour having made this the distinction,13 Joh. 35. by which all the world might know who were his disciples, and who were not so. And all his Apostles, have in every one of their Epi­stles, not excepting the shortest, prest this in such a variety of copious and most earnest Directions, that whosoever reads the New Testament carefully, must see that this is enlarged on beyond all the other Duties of our Religion, and prest in the most comprehensive words, and with the most enforcing considerations possible, the chief of all being the love which our Saviour himself bare to us; in imitation of which, he has required us to love one another, to love enemies, to pass by, and to forgive injuries, doing good for evil; to relieve the necessitous, and have bowels of compassion for all men.

This is a main part of the glory, as well as of the duties of our Religon. To advance this, and to endear us to one another, we are obliged to pray with, and for one another, we are bound to assemble our selves together, that by our seeing of one another, and meeting in the same Acts and Duties of Religion, our love and union may become stronger, and more firmly cemented. Sacra­ments are sacred Rites, instituted not only to maintain our Devotion towards God, as Acts of Homage and Solemn Vows made to him, but likewise as Bonds to knit us together, as well as to unite us to our Head: And it is no small con­firmation of all this, that our Saviour in his last and longest Prayer to the Father, when he was interceding for his Church, has repeated this Prayer so often, no less than five times,17. St. Joh. verses 11, 21, 22, 23. in no very long Prayer, that they might be one, and be kept and made perfect in one; and the Unity prayed for is so sublime, that it is compared to that unconceivable Unity or Union that was between the Father and the Son; and by this the world was to be convinced of the truth of his Religion,Verse 23. That the world might believe that the Father had sent him.

More needs not be said upon this Head to make it evident, that it is of the greatest importance to the Christian Religion, to maintain an entire union a­mong its Members; and that the chief mean of doing this, is their uniting themselves in the same Acts of Worship. Now the only Question that will remain, will be, How far must this go? and the only Answer that can be made to it, is, That it must go, till the Body, in which we happen to be engaged, imposes unlawful terms of Communion on its Members: In that case we must remember, that it is better to obey God than man; and that we must seek peace and truth; since an Union on unlawful terms is a combination against God and his Truth, and is no piece of Christian Charity. This will be agreed to on all hands in the general. So I will go next to examine the Pretences for disjointing this Union among our selves, and see whether the main Body among us, I mean our Church, has imposed unlawful terms of Communion on her Members; for if that is true, we by so doing have broke this Union: or whether any who have separated from us, have not done it upon less binding Considerations, for then they have broken the Union.

This I will manage with all possible fairness, and without the least refle­ction on Persons and Parties. I will state their grounds, and put their Argu­ments, with the utmost force that I can apprehend belongs to them; and [Page 85] when I have weighed them, I will leave the whole matter to an Impartial consideration. The first point, in which every man must fix his thoughts, is, that it is not free to him to chuse to which Body he will join himself, as it is free to him to chuse in which Parish he will settle himself; for since all Pa­rishes make but one Communion and Church, the one cannot be compared to the other: And if all that was said before, is true, then certainly it is not law­ful for any man to break the Union of the Body, unless he is persuaded that it cannot be maintained but upon unlawful terms. Therefore except a man is under this persuasion, he sins if he departs from the Union of the Body. But since Conscience is a word that may be used in the following part of this Discourse, its true notion ought to be well setled; which is, according to the natural signification of the word, in all Languages, an inward persuasion, founded upon some reason, apprehended to be true, concerning the lawfulness or unlawfulness of a thing. By this it will appear, that a bare aversion or dislike to a thing, without any reason on which that dislike is grounded, cannot be called Con­science; since things with which we are not acquainted, or that are uncouth to us, which we have often heard spoken against, are disliked by us, through a habit or prejudice conceived against them: but unless this is founded upon some reason, that appears to us true, drawn either from the nature of things, or from the Scriptures, it is not Conscience. I do not say, that every man under these Convictions must be able to maintain those his Reasons to others, to be just and good; for then a better Arguer, who can silence him, should be able to alter his Conscience: But though he cannot answer Objections, yet as long as his Persuasion appears to be well grounded to himself, such a man is still under the bonds of his Conscience. I am not now to examine how far an erring Conscience obliges, or at least excuses, it is enough to have stated in general the true Notion of Conscience, by which every man that does not intend to deceive himself, may certainly know, whether he is really under the persuasions of Conscience, or if he is only guided by Humour, Conceit, or the power of Education and Prejudice.

The main Foundation out of which most of the Objections against some of the Terms of our Communion are rais'd, is this, ‘That the Church is only empower'd to execute those Rules and Orders that are set Christians in the Scriptures; That the pretending to add to these, is to accuse the Scrip­ture as defective; That all Additions to those Rules set us in Scripture, are Superstitious Usages; That they impose a yoke upon us, and so deprive us of our Christian Liberty; That if some Rites may be added, others upon the like reasons may be also added to these, and so on without bounds, as in Fact it appears; That when the Church went once off from the first simplicity, in which the Apostles deliver'd the Christian Religion to the World, and that new Rites were invented to beautify the Worship, these Additions did at last swell up to that intolerable height in which they are now in the Church of Rome. In Religious Matters, it is not enough, according to St. Paul's Rule, that a thing is lawful, it must also be expedient: But for that pretended expediency which is alledged for some Rites, that they are expressive and signi­ficant, it is rather an Argument against them; for a significant Ceremony is of the nature of a Sacrament, the common definition of which,1 Cor. 10.23. that it is a visible sign of an invisible Grace agreeing to it; and certainly the appointing Sacraments is above the power of the Church, and can belong only to Iesus [Page 86] Christ, who is its Head and Founder. But all this is in appearance the stronger, if Rites so enjoin'd have been abus'd to Idolatry, and are parts of an Idolatrous Worship: To retain these, is to conform our selves to it, tho the Scriptures command us to come out from among all such, and not to be conformable to them. Hezeki [...] broke the Brazen Serpent, tho a Memorial of a signal Miracle,2 Kings 18.4. in which it had been in some sort an Instrument, yet when even that was abus'd to Idolatry, a good King broke it to pieces. This will hold stronger against things that are but of human Institution, That they ought to be taken away, how innocent soever they may be in them­selves, after they are grosly abus'd. To keep up the use of such things, is to scandalize and offend the weaker Christians, tho St. Paul lays great weight upon this, and charges all Christians not to lay a stumbling-block in one anothers way;14. Rom. 13. [...] he calls the doing otherwise, the destroying a weak Brother; and in con­clusion, since St. Paul said, whatsoever is not of faith, is sin, these Rites there­fore not being warranted from Scripture,Vers. 23. cannot be of Faith, the Object of which is a Divine Revelation; they must therefore be sinful.’

And thus I have set down all the Branches of the Plea against Ceremonies, with as much advantage as I can imagine belongs to them. I go therefore in the next place to take it to pieces, and to examine the strength of the whole, and of every part of this Reasoning, that, as must be acknowledg'd, wants not fair and specious colours.

The main stress lies upon this, Whether the Church in her Rituals is so li­mited to the Scriptures, that she has no power to add any thing to what is prescribed in them? Great difference is to be made between matters of Doctrine, Rules of Life, Foederal Acts, together with the other Acts of Worship which are parts of the New Covenant, or conditions of it; and some Ritual Appointments, such as the Circumstances of those Instituted Acts, the forms for the Solemn Acts of Worship, together with some other Insti­tutions which are helps to Devotion, and do fix or raise the attention. For the former sort, it is confess'd, That Christ and his Apostles having deli­ver'd this Religion to the World, it must continue in the same state in which they setled it, without additions or variations: but since all instituted Actions must be determined by the Circumstances of persons, places, times, words and postures, these must be all manag'd with such Deceency and Beauty, as may carry on the Order and Edification of the Church; and since some Actions seem to have a very natural tendency to give good Impressions, and to raise a seriousness and awe for Divine Performances, these may be also ap­pointed by those who are to feed, teach and guide their people.

We see the Iews, tho their Religion seems to have in it a sufficient share of Rituals, did add a great many Ceremonies to those which Moses gave them. They had in their Pascal-Supper a thick sawce of Dates, Almonds and Figs, pounded together, and wrought up into the form of Clay, to remember them of the Clay of which their Fathers had made Bricks in the Land of AEgypt; and yet our Saviour observ'd this Paschal-Supper with the same addition: for this was probably the sawce into which Iudas dipt the Sop. They had likewise a form of Initiating Proselytes into their Religion by Baptism, not mention'd in the Old Testament; and after this Paschal-Supper, the Table was spread a second time, and nothing but Bread and Wine was set on it: yet tho these two last mention'd were Rites added by them to the Divine Institution, our Saviour was [Page 87] so far from condemning them for those additions, that he took these, and hallow'd them to be the two Foederal Rites of his own Religion: Nor does he so much blame the Pharisees for the observation of those Rites which Tradition had handed down to them, as because they set that value on them, as to make the Laws of God of no effect upon their account, when those voluntary assum'd Cere­monies were preferr'd by them to the Moral Law it self; so that the over-va­luing of Rituals, and the imagining that by them Compensation can be made to God for the weghtier Matters of the Law, Faith, Justice, and the Love of God, is indeed severely reprimanded by our Saviour; but the bare observance of them is no where censur'd by him. On the contrary, The whole service of the Synago­gues was only a human Institution, no print of any Divine Precept appearing for it in the whole Old Testament; yet our Saviour came to their Synagogues, and bore a share in the Acts of Worship that were perform'd there. A Feast was Instituted by the Maccabees, in commemoration of their having purg'd the Temple from Idolatry, which was observ'd by our Saviour; and the whole New Testament is full of allusions to some Forms and Rites which were their practised by the Iews in their Worship, tho no where instituted in the Old Testament.

There are also some Precepts given in the New Testament about Ritual Mat­ters, which are now taken away only by disuse; that is, by the Authority of the Church that has discontinu'd the practice of them: such is the Decree that the Apostles with the rest at Ierusalem made against the eating of meats strangled, 15. Act. 9. or offered to Idols, or of blood; which as they are join'd with Fornication, so the prohibition of them is reckon'd among necessary things; yet these are now no more consider'd, as forbidden, that prohibition being lookt on either as a compliance with the Iews, in those precepts which they believe were given to the Sons of Noah; or as a direction to keep the Christians at a due distance from all compliances with the Gentiles in their Idolatrous practises. And now that all regards to the Iews have ceased with God's rejecting them from being his people, at the destruction of Ierusalem, and all danger of coming too near the practices of the Gentiles, is likewise at an end, we living no more among Heathenish Idolaters; the nature of the things prohibited by that Decree, not being evil in themselves, when the ground of the Prohibition ceases, all men reckon that the Prohibition must be at an end. Here then the Authority and Practice of the Church seems to be strong, even in bar to an Apostolical De­cree; and none of those Bodies that are offended at our Rituals, have revived this: So at least this Argument is of force against those who do it not; for certainly a greater degree of Authority is necessary to take away a practice that has the face of a plain Commandment in Scripture enjoining it, than for ad­ding such Rites as are recommended by new Emergencies. To this may be added the Practice and Rules given by the Apostles concerning Deaconesses: Phoebe and others are mention'd that serv'd in that Function. St. Paul also in the Rules that he gives concerning the Age, the Qualifications and the Fun­ctions of the Widows, seems plainly to mean them; and we do certainly know,16. Rom. 1. 1 Tim. 5.9. that they were in the first Ages of Christianity, and were imploy'd in the In­struction, and about the Baptism of such women as were converted to the Faith. But when afterwards some Scandals rose upon them, as the Council of Nice prohibited the Clergy to keep any women that were not very nearly related to them, in their houses; so in the Fifth Century, upon some publick Scandals [Page 88] given by them, we find, that as they were put down in the Western Church by several Provincial Synods, so they insensibly wore out of the Greek Church; and yet none in our days have endeavour'd to revive this Institution. The kiss of peace was likewise us'd in the Apostles times, and is mention'd in their Epistles; yet that Rite being perhaps made use of by prophane Scoffers,1 Pet. 5.14. 16. Rom. 16. to represent the Assemblies of the Christians as too licentious, for the black and unjust Imputa­tions cast on their Meetings seem to have no other Foundation but this,1 Cor. 16.20. it wore out of practice; and I do not hear that any in our days have endeavour'd to bring it again in use.2 Cor. 13.12. We see likewise, that they had Love-feasts before the Eucharist, which was taken from the Iews; and tho St. Paul complains of some abuses in this practice,1 Cor. 11.21. he does not condemn it, nor order it to be let fall; yet it wore out, and is not now offer'd to be reviv'd by any among us. Thus we see, that as to Matters that are expresly mention'd in Scripture, with warrants that seem to impose them as standing Rules upon succeeding Ages, the abuses or unfitness which afterwards appear'd in them, were thought sufficient Rea­sons for departing from them.

To these Instances another may be added, that must needs press all that differ from us, one Body only excepted, very much. We know that the first Ritual of Baptism, was by going into the Waters, and being laid as dead backwards all-along in them; and then the persons baptized were rais'd up again, and so they came out of them. This is not only men­tion'd by St. Paul, but in two different places he gives a Mystical Signi­fication of this Rite; that it signified our being buried with Christ in Baptism, and our being raised up with him to a new life;6 Rom. 3, 4, 5. so that the Phrases of rising with Christ, and so putting on Christ, as oft as they occur, do plainly relate to this:2 Col. 12. and yet partly out of modesty, partly in regard to the tenderness of Infants, and the coldness of these Climates, since such a manner might en­danger their lives, and we know that God loves mercy better than sacrifice, this form of baptizing is as little used by those who separate from us, as by our selves.

If we consider only the words of the Scripture, without regarding the sub­sequent practice of the Church, we see reason enough to imagine, that the washing of feet should be kept up in the Church. We have our Saviour's practice for it,13. John 14, 15. and words that seem to import an obligation on us to wash one anothers feet, together with the moral use and signification of it, that it ought to teach us Humility. From all these things this Inference seems just, That according to the practices of those who divide from us, the Church must be suppos'd to have an Authority to adjust the Forms of our Religion, in those parts of them that are meerly Ritual, to the Taste, to the Exigencies and Conveniencies of the several Ages and Climates. I say in things that are meerly Ritual; for I do not think that these Instances can justify a Church that should alter any main part of a Foederal Rite instituted by Christ, such as the giving the Chalice in the Sacrament; since this Institution is deliver'd with so particular a Solemnity, and in express words is appointed to be con­tinu'd till Christ's second coming; and the Cup is given as a Seal of the New Cove­nant in his blood, for the remission of sins; which therefore all are requir'd to drink.

We are to consider, that in matters that are meerly Ritual, unless we sup­pose that Charms are ti'd to particular Rites, there could be no other design in them, but to secure some good purpose, or to keep off some bad practice [Page 89] by those outworks: If then the state of Mankind does so alter, that what is good in one Age, is liable to abuse, mistake or superstition in another; there must be suppos'd to be a power in the Pastors of the Church, to alter or add as they see real occasions or good warrants for it. Outward appearances work much on Mankind; things that look light, must dissipate men's Thoughts, as much as graver methods do recollect them. Dancing in the praises of God, would look very wild now; but in other Ages it had a better effect. Since therefore the Christian Religion was to last to the end of the World, and to be spread to very different Climates; and since there is no special Rubrick of Forms digested in it; since there is also no Limitation put upon the Church in this point, but rules are given that sound very much to the contrary, of doing all things that tend to Order, Edification and Peace;14. Rom. 19. this great prejudice seems to be fully taken off and answer'd.

Nor do such Institutions lead to Superstition, but rather to the contrary.1 Cor. 14.26, 40. Superstition, in its strict Notion is a baseness of mind, that makes us fear with­out cause, and over-value things too much; imagining that there is more in them than really there is. If things that are ritual were unalterable, there might be from thence more occasion given to Superstition, according to the conceit of the Iews, who thinking that their Rites were unalterable, came to fancy from thence, that there was a real value in them, which upon their own account render'd men the more acceptable to God: Superstition is more effe­ctually beat down by the opinion of the alterableness of all external forms, ac­cording to the different Exigencies of times and places; since this shews, that Rites are only matters of Order and Decency, which have no real value in them, because they are alterable. If any grow superstitious in the observance of them, this is an abuse to which all things, even the most Sacred, the Sacra­ments themselves, are liable.

It can as little be said, That these Rules in Ritual Matters are Impositions on our Christian Liberty; they are rather the exercise of a main part of it,5. Gal. 1. which is our not being tied up so strictly by a Law of Commandments, as the Iews were. The Notion of Liberty, as it is stated by St. Paul, is the Ex­emption under which Christians were brought from the Precepts of the Mo­saical Law: for those who asserted the standing Obligations of that Law, were bringing Christians under a heavy Yoke, in opposition to which, the Apostles asserted their Liberty. But it is likewise a true piece of Liberty, and a very necessary one for the Societies of Christians, to have among them a power of of using or forbearing to use, such external things, as do either advance or obstruct the main ends of Religion. That some Churches may abuse, and that others have abused this Authority by carrying it too far, and imposing too great a load of external performances, is not to be denied: The number of them may become a vast burden, and a distraction rather than a help towards the main Design of Religion. Ludicrous Rites beget [...] prophaneness, and Pom­pous ones and undue gaity: But the apprehension of an abuse in the extent of an Authority, cannot justify the quarrelling at a few Rites, when it is visible there is no disposition to swell or encrease them. If every year were producing some new Rite or other, there might be good ground to fear, that there would be no end of such Impositions; but this cannot be appli'd to our Cir­cumstances. It is also a question, whether in case that there were indeed too many Rites enjoin'd, every one of which were innocent in it self, so that no [Page 90] special Objection lay against any one, but against them all, as too many; whether, I say, in such a case, private persons were not oblig'd rather to bear their burden, than by shaking it off, to rend the Body, and disturb the Peace and Order of the Church? It seems they ought rather to bear it: The Rulers of a Church have indeed much to answer for, who press her too hard, with burdens that are both useless and heavy to be born; but the obligations to Peace seem to conter-ballance this inexpediency. For tho private persons must judge for themselves, whether things requir'd of them are lawful or unlawful, and must act accordingly; yet Expediency or Inexpediency is only to take place, in cases in which they are entirely at their own disposal, and where the rules of Pru­dence or Charity can only determine them. But where the quiet and order of the Body is concern'd, Publick orders and determinations being interpos'd, they are not to depart from those, upon their conceiving them inexpedient; for it is certainly more inexpedient and mischievous to break Publick Order, than it can possibly be to practice any Rite, which perhaps if left free to us, might seem not expedient, and were better let alone. The expediency of Forms and Rites is a very proper Subject of publick Consultations; and those who are concern'd in them, will have much to answer for to God if they do not weigh this, together with all that counterbalances it, very critically: but in a setled state of things, exceptions to the expediency of them can never justify the interrupting the Order and Quiet of the Society.

On of the chief of these Expediences is, that those Rites have a real tenden­cy to make good Impressions on peoples minds; that they put those who practice them in mind of their duty; so that there is some good signification in them. The objection against Significant Ceremonies, as being of the nature of Sacra­ments, will appear to be founded on a great mistake: If we state a little the difference between the signifying or expressing some part of our duty, with such proper acts of our minds, as do become the occasion, and the signifying some blessing that is offered or conveyed to us by God, in the use of that Action; The former is far from the nature of a Sacrament; and indeed is only a mute way of speaking: For actions as well as words may become institu­ted Signs to express our thoughts. But indeed if we should fancy, that such Rites did offer or convey into our minds those things that are signifi'd by them, as a foederal Institution, to which a Divine Vertue were annexed, this were to consider them as Sacraments; the Institution of which is unquestionably be­yond the power of the Church: but it is quite another thing, when Rites are appointed as means only to raise in our minds suitable and corresponding thoughts.

To instance this in one particular; If we pretended that by the use of the Cross in Baptism, a divine vertue were conveyed to the Person baptized, that deadned him more entirely to the World, and wrought him up to a greater conformity to Christ; then here were a new Sacrament set up, which could not be justified: But when it is only meant, as an exhibiting the form of the Cross of Christ, to put us in mind of our obligation to imitate him, and to suffer for him; here is only a Rite that speaks to us in an [...]ction, which is explained by the words that accompany it.

It is more important which is urged from the abuse of Rites to Idolatrous Practices: This was the first objection that was started among us against the Habits in the Worship of God; and had without doubt a very plausible appear­ance; [Page 91] since a great part of the Mosaical Law seemed to be the establishing many Rites, merely to put them in a great opposition to the Gentiles, and to set them at the vastest distance possible from their Idolatrous or Magical Practices: Yet at the same time many others of those Instituted Rites, are by some very Learned Men proved to have been taken from other Practices of the same Idolaters, that were more innocent in themselves, tho abused, as the rest of their Rites were, to Idolatry. The Iews had certainly very much cor­rupted their Religion by the addition of many Rites, and by their over valu­ing those Additions: And yet two of these were made use of by our Saviour to be the Sacraments of his Church. But besides this, a great difference is to be made between Rites that were in their first use invented for the pomp of Idolatry, and were in their first use applied to it, and those which had been in use long before those Idolatrous Practices begun, and were afterwards applied to them. In these last, if their abuse is taken away, and the first and simple usage is revived, this seems to be no compliance with either Idolatry or Superstition. To go on with the former Instance; we find the Primitive Christians used the making a Cross in the Air, or upon their Bodies on many occasions; afterwards, when a Divine Vertue was fancied to accompany that Ritual Action, it was used in Baptism as a sort of Incantation; for with the use of it, the Devil was adjured to go out of the person that was to be baptized; such an usage made it a Sacramental and a Superstitious Action; and if it had been still retained in that form, as it was in the first Reformation of our Li­turgy in King Edward the VIth's time, I do not see how it could have been justified; but since it had been an ancient Form to use the Sign of the Cross, the Church might well have retained this in some of her Rites; and it belonged to none of them so properly, as to the Initiatory Sacrament, in which the first use of it was retained, and the succeeding abuse was laid aside. Since also we find that the Primitive Christians received the other Sacrament in the posture in which they prayed to God; and since the posture in which all our Prayers are now made, is kneeling, it might be very proper to go through this whole Office from beginning to end, in the posture of Prayer: But this could not be so well excused if the posture were left free till the Consecration; and if then only kneeling were required, this were indeed to continue a practice that had been abused by Idolatry, which could not be justified: So that the abuse of Forms may require the altering them from that method in which they were abused, but cannot import an obligation to abstain wholly from the use of them in another method. It may be a very just matter for a publick delibe­ration, whether such things ought to be retained, they being freed from such Abuses, or not. On the one hand, The People who are apt to be much struck with a total change of outward Forms, especially when that is suddenly made, may be more easily brought about, if the Alterations are not too sen­sible, but that some things seem to remain, to which they had been accu­stomed, and for which they retained a value. Now since Mankind is so weak, that some lesser Frailties ought to be indulged, while more Criminal ones are not to be spared, here was a very specious ground to persuade the continuance of those Rites; and that the rather, because we find the Apostles themselves complied with the Iews in Instances of a much higher nature.16 Acts 3.21 Acts 24. 1 Cor. 9.20.

They circumcised some; they observed Iewish Rites, and to the Iews they became Iews, as they became all things to all men. St. Paul took vows on him, [Page 92] and went to the Temple to be purifi'd, which could not be done but with a Sacrifice: And though he still stood upon the exemption of the Gentiles from the obligations of their Law; yet he himself, together with other born Iews, complied with them in their Observances. Now when it is considered, that these were typical Laws that were accomplished by the coming of our Sa­viour, and that the Iews pleaded still for the continuance of them, so that it was indeed the main controversy of that time; it will appear, that the com­pliance of the Apostles in such things, was liable to much juster Objections than any that can be brought against obedience to Constitutions, that are about things of their own nature innocent and indifferent. But yet we see the Apostles judged, that as long as the Temple stood, and that God's Wrath was not yet poured out on that Nation, there were still some among them, that as a remnant were to be gained to Christianity, and therefore while there was ground to hope for that, they went on in that condescention to their infirmity, observing that very Low which was then maintained by the Iews with the highest insolence and cruelty possible against Christ and his Followers. When this Point is well weighed in its full extent, and in all its consequences, it will, I hope, satisfy many, how far so great an end as the publick Peace, and the edification of the whole Body, ought to be pursued, when the Apostles went so far in order to the gaining of a few.

And here it will be no impertinent digression, to observe the Rules that St. Paul lays down to Christians in this whole matter: I cannot think that it was so fully opened in Epistles that have been preserved down to our days, as a main part of the Canon of our Faith, without a special Providence of God, that in those Rules we might see our own duty in the management of such Controversies as should afterwards arise: Since besides a historical knowledge of the state of that time, this is all the use that it seems we can now make of such long Discourses, and Arguings; and if this can be well stated, it will be a sure thread to guide us.

First then, St. Paul leads men above the valuing such matters too much; as if the being of the one or the other side, signified any thing towards their peace with God: For all fierce Zealots are apt to imagine, that by their zeal they please God, and atone for great faults. Therefore to take away that false Conceit, this is often repeated, That in Christ Iesus neither Circumcision nor Vncircumcision a vailed any thing, 5 Gal. 6. 6 Gal. 15. but a new creature, or faith which worketh by love, and the keeping the Commandments of God; and that the Christian Reli­gion,14. Rom. 17. or the Kingdom of God consisted not in meat and drink, that is, in Rituals, concerning the distinction of Meats clean and unclean, but in much higher things,V. 18. righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost: And he seems to assert, that whosoever served Christ in these things, was acceptable to God, and ought to be approved of men;V. 5. whatsoever his sense might be as to all other things.

Another Position laid down, is, That every man ought to he fully persuaded in his own mind; to have clear Principles, and to frame these into as distinct Rules as possibly he could: And this is the meaning, of doing all things in faith; which word signifies persuasion, and ought to have been so rendered here:V. 23. And then all those difficulties that arise out of the misunderstanding of that word, would cease; so that the paraphrase of those so oftencited words will run thus, Hast thou a persuasion? have it within thy self; so that [Page 93] then mayst appeal to God upon it: For happy is the man that is so setled, that he does not waver in a distraction of thoughts, sometimes approving, and at other times condemning the same thing; for while a man is still doupting, he is condemned within himself. For instance, If he eats freely of all Meats, without regarding the Iewish distinctions, and yet has within him an opinion of the obligatory force of those Laws; he does not act upon clear Principles and Persuasions; for while a man acts without these, not knowing but that he may be sinning against God, he does then really sin, since he does things which he thinks are sins, so that they become sins to him. This is a plain account of those words, which as it agrees exactly to their natural signification, so it shuts out all the difficulties which arise out of them. For the word rendred by doubting, according to the sense in which it stands in all the other parts of the New Testa­ment, signifies the making distinction; so that the meaning of it is, He who thinks that there is still a distinction between meats clean and unclean, is very guilty if he eats as long as he is under that persuasion.

A third Rule laid down by St. Paul, is, Teat in all such matters, men ought not to assume an Authority to judge others; that is, to impose things upon them, as if they had a Judiciary Authority over them.2 Col. 16. Let not man judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holy day: that is, Let no man in mat­ters left at liberty, pretend to an Authority over another; for God is the sole Judge of all men: And let no man judge his Brother, that is, offer to call him to an account of his Actions; for we must all stand at the judgement-seat of Christ, where he who is our only Judge, as a Law giver, will then be our Iudge, by calling us to an account of our Actions: Upon this follow the Rules of mens deportment towards one another. Those that have larger Principles, and higher Notions; who in that respect are stronger, and who by that freedom of mind and thought, did eat without those nice distinctions of clean and unclean, ought not to despise such as were yet fearful and straitned in their thoughts, and durst not emancipate themselves, as if they were men of low thoughts, and narrow minds: On the other hand, Those who were still entangled with an opinion of the obligation of the Mosaical Law, ought not to condemn such as acted with more freedom, as if they were loose and lawless men.

To this a fourth Assertion is added, That in such diversities of apprehensions, men of both sides might be received and accepted by God, both acting with good Intentions, and following sincerely their Persuasions.14. Rom. 6. One man regarded a day: He observed the Iewish Festivities, their New Moons, and days of rest, called by the general word of Sabbaths; yet in doing this, under the sense of the Obligations of that Law lying still over him, be regarded it to the Lord: Another, who reckoned himself freed from that Yoke, did acknowledge, that this his Liberty was occasioned by the Christian Religion; so he, in not observing it, acknowledged that Religion which had set him free. The same Rule is also instanced in observing the distinction of Meats; the one did eat freely, and thanked God for that liberty: while the other did abstain from forbidden Meats, and thanked God for that Law by which the Iewish Nation had so many special Priviledges beyond all other Nations, so that God was honoured by both, even in all that diversity of practices: And perhaps, a diversity of practices, if with that, a tender and perfect Charity could be maintained, might be yet a greater honour to Religion, than an absolute ageement in all points; since it is a higher Instance of the power of Religion, [Page 94] if men can love one another, notwithstanding a diversity in opinion and pra­ctice; than if they loved one another, being in all points of the same mind, and agreeing in the same practices.

After these, came two Rules relating to private mens behaviour towards one another in such cases: The one is, not to set a stumbling-block, or an occasion to fall, in another man's way;V. 13. that is, not to use our liberty in such instances, or on such occasions, as may draw other men to act in imitation of us, against their own Consciences. This is the true notion of giving scandal, or the laying a trap in the way of another, by which he may fall, or be catched: And this every man is to avoid, when it is free for him to act, or not, as he pleases; for in that case only, he is under this obligation and caution; since otherwise, if he is determi­ned by any Law, Divine or Humane, he must go on and do his duty, without considering what consequences may happen upon it, for which he is not accoun­table; since he is not at liberty to dispose of himself, but is concluded by a higher Authority. The other Rule is, That we ought, as much as may be, to avoid doing any thing that may grieve other Christians, which is said to be walking uncharitably;V. 15. since we ought to have such regard, even to the tenderness and weakness of our Brethren, as not to do such things as may wound or trouble them, still under the former supposition, that we are fully at our own liberty, and under no law nor obligation to the contrary.

These are the Rules laid down by St. Paul; which, when well considered, and rightly understood, will give a great light into this whole Controversy. By these it will appear, that even the Apostles themselves, who might have assu­med a higher strain of Authority, yet had great regards to the frailties of those they governed: And although most of these Positions and Rules do suppose men to be in a state of an unrestrained liberty, so that they do not belong to our case, in which Laws and Constitutions have already determined us; yet they ought still to have great weight with those that are not concluded by Laws, and all such as may have the making or reviewing of Laws under their care and deliberation.

But I have opened this matter more fully than was, perhaps, necessary to my present purpose, which only required, that I should clear some Passages in St. Paul's Epistles that are applied to the Points now under examination, though they do not at all belong to them; since all that is in St. Paul, relates only to such things as were entirely left to mens own liberty, and in which it was free to them to act which way soever they pleased; which are not at all appli­cable to established rules, setled by Law, and recommended by Ancient pra­ctice. It is true, that no Age of the Church since the Apostles days, can make Laws for succeeding Ages; since the Pastors of every Age have the same Authority that the Pastors of any precedent Age had after the times of Inspiration: Whatever was done in a former Age, may be altered in a sub­sequent one: And therefore all those Rules, of the subordination of Churches one to another, being taken from the disposition of the Roman Empire, Europe being now totally moulded into another frame, are now at the discretion of Princes to cotinue or change them at their pleasure: And all the Rituals of the Church are in the power of every Age to alter or continue them as they shall see cause; but till they are altered, they bind, not by reason of any Authority that former Ages had over the present; but because the present Age, by not re­pealing former Rules and Canons, does tacitly and interpretatively confirm and [Page 96] renew them: For if the Pastors of the present Age, in concurrence with, and a due subordination to the Civil Powers, have an Authority to make Laws or Canons in such matters, they have likewise a power to continue such as were made in any former Age, and they are presumed, and in Law taken to do that, till they repeal them.

I have now gone through the general Plea that is brought against our Con­stitutions from general Topicks; and have, I hope, shewed that there is no force in any part of it. I come next to consider such things as are objected more specially to several particulars in our Constitution.

They except to the Government of the Church, because of the different Ranks of Bishop, Priest and Deacon, whereas the Scriptures use Bishop and Priest so promiscuously, that from thence it seems reasonable to infer, that they are one and the same Function, and that there ought to be but two Ranks, Bishop and Diacon, in the Church; But those who object this, have really among them but one Function and Order, since they have no Diacons, in the sense of St. Paul's Epistles, who are a Degree of Men dedicated to the Service of God, out of which, as any served well in it, they were advanced to a superior Degree, and were ever esteemed a Sacred Order of Men. There are none such among those who urge this Matter against us. The Promiscuous use of Names does not prove the Offices the same. The Apostles are called, sometimes, Deacons or Ministers, and so are their Companions in Labour; for the term Diacon, 1 Cor. 3.5. 2 Cor. 3.6. & 6.4. & 11.23. 3 Eph. 7. 1 Col. 23, 25. signi­fying any one that Ministred: It was not then appropriated to the lowest Order, no more than Presbyter was to the second; for the Apostles call themselves some­times Deacons; so that from hence an Argument might be drawn, as well to prove that Deacons are equal in Rank to the highest Order of Bishops. We plainly see, That God setled three Orders of Officers in the Iewish Temple: We see also, in their Synagogues, that there were three different Ranks taken probably from the Model of the Temple:6 Eph. 21. 4 Col. 7. 1 Thess. 3.2. We see our Saviour chose twelve Apostles, and afterwards Seventy Disciples, having in that, no doubt, a regard both to the numbers of their Tribes, and of their Sanhedrin: We plainly see, that during the Apostles lives, the governing and ordering of the Church was in them, yet they constituted some in their Name to govern a large extent of Churches; and by their Epistles to these, it is plain, That the Power of governing those Churches, and of ordaining new Officers in them, belonged to them; they being the Persons to whom that trust was committed, with solemn Charges given them for it by the Apostles: We plainly see two distinct Orders of Bishop and Deacon, as two Sacred Functions that were to labour in the work of the Gospel; and we find by the short Epistles in the beginnings of the Revelation, that there was one Man who had the Immediate Charge of those Churches, to whom every thing relating to them is addressed, as to a Person that was accountable for the rest, and that by consequence must be suppos'd to have an Authority over them: We see immediately after the days of the A­postles, that all the Churches were cast into one Mould, of Bishop, Priest and Diacon: This taking place every where, and that at a time when no Meetings of the Clergy could be held to establish any such Form, and that no Laws of Princes were made to Enact it, and no Men of Authority could so early and so universally have brought such a change into the Order of the Church; when there was nothing to tempt any to affect Preheminence: Labour and Suffer­ings being all that then follow'd this Superiour Rank; and yet within less than [Page 96] one Century after the days of the Apostles, we do plainly see, that this was the Constitution, even of those Churches that had been gathered and setled by the Apostles themselves. Among whom so visible a thing as the Order in which they had put the Church, could not possibly be soon forgotten, and this was not complain'd of by the Sects of those days, particularly the Montanists, that had so fair an appearance by their praying and fasting so much, that not only Tertullian was drawn away by it, but even the Church seems to have taken a Tincture from some of their Methods; whether in imitation of them, or on design to out-do them, is not so easy to determine; yet nothing of this kind was ever objected, as if the Church had by the Authority given to Bishops, departed from the Apostolical Customs.

Now I will acknowledge, that a bare practice, tho very Ancient, such as the giving the Eucharist to Infants, without a colour for it in Scripture, ought not to conclude us: but when there is a great deal in Scripture that looks fa­vourably to a thing, tho the proof from the words alone should not seem full and positive, and when the first Writings and clearest Practices of the Ages that immediately follow'd, confirms such an Exposition, then we have all that is possible for us to pretend to, for giving a fixed and determinate sense to such passages. From all this then it is clear, that we are now upon the same Con­stitution as to the main, on which the Apostles setled the Churches, and that we have all the reason that a thing of this nature is capable of, to conclude, That the distinction of Bishop, Priest and Deacon, was setled by the Apostles themselves, and is related to by many places in the New Testament.

The division of the World into Diocesses, larger or narrower, as well as of Parishes, some being excessively large, and others as unreasonably small, does not a whit alter the nature of the thing in it self; since tho' it were to be desir'd, that Parishes were nearer an equality in point of Labour and Cure; yet this is an Inconvenience that we must bear, and not disturb the Church, by seeking undue Remedies for it: So such Disorders, as a length of time, a corruption of Manners, a change of Governments, and Civil Policies, has brought into a Constitution, may put it out of our Power to procure the Redress of many things, that yet will as little warrant a renting the Body, or dividing the Church upon any such account, as it would justify the lazy Sloth of such as may bring things to a better State, and yet do not set about it, nor do heartily en­deavour it.

Another head of Objections is to set-forms of Prayer in general, as a stinting of the Spirit of Prayer; of which mention is often made in the New Testament, and which ought to have scope given to it; since it is a mean to rouze up and quicken heavy minds, which become flat when accustom'd to a constant form of Words, that render both the Clergy lazy, and the People Dead: But when it is consider'd, that every Man's words become a form, to which all the rest of the Assembly is limited; the question then lies naturally between the sudden conceptions of one Man, who is often young, rash, without Judgment, and who always speaks on the sudden; and between a form well digested and prepa­red by a Body of wise and good Men: Since then the People must be under a Form, it may seem much more reasonable that they should be under such a form, than under the other; and that the rather, since we see Moses, David, and the Prophets of old, gave the Jewish Church so many forms, both for Prayers and Praises: We know that in our Saviour's time, the Iews had a stated [Page 97] Liturgy of their own; which our Saviour was so far from blaming, that he himself prescribed his Disciples a Form, and compos'd it out of theirs; laying together so many Petitions drawn out of their Prayers as answer'd his end, in appointing his own: And Praises seeming to be the sublimest Acts of Worship, in which the Soul ought to arise to its highest Elevation; it is not easily ac­countable why so much excitation should be required in Prayer, while Men are left to be still flat and formal in their Praises. It is not to be deni'd, but that among the extraordinary Gifts that follow'd the wonderful Effusion of the Holy Ghost, one was, That Men were Inspir'd to offer up such Prayers to God as comprehended the necessities of whole Congregations; it appearing in those Prayers, that the Spirit in him that pray'd, searched all their Hearts, and so did prompt him with groanings that were unutterable; and it thus appearing, that the Spirit, 8. Rom. 28, 29. or Inspiration which moved any to pray in this sort, searched all things; every Man finding the sense of his own Heart thus open'd, together with suitable Intercessions, it was from thence evident, that this was the Spirit of God, making Intercession for the Saints, in the mouth and words of the Inspir'd Person. This being a plain account of those words of Praying in or by the Spirit, and well agreeing with every thing said concerning it in the New Testament, it is a great mistake, if we in these days, should expect any such Assistances from God: So that now a readiness of new or tender Ex­pressions in Prayer, is an effect of a quickness of Thought, a liveliness of Ima­gination, together with a good Memory, much conversant in Scripture-Phrases, and long practised in that way. All things by a long use grow flat to minds that are not seriously awaken'd; but extemporary Prayers do rather kill than feed true Devotion, since they must be hearkened to as Discourses, which is a distraction to him that Prays after them, whereas those accustom'd to set-forms, have only the things themselves that their Devotion relate to in their view; so they are certainly less tempted to distraction, than they must be who follow the other way.

Those sudden starts that are given to the mind by soft Words, and melting Images of things, may be according to the different Compositions of Men more or less useful to them in their secret Exercises, but they ought not to be let in upon publick Assemblies, which being made up of a great variety of Tempers, must be entertain'd only with such Devotions that suit with all their Conditions, and do equally quadrate to all their necessities; and thus it is not only natural, but necessary for all Men who will maintain Order in their Worship, and will frame it in so diffus'd an extent, as to take all equally within it, that they have set and stated Forms; and these ought to be cast into the plainest and most comprehensive simplicity possible, since that is always suited to all Mankind, whereas Men are vastly diversifi'd in every thing that is lively or fanciful Such a way of Worship ought neither to be un­reasonably long, nor excessively short. The length must be proportion'd to what the greater part of Mankind can bear; it ought also to be so diversi­fi'd, that Mens minds be not kept too long at any one part of it, or their Bo­dies in any one posture; and there should be as great a compass in it, for taking in the several Acts and Offices of Devotion, as may be; and in all these respects, it may be safely affirmed, That our Forms have as few defects, are as little liable to Objections, and are indeed as perfect, not only as the Forms or Liturgies of any Church, that we know of, Ancient or Modern, but are as [Page 98] perfect as we can in reason expect in any thing that came from Men not im­mediately inspir'd. Any small exceptions that may be made, as they do all admit of very good Answers, so can never be put in the Ballance with the Peace and Order of the Church, and the Edification that the Members of our Body might receive from such Pure and Spirital Devotions. If Men grow too lan­guid and flat in them, even this is much more supportable than the gross Af­fections, and the scandalous Indecencies that are so common, to say no worse, in the tumultuary way. Man is indeed so made, that he grows soon corrupt and Dead in what method so ever he is put: but as Mankind bears the lon­gest and the most generally with common food, and is less disgusted at the con­tinuance of it, than it would be with more chosen Delicacies, which would become much sooner nauseous than simpler Nourishment; so it may be posi­tively affirm'd, that grave and well-compos'd Devotions, fitly diversifi'd, and often broken, as ours are, have not only Reason and Authority clearly on their side, but have great Advantages in them, and few disadvantages to ballance those. They are such as are proper for us to offer up to God; they have in them all the Gravity and Solemnity that becomes a Religious Assembly; they comply with our very Infirmities, and give us such breathings as may be neces­sary for loose and vagrant minds; and they carry in them the whole Com­plex of a Religious Service: So in going that round with due degrees of At­tention, we are sure we offer up to God the several Branches of that Reasonable Service, 12. Rom. 1. or Rational Worship, that we owe him.

The more particular exceptions lie chiefly against our forms in the two Sa­craments: The Anabaptists object our not Dipping when we Baptize; which was not only the practice of Christ and his Apostles, but seems to be recom­mended by the Mystical Allusions made to the being Buried in the Water, and the being again Raised up out of it, as was formerly observ'd. Indeed if we could think that a Divine Vertue follow'd the application of the Water only to the parts washed with it, so that there were a sort of a Charm in it, we must acknowledge our Baptism to be defective; but since Water is only us'd as an Emblem of the Purity of our Religion, it seems in the nature of things to be all one, whether the Person Baptized is put into the Water, or if the Water is put upon him. The design of Baptism is a Foederal Sponsion, upon which Water is to be us'd, with a determined form of words; and when these are observed, all that is primarily intended in it, is observed; nor will Allusions made to the Rites with which this was at first managed, prove that those ought to be perpetual, these being only devout and instructive Thoughts offer'd upon the occasion of such forms. Yet after all, our Church is so little liable to censure in this matter, that the Rule given in the Rubrick is first for Dipping; Sprinking is only allowed of; so that tho it comes to be more commonly pra­ctised, yet no Person that desires it in the form of Dipping can be denied it a­mong us, since it is the form that is chiefly favoured by the Rubrick, tho the practice runs in a current the other way.

There is a more important Scruple rais'd upon Infant Baptism, since the Persons mention'd to be Baptized in the Scriptures were all of Age, capable to answer and promise for themselves; and since by the Institution of Baptism, the making of Men Disciples is set before it, and the Teaching them to observe all that Christ hath Commanded comes immediately after it, both these seem to be Cha­racters importing that they should be of an Age capable of Instruction, since [Page 99] They only can make the answer of a good Conscience: So that the Baptizing upon a Vow or Promise made by another, seems to be a new sort of Foederal Spon­sion, not instituted by Christ, and by consequence not warranted by the Gospel. Nor will the Argument from Circumcision appear conclusive, when it is con­sider'd that Females not being capable of it, that Rite seems rather to have been a national Mark, to distinguish them as Abraham's Posterity from other Nations, than a Rite relating to the Blessings of a future state.

But to all this we must answer, That since our Saviour took Baptism from the Iews, it being visible that they were not at all surprized at St. Iohn Baptist's Baptizing, they only questioning him upon his Mission and Authority for it; we have reason to conclude, that he took it from them as they practised it: And we find by their Writings, that when any Proselytes came over to their Religion, they not only Baptized them, but also their Children. This being their practice, and our Saviour making no Exceptions as to this Particular, but saying words that plainly favour it, Suffer little Children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the Kingdom of God, or the Gospel-dispensation,10. Mark 13. this is no small Argument for it: But that which seems to determine the matter, is the resolution that St. Paul gives in a Case that must have been very com­mon in those days, when one of the married Parties was converted to Christia­nity, the other remaining still in Infidelity, he determines that the Husband ought not to put away the Wife, nor the Wife leave the Husband; and the reason he adds is, That there was a Communication of Sanctification from the believing to the unbelieving Party, which descended to their Children, who should be otherwise Vnclean, but now they were Holy. Now it is to be consider'd, that in the New Testament Holy, or Saint, and a Christian, 1 Cor. 7.14. stand promis­cuously for one another; and the word Holy, can only signify either a real inward Holiness, or a Holiness of dedication, in which sense all things appro­priated to God are said to be Holy. A Believer could not Communicate a real Holiness either to the unbelieving Yoke-fellow, or to the Issue, since that is personal, and cannot be derived, or descend. The only Holiness that he could derive, was a right to consecrate the common Issue to God; which is in some sort a Sanctifying of one another. This is a plain and natural meaning of these words; and tho they should not seem to im [...]port it so necessarily, but that other glosses might be put upon them, yet the early practice of the Church mention'd by Irenaeus, Tertullian, and most copiously by St. Cyprian, seems to be a sure Commentary upon them, this being a ritual and visible thing, in which we may much more safely have recourse to Tradition, than in matters of Do­ctrine; it being here remembred, That a Practice without warrant in Scrip­ture, is not to be so regarded as a Practice that seems to have favourable, if not clear warrants for it in Scripture. This also agrees with the natural Order of the World: Children being put in the power of their Parents, by the Laws of Nature, who, considering their Incapacity, must act in their Name, and may both procure Rights and Priviledges to them, and also lay ties and enga­gements upon them. It is then suitable to the extent of the mercy of God in the Gospel, that Parents may offer up their Children to Christ, that they may be tied by them to his Religion, and received into the blessings and privileges of it. When this whole matter is thus laid together, I doubt not but the law­fulness of Infant-Baptism will evidently appear; and if it is Lawful, then ac­cording to what was at first made out, the Church may oblige all her Members to it.

[Page 100]The Practice of having Sponsors, being but an increase of the security given for the Person's Education in Christianity, the care of the Parents being sup­posed, as already bound upon them by their natural Relation to their Children, and it being a great mean, if well managed, of knitting Neighbours together in new and Christian Bonds, all Exceptions to such a Custom seem very ill­grounded; and their answering so positively in the Name of the Child, does ac­cording to the nature of all Acts in the Name of Infants, import only, that as far as in them lies, care shall be taken that the Infant shall make good those en­gagements in due time. Our affirming so positively, That all Children who are Baptized, and die before they grow to be capable of committing any actual Sin, are certainly saved; does not only agree with the Idea's of the infinite good­ness of God, but also with this declaration, That the Promises of the Gospel are made to all Christians, and to their Children.

2 Acts 39.The most general Scruple against our Form in Baptism, remains yet to be discussed: That we have added to it the Sign of the Cross, which is a piece of Popish Superstition. Indeed, if we use it as was formerly observed, as they do, with an adjuration of the Devil to go out, and not to presume to violate the Sign of the Cross; if we breathed cross-ways, and pretended by that to infuse Divine Virtues and Blessings, here were just objections; for in so doing, we should assume a power to make Sacraments, and to affix Divine Powers to Institu­tions of our own: Therefore nothing of this being retained among us, all the Papistical and Superstitious use of the Cross in Baptism is thrown out: But since the Primitive Christians did so glory in the Cross, that in stead of being asham­ed of the Reproach of it, they used it upon most occasions: Our Reformers de­signing to restore Primitive Christianity, thought, that though the abuse of this to so much Superstition, made them supercede the frequent practice of it; yet in this first initiation to Christianity, it was reasonable to use it, once for all, but with words that shewed they retained none of the Superstitious Conceits of Popery, and meant only thereby to own the receiving all Chri­stians into the Doctrine of the Cross, and to an obligation to follow Christ, bearing his Cross. And thus it is plain, that this practice is in it self not only innocent, but decent: and that there were very plausible Reasons, to say no more, for enjoining it; so that the not using it, is the disobeying a just Autho­rity, in a lawful Injunction.

Kneeling in the Eucharist, seems not only liable to an imputation of Idolatry; but is also under this further prejudice, that it is in none of the Ancient Rituals: On the contrary, we have all reason to believe, that for many Ages they did communicate standing: since all kneeling in Churches on Sundays, or in the time between Easter and Whitsunday, was esteemed a crime in Tertullian's time, and was forbidded by a Canon of the Council of Nice.

This Being that, of all the Objections raised against us, that touches in the tenderest part, since this is the great Symbole of the Union of Christians, and that in which most formally the Communion of the Church consists, it will be ne­cessary to examine it very narrowly. It is then, first, to be considered, that outward Actions do signify only that which by a general consent, or an ex­press declaration is agreed on as their sense and importance. Kneeling to Kings, is understood to be only the highest Act of Civil Respect; and therefore it is liable to no imputation of Idolatry, Therefore if there is an express declaration made of the importance of this Action, that it is neither an Adoration of the [Page 101] Bread and Wine, nor of the Person of Christ, as supposed Corporally pre­sent, but only a worshipping of God in the acknowledgment of the great Blessings there exibited to us, then this Posture cannot be stretched beyond this express Declaration; nor is this that kneeling which is enjoined by the Church of Rome; for that is only a falling down at the Elevation, in acknow­ledgment of the miraculous change then made: Whereas ours is a conti­nued posture of Prayer, in which we continue during the whole Office: So that Kneeling, as used by us, does in many respects differ from the Knoeling used in the Church of Rome.

As for that specious Pretence, That in the Primitive times they did not kneel at the receiving the Sacrament; it is only an appearance of a Reason. In the Primitive times, they had a notion of Kneeling as an abject Posture, which only became Penitents, or the times of fasting: They thought that upon other oc­casions standing in Prayer had an appearance of faith and confidence in God; and agreed with those comfortable assurances, and that joy to which we are called in the Gospel: And therefore those who were in the full peace of the Church, were to stand up at Prayers; which was most indispensably observed on Sundays, and the Fifty days from Easter to Pentecost. But standing was then their posture of Prayer, so they received the Sacrament in the posture appropriated to Prayer; and it were easy to shew, from those wery Fathers who mention standing as the posture in which the Eucharist was received, that they did consider it as a posture of Adoration, and so required all Christians to adore as they received it. Now in a course of many Ages, this difference of several degrees in Prayer, and the postures proper to them, is quite worn out; so that kneeling is become the common posture of all Prayer whatsoever: There­fore we receiving in a posture of Prayer, do in that follow the constant pra­ctice of all Christians, in all the best Ages.

Kneeling is a matter merely ritual; and being now grown the common Rite, expressing our humility in Prayer, we do not depart from the Spirit and In­tentions of the Primitive Church; since we receive the Eucharist in our po­sture of prayer, as they did in theirs. The plausible Exception to all this, is, That since our Saviour did institute this Sacrament, at a Table after Supper, it is a needless departing from his Practice, and the Pattern that he hath left us, to receive it in any other posture. If this Objection had any force, it should oblige us to receive leaning along, according to the posture of sitting at table in those days; and if we must adhere to the Circumstances of the Institution, the time after Supper, and the place an upper room, will be as obligatory upon us as the Posture, since all these things are of the same order and value. But to go to the bottom of this Objection, and to shew by a clear parity the just reason of departing from our Saviour's practice in this particular.

It is to be remembred, That when Moses gave out the Institution of the Pas­chal Festivity, he limited that people by express words to a posture, They were to eat it with their loins girt, and their shoos on their feet, with staves in ther hands, 12. Exod. 11. thus ready to march. There is nothing in the Institution that gives the least hint, as if this was not meant to be a lasting Precept: So here is much more than a bare Example, a Precept given in very plain words, without any li­mitation of time: And yet when the Israelites were setled in the Land of Canaan, at rest, and no more obliged to march, this change of their Circum­stances did, from the natural suitableness of things, bring on a change in this [Page 102] part of that Festivity: They sate about their Tables, or rather leaned, and so they did eat the Lamb in that lazy posture, that expressed the Rest which God had given them. And we are sure, that in this they committed no error, since our Saviour himself justified their practice, by conforming to it. So here more than a bare practice, an express Institution in a ritual matter, is changed by a Church, that in all such things seems to have been much more tied up to the letter of their Law, than the Christian Church is; yet a great alteration in their Circumstances made them conclude, that this ought to be altered, and in that they did right. Now if we will apply this to the Chri­stian Passover; Christ being in a state of Humiliation, and in the form of a Ser­vant, institutes it; and does it in a familiar posture of Equality with his Disci­ples at Table, but gives no rule how, as to that particular it ought to be observed for the future, as Moses had done. Afterwards, a vast change hap­pens in his visible Condition; he is raised from the dead, and exalted up into Heaven: Upon this change therefore, with relation to his Human nature, that was vastly more important than that which had happenened to the Iews when they were brought into the Land of Promise; it seems to have been highly congruous to that practice of the Iews, with which the first Christians could not be unacquainted, for them to have changed the posture from the appear­ance of Familiarity, to that of Respect; and to have brought it to the Posture which they use in Prayer, and their other Devotions. And this I think is a full answer to every thing that can be objected to our Posture in Receiving.

Another exception some have to our Administration of this Sacrament, That there is no previous examination of those who are admitted to it; that a promiscuous multitude comes without any notice given, or enquiry made after them; tho we are commanded to note such as walk disorderly, and to have no fellowship with them, 2 Thess. 3.14. that they may be ashamed: nay, with Brethren, that is, Christians who live scandalously, not so much as to eat. To this it is to be answer'd,1 Cor. 5.11. That a great difference is to be made between a Church that lies yet under some defects, which she laments and cannot get them to be effectually supplied, and a Church that is viciously faulty, and blamable in any thing she does. If the acts of Church-Communion are in themselves lawful and good, so that particular persons are obliged to nothing that can be made ap­pear to be unlawful; it can be no reason for them to separate from it, because other things are not done which perhaps are fitting and may seem necessary. But a further distinction is to be made, between things commanded by a Divine Precept, and such things as are only recommended by the Practice and Rules of the Church. St. Paul does only prescribe this, That every man examine himself, but does not impose it upon any to examine others; and the true Importance of the word render'd Examine, is Approve; that is, Let a man so consider himself, as to see whether he is approved of by his own Conscience: but this gives no other person an Authority to search into, examine, or approve such us come to the Sacrament. There is therefore no Rule given in the New Testament for any such previous enquiry: it was indeed a very Ancient,1 Cor. 11.28. and is upon very many accounts a good and useful practice so to do. But how criminal soever a defect in obeying a Divine Law may be, it can be no such matter not to observe even the ancientest Rules of the Church, that after all, do rest only upon a human Authority: Those [Page 103] rules concerning scandalous persons, belong to the Body in general; and if there should be Errors and male-Administrations, the Body, or rather its Pastors when in a Body, are accountable for that, and not the the Indi­viduals of the Society, who cannot be further concern'd in them, than to lament such defects, and to use their best endeavours to help them to be redressed; so this can never justify a separation, because there may be er­roneous or scandalous men in a Society, who are too much connived at.

St. Paul finds great fault with many Errors; some bad Practices and Scan­dals among the Corinthians; yet tho in one case he thunders a severe Sentence upon a more eminently scandalous man, he never so much as insinuates that the rest of the body should separate themselves from those erroneous or irre­gular men: On the contrary, he presses the Obligations to Unity, most vehemently on the Corinthians, tho that was the Church which he charged the most severely of all others, both with Errors, Disorders in Worship, and scandalous Practices.

It was no wonder, If after the Church of Rome had enervated the whole Ancient Discipline, and had turn'd it all to be a secret practice between the Priest and the Penitent in Auricular Confession; and that Dispensations and Commutations were brought in; by which men know the price of sin, and how to buy it off, that all of the sudden this Church could not be brought back to the Primitive Constitutions: tho we see that our Reformers did sin­cerely intend it, and prepared a Model for it. But our bad Circumstances have made, that this great and good Design could never be effected since that time; for which we still continue to make a publick Acknowledgment in the Preface to the Office of Commination. But after all, How faulty soever particular per­sons may be in not obeying the Rules of the Church, the Clergy are obliged to Catechise the Youth, and when they are duly prepared for it, they ought to offer them to the Bishop to be Confirm'd; and this ought to precede their being at first admitted to the Sacrament. If this is not duly and punctually executed, it is the fault of those who fail in their Duty; and one of the best and most effectual Answer that we can make to this prejudice, is to endea­vour to do in this point what lies in us, towards the Instructing and Con­firming the Youth. As for the Scandals of men's lives, much more certainly might be done, both in the way of private admonition, and publick censure, than is done; so here the best answer will still return upon us: We ought to do all that is incumbent on us, for watching over those that are committed to our Care, for correcting their Manners, for making the incorrigible asham'd, and for cutting off corrupt and gangreen'd Members, that they spread not their Infection to those that are yet found. Yet if another man fail of his Duty, that can never excuse any one from doing his; and so it can never be a just ground of separation.

Some except to our habit, as a Ceremony taken from the Service of the Jewish Temple: and this, tho it is now esteem'd the least considerable of all the exceptions made against us, yet was that which first began those un­happy disputes that have since increased so fatally upon us. The chief thing stood upon at first, was, That it was a compliance with the Supestitions of Popery; but that has been consider'd already; to which I shall in this place only add this one Consideration more to justify those Compliances in matters that are in themselves innocent; That in Fact, the body of this [Page 104] Nation was in a very few years brought off from Popery; to which it is highly probable, that those small Compliances contributed not a little; so that the single reason upon which this was at first oppos'd, was the chief Rea­son for its continuance.

All publick Functions are perform'd in some special Habits; and White being among both Greeks and Romans, the colour that expressed Ioy it bear­ing also a Signification of Purity and Innocence, it was natural for the Pri­mitive Christians, both to put such as were newly baptized in white, and also to have Divine Offices perform'd by persons habited in the same manner. It is true, Popery had brought in much Superstition upon all this; the se­veral parcels of the habits were deliver'd with particular Devotions in the conferring of Orders; which imported a peculiar Virtue and Sanctity to be in them, and they were to be us'd with such constant Devotions, that did all signify that a Sacramental Virtue was believ'd to be lodg'd in them. Now all this was taken away by our Reformers; only for the decency of Worship, in compliance with Ancient Practices, they retain'd the Habits themselves; and since the greatest Bodies of those who divide from us, have us'd Black Gowns, which is both a peculiar form of a Habit, and in a special Colour, that signifi'd Gravity, it will not be easy to find a good reason, why a peculiar Habit in a Colour that expressed both Innocence and Joy, might not be as well us'd. If we pretended that Innocence is by this convey'd to us, here were a just excep­tion; but we using it only as a decent Habit, that is enjoin'd by Law, it is enough to justify our Obedience, if the thing is lawful; and it is enough to ju­stify the Law, if this Robe was Ancient, and have in it a proper expression of that temper of mind, in which we ought to be, when we go to perform Divine Offices.

And thus it appears on how weak grounds the first disputes concerning Ri­tuals among us were begun; upon the progess of which, and the effects that have followed upon them, one can never reflect without remembring those words of St. Iames, Behold how great a matter a little fire hath kindled.

3. Jam. 5.Some have excepted to our observing Holy-days, as if this was an Invasion upon that Liberty which the Fourth Commandment gives for Work, all the six days of the Week; and as if Men pretended to an Authority to make any parcels of time Holy. Some quarrel with the days for the honor of the Apostles, as if this was a remnant of Popery: others except even to the observance of Christmas and Ascension-day, together with those other days that relate to our Saviour himself; as if the observing them were a reproaching the Apostles with want of regard to the Person of Christ, which we pretend to supply. But those words of six days Labour, are not to be understood as a perpetual Command, otherwise God himself had appointed a violation of this, by all those other days of Rest that were enjoined the Iews, all which were called Sabbaths. Every se­venth year was to be one continued Sabbath; Therefore the Importance of the 4th. Commandment is only this, That when that Precept was first given, God left Mankind free for six days, and only reserved a seventh for Rest and Reli­gion; but that did not limit himself, nor all other Lawful Powers, from making further Impositions for Rest and Religious Exercises. It is also certain, that Men cannot make a Day Holy in one sense, that is, affix a special Purity, or particular Virtue to any one day; but the larger sense of a Holy Day, being a day dedicated to Religious Exercises, it seems to be in the power of every Society [Page 105] to appoint such Anniversary days, as well as to appoint special times of Fa­sting and Thanksgiving upon one particular day, and for one turn: for since all do agree, that this may be done for once, the Arguments from the Fourth Commandment, and against appointing a holy day, are out of doors; so it remains only to consider, whether Anniversary Days may be appointed.

We see the Iews, during the seventy years of the Captivity,7. Zech. 5. 8 Zech. 19. observ'd the Fast of the Fourth, the Fifth, the Seventh and Te [...]nth Month; and the Prophet expostulating in the Name of God upon that Head, does neither ex­cept to the Imposition, nor the fixing Anniversaries, but only complains of their being ill kept; which plainly imports the acceptance of them, if well kept. The Iews also fixed one Anniversary in commemoration of their Deli­verance from Haman's wicked designs against them; and another for remem­bring the Purifying the Temple from its Idolatrious Defilement by Antiochus Epiphanes. This last was observed by our Saviour,9. Esther 21.27, 10, John 22. at least we find him in the Temple on that day. Now can any reason be assign'd; either from the na­ture of things, or from any special limitations in the Scripture, that should restrain the Power that is naturally in every body of men, for appointing things of this nature?

The commemorating the Dispensation of the Gospel committed to the Apo­stles, has nothing of the Superstition of Popery in it: No Invocations or Ad­dresses being made to them, and no Sacraments administred for their Honor, or recommended to their Intercession. God is only blessed for those several Dispen­sations, of which they were made the Channels and Instruments. But we ought rather to be concern'd, That these Commemorations are practic'd in so slight a manner, that we seem much more liable to an Objection upon that account; and tho in the first fervour of Christianity, in which those early Converts lived almost wholly in the Meditations of Christ, and of what related to him, some Institutions of days for more special remembrances of particular Circum­stances had not been made, there might have been very good reason for the succeeding Ages to have studied to keep alive that fervour by such appoint­ments of days, for the more solemn Commemoration of such signal Blessigns: and tho there were not the same clear warrants from Antiquity for every one of these, yet it was still in the Power of the Church to make such new Or­ders, as should seem necessary for carrying on the main Design of Religion.

The Ancient Church thought that the whole fifty days between Easter and Pentecost ought to be kept with a special Solemnity of Rejoycing, for the Re­surrection and Ascension of our Saviour, and for the Effusion of the Holy Ghost; since some more particular Devotions on those heads, during that whole time, did not break off the labours of their other Employments, nor interrupt the common business of life; upon the same parity of reason they might appoint some time before that season of Ioy, to be spent in confessing past sins, and mourning for them in higher degrees of Prayer and Fasting. This being only the prescribing a method for appropriating such Exercises in Devotion to the several seasons of the year, an over-valuing of these things, together with a nice distinction of Meats, was a piece of Superstition which might corrupt that which was good in any Constitution. The distinction of Meats for that season, is among us founded meerly on a Law of the Land, for Civil and Po­litical Ends, since the Church only recommends Prayer and Fasting in general, witout any further Specialities as to the measure of the Fast; so no just exception [Page 106] lies to any part of this whole matter, concerning days and times appropriated to particular Exercises. I wish our Practice in these were such, that this part of our Constitution were not too evidently a matter of Form, and observed with too visible a slightness.

And thus I have gone round [...]ll that I remember ever to have met with in Books or Discourses from any of the Dissenters, except from those call'd Quakers, against our Constitution, and have offer'd you those answers, which to me, after the most impartial search that I am capable of, seem full to sa­tisfy 'em all. It remains, That I consider such as are offer'd by those who are called Quakers.

First, They are against all sorts of stated Forms; their main Principle being, That nothing is to be done by us, by virtue of any outward warrant, unless there is an inward excitation or opening of the Spirit that leads to it: And therefore all fixed Rules being contrary to the freedom of the Spirit, they are against them all. But either this Principle must have some limitation to restrain it, or it will cast open a door to subvert all Religion and Policy; for those inward Excitations being only known to those who have them, every man's word must be taken concerning them. If then a man by affirming that he had, or had not, such or such an excitation, will be thereby ju­stified or excus'd; then he may do, or not do what he will, and the whole Order of Religion, Morality and Civil Society will be thereby dissolv'd: but if they say, that there is that Harmony between the secret leadings of the Spirit and the Scriptures, that whatsoever is commanded in the one, is always witnessed to by the other; then we are to examine this matter by the Scriptures, and to conclude, That if there are rules given in them for the constant use of the Sacraments, then they are hereby condemned who have laid them aside.

Our Saviour encourag'd his Apostles to go and execute the Commission that he gave them, to make Disciples, and Baptize all Nations; with this Promise, That he was to be with them alway, 28. Mat. 20. even to the end of the World. The promise is given as as an encouragement to the duty enjoin'd; and from hence we may conclude, that the precept of Baptisme must continue likewise to the end of the World. To this we must join those other words of our Saviour, Except a man is born of Water and of the Spirit, 3. John 5. he cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven which is affirmed without any limitation of time. By the Kingdom of Heaven is plainly meant the Dispensation of the Gospel; and since Baptism was then pra­ctised, and was well understood by them, who were born Iews, nothing in reason can be understood by the being born of Water and of the Spirit, but the being initiated by Baptism, and the being inwardly Sanctified: The one as well as the other, is made indispensably necessary to the being a member of this new Dispensation. St. Mark also has recorded those words of our Saviour: He that believeth and is baptized stall be saved, 16. Mark 16. but he that believeth not shall be damned: Now since Baptism is only enjoined by Precept, and is not necessary as a mean, but only as an act of Obedience: therefore tho the doing it is commanded in order to Salvation, yet Damnation is not the consequent of its not being done, since one may be prevented in it by death, or other Impos­sibilities may put it out of his power to procure Baptism to himself: And therefore, as the one branch of this period shews the obligation laid on us to be baptized in order to Salvation, so the leaving it out in the other branch, shews [Page 107] that our not coming within the rites of our Religion, when that failure is no fault of ours, does not exclude us from Salvation, or bring us to a state of Damnation.

In the beginnings of Christianity, the wonderful effusion of the Holy Ghost was thought a true reason for baptizing such persons on whom it fell; and therefore St. Peter said,10 Act. 47. 11 Act. 17. when the Holy Ghost fell visibly on Cornelius and his Friends, Can any man forbid water, that those should not be baptized, who have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And with this he settled the minds of those who were a little offended at that action. This shews that no pretence to a high dispensation of the Spirit, can evacuate that Precept; since, on the contrary, an evidence of the giving the Holy Ghost, was pleaded as an Argument for baptizing: Nor does any one passage in which Baptism is men­tioned in the New Testament, limit it to that time, and intimate that it belonged only to the beginnings of Christianity, or that it was to determine when it was more fully setled: so that this, with the constant practice of all succeeding Ages, without a shadow of any Exception, must conclude us as to this Point.

Our Saviour did also appoint the other Sacrament to be continued in remem­brance of him; by which St. Paul says, we shew forth his death till he come. 1 Cor. 11.26. Now these words cannot be understood of any supposed inward and spiritual coming, since the most signal coming in that sense, was the effusion of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, and yet after that time the Apostles continued to practice it, and delivered it to the Churches as a Precept still obligatory, till Christ should come. If then we ought still to remember him, and shew forth his death; if it is the Communion of his Body and Blood; if it is the new Covenant in his Blood for the remission of sins; then as long as these things are Duties incumbent on us, so long we must be under the obligation of eating that Bread, and drinking that Cup.

Further, If Christ has left different Gifts to different Orders of men, some Apostles, some Prophets, some Evangeliste and some Pastors and Teachers, for the perfecting the Saints, for the work of the Ministry, 4 Eph. 11, 12, 13, 14. and for edifying the Body of Christ, till we come unto a perfect man, and are no more in danger of being tossed to and fro, and carried away with every wind of doctrine. These words do plainly import, That as long as mankind is under the frailties of this present state, and in this confused Scene, that some of these Orders must still be continued in the Church, and that those Rules and Preceps given to Timothy and Titus concerning such as were to be ordained Bishops or Elders, that is, Priests and Diacons, were to be lasting and standing Rules;1 Tim. 3. 1 Tit. 1. for indeed if the design had not been to establish that Order for the succeeding Ages, there was less need of it in that, in which there was such a plentiful Measure of the Spirit poured out upon all Christians; that such Functions in that time might have been well spared, if it had not been for this, that they were then to be setled under the Patronage, if I may so speak, of the Apostles themselves, from whom they were to receive an Authority, which how little necessary soever it might seem in that wonderful time, yet was to be more needed in the suc­ceeding Ages.

Therefore we may well conclude, That whatsoever was ordered concern­ing those Offices or Officers of the Church, in the first Age, was by a stronger parity of reason to be continued down through all the Ages of the Church; [Page 108] and in particular, if in that time in which Women received the Gifts of the Holy Ghost,1 Cor. 14.34, 35. so that some prophesied, and others laboured much in the Lord, that is in the Gospel; yet St. Paul did in two different Epistles, particularly restrain them from teaching or speaking in the Church;1 Tim. 2.11. to which he adds, That it was a shame for Women to speak in the Church; that is, it might turn to be a re­proach to the Christian Religion, and furnish Scoffers with some colours of ex­posing it to the scorn of the Age. This was to be much more strictly observed, when all those extraordinary Characters, that might seem to be exemptions from common Rules, did no longer continue.

As for those distinctions into which they have cast themselves, of the Hat, and the denying Titles, and speaking in the singular Thou and Thee, it is to be considered, That how unfit soever it be, and how unbecoming Christians to be conformed to this world, yet it rather lessens than heightens the great Idea that the world ought to have of the Christian Religion, when it states a di­versity among men about meer Trifles. Our Saviour and his Apostles com­plied as much in all innocent Customs,13 Rom. 7. as they avoided all sinful ones. Ho­nour to whom honour is due, is a standing Duty; and though the bowing the Body, and falling prostrate, are postures that seem liker Idolatry, and more abject in their nature than the Hat; yet the very Prophets of God paid these respects to Kings.2 Sam. 20.41. Outward Actions or Gestures signify only what is entended to be ex­pressed,1 Sam. 24.8. and what is generally understood by them; so that what is known to be meant only for a piece of Civil respect, can never be stretched to a Religi­ous respect;1 Kings 1.23. and though that abject homage under which the Iewish Rabbies had brought their Disciples, and which they had exprest in Titles that imported their profound submission to them, was reproved by our Saviour; yet we see that the word [...],23 Mat. 8.9, 10. Sir, or Lord, was then used as commonly as we now do; since Mary Magdalen called him, whom shee took for a Gardener, Sir, or Lord. And St. Paul gave Festus the Title which belonged to his Office, it being the same that Claudius Lysias gave Felix, 20 John 15. who certainly was not wanting in that; and that being the Title of men of Rank, St. Luke adresses both his Books to Thephilus, 26 Acts 25. 23 Acts 26. 1 Luke 3. designing him in one ofthem in the same manner. Words signify nothing of themselves, as they are meer sounds, but according to the signification in which men agree to use them; so if the speaking to one man in the plural number, is understood only as a more respectful way of treating him, then the plural is in this case really but a singular. Indeed these things scarce deserve to be so narrowly lookt into.

The Scruple against Swearing, is more important both to them and to the Publick.5 Mat. 34. 5 Jam 12. They have indeed the appearance of a plain Command of our Saviour's against all manner of Swearing, which is repeated by St. Iames; but this must be restricted to their communication, according to the words that follow, since we find Swearing not only commanded in the Old Testament, but practised in the New, The Apostles swear, at every time they say God is witness;1 Rom. 9. 1 Thess. 2.10. and more solemnly, when God is called for a record upon their Soul. The Angel of God lifts up his hand, and swears by him that lives for ever and ever. God swears by himself,2 Cor. 1.23 10 Rev. 5, 6 6 Heb. 16.17, 18. Lev. 7. and an Oath for confirmation, that is, for affirming any matter, is the end of all Controversy. We find our Saviour himself answered upon Oath, when adjured by the High Priest to tell, If he was the Christ, the Son of the most high God; for according to the Mosaical Law, when any Soul sinned, and heard the voice of Swearing, that is of Adjuration, and was a witness whe­ther [Page 109] he hath seen it or known of it, if he do not utter it, then he shall hear his Iniquity; that is, he shall be guilty of Perjury. It were easy to shew from several Passages of the Old Testament, That Superior, whether Parents or Princes,1 Sam. 14.24, 38, 39. 17. Judg. 2. could put others under a Curse, and by that either bind them in a Promise of Vow, or oblige them to declare the truth. This being then the custom of the Iews, our Saviour, though silent, as long as it was free to him to speak or not,26. Mat. 63, 64. he in that shewing his patience and meekness; yet as soon as he was adjured, he then answered; for he was bound by that Oath to declare the truth: Therefore since among the Iews the Party did not take the Oath, but was only passive to the Judge that imposed it upon him, those cited words of our Saviour cannot be extended beyond Oaths in communication, that is in common discourse, or the common business of life: For indeed to end all matters by a solemn Appeal to God, is a natural piece of Worship and Religious Adoration.

They load us with another prejudice, in which, tho we may seem to much parties to it, yet it is not to be passed over: They call us Hirelings for receiving those supports and rewards for our labours that are appropriated to us. Those who run into these Imployments only with such views, and desire to be put in a Priest's Office, that they may eat a piece of bread, 1 Sam. 2.36. must feel somewhat within them that te­stifies to the truth of this Imputation: But such as do dedicate themselves to the Gospel, and serve at the Altar, may well live of the Altar, and of the Gospel, or the reward of the glad tidings that they publish; for so, saith St. Paul, 1 Cor. 9.11, 13, 14▪ hath the Lord ordained. All persons will yield it to be lawful to accept the bounty that is freely offered, by private persons to such as labour among them; so it will not be easy to shew why publik Bodies may not by setled Laws give those bounties for ever, as well as particular persons do it for once. And therefore not to enter upon the discussion of any antecedent right to Tythes, it is certain that Publick Laws may appropriate such proportion of Soil, or of its growth, to such uses as they think fitting: And when that is once done, private persons must bear that, even when they do not approve of the use. Those very people think that all Wars are un­lawful, and yet they pay Taxes, tho levied in express words to carry on a War. Thus then, when any proportion of the growth of a Nation is applied to any use by a Law, that proportion becomes a rent due to the Publick, in consideration whereof, there is a full abatement made, as it is bought and sold: And whosoever purchases with such abatement, can have no right to that for which they paid no­thing. Now it is certain, that no man can pretend to possess himself of that which is not his own; on this colour, that he who does then possess it, has no good Title to it. That man knows that he himself has no right to it, whether the Possessor's Ti­tle is good or bad, and that is enough for him not to challenge or invade it: Every man knows that his Tythes are not his, he never bought them; on the contrary, he made a considerable diminution of the price that he would have paid, if the Land had been Tythe-free: And therefore this being of the nature of a Quit rent, that the Law has laid on an Estate, any opinion that a man may have of the law­fulness of the use to which it goes, can never justify him, who keeps that which is not his own, from the person to whom the Law has appropriated it. If therefore these men would govern themselves by the Maxims of strict Justice, as long as they cannot overcome this scruple, they ought to make no purchases, but where they buy out the whole Increase of the Soil, and pay its full price: And as there are fair portions over the whole Nation, that are Tythe-free, this were a way of dealing that would look like a strictness of Conscience, a regard to their own peace, and the [Page 110] quiet and peace of the Society; By so doing, they should possess nothing that were not their own, and invade nothing that were any other man's.

Thus, I think, I have omitted no material Objection that is made to the terms of communion among us as to our Worship and Rituals; and I think I have offer­ed sufficient reason, not only to justify the concurrence of all the single Members of our Body in every one of them, but also to justify our Forms and Constitutions in themselves: It is enough to prove that they are lawful, to oblige all the Mem­bers of the Body or Society to observe them; but the fitness and usefulness of them must also be made out, to justify the Laws and Constitutions that are made con­cerning them. But tho lawful and unlawful are severe and rigorous things, and of a fixed and determinate nature; yet fit or unfit are of a more loose and unstable Order: And in this respect things may have different faces; what is fit in one respect, and at one time, may be much otherwise at other times: And therefore, tho this is not a consideration strong enough to dissolve the Obligation, under which private persons lie to obedience, yet it ought to be well considered by those to whom that care may belong. It is certain, that a long continuanc of any Custom is a very powerful Argument, enforcing any antecedent fitness that might have been at the first setling of such matters: For all Novelties, as they gratify the levity of more inconstant Minds, so they grate no less upon men of more staid tempers; who naturally are not given to change: Yet when all things are well weighed, there may be upon some occasions very good reasons for altering some things, which were at first established upon as good and just Considera­tions; since there is nothing in any Human Constitution, which comes not from an immediate Divine Authority, that may not be brought under second thoughts, and become the matter of new deliberations.

To conclude, those Divisions from us, and the Prejudices that are raised against us, ought to make us watch the more carefully over our selves, since we have so many severe observers: They ought to oblige us to such an exactness of deport­ment, and such diligence in our labours, that our behaviour, both in our Persons and Callings, may not inflame and heighten, but on the contrary, very much allay and soften those Prejudices: since after all that is said in the way of Spe­culation and Argument, the numbers are most wrought on by visible and sensi­ble Prejudices. If we see among those who divide from us, any of the appearances of vertue, in a sober and grave deportment, a modest and humble way of be­haviour, a solemn seriousness, the fear of an Oath, a plain simplicity of living, a mutual union and tenderness for one another, and a seeming to be in earnest in the matters of Religion, together with a true strictness in breeding their Youth to understand Religion, and study the Scriptures; let us not deny that which we see to be true, but let us study to bring our selves, and our people, to outdo them in these things: and to add to these, an exact probity and justice, candor and truth, fidelity and integrity, a meek and gentle behaviour, free from rash cen­suring, and evil speaking, a universal Charity to all Mankind, a readiness to for­give Injuries, to do good for evil, and liberality in our bounty to the necessitous; straitning our selves to relieve others: And if we can bear with them by our cha­rity, as well as the Law tolerates them in their Opinions, we may hope, by the blessing of God, in a competent time to overcome all their Prejudices, and so to heal all our Divisions, and to become of one heart and mind.




COncerning the Truth of the Christian Religion.
Pag. 1.


Concerning the Divinity and the Death of Christ.


Concerning the Infallibility and Authority of the Church.


Concerning the Obligations to continue in the Communion of the Church.

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