Page images
PDF
EPUB

reapeth, receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal." This was their

wages. But they will soon reply, We ourselves have not wherewithal; who shall bear the charges of our journey? To whom it may as soon be answered, that in likelihood they are not poorer than they who did thus; and if they have not the same faith which those disciples had to trust in God and the promise of Christ for their maintenance as they did, and yet intrude into the ministry without any livelihood of their own, they cast themselves into miserable hazard or temptation, and ofttimès into a more miserable necessity, either to starve, or to please their paymasters rather than God; and give men just cause to suspect, that they came neither called nor sent from above to preach the word, but from below, by the instinct of their own hunger, to feed upon the church. Yet grant it needful to allow them both the charges of their journey and the hire of their labour, it will belong next to the charity of richer congregations, where most commonly they abound with teachers, to send some of their number to the villages round, as the apostles from Jerusalem sent Peter and John to the city and villages of Samaria, Acts viii. 14, 25; or as the church at Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch, chap. xi. 22, and other churches joining sent Luke to travel with Paul, 2 Cor. viii. 19; though wliether they had their charges borne by the church or no, it be not recorded. If it be objected, that this itinerary preaching will not serve to plant the gospel in those places, unless they who are sent abide there some competent time; I answer, that if they stay there a year or two, which was the longest time usually stayed by the apostles in one place, it may suffice to teach them who will attend and learn all the points of religion necessary to salvation; then sorting them into several congregations of a moderate number, out of the ablest and zealousest among them to create elders, who, exercising and requiring from themselves what they have learned, (for 110 learning is retained without constant exercise and methodical repetition,) may teach and govern the rest: and so exhorted to continue faithful and stealfast, they may securely be committed to the providence of God and the guidance of his Holy Spirit, till God may offer some opportunity to visit them again, and to confirm them: which when they have done, they have done as much as the apostles were wont to do in propagating the gospel. Acts xiv

23,“ And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.” And in the same chapter, ver. 21, 22,“ When they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium and Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith.” And chap. xv. 36, “ Let us go again, and visit our brethren.” And ver. 41, “ He went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.” To these I might add other helps, which we enjoy now, to make more easy the attainment of Christian religion by the meanest: the entire scripture translated into English with plenty of notes; and somewhere or other, I trust, may be found some wholesome body of divinity, as they call it, without school-terms and metaphysical noiions, which have obscured rather than explained our religion, and made it seem difficult without cause. Thus taught once for all, and thus now and then visited and confirmed, in the most destitute and poorest places of the land, under the government of their own elders performing all ministerial offices among them, they may be trusted to meet and edify one another, whether in church or chapel, or, to save them the trudging of many miles thither, nearer home, though in a house or barn. withstanding the gaudy superstition of some devoted still ignorantly to temples, we may be well assured, that he who disdained not to be laid in a manger, disdains not to be preached in a barn; and that by snch meetings as these, being indeed most apostolical and primitive, they will in a short time advance more in Christian knowledge and reformation of life, than by the many years' preaching of such an incumbent, I may say, such an incubus ofttimes, as will be meanly hired to abide long in those places. They have this left perhaps to ohject further; that to send thus, and to maintain, though but for a year or two, ministers and teachers in several places, would prove chargcable to the churches, though in towns and cities round about. To whom again I answer, that it was not thought so by them who first thus propagated the gospel, though but few in number to us, and much less able to sustain the expense.

Yet this expense would be much less than to hire incumbents, or rather incumbrances, for lifetime ; and a great means (which is the subject of this discourse) to dimin

For not

ish hirelings. But be the expense less or more, if it be found burdensome to the churches, they have in this land an easy remedy in their recourse to the civil magistrate ; who hath in his hands the disposal of no small revenues, left perhaps anciently to superstitious, but meant undoubtedly to good and best uses; and therefore, once made public, appliable by the present magistrate to such uses as the church, or solid reason from whomsoever, shall convince him to think best. And those vises may be, no doubt, much rather than as glebes and augmentations are now bestowed, to grant such requests as these of the churches; or to erect in greater number, all over the land, schools, and competent libraries to those schools, where languages and arts may be taught free together, without the needless, unprofitable, and inconvenient removing to another place. So all the land would be soon better civilized, and they who are taught freely at the public cost might have their education given them on this condition, that therewith content, they should not gad for preferment out of their own country, but continue there thankful for what they received freely, bestowing it as freely on their country, without soaring above the meanness wherein they were born. But how they shall live when they are thus bred and dismissed, will be still the sluggish objection. To which is answered, that those public foundations may be so instituted, as the youth therein

may

be at once brought up to a competence of learning and to an honest trade; and the hours of teaching so ordered, as their study may be no hinderance to their labour or other calling. This was the breeding of St. Paul, though born of no mean parents, a free citizen of the Roman empire: so little did his trade debase him, that it rather enabled him to use that magnanimity of preaching the gospel through Asia and Europe at his own charges. Thus those preachers among the poor Waldenses, the ancient stock of our reformation, without these helps which I speak of, bred up themselves in trades, and cspecially in physic and surgery, as well as in the study of scripture, (which is the only true theology,) that they might be no burden to the church ; and by the example of Christ, might cure both soul and body; through industry joining that to their ministry, which he joined to his by gift of the Spirit. Thus relates Peter Gilles in his History of the Waldenses in Piemont. But our ministers think scorn to use a trade,

and count it the reproach of this age, that tradesmen preach the gospel. It were to be wished they were all tradesmen ; they would not then so many of them, for want of another trade, make a trade of their preaching: and yet they clamour that tradesmen preach; and yet they preach, while they themselves are the worst tradesmen of all. As for church endowments and possessions, I meet with none considerable before Constantine, but the houses and gardens where they met, and their places of burial; and I persuade me, that from them the ancient Waldenses, whom deservedly I cite so often, held, “ That to endow churches is an evil thing; and that the church then fell off and turned whore, sitting on that beast in the Revelation, when ander pope Sylvester she received those temporal conations.” So the fore-cited tractate of their doctrine testifies. This also their own traditions of that heavenly voice witnessed, and some of the ancient fathers then living foresaw and deplored. And, indeed, how could these endowments thrive better with the church, being unjustly taken by those emperors, without suffrage of the people, out of the tributes and public lands of each city, whereby the people became liable to be oppressed with other taxes. Being therefore given for the most part by kings and other public persons, and so likeliest out of the public, and if without the people's consent, unjustly, however to public ends of much concernment, to the good or evil of a commonwealth, and in that regard made public though given by private persons, or, which is worse, given, as the clergy then persuaded men, for their souls' health, a pious gift; but as the truth was, ofttimes a bribe to God or to Christ for absolution, as they were then taught, from murders, adulteries, and other heinous crimes; what shall be found heretofore given by kings or princes out of the public, may justly by the magistrate be recalled and reappropriated to the civil revenue : what by private or public persons out of their own, the price of blood or lust, or to some such purgatorious and superstitious uses, not only may, but ought to be taken off from Christ, as a foul dishonour laid upon him, or not impiously given, nor in particular to any one, but in general to the church's good, may be converted to that use, which shall be judged tending more directly to that general end. Thus did the princes and cities of Germany in the first reformation ; and defended their so doing by many

reasons, which are set down at large in Sleidan, lib. vi. anno 1526, and lib. xi. anno 1537, and lib. xiii. anno 1540. But that the magistrate either out of that church revenue which remains yet in his hand, or establishing any other maintenance instead of tithe, should take into his own power the stipendiary maintenance of church-ministers, or compel it by law, can stand neither with the people's right, nor with Christian liberty, but would suspend the church wholly upon the state, and turn her ministers into state pensioners. And for the magistrate in person of a nursing father to make the church his mere ward, as always in minority, the church to whom he ought as a magistrate, Isa. xlix. 23, “ to bow down with his face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of her feet;" her to subject to his political drifts or conceived opinions, by mastering her revenue; and so by his examinant committees to circumscribe her free election of ministers, is neither just nor pious ; no honour done to the church, but a plain dishonour: and upon her whose only head is in heaven, yea, upon him, who is only head, sets another in effect, and which is most monstrous, a human on a heavenly, a carnal on a spiritual, a political head on an ecclesiastical body; which at length, by such heterogeneal, such incestuous conjunction, transforms her ofttimes into a beast of many heads and many horns. For if the church be of all societies the holiest on earth, and so to be reverenced by the magistrate; not to trust her with her own belief anıl integrity, and therefore not with the keeping, at least with the disposing, of what revenue should be found justly and lawfully her own, is to count the church not a holy congregation, but a pack of giddy or dishonest persons, to be ruled by civil power in sacred affairs. But to proceed further in the truth yet more freely, seeing the Christian church is not national, but consisting of many particular congregations, subject to many changes, as well through civil accidents, 'as through schism and various opinions, not to be decided by any outward judge, being matters of conscience, whereby these pretended church revennes, as they have been ever, so are like to continue endless matter of dissension both between the church and magistrate, and the churches among themselves, there will be found no better remedy to these evils, otherwise incurable, than by the incorruptest council of those Waldenses, or first reformers, to remove them as a pest, an apple of dis

« PreviousContinue »