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his gospel, be it the verdict of common sense. For Christ saith, in St. John, “ The servant is not greater than his lord, nor he that is sent greater than he that sent him ; and adds, “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” Then let the prelates well advise, if they neither know, nor do these things, or if they know, and yet do them not, wherein their happiness consists. And thus is the gospel frustrated by the lordly form of prelaty.
CHAPTER II. That the ceremonious Doctrine of Prelaty opposeth the
Reason and End of the Gospel. That which next declares the heavenly power and reveals the deep mystery of the gospel, is the pure simplicity of doctrine, accounted the foolishness of this world, vet crossing and confounding the pride and wisdom of the flesh. And wherein consists this fleshly wisdom and pride ? In being altogether ignorant of God and his worship? No, surely; for men are naturally ashamed of that. Where then? It consists in a bold presumption of ordering the worship and service of God after man's own will in traditions and ceremonies. Now if the pride and wisdom of the Hesh were to be defeated and confounded, no doubt but in that very point wherein it was proudest, and thought itself wisest, that so the victory of the gospel might be the more illustrious. But our prelates, instead of expressing the spiritual power of their ministry, by warring against this chief bulwark and stronghold of the flesh, have entered into fast league with the principal enemy against whom they were sent, and turned the strength of fleshly pride and wisdom against the pure simplicity of saving truth. First, mistrusting to find the authority of their order in the immediate institution of Christ, or his apostles, by the clear evidence of scripture, they fly to the carnal supportment of tradition; when we appeal to the Bible, they to the unweildy volumes of tradition: and do not shame to reject the ordinance of him that is eternal, for the perverse iniquity of sixteen hundred years; choosing rather to think truth itself a liar, than that sixteen ages should be taxed with an error; not con
sidering the general apostacy that was foretold, and the church's flight into the wilderness. Nor is this enough; instead of showing the reason of their lowly condition from divine example and command, they seek to prove their high pre-eminence from human consent and authority. But let them chant while they will of prerogatives, we shall tell them of scripture; of custom, we of scripture ; of acts and statutes, still of scripture; till the quick and piercing word enter to the dividing of their souls, and the mighty weakness of the gospel throw down the weak mightiness of man's reasoning. Now for their demeanour within the church, how have they disfigured and defaced that more than angelic brightness, the unclouded serenity of Christian religion, with the dark overcasting of superstitious copes and flaminical vestures, wearing on their backs, and, I abhor to think, perhaps in some worse place, the inexpressible image of God the Father ? Tell me, ye priests, wherefore this gold, wherefore these robes and surplices over the gospel ? Is our religion guilty of the first trespass, and hath need of clothing to cover her nakedness? What does this else but cast an ignominy upon the perfection of Christ's ministry, by seeking to adorn it with that which was the poor remedy of our shame? Believe it, wondrous doctors, all corporeal resemblances of inward holiness and beauty are now past; he that will clothe the gospel now, intimates plainly that the gospel is naked, uncomely, that I may not say reproachful. Do not, ye church maskers, while Christ is clothing upon our barrenness with his righteous garment to make us acceptable in his Father's sight; do not, as ye do, cover and hide his righteous verity with the polluted clothing of your ceremonies, to make it seem more decent in. your own eyes. “How beautiful,” saith Isaiah, “ are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth salvation !” Are the feet so beautiful, and is the very bringing of these tidings so decent of itself? What new decency can then be added to this by your spinstry? Ye think by these gaudy glisterings to stir up the devotion of the rude multitude; ye think so, because ye forsake the heavenly teaching of St. Paul for the hellish sophistry of papism. If the inuititude be rude, the lips of the preacher must give knowledge, and not ceremonies. And although some Christians be
new-born babes comparatively to some that are stronger, yet in respect of ceremony, which is but a rudiment of the law, the weakest Christian hath thrown off the robes of his minority, and is a perfect man, as to legal rites. What children's food there is in the gospel we know to be no other than the “sincerity of the word, that they may grow thereby.” But is here the utmost of your outbraving the service of God? No. Ye have been bold, not to set your threshold by his threshold, or your posts by his posts; but your sacrament, your sign, call it what you will, by his sacrament, baptizing the Christian infant with a solemn sprinkle, and unbaptizing for your own part with a profane and impious forefinger; as if when ye had laid the purifying element upon his forehead, ye meant to cancel and cross it out again with a character not of God's bidding. O but the innocence of these ceremonies! O rather the sottish absurdity of this excuse. What could be more innocent than the washing of a cup, a glass, or hands, before meat, and that under the law, when so many washings were commanded, and by long tradition? yet our Saviour detested their customs, though never so seeming harmless, and charges them severely, that they had transgressed the commandments of God by their traditions, and worshipped him in vain. How much more then must these, and much grosser ceremonies now in force, delude the end of Christ's coming in the flesh against the flesh, and stifle the sincerity of our new covenant, which hath bound us to forsake all carnal pride and wisdom, especially in mat. ters of religion? Thus we see again how prelaty, failing in opposition to the main end and power of the gospel, doth not join in that mysterious work of Christ, by lowliness to confound height; by simplicity of doctrine, the wisdom of the world; but contrariwise hath made itself high in the world and the flesh, to vanquish things by the world accounted low, and made itself wise in tradition and fleshy ceremony, to confound the purity of doctrine which is the wisdom of God.
CHAPTER III. That prelatical Jurisdiction opposeth the Reason and End of
the Gospel and of State. · The third and last consideration remains, whether the prelates in their function do work according to the gospel, practising to subdue the mighty things of this world by things weak, which St. Paul hath set forth to be the power and excellence of the gospel ; or whether in more likelihood they band themselves with the prevalent things of this world, to overrun the weak things which Christ hath made choice to work by: and this will soonest be discerned by the course of their jurisdiction. But here again I find my thoughts almost in suspense betwixt yea and no, and am nigh turning mine eye which way I may best retire, and not proceed in this subject, blaming the ardency of my mind that fixed me too attentively to come thus far. For truth, I know not how, hath this unhappiness fatal to her, ere she can come to the trial and inspection of the understanding ; being to pass through many little wards and limits of the several affections and desires, she cannot shift it, but must put on such colours and attire as those pathetic handmaids of the soul please to lead her in to their queen : and if she find so much favour with them, they let her pass in her own likeness ; if not, they bring her into the presence liabited and coloured like a notorious falsehood. And contrary, when any falsehood comes that way, if they like the errand she brings, they are so artful to counterfeit the very shape and visage of truth, that the understanding not being able to discern the fucus which these enchantresses with such cunning have laid upon the feature sometimes of truth, sometimes of falsehood interchangeably, sentences for the most part one for the other at the first blush, according to the subtle imposture of these sensual mistresses, that keep the ports and passages between her and the object. So that were it not for leaving imperfect that which is already said, I should go near to relinquish that which is to follow. And because I see that most men, as it happens in this world, either weakly or falsely principled, what through ignorance, and what through custom of licence, both in discourse and writing, by what hath been of late written in vulgar, have not seemed to attain the decision of this point: I shall likewise assay those wily arbitresses who in most men have, as was heard, the sole ushering of truth and falsehood between the sense and the soul, with what loyalty they will use me in convoying this truth to my understanding; the rather for that, by as much acquaintance as I can obtain with them, I do not find them engaged either one way or other. Concerning therefore ecclesiastical jurisdiction, I find still more controversy, who should administer it, than diligent inquiry made to learn what it is: for had the pains been taken to search out that, it had been long ago enrolled to be nothing else but a pure tyrannical forgery of the prelates; and that jurisdictive power in the church there ought to be none at all. It cannot be conceived that what men now call jurisdiction in the church, should be other thing than a Christian censorship; and therefore it is most commonly and truly named ecclesiastical censure. Now if the Roman censor, a civil function, to that severe assize of surveying and controlling the privatest and slyest manners of all men and all degrees, had no jurisdiction, no courts of plea or indictment, no punitive force annexed; whether it were that to this manner of correction the entanglement of suits was inproper, or that the notice of those upright inquisitors extended to such the most covert and spirituous vices as would slip easily between the wider and more material grasp of the law or that it stood more with the majesty of that office to have no other sergeants or maces about them but those invisible ones of terror and shame; or, lastly, were it their fear, lest the greatness of this authority and honour, armed with jurisdiction, might step with ease into a tyranny: in all these respects, with much more reason undoubtedly ought the censure of the church be quite divested and disentailed of all jurisdiction whatsoever. For if the course of judicature to a political censorship seem eithertoo tedious, or too contentious, much more may it to the discipline of the church, whose definitive decrees are to be speedy, but the execution of rigour slow, contrary to what in legal proceedings is most usual ; and by how much the less contentious it is, by so much will it be the more Christian. And if the Censor, in his moral episcopy being to judge most in matters not answerable by writ or action, could not use an instrument so gross and bodily as jurisdiction is, how can the minister of the gospel manage the corpulent and secular trial of bill and process in things